For the last couple weeks, to amuse myself, I've been cruising the Ugh section on Ravelry. (Found here. For those not on Ravelry, it's basically a gallery of projects gone horribly wrong.) With a thought toward design and pattern writing, I originally started off looking for what people hate about patterns. (Biggest complaint seems to be lack of detail on finishing. So noted.) But I learned a lot more. Here are a few of the more obvious things that leapt out at me:
-A lot of it is what I call 'user error'. Goofy gauge, bad yarn substitutions, too steep a learning curve, whatever. There's nothing much to be done about that, but for crying out loud, at least you can read the pattern through before you start knitting, so you're not shocked by anything. (I'm amazed at the number of people who don't.) My own thoughts on gauge can be read here and here, yarn substition here.
-Face reality. If you've got DDDD boobs, you've got no business knitting yourself a strapless tube top, so quit being shocked when it isn't flattering. Ditto on size. No matter how much you WANT to be a size small, quit knitting them unless you ARE. Get out a tape measure and actually measure yourself if you have to. On a related note, figure out what cuts are flattering on you and stick to those. Again, you may WANT to look like that willowy model in the Rowan magazine, but knitting the sweater isn't going to turn you into her. Sucks, but there it is.
-Awesome yarn does not equal awesome project. It sure as hell doesn't equal FLATTERING project. You know what colors flatter you. So no matter how much the orange and yellow self-striping yarn appeals to you, if you know you look like shit in yellow, STAY AWAY. Or knit socks with it. Or a gift for someone who does look good in yellow.
-Anything fitted is harder to knit than anything loose. Fitted that FITS is even harder. If you're doing something fitted, you can't just get gauge and happily knit away. You've got to measure as you go, keep track of relaxation and shrinkage and whatall when your swatch hits water, the works. Or at least you have to if you want it to fit. Did I mention that part is hard?
-I know how it is to get this major urge to cast on something new at three in the morning with nothing but kite string in the house. I've been there. (Okay, I've never knit kite string. But I have knit butcher's twine.) If you absolutely HAVE to do that (I suggest not), can you at least find something appropriate for whatever yarn you dug out of the back of your stash? (I knit a pot scrubber with the butcher's twine.) WHY are people casting on size XXXXL cable-knit sweaters with 300 yards of discontinued yarn?? (I know, we all run out of yarn sometimes. But often we KNOW we don't have enough. LISTEN TO YOUR BRAIN.)
-Felting seems to go horribly wrong at least half the time. No matter how much experience the person has with felting. Beware. Very ware.
Ultimately, what a lot of this comes down to is thinking about it before you see a project, spend $200 on yarn, knit half of it, and decide you hate it. The yarn will still be there tomorrow. THINK ABOUT IT. My rule of thumb (unless I'm spending gift certificates which are mad money purely for fun), is that I have to want yarn, or to knit a project, for at least a week before I do it. If I still think it's a good idea at the end of a week, then I move on to the next step, buying yarn or knitting a swatch or whatever. That's why so many ideas get thrown around on this blog that never happen. But at least I'm never left saying "What in hell was I thinking?" (Well, okay, there was that Bohus-in-two-months deal, but it wasn't the sweater that was insane, it was the deadline.)
Food for thought.