Off (or on) the Map

I get emails on a fairly regular basis asking me why I use charts in my patterns instead of just writing out the instructions.  I try to explain why I prefer charts over written instructions (they are easier to read, they give you a visual representation of what the finished pattern should look like, etc), but I feel like I’ve never had a really good, succinct explanation.  Until now.

I was chatting with a friend about charts vs. written instructions (like you do), and she had an amazing analogy.  An analogy I’d like to share with you.

The year is 1998.  The Barenaked Ladies, Destiny’s Child and Brittney Spears are on the radio, Armageddon is in the movie theaters, and I’m in middle school.  You’re planning on taking a road trip (while listening to your new NSYNC CD in your very high-tech car CD player), and you need directions. 541c9257a84d7.image

You boot up the modem and go to Mapquest for driving directions.  After 45 minutes (which seems very fast), you’ve downloaded and printed out your instructions.  You’re ready to go.

 

You hop in the car, follow your instructions.  Left on Aurora, right on 145th, take the northbound on-ramp, drive 5 miles, get off at Exit 220.  But wait, there is no Exit 220!  Where’s Exit 220?  I thought I was supposed to be on the freeway?  Why am I in the middle of a neighborhood? What happened?

You don’t have a map with you, because you didn’t need it- you had your Mapquest directions.  Sure you could retrace your steps, carefully make your way back home and try following the directions again, but that’s a lot of work.  You’re lost.  You’ve got to cross your fingers that you can find a friendly gas station attendant to give you new directions.CaptureNow imagine you’re on that same road trip, but this time you’ve got a map (or better yet, you’ve got a map and your instructions).  If you get off track, you can pull over, find your cross street and figure out your location.  Sure, reading the map might be a little tricky, but in the long run you know you won’t ever be stranded like you were with just the instructions.

Knitting is the same way.  Sure, if you’re knitting with only written instructions, and you follow the instructions exactly to the letter, you’ll end up with a beautiful garment.  But let’s be honest, when’s the last time you knit a garment without a single mistake?  (I can’t say I’ve ever done that.)  And once you’ve made a mistake, all you have is a big block of text that you have to wade through to figure out where you went wrong- not easy.Capture1If you’re using a chart, on the other hand, you can usually tell much more quickly where you went wrong.  Maybe there’s a yarn over where there should be, a section of lace that is missing a stitch, or a cable that’s been crossed the wrong direction (the bane of my existence).  Because a chart gives you a birds-eye view of what your project should look like, it’s easier to figure out what’s going on, where you went wrong, and ultimately how to fix it.

I know charts aren’t for everybody (just like some people will never be able to read a map, no matter how hard they try), but if you’re on the fence about trying a charted pattern, give it a go!  You might like it!

1 thought on “Off (or on) the Map

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