Lace Pattern Preferences Survey Results

Thank you to everybody who took part in the survey to help determine the format of future Eskimimi Makes patterns to best suit knitters’ preferences. My own preference for lace knitting is to knit from charts as I find them easier to manage and keep track of. When designing I work exclusively in chart form when planning lace or cables, and to translate a large and complex lace piece into written instructions is an extensive and fiddly job; however I want to cater to as many knitters’ requirements as possible and wanted to determine the popularity or need for written instructions in modern lace knitting.
68% of respondents were very confident knitting from charted lace patterns, with a further 28% of respondents stating themselves to be able to knit from charts to some degree. Only 4% of survey responses reflected an inability or lack of confidence with charts, but with this in mind a lack of written instruction could mean losing a potential 4-32% of sales.
Users’ preference for written or charted lace patterns (or using a combination of both) do not completely tally with their abilities to read charts. Not all knitters who can read lace charts particularly want to knit lace patterns using charts. An even greater number like to work from charts and written instructions in tandem. A number of reasons were given for this in the text responses. There were many comments left in the responses, so the below are a very small selection.

“Diagrams for visualisation and written for making a chant that I can repeat in my head while knitting.”

“I tend to prefer the written instructions to get myself going. Then use the charts once I’m established.”

“Primarily the written instructions help me feel confident I’m getting the chart right in the early stages.”

However, there was also a case made to decide upon only one form of instruction:

“I don’t think you need both. This can be distracting. I think the pattern writer should consider which delivery best suits the pattern in question and adopt this method with conviction – that’s what she’s paid for, to do the thinking for us!!”

The reasons that knitters had for choosing one method of pattern instruction over another (or for best enjoying knitting with both at hand) are varied:
Knitters wo prefer to knit solely from charts state that that the ease of keeping place in a pattern and an ability to visualise lace patterns are the two strongest reasons for preferring charted lace patterns. People who prefer to knit with both chart and written directions at hand can find this beneficial in all areas apart from environmental, and fans of written lace instructions mostly enjoy the assurance that they are correctly following the pattern correctly.
No matter what respondents’ personal instruction format preferences, all groups were in agreement that patterns should include written instructions alongside charts to appeal to as many knitters as possible.

The bottom line seems to be that most knitters think that the inclusion of both charted and written instructions is beneficial in lace patterns. Though this does represent a lot of extra work and much longer patterns, it does cover all bases and provides a back-up of instructions when a knitter wishes to check their understanding of a certain part of the chart (or written pattern).

For future patterns I may start to publish the written instructions in a separate document that can be downloaded alongside the charted directions, to save the main pattern from becoming so very overloaded with pages, but I will, for now at least, retain some form of full written instruction to accompany any charted designs.

Finally, here are the written responses to the two questions asked, where those that took the survey were given the opportunity to explain their reasons for or expand upon the choices they gave in the questionnaire.

Please describe, if you are able, any other reasons not listed above for your preferred form of instruction for lace knitting:

  • I find it easier to memorise a pattern with written instructions. I sometimes find adjacent chart rows a distraction
  • Text is easily for me to memorize and images/charts are not.
  • I work in an LYS and when helping customers – charts make it very easy to quickly see the pattern and spot mistakes. If you did this from written instructions I’d have to spend 10 minutes reading through the written instructions and try to visualise the pattern. Also, it’s a lot easier to alter a charted lace pattern if needed
  • If I’m uncertain when reading the chart I can check with the written instructions although I usually work from the chart.
  • I find it far too easy to loose my place in a chart in a way that doesn’t happen when I follow written instructions…
  • It depends on the type of project but sometimes, charts are easier, other times, written directions would be preferred.
  • I use knit companion on my iPad which makes charts super easy to follow so I generally prefer them.
  • Diagrams for visualisation and written for making a chant that I can repeat in my head while knitting
  • I prefer knitting from a chart, but realize that sometimes a chart can become very large. There may be patterns where the written instructions may be shorter and easier to follow.
  • Easier to spot and fix errors
  • I won’t knit lace or cables from written instructions. I can’t believe anyone would prefer that! learning to knit from charts was a pretty smooth process for me.
  • I tend to prefer the written instructions to get myself going. Then use the charts once I’m established.
  • Not all designer use the same simbols in charts. So I prefer written instruction, cause if I knit from charts I have to check legends often (just to be sure that I am knitting correct stitches)
  • I find charts easier to follow, especially for more complicated patterns.
  • Words are easier to read than a chart in dim (electric/tv/evening) lighting
  • Where the lace involves increases – as in a shawl, for example – including some written instructions allows stitch counts to be indicated at various places which you can check your own knitting against. Not all written instructions do that of course (and I’ve given up on one that didn’t) but I find that really useful, even though I am primarily using the chart.
  • Knitting from charts makes me feel like a triumphant knitter. (Silly, but true.)
  • Primarily the written instructions help me feel confident I’m getting the chart right in the early stages

Do you have any other thoughts/ideas/information about whether patterns for lace knitting should contain written, charted or a combination of both types of instruction?

  • I think it’s so easy to get lost in complicated written instructions and to not realize it until too late.
  • There are some textural stitches (star stitch, for example) that are simpler and clearer to write out than to chart. Occasionally lace happens over a short-row fabric, and that too is easier to handle with written instructions. Otherwise, charts are 100% my preference for knitting, whether it’s lace, colourwork, or cables. I’ve been experimenting with Stitch Maps for lace recently, and though there’s a learning curve, the technology is brilliant and once you are underway it’s so much easier to see the relationship between stitches as they will occur in the actual fabric. I love than an ancient technology like knitting can still be experiencing such major innovation!
  • Although I only use the chart portions of knitting patterns mainly I know very many knitters who prefer written instructions. I feel it’s best if possibly to include both – I also really love end of row stitch counts on charts too – especially if the motif is wide.
  • I do occasionally use written instructions if the chart is unclear or confusing, so I do like to have the option. Written instructions are also more accessible to new knitters, so I would suggest that they’re essential for beginner lace patterns.
  • When I was first learning to use charts having both the written and charted instructions was good, however that was only for two or three simple patterns, I’ve never found following lace from written instructions a happy experience.
  • I never use written instructions, no matter how simple or complex the pattern. I’d still be nervous about not including them in a pattern I’m writing, because I’m sure most people use the written explanation to some degree or another.
  • Written instructions are always useful to have alongside the chart so you can double check whether what you have knitted is correct. Again, working in an LYS, the majority of the customers struggle with the idea of charts until they are shown how. You would exclude a large section of knitters (especially beginners and those perhaps stuck in their ways) if a pattern was solely charted. On a personal level, I much prefer charts as they are much more versatile. If time and pattern space allow, then having both has to be a good thing as you cover all bases.
  • Although I prefer written instructions, I find a chart can be helpful if I get stuck on a stitch/pattern. One reason written patterns are preferred is because when I learned to knit there weren’t many charts. I just find it hard to follow them after so many years of not having one.
  • I find that I am most comfortable with charts, but on occasion it helps to be able to reference written instructions to verify I am reading them correctly.
  • I use charts, but occasionally need to refer to written directions to clarify something like a repeat, etc. They are something I think could be available, but aren’t crucial to my knitting success.
  • Some people prefer charts and others worn instructions, if both are included the pattern appeals to a wider demographic.
  • I prefer charts for the reasons checked above, BUT I like to have the text too, on complex charts, because sometimes I need to double-check the text to verify I understand the chart. Excess printing/paper is no issue, as I don’t HAVE to print all pages.
  • I think it’s nice to provide both whenever possible, especially for a paid pattern, although I understand it’s a lot of work for the designer and that sometimes it does not make any sense for a large or complex motif to be written out. I really like having both to double-check my work and somethings are easier to understand written and some are easier following a chart.
  • I know this is a bunch of extra work, particularly for the tech editors, but perhaps having the ability to use either/or with regards to charts & written directions. If you have a shawl, have one available that is chart only, one that is written directions, and one that is both. I know, total pain in the backside but then you cover everyone. When I first started knitting, I was scared of charts and I avoided patterns that were chart-only, even though I was perfectly capable of knitting them. I still struggle with charts but I can do them.
  • I can work lace from either type of instruction, but I much prefer charts. I have been put off buying lace patterns without them. If a chart is there it is all I will look at.
  • I think as long as the chart is pretty visually representative of what you’re knitting and the key is very comprehensive then detailed written instructions may not be necessary. I find charts where the symbols are colour coded a real treat! However I am aware that some knitters find charts completely incomprehensible.
  • I love a pattern that includes all the information needed to knit the item. I hate having to search elsewhere due to vague instructions.
  • So many of my fellow knitters have confidence issues with charts. They think that they are too complicated. I think that by including in the instruction that it is read from the bottom up and right to left will help those that have that question every time they try a pattern. I get those questions a lot when I teach and at knitting group. Also please include a key for each stitch since the US doesn’t have a standard.
  • I know some people struggle with reading charts, so I suppose that for accessibility it is fair to include written-out instructions, but they are just a waste of space for me. I would never buy a lace pattern that wasn’t charted.I think that, whatever you choose, you should make it clear in the pattern description whether charts and/or instructions are included.Also, it’s helpful if you separate the written-out portion of the chart from the rest of the pattern, so those following the chart don’t have to trawl through it all to find the next salient instruction.
  • I do prefer have written & charted instructions, but if they are to be on separate pages, having the key WITH instructions are always helpful. I normally use PDF’s & having to go back & forth, especially if there are lots of pages can be frustrating
  • I have mostly used patterns that use charts, but do include some written instruction about decreases or bind offs, etc. I know some patterns don’t have any written instructions, and that might be difficult. I think learning to knit from charts is probably a requirement for knitting most lace or cable patterns.
  • Both is the best
  • I realise that some prefer written instructions and appreciate the efforts of designers to accommodate both preferences. Personally I am OK with either, and wouldn’t let the lack of written instructions or charts impact my decision to buy a pattern if I liked that pattern.
  • I don’t think you need both. This can be distracting. I think the pattern writer should consider which delivery best suits the pattern in question and adopt this method with conviction – that’s what she’s paid for, to do the thinking for us!!
  • I think not to include written instructions will greatly disadvantage those who really can’t follow charts, even if I do find it difficult to understand how they can’t see that their knitting looks like the chart. Having said that, for garments I do like more than just a schematic, although not having a diagram with measurements also makes life difficult!
  • A combination of chart and written instructions, some times it is easier to follow written instructions on complicated bits just to make sense of the chart.I’ve also used charts which were colour coded,… very useful for remembering particular stitch groups for sections of the pattern.
  • Sometimes the chart symbols look too similar for me to distinguish them easily. If it’s flat knitting and the chart symbol means one thing on the right side and another thing on the wrong side, I get confused. And, finally, charts are often too small for me to read them easily. (I’m 63).
  • I like having both available especially when the stitch counts aren’t constant from one row to the next-I don’t know why I have trouble with that, but I do.Otherwise, I love charts.

If anyone is interested in any other area of the anonymous survey responses, or wishes of a copy of the raw data, please drop me a line using the Contact Me page and I will gladly send them on.

3 thoughts on “Lace Pattern Preferences Survey Results

  1. Thanks, this was very interesting. I use stitchmastery to create my charts and that automatically generates written instructions which makes my life a lot easier, especially with the stylesheet option so it comes out looking how I want.

  2. I didn’t participate in your survey because I don’t do lace knitting but I still found your results fascinating. As a crocheter, I have found it very useful to have both chart and written instructions especially when there is an error somewhere in the diagram or a typo in the instructions. They are not usually both wrong, so having both chart and words can help with troubleshooting.

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