Thursday, November 4, 2010

This Week's Ramblings

I was gifted with some unexpected personal time last night.  Thank you, hubby!  On a whim, I decided to spend my hour at one of the bookstore/coffee house establishments that seem to be everywhere these days.  Well, okay, everywhere big enough to merit a Walmart, which meant that I was in town, not at home in the country. 

Regardless, I was sitting there in the knitting section practically salivating at seeing so many lovely knitting books in one place trying to decide if any of the books they had needed to come home with me.  A number of the stitch dictionaries on the shelf are in my Amazon cart but without seeing them in person, I refused to press the "confirm order" button.  After looking at several of these books in person, I think I'm justified in saying that I won't buy a craft or cooking book ever again without seeing it in person first.

I absolutely love the new wave of artistry being put into craft books these days.  I love the crisp, clear, full-color photos that are actually big enough to allow you to see all of the details.  I appreciate that the editors are making a real effort to make the books not only informative but also pleasing to the eye. 

HOWEVER, I deplore a craft book that chooses artistry of the book over usability of the information contained therein.  Mistake #1 of today's craft book publishers is to format the book with a standard paperback spine.  Any how-to book that is intended to be referenced while one's hands are full with a project MUST be spiral bound or in flashcard format.  The book needs to stay open to the correct page while you work or else it will be useless to the crafter.  Who wants to knit five stitches, put down her knitting, open the book, find the page, read and memorize the next five stitches, put down the book, pick up her knitting, and knit again?  Especially if she knows she'll have to go through the whole process again in 20 seconds!  So, to sum up,  publishers?  Take a hint.  Print your craft books with spiral bindings.

Mistake #2 is something that I think has been becoming more common over the past 10 years.  Making the pictures bigger and putting less info on a page is a great idea.  But please, please, PLEASE, make sure the info is still usable.  I'm finding more and more books where the publisher's main goal seems to be creating an attractive book at the detriment of the info inside.  To illustrate my point, one of the stitch dictionaries I saw last night ALMOST made it into my shopping basket... until I noticed that the publisher had chosen to present the instructions in a format that was nearly impossible to follow.  Which set of instructions below do you find easy to use while knitting?

Set A:
cast on:
co 38 with the long-tail method.

ankle:
R1: sl1, P6, sl1, P to end
R2: sl1 K6 sl1 (K1, sl1) until there are 7 stitches left, k7
Repeat R1-2 until 12 rounds total.

heel:
Place first 7 and last 7 stitches on holders.
continue heel piece in (sl1, K1) pattern as above until a total of 15 rounds or 30 rows have been knit.  

turn heel:
Turn heel (P14, P2tog, P1, turn, ETC.) until 14 stitches remain.  For a quick tutorial on how to do this, look here.  Since this is a standard technique, I didn't write it all out.  What can I say?  I'm lazy sometimes.


Set B:
cast on: co 38 with the long-tail method. ankle: R1: sl1, P6, sl1, P to end, R2: sl1 K6 sl1 (K1, sl1) until there are 7 stitches left, k7.  Repeat R1-2 until 12 rounds total. heel: Place first 7 and last 7 stitches on holders. continue heel piece in (sl1, K1) pattern as above until a total of 15 rounds or 30 rows have been knit. turn heel: Turn heel (P14, P2tog, P1, turn, ETC.) until 14 stitches remain.  For a quick tutorial on how to do this, look here.  Since this is a standard technique, I didn't write it all out.  What can I say?  I'm lazy sometimes.

Both sets have the same exact information but I find the first format much easier to follow and work from.   The only advantage to Set B is that it takes up less space on the page.  If you're trying to fit more patterns on a page, then I understand that choice, but when the page has more blank space than writing or pictures on it, there's no need to compress the instructions!  In this case, the publisher was trying to make his book look pretty at a casual glance. 

I was truly disappointed in this particular book.  I loved the stitches they chose to include.  I loved the pictures of the stitches.  They were so crisp, so clear, and all done on off-white yarn.  It was truly beautiful, but in the end, it was too beautiful.  It looked great but would be a nightmare to work from, as the publisher not only compressed the written instructions but also chose to eliminate all of the charts.  I understand that there are fewer and fewer knitters out there who prefer charts to written instructions, but as a knitter who prefers to knit in the round, charts are really handy and eliminated the need to retrofit all of the wrong side row instructions both in stitch type and stitch order.

I suppose that I may eventually break down and purchase a craft book that is poorly formatted if the information inside it is worthwhile, but I'd really like to see publishers educated as to what their customers really want.  There are a few publishers out there that get it right. I have seen stitch dictionaries in flash card format or spiral bound.  I take heart in the knowledge that it can and is being done by a few select publishers.  Maybe, just maybe, the others will figure it out evenutally.

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