Monday, October 18, 2010

Skill Levels - What do they really mean?

If you are choosing a knitting project you will notice that many patterns give you a rating of the perceived level of difficulty of the project. How this determination is made is often unclear.

As an example this info is from the Craft  Yarn Council

Skill levels for knitting
Projects for first-time knitters using basic knit and purl stitches.Minimal shaping.
Projects using basic stitches, repetitive stitch patterns, simple color changes, and simple shaping and finishing.
Projects with a variety of stitches, such as basic cables and lace,simple intarsia, double-pointed needles and knitting in the round needle techniques, mid-level shaping and finishing.
Projects using advanced techniques and stitches, such as short rows,fair isle, more intricate intarsia, cables, lace patterns, and numerous color changes.

You will notice that the descriptions above assume that you already know what is basic vs. advanced.

This is from (Look at the bottom of the page)

Suitable for beginners. Relaxing, not mentally taxing. 
Fun things with zing. A twist, even. Friendly and unintimidating: very knittable by most knitters
A little something for the seasoned knitter. Daring but not exhausting. Probably not tv knitting.
Extra Spicy
Suitable for those with a lot of experience. Or patience. Or both. These babies have teeth. Hoo boy.

I love these descriptions for their humour but I'm not really any further ahead in my understanding.

I flipped through a few of my pattern books and magazines and noticed that some don't bother listing skill level and even more label patterns with skill levels yet don't supply a definition. There are a lot of complaints about the publishing inconsistencies in the knitting world and this is another area that has no clear rules. On my own patterns I've been listing skills required as opposed to a difficulty level, however once I load a pattern into Patternfish I have to choose a level. I'm sure if you have read this far you are wondering what my opinion on this is. Having taught many classes and assisted lots of  Knitters when I worked in my local LYS I think the labels are misleading. I once had a customer tell me how very limited her skill set was as she pulled an amazing traditional steeked Fair Isle sweater of many many colours out of her bag. I've also had the opposite experience of someone telling me they were an expert yet when we talked further they were missing many very basic skills. So I recommend that you ignore the ratings, review the pattern to see how many new things you would need to learn (if any) to complete the project. Consider if you like a challenge or want a simple TV or commuter type project to work on. Give some thought as to where you will find assistance if you need it and if you want to just knit or will enjoy the research and swatching process if it will be required for the completion of the project. Often your LYS or knitting teacher can help you determine if you have the skill set required or if you are willing to put in the necessary work to develop that set, but please remember ultimately the process is very simple and it is just the variations of technique that make something appear to be difficult to you. 

1 comment:

  1. I also struggle with assigning an experience level to my patterns. I'm assuming that some of the techniques used in a seamless garment may not be known to a knitter who has only made garments in pieces which are sewed together. My system has evolved over time. I now look at the experience level as an indication that they can read the directions and follow a new technique. Beginner level have well know techniques, Intermediate may have one or two new techniques and Advanced may have a new construction and several new techniques in it. This still doesn't cover everything but I don't think any system does. This puts almost everything I do in the Intermediate Level. Lots of knitters can happily knit at this level learning as they go and be knitting at a high technical level in no time at all.