Getting it Together

I don't know if this is a problem that is unique to me, or if other knitters have this challenge, but I find Rowan's patterns to be less than user friendly.

How do you non-native English speakers knit from them?  Why does Rowan write "Cast off 4 sts and moss st until there are 9 sts on right needle..." when "Cast off 4 stitches and then work 9 sts..." would be much clearer (to me, at least)?  Am I getting confused by a British pattern-writing style?

Admittedly, I sometimes have trouble properly interpreting any knitting instructions on the first go.  With Rowan patterns I find that I need to read through the pattern line-by-line and sketch a schematic as I go.  This sketch is helpful, because Rowan's own schematics are not very descriptive at all.  Maybe I'm being too picky.  After all, who really needs to know how low V-neck is?  The Rowan models seem to love cavorting around in sweaters with necklines to their navels.  I guess that Rowan assumes that we knitters do the same thing.


Rowan patterns are not for the faint of heart, or for the beginning knitter.  They require attentiveness and patience, which I suppose are not bad qualities to cultivate in myself.


Well, they do speak differently from us in the UK. I find the same issue with Sirdar patterns--although to a more confusing degree.

I remember when we lived in the UK, Gracie was having "tea" (dinner) at a friends and said, "I'm done". The friend look at her horrified and said, "I'm finished". :)

It's one of the reasons I'm not "finished" (hi Kathleen!) with my Venus--it takes a lot of my attention, so knitting it at Knitsmiths or while watching Deadwood is just not practical!

I've heard Claudia say that Rowan can be problematic. I find Jaeger pretty obtuse. I'm reminded of that shaggy dog joke, "Who's on first?"

So far I've only tried one Rowan pattern - didn't get very far. But I'm planning on a few this summer. Thanks for the tip!

I am always amazed at your abilities to design, draw schematics, re-doing patterns to fit your needs, etc. Did that just come with your years of practice as a knitter or did you have someone mentor you a bit in this area?

Ok, this happened to me last night! I had to read, re-read and then read aloud in order for me to understand! They speak a crazy language!

I'm a Rowan virgin, so can't speak on that, but the Schachenmayr pattern I just finished was similarly frustrating in places. I'm slowly learning patience, patience patience....

"Why does Rowan write "Cast off 4 sts and moss st until there are 9 sts on right needle..." when "Cast off 4 stitches and then work 9 sts..." would be much clearer (to me, at least)?"

Actually, it's not the same thing! If you cast off 4 and then worked 9, you'd have 10 stitches on your right needle (because you already had one there from doing the cast-offs). They could say "cast off 4 and work 8 sts", but I think the worry would be that people would forget about that first stitch when they counted their stitches on the right needle to double check that they'd worked the right number.

In general, I'd agree that Rowan patterns can be a bit dense... but I think they mean well!

i'm working on a sweater from a minnow knits pattern. the sweater is SO easy,,,but the pattern is ridiculously tedious to follow. ie. work repeats 4 times and at the same time decrease one stitch each side of every 16th row (the repeats were 6 rows it was SUCH a pain to keep track of). ther was another 'at the same time' in the same series of repeats,,,but i forget now.

i sat it down last weekend, and have no idea where i left off,,,even though i was taking notes all along. ARG!!!!

I'm so glad that you posted about this. I've just started knitting again in the last year and I just bought a Miss Bea's book. I'll make sure to read through the pattern with a big cup of coffee in a quiet place.

I need to show you that Russian pattern book one of these days. On the plus side, there are super-awesome schematics of everything. I don't understand why American and British designers don't do this - they would instantly tell you whether that V-neck is down to your navel. On the minus side, you haven't re-written a pattern until you've translated the mambo-jumbo of one of these Russian ones :).

I have loads of Rowan patterns ... but I haven't knitted any one of them yet ... though I keep saying I would one day! ;) Japanese patterns are good at giving schematic too. I know people who don't know Japanese at all but they can knit from Japanese patterns ... isn't that magic?

I concede that the schematics are terrible.The patterns,like most European patterns are written assuming a certain level of ability and that you can fill in the blanks for yourself.
You lot just don't speak English ! :0)

My sentiments exactly. And the worst part is where they give instructions for one side and then go figure out the other side yourself! I was just thinking that I wouldn't mind paying more for a pattern where the whole thing is written out row by row and I don't have to make my own notes, just knit. And yes I'm one of those people Agnes is referring to - I can knit from Japanese patterns without understanding a word of Japanese! It's made possible by shematics and charts of the pattern repeat. It's much easier but must confess that I still can make mistakes!

I have yet to knit from a Rowan pattern, but I have liked some of their stuff that I've seen lately. So, I appreciate your insight into reading their instructions!

Hey mama! ROWAN (and I love the designs) SUCKS at pattern writing.. They must have a panel of people going "Hmmmm, how do we make k1 p1 ribbing into a 3 paragraph cryptic passage?" I had to ask like 3 different "pro" knitters/designers and it stumped them all.. finally I posted on craftster and someone from canada deciphered it for me, and it turned out to be like the SIMPLEST THING, just worded WONKY!!!!
I put up Bevin modeling her Bevin on today's post AND there's a pic in the free patterns page too now!
I hate to say it, but working with that yarn really sucked and the tank "GROWS" in size, so I would say either use a different yarn or knit it up smaller to anyone interested in that ;)

Maybe you shold forward this to Rowan!!!
The Rowan Living and Rowan Quilting books are VERY AMERICANIZED!!! I don't know WHY the knitting ones aren't, especially since they are using more american designers lately...
I really don't want to go and buy 200+ bucks of their yarn to have a mistake or mess up somehow! (and I DO love their yarn)

Well, we're all with you on Rowan. Debbie Bliss isn't much better and why no schematics!! Drives me wild. I think you need to be nearly 'expert' to knit one of their patterns.

I don't think it's a matter of Britsh English vs. American English, but rather, a desire to turn a simple sentence into an overwritten paragraph.

MAN. THANK YOU. Thank you, thank you!

I was just having this conversation with some knitting pals a mere hour ago! Not only are the patterns written in a "creative" way, but a lot of times, the way things are constructed doesn't make much sense to me. It could be that I'm somewhat challenged and just don't get the virtues of knitting an entire cap FLAT and then seaming it, when in my mind I could've easily knitted it in the round and saved myself a lot of trouble -- but something tells me it's Rowan.

I actually know one store here in RI that won't carry Rowan because most of the customers hate the patterns. Hehehe.

I wouldn't go that far, though. I still love Rowan. But, if they were a little more user-friendly, I think we'd all be happier knitters. :-)

I don't think I've tried Rowan... but there are plenty of pattern publishers who "don't get" what makes patterns doable. Vogue is sometimes VERY bizarre!

I wish I had to ride the train to get to work... then I'd have an extra hour to knit every day. Unfortunately, the "rapid transit" in Plano (Dallas suburb) doesn't go anywhere I need to go, so I am driving. And even if I avoid putting on mascara or using the cell phone, I cannot knit and drive at the same time.

Oh listen to you all, she says sniggering in her English manner, it's half the fun trying to work out what Rowan means. There's nothing like a bit of frogging to get the blood cursing through the veins. We English love to rock the boat, it's the sailor in us ;)

I know what you mean! I'm having a hard time with a Debbie Bliss pattern that says "Decrease one on this row and foll alt row." Wha? Fortunately, I have a knitting friend at work who helps me decipher the crypts when I come across them...

i have learned knitting jargon on Rowan patterns, and they are not difficult. but they do require a miminum of attentiveness, sometimes. I actually find some other patterns overdetailed and confusing; there is something as superfluous instructions, which detracts from the flow of knitting. IMHO.


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