Monday, November 28, 2011

Skill Levels

I have an ed. psych. background--which has nothing at all to do with counseling. It is all about how people learn skills. I try as much as I can to apply that knowledge when I write my patterns. I have never believed in "dumb" versus "smart." Sure, it might be out there--but who really cares? It doesn't buy you anything as an instructor to think about it.

But there is something else--something that does matter a great deal: People who are at different levels of knowledge need different levels of detail in their explanations. Simply put, as you gain knowledge, you know more.

A little bit of prior knowledge can go a long way--but you have to obtain that prior knowledge from somewhere first. My beginning patterns are designed to give knitters (and someday quilters and crocheters) that base of knowledge. Later, it's more a matter of pressing the Go Button.

This morning, with all of that in mind, I did something I've been meaning to do for a while. I devised a rating scale for my patterns.

Level 0:

You know how to cast on, bind off, knit, and possibly purl. You may have made a garter-stitch scarf or two. It is time for a first “real” project. An example of this would be my Quick-Knit Hat:

There is so much detail in this pattern at Level 0 that I also created the same pattern for Level 2 knitters who don't need to learn how to knit in the round without twisting stitches or how to use double-pointed needles--but who may want a little reminder for how many stitches to cast on for a hat.

Level 1:

You’re getting comfortable knitting and purling and probably knitting in the round. Now it’s time to learn a few new specialized skills, such as cabling, lace, etc. A great example of this is the No-Fail Lace Scarf pattern. It is an 8-page pattern that shows you how to do everything from knit 2 together, to SSK, to undoing your lace mistakes, to blocking.

Level 2:

You’re becoming fairly independent with knitting. You are comfortable with knitting, purling, and perhaps a few basic stitch patterns. You might need an explanation for a technique here and there rather than having the entire pattern being step-by-step.

I have a number of patterns that fit this bill. One of them is Lindsay's Perfect Mitts:

Another is my ruffled shawl:

For these patterns, I do help you out quite a bit, but only with techniques that might not be as familiar to even a knitter who has been at it for a few years.

Level 3:

There's always something to learn, isn't there? You have become a little more patient when you knit. You are comfortable knitting and reading patterns and don’t need much in the way of explanation, although if there is a particularly clever way to do something, it would be fun to learn.

I try to make it so that if my patterns are at this level, the knitter is still not frustrated--but at the same time, these are not the patterns that one should start with. You probably need more experience.

My favorite pattern here, since I am an intarsia freak, is my Diamond Head hat. It is fun to knit and even more fun to wear:

Where are you in these levels? Is there a chance that you are further along than you think? I believe that the real problem is sometimes not a lack of skills, but a lack of confidence--and maybe just a little more patience needed!

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