If you’ve ever run into a struggle with your knitting and wondered where to go for help, you’re not alone. The beauty of the making process is that there’s always something new to learn, and I’m convinced that this is why I’ve yet to get bored with knitting. I’m all about stretching your craft muscles and trying new things, but as we do that, it’s important to keep in mind that we’re inevitably going to get stuck sometimes; we need a plan of action when it happens.
It’s also important to know that getting stuck is okay – we all do it. It doesn’t mean you’re not amazing (because you are).
This primer will give you an overview of proper knitting support etiquette and how to get answers to your knitting questions as efficiently (and quickly) as possible. Keep in mind, most of these are common sense and you’ll likely shake your head thinking, “This reminds me of the label on my hair dryer that says not to use it in the bathtub… Duh.” The very fact that you’re here reading this means you’re likely not the person who needs to see it. So if you’re already doing it right, awesome. I love you. Thank you. But if, by chance, you haven’t been sure of the best way to get help in the past, this little primer will point you toward the best ways to get support.
The Etiquette of Knitting Help
- Always Consult the Pattern First. When you run into a question, your first step should always be to consult the pattern carefully. At least 50% questions designers receive are already answered in the pattern. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received a question, sat down to find the pattern file, refamiliarized myself with the details and isolated the spot the knitter is asking about, only to see that they simply didn’t read the next paragraph (which held the answer to their question). And typically after I send them a response, they write back: “Oh yeah, I realized that right after I emailed you.” Exchanges like this can cost a designer or a yarn shop employee 30 minutes or more of their time. And as we all know – especially when it comes to small business – time is money.
- Try Knitting it Before You Ask. While we highly encourage knitters to read through the pattern before they dig in, it’s important to remember that some steps of the process will make more sense when you get there. Never send an email question about a portion of the pattern that you haven’t yet attempted – and on that same note, don’t give up and wait until the yarn shop opens to ask. More than likely it will make more sense when you get there, so keep at it. Try it a few times if you need to – sometimes all it takes is getting it on your needles and trying a few different approaches until everything clicks.
- Check For Updates & Errata. Before you cast on (and if you run into an issue while you’re knitting), check the Ravelry pattern page and the designer’s website for updates or errata. This can be a time saver and help you plan for potential hurdles before you get to them.
- Google Your Question. You would be surprised at how easily you can find answers to common knitting questions with a quick and easy internet search. You can also find many answers in knitting reference books, which you may already have on your bookshelf.
- Use the Designer’s Support Group. Most designers have either a Ravelry group or a private Facebook group (mine is the Olive Knits Student Lounge on Facebook). These groups are designed to give you a convenient place to chat with other knitters who have likely worked on the same project and will probably be able to help point you to answers or resources.
- Visit Your LYS. Your local yarn shop is an incredible resource for knitting support. Some shops offer quick help for free (5 minutes or less), but if you need more than 5 minutes of help please be prepared to pay for some one-on-one help or a class. (And hey, if you visit your LYS for help, please show your support to them by making a purchase while you’re there – even if it’s small.)
- If You Think You Know What to Do, Do It. So many knitters email asking for validation – they are pretty sure they know what to do, but they just want someone to confirm that they’re on the right track. While I understand how valuable that reassurance can be, trial and error is part of the fun of having a hobby (not only that, but trying, frogging and trying again makes you a better knitter over all). If you think you know what you’re supposed to do, or you think you know how to fix your mistake, or you think you know what to do with that extra stitch, just do it. You’ve got this.
- Email the Designer. There’s a reason this option comes last on the list. With the ease and power of our ultra-connected online space, it can be easy to want to reach out to the designer first before you’ve tried other sources of support. When you think of the small cost of a pattern (less than $10, generally), it makes sense that designers cannot offer personal coaching through the pattern process, or teach each customer how to work unfamiliar stitches, or help them decide how to modify, or adjust for differences in gauge, make yarn substitutions, etc… In order to keep pattern prices reasonable, each of us as individual knitters must rely on all the different avenues of support available to us to ensure our own success. Emailing a designer should be the last option, after all other resources have been exhausted. This is the only way we can continue to keep pattern prices affordable.
What Not to Do When Seeking Help
- Social Media is a No-No. Just as you would likely not reach out to your accountant, local bakery or local shoe store via private message, designers and yarn stores are businesses, too. Do not contact designers or yarn shops through private messenger on social media (Facebook messenger, Instagram private message, etc…) unless they’ve specifically requested you to use that avenue for support. This goes for posting support questions to their social media pages, as well – these are likely to get missed. If you have exhausted all other options and still need help, email is generally the best option when contacting designers. If you’re seeking help from a yarn shop, stop in and ask your question in person so they can see what you’re working with and let you know their recommendation for next steps.
- Holidays & Weekend Requests. Once upon a time I received the mother of all inappropriate customer requests. The customer messaged me via Instagram private message about a question with regard to her gauge swatch. Her message came through on a holiday and she qualified it by saying, “I have a lot of extra knitting time today since it’s a holiday, so I’d appreciate a response ASAP.” If it’s a holiday for you, it’s also probably a holiday for the designer (or yarn shop owner). Not only was this customer’s request unnecessary in the first place (figuring out your gauge is part of your personal responsibility as a knitter), but to expect to receive immediate help via social media message on a holiday was inappropriate. When you do need to reach out, only do so via email, and expect responses to take several days. For a pattern that costs less than $10 (USD), unlimited night/weekend/immediate support is not a reasonable expectation.
- Don’t Be Rude (or Expect a Mind Reader). When you’re emailing either a yarn shop or a designer to ask for help, please be polite and provide all the information necessary for the designer to assist you. You would be surprised at how many emails we receive that don’t include the basic information necessary to assist the customer (i.e. your name, which pattern your referring to, the size you’re making, etc…). In order to get the help you need, please provide all the relevant information we’ll need to assist you.
- Don’t Ask For Help Until You’ve Tried All the Tools to Help Yourself. I love supporting my knitting community, and I’ve invested time, energy and money into a range of support resources to help knitters have a great experience and feel supported all along their knitting journey. This support comes in the form of blog posts on various knitting topics, tutorial links within the patterns, a weekly newsletter with knitting tips, and an active and wonderful free private Facebook community with a team of volunteer moderators who are there to help point you toward answers. I also pay a very part time assistant (3 hours a week) to help me answer questions via email. If it costs me $15-$25 in hourly wages to have my assistant help you with a pattern that you paid $7 for, you can imagine why I would encourage you to please use all the other tools I’ve provided for you before you reach out for email support.
I love what I do, and I have a fierce love for this community. Working with knitters over the last few years has been an absolute privilege, and – with any luck – I will continue to do this work for many years to come. But in order to do so, we must have realistic expectations about what we can expect as a community when it comes to getting help with knitting projects. Many entrepreneurs find that running a fiber business isn’t financially sustainable because the challenges and demands of running a small business in a hobby industry can be intense. But I believe that by streamlining the ways we offer and expect creative support, we can help our industry be sustainable for many years to come.
By the way, I’m just about to launch a whole new set of resources for my knitting community – if you’d like to be the first to know when new tools and resources are launched, be sure to sign up for Olive the Things, my weekly knitting guide (newsletter) with weekly tips, special discounts and the inside scoop on all things Olive Knits.
Cheers to your knitting!