Knitting entertainment: two new finds
Sharing the knit - the joy of teaching

When Freakonomics met knitting

Ravelry has just found fame in the Freakonomics blog of the New York Times.

Sarah, a young woman about to finish high school in the US, has written to the blog with her extremely well crafted piece about the difficulty ratings on Ravelry. Her concern is that there are very few patterns rated 9 or 10 but she finds some rated 4 very difficult. She also points out that patterns rated difficult sometimes receive high star ratings. She therefore argues that there is oligarchy of highly skilled, craft addicts who rate patterns and skew the difficult ratings for everyone else.

I on the other hand would argue that there is no reason why a pattern can’t be difficult and fun and high quality. I would also argue that because Ravelry ratings are a subjective judgement by members who have made the patterns and remembered to rate them, they are not an exact science and that Sarah can rate the patterns herself potentially pushing up the average difficulty score.

Proj 007
Victorian Lace - complex but fun

I’ve commented on the NYT article with my thoughts on the ratings which I share here as well.

Knitting and crochet are crafts made up with a relatively small number of basic techniques that can take you a long way. Patterns are basically arrangements of those techniques, the difficult comes from the number of techniques required and how often these need to be performed. Lace items could be regarded as higher on the difficulty rating because you need to do a lot in every row – but on the other hand the pattern may be repeated very regularly allowing the knitter to become used to that arrangement of stitches (techniques) which then makes it easier as you go along.

Kelly 002
I rated this as easy because of simple stitches & shaping

When rating patterns on Ravelry I try to assess how I found them and how I would recommend them to other knitters and beginners I teach. I use the star rating (what Sarah has as the 1-5 quality rating) as a mark of the outcome of the project – did it turn out as advertised (pattern pictures can be flattering) – and the enjoyment factor – knitters do it for pleasure.

As someone who has been knitting longer than Sarah has been alive  I will have a different view to her but I try to be fair in my difficulty rating and I have yet to rate anything 9 or 10 as far as I can see. That’s because I would regard that as something that I as a v experienced – and yes, a good -knitter would struggle with, find progress difficult on and have to learn new techniques for. On the other hand I will rate a current project as a 7 or 8 – not because it is impossible or even take that long to knit but it does require concentration a lot of different stitches in every row and has a complex shaping chart. Therefore I wouldn’t recommend it to a less experienced person.

It’s all about personal judgement.