The Other Lisa’s List: I Need Help and So Do You

The first thing I did when I got the assignment for this blog post was ask for help. It’s a big job researching the ways in which people learn, fix mistakes, and find help when working on yarn patterns because people learn differently. Some are visual learners while others are tactile learners; some learn through a combination of methods. My own experiences with studying, learning, and discovery, as well as those experiences of my colleagues at Interweave, helped inform this piece. Asking for help is no walk in the park, but it can lead us on an incredible learning journey.

Here are six steps to tackling frustration and error in the creative process:

1) Read the pattern. This first step is the one that I often miss. In the excitement of beginning a new pattern, I just want to jump hook-first into my new project. But then that moment comes—the one where a line of instruction stumps me. I glance up at the notes section at the top and realize, “Oh, I should’ve read that first!” That happened just last week while I was working the Atomic Hat from Interweave Crochet Fall 2011. I bypassed a note with a very key piece of information about skipping a stitch and that greatly threw off my stitch count. When I re-read the note, my stitch count not-so-magically rectified itself. A similar thing happens to me with cooking. It behooves the cook to read through the recipe before accidentally mixing in something too early. The same holds true for yarn crafting. Read through the pattern, notes, charts, and diagrams—this step creates a mental picture that can guide us through the tough spots. Easy peasy lemon squeezey.

ask for help

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2) Check for errata. I have a confession to make: we here at Interweave are not perfect! Every once in a while a mistake falls through the cracks, and from that mistake an errata is born. The Interweave website has a single reference page that guides crafters to all of the different book and magazine corrections, while Ravelry users discuss patterns and their experiences within the comments page of a particular pattern or in a forum (this is where the secrets of crafters all over live). Both are wonderful resources. Go on an adventure to discover all the ways of solving a problem.

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3) Try the pattern. Even if the text of the pattern doesn’t look like it matches up with a chart or vice versa, take a chance on it anyway. Many times I’ve begun a pattern that looks nothing like the final beauty shots in the book or magazine and I wondered if I’ve introduced an error somewhere in my work, only to have it turn out perfectly right. When I learned Tunisian crochet, the first few rounds looked squat and flat—nothing like the tight stitches in the Lily Chin video I was studying. Ten rows in, the work transformed into something much more beautiful as the tension from row to row tugged the stitches into place. As Deb Gerish, editor of Love of Knitting, says, take a leap of faith. You’d be surprised at how much you can do!

a. A side note: Some yarn can’t withstand being ripped multiple times during the learning or creation process. If you’re working with more sensitive yarn, think about practicing with sturdier yarn. You’ll save wear and tear on your yarn, and the experience of working through the pattern will help the concepts better stick in your mind.

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4) Get by with a little help from your friends. Of course, that moment comes in every crafter’s life when we get completely stumped and no matter what we do, an impasse looms before us. That is the moment when we turn to our crafty friends. Guilds are a wonderful source for help because you can work together with other crafters to get past a tricky stitch. Or try classes that are held in libraries, senior homes, and, of course, yarn shops. Yarn shops also are homes for our kindred spirits who love yarn and knitting and crocheting as much as we do, and who would be happy to help you work through a problem!

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5) Hook into the web. If you’re like me, you’re a little old school. Until recently, I refused to put anything onto a web calendar; instead, I had a paper calendar and a pen on me at all times. But three months ago I converted to a web calendar and I haven’t gone back. It’s absolutely fabulous! The same can hold true for finding the answers to crafting questions. Interweave has an online illustrated glossary of knitting and crochet techniques. Or, you can head on over to the workhorse of the Internet, YouTube. How-to videos are the bread and butter of YouTube, and you can find how to cast on, knit, purl, spike stitch, and foundation double crochet in a variety of videos. Watching fingers, yarn, and hooks/needles in action caters to those of us who are visual learners. Forums in places like Ravelry allow you to field questions and connect with others who have made the same pattern.

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6) Have no fear! Mistakes are a part of the learning process. I’ve been a music teacher for over 10 years, and if I’ve learned anything from my students, it’s that they learn best when they err and then fix it. Dive into your work and let those mistakes make you into a better crafter. Some of my biggest “Aha!” moments were in reaction to errors. The most recent came last week: I didn’t understand a note in a pattern and I turned to my colleague in frustration after working it several times. She showed me what to do, but I was still confused. After pulling out the same round several times, my error hit me! I saw very clearly where I had gone wrong. It was such a satisfying experience, and now I’m almost done with the project!

Photo Credit: Multi-bits from Getty Images

Of course, this isn’t everything we can try to get us safely through a pattern from start to wearable, usable finish, but it’s a solid beginning. What methods do you use when working through a pattern? Let me know in the comments below!

—Lisa Espinosa

Never Stop Learning



  1. Deborah G at 12:06 pm June 1, 2017

    That hamster’s project is doomed! It’s trying to knit with crochet needles.

  2. Lisa M at 3:21 pm June 5, 2017

    Hi Lisa
    Great article , many people probably don’t know which style suites them best. Love your pic ids especially that little girl concentrating in the first section.

  3. nancy J at 8:33 pm July 2, 2017

    or are they tiny breadsticks with dabs of peanut butter?
    (did I just post that? How does this work?)

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