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Let’s Be Brutally Honest About Pattern Difficulty Levels by Franklin Habit

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Let’s Be Brutally Honest About Pattern Difficulty Levels by Franklin Habit

franklin_400x400Writer, illustrator, and knitter Franklin Habit joins us for his monthly column featuring humor and insights into a yarncrafter’s life.

While the emergence of the global online needlework community has undoubtedly been a boon in many ways, for the designer of patterns it is a mixed bag. The sort of mixed bag in which candy corn and miniature chocolate bars mingle with rusty scissors and angry cats. Reach in at your peril.

Answering questions about one’s patterns can be a frightful drain on one’s time, particularly the eternal and ceaseless query, “How difficult is this pattern? Is this pattern too difficult for the likes of me?”.

Publishers have tried to head off this question in the past with various arrays of stars and adjectives, with little success. Why? They leave too much unspoken. How spacious, exactly, is the distance between two stars and four stars? “Easy” for whom?

I shall attempt to pour calming oil upon these bouncy waters with the following verbose and infallible explanation of the most commonly encountered grading system. Where it enters, confusion vanishes. I have no doubt that universal adoption will be swiftly forthcoming.

When, in consequence, my monument is built in the village square, let it be known that I am more partial to bronze than marble. The latter is too easily damaged by pigeons.

Thank you.



Utterly mindless. Requires no skills of any kind. In fact, it finished itself before you reached the end of this sentence.




Requires rudimentary skills and at most a minimal attention span. It will take less effort to complete this project than it will to post a shot of it on Instagram.




A challenge of modest proportions. It will take a couple of hours to knock out, yes; but you can watch an “Outlander” marathon while you do it.




Difficult enough that the naughty bits of “Outlander” will probably prove too distracting. Consider instead a few episodes of “Gilligan’s Island,” “The Brady Bunch,” or equivalent selections from the oeuvre of Sherwood Schwartz.




Turn off the television. Are you listening to me? I said turn it off. No, you may not wait until you find out if they get off the island. They never get off the island. Well, not until the sequels. Stop arguing with me. Are you going to buckle down and focus, or not? Do I need to send you to your room?



If you have coffee, drink it now.




No television. Much coffee. And send the rest of the household to the movies. Failing that, lock yourself in the attic. Better still, lock the rest of the household in the attic.




Are you ambidextrous? Double-jointed? With a keen sense of balance?








I strongly urge you to reconsider what you are about to do.




Expectant mothers should not ride.




I’m not absolutely certain our insurance covers this.



You’re going to need these.






With smaller needles, cast on x=[2/SEC(¶/3)•[lim x→0 x^3+8x+10]^2]/[lim θ→0 sinθ/θ] stitches. Join to work in the round, being careful not to twist.




I wash my hands of you.

Writer, illustrator, and photographer Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008–now in its third printing) and proprietor of The Panopticon (, one of the most popular knitting blogs on Internet. On an average day, upwards of 2,500 readers worldwide drop in for a mix of essays, cartoons, and the continuing adventures of Dolores the Sheep. Franklin’s other publishing experience in the fiber world includes contributions to Vogue Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Cast On: A Podcast for Knitters, Twist Collective, and a regular column on historic knitting patterns for

These days, Franklin knits and spins in Chicago, Illinois, sharing a small city apartment with a Schacht spinning wheel and colony of sock yarn that multiplies alarmingly whenever his back is turned.

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  • Bwaaahahaha! Ex-act-ly.

  • I laughed out loud through this whole thing. I love your writing and sense of humor. Thanks for sharing with us.

  • Hilarious.Thank you Franklin.i needed a good chuckle.

  • I love this. You’ve unraveled this biggest of knots for me!

  • So for the 14-star pattern, that would be “Cast on100 stitches”, right? (Assuming that the first term is sec(pi/3)).

  • Omg Hahaha!!!!

  • That is awesome! They should really use this star system.

  • [2/SEC(¶/3)•[lim x→0 x^3+8x+10]^2]/[lim θ→0 sinθ/θ] = 120 stitches, rounding up from 119. 05, if you mean sin(θ/θ). The number of stitches would be 100 if you mean sin(θ)/θ. I think you meant sin(θ)/θ.
    It’s a wonderfully complex expression to basically say 1·10^2/1.
    It was a fun expression to solve.
    (Also only works if you meant sec(pi/3).)
    Yay maths!!! 🙂

  • 13 stars means you need tissues? I’d need chocolate

    • And wine ! ! !

  • Where’s the “do not attempt this without copious amounts of alcohol” designation? 😉 Anyway, this was as hilarious as always! I love your posts.

  • Hilarious and so true! Thanks for the chuckle this morning!

  • I can’t stop laughing! And eating chocolate, and getting my tissues ready…. Oh, and locking my family out of the house, along with changing the locks.

  • Thanks for the guffaws!

  • Thanks, I needed the chuckle.

  • I’ve been hinting at a “she shed” as a place for me to get away from the “household”. I also had to laugh at a picture shown in this issue crocheting hexagons — sitting next to your bed . . . on the floor . . . dressed “nicely” . . . REALLY?

  • I’m not a yarn crafter. I’m spying over the girlfriend’s shoulder, but I have a question. Does the amount of stars correlate to the number of stars you see when you bang your head against the wall out of frustration?

    • Lol

  • You’ve made my blood pressure go down 30 points – and I thank you.

  • Teary eyed with laughter. Your humor is an asset to the knitting community. Oh, yeah. And your patterns are lovely too. 😉

  • finally the truth!!!!

  • I have a compelling need to bookmark this page, for future reference.

  • Hysterical, and the sad part is even if we rate it spot on, many will second guess us.

  • So glad you’re in the world and writing, Franklin!

  • You must’ve been snooping in my ufo stash.

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