women of a certain age are like sunflowers; they know how to turn their faces to the sun.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


"Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification."
-Romans 15:2

I am a middle child.

Middle children are commonly known as the peacemakers in the family. They are also often "pleasers" by nature, seeking a sense of their own worth through the approval of others.

I spent the first forty-odd years (and some were odder than others) of my life with no sense of who I was or what I did. I mirrored back to others what I thought they wanted to see in me. I tried my darndest.

And, of course, I failed, as indeed we all do when trying to assume the identity of another, rather than the self.

Until I found myself sitting on the psychologists couch, in full blown depressive mode, completely out of touch with my soul and psyche.

When I stand before the gates of heaven, St. Peter will not ask me, "Why weren't you Annie Modisett? Or Stephanie Pearl McPhee?" but rather, "Why weren't you Susan Pandorf?"

Yet most of us consider it a good thing to please others. Even the bible tells us so.

This time of year, especially, we seek to please the recipients of the fruits of our hard earned labor - whether that be a hand knit scarf or a scarce, but dearly desired toy. We want the smile of recognition, the squeal of delight, the heartfelt "thank you" that makes it all worthwhile.

We aim to please.

This thought is on my mind today because of an email I received last night. One of my readers forwarded an email "warning" they had received, which said,

I hope you don't order before looking at the few projects for each one on Ravelry. In the pattern section, type in Sunflower Designs. Then look each one up. Not many people have attempted them, and even less have finished them.

One person notes that there were far to many errors in the pattern to even attempt completing it

Like you I have wanted them for a long time, and thought it was a great deal, but after reading the comments from the people who attempted to make them I decided against them. That is why I didn't give you a "heads up"

Those of you who have been reading me for a while know that I try to be truthful at all times.

I once asked my friend Greg (a terrific psychologist and a truly wonderful human being) if he ever got bored, listening to different people day after day pour out the same old problems. His answer?

"Only if they aren't telling the truth, because then they are wasting my time, and more importantly, theirs."

I don't know about you, but I don't feel, at the ripe old age of 52, I have time to waste. My mother died at age 61. Life is too short and love too precious, to waste our days in lies.

I make mistakes. When I do, I do everything within my power to make things right. I give refunds. I post errata in four different places: here on the blog, in the Ravelry forums, on the Ravelry pattern page, and in downloadable files. This may give the appearance that there are more mistakes than there actually are, but I want to ensure that everyone knows the truth.

I immediately correct the error, update the pattern, notify all who may be affected, and always reissue the updated pattern out to any of those who have purchased it in the past. You only have to ask.

Again, our knitting time is limited; we don't have time to waste on lies. Even if they are unintentional and regrettable. I get that.

And it pains me when I have told you to SSK, when you need to SK2P. In my humble opinion, for what it's worth (which isn't much; my opinion and a quarter will buy you a soda pop...wait a minute...not anymore it won't...) it is the worst thing about being a designer.

My mistakes are mostly of the careless variety - a typo here, a brain fart there. None are intentional and none are, to bely their appelation, care-less. I care. I care very much. I just don't always see clearly.

Sometimes, I see what I want, or expect, to see. That is what test knitters are for. Having no previous expectation as to appearance or structure, they knit EXACTLY WHAT YOU TELL THEM TO.

Most of the time. I have learned during the past year, that even that is no guarantee, especially when it comes to written directions as opposed to charts.

My mistakes are many; I often ask your pardon. And I promise to do everything in my power to make things right. That is all I can do. Short of shutting down.

The second criticism is also of concern to me - the assertion that my patterns are too difficult to finish. I have noticed there are few FOs on Ravelry, and have wondered why. I had chalked it up to the endless fight for space in the Queue, with projects jostling each other for primacy and a spot at the front of the line. I think we all get a bad case of "start-itis" from time to time.

I know that my beaded lace patterns aren't a walk in the park. But I have seen much more difficult patterns. Hell, I have knit much more dificult patterns. And, to be honest, some are sitting in hibernation hell. (Anything with colorwork or intarsia - YIKES - LOVE the look; HATE the process.)

Even I get tired of intricate. By September, after four Garden Variety shawls, I thought if I lifted one more strand, knit two more together, or placed three more beads, I was going to run screaming into the arms of the men with the straightjackets. I realized I needed a break.

So I refocused and knit up some nice quick and relatively simple aperitifs, before returning with Poinsettia.

I want to know what you think, even if it is hard to hear. I believe that knitting is a partnership:
  • Between sheep and breeder
  • Between spinner and dyer
  • Between designer and knitter
  • Between giver and recipient
Partnerships depend upon clear, consistent, and honest communication between friends. The feedback I have gotten from you has been overwhelmingly positive until now. It distresses the "pleaser" in me greatly that there are people out there who are unhappy with my work.

On the other hand, I recognize the truth in the hoary maxim, "You can't please all the people all the time."

We are blessed with a plethora of knitting choices. There is room in our craft:
  • For those who knit Neibling and those who knit dishcloths.
  • For those who design free patterns and those who try to eke out enough to pay the water bill.
  • For those who are beginners and those who have done this all their lives.
  • For those who knit from their stash and those who surf the web looking for the newest fiber.
  • For those who want "easy" and those who relish a challenge.

And one is no better than the other.

If you put yourself out there on a limb, there will always be someone with a chainsaw waiting to cut you down to size. I guarantee it.

I also depend upon it.

To make myself better. To make my patterns better. To move forward together in partnership.

I have pictures to share. I even uploaded them. But I think I have blathered on enough for today. I will save the actual knitting for tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.

With humble heart and grateful soul, I wish you...

Blessings and happy knitting always.


old lady said...

The web is a terrible-wonderful thing. It brings out the best and the worst in people. Being behind the monitor allows people to post things they wouldn't say to someone's face. With all that said, it sounds like you are doing all that you think is RIGHT and can look someone in the eye and be proud of your actions. When it comes down to it - what more is there?? Sounds like you're doing right!!!

Connie said...

Ouch is right! I was reading your post holding my breath hoping that you weren't going to stop designing or something crazy because of horrible comments like that. I read through the ravelry comments and couldn't find anything bad (of course, finding negative comments is not my first priority)- I did notice that many of your patterns have been *hearted* hundreds of times. They are intricate beautiful works of art and so if they aren't absolutely mistake free the first time out, who can blame you - even thinking about designing some of the kinds of things you do makes my head spin. So Susan - please don't give those comments another thought - we love your designs so keep them coming!

Unknown said...

We all need variety in our lives. I like simple quick knits as much as the next person. However when I want to knit something beautiful, something sumptuous I turn to your patterns and very often the recommended yarn. This in itself is why I haven't finished them. I simply enjoy them and don't race through to finish them. Please don't be disheartened by some people assertions that your patterns are to hard. Something truly worth having is worth working for.

Anonymous said...

Susan, if there's anything I can do to help, let me know. As a test knitter for the patterns, I've found very few mistakes, even in testing. Some of the patterns require using a few brain cells, but who wants garter stitch all the time? If you'd like a quote from me to circulate, let me know. As for unfinished projects...I'm the queen. And there are lots of people out there like me that work on lots of things at once.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Susan!
So sorry to hear about the comment/warning.
I have a number of comments.

I am half way finished with Iris. I absolutely adore it. I haven't finished it because my teaching job takes a huge amount of my time. However, I have every intention of finishing it over the holiday break. After finishing Iris I plan on knitting Hydrangea. I can't wait. It isn't about your designs, it is my very full schedule that makes it difficult for me to finish. The other aspect that challenged me to finish Iris was the illness of one of my companion puppies. Over the last four months she has been very ill. During that time I needed to knit something that was absolutely mindless.

Your ideas are fantastic and I love witnessing the design process. One of the things that I love about your Garden Variety series is that they are smaller than a stole. I have knitted two Scheherazades, two Swan Lakes and a Ostrich Plume stole. One of the things that I discovered is that I do not need that much "fabric." I would rather spend my time on some fabulous beading than simply knit more yardage. Your designs allow me to do something incredible that has more of an impact than a six foot stole. It has been said before, your designs are like jewelry. And here goes, I am going to say it. I am at that point in my life where I would rather chose to knit things that are spectacular than knit those things that will help me on a detour to frumpiness.

I have experimented with beads on other patterns. I've discovered that the stitch pattern needs to be very special in order to "support" the beads. Your designs make that happen every time. I can't thing of another designer who creates the spectacular gems that you create. Please don't stop. Gothic cathedrals are one of my personal interests and I can't wait to see what you do with that theme.

And with respect to mistakes - how about this one? It is my mistake and it happened today. I was knitting an Irish Hiking scarf with Malabrigo worsted as a Christmas gift. I was half way finished when I added the next skein. Even though the skeins were the same dye lots, there was a huge difference in color. I had to frog the whole thing, and am now alternating every two rows between skeins. I knew better.
When "mistakes" are encountered - it is a reminder that I am experiencing the "human" process of creation.

Many thanks for the huge number of blissful hours spent knitting your incredible creations,

Wye Sue said...

Sometimes I choose a pattern that no one else has ever knitted so I wont bump into anyone else wearing it !
I'm not good at updating my Rav queue but at the moment I have Abrabian nights and pontsettia on the needles (and also Sharon Miller's wedding ring shawl, and here be dragones shawl) Having nearly finished present making I'm going to take pontsettia on holiday with me as Christmas knitting.

Please do not give up designing, your patterns are amazing and loved by a lot of people. If they take time to make that makes them all the better - beads do take time and mean that you cant easily knit on the train - I will try my best to work through as many of your patterns as quickly as I can to show the moaning minnies what wonderful creations they are :-)

teabird said...

Sometimes I forget how snarky and unpleasant knitters can be. I'm truly sorry you've been the subject of snark. It's utterly unwarranted.

I'm nowhere near the level of knitter that would let me knit most of your scarves. That doesn't mean I don't love to look, and aim to learn enough. I love seeing the ones that have been knitted, and imagining the yarns or colourways I would use.

As for errors - for heaven's sake: you're so approachable that I can't understand why people would be so mean. One look at the publishing site of any knitting book will tell you that errata happen. Get over it. Frog, re-knit, and move on.

Please don't stop designing your lace. And please don't be sad about the snarks.

Yarnartist said...

I am so sorry you were done to like this. I looked at your patterns in Ravelry and found high ratings, lots of 'hearts' and nothing at all negative. Some people are just miserable and like to spread it around.

I have long been an admirer of yours and am going to order the patterns, just because they are so beautiful. I will probably never live long enough to actually make them, but I want to support someone who is doing such a beautiful labor of love and who is dedicated to creating sheer beauty!

Happy Holidays!
Ellene Warren
yarnartist on Ravelry

joan said...

I think some of those negative comments come from those who envy your talent. I knit it all from the Neibling to dish clothes and everything in between. I want to thank you for giving me such inspiration to endure the boring knitting. It makes me hurry on with the "no brain" projects to get to the "glorious" your designs. Right now I am waiting for the Christmas crazy knitting to be done. Then the reward to my soul one of the designs I purchased from you. I write patterns for class projects to teach a particular technique. I know how difficult this is. Let no one who has never tried to write a pattern assault you. They have no clue. Please continue with something you have such talent for. I am looking forward to the Cathedral series after the first of the year. I always have lace weight on hand so I can cast on at any hour. Thank you for your gift of lovely charted patterns.

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan,
I too want to chime in and add my support.
I have been admiring your work for a while now, and want to knit every single one of your designs. They are beautiful. I am working on Poinsettia and I am absolutely loving it.
You have talked on your blog before about wanting to give us knitters what we need. And although I can only speak for myself, I believe you are truly inspired with your designs. I found you with Morocco, then fell in love with your garden, and now am in awe of your planned cathedrals.
God granted you with an amazing gift. One that you graciously share with all of us. If anyone expects you to be perfect, maybe they should look in the mirror before judging.
And keep in mind, when you are doing the Lords work, (and I believe you are), of course you will face some adversity.
Put this off your shoulders, move on from this, and turn your face into that sun woman! =)

Michelle said...

Susan, I fully understand how difficult it is for a pleaser to hear this. I want to be honest with what I hear and I have not heard anything of this nature regarding your designs. I am not here to pat your hand but to give you my honest opinion and that is that your designs are beautiful and I am proud of your work. It is impossible to not have mistakes in patter writing of this kind and I have always noticed that you are very quick with errata and thorough and it makes me more comfortable with trusting you as a designer. No, I have not yet finished one of your patterns...it has nothing to do with anything other than time...simply time...which none of us have enough of.
Thank you for being so honest and please know that you cannot please everyone..even though it doesn't stop it from hurting when someone is not pleased. Many of us have the same struggle. Your work is inspiring please keep it up...mistakes and all!

Danielle said...

I absolutely love a very complex project. I keep reading your blog, excited for every new pattern that you release. :) If money weren't so tight, I would probably own every one! Be encouraged, your work is so beautiful.

Cheryl, the jungian Knitter said...

Oh Susan -- nothing in nature is perfect, least of all we humans! I was the first to knit Arabian Nights and it had fewer errors than many far better known patterns, even in the early version I used.

Now about finished objects :::looking at overflowing project basket::: -- what is this "finished" that you speak of??

Julie said...

I have 3 of your patterns so far (Hydrangea, Pumpkin Patch, and Moroccan Days). I haven't started any of them, just because of lack of time. They are gorgeous, and I am really looking forward to your Cathedral Collection as well.

I often wonder why people feel like the world needs their opinion. Not just the person who wrote the email, but the person who felt the need to forward it to you. Why would they want to cause you all of this self-doubt? I'm seeing a lot of smiley faces on the projects on Ravelry. Keep up the good work!

anita said...

I am in awe of your talent, your unending font of designs and you inspired in me a desire to try those things I wouldn't normally try. I agree with the statements that it seems easier to write behind the screen than it would in other situations.

have you seen the errata posted for designers by major publishing houses? designs that went through test knitters and through copy editors?

or, more importantly, errata that never shows up, and for us "still learning knitters" leave us with the inability to figure out how to finish?

I don't think anyone is perfect, and I'm just grateful that if you find a mistake, you get it out and posted.

as for finished projects? I'm three months behind on my blog and have 6 pix on my camera. I don't think Rav's finished projects is accurate representation of a designer's work; rather of our desire to get pix uploaded.

just my eight cents.

please don't stop your beautiful work.

momsue84 said...

Your patterns are stunning! Please don't stop designing because of one snarky email. Are they difficult? Perhaps more than some. But they, and you, cause us to be challenged. That is a good thing. Life and knitting would be tiresome and dull were we not challenged to improve ourselves in every aspect, from relationships to knitting skills. We all make mistakes. And look at the amount of errata there is out there for all sorts of patterns. By their very nature, it is easy to insert a typo and an incorrect increase or decrease. No big deal when you always make it so right. Chin up, cheer up. We are all behind you, chomping at the bit for your next design.

Anonymous said...

Your designs are beautiful and intricate. I buy them knowing that the finished project will beautifully reflect the effort I have put in. As a process knitter, your designs work for me. When I am done, I feel like I have really accomplished something that comes close to looking like a work of art rather than just another knitted piece. Please keep designing.

Laughingrat said...

Hmmm, interesting post. I wonder just how necessary it was to pass that "warning" along to you...people usually mean well, genuinely mean well, when they pass that stuff along, but there's a good reason that the Jewish faith lumps it into the category of harmful gossip.

Anyway, your correlation of being taught to be a people-pleaser and feeling that you have no identity, and further correlating that with depression, felt really spot-on for me. I guess I don't have much more to say about it than that.

Anonymous said...

ok- I only skimmed the blog entry as I'm heading out the door, so pardon me if I got something wrong. :)
I have purchased Hydrangea, Magic Carpet scarf and Moroccan Days/Arabian Nights shawl, and the Leaves of Grass scarf. I wish I could knit faster and have more time to knit. These would all be done already. I have actually started the Leaves of Grass which is now hibernating until after Christmas. This pattern has been fine - easy enough to follow, etc. The hard part was finding the yarn. (Now I'm not sure I love it, so it may get ripped and re-knit in something else.) So, the pattern is hibernating due to available time, not a bad or flawed pattern. :) I haven't really looked at the others yet, but they haven't been started because they are much larger, time-consuming projects, and *I* am the intended recipient (so they go to the bottom of the list). I hope that helps you!

Chery said...

Susan, I covet all your patterns. They are so beautiful. I can't wait to see the cathedral patterns you are designing.

I have knit Mystic Water and working on Mystic Ice.

Continue in good health and peace.

Anonymous said...

Your patterns are just lovely. Like other people have noted, some people prefer 'easy' patterns. Shoot, sometimes I prefer easy. There's a place for TV knitting.

But there's also a place for things of beauty that are heirloom quality. That's where your patterns are. Heirloom quality pieces are rarely easy or simple.

And many people, myself included, like to tackle projects that will keep us mentally entertained, that will give us the chance to learn something new.

And re: errors, I've always noticed while reading your blog that if/when any are found, you immediately post errata. That's all that we can ask, I think, especially when the patterns are complex. And I believe that a thinking knitting will notice if something seems not right.

Donna Lee said...

I have admired your designs from the very first ones to the more recent. I love the cathedrals. Your ability to see something in your head and make it into a reality is wondrous to me. I have tried the Triad and had trouble with it. Not the pattern. Just my ability to follow directions at the time. Will I try it again? Absolutely. I don't assume because I don't "get it" the first time that something is wrong with the pattern. I usually assume it's me. I love that pattern and one day I will figure it out. And then I will feel immense (can't spell today) pride in having completed what for me is a complicated design. You keep on doing what you know in your heart is right. You have lots of support.

Pandora's Box of FIber said...

It seems to me that the people who are so worried about there not being any finished objects might not understand how hard it is to get everything right.

I know your job is hard, and I also know that you work hard to make these beautiful patterns.

People do not often think before they speak, or post words in the blogosphere. Please take those comments with a grain of salt. Learn what you can, and trash the rest. Do not dwell on what SuzieQ says. You work hard, and that's all that matters.

fleegle said...

Oh bleeb. Everyone makes mistakes--it's just that yours are public. One of the reasons I don't post most of my designs is because I dread the inevitable criticisms.n Me coward. You brave.

Your designs are wonderful because they are so intricate. Please don't stop designing them.

My husband bought me all the yarn for your flower designs for Christmas--and I promise to post the FOs on Ravelry and praise you to the skies. So there.

Gidgetknits said...

Oh, keep making those mistakes! In some belief systems, a mistake is deliberately made in order to celebrate that the creator of the work is not perfect - is actually human. I make mistakes all the time and constantly feel as you do and constantly remind myself that sometimes terrific things actually come from mistakes. And if someone doesn't have the patience to accept someone correcting mistakes... well, you wonder whether that person would have the patience to even attempt such incredible patterns as yours! I'm still to cast on, but I just love looking at the patterns and sometimes I gasp as I see the details! I will cast on over Christmas... I've got my yarn. I know it will take a while, but I'll enjoy it all! I bought the patterns because I love them and I want to support you as a designer.

And Meg Cabot once passed on a terrific piece of advice she was given: "you're not a hundred dollar bill. Not everyone will love you."

But I think you can already see from the comments, you're not lacking in people who do!

Hattie said...

Don't pay any attention, your designs are beautiful, and unique, and yes, challenging but that's personally why I like them. There is always a critic!

Anonymous said...

Susan... I only started knitting this year so certainly can't claim any experience. As soon as I discovered your patterns I knew I was hooked. They are beautiful. True... I haven't finished one yet. However... I am almost half way with Hydrangea, which I am knitting twice at the same time... once using a "test" yarn... and am within a few rows of finishing Triad. I have found your patterns to be near error free and those things I thought were errors were in fact my mistakes. That I haven't yet finished any of your patterns is not the fault of the pattern. Life has a way of intruding and it's just not possible to pursue what we want to do. But I will finish them... all of them. They are inspirational and a blessing. You are a very talented designer.

Carla Willingham said...

I'm in love with your patterns!! I just bought the Garden series and have plans next payday to buy it for a friend of mine for her Christmas gift!!!!
I just wish I had the time to put into these that they deserve.... and not put them into that enormous basket of UFO's that's laughing at me from the living room!!! LOL!
Please, hurry with the catherdal series!!! What I've seen of them makes me just drool already!!!
:D Carla

Red Rocket said...

You're finished work is a treat in itself. You make beautiful treasures and we're fortunate enough that you offer them in any stage of design. Keep doing what you do, by all means.

And for what's it's worth to critic, I've spent big bucks on many a designers' books with NUMEROUS mistakes and very little(or none at all) follow-up errata. And I will continue to do so; it's a lucky glimpse into a creator's mind.

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine why someone would say anything negative about your patterns... so as the critic suggested I went to Ravelry and searched Patterns for Sunflower Designs. I read all the comments and all I found were VERY POSITIVE. Can't but wonder where the critic found negative comments.

Sharon said...

I hope you print out every one of the eloquent comments before me. Your work is beautiful and stunning. I'm grateful you create intricate details. Be proud of yourself and your work.

Ann said...

You are so creative & I love your designs. Carry on creating ....

Cheryl said...

Wow, that person really put the "ass" in ASSumption. Let's see:

1. Every knitter must belong to Ravelry, and keep her/his project list up to date at all times.
2. If one person says one pattern has errors, then all of the patterns by that designer have errors.
3. Mistakes in the execution of the knitting are always the fault of the designer, and never the fault of the knitter.
4. Errors will never be corrected.
5. Difficult designs are too much trouble.
6. Don't bother doing your own research. I'm much better at it than anyone else.

Did I miss any?

Don't let that busybody get you down.

Ruth said...

Piffle to the criticism. I've been teetering on the verge of ordering your patterns, and now I'm convinced I need them!

Give me too difficult, give me mistakes, give me projects that no one finishes. Hah! The busybody has thrown down the gauntlet, and I'm taking her up on it.

I'm ordering the set right now.

Unknown said...

Susan - you're designs are gorgeous. They're original, different, colourful and show a modern twist. The fact that they're not as easy as other patterns makes them more desirable to those knitters who value the effort and intricacy.

I find it HIGHLY amusing when I read negative comments on a pattern on ravelry when only one two clicks often proves the problem is the knitter not the pattern. I laugh and laugh, and then I send pm's to my friends telling them to look and we laugh together some more. So, don't think that everyone takes notice of these stupid comments - because they don't.

As for a small number of finished objects on Ravelry - who cares? There are plenty of other ways to measure success. Favourites mean more I think in ravelry terms - and ravelry isn't the be all and end all of knitting, although it seems like it when you're in there!
I agree with you about the queue competitiveness - I think sometimes the increased choice we have doesn't really help us much.
Take heart and keep on going - certainly don't lower yourself to retaliate.

Ronni said...

Oh dear. I already feel guilty when I can't knit the lovely patterns I buy nearly fast enough. This person has just made it that much worse. Now I simply must apologize to you for not managing to get any of the patterns I have bought thus far onto my Rav queue let alone finished. It has nothing to do with errors or the difficulty of the pattern and everything to do with the limits on my time. Someday I will get to knit these beauties. And frankly, to me they are worth the purchase price just for the inspiring beauty of them and the possibility of knitting them.

I do hope you will continue to follow your muse knitting design wise and create lovely intricate things when you want to and simpler things when you want to. I am thoroughly enjoying filling up my mental queue (I'm not so good at getting them into my rav queue which for me is more like a "remember to look at this again" list than a "knit this next" list) with lovely patterns from many people and yours are high on that list.