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

Monday, June 14, 2010

An Open letter to My Customers

As many if you know, there has been considerable debate and heated argument on Ravelry regarding issues about Evenstar and my business practices.

I posted the following on the Evenstar Boards this afternoon. I offer it here as well, in the spirit of openess & fairness.

The "drama" has gone on long enough. In fact it has gone on far too long.

I will admit to not having read every post in all threads. After repeated attempts to address the grievances of disappointed knitters in a businesslike fashion, I have come to the conclusion that nothing I can say or do will satisfy, short of taking down my shingle and quitting the business. Replying to repeated complaints over and over, when nothing new is added to the mix is a waste of both my time and yours.

At some point you have to agree to disagree and leave the table.

Do I knit halves on projects that are identical on both ends and joined at the center? Yes, I do. I have made no secret of that fact. If you visit my projects page, you will see honesty about what is finished and what is not.

I like my ends to be symmetrical so my designs often feature a join. I don't mind the graft/3 needle bind off. Now that I know this is an issue for some people, I have updated all of my pattern pages to display this information. Whenever possible, I try to offer other options for those who do not like this method of construction.

Was I honest about the fact that I was knitting along with you on Evenstar? It is clearly stated right at the top of the announcement thread and in my blog. The whole reason this KAL came into existence was the desire expressed by people who did not want to wait until June to knit this pattern.

Do I usually publish something I have not knitted or tested or done before (as in the case of grafting or doing a 3 needle bind off)? No. If I am doing something different for the join, as in Dwarrowdelf & Mehndi, I work it out and complete the center portion as well.

The only exception to this rule is my free patterns. Until Legolas, they were simple enough not to need testing. I have been honest about the Legolas pattern problems and deeply regret putting an untested product on the market. I am doing everything within my power to correct my unfortunate oversight and learn from my mistake.

Do I test knit? Yes I do. But until Evenstar, all my test knitters were chart people. Most of my patterns were charted only, prior to Evenstar. You will see most errata were in written directions, which I do not use. Since the second clue, I have added a second, written directions, test knitter.

Do they make mistakes? Sometimes. The greatest pitfall in knitting is doing what you know is right versus what is on the page. I ask them to do only what is there in writing, but that does not always happen; example: the wrong direction slants of the wrong side decreases, due to the software error in Goldberry. If they had done what was in the written directions, the scarf would have looked wrong and the error would have been caught.

Do I knit from the written directions? No. I find written directions incredibly hard to keep track of. Too many places to go wrong. I cannot get through a row, without messing it up. I am a visual person. I "see" the pattern,to the extent that anything uncharted from Barbara Walker's books gets charted immediately before I pick up a needle.

Am I bad at written directions? Yes, I am. This is why I am testing the Intwined Design software. While it does not catch every problem, it provides a framework from which to work. It does not however include repeats, parentheses, or asterisks; those must be added by hand. It has additional problems with the stitch library, from time to time.

Is it worth the trouble to provide written directions to charted designs? I have debated this question a lot over the past few months. Designs of this complexity rarely include written directions. I provided written directions for two reasons:

1) A lot of "written directions" knitters contacted me, requesting they be able to participate
2) I think the more often you compare a chart with written directions, the sooner you begin to understand, or "read" your lace.

The inclusion of written directions brings many into the knitting process who would otherwise be excluded.

Do my test knitters knit the entire pattern? Not always. It depends on the construction of the individual piece. For example, they each knit the center panel of Dwarrowdelf and one repeat of one side, plus the border design. In other words they worked through all the directions without doing all the repeats. Then they ripped back and will complete at their leisure, with my thanks.

Do I use a proofreader/tech editor? I never have until this project, but added one after the second clue, when it was suggested to me. Is she perfect? No. Are there better people out there? Probably, but this person has experience and is volunteering her services, for which I am eternally grateful.

Are there errata? Absolutely! Are they due to my business practices? Absolutely not.

Do I miss deadlines? Sometimes. We all have lives and other commitments; most of us have other jobs. Sometimes it is due to a misjudgment on my part; sometimes a pattern gets stuck in the pipeline due to circumstances beyond my control.

Do I read every post in every forum? No, I don't. I did when we started out, but the sheer volume of the posts became too much to manage. That is why we have four moderators. If I read every post of every thread of every group that has anything to do with Sunflower Designs, I would spend all my time on line and have no time to produce anything else.

Do I care about my knitters? Yes, I do. In an ideal world, everyone who knits one of my patterns would clearly understand all directions, never have to frog anything, and pick the ideal yarn for every project. I do not ask for, promote, nor want any "drama." I want happy knitting always and feel very bad when something I have done causes difficulties.

When people do have a problem I try, within reason, to address those issues fairly and in a timely fashion. If someone else has offered a solution before I get to it, I thank them for that, and am glad the person helped out. I do not always respond, because I feel someone else has provided the answer already and people would prefer not to wade through two replies saying essentially the same thing.

Do I have "fangirls"? I think this is a demeaning appellation for those who express affection for someone or something. People should be free to like or dislike whomever and whatever they please. Those who dislike me and/or my patterns are not "crazy" or anything else demeaning. They are merely unhappy customers. Likewise those who enjoy my company and/or my patterns. They are not "fangirls", but happy customers and friends.

Do I manufacture drama? No. I hate this. It is antithetical to everything I believe in and stand for. I believe people are basically good. I believe that love is what we are here for. I think we should be helping, not harming each other.

Am I sorry for all this? You have no idea how much.

This needs to end & it needs to end now. I will issue refunds to any who have a legitimate gripe about the pattern, not the yarn, or the care & feeding of the KAL, or my past actions & words, or those of others.

I am sorry. I am human. I have had enough. As have we all.

In the effort to turn this negative experience into something positive, I have decided to make an additional donation to Knitter's Without Borders: one dollar for every post about these issues. Good cause, good karma...

I am locking this thread and the positive experiences thread and will be deleting all future comments that talk about other people (no matter whether they are happy or unhappy with the experience), rather than the knitting of the pattern. I will instruct my moderators to do likewise. Those who do not abide by these rules will be asked to leave.

Thank you for your time spent reading this. I ask that no comments be left so that no one can take offense in any way. Those who wish to speak further may contact me directly by email at susanpandorf@comcast.net


Knit for Joy said...

I haven't started knitting either Evenstar or Legolas yet. Too many other irons in the fire at the moment. But I did have the pleasure of seeing a finished Evenstar at our WWKIP event on Saturday and it's gorgeous!

Hang in there. Everyone wants everything RIGHT NOW and perfect, too, and the combination can often be hazardous.

This is one of the chief reasons I tend to skim through Ravelry forums and not read much. :)

All the best to you.

Ebonraven said...

I am so sorry! I haven't read any of the posts, I didn't know there was drama. I haven't gotten to knit any of the patterns from you yet (MUST finish the shawl for a friend before the end of summer!)

But I have never understood why or how people can act so nasty.

I am sorry you had to experience it.

I for one, thank you for any written directions! I am still just barely learning lace of any sort and I don't read charts yet very well.

And so far, what I have seen, you create GORGEOUS patterns and things that inspire me to learn to read charts. (You are the only shawl designer I have purchased patterns from.)

Thank you for the patterns you have created! They are beautiful and they make me want so badly to knit them that it nearly makes me cry because i have to wait.

La Cabeza Grande said...

It's a real shame that some people have the need to blame and discredit others - especially those who are trying their absolute best to get a quality product to the public.

It is impossible to get inside the head of another person reading the pattern; impossible to know what techniques they have or have not mastered. All I can say is that ALL pattern designers, publishers and editors miss things in trying to recreate finished objects.

Step back and take a deep breath.

Velvet said...

We can't please everyone - but I am sorry that you that you had to go through all the "drama".

I've only gotten as far as the first few rows of Evenstar and then baby duties came along (DPNs with a baby nursing just don't seem right - not to mention my lack of sleep) but I look forward to the day when I get to cast on again with the perfect yarn and go at my leisure as I knit along. Thank you for such a beautiful shawl! I finally even got to buy your whole Fellowship series - can't wait to get started on Legolas!