Something has been bugging me for years in the fiber arts world.
When submitting a pattern to a print or online magazine, or even when submitting classes, I’m often required to give a pattern or class a difficulty rating. But how helpful are these ratings, really? What constitutes a “beginner” pattern? I think we can all agree that a knit and purl stitch, casting on and binding off, and knowing how to increase and decrease are beginner concepts. You can’t really make anything other than a scarf without knowing how to increase and decrease. But what about a m1. What about (k1, yo, k1) into the same stitch? It’s AN increase, but it seems to be more in the realm of intermediate. The distinctions between these rankings (even when you use a non-standard system and give it a breakdown like knitty does) are still pretty subjective.
In psychological fields, there’s a phenomenon known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect. It basically boils down to people not knowing how much they don’t know. A beginning knitter who feels confident with a few increases and decreases probably doesn’t even realize things like tubular cast-ons, short rows, entrelac, and brioche EXIST to know that they don’t know them. So a beginning knitter might even be able to knit a sweater and count themselves an expert.
But a more accomplished knitter with more experience of what is possible might count themselves as Intermediate since they haven’t tackled a steeked, stranded, handspun opus yet.
Granted, this is not an in-depth exploration of the Dunning-Kruger Effect. That’s not what this is about. But when considering the under-defined difficulty ratings in this light it makes them much less useful. In an attempt to let you make your own decisions I’ve been including Techniques Used in my pattern descriptions.
My hope was that this will allow makers to assess their own skills and comfort levels. If you are looking for an easy going project and not a challenge, and you know how to do all the things in the techniques used section, you should be good. And if you know how to do most of those things, and you’d like to learn a new skill, then you still might go for it.
I’m wondering if this is really enough though. Maybe I need a highlighted area that includes techniques used as well as links to tutorials. What do you think? What information is most relevant to you in regard to difficulty ranking?