A Note on Pattern Photos

Posted: 15/05/2013 in Knitting, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

Can we talk for a moment about the Big Yarn Companies?

Because I love the yarns offered by Rowan.  They’re pretty, feel wonderful and tend to knit up beautifully.

And I love that Rowan offer pattern books designed around specific ranges of yarn.  The patterns are often pretty, and invariably showcase the unique aspects of the yarn very well.

But you’d think that, if anyone could get something as basic as photos of their pattern samples right, it’d be a large company like Rowan.  They’ve had years and years to get the hang of things, but they have a knack for making all the worst possible choices when it comes to how they photograph their samples.

Rowan recently brought out a new set of patterns to go with their “fine art collection” yarn range.  And as pretty as they are, I’m certainly not going to even consider  picking up the patterns until I’ve seen samples made by other knitters.  Here are some notable examples of the reason why:

Are we supposed to be looking at the scarf, the socks or the top?

“Sparrow”, this item is called.  Now, I’m a sucker for patterns named after birds, trees and woodland animals.  The names invite me in straight away.  But tell me, from looking at this picture, do you think we’re supposed to be looking at the socks, the scarf or the top the model is wearing?  Did you guess “socks”?  Congratulations!  Now, what can you tell me about those socks?  They look stripy.  Do they have a textural pattern?  What sort of heel do they have?  What sort of toe?  Is the striping an aspect of the yarn, or is it part of the pattern?  We’re zoomed so far out that I can barely make out anything except the socks are ankle length.

Who cares about seeing the item when the shadows look so pretty?

Here’s another very nice, artsy photo for the “Ibis” pattern.  Socks again, but thigh-high ones this time.  Of course, half the sock is hidden in deep shadow, and the cut of the coat worn by the model is such that we can’t actually make out the cuffs.  Note that between the shadows, the coat and her hands, we can’t see how the cuffs fit – do they pinch her thigh, causing it to bulge?  Are they baggy?  She’s also wearing shoes, so all we can actually see is that, again the socks are stripey.  So, how does this pattern differ from the previous once, except for length?  Do these socks have a textural pattern we can’t see?  Different heel/toe construction?  Is there any reason this is a separate pattern to “sparrow”, or could they have been the same pattern with a variable length option?

Finally, a close-up! Sort of.

At long last, we can actually see the socks!  This is “cuckoo”, a pattern which clearly has… some sort of cabled pattern on the side, and some sort of textural pattern.  This is one of the clearest photos of any item in the range, which should tell you something, really.  The deep shadows obscure the heel of the socks, but we can at least see the cuff and toe, and are close enough to make out some basic aspects of the pattern, although not with any detail.

Socks! No, wait… Scarf!

Before you shout “Socks!  Definitely socks!”, I should tell you that the pattern book does include scarves as well as socks, and that this pattern is called “goose”.  What do you think, is it the scarf?  Hard to tell from this zoomed out, but the colour of the scarf and the pattern of colours looks sort of like the colour of some birds, doesn’t it?  You’re going to guess scarf?  Congratulations, you’re… wrong.  Socks, again.  With the cuff partially hidden by the fringe of one of the two scarves the model is wearing, and the heels obscured by shadow.  And again, so much effort has been spent showing off the model and the setting, that the actual item is a tiny, not-terribly-clear part of the picture.


I don’t think I even need to comment on the issues with the photo, at this point.

One thing I’ve learned about buying a pattern is that you do not pay for it unless the photo or photos:

  • Clearly show the item in question
  • Clearly show key design elements of the item, such as lacework, cuffs, construction
  • Do not conceal areas that can be signs of a poor pattern, such as cuffs, collars, seams etc through artsy posing
  • Show the item laid flat or otherwise displayed in a clear, simple way so the full shape and overall appearance can be seen

The simple reason for all of this being, it is very easy to make an otherwise poorly-fitted item look very good indeed if you take an “artsy” photo.  Just take a look in any women’s magazine at the fashion ads and you’ll see models contorted into poses no person would voluntarily, naturally stand in outside of a photoshoot, with the items of clothing pinned where you can’t see for better fit and rumpled, tucked, creased and oddly worn.  The photos look lovely, but you can’t even tell what neckline the item has half the time, let alone where the waist falls, how long the sleeves are or whether it’s a loose or tight fit.  This is all well and good for off-the-rack clothes, when you can walk in-store and actually pick up, view and try on the item in question.  It’s unforgivable when we’re talking about something that you’re going to need to buy the yarn and pattern for and spend hours or days of your precious time knitting.

  1. yarnthreads says:

    OMG! I am so on the same page with you on this!

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