I’m well into Tri-Aran-Angle — a wonderfully-designed shawl for a cold climate, by the way. If you want to practice making pretty cables, this is definitely a great pattern to use! I’ve have learned some things about my mental block in following knitting patterns.
The convention in knitting patterns is to give line by line instructions for the creation of a garment. If you follow it line by line, and trust the designer, you’ll get a nice product.
I don’t think step by step for anything I do. I need to understand the principles of the whole, why I’m performing an action, and then not only will I be able to do what’s needed, I might be able to create variations on it. I think one of the reasons I found Knitting Without Tears such a delightful knitting instruction book was that Ms. Zimmerman spent a lot of time teaching the principles behind what she was doing along with the instructions for how to create the garments – whether it was the percentage system for constructing a sweater, or why wool acts the way it does.
This type of learning style has had its consequences in other areas of my life. Probably one of the reasons I never became much of a pianist (other than the fact I was not willing to practice enough. That was the biggie!) was that I was not taught musical theory anywhere near early enough in my studies. Not blaming my piano teacher. I’m sure to her eyes not only was I too young and not nearly interested enough in music, I was far too unskilled to handle theory before I got the process down. I am a theory-based learner, no doubt about it. As an adult, knowing that has big advantages. It means that I can pretty much learn anything I want to without being at the mercy of teaching style. Heh… I ought to thank my third grade teacher for being such a rotten teacher, actually. She might have turned me off to school and caused me to distrust teachers, but that’s when I started trying (with inconsistent success) to learn things on my own.
So, back to knitting. Instead of following knitting patterns, I’m deconstructing them to get the theory behind the techniques. I really wish Elizabeth Zimmerman’s style of pattern description were more common than the line by line convention that’s so common, but I can understand why it’s not. That much expository writing is pretty time-consuming.
Do you ever think about your learning style? What is it, and why does it work for you? (Why yes, that is of professional interest to me!)