Long Overdue

February 13, 2006, 9:15 p.m., phone conversation with my grandma

Me: Hello?

Grandma: Hi!

Me: Hi, grandma.

(silence)

Me: So?

Grandma: So, I got my shawl.

Me: And?

Grandma: It is so much prettier than your mom’s.


A little background: as I was knitting Misty Morning, I would regularly send e-mails to Beth Lutz, the owner of The Alpaca Yarn Co. and the distributor of the pattern, with partial lists of the corrections. At the time, my e-mails were very matter-of-fact – I didn’t confront them about how ridiculous I found this situation until I was done.

Both women were receptive and grateful for the feedback, indicating that the corrections were incorporated into the pattern immediately. Sharon volunteered that the pattern had not been test knitted, and that it was the decision of the former owners of The Alpaca Yarn Co. (then called America’s Alpaca) to not have the pattern test-knit.

When all was said and done on February 9th, I felt I was finally in the position to assess the overall situation and e-mail Sharon and Beth a letter expressing how I felt. The actual letter was written the day I found the most ridiculous pattern mistake ever, and saved on my computer until the shawl was done, just in case my feelings didn’t change. They didn’t. You can imagine the tone of the letter.

I stated that the Misty Morning Shawl was the most mistake-ridden pattern I ever encountered, and that I found it mind-boggling that the knitter was expected to find and correct mistakes in a purchased pattern. I asked Sharon how she allowed her name to be associated with something so poorly written. I asked Beth how she allowed the former owner’s poor judgment transfer to her name.

I didn’t ask for my money back (I had knit the entire pattern), and I certainly didn’t ask for free yarn (I’m allergic to alpaca!), but considering that I purchased many other patterns from The Alpaca Yarn Company, I asked to know which of them had been test-knitted, and for the opportunity to return those which hadn’t. No more surprises! I assured Beth and Sharon that they shouldn’t worry about me photocopying the patterns prior to returning them because I now assumed that none of them were test-knitted, and thus I wouldn’t touch them with a six-foot pole.

The responses I received were incredible, in a really good way. Unlike a former situation of this sort, there was no denial that there was something wrong with the pattern, and both women were truly thankful for the time I took to write down the corrections. Beth wrote,

“I have no defense on my part for not doing a better job of knowing if the patterns that had been written and published prior to my purchasing the company were test knitted or properly graphed. … You were, the only person in a year to point out any problem in the pattern. I wish there were more people like you that did question things that don’t seem right, because we would have addressed this much sooner. … I certainly understand and will willingly give you a refund of all your money for the patterns if that is what you wish to do. It is my intention to try to contact as many purchasers of this pattern as I can and send them the corrections. … I want to commend you on your thorough understanding of this pattern and your ability to recognize mistakes that were made in the graphs. Not too many people that I know could do that. I think you would be an amazing test knitter – you are thorough and extremely knowledgeable. … My sincerest apologies & best wishes to you.”

Sharon wrote,

“I am truly sorry you found it such a frustration and again I would like to thank you for taking time to write up the corrections. I will make sure all the charts are updated so the Beth can get the corrected pattern published. I have definitely learned to have everything test knit.”

The one thing Beth and Sharon didn’t tell me in their responses is which of the other shawl patterns I purchased had been test-knit. I asked again, and Beth responded,

“I would like you to keep the patterns & I will refund your money in full. … As I’ve said before, I’d rather have you be a test knitter for me than my enemy. Your satisfaction is much more important to me than the cost of those patterns. So, if in the future, if you do decide to try another, I’d welcome your input – or if you get cold and you need something to start a fire with, that’s fine too. : ) I’m doing my best to get the patterns to where they should be. If there was anyone that I could ask those questions to, they would probably still be selling yarn. Keep up the incredible work.”

I appreciate Beth’s sense of humor, but I don’t know about being a test-knitter again just for the hell of it, like, “Surprise! This hasn’t been test knit, give it a go!” Uhm, no thanks. Beth honestly doesn’t know which have been test-knit, and she alludes that this has something to do with the former owners. I would act differently in this situation, I think – right this very moment you can purchase these other patterns on the website, and even the owner doesn’t know if they’ve been test-knit. Food for thought.

Overall, I am very happy with the way the situation was resolved. I guess I was expecting defensive behavior and denial, but Beth and Sharon stepped up, admitted the undeniable, and made good on my request to get my money back for the other patterns – Beth tells me that a check in my name for the price of the patterns is on its way.

65 thoughts on “Long Overdue

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  1. freecia

    Yay that Grandma likes it!

    The response- I concur that they handled it decently, but until she puts out new test-knit versions (like the “New and Improved!” sticker on Crystal Palace circs), I’m not touching a pattern of theirs, either. Other than this one, that is. ‘Cause clearly it is Grandma approved- so it must be extra pretty.

  2. Nadia

    You are an amazing person for not being an aggro diva or a passive-aggressive blog whiner, but assertively confronting them on the issues at hand. Thank you for letting us in blogland know as well.

  3. Isela

    They handled the situation very well. If I were in their position, I would pull out all the current patterns and have them test knitted before anyone else purchased them. They were lucky in having you knit one of the items and find all the errors for them.

    Your Grandma’s response to the shawl is so cute :), it brought a smile to my face.

  4. Sarah

    If you don’t want the other patterns, maybe you should offer them up here. And then laugh like crazy when people attempt to knit them!

    I must say I have enjoyed the saga of the shawl, even if you haven’t. Sorry. In a few years’ time you’ll look back and think about how funny it was!

  5. Agnes

    They are smart … and if they are really smart, I would expect them to hire test-knitters to do the job immediately.

    Your grandmother’s silence scared me a little … I thought there was no way she didn’t love the shawl, what happened? ;)

  6. Emy

    It’s great to know that your grandma loves them.

    More importantly, it’s good to know that there are responsible yarn owners and designers out there who would readily admit their mistakes and do proper resolutions :) There aren’t too many of those around!

  7. Cara

    Your grandmother is SO funny. What’d your mom say? And, really, you have the patience of a saint – although it was nice to see that they lived up to the mistakes. Seems kind of rare these days.

  8. jody

    it’s disappointing that such a mistake-ridden pattern made it to production, but their reaction is really impressive. i’ve heard some horror stories when dealing with manufacturers in the past, and they’ve certainly done their part to balance that out.

    ps – dontcha love grandmas? she just tells it like it is!

  9. Carole

    Grandma’s response is a riot. And good for you for seeing this through and getting the designer and company owner to take responsibility for the situation.

  10. Becky

    I so wish I had your patience. The whole shawl saga would have had my blood pressure skyrocketing and the yarn and needles in the garbage. hehe Glad your grandma likes her shawl.

  11. abi

    I think it’s great that they are nice and everything but will that refund cheque include payment for your test knitting? It jolly well should.

    That is exactly the kind of thing my mum would say – it’s better than your sister’s! Haha. And your dad – yes, dear, they’re fine. Family are the same across generations and cultures it seems!

  12. Kate

    I’m impressed at the designer and distributors reaction, but I’m more impressed that you stuck with this, didn’t give up, and voiced your concerns in such a calm manner. But most of all I’m impressed with the shawl. I have to knit lace!!!

  13. Angela

    Your grandma–so cute. (And your dad & mom). I still don’t understand how they could have photos of the shawls if they weren’t test-knit.

  14. Ruth

    I am thrilled that Grandma loves her shawl. There was no doubt in my mind, but good to hear it from her.

    As for the pattern … that is, indeed, an impressive response, but I am saddened that I am so taken by it. We’ve come to a sad place when a company gets lauded for what should be a natural response to a situation like this. Good for them for doing the right thing, and shame on any designers or yarn companies who don’t.

  15. yahaira

    I’m glad the truth came out and we all found out that nothing was test knit (was there ever a doubt). They really should add something to their website, a warning, an explanation…something!

    grandma is awesome! Im glad she loves it

  16. Rachel

    Thanks for sharing this information and their very humble responses. Nice change, for once! One wonders why test knitting seems so difficult for them to do when pattern makers do it all the time?

  17. elizabooth

    Wow, how often do you have people — especially people who know that you have a wide audience that you’re going to report to — actually take responsibility for their mistakes and not try to turn it around and blame the customer. That’s awesome. Good for you on sticking with the shawl and double good for you on calling them out on it. And good for them on acting like grown-ups about the whole thing. Hurray!

    Either way, your grandma ended up with an amazing shawl. I’m glad she likes it.

  18. Monica

    You go, girl.

    (Did I really say that?)

    Their response was surprising, both in their owning up, and in their thinking you would want to be a test knitter for their other patterns. Of course, choosing to be a test knitter is very different than unwittingly becoming one.

    I also agree with PumpkinMama, shawl cold war. Better start stocking up.

  19. Scout

    Wow. I’m really impressed with their responses. That’s amazing.

    And your grandma is too cute!

    AND, go see my blog. She’s purty huh? I’ll get some better pictures today and you can put them in the gallery if you’d like. I’m off to cast on for my socks so all of the other Olympic Knitters don’t hurt me for being a sandbagger.

  20. LaurieM

    Ultimately you provided them with a service, being a test knitter, and all it’s going to cost them is the price of your patterns.

    I think they got off cheap. No wonder they are so encouraging for you to do it again.

  21. Mama-E

    I am glad that they were willing to admit they were at fault….makes me think about the patterns still being offered online sans corrections… thanks for the input!

    Sometimes life is all about having the prettiest shawl on the block!

  22. Jennifer

    Your grandmother is so cute.

    I’m glad you got overall positive responses from the company and the designer. I guess the assumption would be that most of their patterns are not test-knit. Definitely something to keep in mind.

  23. Julsey

    I just love reading the conversations you and your family have…are they word for word, or do you paraphrase the most interesting portions?

    Glad grandma likes the shawl!

  24. Angelia

    Glad your Grandma likes the shawl (how could she not? It’s beautiful!).

    Wow. The pattern-saga. You have way more patience than I do. As a new knitter, it had never occured to me that one could buy a pattern and that pattern wouldn’t work!

    Happy Valentine’s Day! Thank you for your blog! :-)

  25. Carolyn

    Unbelievable. Seriously. I would think that any pattern published has been already been knit. What, do they just assume whatever they have written should be correct…or good luck to the knitter. A knitter should NEVER come across a mistake in a pattern.

  26. Stephanie

    I think you should consider being a test knitter for some of their patterns (at your leisure of course, and only for those patterns that truly interest you). You like the challenge, and it would be a great service to those of us who interminably suck at lace.

  27. knitnana

    I’ve just emailed a request for the corrections to the distributor, since I bought this about the same time you did. I’m not sure I’ll ever dare try to make it. (I do not have near your ability to figure this out!) Your grandmother sounds like a card… and you are a wonderful granddaughter!

    (((hugs)))

  28. pixie

    yeah but they didn’t come completly clean, if they won’t just say, none of them have been test knit or “I don’t know” at the very least.

  29. Leisel

    If they want you to test knit their patterns, they really ought to HIRE you to do so, and pay you a fair fee for your work (frankly, they also ought to do that on the one you ALREADY test knit AND FIXED for them).

    For Theresa… I would guess that the designer knit her own shawl, and then took her notes and made up the pattern from them. She had her own work to show what she’d done, but no one had checked her translation of her notes into pattern format.

  30. Laura

    I am impressed the vendor and the designer admitted to their mistakes. I do think that offering to let you be a free test knitter was a bit much, but I think she was trying to be nice, so I won’t hold that against her. It’s nice of her to send back the money for the patterns however.

    As for your Grandma, Outstanding! It’s always nice to know that one of your hand knits has made the person you knit it for extremely happy. I think the other comments about the Shawl War might be right. I suggest you use the “Dad needs more socks” defense however. :)

  31. Ginga

    I agree – it’s pretty gusty to suggest you would WANT to be a free test knitter – other than that, I think they both did a great job of owning up, and thanking you.

    I am soo impressed with all of your knitting, but I think I’m even more impressed with your patience!

  32. Stephanie

    I love your grandma’s response! Classic. And I’m impressed with the response on the pattern. While I agree that the lack of test knitting is inexcusable, it’s nice to hear they accepted responsibility and were pleasant.

  33. Kenny

    I am so inspired and in awe of you. I wanna be just like you. Extremely talented knitter. Keep up the good work and I hope to learn from your blog.

  34. Kathy

    It’s good to know that they responded so well to your input, though a little scary to find that the rest of their patterns may well contain surprises as well. Good for you for writing and letting them know that there were issues so hopefully the pattern can be fixed.

  35. Sylvia

    I’ve learned along the way to take copious notes while I create a pattern, not after. One of the things I really enjoyed about writing patterns for Interweave when Jean Campbell was editor of Beadwork was she would test the patterns herself and write hilarious emails back. We were writing the pattern language for sculptural peyote as we went, so pretty soon we had a whole fleet of testers, each adding to the lingo.

    I’ve posted a few draft patterns to my blog, but always with the caveat that it’s a draft. I’m currently testing a pattern for Koigu mitts, which includes trying them on lots of people’s hands as well as checking the stitch counts and such. I would *never* sell a pattern without thorough testing! Would a chef serve a meal without tasting it first?!

    I’m waiting to see your own designs for shawls. Why test someone else’s when you obviously have the skills to compose on your own? Bet you can find a lot of willing test knitters if you post the request here on your blog…

  36. Angela

    Wow, that’s great how they responded. I would have totally thought they’d have been defensive, too. But I’d totally pass on test knitting, unless one of their shawl patterns looks that amazing that you’re willing to put yourself through that again. Maybe ask for a refund and wages for the number of hours you toil over test knitting something for them… eeeeh, no.

  37. holly

    what a great response. I could just feel her dangling the bait in front of you waiting for you to ask about it.

    And your mom’s shawl is lovely, too.

    I am so glad people communicate corrections. I am able to find the simple stuff (pattern pre-reading is a must), but thank goodness for the people who really know what they are doing!

  38. Carrie

    I love your Gramma.

    Congratulations on having the guts to send that letter, and it’s nice to hear that those ladies promptly owned up to their mistakes. I surely hope that they at least put a notice on their website that some (all?) of their patterns had not been test-knit.

  39. Iris

    I’ve said before that the shawl is beyond gorgeous, so here’s the scary part -

    How many of the patterns (everywhere) that are out there for sale, have NOT been test knit?

  40. Julie H.

    Don’t they PAY test knitters? It seems like they should. And if they want you as a test knitter, they should just say “Grumperina, would you test knit for us?” instead of beating around the bush so much.

    That being said, I am happy that you’re getting money back, very happy that grandma liked the shawl, and really really happy to know that sometimes there are mistakes in patterns and that I am not going nuts. Now if only I could figure out how to fix the mistakes like you do!

  41. Kris

    I’m so glad to hear that Grandma approved of the shawl after all of the hard work you put into it.

    Thankfully the distributor and designer fessed up the the problem rather the shirking their responsibility. However, a small check for the price of the pattern doesn’t really seem to be worth the aggrevation it caused you. Hopefully, they will put up some sort of disclaimer indicating that the patterns haven’t been test knit.

  42. Laura

    I’m so impressed with the way that Beth and Sharon handled the situation. Despite the fact that the pattern hadn’t been test knit, I would have expected the pattern author to AT LEAST test knit portions of the pattern herself, just to make sure that it works.

    It sounds like they are interested in hiring you as a test knitter. If they really wanted to you help them they should give you real compensation (i.e. cash!) for the test knitting job you already did on this pattern. Free patterns? Not even close to the compensation you should receive.

  43. Purly Whites

    Grandma is too cute. I’m so glad she thinks her shawl is prettier. That is the important thing.

    Interesting resolution to the saga. I’m glad that you are happy with how things turned out, as that is the important thing.

  44. Shannon

    Wow, Excellent confrontation. Wonderful that you perservered and ended up with a Shawl that Grandma loves, AND got the designer and distributor to clean up their practices. You are a fearless knitter. Once again, Kudos to you.

  45. RuthH

    Thank you so much for documenting the corrections and sharing with the rest of us as well as the designer. I bought this pattern last year and started working on it as my first lace project ever. Whoops! Most of the mistakes in the part I got done were my own, but it didn’t even occur to me at that time that the pattern could have been wrong too. When I try it again I will think of you with gratitude every row I knit.

  46. MJ

    I’m impressed with their comprehension of the situation and their efforts to fix it. And I appreciate that you tackled the problem head on, instead of whine about it. That’s the way to go. Keeps designers and distributors on their toes about what they sell!

    Had a situation regarding quality control of a product I had, and that was resolved too. Amen for customer service!

  47. April

    hehehehehehe on all fronts! I wonder how much dough is in it for genius test knitter prodigy savants? If it was decent, you’d be rich! hahaha not that richness is that great, but hey, more yarn for you, right?

    I love your Grandma’s response! hahahahaha! she wins! hehe

    Cool scarf idea, too =) even tho my head is perplexed at the round scarf idea, although I’m sure as lightweight as it is it won’t turn into a pillow wrapped around your neck =/ lol sure is pretty, of course. all your stuff is cool

  48. Norah

    That’s so cool that your grandma loved the shawl! I’m glad the yarn company acknowledged their mistakes and is going to reimburse you for the patterns, though I would think they should also pull the patterns from their site until they can get someone to test them. Also I want to join all the others in saying how commendable it was that you confronted the yarn company and designer with the problem!

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