Wednesday, February 13, 2013
I think it's a combination of the classic simplicity of this design paired with the fact that the "skills needed" isn't a very intimidating list that made this one popular. That, and a bit of luck with people finding it. (There's always a bit of luck involved when you are a small web-based business!)
By far, the most popular comment that I see on project pages for this dress is "I don't know why she didn't write this as a bottom-up design!" or a variation on that theme.
It never occurred to me that beginning with a provisional cast-on at the empire waist would be such a big annoyance to knitters. But in case anyone is interested, I thought I'd let you in on the reasons I wrote it the way I did.
First, this dress requires either 1 or 2 skeins of yarn (depending on size) and because fingering-weight yarn usually comes in yardage quantities between 400- 465 yards, a couple sizes of this pattern are very close to needing one entire skein. So to give knitters the best chance for success, I decided to begin at the waist, knit the bodice first, then knit the skirt last. That way, rather than having knitters sweating the last few yards of yarn hoping they won't run out at the top of the bodice, they can rest easy knowing that if they come up a bit short on yarn, they'll just have a skirt that is a smidge shorter than intended.
Second, the section that is most critical to fit in this dress is the empire waistband. If that's the right size, the rest of the dress is going to come out beautifully. Now, I'm sure that everyone who reads this blog swatches religiously....but I know that not all knitters do....especially on smaller knits like hats or baby things. So by beginning at the waistband, a knitter can slide it onto some waste yarn and actually try it on baby before preceding (granted, it may grow a bit upon blocking, but it's better than no swatching at all!) If it fits, they can confidently move forward with the project. If not, they only have to frog a dozen or so rows of knitting and start over with a different size, rather than having an entire skirt attached to the waistband (as would happen with a bottom-up design) that they now need to figure out how to modify to fit a new size dress, or frog entirely.
My third reason started out as a reason, but then never developed because I learned a bit more about knitters as I was writing this pattern. I made a dress some time ago for my own daughter that had a knitted bodice sewn to a fabric skirt. When I conceived this idea, I thought it would be a fun addition to suggest the knitted bodice/fabric skirt as a variation on this pattern. But in the meantime I published a purse pattern that suggested a sewn-in fabric lining and.....crickets. It got almost no attention at the time it was released (and more than two years later, I've probably sold less than 10 copies of that pattern.) I participate in a couple "designer forums" on Ravelry, and it seems to be a common theme that patterns that require (or suggest as a variation) sewing get very little attention from knitters. I have seen that to be true not only through the failure of my purse pattern, but also through my Sock Monkey Lovie Pattern. It's actually a pretty good seller, and has 47 project pages listed on Ravelry - and not one person chose to use a fabric blanket over a knitted one. So, armed with this new knowledge, I decided not to spend the time to make a knitted bodice / fabric skirt combo dress, photograph it, and include it as an option in the pattern.
Never fear - if you are opposed to provisional cast-ons, swatch to make sure you've got pattern gauge before you begin, and aren't worried about running out of yarn, there are two very easy ways to modify this pattern so it can be worked without the provisional cast-on. First, it can be done bottom-up as many Ravelry knitters have done. Alternately, a regular cast-on could be used, then at the point where the pattern tells you to remove the provisional cast-on and put the live stitches on the needles, you'd just pick up the cast-on stitches one-for-one and work your skirt downward. It won't have quite the seamless look that you'd get using the provisional cast-on, but I bet baby won't mind a bit!