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learning to love my first two star review

1 October 2010 4,855 views 24 Comments

Part of the process of writing a book means lots of talking about writing the book. Conversations are a lot more interesting now because anything can be connected to the joy of being published. Some people ask if it’s changed how I knit. (Not really.) Some ask if it changed how I feel about publishing. (Yes, I have more respect and sympathy for editors than ever before, even with knowing Minty!) To date no one has asked the big one, “How much has your morning routine changed?” (Lots, there’s much more more anxiety – thanks for asking!)

Instead of “morning coffee, email and scan the interwebs” it’s “morning coffee, email, hunt for any mention of Knitting It Old School THEN scan the interwebs.” It’s my first book so pardon my enthusiasm, but I can’t help but be obsessive about what the interwebs are saying about it.

I hit Ravelry to see if anybody else had started a project from the book and noticed, “Buy from Amazon, 5 reviews.”  5? There’d only been 4 reviews the day before! I clicked, waited the longest second and a half in history and pulled up the review. 6 sentences later I was crushed. I had my first 2 star book review. One line jumped out at me “… the designs and colors are just too far out there.”

how I learned to love our first 2 star review

My first reaction was that I was going to need more coffee.

My second reaction was to get upset. How could someone not love the book? Don’t they get it? Don’t they see the cheek and the humour and the nod to our predecessors? Didn’t they read the chapter intros? (We are funny people!)

My third reaction was to get the cat off the desk so I could keep reading. (Love you Indy!)

My fourth reaction was to think hard and realize, no, not everyone is going to get it. That’s why we did the book in the first place.

Stitchy and I created Knitting It Old School to specifically be different. Different from what we’d read growing up, different from what we saw on the bookshelves and different enough that we’d love doing it. We pushed youthful, fun ideas on each other and were rewarded with designs from our contributors that were candy coloured, mod, poppy and cheeky. Our goal was to take retro styling elements from vintage pattern photographs and incorporate their old-fashioned silliness in a modern book. Peter pan collars? High waists? Turned hems instead of ribbing! Puffed sleeves! If we had thought to put down a mission statement it would have been, “Clothes our mothers would have worn when they were young, not clothes our mothers are wearing now.”

At BlogHer this year Lizz Winstead said, “A car in the middle of the road causes accidents. Pick the left or the right.”The Husband likes to use the phrase, “The goal of cafeteria food isn’t to make the most people HAPPY, it’s to make the fewest people UNHAPPY.” I think the truth is somewhere between the car and the cafeteria. Probably closer to the cafeteria.

Project Runway designers are always chastised to be more youthful, less matronly and we deliberately chose to work with designers for this book who design with that same thought in mind. So if Knitting It Old School is described as too colourful and youthful, then I know we accomplished exactly what we set out to accomplish. We wrote the book to be a good read, have great looking projects and maybe push a few buttons.

So now I have my the first 2 star review and I love it. It’s validation that Stitchy and I made the book we wanted and I couldn’t be happier.


  • Haddy said:

    My favorite line is, “The patterns are certainly not anything the average knitter would knit and wear.” I don’t set out to be the average knitter. That is just not MY cup of tea!

  • Stitchy said:

    Wait, WHAT??!!?!? Why I oughtta . . .

    Just kidding. Why do I feel just a little bit Larry Flintier now? We’re out there, baby! Wild knitters, out of control! We’re young and free and youthful, making hotpants hot-pantier, go go granny dresses go go grannier, Watusi dresses Watusier (I could go on, but with so many patterns, it would take me forever.)

    I reacted pretty much the same way. A few minutes of “What?! . . . hey . . . but . . .” and then I remembered that my whole shtick is poking fun (loving fun, but fun nonetheless) at wacky fashion. If I can’t take some mild criticism, I need to hang it up.

    We purposely made a book that’s different than most others, so negative feedback is to be expected. I mean, there are hotpants in there, after all.

  • Bertha said:

    I bet this woman shops at Chicos.

  • Stephanie said:

    That, my friend, is a very healthy attitude. I’ll buy you a beer if you come to my house and teach me how to do it. The book is lovely.

  • Em said:

    I love how you were able to take a 2 star rating stride. It’s true, not everyone will love your book but criticism, especially criticism of something in which you are so emotionally invested, can be a very hard pill to swallow. Well swallow you did (gross, I have to let go of this metaphor) and with grace.

  • andrea said:

    great attitude caro! i think the book is fab and yes, it is a little out there in comparison to other knitting books on the shelves. and that, my friend, is why i love it and why it is such a great addition to the knitting world.

  • pam said:

    I love you guys & am super honored to be part of this project. Also, “wearable” is (1) not always the point, and (2) a pretty flexible concept to begin with.

    & now I’ve spent my whole earnest supply for the day, but Bertha beat me to the snark (kudos, B).

  • molly said:

    what bertha said. i am going to guess that if you met this reviewer in person, and she gave you a glowing review, you’d probably be depressed.

  • britt said:

    Not having purchased this book (yet) I can’t tell you how I feel about the book, but I love the review. It gave real information, which in the land of internet reviews is pretty impressive. Obviously this book wasn’t for that “reader”. There is nothing you could have done that would have satisfied what you were trying to create and what she/he was looking for, they are not on the same path. If only I can get past my defensive reaction as quickly as you did i could spend less time stressing.

  • WonderMike said:

    Now that’s what I call getting lemons and making Lemon Drops with a Sugar Rim. Cheers!!!!

  • Mintyfresh said:

    You can’t please everyone all the time, and what kind of world would we live in if you could!! So happy that you can take it in stride; too bad this person felt the need to review poorly based on her personal taste in COLOR. (Hi, you can knit things in any color you want!)

  • lauren said:

    Aw, yeah I would’ve gotten upset about that review too. But all in all it sounds like a. you have a good attitude about it and b. your book is maybe not the thing for this particular consumer. I mean, personally I’m all for MORE COLOR=MORE BETTER, but then again that’s just not everyone’s taste. So while it’s not awesome to hear that someone out there didn’t love the book, at least the review wasn’t along the lines of “this book is fundamentally conceptually flawed” or something. Also, what Minty said. Couldn’t you make the projects in whatever color you wanted? I think a lot of them would look really awesome in a nice neutral palette. I mean, I’d never wear em that way, but somebody clearly would!

  • Gaile said:

    As a sewer and knitter I just want to say that I think sewing instructions are a great idea. Knowing how to sew can often improve your knitting many times over. I teach non-sewing knitters about using sewing techniques to improve their finished garments.

    Yes, the designs are out there, but that’s half the charm. There are things I’ll knit for me, things I’ll knit as gifts and things I will just admire in the pages of the book. It’s been a great conversation starter on my coffee table.

    P.S. I bought the book as soon as I found it on Amazon.

  • thea said:

    Exactly Caro. You did what you guys set out to do, and I’m betting she’s just not your target audience!

    Any review from a fun lovin’ youngster knitter would give it 5 stars.

  • Carol said:

    I give it full marks. It’s fantastic for all the reasons you outlined. I thought it was hilarious before I even spoke with you. I must say that the original photographs probably would have helped tremendously though. Well, maybe not. I think that reviewer just wasn’t your audience.

  • kristi said:

    Know that eventually your morning routine will not include this (Though maybe before then, you’ll be taking hourly strikes on your Amazon rolling averages and plotting them into a spreadsheet. You’re 36,541 in all books right now! Damned good! Sorry. Maybe that’s just me?).

    And remember that googling yourself too much can cause hair to grow on your palms!

  • Manise said:

    Such a loss for her clearly! Love your attitude about it!

  • sam said:

    most things now are “out there” and I love the part of the book that all the designs have bright colors, and they’re not normal – in a good way.

  • gale (she shoots sheep shots) said:

    Good attitude! Who wants to have their name on an average book with average projects for average knitters and readers, anyway? Puh-lease.

  • AnnieKnits said:

    I love that you ladies made a book, the book that you wanted to make. Of course it won’t be for everyone. We don’t all want to look alike, do we? :-) What a fantastic learning experience. It’s all so damn cool, for so many reasons.

  • Ann Rishell said:

    One of my mentors counseled me to never read the student’s anonymous comments. They great ones swell your head and the cutting ones devastate you. Write what you will, make sure you satisfy yourself and be proud of it… then move on. It is an excellent book, but you don’t need me to tell you that.

  • Yarnyoldkim said:

    I feel sorry for the reviewer, what an empty colorless knitting life she must lead. And Bertha’s commetn about shopping at Chico’s is spot on and hilarious! I adore Knitting It Old School and think every pattern in there is awesome! It’s almost as if you & Stitchy wrote this book just for me.

  • Kate said:

    That review actually made me cross. I do try not to assume that everyone is like me, but this (lady? I’m going to assume lady) is doing just that. Just who is the average knitter? Fair enough that it’s not for her, but assuming that her estimation of what ‘middle and older’ women will wear, and that those are the only people who knit, makes me cranky. I have written cranky letters to my big-box craft stores about this assumption before. (Just cos I’m not an old lady, doesn’t mean I can’t write a good cranky letter!)

    And she does know that she’s allowed to 1) change the colour of the knit 2) learn new knills (ie, sewing) right?

    Oh, well, enough about her. That’s fine. As you said, each to their own, and she’s clearly not your market. There are enough books for her already, I’m glad there’s one for us now!

    I heard a quote on a radio program the other day. Some guy was talking about the mall and he said he didn’t go there much anymore because ‘it’s full of what everyone likes. And I don’t always like what everyone likes’. I don’t know that many people DO like what everyone likes – at any rate, it’s good to have more choices!

  • Carol Ann said:

    You know, many years ago, I actually quit knitting because the only patterns I could find were boring. I went to every knitting store in town, looked through every pattern they had. I packed away my knitting needles in disgust.

    Then the interwebs came along, and WOW! Variety! Creativity! Access to a community of knitters sharing their ideas! I dusted off those knitting needles pronto.

    I love the fact that now my options range from classic to avant garde. So many choices that now I can find what I need to knit whatever I am in the mood to knit today.

    I would have no beef if your two-star reviewer just said your book was too wild-n-crazy for her. But to state that the patterns aren’t suitable for the “average knitter”, who apparently is “middle to older aged”? I’m wondering if she is that same yarn-shop lady who got so impatient with me back when I was searching for a sweater pattern that was actually in style.

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