There was a waiter

Knitters are systematic people. We usually come up with a system to help us work through a pattern.

We can use markers to delineate certain parts of our pattern, we can write down each row as we knit with ticks or row numbers on a separate piece of paper, we can rewrite every row of instructions so that it’s in a language we can recognize, we can move a post-it note down the page to highlight each row to knit. There is some sort of system that works for each of us that has been developed over the years to help us work through both simple and complex patterns.



Then there was the waiter at the retreat we were just at. He could not seem to match up food orders with the person who ordered. Not once over 6 meals. It was not crucial and we weren’t complaining but actually taking quiet delight in this young man’s confusion. We all got the meals we ordered or almost always.

We asked if he was new. No, he had been working there since May. So for 6 months he had been working in an entirely unsystematic way. It was interesting to watch. He took our drink order, then moved to a new spot around the table to take the food order, and then a brand new location for dessert. How on earth was he going to keep track that way?

It became apparent that he, very slyly, did have a system. We were an integral part of it. He would bring 2 plates to the table, hover over a couple people like these might be their meals, announce what the meals were and wait for us to raise our hands. That’s a system!! A somewhat impractical system since we were all talking. Believe it or not, without realizing it we all bought into this system by the end of the weekend. We paid attention every time he approached the table. We even had one or two people at the table who kept track of who ordered what so they could direct him. Maybe he was very clever with his system after all.

I have to keep this in mind when I teach. I work up a system that will help the knitter work through the pattern with comfort. It totally works for me and I scratch my head when it doesn’t just click automatically with everyone. To me it’s so straight forward and easy! But everyone has their own way of providing themselves with a system that helps them navigate through the instructions. My system is a visual map.

triangle Shawl plan Tier 2

“I will provide a system for you to hate”, says my friend Susan, meaning I will provide you with a starting point so that you can dislike it and then manipulate the system (pattern) into whatever works best for you.


It was fun at the retreat to teach the same basic shawl construction over and over and see how people approached the decisions about which stitch patterns to add within the construction.

Thanks for reading,


Any Gauge patterns by Deb

Cabin Fever patterns

Author: debgemmellmods

I'm a Knitter. The capital K means every day, everywhere. I'm co-owner of Cabin Fever with my sister Lyn. We have published over 100 patterns and 11 books. I'm also working on a new set of patterns for Any Gauge knitting. Dive into your stash and cast on for a Top Down sweater that fits, or an accessory to use up those odd balls of yarn.

6 thoughts on “There was a waiter”

  1. My husband has a similar story about teaching students essay writing. Just teaching one way is never going to work for all the kids in the class, and pushing one way is certain to result in confusion and failure for some.
    “But my brain doesn’t work that way!”
    When do we get to see the results of the shawl workshop? It sounds terrific!

    Liked by 1 person

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