Last week I posted a review of the Debbie Bliss Yarns website. The Blissfolk were kind enough to offer up feedback. You can read it in the comments appended to that day’s entry.

Although I accessed the old site and reviewed it on November 30, 2004, apparently the site I visited had been replaced by a newer one, although redirects from the old to the new URL weren’t working a month after the stated fix was published. That error has been corrected. So in the interests of fairness, I review the site again.

Debbie Bliss Knitwear

The beneficiary of a general look/feel aesthetic overhaul, the new Debbie Bliss website is still divided into three main sections, patterns, yarns, and information. It offers up much the same material as before, with a couple of clarifications and enhancements. As noted before, the site offers limited retail capability, but a clarification has been added in several spots, noting that it sells pattern books direct, but not the yarns. The books are offered to customers world-wide, and there’s an exchange rate tool to see how costs work out in international currencies.

DB now offers a for-fee membership club, similar in concept to Rowan’s. It’s implied that there will be a members-only chat area to support the club, but any password-protected or limited access section of the website isn’t active yet. Personally, I’m not fond of this trend. Even though members get a scarf kit, newsletters, and supplemental patterns for their annual 28? (international cost, about $54.50 US at the current exchange rate) , I don’t like the idea of creating two-tier systems of paid customer support. While it works for appliances, I find the thought of restricting help to an "inner circle" who pay above and beyond the cost of the base books to be antithetical to the concept of publishing in general. Perhaps I’m missing something, and there’s a subculture of designer-devotee knitters out there that work both exclusively and enough from one maker’s line to justify this sort of fee, but I’ve never met one.

The yarns section is the most changed. It’s vastly improved from the previous sketchy offering. Yarns are illustrated by small color chips. Fiber specs, yardage/weight, recommended needle size and gauge are all documented. There are no photographs of yarns in their retail put-ups, nor are there photos of swatches. Yarn appearance has to be deduced from the roughly 2.5cm square color chips alone. There is an on-page link to local UK stockists and international sources on each yarn page, although the international source page lists Knitting Fever, Diamond Yarns, and Woolshack (the US, Canadian and Australian distributors), relying on their resources to provide links to actual retailers. The roster of UK stockists doesn’t appear to be yarn-specific, so even if you call one up from a particular yarn’s page, call before you visit the shops listed because they may or may not carry the entire Debbie Bliss line. There are no links on the yarn pages to patterns made with specific yarns.

The patterns section as before shows the various books available, with thumbnails linking to more detailed pages for the contents of each book. Most but not all contents are shown – especially for the yarn-specific later books – and the layout of the detail pages has been made easier to use. Most patterns now bear a difficulty rating, needle requirements, sizing, yarn requirements per size, and the name of the color(s) used in the accompanying photo. There are links back to the yarn detail pages, and it’s easy to browse all of the designs shown for each book. Navigation among books is also easier, with a nested link history line provided at the top of the patterns page.

There is no explanation of the criteria used to classify the patterns into the various difficulty ratings. Almost everything is "Easy" or "Intermediate." The only "Advanced" patterns were both large Intarsia pieces I’m assuming were worked from big charts. A hover-over pop-up that listing a brief bunch of basic skills that define each level would be a nice touch. (Carefully worded, that list could be the same for every "Easy," "Intermediate," or "Advanced" symbol site-wide.)

There’s an errata section listing corrections for existing books up to and including Simple Living. About the only ease of use link I’d add here would be a link back to the pattern revisions page from the main book page for any item that has associated errata.

There is no historical info provided beyond pattern errata. I am not familiar enough with the DB lines to say whether or not any of the offerings have aged out of current distribution, nor am I familiar enough with the individual books to note which designs are not shown. If there are lines no longer being sold having historical info on them would be of great use, especially if there were contemporary substitutes among the still-active products. Also some of the DB books sold on the site are now of "classic" status – I doubt that the yarns they use are still current. A list of some of the more prevalent with suggestions for substitutions in the current lines would also be a very consumer-friendly touch.

On the information section, aside from a general neatening, little has changed. The news column still discusses the summer/early fall trade shows, and speaks of one offered back in early October as being in the future. There’s not even a mention of the new improvements to the website itself. The workshops heading lists a past offering and no upcoming ones. The contact page lists major distributors of the yarns, but there is still no contact for DB itself – not even on the errata page for those who have found problems and wish to report corrections. T

So to sum up – the clarification that yarn is not offered for sale here, plus remedying the major info lack on the yarns themselves make this set of site improvements very welcome. I still wish for more historical info, a more shelf-recognizable illustration of the yarns themselves, timely oversight of the information pages, and for some sort of direct contact mechanism. Recent fixes pull the Debbie Bliss website mark up to an A-, in spite of the incipient members-only club.

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