I have been a vocal opponent of the concept of "knitting police" for many years. There are two aspects of this concept - one is that there is only one "right" way to do a thing, and the other is that certain self-appoined folks believe it is their mission to make you a better knitter by pointing out all the things they think you have done wrong on a project, often disguised as "that's nice, but if you had ....."
As to the first aspect, I truly believe that "if it works, it's not 'wrong'". Having said that, I recognize that there are neater ways to do certain things, easier ways, maybe faster ways. But I'm here to tell you that if you are comfortable with the way you are doing it, it works, and you are happy with the results, everyone else can just piss off.
This also holds true when it comes to knitting a pattern exactly as written. There are lots of reasons why you might want to make adjustments - most commonly you might adjust for fit, but maybe you don't like the edgings (I really don't like the look of garter stitch hems or necklines). Maybe you want to mash two patterns to get something truly unique. Or maybe you just got bored doing something as written.
Which leads me to my current project. I have started the Skylark cardigan by Martin Storey in Malabrigo Susurro. I really love the deep cabled ribbing border on this project. The pattern calls for 7 repeats of the cabled ribbing. I got 6 done and then I. Just. Couldn't.
Intense boredom threatened to make me put it down.
It's interesting what bores different people. Some people would rather eat tacks than knit lots of stockinette stitch. I, however, love it because it is so mindless. I can work stockinette while watching tv, planning a vacation or calculating the velocity of a falling object. Or, well.....if I could do advanced math, I could knit stockinette while doing it.
What bores me is the patterns that aren't difficult, but require you to pay attention. And that's a perfect description of the cabled ribbing on this sweater. So I am cutting out one repeat, lengthening the sweater just a bit (because there is no advantage to wearing something that ends right at the spot you would like to divert attention from), and maybe even fussing with the sleeves - slimmer? longer? I haven't decided. And that brings me to another point.....
It's ok to start a pattern without knowing exactly where you will end up. Especially after you have had a couple of successes with changing elements in patterns, you can make decisions as you go along. The only stipulation would be to start with something that you like more about it than you want to change. You always have the original pattern to fall back on, so why not? If you eliminate the waist shaping in a sweater and then decide that was a mistake, frog it back to where you should have started the shaping and go back to the pattern. Think you might want to add a turtleneck to a crewneck pullover but not sure? Try it on when you get to the neck and see what you think. Have a simple sock pattern you have used repeatedly but want to gussy it up a little? Add lace or cables, but use the heel and toe instructions you are comfortable with. If any of these things don't work out the way you thought they would, you still have the option of ripping back to where you made the change and going back to the pattern.
As to the second aspect of the "knitting police", I think it's important to remember that knitting and crochet are creative endeavors at their most elemental. You will take a string and a stick or two and create something beautiful, something useful, something that expresses a little about who you are. That's a beautiful thing by itself, but then also add to that the experience of soothing the nerves and keeping the brain sharp. How can anyone criticize you for this on any level? How can anyone tell you that it would have been "better" done another way?
The impact of these folks on the knitting community can truly be negative. They may discourage new knitters from joining the community or may even cause experienced knitters to feel unwelcome. Knitting should be a welcoming and inclusive activity that brings people together, not a source of negativity and judgment. So promote positivity and kindness. Encourage and compliment other knitters on their work, regardless of technique, yarn choice, or pattern selection. Let them know you appreciate their self-expression. If you are asked how something could have been done differently, by all means contribute if you can, but make it positive. A little kindness and respect goes a long way.