Welcome all, once again, to the Crochet Design Series. Thank you for joining me for series 2. Last week you had the opportunity to learn about how to get inspiration for designing. If you want to go back and take a look, you can click here. This week we’ll be discussing the writing phase of designing your very own crochet pattern. This process can seem daunting for some new designers. It may be easier to crochet your design because you know exactly what you are looking for, but, getting it down on paper where it makes sense… this may not be so easy.
Let’s see what these ladies have to say about the writing phase of their design process.
Series 2, Crochet Designing, the Writing Phase
Welcome, designers! I want to once again thank you for sharing your time and your knowledge to help others in their journey to designing crochet patterns. Your input is valuable. 🙂
You’ve got your design in mind, you know the direction you want your design to go and you’ve got all your materials. I know that the actual writing process of the pattern may be one of biggest challenges for a designer, especially a newbie. In a designer’s mind, she/he can see her/his beautiful design to completion but putting thought to paper may not so easy. What tips can you give to help with this hurdle? Do you write your pattern first then crochet it or do you crochet and write it out at the same time? What resources do you use to help you with this process? I know that every designer has a format they like best when writing out their pattern, so no one format is best, but, what crucial and necessary information should be included in patterns?
Write EVERYTHING down as you go. Don’t leave anything for later. You’ll forget then wonder how it all worked out. Make sure to write down even the changes you make as you make them. Also be sure to measure as you go. Please create a swatch that you can measure before you begin using the stitch you’ll be using in your pattern. Finally, make sure to keep count on paper. It really is about making sure you get everything down so that when you go through a second time or pass it along to a tester you can just adjust minimally.
I always crochet and write at the same time. Otherwise I know I’ll forget all the small nuances that I did that will make a huge difference in the end. Whenever I make any adjustment or change count, I write it down. That way I don’t miss anything.
I use stitch pattern books, a tape measure, swatches of all the different stitches I’ll be using stitch markers as needed, paper and pencil. I always work in pencil so I can erase and adjust as needed going forward.
Gauge is very important if you’re creating a wearable piece. Yardage is important so that if a substitution is needed it can be done easily and final measurements are good for wearables too.
I love the writing phase because it is also the realization phase! Bringing ideas to life! I crochet and write at the same time, keeping careful notes of each round, each step and detail. If I work for a few rounds and don’t like how it’s looking I simply pull out the stitches and cross out the corresponding rounds/rows or steps I didn’t like in my notebook. If a section could be considered difficult, I have my camera on hand to take photos of those steps to include with my pattern later. I also photograph each piece I create from all angles until I have determined which ones I want to include in my end pattern.
My process to writing a pattern starts with a sketch. Then I think of what design elements would best fit the sketch. Sometimes I already know the stitch pattern because it’s part of my inspiration, but other times I look through stitch books and see what I think would go best.
Then as I work up the pattern I have the sketch book out and I write the instructions as I go along.
My best advice: be thorough and don’t ever think people will just assume what you’re saying. Write your patterns as if you’re writing them for a beginner, even if it’s an advanced pattern. Always include gauge where it’s needed. Sure stuffed animals don’t need one (although an approximate finished measurement is good for those), but when you are making any wearables, you absolutely need a gauge. And make sure you quadruple check that you have it right.
When I start a design, I usually hand write my notes at first. When I was first designing, I would crochet first and then write, but over time, I’ve realized that my patterns are much more accurate when I write out the pattern first and then crochet. For a more complicated pattern, I just write out one row or round at a time, then crochet it, and then make adjustments to the written pattern. I should also mention that I prefer to use chains rather than foundation stitches, so when crocheting in rows, I start with a gauge swatch so I know how many chains to begin with and so that I can make sure that the stitch, yarn, and hook are combining well. When I’m making a garment, I like to start with a schematic before I even get to the swatch. Although I publish my patterns with US abbreviations, I often draft out a design using stitch symbols.
When it comes time to publish, I use a style sheet. I have a specific format and layout that I always follow for my self-published patterns, whether the pattern is a blog freebie or a PDF pattern for sale on Craftsy, Crochetville, Etsy, Kollabora, or Ravelry. When I work with a magazine, I write the pattern in their style sheet first before transferring it back to my own style sheet for self-publishing later.
I find the style sheet really helpful for a few reasons. First, I can stay consistent so that people who crochet my patterns know what to expect from me. Second, it means there’s less work for me because I’m working from a template. I can cut and paste descriptions for special stitches, or information about a specific yarn, from one pattern to the next.
The critical information to include really depends on your target audience and your brand. Since I’m a teacher first, I’ve tried to address all the questions and concerns I usually hear from my students in my style sheet. So, for example, I note that I use US, rather than UK, terms; I have a key for every abbreviation, not just special stitches; I list the yarn brand I used for the sample but also the weight and any other factors that are important in choosing a substitute yarn. If your audience is more experienced, tends to always use the same yarn as you did for the sample, or is only coming from one country, it wouldn’t be necessary to include this level of detail.
When I design it goes from my head to my hands in yarn. I scribble down what I have done along the way, and then type it up for my testers. Sometimes, what I have written doesn’t make sense when another crocheter reads it. That is where my testers come in with open dialogues to help me decide a more clear and concise way to communicate my idea if necessary.
What resources do you use to help you with this process? A pen, paper, camera, and then microsoft word later.
I know that every designer has a format they like best when writing out their pattern, so no one format is best, but, what crucial and necessary information should be included in patterns? You need to CLEARLY define your stitches and include an accurate gauge at the beginning.
Depending on what I design my process is different. I used to always crochet it first and then write it down, but I often ended up forgetting what I had done. Then I started crocheting and writing at the same time. For garments I first make up a gauge swatch and then write the pattern based on that. Then I crochet the piece but I often make changes, writing them as I go.
Any good pattern will include materials, including yarn (fiber included if necessary), hook size, any necessary notions such as buttons, finished dimensions and/or sizes and most importantly gauge. If gauge is not necessary than the pattern should also state that.
I’m actually in the middle of a new pattern as we speak. The thought process, anyway. I’ll think and think and quite possibly over think of how I want the pattern to look. I think about my target audience, how light/heavy the finished object is supposed to be, and from there it’s a matter of choosing the right yarn and hook size. Then I get down to the actual crochet.
Writing is a painful process! *giggle* I’ll write it as I go along. Sometimes I’ll go several rows before I write down what I’ve done, so I can judge for myself if I like what I’ve done. I’ve got several stitch and motif resource books, so I’ll use those in my creative works. Choosing which stitch pattern might work well with another, I can see it looks great in my mind, but then the actual form starts to take shape and it’s frog frog frog, pick another and repeat.
What is absolutely necessary in any pattern is the type of yarn and hook you used to make your creation, the difficulty level, and gauge. Never forget the gauge. Forgetting that little point could spell disaster for the person who tries to make your creation. They’ll either make it too small or too large, depending on how tight or loose their stitches are. With the gauge listed, they can adjust their tension so their creation looks just as good as the one you displayed.
I think for me because I’m very visual, I don’t always have the finished product in mind. I have the shape, size and possibly the way the project will hang in mind more than anything. I know if I want it to be “lacy” or have texture too, so it’s just finding the “right” stitches to accommodate that vision.
Putting my thoughts to paper really is the hardest for me. I’ve tried writing out the pattern first and because I’m so visual….that hardly ever works out the way I want it too. Many times, I’ll just create the swatch or a small version of the project, so I can get a good feel of how it will look. Once I figure out if it’s good then I’ll sit down and write it out as I crochet. Once I’ve written it out, I’ll go back and crochet a swatch again to ensure the pattern is correct.
I’ve studied how patterns are written in magazines and books and have tried to write similar to that style but have also found that I sometimes go into further detail and instruction to make it as simple as I can for my readers. My patterns include information about the type of yarn I used with weight, yardage, etc. I also include the supplies that are needed for that project along with abbreviations and any special stitch instructions and tips. My email information is always included too because i think it should be easy for someone to contact me. You could also include links to your newsletter and/or social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.
I think as time progresses you get better at writing out patterns because you gain a better understanding of how “readable” your patterns are to the audience. Plus, if you have testers….they make you a better designer too. Getting feedback and constructive criticism is always good so just make sure your skin is thick enough to take it but don’t let talk you out of your design either. They are there to help you…not change the pattern!
This may not be an exactly fair question for me. There have been multiple times that I have never actually hooked my own designs. Often I can see the finished item and the stitches that it will take to make it happen in my head without actually hooking it. However, I do like to hook it as well so I often do. To me the crucial and necessary information is GAUGE, supplies (yarn, hook, and anything else), sizing, stitches and abbreviations used. Also, if special stitches are used, include a section with instructions for those stitches.
I think the most important part of learning to write patterns… is learning to read them! I followed hundreds of patterns – some well written, some not so much. Paying attention to the structure and syntax is how you learn the language!
Do you write your pattern first then crochet it or do you crochet and write it out at the same time? This varies depending on the pattern – I usually write out the first few lines, crochet them, and then see how it’s going from there.
What resources do you use to help you with this process? Sometimes if I can’t figure out how to say something, I’ll chart it out and then write it… and rewrite it… When I was starting out, reading stitch dictionaries helped me remember how to format things.
I know that every designer has a format they like best when writing out their pattern, so no one format is best, but, what crucial and necessary information should be included in patterns? The yarn and hook size! Other than that, it’s all up for grabs. Crochet should be fun – and in my experience, crocheters love “breaking the rules” and doing their own thing anyway! The more info the better of course, but when it’s not a “fitted” item, it’s okay to have fun and make it your own – and change the yarn and hook size if you want to too!