Tuesday, October 28, 2014

How I Write Crochet Patterns

 I'm working on a new crochet pattern right now, and it's really striking me that I have a very specific (read: obsessive compulsive) method for pattern writing. It's always amazing to me the way the mind works in regards to creative projects, so I thought other people might find the inside of my brain interesting. So I'm going to share!

I learned how to draft sewing patterns once, and the process was mind boggling. Perhaps because I am more used to working directly into a 3D form, as opposed to working first on a flat form (the paper) for sewing patterns making. Or perhaps it was just because I have been working with crochet patterns longer than with sewing pattern. Whatever the reason, I am much more comfortable designing my own crochet projects.

It has gotten to the point, in fact, that I can't handle reading other people's patterns. I love designing patterns so much, that even when I'm using someone else's pattern, I'm writing my own notes and alterations. It's a problem. I can't help it.

If you are a designer and have your own process, I'd love to hear about it. Like I said, I am very intrigued by the creative process, ya know? So, without further ado, here's how I hammer out my crochet patterns:

Step 1: Inspiration & Sketching
Pretty much just like the title says: I get inspired and do some sketches. I plan out how the item will
be constructed, right down to the location of the starting round for each component. I will sometime do an image search to find real-life references for costumes, shapes, and anatomy. This usually takes about 20 minutes, but I've spent as long as 7 hours on this step.

Step 2: Making the First Version
This is by far the most time consuming step. I cannot write down part of a pattern without actually stitching it out as I write. I know there are some people out there who can actually draft a pattern without actually crocheting as they go. I enjoy crocheting it as I write. It gives me a chance to experience what the readers of my pattern will experience, and a chance to see if any section is ridiculous or annoying or hard.

As I am crocheting, I make charts for each part of the project: head, legs, body etc. Each chart has three columns in this order: Round or Row Number (rnd), Number of Stitches (sts), and Notes. The notes section is where I jot a short hand version of the stitch sequence for that round. As you can see in the picture below, it usually looks something like, * inc, sc 4 *. That little blurb translates as, *inc, sc in next 4 sts* around. Handy, huh?

Though I write down each row as I am crocheting it, there is still a bit of going back and revising. In fact, in this last pattern, I got entirely done with the head and neck (making them one continuous piece by some tricky shaping methods) and decided it was not at all the look I wanted. I ripped back ten or fifteen rounds and started again from about the eight round of the head. I crossed that omitted section out lightly so I could still read it if I wanted to. That's the nice thing about writing as you go, you can always know exactly the patterning you tried last time but disliked. It's fun to see the pattern evolve on paper!!

Step 3: Cleaning Up & Typing
This is the step I am currently at with my newest pattern. I finish off the project, assemble it, and take some nice pictures of it. I edit the pictures and prep a word document for the pattern. I have a template saved that I use as the bare bones for all my patterns, but I need to go in and add specific material lists, stitch glossaries, and "about this pattern" sections for each new pattern I write. Once all that is done, I set to work translating my chicken scratch on paper into lovely typed words.

  Step 4: Read Through & PDF
After the pattern is typed, I do a read through. I go line by line to make absolutely sure everything adds up, is spelled right, and makes sense. Then I save the .doc as a .pdf and get ready to put it up on Etsy.

Step 5: Testing
I will admit, I do not always send my patterns away for testing. If it's a small plush or something simple, I just upload the edited PDF and call it a day. So far, nobody has contacted me about one of my untested patterns containing an error, so that's a good sign. If the project is very intricate or gi-huge-ic, I send it off for testing. I use two testers, and give them a few weeks. Once I've heard back from them and made and changes, it's off to Etsy the pattern goes!!

 So, there you have it. My writing and editing process for crochet patterns. What's your pattern-writing style? Are you able to write it all up first and THEN crochet it to test it? I'd love to hear your process.

Happy Tuesday!!