Monday, April 6, 2015

The Things Designers Do To Sabotage Your Project

We don't do it on purpose, but designers sometimes sabotage the people trying to make our patterns.

Designing for publication isn't as easy as it might seem. After the initial spurt of inspiration and excitement about a new idea, comes many hours of hard work. I'm going to give you the process from the designer's point of view and indicate where the unintended sabotage can happen.

1. As we create a new design we need to make notes about how we did it so that we can do it again.
We designers often write out our notes in a shorthand that makes sense to just us. It's very abbreviated, often jumping over the hard parts to figure out how to write it down later.

2. Then....we have to rewrite that pattern in a way that follows some sort of standards that someone other than ourselves can figure out.
Sometimes a pattern is fairly straightforward, but often there's some special way that something is done in order to get a unique result. That is a place where we can easily get hung up and fail you.

3. We have to decide what the difficulty rating is. Just because it's easy for us doesn't mean it's an easy pattern for the general public.
Everyone has their own ideas about what makes a pattern more or less difficult. What stitches were used, any special way those stitches were used, and what yarn is the pattern sample worked in. So even if the designer is only using basic crochet stitches, how they use those stitches can take it from beginner, to easy, or even intermediate in a heartbeat. But sometimes, once you know the trick, the pattern goes back to being easy.

4. We have to make sure to include all the details that help the maker do it right. The yarn details, what hook was used, if it needs other things like buttons and stitch markers, what size the finished project should be, and the gauge.
This is where the sabotage seems to happen a lot.
Example 1- Assuming everyone will get the same results with the same size hook: I had found a delightful pattern for a baby cap. I don't have any children and don't see newborns very often, so when I realized the designer hadn't included dimensions or a gauge I was dismayed. I had no idea how to make sure the finished hat was the right size. She listed the hook and yarn size, but I couldn't be sure that it would come out right since the thickness of worsted can be varied, I didn't know what specific yarn she used, and my gauge might have been tighter or looser than hers. Because she failed to give me the most basic information I needed to successfully make her pattern, I couldn't even attempt it.
Example 2 - Mixing up gauge with dimensions: I recently helped a friend figure out a shawl pattern that she wanted to work on. This designer had rated it as being at her level of experience but had not offered a gauge or dimensions for the finished project. The dimensions were embedded in the pattern to be figured out as she went. I spent a lot of time helping my friend to figure out the gauge from the pattern dimensions embedded in the pattern so that she could find out if the yarn she had would work. Even then we had to keep checking along the way, not completely certain that we had it right.

5. Once we've written up the pattern in a way that is readable, we have to photograph the sample...
The pattern photograph(s) has(have) at least two purposes. One is to show people what the pattern makes. The second is to help the maker get a sense that they're doing it right. A pattern is type of puzzle and it helps to have a photograph to reference.

Photographing the sample for a pattern takes some training, experience, planning, and time. Whatever we do, it needs to make it clear to the viewer what it is and what is special about it. If it's something to be worn it is beneficial to have it on a body, whether it's a person or a manikin. The lighting has to be just right to show off the whole thing as well as any special stitches or textures. In addition, the photograph has to be in focus, have an appealing composition, and a background that complements and doesn't distract. Needless to say, getting a good photograph can be quite difficult.

6. ...and then choose a way to get it proofed for errors.
As our writing teachers told us, always proof your work. And that often means having someone else go over it who has never seen it before. We get so familiar with what we've written that we can no longer see our errors. The same is true of a crochet pattern and this is where a lot more of the sabotage can happen.

The two most common ways of checking the pattern for errors are tech editors and testers. Tech editors check your math, the way a pattern is written, errors in spelling and grammar, as well as making suggestions as to how parts might be worded more clearly. Testers are people who actually make the pattern and give the designer feedback on things that don't make sense, they had to fix, or need to be worded better. Both are good ways of proofing a pattern as long as they are quality people who are good at what they do.

That said, no one is perfect and errors can still be missed. Sadly, some people either skip this step or don't use someone who knows what they're doing.

7. Sometimes diagrams or charts are needed.
These are the additional bits that help to complete the written pattern. They can include diagrams of the object with dimensions, visuals to show assembly, graphs for color work, symbol diagrams showing the stitches, and anything else that needs explaining with a visual.

These can require special skills, special tools, and just as much time as writing the pattern. If they're done well, they're a great resource for the maker; however, if not, they can actually confuse things.

8. Finally it all gets laid out on paper and published.
This is another area that can require special skills, instincts, and even special tools. It's not a requirement to have an attractive layout (although nice), but it is important that the layout makes the pattern easy to read. I'd say that the only sabotage I've encountered here is readability or having trouble finding what I need. As with anything, breaking things up a bit and putting in a good amount of white space for the eye to rest is always a good thing.

If you encounter a pattern with problems I hope you will consider sending the designer a KIND note letting them know what you experienced. I know I like to hear about things that don't make sense or are incorrect because I want your crochet experience to be a good one.

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