Write That Pattern! How To Write A Crochet Pattern

I was recently asked by Vincent of Knot Bad to help him learn to write patterns for his wearable items. That request for help was followed by a long series of texts over the next several days with lessons covering everything from how to determine gauge and yarn requirements to general verbiage and then... like magic he published his first wearable pattern. YAY! Success!

I was also helping two other friends begin writing patterns this week and since I know so many ask about writing patterns and bringing ideas to life, I thought why not share my process with everyone and make it a blog post. Now I am sitting here typing and thinking, I wish I had saved my texts with Vincent so I could paste them here for ease. LOL. No worries... we can dive in. Let me start by saying: YOU CAN DO THIS.

To begin, I always go back to something Drew Emborsky (AKA The Crochet Dude) told me when I was first starting to write my own patterns and overwhelmed and clueless: Start simple. Make it a tutorial and just tell people what to do. It is so simple it is almost mind blowing. Write down what you do. Revolutionary right? But that's all a pattern really is: instructions to tell someone else how to achieve the same result you did. A roadmap.

My first patterns were more like tutorials and not at all technical. But they got the job done: to tell people how to make what I made. As my designs grew in difficulty, my pattern writing skills were becoming more developed as well. So while tutorials saying do this, then do this are great and can often do the trick, for garments with sizing and items with design variations I would need to go beyond that with solid pattern writing.

It all starts with an idea and some yarn...

For me, my process always starts with an idea. I have in my mind a look to achieve. As I work to achieve that look I take detailed notes. I have learned over the years that I should use pencil. There is a lot of erasing in my process. I also have a single design book that is in my studio but also carry mini design books in my bag for ideas that hit on the go. I prefer the grid pages of Doane Paper for my travel books and have a journal notebook for my main designs.

My note process is twofold: I write down what I do in words, but I also draw the stitchwork. This is known as Charting. I know it is intimidating to many, but the truth is that charting is a HUGE time saver. I can literally see the chart in my mind when I imagine what I want to create. I can visualize the stitches and it helps me create the exact look I am going for. It is also great for when I am in the groove and don't want to write all the words. I can just chart and come back later to fill in the complete steps.

Once I have got my notes and finished garment it is time to write up that pattern. Woo Hoo! Now starts the real work and is much less fun. Though, I have to admit... I kind of like this part too. As you sit down to turn your notes into your pattern, don't feel like things are "known" or make assumptions. The thing about writing a pattern is information: you want to give as much detail as you can to the person making it. Success is when I never hear from a customer except to show me what they have made. That means I have communicated clearly and they are able to create the item.

I have written enough patterns where now, I have a template that works for me and is set up to always give me prompts to add information. It is super helpful so I don't leave things out. Information your pattern should have at the start:

WHAT IS IT: What are people making? Who designed it? My cover page always has my logo, website, copyright detail, pattern name and photos right off the top. Boom!

WHAT DO YOU NEED: Remember, you are giving someone all the information to make your design. I always list supplies and stitches off the top. For stitches: I give the abbreviation and the stitch name. People crochet & knit all over the world so be clear. I refer to the Craft Yarn Council for best practices on abbreviations.

WHAT ELSE DO YOU NEED TO KNOW: Again, the most important thing is to communicate as much information as possible for the user to get the result they want. On my sizes I use standard sizing but also give information on specific areas (bust or waist, etc) as well as any information on how the garment fit is designed. Sizing details will vary based on what the pattern is for. Again, I refer to Craft Yarn Council standards for best practices on sizing

GAUGE: OK... I could (and will) do a whole blog post on gauge. Gauge is my nemesis but it is essential. Gauge is the way to success, especially if you are using multiple stitches. In this case you need to communicate to the user how to achieve gauge and what stitch is used. No one has the exact same tension so in order to achieve the look, the user will need to know gauge.

Phew.... still with me? Now we get into the actual pattern... the meat and potatoes. YUM!

Design / Pattern Writing Essentials: Yarn, Coffee, Notebook, Markers, Tape Measure, Notions.

Take a look at some of the Free Patterns on this blog to get a feel for this part of the process. This is where you actually tell the people what steps to take so they can create the masterpiece you designed.  But this is not the time to feature all of your creative writing skills. Less is more here. No fluff. Just clear and precise directions.

And anyone who has purchased my patterns knows that I try to lay out the steps concisely and clearly as well as include charts and schematics. It is ok if you do not know how to do charts or schematics. You can also include photos if that best illustrates what needs to be done. As long as you are clearly laying that road map out then you are all good.

OK. So you've got your item made, notes transcribed into steps to follow and you've added photos or charts as needed. GO YOU!!!! You have nearly got yourself a pattern. Have a sip of coffee and get ready for the home stretch.

Give the pattern a once over, then a twice over, and maybe even a third look to scan for mistakes & make sure you got all of your notes from your notebook on there. Now you need to take it out for a spin. Grab some of your fiber friends and see if anyone is available to test your pattern out. Often times I miss things. It happens. In June I published 24 patterns that month. I would be lying if I said they were all perfect out of the gate!

Having fiber friends test your pattern is an invaluable opportunity for feedback from everything to gauge to fit to stitch counts to grammar to you name it. I am fortunate to have a great pool of testers and would not get my patterns out there without them.

Now you've had an idea, you've brought it to life and created a way for OTHERS TO CREATE. Woo Hoo! Publish your pattern and do a little dance.

Can't wait to see all of your design ideas coming to life. Happy designing.

Stop. Block. And Roll. Tips for Blocking Your Knits

Hey now! Pull up a chair, grab a cuppa and let's chat about blocking to get the best fit of your handmade garments.  Keep in mind this post has affiliate links so I can pay the bills but opinions are mine and nothing here is sponsored content. Ok... let's go!

Remember school fire drills when we were kids? Or the visit to the local firehouse Fire Safety Day lessons where they teach you stop drop and roll? Well, in crochet & knitting the drill we need to remember is stop block and roll. Say it with me now: Stop. Block. And Roll.  

I know, I know. There are about a million blog posts out there about how to block or why to block or what to block. So why add another? Let me give a little disclaimer:  These are my views ONLY. These methods work for me and my products without fail. I do not disparage against any other method. I have tried many and landed here.  As a designer, I get asked A LOT about blocking. When do you do it? How do you do it? Must you do it? So allow me to dive in with my voice on the subject.

First things first: What type of garments should be blocked? Short and simple answer:
YOU SHOULD ALWAYS BLOCK.
PERIOD.

OK... next: When do you block?
There is no hard and fast rule on this one.  Typically it is best to block BEFORE assembly. You want your stitches to settle to their resting place. If you assemble THEN block it is common to have a "pull" effect at seam parts of assembly. Additionally, you lose the ability to manipulate the fabric to where you want it to assemble and rest.

But check the pattern is the best rule to follow. As a designer, I often incorporate blocking into the design and pattern flow. For example, some of my patterns are made in "parts" and I will have you assemble two pieces then continue on working with the assembled piece. In this case I make it a point to have the crocheter "block before assembly". I have gotten MANY messages thanking me for this noting how it changes the fit. Because it does! That's why I say it. So if a pattern tells you when to block, it is best to assume that relates to the result of completed item. If the pattern doesn't say, I follow the Block Before Assembly rule. Any pieces that you will assemble should be blocked FIRST.

And last... the big one: How do you block?

Remember before when I said there are a million opinions on blocking? This is usually where they come into play.

Some people swear by Wet Blocking and refuse to hear another way. I am not one of those people. Wet blocking is the process where you immerse your fabric in lukewarm water or solution such as Soak or Eucalan. Then you gently "squeeze" out the excess water. Typically this happens by taking the fabric and laying it on a towel and rolling it so that towel grabs that moisture. Shape the fabric to required shape and measurements and you can can either lay flat between on another towel to dry or you can pin it flat on blocking boards. Whichever you do - do not wring it out if you go for wet blocking methods. Nor should you "hang dry". No bueno.

Also, I hate wet blocking. I don't do it. OK, I rarely do it. I do it when I must.  I did it for the purpose of knowing how, learning the method and finding out it is not for me. Other than that I am not a fan. Why am I not a fan you ask? Well for one, it is messy. I don't like messy.  Also, it takes so much time and space. You have to fill the bin with solution, immerse your pieces, flat dry them... blah blah blah. That may work for individual garments. But for me it is not efficient. I create small batch items for my big annual show to sell and need speed and efficiency - and not sacrifice quality. Wet blocking proved to be good but not right for me.

I am a Steam Blocker. Steam Blocking is most universal and works for 90% of the fibers out there. Steam Blocking especially lends itself to cottons which is my current fiber obsession.

Steam Blocking is my JAM! And while there are many ways to do it, I have 3 that I love and work for me and give me beautiful garments. Allow me to elaborate on these.

Megan Pierce iron blocking

When I first started steam blocking I used my Black & Decker $20 iron and rocked the steam option. I put my fabric on my ironing board and lightly steamed to moisten the fabric. I then placed the fabric on a towel to dry. I still use this method for many items in fact, but did upgrade to a slightly better iron with a good steam option (Got a Sunbeam which was $30). I use this method for blankets, heavier wool items such as sweaters and scarves and cowls.

Another Steam Blocking tool I use far more frequently and especially with garments, is my Conair Steamer. Yeah baby. My husband got me this gem one year for Christmas and while some women would not be happy with such a chore related gift I was ELATED because I knew it would mostly be used for my knits and not his shirts. I live by this thing. It is probably one of my favorite tools of the trade. I cannot rave about it enough. It is also awesome for steaming my photo backdrop but that is for another post.

What I love about this is that the clips and hanging bar on the unit hold the fabric perfectly. I just hang my item and steam away. Literally the easiest thing to do of the whole process. Then I place the fabric with pins on my blocking board to settle and dry. Boom!

And a bonus for garments like dresses that may need to be re-blocked or blocked after assembly I just hang them and steam them right on my dress form. Easy peasy.

As I used to travel a lot for work, and still travel as much as I can, I needed a portable steaming method for blocking magic. I settled on the Rowenta Travel Steamer. Mostly because I already owned one from my wedding weekend over a decade ago. But also, when the one I owned died a painfully explosive death in a hotel room, I still went with the Rowenta Travel Steamer and have not regretted it. It is great for steam blocking smaller items, steam blocking on trips and a really awesome thing to have in my booth for shows and show prep.

dampblocking

Something great you can also do is "Spray Block" or "fake steam block" if you do not have any steam options but, like me, have an aversion to wet blocking. This is where you lay your garment on the towel, spray with a water bottle to dampen but not "soak" and pin into shape and place to dry. By controlling the amount of water you are controlling how damp the fabric gets which will help you keep the shape and form.

When you block and how you block will always depend on variables such as what the pattern calls for and what the fiber calls for. But the question of blocking is always the same: YES. Got blocking tips? Share below in comments.

BLOCKING SUPPLIES:

I have placed some links within the post but here is a quick ref shopping guide. Remember - these are affiliate links. I may get commission or compensated for purchases made through these links. It helps run the blog. So thanks.

Sunbeam Turbo Steam Iron works like a charm
My Conair Steamer that I love so much
Travel Steamer - for blocking on the go
Blocking Boards (you do not need these, but I prefer them and use these. Any towel & flat surface can work)
Blocking Wires (I only use these for lighter garments or even lacey items)
T-Pins(I like these because they are long)

CrochetBlockingTips

And because I can't leave you without some basics here are 5 Blocking Myths Debunked:

1. You do not always need to block. We've established that is just silly talk. You ALWAYS need to block

2. You do not need to block swatches? I hear this ALL the time. Um... yeah you do. Unless you do not care about gauge, repeating the pattern, completed measurements of your garment or consistency. I mean, yeah. If you don't care about those things then you can skip blocking swatches. In other words: YES BLOCK YOUR SWATCHES.

3. You have to wet block for "true" blocking. Um... no. I hardly EVER wet block and have achieved consistent gauge, finished garments for my finished goods and true crochet bliss. Like I said earlier, there are MANY ways to block. Find what works for YOU then stick with it to get consistency. If you ALWAYS wet block then go for a steam block be prepared to get a different result. Find your method of choice then stick with it.

4. "Oh I will just block it later" also known as: Blocking hides my mistakes. Negatory Ghost Rider. While blocking will allow your stitches to "settle" into place and may occasionally help hide a hiccup or two. Don't use it as a repair method. If you make a mistake and wait for blocking to fix it you will likely be twice as upset. Just frog it. Fix it and move on.

5. "My tension is off, I will just block to achieve gauge". See above. NO! That is why you swatch and that is why you block your swatches. You want consistent stitching. Garments you will wear and enjoy. Blocking will not magically add 5 inches to your garment width. Swatch. Check your tension. Then move on.

And last... but never least... a special shout of thanks to our community members Megan Pierce, Everything Evie Crafts & Triple Knot Studio for helping with these awesome blocking photos.

Happy Blocking!

Photo Hacks Too: Lighting & Instagram Live

I have gotten a lot of messages since my knit date with my gal Megan from Peppermint Pine shop about the table top tripod set in my crochet bag that we used for her Instagram Live video. So I thought this would be a great time do an update on my Photo Hacks post. Yup this post has affiliate links. I get credit if you buy these items. Let's dive in!

Checking the light meter setting up for pics

First let's talk lighting. Natural light is your friend. It is correct, easy to edit and gives you accurate coloring. Oh.. and it is FREE! But let's be honest, it is not always available. For me, I have one perfect area in my house that has amazing light. But for only 2 hours a day. When the sun shifts or if there is cloud cover then my photo plans are tanked. And while you can do a lot in post with apps and edit, it is extremely helpful to have some options.

I have an advantage having been a Production Manager & concert lighting technician and my husband still working in the field. So I get some cool toys I admit. But still, you don't need insider trading for badass lighting hacks. Here are a few I am fond of and use myself. Just remember this one thing: simulating natural light is not actual natural light. When you can, use natural light. Always. ALWAYS.

I bought this light kit on amazon because it has a great storage case and lots of options. There are LOTS of light kits so buy what is best for you but one thing is that no matter what light kit you get... BUY NATURAL BULBS.

The next thing is a bounce card. This will help you get more length of time out of that perfectly lit area of your home or studio. Basically, a bounce card is going to reflect light into a shadowy area. You don't need to be a photography pro to use one and in fact, this will illuminate your products in ways beyond imagination.

Next up: that table top kit from my knit date. It is what I call my secret weapon because no matter where I am I can always get the right angle. The right perspective and even the right distance. These will be your secret weapon too.

And for the products themselves, these are my MUST HAVES that live in my little crochet on the go kit and I use them for almost anything. Just not website product shots lol. Perfect for on the floor when I need that right angle. On the table. For Facetime so I can knit and converse at once. Yup... these are the ones you saw in the IG Stories with Megan and for less than $20 I got all I needed.

First up is my Jellyfish Mount. I love this thing. It holds my phone, my husband's phone (he has an iPhone +) and is so versatile and small and portable.

Now for my table top tripod. There are tons on the market. But let's be honest - this has a specific function. It is not for primary product shoots. I want something that is portable, lightweight and frankly can fit in my needle and hook case to go where I go. I also don't want to break the bank. I also didn't want something so flimsy that I would spend even more money replacing it. I did some solid research and this was where I landed and I love it!

There are lots of products on the market and everyone will always have their preferences. I can only tell you that I have in fact spent some money and time and found these to be the best, and for less than $20 it is worth a shot!

So get out there, get in the light and get your pics.

Technique Tip: Working With Super Bulky Fibers

The Makings Of A Chunky Blanket

If you are like me, you have an affinity for the super bulky fibers that are so plush and luxurious and fun to work with. Personally I cannot get enough of We Are Knitters The Wool, but more on that later.

Now, as an avid crocheter, I have lots of tricks and techniques I have developed over the years to handle the ends as I change color or skeins. But as a new knitter this presented a different problem altogether.

Knitting is less forgiving than crochet and exposes mistakes and ends that I can normally hide in crochet. So as I was designing the Smith panel blanket for my upcoming fall collection, I knew I would have to come up with a way to manage the bulky ends. Weaving them in just wasn't the ticket. It left a bulky and messy look.

Then, almost fate and so serendipitous, a few days ago Stephanie from All About Ami posted about this very thing with a tip she used. I was like: YES!

I did a bit of shopping and got myself some felting tools: A Clover Felting Needle, A Pad and Finger Protectors. Now, a word about these finger protectors; At first I thought it was a gimmick and I would probably return them. Nope. I decided after the first couple of jabs into my poor little fingers that these were the best purchase of the whole process and I highly suggest them.

When I got to the end of the yarn ball, I pulled out the starting end of the new ball and twisted them together. I decided to go about 4 inches length but you can do what is comfortable for you for your project.

While holding the new twisted fiber against the pad, I used the felting needle to mesh them together. Again, those finger protectors came in really handy right here.

Then I trimmed the ends just slightly so as not to "cut" the newly joined fiber but remove the excess from the end.

I then continued knitting my project as if it was a single strand. It was a bit bulky at first on the needle but after a couple of rows I had to work really hard to find the connection. Look closely at the photo - can you find it?

Nope. Trust me... it is like magic. Watch this video and be amazed! So start felting your bulky wool end woes away!

Shop The Supplies Here:
Felting Needle
Felting Foam
Finger Caps

This is going to be my new favorite trick because now I can create almost anything without worrying about the ends. Thanks to Stephanie for sharing her great tip - which I share with you here. That's the great thing about being part of this maker community. Happy making. If this tip helps you let me know in comments. Or if there is something you would like to get a tip on, let me know.