Craft, Yarnstrosity

Pattern Dos and Pattern Don’ts – A Rant

I’ve just purchased a pattern for something I’ve been itching to make and upon receiving the instruction set my heart sank. I’ve paid good money for a set of written instructions that are quite honestly woeful. I feel ripped off. I’m sure that the instructions will produce the finished result, but I had to spend half an hour copying them into a word doc and changing the format to something readable. At the end of it I feel that the designer in question should be paying me!

It got me thinking about all the other patterns I’ve bought over the years. There have been some utterly hideous ones, such as the dinosaur beanie that I had to go and source alternative instructions in order to have it come out looking anything like the design (the original points simply would not work). Then on the other end of the scale there’s patterns put out by people with so much information presented in such a clear way and with help videos, such as those by the gorgeous AoibheNi – I’ve sometimes found myself wondering why they don’t charge more when they put in so much effort.

So a few tips and pet hates that I’ve had over the years as a consumer of patterns

  • make it clear, go for black or a dark colour on a white background
  • coloured backgrounds are useless, expensive to print and guarantee that your pattern will not be used. They are particularly problematic for anyone with a visual issue, such as the colourblind
  • include pictures of the finished object, photos of detail areas are also helpful
  • it’s nice if I can see the finished object too. Found a pattern for a hat once with the photo showing the designer front on. The hat was a thin white line on the top of her head with her hair wistfully splayed out the sides – not helpful
  • again on pictures, variegated threads can look amazing, but they often obscure the structure of the finished item. A picture of the item in a plain thread would be helpful
  • spread your pictures out so that the detail ones match the instructions, it’s annoying to get to round 8 and find the picture for it is next to round 2 text which then means I’m flipping back and forth
  • drop the all capitals, it’s shouting, it’s rude and it’s not clear
  • forget about the fancy pretty font. Give me a standard and clear font that I can read. Sure, use your fancy font for the headings if you must
  • get someone, anyone to do a test run – preferably someone fairly new to the craft as they’ll ask the smart questions
  • don’t assume that I know everything, include brief instructions for things or point me in the right direction
  • charts and diagrams are not the be-all and end-all. Provide some written instructions too if you can
  • never include an abbreviation without including an explanation (tatters, you should by rights be explaining “ds” at the beginning of every pattern!)
  • tatters, tell me where on your diagram to start!
  • tell me what to expect from the finished product, dimensions are generally a good starting point
  • tell me what thread and tools you used in your sample
  • if possible provide multiple versions of the same pattern – one which can be printed out and one which would work on a tablet for example. The printed one would have less margins and less fancy borders. Consider providing a “working” version
  • if there’s standard alternatives then provide them – for example, if you’re doing a crochet pattern it is a simple matter of search and replace to provide both an English and a US version
  • if you’re not providing them then at least tell me what format you’re using! Having to trawl through a pattern to figure out what terms they’ve used is irritating
  • if you’re including working photos ensure that they are clear, that I can see what you’re showing me and that your hands are washed. I once saw someone with dirt under the fingernails! Another pattern I found for socks showed a picture of someone’s legs, one shaved and with a sock and the other not shaved and sockless!

Don’t get me wrong – I am eternally grateful for those who provide patterns so that I can create wonderful things, but if you’re going to charge for them then at least put in some effort!

Have you come across any pattern hates? What about sample picture hates? Or do you think I’m too harsh?

10 thoughts on “Pattern Dos and Pattern Don’ts – A Rant”

  1. I recently started a pattern – it’s a “free” knitting pattern I came across on Ravelry. But in order to get the free pattern, you have to sign up for the designer’s newsletter. The only reason I went ahead I did it was because this particular object is for someone else, I had shown them the pattern (beforehand obviously) and they really liked it.

    I just thought this was disingenuous and felt “spammy”. Either give away your pattern for free or charge for it. Don’t force me to sign up for your newsletter (which I immediately unsubscribed from).

    On the other hand I’ve come across wonderful free & paid patterns, with so much information in them.

    Photos are usually the biggest problem I have, especially in lace patterns – it’d be unusual for there to be a photo showing enough detail or showing the detail I want to see – the troublesome bit!

  2. I agree with all you have said. I have designed in numerous mediums and am always looking for feed back to improve my ability to explain the steps needed for any given design. Other items I feel is important beyond what you have stated would be:

    – If hands must be in the pictures do not have nail polish on it makes your photos distracting.
    – Make sure you have proper lighting when doing photos.
    – If your item is done in a dark color fiber use a light back ground so that details can be easily seen, especially important when the item is lace. If using a light color fiber then have a dark color background for the same reason.
    – Remember white reflects the light so much that you can lose details in photos, where as black absorbs the light also making details lots in photos. A pale color usually shows details best, tan, beige, gray, light blues those types of colors will show your details much better.
    – The more detail in the design the less detail should be in the fiber, trying to show lace while using a rapid variegated fiber is a waste.
    – If more than one page, number the pages!!! Preferably ___ of ___ pages (3 of 7 pages) is the best format.
    – Make sure you are using good font with a nice size for fiber artist to read. Printing 2 pages I can easily read is much better than 1 page I can’t.
    – Us a nice line spacing so that your words are not smashed tight together.
    – If you wouldn’t want to craft using the pattern you made than no one else will want to either.

    No Kersti not to harsh at all. Just honest about what you like and don’t like I just happen to agree with you as it is one of my pet peeves too.

  3. Hmm, that’s a whole other ball game! I don’t understand what the implications are for dyslexic people, but I would imagine that the vast majority of those producing patterns are not thinking of them! If they are, good on them, but perhaps they could then also provide a normal sighted version?

  4. @ Fiona & @ Kersti
    RE: Color.
    I think we will find that no matter what the color combination is someone will have problems with it. In that case of online patterns that are downloadable I think they should all be white background with black lettering, not almost black or dark gray. However my daughter who has dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia finds no difference when colors are pulled in. A family friend is color blind and he cannot differentiate from red to green and so on. I think one of the colors he has trouble with is orange. However my son’s Uni dorm mate is legally blind, with glasses he sees 20/200 without 20/300. He is going to college for computer science programming and what not. For him it is best to have very high contrast with the background being dark and the font being light bright colors, such as a black background with neon pink, neon green, neon yellow etc. For him it is beneficial to use the different colors for different areas of his coding as it helps him see the sections easier. Thankfully I have none of these problems just old eyes and I find that my eyes do not get as tired or stressed if I have a dark background and bright font, this has been my preference for years when using a computer.

    When doing a webpage, blog etc I feel people should use the color combination that is best for them. If they start getting complaints or compliments they can adjust their site accordingly. However if a person is going to show pattern directions on site and they use anything other than white background and black lettering I think they should offer their pattern as a PDF that can be printed with text, photos, diagrams without any background coloring or pattern. With so many free programs available for making PDFs I think it is odd that a designer doesn’t take advantage of them and have all their patterns available that format.

Tell me what you think