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?

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