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?

Craft, Memory Monday, Stuff

Branding Bullsh*t

I’m very proud of my father’s achievements. He competed for Australia in the 1976 Olympic games in Montreal, Canada. Then in 2000 he ran in the torch relay for the Sydney games. I have vague recollections of my Dad being on the telly (I was only 3 at the time) and the general excitement of those games.

As a child I also recall that most Olympic years I would be asked by whatever school I was at to bring in memorabilia for show and tell. It was part of the excitement, my way of being a part of it and a way to include others who perhaps would never get any closer than some kid at their school who had an official uniform. At school we would do all sorts of projects around the Olympics, covering history and sport and geography – it really was a great opportunity from an educational and community perspective. I even took Dad’s torch to the office in 2000 and caused much excitement there too 🙂

But it appears that the powers that govern the games have gone nuts this year. We’ve got knitters being told that they are not allowed to give gifts to competitors because it might infringe upon paid sponsors and now I see that a craft group has received a lawyers letter to tell them to cease using a word derived from their own name combined with the word Olympics to run a bit of a fun challenge. They’ve also been told that any patterns or people’s PROJECTS that show any of the imagery have to be removed.

For anyone who is a member of Ravelry, the details are here including the lawyer’s letter.

In particular the letter includes the following:

The athletes of Team USA have usually spent the better part of their entire lives training for the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games and represent their country in a sport that means everything to them. For many, the Olympics represent the pinnacle of their sporting career. Over more than a century, the Olympic Games have brought athletes around the world together to compete in an event that has come to mean much more than just a competition between the world’s best athletes. The Olympic Games represent ideals that go beyond sport to encompass culture and education, tolerance and respect, world peace and harmony.

The USOC is responsible for preserving the Olympic Movement and its ideals within the United States. Part of that responsibility is to ensure that Olympic trademarks, imagery and terminology are protected and given the appropriate respect. We believe using the name “Ravelympics” for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games. In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.

This is beyond ludicrous. While I understand that the US government has decided to grant the US Olympic Committee an exclusive right to the trademark, I’m not quite so sure that they had the right to do that in the first place. I totally disagree with the statements above. In my experience, the fact that people can become involved no matter how likely they are to compete themselves gets them excited and helps them to participate and actually enhances the games. To come down heavy handed on people having fun and taking part in this event in their own, harmless way goes completely against the ideals that the lawyers point out.

If you take this to the next level, it is obvious that primary schools will nolonger be able to hold their own mini Olympic sports days, nor will communities be able to have Olympic street parties or anything like that. It is commercialism gone mad – worse than Christmas! Next they’ll be wanting to rename Mt Olympus. I for one will be boycotting any Olympic merchandise and any company that is supporting the games. If we all did that we’d make a dent, make them nolonger commercially attractive and thus bring them back to the people, where they belong!

Memory Monday

Memory Monday – Baby Overkill

Yes, life was certainly simple when I was 3 months old! Here I am in my classic baby bouncenette – a simple metal frame with a mesh cover and straps to kind of hold me in. You’ll note that it’s even in pink. Either a grown-up type person would apply gently pressure to make it rock, or my own kicking and arm-waving would get the thing to move a bit (and presumably provide a means to exhaust me so that I would sleep).

Fast forward to 2012 and here I am fitting out the “essentials” for the imminent arrival of Bump. A bouncenette would probably be a good idea, but take a look at this:

This is the Fischer-Price Rainforest Deluxe Baby Bouncer which is currently selling on Amazon for ÂŁ64.78 and is quite typical of today’s baby bouncers. It features “a toy bar with a see-through waterfall created by lights and clear spinning helixes and 3 colourful animals. After a day of rainforest adventure, turn on the calming vibrations and your little one is ready to relax! Suitable from birth. Soothing vibrations. Music. Detachable toy bar. Includes 2 toys. Support strap. Non-slip feet.”

So basically, you stick your child in this contraption, turn on the shiny lights and music and set the thing vibrating and walk away. Meanwhile your child is bombarded with sounds and images and probably kept awake.

Does it seem like overkill to you? It certainly does to me! Don’t get me wrong – the construction looks good, the toy bar is probably a good idea and the colours are gorgeous but music and “soothing vibrations”? That sounds like something I’d expect to see in an Ann Summers catalog, not a baby catalog!

And this isn’t the only thing – we now have nurseries with bumpers all over the cots (which are actually NOT good and can contribute to SIDS) and all manner of things. Muslin cloths… I think I’ll leave that one for another post.

Even if money were no object, most of the things on sale are quite frankly ridiculous. It will certainly be interesting to see if I change my mind in the next 6 months and what I deem to be actually important.


Applied Life Skills

Like most people who are out of school for a few years, I despair for those kids coming through now. It seems that ever since I left all those years ago the level of education has been going downhill. Of course, when I think about it rationally I can see that this has been happening for a while and was happening while I was still in school. And the reasons for it are fairly reasonable when you consider the kind of adverts that used to feature in women’s magazines to sell kitchen appliances such as the one above.

With most girls doing some for of cooking and typing in school while boys did woodwork or machining, something had to give if we were ever to see equality and as a result most of these kinds of gender-stereotype subjects have simply been dropped. This has resulted in a generation of uselessness IMHO – but I think I might have a possible solution. That solution is a new subject for the curriculum, taught with the same level of classroom facing time as the traditional maths and english. I’m going to call it Applied Life Skills and this is what it will cover:

Spelling and Grammar – I remember having an English teacher in year 8 (when I was about 13) who told us that he thought the curriculum changes to English were appalling and as such he was going to teach us what he had to but also teach us what he thought we should know. Now most of it I did know as I was one of the rare kids in my area who read books for fun but what he covered was things like basic spelling and basic grammar – stuff like the you’re/your and their/there/they’re. The biggest lesson I learnt from him personally was that if you honestly believe you’re right, make it happen. I still think of him when I read CVs from people who cannot spell correctly. (no checking my spelling here now – that would be petty and rude!)

Filling in Forms – sounds odd, but the number of supposedly educated people I’ve come across who couldn’t fill in a form, it really makes you wonder.

Cooking – I was lucky enough to have access to a subject called Home Economics in my high schools. It was considered a soft subject because we would get to make cake and eat it. I baked at home so to me it really was just the fun part of the week but I’ve been shocked at the number of people who cannot cook basic things, and many of them complain that they can’t follow a recipe. If you can’t follow a recipe in a cook book, how can you be sure that you’ll follow a set of instructions given by a boss? If I could have things my way I’d make following a recipe part of a job interview!

Life Maths – the kind of maths that you encounter every day of your life and which many people can’t cope with because it was part of the bigger and often hated maths subjects – things like calculating interest off in a sale, understanding accumulated interest, understanding how odds work in betting, how to convert currencies and how to recognise that the deal being offered by the banks is gonna send you bankrupt.

Hand Craft – if everyone knew how to sew on a button would we perhaps get less wastage? What if everyone could darn? Yes it may be cheap to pop into Primark/Pennies and buy a sweatshop cardigan*, but surely it’s better for the world if you didn’t? And if everyone learnt how to knit or crochet sure they may not ever use the skill again, but they’d also learn that they CAN do these things, and they’d learn to read a pattern – which means learning to follow instructions which translates into being able to pick up new skills from instructions later on which in turn makes them more employable.

First Aid – every person should have a first aid certificate.

Nutrition – we should all have a basic idea of simple nutrition and how that can change – for example when a woman is pregnant, or for children or even for vegetarians.

Basic Computer Use – everyone should be able to install and uninstall programs, know how to search for things online, effectively use word/excel. Not necessarily to macro level but they should be able to at least not panic when they are resented with a screen and perhaps even understand that things like macros and mail merges exist.

Hygiene – wouldn’t it be wonderful if every person left school with a certificate in basic food hygiene? Add to that a basic understanding of how disease is spread and perhaps we can reduce our reliance on antibiotics and also reduce the number of productivity days lost to avoidable illnesses.

World Culture – we all tend to live in our own worlds, we see the same kind of people who, because they live in our worlds too, have the same experiences. If we had a subject where we learnt about different cultures and their views of the world – both secular and religious, perhaps we would have a greater understanding and tolerance for them. Kind of the bonus of learning a language without trying to memorise conjugation tables.

History – I know, history is already a subject and many find it dull, but if you permeate all of the above with a light smattering of history related to it you may be surprised to find that it ain’t so dull after all. For example, learning how to cook a recipe from a 200 year old cook book would be quite fascinating, as would understanding just how bad things were before doctors discovered that washing their hands was a good idea. History gives context to the why we do things this way now and context means greater understanding.

So, that’s my idea of things that should/could be taught in school – what would you add to the list?

*I suspect that, being such a large chain, Primark actually doesn’t use sweatshops but the clothes are so cheap that this is the impression that they give.


Crochet Pattern Rant

If I walk into a shop I can purchase a whole book of crochet patterns that have been, presumably, edited and test-crocheted over many many months and I’ll pay maybe $10 and maybe up as far as $20. Generally it works out to about $1-$2 per pattern. And I expect that said book will include lovely photography, charts and explanations, full details of yarns used and maybe even a detailed How to Crochet section. I can even go to the book’s info pages and figure out if it’s US or UK terminology – gosh some will even have give me a handy table of conversions.

So, what makes you think that your single pattern is worth double or more what one of those professional patterns is worth? And why on earth should I pay you for the second rate can’t-be-arsed approach to checking that you’ve got your numbers right? And while I can accept that it might be confusing to you, in your small minded think-you’re-too-good way to be bothered translating your entire pattern into both UK and US, I really don’t believe it is too much to ask that you stick in a single line that means that I don’t have to read through for the country specific terms myself – especially since I’ve just paid you more than double what I’d have paid someone who knows what they’re doing for the same thing.

OK… breath in…. breath out… and…. back to calm.

Geek, Stuff

What’s your address?

I’ve noticed a distinct trend over the last 6 months for people to have absolutely no idea what their email address is. My own email address is extremely simple – it’s a direct reflection of how long I’ve been online, I have matching addresses at a couple of common email providers. More and more I’ve been getting emails intended for others. At first I thought spam, but then I noticed that the emails seemed not to follow the usual spam. So far I’ve received

– invitations to birthday parties
– notification that someone will be coming over to fix my heater
– letters sent to someone’s mother who happens to be named Kersti
– letters from schools to parents
– notification of changes to doctor’s appointments
– notification of changes to dance classes
– recipes sent from close friends
– receipts for train tickets
– receipts for movie tickets
– scans of passports

most of these are written in Estonian, Danish or Norwegian. Guess there’s more that spell their name like me there.

Today one of my colleagues received a receipt from a local airline with her name throughout and the name of another person. Her immediate thought was that someone had used her credit card to buy themselves a flight. Turns out that no, they just got their partner’s email address wrong.

What is wrong with these people? How can you not know what your email address is? Do they just make up an address thinking that the internet will magically know who they really mean? I wonder what they put on letters… And why has it really started lately, has the world grown stupider or are they just letting more dumb people online these days?