I’ve been trying to organize my digital/digitally acquired knit and crochet patterns a little bit lately. As I have been going through things I’ve come up with a little list of grievances. If you are a designer, please take note. Of course these are my personal opinion so take from this what you will. Others may not agree.
In no particular order:
Pictures of the finished object:
Some folks go crazy and include far too many photos. Or step by step photos for every single step of the pattern. If it is that involved, make a video and pop a link in the pattern. Otherwise, assume your intended audience either knows how to do this stuff or that they have the common sense to either contact you or make use of the internet to figure it out. There is absolutely no need for ten or more pictures on a pattern though. It’s just going to be an annoyance and a waste of ink when I print.
On the flip side, some don’t include pictures. At all. You know what happens then? I never make your design because I can’t remember what it is supposed to look like therefore can’t judge if it is what I want to make at the time or not. Include at least one photo that clearly shows the finished item. Put it at the beginning or end of the pattern, doesn’t matter, just make sure there is a picture.
Artsy pictures. I get it. You’re trying to be creative. But leave the artsy pictures to accompany a blog post about the item. If the focus of the photo is the model or the setting rather than the actual object, it doesn’t help me any, regardless of how lovely the photo may be. The photo(s) included in the pattern should be clear photos of the item itself.
Critical pattern information:
For the love of pete, make sure all the pertinent information is included in the pattern. I can’t tell you how many times I save a pattern from Ravelry only later to realize the designer did not include things like gauge or yarn weight, yardage etc. in the pattern. “But it’s there on the pattern page on Ravelry!” And how does that help me if I don’t have access to the internet to check said Ravelry page?
Include gauge. I don’t care if it isn’t critical to the project, like for a scarf. I am most likely substituting a different yarn, and I need to know if I have sufficient yardage, and while not critical maybe I really want to be sure my finished scarf has the same measurements as yours does. If you don’t include gauge, none of this is possible.
Yardage and yarn weight are absolutely necessary. And by “yarn weight” I mean thickness – lace, fingering, sport, aran etc. Please do not say for example “3 ounces brand ABC yarn”. Again I likely want to substitute a different yarn for one reason or another, and this does not help me one bit in determining how much yarn I need. Three ounces of lace weight yields a very different yardage than three ounces of worsted or bulky yarn etc. State the required yardage as, for example, “250 yards 2 ply lace weight yarn (example was made with brand ABC yarn)”. This is far more informative.
Far worse is when they just state the fiber type used. I found a bolero pattern several years ago I really, really wanted to make however the designer stated, and this is a direct quote of the pattern which I still have even though I will never make it, “5 balls of Alpaca WL1 or 12 oz. (3, 4 oz. skeins) of Acrylic Yarn”. I haven’t a clue what “Alpaca WL1” is and all the googling in the world did not help me figure it out, and “acrylic yarn” is, as with every other fiber, made in numerous weights. 5 balls of lace weight acrylic, 5 balls of sport weight acrylic etc. What do I need? I even emailed the designer and explicitly stated that I did not understand what she meant by “Alpaca WL1” and I needed to know what yarn weight was needed for the pattern. She replied saying the information I was looking for was in the pattern under the “materials” section. Yeah genius, I know that, but I cannot reiterate enough “this many ounces of this fiber” means nothing to me when that fiber comes in numerous weights.
The pattern itself:
Please make it available as a PDF I can download. Preferably on Ravelry, or by some other means that will not require me signing up for (yet another) web site I’ll likely only use that one time. Sharing the patterns on your blog is great, but it doesn’t give me an easy way to save it. If I have to copy your post and paste it into a word processor, and download your pictures to go with it, it’s too much trouble. Even free word processing programs now typically have an option to export the completed file as a PDF, so you don’t need to buy any special programs to do it. I am super techy challenged but even I know how to make a PDF file, so if I can do it I know you can too.
Hard to read fonts are the devil of patterns. I don’t care if it’s pretty script with curly ques and hearts – it needs to be easy to read or I can’t make use of it. Stick with basic fonts. Teeny tiny fonts are a no-no as well. If your pattern is written up with size 8 font, I can’t see it. Granted this is highly individual but I think it is safe to say most folks would probably prefer a good basic font in the size 10-14 range (generally speaking as all fonts are different) for the easiest reading experience. On the flip side, don’t make the font enormous. If it is going to take five pages just to show the first one or two rows of the pattern, the font is way too big. If you aren’t sure, your computer has a print preview option. Use that to guide you to an ideal font size.
Edited to add something I can’t fathom forgetting: Please don’t use funky colors for the pattern. I’ve seen bright lime green on a yellow background. Again, if it is hard to read (or gives me a headache to look at it) I can’t make use of it, no matter how wonderful a pattern it may be. Stick to black font on a white or slightly off white background. Other dark colors on a white or slightly off white background are acceptable in terms of visual appearance but for the sake of printing, black text is best.
Backgrounds are not cool. I know they’re pretty and they make the pages look nice, but two things: they can make the font hard to read, and do you know what I do with my downloaded patterns? I print them. If you put a background image over the whole bloody page, it is going to take a ton of (expensive!) ink for me to print it out. I don’t work from electronic devices because I like to make notes and mark off where I am when I have to set my work down for a while. Plus paper is more portable, and reliable. If something happens and I don’t have my computer, I like to still have access to the patterns I had saved.
Watermarking the charts. I get it. I know why you want to do this. Trust me. Notice I watermark my images here. I truly understand your need to protect your work. I’ve had other people take my photos an use them as their own online before, so I know how that feels. But watermarking your charts makes them hard to read. As with the fonts for written instructions, charts need to be big enough to see easily, and clear to be most effectively used. Your watermarks, while understood, do not help me.
You, as a designer:
If someone leaves a comment that is less than a glowing rave of your work, but is in no way mean spirited but simply letting you know there is something you could improve on to make your patterns easier to use, there is no need to be snarky or rude to that person.
I am working on a shawl right now that has some of the above issues. I have enough experience I was able to figure it out with little fuss, but despite the simple design the charts and instructions are not very clear. I hopped on Ravelry just to see, out of curiosity, if anyone else had similar thoughts about it. There were a couple dozen comments on the pattern, all but one of the glowing “you’re awesome thanks for sharing” variety. The one that was different was someone stating she found the pattern difficult as the charts are not clear, they’re hard to see and there was one part that didn’t make sense to her. The very same issues I had, but was able to figure out on my own; this person was merely seeking help from the designer because they were new enough to not be able to sort it out alone. The designer replied in a rather rude way. To be fair it is impossible to truly convey your tone online, so maybe the designer was not trying to be rude. She came off as rude, to me, though, saying “most other people didn’t have problems with it” and she basically just brushed off this person’s struggles and input.
Honestly I was so put off by the designer’s response I wished I had not already gotten significantly into the pattern, as I was tempted to scrap it just on personal belief that as a designer you should be willing and able to help those who have trouble with your patterns in a polite and professional manner. Bottom line, if someone offers you constructive criticism on the format of your patterns do not take it as a personal offense. Take it as a lesson on how you can improve future patterns so as many people can make use of it as possible, without struggles. One of my teachers once said he always hoped someone would not be afraid to ask questions or ask for extra help understanding something. He said that if one person is confused enough to need more help, others are too. The problem is nobody wants to be embarrassed for not understanding right away, so many will not ask for clarification/help. If even just one person out of dozens tells you something specific that made your pattern difficult for them, do not toss aside their problem with “well most other people didn’t have that problem so it’s just you”. If one person had a problem I guarantee others did as well, but for whatever reason did not ask about it.
I’m going to finish this shawl, but I was so turned off by this designer’s attitude I have made note not to use any of her patterns in the future. I’m not on some mission to destroy her or anything, I just personally want to give my business to people who are kind and respectful, and again while maybe she did not mean to be rude that’s how she came across so this is how I am personally going to handle it. As a designer, you’re a business owner (even if only as a hobby) and part of good business is good customer service. Dismissing a customer’s concerns and responding to their questions and requests for assistance or clarification in a rude manner is not good customer service. When that exchange happens in a public forum it can drive away other potential customers who see how you handled it and are not pleased, as is evidenced by this scenario.