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The Ratings Measuring Stick – Part Two

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Today I want to talk for a minute about my husband.  No, my husband does not know how to crochet but he is one of those people you would call an “analytic thinker”.   To my complete and total surprise, he has taken a very keen interest in this blog and what it is intended for.  We have spent a few evenings sitting on our back deck discussing what information I want to include, whether or not I want to assign actual number or star ratings to patterns, who my target audience really is, and what my real goals are.  His best question to me yet came last night.  “Who are you writing to?  The designer or the people who buy the patterns?” Well, obviously I want to review patterns that fellow crocheters buy and NOT the designers themselves but I suppose I had strayed a bit off that original path because there are so many things that are purely a matter of personal preference.

Think about gauge for a second.  I believe, and I think most crocheters would agree with me, that gauge is a required element of a good crochet pattern.  However, there are a few different ways you can find the gauge of a piece.  You can do a vertical and horizontal swatch, you can simply chain a certain number of stitches, you can crochet the first 4 or 5 rounds of a pattern and then measure, or maybe you can crochet a section of that pattern that has a specific stitch pattern.  Do you see where I’m going with this?  My question was then, which method is the best method?  That is entirely subjective.  What I like may not be what you like.  So it would be very hard for me to place a rating star or number on a pattern based on my personal preferences and expect you to just take it as gospel truth.

So here is what I’m going to do.  I have created a template to use for all patterns I review.  There are concrete, verifiable elements on the template and there are subjective elements on the template.  I will give the straight dope on the concrete, verifiable elements without any bias to what I prefer.  Anything else on the list that is not concrete and verifiable is considered subjective and you will get my personal opinion on those things.  I would hate for you to base your decision to purchase or not purchase based upon subjective comments only.  Your style may not be my style.  My hope is that the concrete items will be your calling card as to whether you want to buy a pattern or not and all the rest is lagniappe (our fun Louisiana word for extras).  I also aim to provide you with full disclosure of my association with every pattern – where I purchased it (if I can remember), whether I have crocheted other patterns by this designer, if I personally know the designer, if the designer specifically asked for a review of their pattern, etc., so that there is no feelings of bias or inclusion.  I do not endorse any pattern designers and make a profit from that endorsement.

To recap before I put my first review up, which will be by the weekend –  I will give you the straight answers on the concrete questions that can be verified, I will give you my own opinion on additional items, and I will most likely give the pattern my own personal score in the form of a letter grade like you get in school.  I briefly considered using the letter grade scale from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry but I hesitate to designate a pattern with a T for Troll should I have the unfortunate chance to come across such a pattern.  (By the way, I was placed in Gryffindor by the Sorting Hat on Pottermore!  Geaux Gryffs!)

I have created a separate page for my template which you can find by clicking the tab called Standard Checklist Template at the top of my blog page.  Until the weekend, get your crochet on!

The Ratings Measuring Stick – Part One

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Ok, so I’ve been thinking about this blog and how I was going to introduce my ratings method.  In the space of just the last few hours, I’ve had several changes of direction.  So, I think the best thing to do is to tell you what I look for in a good pattern and then tell you what I’ve heard from others on the subject.  If you add your own feedback to all of this, then I can compile a nice orderly list of what the majority of crocheters look for and then I can decide on a point system that would be understandable to all.

Here are my notes in the order in which they were written:

  1. Is the gauge given and if so, is it a full horizontal and vertical sampling (i.e. 14 dc and 9 rows = 4″) or only based on the length of a chain?
  2. Is the font easy to read?
  3. Does the pattern flow seamlessly from one part to the next or do you have to search for information?  Does the pattern give you direction as to where the next step can be found?
  4. Is contact information provided to reach the designer if you have questions or need support?
  5. Does the designer assign a difficulty rating to their pattern?
  6. Are there errors in stitch counts, typos, or misspellings?  How many?
  7. Is a hook size given?
  8. Does the designer state a recommended yarn either by weight, fiber or name brand?
  9. Once the item is complete, does it resemble or closely match the photo used for advertising?
  10. If a gauge was given (and you checked it!), did the item come out to the correct size?
  11. Are there adequate photos to explain more difficult stitches or how and where to sew on parts?
  12. Is there an abbreviation key?
  13. If there are special stitches, is there a clear explanation on how to execute them?  How about a picture tutorial?
  14. Does the designer restrict the pattern to personal use only, require a cottage license, request that you contact them first before selling any of  your items, or do they give you full permission to sell what you want?
  15. Does the pattern have a cluttered look or feel to it?
  16. Are measurements of the items provided?

Here is a synopsis of the feedback I got from a few fellow crocheters on what they expect to see in a good pattern and what they dislike as well:

  • Gauge – They have stated that they are amazed at the number of patterns they come across that does not list a gauge.  Many of the crocheters I discussed this with sell their crocheted items so it is crucial that a gauge be listed in order to get correct sizing.
  • Stitch counts – Amazingly enough, there are still patterns out there that do not list a stitch count at the end of every row.  Apparently there are enough of those types of patterns for this to be an issue since I also have that on my list which was compiled before I spoke with the group.
  • Measurements – Measurements and gauge go hand in hand.   When we speak of measurements, we want to know how tall a hat is supposed to be from top down to brim, or how wide a diaper cover is at the waistband, or what the rise of the cover is.  If your gauge checks out fine horizontally but not vertically, this could be a huge factor in getting the correct sizing.  More experienced crocheters can make adjustments by adding extra rows or changing hook sizes but without measurements and when you are thinking your gauge is alright because your swatch came up fine, you might find that the item you just made has to be frogged and adjusted because it’s too short/long/narrow/etc.
  • Typos and misspellings – Most people are not bothered by one or two typos or misspellings unless they affect the outcome of the finished item.  However, when there is a large amount of typos and misspellings, it can be annoying to many of us, especially those of us that are considered grammar and spelling sticklers.  It also gives the user the impression that the pattern designer just threw the pattern together and put it up for sale without bothering to have others test it and make corrections.
  • Sizing – This is two-fold.  A statement was made that it appears to be laziness on the part of the designer if they market a hat as being in multiple sizes but when you get the pattern you are given just one or two actual sizes and then told to change the hook size to make it larger or smaller.  The other issue mentioned was designers that break their child and adult sizes into two separate patterns thereby having the user purchase two patterns instead of one if they wish to sell the hat in every size.
  • Clutter – If it’s not necessary, don’t do it.  Rainbow colored fonts, single spacing, no division between sections, and pages of photo instruction are turn offs.

Now, while I was sitting here typing all of that up, other things popped into my head and then popped right back out.  Ha ha!  There are just so many things that make up a good pattern and there are so many things that can mess up a good pattern designer.  Part of designing, in my opinion, is also about turning your artistic talents off for a little while and applying  yourself to a little bit of technical writing.  Boring?  Yes, to me it is.  Necessary?  Yes, if you want to sell more patterns.  Crocheters talk.  Yes, we do.  It’s not meant to be mean or catty or demeaning to any designer out there but we talk to each other because we don’t want someone else to feel like we do – like our money was just wasted on a pattern we will never use because it’s too frustrating to wade through it.  Crocheting should be an enjoyable experience.  Why else would anyone do it, especially as little as it pays if it is your source of income.  (And if you are making a killing doing it, please pass the secret of your success on to me!)
And now I would love to hear your input.  What would you add or subtract from the lists above?  What is most important to you as a crochet enthusiast?  Let’s hear it in the comments section.  Ready?  Go!

Hello fellow crochet enthusiasts and pattern hoarders!

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I’ve been meaning to create a blog for quite some time now but I just couldn’t think of anything new that someone else wasn’t already blogging about.  There are plenty of folks out there blogging about the latest project they are working on.  There are quite a few that like to create their own patterns and post them up for others to enjoy.  Although I am continually working on a project of some sort, they come rapid fire.  I work the project, complete it, and it’s on to the next project.  I have regrets about not taking more photos of certain projects.  I didn’t generally take a lot of photos because to be honest, I’m not really the best at photography nor do I particularly enjoy it.  However, in deciding to write this blog, I am going to have to learn to love it just a little.  I’m also not a pattern designer.  Sure, I can pick up a hook and a ball of yarn and whip up a hat or a scarf or the like without a pattern and sometimes I do just that.  But that is where it ends for me.  The item will be a one of a kind because I do not enjoy writing out all the instructions needed to turn it into a pattern.  Call me lazy if you want but I find it much more enjoyable to have a hook and yarn in my hand than sitting there cursing my lack of technical skills when it comes to creating a PDF file for a pattern.

So, I buy crochet patterns.  Lots and lots of crochet patterns.  You could say it is an addiction if you like and if you crochet, you have probably experienced the same addiction.  I have not actually sat down and taken a complete count of all of the patterns I have purchased but at this point I would guess it is somewhere around a few hundred.  I have resisted the need to organize them all into the nice neat little folders I created for them AFTER I realized that my patterns were getting out of hand.  Now I will have to pay for it.  It will take me hours to locate and refile them into one central location on my computer.  I have them in email, I have them in my Ravelry library, I have them in the Downloads file on my computer, I have them in duplicate folders that need to be combined.  You get the idea.

By now you’re thinking, “Just why is she telling me all of these things? What does it have to do with crochet pattern reviews?”  Well, reviewing crochet patterns that I purchase will force me to organize those files and create a document for each pattern to write notes that will help me if I make the pattern again in the future.  It will also force me to take more photos so that progress of a project can be shown and hopefully that will help improve my photography skills (which would improve even more if I would just listen to what hubby says when he tries to show me how to use all the features on the camera!).  Finally, it will provide you, the reader with a little bit of insight on what I,  at least, look for in a pattern – and maybe you look for those same things or have ideas you want to contribute as well.

I also need to tell you this – I am terrified!  I have not been able to find any crochet pattern reviews.  I’ve found sewing pattern reviews, but not crochet pattern reviews.  There may be someone out there doing them and if there is and you know about them, please let me know so I can go check them out.  But perhaps the lack of crochet pattern reviews is due to people being afraid to comment on the design work of others.  Surely I’m not the first person in the world to think of reviewing crochet patterns in a blog?!  So, maybe I’m taking a huge gamble here.  Maybe I’m opening a can of worms that should just stay sealed in the can but anyone that personally knows me will tell you that I’m not one to back down from a challenge – well, most of the time anyway.

In closing this first blog post let me tell you what I plan to enforce upon myself for reviewing crochet patterns – a focus on the positive aspects of the pattern, first and foremost, then a thought on what I’d like to see added to make the pattern more user friendly, and finally a number rating based on several criteria which I will post in my next rambling.  I want this to be a positive experience for me and the designer, should they stumble upon the review.  I will not allow myself or others to talk poorly of a designer.  We can all use constructive criticism but none of us need to endure destructive criticism.  Hopefully a designer can read my review and also the thoughts of others and use that to implement new ideas or fix problems so that they benefit from the review.

In my next posting I will be providing you with the criteria by which I plan to review.  I am hoping that you will contribute as well by telling me what you look for in a good pattern.  You will probably give me  a few ideas that I haven’t thought of yet.  Until next time, get your crochet on!

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