Friday, January 29, 2016

Project Page Appreciation: toradora's Nautical Baby Blanket

Happy Friday and welcome to the first Project Page Appreciation Day! This month I have selected toradora as our winner for her job well done on my Nautical Baby Blanket pattern. From her project page:

"loved making this blanket once you get into the swing of things it really flys by! its very soft and squishy and drapes wonderfully. the modified reverse single crochet is a bit tricky but once you get the hang of it ; its really worth the effort! i found really relaxing my hold on the hook helped. highly recommend this pattern :)."

Great job, toradora! Your hard work really paid off. As her prize she has selected two patterns, the Color Squish Beanie and Sleepy Panda Baby Set.

Wanna be featured for Project Page Appreciation? On the final Friday of each month I will be choosing a new winner. Simply upload a project page on Ravelry to be considered.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Special Yarn Gift from Claire

My friend Claire enjoys a bit of indie dyeing. She happened to bring some yarn for me to the most recent meeting of the Rainy Sunday Knitters! Isn't that sweet of her? It's a lovely rosy color.

What should I make with it?

Friday, January 22, 2016

Crochetville's National Crochet Month Blog Tour Preview

Would you like to go on a trip with me? I love to travel. There are so many places I would like to go. We may not all be able to take a trip to New Zealand, France, or Hawaii on short notice... but we can take a trip through many of the most influential and enlightening crochet blogs! That's right, it's almost time for Crochetville's annual blog tour in honor of National Crochet Month. Here's your ticket to patterns, giveaways, yarn features, and more!

My day on the tour will be March 8th. Be sure to stop by for a valuable activity and a free pattern! I'm so excited :)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

How to Write a (Good) Indie Crochet Pattern

Have you ever wanted to write your own crochet pattern? There are so many folks out there with creative ideas that they want to share with others. The internet has made it possible for an idea to be shared faster than ever and to many people at once. However, there are responsibilities that come with this rapid transmission of information, if only to oneself. How will people perceive you based on your work? A typo might not mean that much when texting with a friend, but in a pattern it could really frustrate the people you are trying to share your ideas with. Trust me, I've learned the hard way :) No one is perfect and there is always a learning curve, but today I'd love to share my pattern writing tips with you. I hope that they help you to avoid some of the mistakes I've made and give you confidence as you create.

Here are some basic steps to take when writing an indie crochet pattern for self-publishing. Note that this is not a tutorial on how to get your patterns published in books and magazines. I am in the process of doing that right now, so I'll let you know after I'm done if I have any tips for you :) As a side note, please note that every designer is different. These tips are based on what has worked well for me.

You've got an idea. That's great! An idea is special, but don't let it become your "baby". You will likely need to change it in some way. If you get too attached to the very first thing you come up with, it's going to be difficult for you to make your pattern the best that it can be. Ask yourself hard questions... Has this idea been done before? If so, how is your version different/better? Is this a pattern someone will be able to figure out by looking at the picture? Does that matter to you? The most successful pattern will be one that is difficult for others to replicate without your unique instructions. It will also be something that is desirable to a specific group of people, your target audience. If you're not interested in getting paid for the pattern this is less of a concern (and I hope you have a good reason not to get paid for hours of hard work). In all cases you will want to refine your idea to the best of your ability. Don't be afraid to frog, both in real life and in your brain.

Now that your idea has been polished, you are likely chomping at the bit to get started. Hold up! First you need to figure out how your pattern will be presented. Will you be posting to a blog? Keep in mind that large image files may load slowly for some readers, potentially driving them away. Will you be uploading a PDF to Ravelry or another site? You will want to create a template for your crochet pattern, making sure to include all of the necessary information. Will this be passed out as a leaflet? Perhaps the quality of the paper matters. As soon as you start analyzing your medium of choice you will likely come up with a specific set of things to consider while formatting the pattern.

Here's one last thing to think about before you get your hook moving. Crochet patterns come in all kinds of styles. There are written patterns, photo tutorials, charts, diagrams, and video tutorials. You may be including only one of or a combination of these. Decide now what type of instructions best suit your pattern so that you can gather the necessary information as you go along. It's hard to include a photo tutorial of that special stitch if the item is complete and you forgot to take any photos. Make future you happy and save them some unnecessary work. Also, think of your audience. Something that seems easy to you may not be easy to them. You can help them out by including the same information in multiple styles so that hopefully one of them clicks.

That's right, you can totally get hooking now! As you do, remember to record everything you are doing. Seriously. No, you will not "just remember" that you chose to count the turning chain as a stitch for one part of the pattern and not another. It's much safer and easier to record everything as you go along rather than trying to recount a bunch of stitches while spreading things out and wondering where exactly the slip stitch went. Remember, this is like the scientific method. You need to keep track of every variable and process so that someone else can precisely replicate your result. As you become more adept at pattern writing there will be exceptions to this rule. I could probably write a simple beanie in my head without even making it (but I wouldn't!). As you start out you'll want to be strict with yourself. It doesn't matter if you record digitally or on paper. I happen to like paper because it feels better to me to write things down by hand... and I also have a pretty rainbow notebook.

Along with recording the process comes recording everything else as well. Everything. Else. Keep track of your yarn label because you'll want to share a lot of the information on it. Record what hook you are using in case the project and hook get separated. This is especially important if you have multiple styles of the same hook size. If it is a larger project, record how many skeins you started with. Eventually you'll also want to weigh your yarn to determine how much you used based on how much is left. This will require some math. Did you use any buttons or findings? You may want to keep track of where you purchased them. As you can see, there are many details to track.

This step is non-negotiable. Once your pattern has been completed and prepared you will be tempted to post it right away. After all, you spent all of that time focusing on details, right? I'm here to tell you that there is no substitution for field-testing your pattern. Pattern testers provide fresh eyes and perspective. They will let you know if part of the pattern confuses them, if the pictures aren't clear enough, if they can't find the type of yarn you used, or if they can't match your gauge. Your pattern will hopefully be worked up by many hobby crocheters, so it only makes sense to gather the thoughts and opinions of hobby crocheters. Additionally, editing should be a part of this process. Someone other than you needs to make sure all of the stitch counts are correct and that the wording is consistent. There are technical editors out there that you can pay for this service if desired. Use the comments of the people above to drive thoughtful revision and editing of your pattern.

Make sure to get some inviting photos of the finished object, both for advertising and to include in the pattern. It's okay to send a simpler photo of the item to your testers. However, you will eventually want some shots that have flair. You don't need a fancy camera to achieve this. In fact, I take almost all of my product pictures with my iPhone! The main thing to think about is lighting. Indirect, natural light works best for me. Also, go ahead and edit the photos a little if you need to. Don't change the color too much or misrepresent the item, but some cropping and a tweak of the sharpness settings can take a photo to new and better places. You've put in a lot of work here, make sure the finished item shines!

This is it! What began as an idea is now a realized pattern. It's time to share your work with the world. This is the most satisfying part of the process for me. There's nothing quite like seeing your pattern up on Ravelry or getting blog hits. When people post project pages it gets even better! Of course, by this point the next idea is probably simmering pretty noisily on that back burner in your mind :)

Have any questions? Did you think of something I missed? Let me know in the comments.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Intuitive Crochet

Do you like to follow crochet patterns? Most of the time I do. I like the recipe of them, the way that all of the instructions fit together to make a finished object. I like written instructions best but I also enjoy charts, tutorials, and other step-by-step procedures that help me make string into stuff. I also love sharing my own crochet patterns, both paid and for free. Just like the scientific method, I can share my steps with other crafters (sometimes in totally different countries!) and they can get the same result.

Although I prefer patterns in general, at times I feel like crocheting intuitively. What does it mean to crochet intuitively? It means that you are using what you know about the stitches and how they fit together to make objects without writing or following a pattern. Some people call this style of crochet "freehand". When I'm teaching someone to crochet for the first time, I find that intuitive crochet is the best way to go. It helps you to gain confidence in yourself as a crocheter. It also makes it easier when you later start reading patterns because you have a better frame of reference.

Here is a hat that I made when teaching someone to crochet in the round and do regular increases. I added the fun brim and flower as well. Though I love the challenge of writing patterns, every now and then it's nice to just make something without following or leading. Just doing.

What about you? Do you prefer to crochet from patterns, or do you prefer to crochet intuitively? Do you like both equally?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Back from Hell

It's going to be a simple blog post today, with regular programming back this coming Friday. Sorry that I missed last Friday's post. Having recently arrived home from a family emergency in my home town of Boise, Idaho... I am very exhausted. My younger brother, a kindhearted, relaxed, and bright guy, was recently the victim of a violent crime that put him in the ICU. He was fighting for his life. I spent the past week at his side doing whatever I could to help him recover. In the ICU, that often meant sitting quietly in the corner chair with my crochet and knitting. Because of his amazing perseverance and fighting spirit, my brother is still with us today and out of the ICU. I am so beyond thankful that he is going to make a full recovery, gnarly scars aside. I am also thankful to the surgeons who saved his life, thankful to the healthcare professionals who took care of him, thankful to my best friends who sheltered me and gave me strength through offering listening ears, thankful to those who are showering my brother with their love, and thankful to fiber arts for keeping me as calm as possible in a very scary and emotional time.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Knit and Crochet Keyhole Scarf

I just can't seem to keep myself from crocheting, even when I'm knitting! After my major deadline was met (Yay!), I spent some time relaxing with projects that I hadn't worked on in a while. This keyhole scarf is knitted with one humble skein of Knit Picks Reverie and loosely based on this pattern, though I deviated from it. I didn't include the selvage, or garter stitch that surrounds stockinette to keep it from curling, and instead worked two rounds of single crochet around the outside. Included in the second round was a shell stitch border on each end. Finally, I reinforced the keyhole with some crochet as well. See what I mean? It seems I just have to crochet everything, even my knitting!

I am happy to be learning new things. This time I learned to cast off and on in the middle of a row. What have you learned lately?

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Plans for the New Year

Happy New Year! I send love out to you and I hope you had a great time ringing in 2016. As they were for many people, the last few days of 2015 were days of reflection and planning for me. Here's what I shared on my personal Facebook page:

Normally I don't go in for Facebook trends, but I do think there is value in evaluating the past year's adventures, hoping to become a better person. 2015 was a very interesting and very difficult year. I learned a lot of important things about myself and others, even though learning those things was sometimes painful and required a lot of hard work. During this coming year, and those that follow it, I hope to be mindful of the following sentiment from Lao Tzu: “When you are content to be simply yourself and don't compare or compete, everyone will respect you.”

In addition to my personal goals, I also have some professional goals with regards to Illuminate Crochet. I've come a long way in only 2 1/2 years, farther than I could have imagined, but my work is still just beginning. 2016 will be a year of hard work, focus, and achievement. Here are my fiber-y goals for the new year...

Unveil a new feature: Project Page Appreciation
Features for 2015 trailed off, in large part because securing the info I requested from interviewees in a timely fashion was very difficult and frustrating. I love collaboration, but this year I'd like to do a feature that relies less on others. I also really enjoyed the Remix Friday feature from 2014 because it connected with hobby crocheters.

With all of that in mind I am pleased to unveil the new feature for 2016: Project Page Appreciation. Project pages on Ravelry really help out designers and crocheters alike. They show everyone that your pattern can be followed to completion, often showing it in different yarns and colors as well. Plus, who wouldn't want to show off all of their hard work to people who will appreciate it? On the last Friday of each month I will select and celebrate a project page from one of my Ravelry patterns. I will also gift a small prize to the featured crocheter. That way, it's easy to enter and be considered. Just upload a project page!
Reveal my secret crochet projects
It's almost time to finally reveal the projects that I've been working so hard on all year long. There will be two big, awesome announcements, so stay tuned! I hope to be able to reveal them sooner rather than later.

Update my blog
There are a few things I'd like to change around here. I want to add a new permanent page with all of my patterns on it for easy reference. I also want to scrap Google's Adsense ads. I like Google and their products in general, but I don't like the idea that I can't control what ads blog readers see when they visit my page. Instead, I'm hoping start up some small, inexpensive direct ads from fiber-related sources that I trust.

Publish more patterns to Ravelry and Craftsy
I published 9 patterns this year, at least to outward appearance. The truth is that I actually wrote more than double that amount! I wrote more patterns this year than I did last, I just haven't been able to share them publicly yet. This next year I'd like to publish more patterns publicly regardless of any secret crochet I've got going on.

What are your fiber goals for 2016?