One of the most important things I have learned so far on this crochet adventure of mine is that if you don’t have the ability to design your own projects, finding an awesome designer or project is critical.
I have designed one pattern in my time as a crocheter – my Captain America/Hello Kitty mashup. Other than that, I don’t have the creative spark and ability to be able to design projects. However, I have been very fortunate to have a great number of resources available to access quality patterns from sites such as Ravelry, Etsy, Love Crochet, and various sites across the Internet.
One critical thing that I learned the hard way recently is not all patterns are created equal. Not all designers go through the process of having friends or outside voices review and test their patterns prior to publication.
How do you know if you are getting a good pattern?
Being able to gauge a good pattern depends upon how much you are able to see before you purchase. If you are purchasing a book, chances are (even on Amazon), you should be able to see some examples of the pattern(s) to get a feel for the designer. Although, even that isn’t completely full proof because there can be issues later in the text.
If you are purchasing a pattern from an online site like Etsy, usually the designers don’t share excerpts, which makes it more difficult to determine what is going to be worth your yarn money for that time.
Once you’ve been buying patterns for a while, you’ll develop some of your favorites (mine will be listed at the end for you to check out), and you’ll be able to trust those with much more confidence. While that’s all well and good for after you’ve tested some out, how do you get to that point.
Really it comes down to two factors: (1) trial and error; (2) recommendations of people you trust. If you have a friend who crochets (or knits), ask them what patterns they’ve enjoyed. What has worked well for them. Is there a book or another resource they have found that has been reliable for them. Usually if they can point you on the path, you’ll be able to discover some of your own favorites.
Try, try, try again
Friends who can make recommendations are fabulous, but if you don’t have that person who can make recommendations, you really do just have to try to see what works for you.
Sites like Ravelry, Love Crochet, and Pinterest have tons of resources for free patterns. Sometimes just starting with what you can find online in the public domain for free gives you a change to practice your stitches and your pattern reading until you are ready to move up.
However, if you (like me) are looking for a specific pattern, sometimes the only way you can find what you want is by purchasing the design from a site like Etsy. The good thing with this is most designers on Etsy (and Ravelry and Love Crochet) are fairly reasonable in their prices. While there are some boutique patterns (or bundles of patterns) that can cost about $14, the average price is more around $5. If you have that in your yarn budget for the week, splurging to try a specific pattern is a potentially good investment. Take it from me, though, (and I don’t follow my own advice) don’t buy 40 patterns all at the same time, or 10 patterns from the same designer until you have a chance to try one.
If you get a sheep pattern from Store X and you realize steps are missing, or the instructions aren’t clear, or the wording or design just don’t make sense – yes, you are out the $5 you spent on the pattern; but, you aren’t out $40 if you bought eight patterns from the same designer.
The other thing I’ve learned is when you buy a new pattern – make the design twice before making a final decision. Sometimes when I make something the first time, it doesn’t turn out exactly right because I misunderstood a step, or I learned something after the fact. By making it a second time, you have the experience of your first time to fall back on and be able to get a better sense of how the pattern will work up.
If after two times through you still are frustrated, or the finished piece is not what you intended, then probably that pattern is not for you, and you can move on to a different designer to find your next project.
I have gotten myself into more problems than I can say when I found a designer that I thought I would love and then actually started making the patterns and found out I couldn’t stand them and have never made any of the ones I purchased.
Hallmarks of a good pattern
Obviously, as mentioned before, if you have a chance to read the full pattern in advance (through a book, or a magazine, or a free online pattern), you have a better chance of assessing the quality. Regardless of how you are able to get the pattern, the fundamental components are the same.
First: Read the pattern through one time without picking up a hook and yarn.
Some keys to look for:
- Does the pattern identify whether it uses US or UK crochet terms?
- Does the pattern list the type of yarn used? The type of hook?
- Doe the pattern list all the materials you need: Different yarn colors, felt, tuille?
- Does the pattern list any special stitches needed? If so, does it explain how to create the stitches? Does it include pictures of the special stitches? Does it include link(s) to video tutorials?
- Does the pattern include pictures of the stages of the project? If there are special stitches, are there pictures of how those are worked?
- If the pattern was purchased, does the designer offer a link/Web site/email to ask questions?
- Is the pattern easy to follow? Does it seem like there are steps skipped or omitted?
- (Optional) Does the pattern include a chart/graph of the design to follow in addition to the written text?
Second: Review any stitches you are unfamiliar with.
If the pattern calls for a picot or a bobble or a popcorn stitch and you have never seen, heard, or made one of these, do a little research. YouTube and Bluprint/Craftsy are wonderful resources to help with stitch tutorials.
As with the patterns, watch the whole tutorial first, and then take some scrap yarn and practice the stitches until you feel comfortable. If you cannot find a tutorial/explanation of a stitch on YouTube, there are several Facebook groups for crocheters where people are more than willing to provide help for any lingering questions.
Third: Rock and roll.
Once you’ve done all your homework, you are ready to try your pattern. By taking the time before you start, it helps to set you up for success. But, as I mentioned before, if you don’t succeed your first time out, or if the first results aren’t stellar don’t immediately give up.
Four: Practice makes perfect.
Make notes as you go of areas that gave you problems. Go back and review those sections. Was the pattern unclear? Would extra stitch markers be helpful? Does the number of rows match up with where you should be? Do you need to practice a special stitch again? Would it help to contact the designer to ask a question?
Once you’ve reviewed any areas that tripped you up, go back and try the pattern again. See if everything makes more sense. If the pattern still doesn’t turn out, and the reason isn’t obvious, you can either decide this isn’t the pattern for you, or take a break from it and come back after doing something more familiar – returning to something that has been successful in the past will restore your confidence and re-energize you to try again.
In the end, the problem could be the pattern and not you as the crocheter (although I tend to lean toward patterns fail because of me…it’s a low self-esteem thing).
Share Your Experiences
Share your creations via social media, but always make sure to give credit to the designer. They worked hard to create the pattern and should get the credit. If possible, providing a link to their Ravelry or Etsy stores (for purchased patterns) is a great way to provide extra support.
Leaving reviews also helps to promote and encourage designers. I usually am not a reviewer – Amazon keeps trying to get me to review the newest items I’ve purchased and I just refuse to do it, no time. But, I make time when it comes to patterns, especially ones that I’ve had great success with. Every little bit of support helps get these designers a little more recognition for their hard work that goes into the designing.
I Choose You
I mentioned earlier that I would share with you some of my favorite designers. Most of the patterns that I use for my Lil’ Luvvies come from designs made by these individuals (because they are amazing).
They provide clear patterns and instructions, with beautiful illustrations, have been very receptive to questions when I have had them, and their patterns work up consistently to make awesome toys.
One and Two Company: By and far one of my favorite current designers. From adorable playmats for kids, to snuggle blankies, to full out plushies, these designs are absolutely amazing and work up quickly and easily. With beautiful illustrations and clear instructions, I think I have purchased almost every pattern she has on her store and can’t wait to make them all.
Examples of Luvvies I have made with One and Two Company patterns
Storyland Amis: Her cuddle sized patterns are my favorites, and she has a lot of cute smaller amigurumi, too. I have made several of her patterns and have been so happy with the results of all of them.
Lil’ Ginger was my first Luvvie made from a Storyland Amis pattern
Yarn Society: These designs are just super cute, and pretty quick to work up. The designer has always been very responsive to any questions that I’ve had. The patterns work up consistently, and the pattern is full of detailed pictures, video links, and tutorials for special stitches to help ensure success.
Luvvies I have made from Yarn Society patterns
Little Muggles: Who doesn’t enjoy a Harry Potter reference in a store name? But her designs are simple, mix modern and classical elements, and are super simple to follow.
My favorite Luvvie I’ve made from Little Muggles designs to date.
Blue Rabbit LV: One of the newest shops I’ve started following and working on from Etsy, this designer totally rocks. She has a very nerdy sensibility, and I can totally support that. Her designs successfully straddle the line between creepy and cute.
My first Luvvie from Blue Rabbit LV to date
This little voodoo dollie just won over my heart. I have picked up a few other designs from her shop and can’t wait to work them up. I think they will be awesome.
How about you? Do you have a favorite pattern or designer that is your go to? Were there any lessons you learned as a new crocheter about picking patterns? Do you have any pattern horror stories? Let me hear from you.
Hugs and cuddles,