I’ve been on my crocheting journey for about 18 months now – rediscovering a love for the craft, and trying to balance my obsessive tendencies with using crochet for the therapeutic benefits I recognized in it early on.
One thing I have not ventured into much in this time is designing my own patterns. For the most part, I rely on people more talented that I am to design amazing patterns and then I use that roadmap to create my new friends. I have designed one pattern fully in my time and it had mixed results.
However, I have come across an interesting dilemma recently, and that is the need to improvise.
For two orders I was asked to customize a Luvvie. This was a little overwhelming to me. I wanted to do something quality and awesome for the customers, but I also was aware of my (perhaps self-perceived) limitations of needing to have that pattern to guide me. I’m actually the same way with drawing – I cannot free hand draw, but if it can follow someone else’s drawing, I’m typically able to do a rough facsimile.
With the picture on the left, the ask was to modify the voodoo dollies that I regularly make and create a type of voodoo princess, complete with a succulent crown. In the end, this one only had limited improvisation needed – I added some rows to the neck to give her a longer, taller frame, and I used the pattern from another design to create the crown. All in all it was improvisation, sure, but it was definitely within my comfort zone.
However, with the picture on the right – that was decidedly out of my comfort zone, but I am insanely proud of how she turned out. A custom commission from someone I met at Steel City Con, this was to be a Luvvie representation of her Furry avatar – the character she cosplays as and created. I wanted this to be perfect for her, and looking at it there still are things I would have changed. In the end, the finished product is very similar to what the character looks like. I ended up cherry picking ideas from about five different patterns to come up with the finished product and was happy with the results.
There is a difference, though, between planned “improvisation” and true, on the fly improv.
Recently, one of my all-time favorite Etsy designers released a series of Winnie-the-Pooh inspired characters. Pooh and friends are some of my favorite characters and have been for years. I have made versions of some Pooh characters before, but because her patterns are always super cute and work up easily, I was stoked to be able to make these.
As I started with the first pattern, Pooh himself, I soon realized there was something not quite right.
In one of the rounds, the designer wanted me to reduce my stitches but in doing the exact stitches asked and counting what I was doing, I just wasn’t ending up with the right amount. After driving myself crazy for about 30 minutes, I finally stopped trying to crochet and pattern read at the same time and sat to actually read the pattern alone: It was then that I realized, the stitch count would never match because it looks like a line in the pattern had accidentally been omitted. So, I faced a dilemma – what was I going to do? Should I message the designer on Etsy? That would probably mean I couldn’t work on this any more for the rest of the night. But if I didn’t figure out what to do how would I move on?
This is where improvisation came in.
Reading the pattern, I saw where the designer was trying to go, and I could envision how this row was going to lead to the next row – the only question was even though I could see what was needed, how was I going to make it happen? Once I get into a rhythm with a project, I usually don’t like to stop because then it is more difficult for me to get back to where I was at and sometimes (though I’m told it is only me who thinks this) it looks like the stitches are different from one working session to another.
My solution was a mixture of techniques and hodgepodge. It wasn’t the most elegant solution, but it was able to get the job done and I don’t think my Luvvie is that worse for the wear. Basically, I went by the number of stitches that were indicated for the row, and if that meant I had to add an extra stitch, or single crochet for three stitches where the pattern didn’t indicate, or add a decrease then that is what I did in order to make sure the next line got on track.
Although it might not seem like a big deal, to me it was an example of how far I have come in this process. When I first started doing amigurumi, if my stitches didn’t work out exactly I got so flustered I wasn’t able to figure out what to do, and I wouldn’t dare deviate from a pattern. That is the one good thing about working in the round versus working in rows; if you need to add an extra stitch or remove an extra stitch between rounds, in 99% of the cases, you won’t be able to see where the issue occurred – rows are not quite that forgiving and often you start to shrink in or expand out when a stitch has been gained or lost.
I may be all for celebrating the small victories, but that doesn’t mean that I’m ready to go completely rogue at this point. I still consider myself a student of the craft, and I’m still learning, so patterns are the best way for me…I’m just slightly more comfortable to dip a toe into the ocean to personalize or to regroup if there is an error in the pattern itself. Who knows? Pattern designing might not be far behind for me, but for now, I’m happy with my Luvvies just the way they are and grateful for the people far more talented than I who make these amazing patterns available.
Hugs and cuddles,