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Monday, January 31, 2011

The Snow Queen Doily Pattern is Now Available

 Living in East Texas my whole life has not given me much experience with snow. We are lucky if we get one snow fall each winter, and even then it usually only lasts for a day or two. Nevertheless, I have always loved how beautiful the familiar countryside looks when transformed into a winter wonderland by a rare snowfall. As I designed the “Snow Queen” I was hoping to create a doily that would celebrate this magical transformation. The ninth of my “Lovely Ladies Doilies” series features a serene ice princess admiring an individual snowflake in the midst of a swirling blizzard.


The pattern is available at : SnowQueen

This Pineapple Snowflake Doily pattern is a gift that will come with each purchase of the Snow Queen pattern.
I hope you like her!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Writing a Workable Crochet Pattern: Part Two

Have you ever tried to follow a pattern and thought: "I wonder if the person that wrote this has ever even held a crochet hook?" I have seen patterns that were obviously written by someone who was more familiar with knitting ("work even"), and other patterns that expected you to be a mind reader. I remember one pattern  that a designer  submitted for a baby dress that started out with:
"For first row make a chain as long as you want it and work back across."
Not real specific, and a good reason many publishing companies use professional technical editors. If you want folks to be able to actually recreate your designs, you must put some thought and effort into your patterns.
What makes a pattern easy to follow? Clearly giving all the information  needed to create the item you have designed. Even experienced crocheters do not like to guess at what a designer wants them to do, and a beginner can easily become so frustrated that they just give up.
Basically, you must give exact instructions for what to do where, and how many times to do it.
I think the best way to give examples of this is to go step by step through an actual pattern, so I will use my Sunflower Dish or Wash Cloth as an example. My comments on the pattern are in red.


Sunflower Dish or Wash Cloth
by Elizabeth Ann White
for BellaCrochet

Skill Level: Easy (Be sure that you list an accurate skill level for your pattern. You can refer to this chart on the Craft Yarn Council site to help you determine what your pattern should be rated:
http://www.craftyarncouncil.com/skill.html
)

Size: About 7” across (measure the finished item and list a gauge if needed. I don't give a gauge for anything except clothing.)
Materials:
Worsted Weight Cotton Yarn:
  1 oz. Each Brown and Yellow
  Small amount Dark Green
Size I (5.50mm) Crochet Hook
Be sure to list everything needed to complete the item. I always list a little more yarn than I actually used. I also list the mm size of the hook.

Special Stitches:
For 2 dc cluster: Yo, insert hook in st or ch sp indicated, yo, pull lp through, yo, pull through 2 lps on hook, yo, insert hook in same st or ch sp, yo, pull lp through, yo, pull through 2 lps on hook, yo, pull through all 3 lps on hook (use standard abbreviations, or tell them what each abbreviation you are using stands for)
For 3 dc cluster: Yo, insert hook in st or ch sp indicated, yo, pull lp through, yo, pull through 2 lps on hook, (yo, insert hook in same st or ch sp, yo, pull through, yo, pull through 2 lps on hook) 2 times, yo, pull through all 4 lps on hook
If you are going to be using a stitch several times in a design, it is a good idea to list it as a Special Stitch at the beginning of the pattern. It makes it easy for the crocheter to refer back to. I always write the name of the stitch in bold print the first time it is used in a pattern and then refer them to the Special Stitches. And be sure to double check your instructions for each Special Stitch; this is the worst possible place to have an error!

Okay, in Part Three we will get into the actual pattern. Please let me know if you have any questions!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sad News for Thread Crocheters

I was so sorry to hear last week that Elmore Pisgah, who makes my favorite size 10 thread, America's Best has been sold to a company in Canada, and will probably be shutting down. Here is the story:
http://www2.mcdowellnews.com/news/2011/jan/20/plant-owner-81-jobs-risk-ar-711436/

They have the best range of colors I have found, including some that I use all the time (# 55 Lt. Green!)
On the bright side, they are having an inventory reduction sale right now! Every thing except Peaches and Cream is 50 % off.
http://www.elmore-pisgah.com/index.htm
I am going to stock up on their wonderful thread while I still can, and hope that I will be able to find another source for size 10 thread in such a beautiful range of colors.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Facebook

If you are a member of Facebook, I would like to invite you to "like" the BellaCrochet fan page. I post there almost every day, and have contests at least once a week. Today, I am having a contest to give away a copy of my Quick and Easy Scoodie and Mini Scoodie pdf pattern pack. http://www.facebook.com/pages/BellaCrochet/195106893710#!/pages/BellaCrochet/195106893710
I hope you will stop by and enter!
I am lucky to have such a beautiful model! This is my granddaughter, Devin wearing the Scoodie.


The Mini Scoodie.
Devin has such a sweet face!


Poor Devin sneezed right in the middle of the shoot. Lucky for me she is a good sport!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Some Thoughts on Symbol Crochet

I have been asked many times why I do not offer my patterns in  symbol crochet. Many people find it much easier to follow, and it is commonly used in Japan and other countries. I find these  patterns easier to follow myself, and have a collection of old Magic Crochet magazines that I love. So why do I not offer my patterns in symbol form?
There are actually a couple of reasons: time and money. I am not sure if the beautiful patterns I have seen  are drawn by hand or on a computer. Some of my magazines are from the 80's so I don't think they could have been done on a computer;  I am not sure  how they are done now. Anyway, I do not have the skills to draw them by hand, and I do not have the  software or knowledge to do them on a computer. Even if I did invest in the software  necessary for me to draw them, I know myself well enough to know it would take me several months or more to learn to use it, and then it  would probably double the time I must spend editing each pattern. I do not enjoy working on the computer that much, I would rather spend my time designing and  crocheting. I could probably hire someone to draw the patterns for me, but that would cut into my already small profit margin on each design.
I spent several years working in the technical editing department of Annie's Attic, and I was trained to write patterns in the style which they used. I have modified that style slightly to make my patterns a little more user friendly, but I still find it the most easy-to-follow method of writing patterns. I am able to edit all my own patterns, and especially since I started using testers, I very seldom have an error in one of my patterns (knock on wood!!!!)
So that is why my patterns are in written form only at this point. Will I ever offer them in symbols? I certainly hope that will become an option in the future. I have thought about having them translated into other languages, but symbols would make them available to the largest number of crocheters around the world. With the advances being made in technology, I am sure that someday soon, someone will come up with an easy, affordable way to convert written patterns to symbols. And when they do, I will be the first in line to have all my patterns converted.

Writing a Workable Crochet Pattern: Part One

There are few things in life as frustrating as trying to follow a crochet pattern that has errors, or is just plain incomprehensible. If you want to self publish your designs for sale or even if you are planning on offering them for free, here are a few things to consider.
1: Learn the correct names of the stitches and the standard abbreviations for each one.  I am talking about the basic stitches here: sc, dc, hdc, etc. Some designers make a big deal about how they write their patterns without abbreviations. I am not sure that this is actually helpful, since the abbreviations are pretty self explanatory (sc stands for single crochet, I think that would be easy enough for a beginner to grasp), and the crocheter is going to need to know the abbreviations  if they are ever going to make another designer's patterns.
If you think you have come up with a new  stitch and want to name it yourself, make a reasonable search to make sure it doesn't already have a name. But you can find the same group of stitches called a "slanted shell" stitch in one guide and a "bushy stitch" in another, so as long as you are giving instructions on how to make the stitch you are using, you can pretty well call it what you like.
2: Learn the difference between a "Rnd" and a "Row" and use them correctly in your pattern. A Row is turned at the end without joining. A Round is usually joined at the end to the first stitch of the round, and may be turned or not.  Lots of very old patterns called everything a "Row" and some designers still do this today. This is a pet peeve of mine, as I find it very annoying!
3: Learn when to use Parentheses, Asterisks, and Brackets and use them consistently throughout your pattern. Of course, you are free to write your repeats as you like, and can use them as desired. But most crocheters who already know the standard use of ( ), *,  and [ ] might be a little bit annoyed to find that they must learn a whole new set of rules in order to follow a  pattern, so stick to the standard usage whenever possible. If you are not sure about when to use what, check out this page on the Yarn Craft Councils site:
http://www.craftyarncouncil.com/tip_crochet.html   Their site has lots of good information you can refer to when writing a pattern.
An editor once told me that writing a crochet pattern was more difficult than  writing a computer program, and since she did both,  I am sure she knew what she was talking about. It is a part of designing and publishing my patterns that I dislike, but I have to admit it is probably the most important. It takes time and effort, but with a little patience and practice it can be done. Stay tuned for Part Two!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Rip-it, Rip-it; the song of frogs and crochet designers!

Some people are born with a nack for designing. They just intuitively know what to do to get a design to turn out the way they want it to. Their designs flow smoothly, and turn out beautifully. Ahh, yes, how talented, how gifted they are!
But I will let you in on a secret; even designers who have been at it for years sometimes struggle with designs. And for some reason, the smaller the item, the harder it is to get it right (at least for me!) David still laughs about the weekend I was obsessed with designing the perfect tiny rolled rose. I needed a realistic little rose to put in the basket of a doll I was working on.  I must have made dozens (dare I say hundreds?) before I finally  came up with one that looked the way I wanted it to. My workroom and the coffee table in the living room were littered with tiny roses. On small items like this, I usually don't  rip the work out, I just toss the finished item aside and start all over. I didn't even want to stop to eat or sleep until I finally got it right. 

And I can't even guess at how many cats I made for the Harvest Moon doily before I finally came up with one that I liked!
I guess what I am saying here is don't get discouraged if your design doesn't turn out right the first time. Rip it out, and start again. I have a rule that I make myself follow:  if I notice that I have made a mistake in a design or it just isn't going the way I want it to, I rip it out right away instead of fretting and fuming about it. It is easier for me just to get it over with and move on. Because if the designer is not happy with the way a design looks, you can bet no one else will be!

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Most Important Thing To Do When Writing a Crochet Pattern

Okay, what I am about to tell you may not come as a surprise. It is not a secret. You will probably even  think "Well, duh, Ann, everyone knows that!" But even though it seems so obvious,  you would be amazed at how many designers (even professionals) do not do it. It is so simple, yet it can make the difference between a pattern that works and is easy to follow and one that will have any poor crocheter that tries to make it pulling out their hair in frustration.
Are you ready? Okay, here it is:
The most important thing to do when you are writing a pattern for a crocheted item you are designing is-
Write down everything you do at the time you are actually making the item.
That's it.
Don't be tempted to think "Oh, this is so simple, I know will remember what I did," and think you will be able to go back later and write the pattern. You would be surprised at how hard it is to remember if you used "ch-3" or "ch-4" sps on Rnd 4 after you have worked 20 more rounds of different lengths of ch sps.
I know it is more fun to just crochet without taking the time to write down the instructions, (especially if you are not  exactly sure how to word what you are doing at the time,)  but do it anyway. You will thank yourself later on. And if you plan on submitting your design to a publisher, your editor will thank you as well.
If you are really on a crocheting roll, and it is a fairly small project, go ahead and make your item without writing the pattern. Just be sure that you then make a second one, and this time write the pattern down. This is also a good time to make small adjustments to the design; say the stitches a certain round look a little stretched. When remaking it, you can add a few more increases. Just be sure to write down how many you are adding  and where they are placed.
 Even if it is just notes, quick scratches on a scrap of napkin or a used envelope, the  important thing is to document how many of what stitch you did where. For each and every row or round.
This is the best advice I can give any budding designer. After all, it doesn't matter how gorgeous your designs are if no one can follow your patterns to make them. And believe me, one bad pattern can ruin a designer's career before it even gets started.
I have a few more designing and pattern writing tips that I will share in future posts, and if you have any specific questions, just let me know and I will try my best to answer them. I think the world needs more crochet designers!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Thoughts on Designing and a Sneek Peek at the Snow Queen

I get lots of questions about how to become a crochet designer. While I cannot speak for all designers, I can tell you a little about the process I use to come up with my own designs.
Every design starts with an idea, and that  idea can come from anywhere, from a old movie to a children's coloring book to an interesting stitch pattern I want to try. When I get an idea, I write it down in my design notebook (I have  4 notebooks  full of ideas right now, and I need to pick up a new one!)
For a while it was a trendy thing for designers to say a design "just fell off my hook." Meaning that they just sat down and started playing around with their hook and thread and a wonderful design developed.
That has never been the case with me. I have to first 'see' a design clearly in my mind. Only then will I know where to begin and how to proceed. And the best way I have found to help me visualize a design  is to draw a sketch of it.
Here are a few of the sketches I did for some of my doilies, and I am sure you will agree that I am lucky that I can crochet better than I draw:
A sketch for Harvest Moon (look at that poor cat's ears!)

The finished Harvest Moon Doily
Sketch for Woodland Fairy

Finished Woodland Fairy; as you can see I made some changes from the sketch
Sketch for  my new doily, the Snow Queen

Finished Snow Queen. The pattern will be available in the middle of January 2011.
Every designer has a different process for developing their designs. But this is where all of  mine start, with a simple sketch.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Kim's Woodland Fairy Doily

I love to see doilies that others have made from my patterns, especially when they are made in different colors. Talented crocheter Kim sent me these pictures of her Woodland Fairy doily. I love how changing the colors gives it a whole new feel!

 Kim also added some little butterflies to the doily. So sweet!
And I love those ears!!!!!
Thank you for sharing your photos, Kim. You did a beautiful job!

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Craft Gossip Blog

I am so pleased to be featured on the Craft Gossip Blog this week! I appreciate all the nice things said about my designs:
http://crochet.craftgossip.com/fresh-and-fancy-crochet/2011/01/01/
Check it out if you have a moment!
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