Monday, November 22, 2010

Erssie's Interview, Part 4

This is the fourth and final installment in Erssie Major's Designer of the Month interview series. You can see the first part here, and link to the second and third parts.

Do you have any advice for knitters or crocheters who are new to designing patterns?
I would advise newbies writing patterns for the first time to try to do the following things:

1. Invest a lot of time into researching other patterns and styles available in books, magazines, and independent patterns from other designers. Look at some of the indie designers and try and decide what you love or like, what you don’t like, and what is not acceptable to you.

2. Look at the Yarn Standards website for guidelines in your style of abbreviations and try to stick to one style, with a set of standard abbreviations. Try and keep this consistent across all your patterns.

3. Cut out the personal chat in your patterns. Its nice to have a personal style, but chatting in the middle of a set of instructions is really distracting. I would advise any lengthy explanation to go into pattern notes and to keep the pattern to the bare bones of the instructions in accepted abbreviations. Too many newbies are used to writing patterns for a blog and making a lot of comments on each point. Remember, people want to save their printer ink and they may make this design more than once, so a lot of irrelevant chat is really off-putting. If it is relevant chat, then putting it into pattern notes on its own page, means a knitter can read it once if necessary but may not need to print it out.

4. Get the designs test-knitted. Getting stuff test-knitted is only helpful if you analyse the results. Try and define what it is you are testing. Some new designers hear they must test-knit, get volunteers to make the stuff, but then never review the feedback or results. This is not really useful to making your pattern accurate. If a tester comes back and says ‘everything was fine, it was all correct, and ok thanks I enjoyed it’ I would question this because it is very unusual for a pattern to be instantly perfect. There should be some criticism or one or two mistakes on a first draft.

5. In addition to test-knitting, invest in a good tech editor. They will make sure that your pattern is current, uses accepted abbreviations, is graded accurately into different sizes, and will look for every single formatting, punctuation, or typing mistake. They will also help bring better ways of expressing things, less confusion, and will help you to be consistent. Without a tech editor a pattern writer can often start to drift in style and be inconsistent. Test knitters, especially volunteers, cannot be expected to have this level of professionalism over every aspect of the pattern. Normally my tech editor is the very last person to make changes to the pattern, I approve these changes and the pattern goes live. Listen to feedback without feeling hurt or defensive. I get patterns back all the time, that have lots of red marks and criticism and I use it wisely, this is not the time to get upset and personal about it.

6. Try to be kind to customers... not that they are always right, but it does not help to get into a wrangle with the one customer who found your pattern confusing if that person goes on a forum and spreads the word as to how unhelpful you are. Customers will contact you all the time, asking for help and guidance, and not all will be appreciative.

7. Don’t expect to give up the day job anytime soon, and expect, if you want a career purely in the fiber arts, to have to teach, run an LYS, dye, spin, or have your own yarn brand in addition to designing. Unless every pattern you release goes totally viral, you are unlikely to live on pattern sales alone to begin with. What can happen if your popularity spirals after a viral pattern, is you find that offers come your way to be included in books, or even to have a solo book.

8. Talking of books, it helps to increase your kudos and for knitters to trust your patterns, if you do get a design published about once every one or two months in a well known book or magazine, or on a website, e.g. Knitty. It does not mean you have to go down that route for everything but it will help traffic come your way for independent designs if you submit to print or online publications.

Here are more of my favorite patterns by Erssie:

Christmas Pudding Baby Hat

Chukchi: Crochet Mukluks

Cafe Racer Newborn Baby Set

You can keep up with Erssie's new designs by visiting her website, Erssie Knits.

1 comment:

  1. That's really great advice! Thanks for the cool interview :)