>Or is it # 4? Whatever. Reader, beware. The following tirade is not for the crochet dilettante. Crochet obsessed only read on. Everyone else can chalk this up to my being crabby and old and wait for the next happy post.
Pattern grading, or the task of extrapolating and writing crochet garment pattern instructions in multiple sizes, is a big pain in the butt. Universally, it is considered the worst part of a design job. Any designer who claims otherwise is either 1) fooling him/herself, 2) being paid so fracking much that he/she can ignore the pain, 3) being paid so much that he/she can turn around and pay someone else to do the grunt work, or 4) lying.
Pattern grading is SO awful that the term has seeped into crochet-designer-speak as a codeword for the worst possible case nightmare scenario. For example, if I were to ask, “How did that hip replacement surgery go?”, the reply “Not as bad as pattern grading” could be expected and understood.
In my job I make one real life crocheted garment sample, a singular and perfect thing, a joy to create and behold. Then I am obliged to beat my head against the wall until that sample is interpreted as a set of clear, concise crochet instructions for up to six sizes. My brain and temperament are well suited to the former task and not one iota interested in the latter. At the crux of the matter is the fact that I suck at counting. Who wants to get bogged down in the specific numbers? Does that raglan shoulder shaping increase mathematically, geometrically, exponentially? How many stitch repeats will that mean in size 2XL?
I’m a crocheter, not an actuary. My son is an actuary. He spends his working life in a cubicle (real or virtual) crunching numbers. He researches, compiles, and interprets statistical models, charts and reports filled with correlated, corresponding, codependent, confusing data supplied by clients concerning real life people. I think he enjoys his job in a scary, geeky way. I sometimes wonder if he is indeed my son, know what I’m saying? Just kidding, Nick.
Do you know that there are crochet designers who aren’t required to produce a single garment sample, write a single word or crunch a single armhole depth? These exhalted few need only supply a sketch and a stitch swatch in order to get money for a design. As wonderful as this sounds, I wouldn’t want to live there. The physical act of working with hook and yarn, the challenge of shaping and finishing each new garment concept, the satisfaction of turning the purely imagined into something tangible and wearable, these are priceless jewels, the rewards of my job. I would not, could not, delegate/relegate them to another crocheter. And since each project is a unique piece of me, I can’t hand over the nasty bits either, the writing and sizing, even though that would make my life a lot happier.
Now that you know I am not by nature a number cruncher, you can understand how I have no simple solutions to the problems of pattern grading or the alteration of existing pattern sizes to accommodate other than average proportions. I can’t point you to a fancy software program or a secret formula. I have no magic bullet. Everything I know about this subject I learned the hard way, through experience, time, trial and error.
We designers are admonished by our professional peers to never give anything away for free, not of our work or of our expertise. Our time and talents are valuable, I am scolded, so don’t offer free pattern support. You did your job, got paid. Done. But I am often asked by crocheters, readers and fans for advice. In order for them to get happy results I’d have to completely rework, rewrite and reinterpret, row by row, major sections of the pattern grading. How can I make this top longer, is it possible to shape the waistline, I need deeper armholes, these sleeves are too tight, my neckine is too loose, I have too many shell repeats, what the frack is a Yoke Row, help, help, HELP!
And I do. Help people. Dispense free pattern support. All the time. It’s a little about being well-thought-of by my readers. I don’t mind being the hero in these situations. But it is a LOT about spreading the joy. Once you help a fellow crocheter get unstuck, reach that genuine “AH-HA!” moment and eventually finish a project that fits well, looks great and gets plenty of admiration, the satisfaction is not just on her part. That’s part of my own job satisfaction, is it not?
So what I am getting at is, in a while, in response to readers, I will take the time to post a little pattern extra that concerns the Lacy Top Cardigan.
>I love you Doris…. I hate pattern grading, and in fact am reading your blog to distract myself from the pattern that is due this afternoon….
>I can only half imagine your head aches. I as one of your greatest fans have to admit one of the things I admire about you soooooooo much ,is your willingness to help above and beyond most other designers. Before I discovered your patterns and received your help I was too intimidated to even try to do a garment.What with being left handed and things not ending up proper with piece by piece patterns.Guess what I`m trying to say in a long winded way is YOU ARE A BLESSING TO MANY.Thank you is not enough ,but you most certainly are appreciated beyond the patterns
>Hi Doris, I completely agree with MJ, When someone asks me "Which pattern should I use as my first garment" I just about always point them at one of your patterns, you are right the Joy of seeing the moment when they get it and can wear something they made, is awesome. I am sorry for being one of the people that steal a little of your joy. I hope that I can somehow replace some of your hair pulling with a a little smile when I get to wear something that you designed (and it isn't too tight on my arms 😉 )
>Doris, I am fairly new to crochet and I recently tried your Bell Sleeve Pullover as my first "intermediate" project. I made some mistakes, but gained SO much confidence…Then I wore it – and my Mom (a COMPLETELY different size) loved it and asked if I could make one for her too. Thanks to all your number crunching and hair pulling I was able to make her one. (She requested a less open design and longer length so I too had some hair pulling moments working with a thick yarn and length adjustment.) Please know that we your fans truly appreciate what you do – and try to picture all of our happy faces after we struggle and learn – and figure it out… THANK YOU! 🙂
>Stop Kvetching, fairy lady, ya know ya gots ta do it!
>I appreciate your sharing about the hard work, time, and efforts put into grading patterns, after all the hard work, time and efforts in designing them! I took pattern grading for wovens in school and I didn't like it either.Your honesty and willingness to let us approach you is much appreciated and admired, more than you know. Thanks!
>I, too, find pattern grading the least desirable thing about designing. Right now I am writing and self-publishing a crochet book, and wondering to myself, "how many different sizes do I want to write these patterns in?", because I understand the benefit of having multiple sizes equals more people can wear the garment equals more people are more likely to buy a pattern if their size is included. But the mainstream crochet mags demand for 5 or 6 sizes drives me crazy, too!!!
>Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my hook-happy heart for all your number-crunching. Not only to have a "crocheted by me" garment to wear (and not just accessories and blankets), but also because I become a better crocheter through your patterns. Thank you!
>WHO are these people who don't need to write patterns? I want names, so I can envy them.The hardest thing with after-sale support on patterns is, in my opinion, to remember how you were thinking at the time. The logic seems wiped out from my brain the minute I send the pattern off.
>Hi Doris,I just stumbled on your website and you voiced all my fears about designing a garment. I thought, sure, I can handle designing a garment, but to do them in 5 to 6 different sizes!!! I was a seamstress in my other life and I know what a headache and a time consuming thing it was to adjust a pattern to a specific size. When you design, do you actually crochet them in different sizes?Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I'll be following your blog from now on.
>Dear Doris, I am 61. I have been crocheting and knitting and quilting since I was 5. I know the frustration you are speaking of. However, here is my suggestion for a solution (since I love finding solutions to problems). Make an audio tape of the process as you crochet. The easiest way is to work a row and then speak it in, once you are sure it is correct. Keep a piece of paper nearby and mark where you are when you are done for the day, or when you are interrupted. Corrections can be read in, as an entire row, (example row 7, redo as: —-). Or, you can obviously use whatever system you like. This may seem a bit time consuming, but it really isn't too bad, and, at the end of the process, all you have to do is type up the work and have someone do a practice piece to see if they can follow what you have written. (I generally go over it with the garment in hand, and make sure that all of the main points are covered.)I would like to publish my patterns too, and I hope you keep publishing for a good long time to come too. Blessings, Linda