>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.