>Hitting a smaller target: Part 2

>It helps consumers of my patterns to know that I totally suck at imaginary counting.  What I mean is I am incapable of coming up with absolutely correct counts where the stitches are extrapolated for pattern sizing, not actually in my hands as tangible crochet.  Obviously, I work really hard {really really really hard} at crunching the correct numbers for all sizes, but in reality, the only set of numbers in my patterns that I can guarantee to be perfect and consistent are the stitch counts for the garment sample I have myself crocheted. Any other string of numbers will simply swim in front of my eyes, a downside to advancing age. I can clearly see what stitches have to happen, where, when and how often.  But don’t ask me to count those suckers.

So you could conclude that I am a visual person, a tactile learner, a hands-on designer.  I describe my design approach as organic.  I cannot make crochet design without making crochet.  I’ve heard that there are designers who work differently, for whom the entire process is virtual.  They make a sketch of the design, plug the variables of stitch pattern and gauge into their own particular standard pattern template, then pass the mess along to a contract stitcher who crochets the sample and often fixes the pattern writing to conform to the real object.  This could be an efficient way to crank out a limitless body of work in seemingly no time.  Not for me.

With my paltry few years professional designing experience and the hundreds of designs I’ve done, I still don’t know if a design works until I do it.  Likewise, I honestly won’t know if the sizing extrapolations I’ve calculated will actually work for real unless and until I have crocheted that particular pattern to those exact finished measurements myself.  And as I just spilled a couple of paragraphs ago, I wouldn’t be able to give absolutely reliable stitch counts for any of those imaginary pieces.

As quickly and as efficiently as I crochet, and depending on the project and the number of loose ends (!), it still takes me from three to ten days to nail down a crochet design (complete the sample to the point where I know it works).   Deadlines are usually pressing.  I routinely have less than two weeks to devote to any one design.  Most editors and/or yarn companies provide enough materials to complete the sample, with not much to spare. So, there is never enough time or materials to physically crochet multiple samples of a design.  Nor do the design fees offer enough compensation for the extra work.  Even for designs with publisher guarantees that they have been pattern tested, not every size of every garment has been crocheted.  When my patterns take written form, all those extra sizes and all those stitch counts are, and will remain forever imaginary.

That’s where you come in.  I rely on feedback from crocheters who have worked from my patterns and crocheted the other-than-model sizes.  You guys are brilliant at tracking me down, showing and telling me what works. Spotting you wearing  your finished projects at events is one of the reasons I look forward to events. Your on line comments and critiques on the construction and fit help me do the next one better.  The group at Ravelry.com dedicated to my designs, Doris Chan: Everyday Crochet,  is my chief contact with fans.  Each time a Raveler posts to the forum, asks a question, begs for pattern support, points out a pattern error {usually a stupid stitch count!}, shows pictures of finished projects, cheers on other crocheters, commiserates with others over ripped rows and wonky gauge…  every word teaches me something.  Hundreds of somethings.

So what am I hearing right now from my legion of crochet whisperers?  Aside from the background hubbub of excitement upon discovering crochet empowerment, I am hearing a tiny plea that could be growing into a more significant groundswell of discontent concerning, of all things, not plus sizing but smaller sizing. You may wonder how this issue even exists, since according to the first lesson in Part 1 I learned that I have to crochet design samples that look good on skinny models, but there is a limit to how low you go.

Claudia modeling Rosalinda

I was invited to {more like I jumped up and down and held my breath until they allowed me to attend} the photography shoot for my book Crochet Lace Innovations.  The design samples I provided were carefully and deliberately sized to fit fairly skinny humans.  But nothing prepared me for the range of body shapes that we encountered among the three gorgeous models, Claudia, Chanel and Eva.

Chanel modeling River Song
Eva modeling Jadzia

You’d think one fashion model might be interchangeable with another fashion model.  HA!

Claudia was lithe and coltish at a size 2.

Chanel, the curviest of the three {she gets the hubba-hubba award}, was a graceful, perfectly proportioned size 4.

Little Eva, who was certainly not underage, but appeared so young and underdeveloped, like a blossoming12-year-old, was a solid size 0.  Even the stylist, Kristen Petliski, couldn’t have planned for the different clothing sizes that were needed to coordinate with the crochet.   Some samples and clothes had Chanel spilling over a little {the hubba-hubba factor!}, but were playful and flowing on Claudia; some stuff was just too loose on Eva. That’s probably why you never see the back of the Jadzia jacket in photography.  Eva’s shorts are clipped in the back!

No one at the shoot touched any of the crochet samples; I wouldn’t allow it, and none suggested it.  We played musical crochet until the right model was matched with each outfit.  So what you see in those images is the real shape of each crocheted piece.

But here’s the thing.  Nothing in the book was supposed to fit a size 2 or 0.  Hardly anything I design goes there. As much as we exalt those fashion model figures, in real life few consumers need patterning that small. For mass market publishing, I have found no call for sizing smaller than 4 and no comment when I don’t provide it. My recent design output illustrates that I have learned all too well the second and third lessons from Part 1.  I have to produce patterns containing as few words as possible, and those patterns must offer plus sizing.  There is the trade-off and why the entire process is doomed to lead to disappointment among small sized crocheters.  If we go bigger, we make the choice to drop the smaller in order to keep the patterns to manageable length.

More next time.  Oh, and if you’re wondering how I got to be so stubborn and cute (!), check out my piece in this issue of Crafter News, the newsletter from my publisher, Potter Craft.

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4 thoughts on “>Hitting a smaller target: Part 2

  1. >I am so new to designing, but with what little I have done, I have found that I am the same. I have actually taken to charting out each piece, though so far they are small, to figure it all out. I was hoping this would get easier with experience…but maybe not. I think your designs are just wonderful. For a newbie like me, this sort of post is just dripping with information to learn and absorb. Thanks a million!

  2. >am fairly good at crochet, love your blog, and want to try some of your patterns. want to do mei mei(saw it on Ravelry) and DO NOT mind buying the book, however, i am worried that I wont understand, am i just being silly. the "fake" pattern someone posted is a bit overwhelmming to me. should i get the book, carol

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