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Advice to new crocheters on choosing a pattern


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#1 magiccrochetfan

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 05:36 PM

I've posted before about the frustration I feel when people post for help with patterns, and the real problem is that the pattern is poorly written, or just doesn't give enough information to be followed easily.:bang:rant I decided to post the things I think are important in choosing a pattern, and I hope that others will add to the list.

Things I think it's important to look for:

1. At least one good clear photo of the entire finished object, so you will know what it is that you are making. Preferably, there will be more than one view of the item. If it is a garment, the model should be posed naturally, so that you can see the whole thing, not holding something in front of her/himself, or twisted around or reaching in an unnatural position; these are clues that the garment does not fit properly. If it is an afghan or other flat item, I like to see at least one photo where it is not folded or artistically draped. Some things do not want to lie flat, and if it has to be scrunched up to get a good photo, I am suspicious.

2. Schematics that show the shape and dimensions of the pieces that make up the finished object. Some info on what schematics are at the bottom of page here http://www.knitsimplemag.com/node/30

3. A description of how the item is constructed; especially important for garments. As the pattern goes along, it should note what part you are making.

4. Stitch diagram(s) to supplement the written instructions. (I know that not everyone likes diagrams, but for many people they can be a huge help in visualizing the stitches.) Example http://grannys-garre...ol_crochet.html

5. A key to abbreviations and special stitches that are used in the pattern. If this is not given, you may get lost in the middle of the pattern when an unfamiliar term comes up.

6. Information on the gauge used in the item. this is not too important for things like afghans, which can really be any size you desire, but it is crucial for garments. (Gauge is usually given over 4 inches, and you need to make your gauge swatch about 6 by 6 inches then measure the 4 in. in the middle of the swatch. making a swatch of only 4x4 can be inaccurate, although many patterns ignore this fact.)

In my mind, Crochet Today! magazine does an excellent job with their patterns, so here is a link to their free pattern page http://www.crochetto...taxonomy/term/4 if you want to see some examples.

Ok, I feel better now! :whew

What's your advice to a new crocheter looking for a pattern?
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#2 Miss Crochet

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 06:00 PM

Mine is so obvious that I probably shouldn't say it! :lol
Start simple and work upwards!
If you are new to crochet, don't make the Fat Bottomed Bag your first project: you'll become frustrated and annoyed, you'll ruin a lot of yarn, possibly bend a hook out of shape and contribute to global warming by adding a lot of very naughty language to the atmosphere.

Start with plain, simple granny squares or potholders: master the basic stitches and work on your tension. Move up from pattern to pattern and don't attempt the overly ambitious till you've worked your way there. I've been crocheting for 27 years, having learned at the age of 7, but I usually move very slowly to new patterns. I generally make a new pattern twice or three times, till I feel comfortable with it, and every step along the way has taught me skills I need for the next project.

(I have a similar problem with students who ask me what kind of books they should read to improve their English. Anyone who chooses The Lord of the Rings as their first English book will have given up by page 6. :( )
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#3 jeannej

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 08:01 PM

It's hard, as there are so many great patterns out there that don't have all the bells and whistles, as far as charts and such, but yes, photos are are a big plus, from simply deciding whether it's an article that appeals to you or not, to serving as a helpful visual while working through the pattern. Gauge, of course, is important when creating garments.

Over that, I'd suggest paying attention to the stated "difficulty rating" that often accompanies many patterns; while you might want to step up and tackle a pattern that challenges your abilities, you might want to avoid tangling with one so advanced that it throws you for a loop before you get very far.

In my experience, a properly written pattern, one that sticks to good old "crochetese", in abbreviations, phrasing and work order, is golden. A well written pattern should walk the crocheter through in an orderly fashion. It definitely should not get to where the devil is in the details...Details are our friends. :) Unfortunately, that isn't always real obvious at first. So give it a preview and read through the pattern before you put money down on yarn, trying to visualize in your mind's eye, the different turns you'll take and the repeats you'll be asked to make along the way.

I guess, too, before all is said and done, take the time to get intimately familiar with your stitches. Patterns are our 'maps', aiding us in getting to where we want to go, but if you haven't mastered your basic stitches, and the specialty ones that build upon them when required, you're more apt to trip and rip along the way. To me, knowing your stitches means not only knowing how to work them, but just as importantly, being able to recognize them once they are worked into the fabric you're creating: A dc looks one way as it stands alone, but stacked, clustered, slipped over, worked around, in the back of, or surrounded by a stitches of another making, changes the lay of the land...

Oh, and new crocheters?...Patterns don't tell us what to do with all of our loose ends... not when it comes our last tried nerves, that is, that on frustrated occasion might steam and scream for us to put the hook down. Should the going get tough, sometimes stepping away and coming back to it in a different light, can help as much as anything. ;) Oh, and don't forget, you always have a host of generously helpful C'villers here to help out along the way...

Remember to breathe, and keep it fun!

Edited by jeannej, 05 November 2009 - 08:06 PM.

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#4 Real Deal

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 02:18 AM

Patterns need to have clearly stated sizes for the finished items. Even if it is a simple washcloth or square, I want to know if it is going to end up 8" or 12". Or some patterns have vague sizing, like S, M, L. They would fit ?

Read through the pattern before deciding to do it. WILL you really do it? CAN you really do it? If it it too far beyond your capabilities, it's just foolish to do. A bit beyond your capabilities will have you learning and growing.

I've been crocheting a long time and I always read through a pattern first because I KNOW I do not want to do treble crochet or post stitches. I can do them, but I don't care for them. There's no point in wasting my time and yarn on something I will not enjoy doing, even though I like how it looks. There's so many other patterns out there, I will find something I do enjoy. If I do not enjoy my crochet, it won't get finished. A lot of us have discovered this. Once I figured this out about myself, I have a lot more fun with my crochet, and I no longer do anything I dislike, even if my friends or family ask me. If anyone wants a piece I dislike, I redirect them to the kind of crochet I do like to do and show them a piece or two.

My best advice to those new to crochet is to practice, a lot, on flat pieces. That is the way to get good, even stitches that will sustain you through the rest of your life. Yes, it can get boring, but it doesn't have to be. You learn to change colors so you can make stripes in your flat pieces. I have been crocheting 30 years and I have never repeated a stripe pattern yet! And I do a lot of it because I like to do a lot of single crochet in totes and rugs, usually double stranded. Yes, it slow and some people would say tedious, but I like it, and my items come out gorgeous. And here they are, made from the simplest crochet stitch, with stripes to give them interest.

For flat pieces, of course there are the baby blankets and afghans, which were the standard flat pieces I grew up learning on. How about scarves, table runners, table mats, rugs, placemats, coasters, pillow covers, pet rugs, lap 'ghans. And with so much worsted weight cotton available today, washcloths and dishcloths. These are really great to use!
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#5 Autumn

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 06:43 AM

My advice would be to write out the pattern, especially if you are new to reading them. I have been crocheting for over 20 years and I still write out the patterns out of habit. They are so much easier to follow.

One pet peeve: Is in making wearables like sweaters that give the pattern for the Right front, and then for the instructions for the Left front they just say to reverse the shaping of the right front?

Can't they just write the pattern for the left front as well?

Edited by Autumn, 06 November 2009 - 03:10 PM.

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#6 steelerlady

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 07:35 AM

I think I would echo most of the advice already given. Start simple, with a pot holder and learn the basic stitches. I usually advise them to buy a small learn to crochet at a place like AC Moore, that have lots of pictures of how to do the basic stitches and has simple starter projects. I feel it is a small investment that gives alot more than it costs.
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#7 papersmiles

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 04:03 PM

One thing that tends to befuddle me is when patterns don't give yarn requirements in both weight and yards. I know I can go to a conversion site and figure it out but it would really help to have a general idea of how many yards it takes to make an item right there on the pattern. Math is not my strong suit so any help is greatly appreciated.
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#8 macfoo

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 04:37 PM

To augment what's already been said... I found that when I am working on learning, working on sampler squares of a certain stitch pattern is the way to go. There are some patterns out there that are samplers (Leisure Arts 63 easy to crochet pattern stitches comes to mind) that not only help with learning even stitches, but also introduce someone who is learning to new stitches.

I've also seen a tunisian book like this (sampler of stitches).
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#9 CLLinda

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 04:50 PM

Another piece of advice is to count your stitches. If you don't have enough stitches, the rows will not be the right size.

And if the pattern says to have say 36 stitches at the end of the increased rows, make sure that there are 36 stitches.

I do like patterns that say how many stitches should be at the end of each row, etc. It helps to stay on track.

Good luck to all the newbies attempting new patterns. Once you get the basic stitches, you can make anything you want to. Start out simply and then advance when you are ready.

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#10 Valsey

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 02:41 PM

My advice would be to write out the pattern, especially if you are new to reading them. I have been crocheting for over 20 years and I still write out the patterns out of habit. They are so much easier to follow.


When my Mom first taught me how to crochet she got me into the habit of writing out the patterns because it was the only way that she could work through them. I thought we were the only ones that did this
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#11 JanineW

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Posted 10 November 2009 - 07:56 AM

I agree with most of the advice already given. Definitely read through the pattern, and CHECK YOUR GAUGE especially if it is a garment (it took me years and many too big or too small sweaters to learn this). Also, and this may seem obvious -- CHOOSE A PATTERN YOU LOVE. If it's something you aren't really crazy about, don't make it just because the directions say it's a "beginner" pattern. You'll just pick up the work and plod though it like it's work -- :crocheting should be fun!!!!!!!
Definitely make simple things the first few times, but once you know your basic stitches, the sky's the limit! Very early in my crochet career, I saw a pattern for a beautiful shawl collar jacket with lots of cables, bobbles and post stitches. No one told me it was too hard for me, and I made it. It came out beautiful and I still wear it (30 years later). It was a pleasure for me to make this because the FO was beautiful, something I really wanted, and the pattern was well written so that all those "complex" stitches became a welcome (and doable) challenge.
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#12 magiccrochetfan

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Posted 11 November 2009 - 01:59 PM

Well, hopefully some new crocheters are finding this thread and reading all our great advice!:lol :hook

Another thing that occurs to me is that sometimes free patterns have been hastily written and may be confusing, or leave out important info. Usually a pattern in a book or magazine has been carefully edited and several people have checked it for clarity and accuracy. So I think that free patterns on magazine websites are a good bet. And look for pattern books at your local library, or ask about interlibrary loan. If mistakes are found after publication, the publisher usually has a website giving the corrections.

Also, even though a lot of info is free on the internet now, I think a good reference book is a must, like the Crochet Answer Book by E Eckmann, Crocheting in Plain English by M Righetti, and Donna Kooler's Encyclopedia of Crochet, to name my 3 favorites.

Edited by magiccrochetfan, 11 May 2013 - 06:21 PM.

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--Kathy
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#13 antara

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 02:17 PM

One thing I would add is to expect to rip your work out. Maybe a lot. My first project was a pillow, and I literally had to start it over 4 times before I got it right. That's only starting it over, mind you. I began a total of 5 times.

If you get frustrated, take a break. Your project will be waiting for you whenever you want to come back. :)
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#14 magiccrochetfan

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 04:33 PM

One thing I would add is to expect to rip your work out. Maybe a lot. My first project was a pillow, and I literally had to start it over 4 times before I got it right. That's only starting it over, mind you. I began a total of 5 times.

If you get frustrated, take a break. Your project will be waiting for you whenever you want to come back. :)


Excellent advice! Ripping out and redoing is a necessary skill :hook


Edited by magiccrochetfan, 18 February 2013 - 03:12 PM.

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--Kathy
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It's official--I cannot type the word "stitch", it always comes out "sttich".
Callaway Stitchers crochet, knit, tat, sew, any fiber art! get-together in Fulton MO, Mondays at 5 p.m. Would love to have Villers join us! For more info, send me a PM.

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#15 Craftyky

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 05:32 PM

First I just want to say thank you for starting this thread :clap

For years I had known the basic crochet stitches but had never read a pattern untill I found a pillow I liked and the only way to do it was by its pattern.

After many starts and pulling it out again (along with my mums help) I made my pillow.

One thing I found hard with reading patterns was understanding all the abbreviations and a few patterns I found didnt have a key. So I did a google search, made up a lable with all the abbreviations, like: sc - single crochet, sl - slip stitch, */{ } - repeat. This lable is now stuck on the cover of my pattern folder, so If ever I forget what something means or the pattern doesnt have a key.

Another great tip is if you do get stuck or your project isnt working out the way it should, dont be afraid to ask for help. I still go to my mum when ever I have problems, she will start the pattern herself and then guild me through it.

Happy crocheting to all the new crochets and beware it gets addictive.

:hook
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#16 JanineW

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 06:46 PM

:2frog frogging (to rip out) is definitely an important skill. I find that after more than 30 years of crocheting it is the one thing I do most often -- especially when I am designing!
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#17 SolarSoda

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Posted 15 November 2009 - 03:32 AM

This is GREAT!!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you, a million thank yous for taking the time to post your thoughts and advice here. I, for one, really appreciate it. I understand now where part of my problem may have been bad or incomplete pattern instructions. I wouldn't have known if you hadn't taken the trouble to post that here, so I am truly grateful for your trouble. :)

My problem is not practicing the stitches but how to go from one stitch to the next! I guess I just have problems reading the patterns? I mean, I understand what the abbreviations mean - I just don't know how to transition. I can't think of a good example just now; also this business of adding a new color to the work ... yikes! Even though I understand what the abbreviations mean, I just don't always understand which hole to poke my crochet hook in! I understand where the "first" stitch is; but which part of the stitch do I stick my hook? (sometimes videos don't always answer this question for me)

I am confident based on what I've read here that I will find the answers to my questions here at the 'Ville. I've already had some questions answered just from scouring the forums in my spare time. And it's gotten me to pick up my needle finally and start crocheting (even if it is just random practice swatches, not a "project" exactly). If you want to read a little background on how I got started in crocheting click here (it would have made this post way too long).

#18 Miss Crochet

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Posted 15 November 2009 - 07:47 AM

The internet is fantastic and it's a great resource for any handicraft... but there's nothing quite like having someone nearby to actually SHOW you how to do it. My great-aunt first showed me when I was small and I learned at school as well, where we were encouraged at 8 or 9 to make something simple from a pattern, so we could learn how to read the instructions. Just remember that crochet is a forgiving craft: we can fudge quite a bit at the beginning and if it looks okay, it's okay. Also remember what one of the previous posters said: frogging is the most important skill you'll practise, regardless of how long you've been crocheting :lol:lol:lol
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#19 JanineW

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Posted 15 November 2009 - 07:35 PM

Solar Soda: One big piece of advice is that if you don't have a granny sitting nearby to show you what to do, you need a really good reference book. My favorite is Donna Kooler's Encyclopedia of Crochet mostly because it does many different things in one book. It shows, with diagrams for right and left handed, how to form your stitches, good section with diagrams on changing colors, how to do it, types of color changes and when you would use each one, and in addition to some nice patterns, also has a library of stitch patterns with variations. Any good craft store will have several good books to choose from. Although I love to buy books on Amazon, for a book like this, I believe it is best to go to the store, see what is available, and thumb through them (despite dirty looks from the salespeople) to see which one fits your needs. You are going to invest $20-$30, but it is something that you will return to over and over again.

Good luck and happy :crocheting
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#20 SolarSoda

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Posted 20 December 2009 - 03:41 PM

JanineW: Thank you so much for the response and advice! Nothing makes me happier than a great reference book (except maybe chocolate, lol). I really appreciate the help, more than I can say. Indeed, I have a whole new level of respect for a real, live person to ask questions of. I had that when I lived in Grand Rapids, MI; not so much in SWFL where the LYS is an hour-drive away. Very discouraging. I miss the colder climes for that reason.

Well, I hope everyone is gearing up for a fabulous holiday! Every one of you deserves it. :)
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