Friday, July 1, 2011

Evolution of a Design (part 8): Writing Patterns

I thought I could be better about writing more frequently. I thought I'd have the time to keep up to date on a blog. I really did. And then life happened. Or something like that. And now I'm looking at the date and realizing I'm not actually doing any better at all. Sigh.

In this discussion of creating and publishing a design, we're at the point of writing up the pattern.

When I first designed Among the Bamboo, I had no desire (and, therefore, no plans) to translate the chart into written instructions. I knew that meant there might be some knitters for whom the pattern was inaccessible, and I'm only semi-ashamed to admit that I didn't care. I had an inkling that it might be a lot of work to do the conversion, and I had neither the time nor the inclination to do it. And, truth be told, Knit Picks had already accepted the pattern, knowing it would be charted only. So I figured it simply wasn't necessary.

I offered the pattern on Ravelry first at a low, low price. One of the early knitters sent me a message saying that she knew how to use charts but only knitted from written instructions. She'd already written up her notes and knit the blanket, so she knew they worked. She wondered if I was interested in having them to use in the pattern, so that others could make this super cute blanket.

Isn't that amazing? I mean, truly? She wanted no credit. She wanted nothing in exchange. She said the work was already done, so she didn't need anything - she just thought it might be a nice thing to offer. And it was. A truly nice thing. Sometimes I get to a point when I've decided I don't much like people (don't we all?) -- this knitter offered me a great reminder of why I do actually like people, even when it feels like I don't.

In any case, I took her notes straight to my favorite testing group on Ravelry, and a few key testers helped me work through the notes, clean them up to be suitable for a pattern, and ensure that they led to the intended design. We did that just for the solid-color version, and it was a ton of work. A ton. But, the response was so overwhelming that I realized it isn't actually prudent to offer a charted-only design for these blankets. And that rebirth of faith-in-humanity helped me remember that I should care how accessible the pattern is.

So since then, I've made the conscious decision to do the work of converting a chart to written instructions for each of the afghan patterns. I've even concluded that offering written instructions for the intarsia version as well as the single-color version is the best way to go.

It's hard. Not as in difficult to do, but as in super time consuming. I've been working on the conversion for the snail bit-by-bit. It's slow-going. It takes even longer with these because, remember? They are like two patterns in one! The good news is that about 2/3 of the pattern is the same for both versions. Thank goodness! At this point, I've made it through the colored instructions. So 10 pages and at least as many hours later, I was able to move on to the solid pattern instructions. I think I've got about 3 hours more of work on those. It's a whole lot of counting, a whole lot of flipping back and forth between the Excel file containing the chart and the Word document containing the written instructions, and a whole lot of buggy/crossed eyes. I keep telling myself it's worth it.

And the early returns on the sample knitting suggest it is.

Next up? Casting on for samples...

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