About 3-4 times a week, a version of the following email lands in my inbox:
"Hi Kat, I've just bought your pattern/book and I am stuck. What does 2htr in htr/2 (3, 5, 6)/ [3 ch, 3 tr] three times mean?"
These are often emails from very experienced crocheters. People who have made beautiful blankets, home accessories, amigurimi, or even hats and baby items. They know how to crochet, but get stuck at the point of reading a pattern.
After some digging, thinking and talking, I have come to think that the problem is 2 fold: 1. The lack of standardisation of crochet patterns and 2. The prevalence of crochet photo tutorials.
With regards to the first issue - the fact that crochet terms and style sheets vary so widely (not to mention the UK vs US divide), short of Joanne and I taking over the crochet world, its a pain in the backside that is probably going to continue. The chances of everyone in the world clubbing together and writing every increase in the same way is unlikely to happen. What I can say is that across my own patterns, my books, and The Crochet Project magazines, we work to a very clear stylesheet, so there is always consistency. Joanne has worked tirelessly at getting these in shape and they are brilliant. They are also pretty consistent with both Inside Crochet and Simply Crochet (though a few differences are there), so that if you live in the UK, you should be comfortable wherever you are working from.
Problem 2 is a trickier one. Photo tutorials are great. As anyone who has ever written one knows, they are a TON of work. Hours and hours, sometimes days, of photographing, making, writing and editing. They are awesome for teaching new skills and techniques and just a wonderful resource for makers. If you know basic stitches, its very easy to follow along and see where you are going to make the project. You can make beautiful things, without ever having read a pattern.
But, tutorials can only go so far in crochet...with space at a premium in printed books or printable patterns, and when garments are graded across multiple sizes, patterns are needed to tell people what to do in a way that makes as much sense as possible.
I have spent a lot of time trying to get to grips with bridging the gap between written patterns and photo tutorials. My kits include both written patterns and step by step photos where possible. I have written a guide that I often refer people to when I get the initial emails about a pattern. A version of this is also included in my books to try and help as many people as possible access written patterns. We are also including a few stitch charts in my next book to help with a couple of the more complicated patterns. However, I am going to be honest here, I don't know what else to do. I want to help people and I see no decrease in the number of pattern reading queries I get.
So my question to you all is - what else can I do to help? If you crochet and don't read patterns - why? What would you like to see to get you over the bridge of pattern reading? If you do read patterns, what helped you get there?
Thank you so much for your help!!
(photos are of gorgeous Manos Serena - Georgia is desperate for a cardigan and dug this out of my stash and chose buttons. How on earth does one say no to that?!?! The yarn is luscious cotton/alpaca blend as well...YUM!)