Black Friday, Cyber Monday Special Sales!

First, a bit of news about the online not-really-a-class I’ve been cooking up: I’m going to have it ready before Christmas, to launch at New Year’s. It’ll be for you if you’re wanting to try out a daily project or establish a daily art/craft/making practice, or if you’re already into a daily thing but want to have a bit of an adventure. It will be fun. It will be low-maintenance. And it will be fun. Yes, fun times two! Stay tuned!

Now, for those sales.

  1. From now till December 4th, take 15% off all orders over $5 in my online shop, using code VANQUISH15. There aren’t many items in my online shop, but this is a great time to pick up a signed copy of Make It Mighty Ugly (shipping is now way less expensive, too!) or the Year of Making ebook at a sweet discount.
  2. Craftsy’s having their biggest sale of the year – all classes are $19.99 or less! – so it’s a great time to score yourself (or your loved ones or your crafty acquaintances from work) Crochet: Basics & Beyond and Next Steps in Crochet, or a dozen of any other amazing classes (they have hundreds!).
  3. CreativeLive is also having a huge sale on classes, including mine – Embrace the Ugly: How to Break Through What’s Holding You Back in Business.

Go! Shop! Make stuff! Enjoy your loved ones!

Buy a personalized signed copy of Make It Mighty Ugly.

PS Affiliate links to Craftsy and CreativeLive classes. Makin’ a living and all that.

Get Signed Books (with WAY Lower Shipping)!

Get a personalized signed copy of Make It Mighty Ugly in time for the holidays!


You guys, I finally did some serious number crunching with B.J., who owns my local shipping depot. She’s the best, and she has the patience of a saint. And because of her patience, I’ve been able to dramatically lower my shipping rates both within Canada and to the U.S. (and even abroad). Dramatically.

So I hope you’ll indulge yourself with a personalized signed copy of Make It Mighty Ugly, or send one to a friend or two for ye olde holidays that are coming up. Because as of today, it costs less than $5 to ship within Canada and just $7 per book to ship to the U.S.*


For the Black Friday and the Cyber Monday and all that, use code VANQUISH15 for 15% off all orders over $5, through December 4th!

Must get book! Now, please!

* Dearest Americans: You will be delighted to know that because I live in Canada, prices are listed in Canadian dollars. The exchange rate right now is dramatically in your favour, which means that the book, though priced the same in the U.S., will cost you less.

How to Write a Crochet Pattern, Part 3: The Language

This is the third part in a five-part series on how to write an outstanding crochet pattern. Read Part One: The Front Matter, and Part Two: The Numbers.

In a lot of ways, the math of crochet is treated like the most intimidating part of designing projects and writing patterns, but math is utterly logical, so aside from deciding how best to convey different kinds of units and being sure to be clear about gauge, there isn’t much wiggle room when it comes to the math. You do the math, you convey the numbers, you’re done.

It’s the language that can truly make a mess out of a crocheter’s experience, or deliver a blissful project. This is because language is variable, grammar and punctuation don’t always behave according to crystal-clear logic, and people from different places interpret the same words or phrases in very different ways.

But no fear. Here are some tips and rules that will help you write clear, accurate patterns after you’ve figured out the numbers.

How to write a crochet pattern: The Language.

This Is Technical Writing

The kind of writing used to convey any kind of instruction is technical writing. Technical writing should not be flowery or conversational. It should not involve use of a fancy word when a basic word will do. It should consist of precise directions that are totally unambiguous. You are not telling a story, you’re providing step-by-step instructions for how to replicate a crochet design.

Indicate Regional Terminology

Crochet stitches are named in different ways in different regions, using the same set of terms. For example, the stitch Americans know as single crochet Brits call double crochet. It’s insanity. I don’t know why it is this way or how it came to be this way, but it is what it is and we must be sure to be very clear about which convention we use.

Because the internet knows no regional boundaries, every pattern published online (whether for free or for a fee) must include a note about which regional convention is used. Something like this is all that’s needed:

American crochet terms used throughout.

That’s it. That gives your crocheter enough information to look up equivalent terms if they need to. But if you don’t include a note like this, an English-speaking crocheter from across the ocean from where you live might have a truly confusing and frustrating experience. So be sure to include that one wee line in the front matter of all of your patterns.

Avoid Ambiguity

Ambiguity – when the same phrase could be interpreted equally well in more than one way – is the scourge of technical writing. If an instruction is ambiguous, your crocheter might not do the thing they need to do. Without necessarily noticing there’s another way to read an instruction, they may forge ahead on the wrong path. Or, if they do realize there’s more than one interpretation of the instruction, they may pull their hair out in frustration as they try to figure out which meaning to choose, then fill your inbox with perfectly reasonable demands for you to explain yourself. Oftentimes, ambiguity in a pattern can be solved with a comma or other straightforward punctuation.

Note: It’s not unusual for writers to have difficulty seeing ambiguity in their patterns, because they have the bias of knowing exactly what they want to say. This is one of the many reasons it’s extremely important to have your patterns tested and tech edited!

Be Consistent

This one’s the doozy. You need to decide a whole bunch of style-related things, and then be utterly consistent with them throughout your pattern (and, since you’re amazing and have loads of design ideas, across all of your patterns if possible).

So create a style sheet for yourself. For every decision you make about the kinds of things I’ll exemplify below, write that decision down in your style sheet. (Be sure to include your style sheet when you send your pattern in for tech editing, so your editor can follow it, too.)

The following list of things you need to make decisions about is not an exhaustive one, but it should be enough to get you going. The good news is that once you’ve made your decisions, you’ll have them in your style sheet so you won’t have to ponder the same questions again for your next pattern.


Will you use abbreviations or spell everything out? Abbreviating stitch names and common words is standard fare in crochet patterns, but some designers, especially of beginner-oriented patterns, prefer to write everything out long-hand. That’s a fine decision when publishing digitally (because page space is unlimited), but I prefer to always abbreviate basic stitch names, and here’s why: The names of basic crochet stitches consist of two words, and one of those words is a very general term. Single crochet, double crochet, slip stitch. What a pain! It’s actually clearer to use abbreviations: sc, dc, sl st. Using abbreviations for stitch names makes it even clearer when you do need to use the words crochet or stitch in other ways.

Anyway, decide which abbreviations you’ll use, and write them in your style sheet. Will you abbreviate words like continuefollowsincrease? There’s no right or wrong answer. Just decide, then be consistent not only with abbreviating the words you decide to abbreviate, but also in the abbreviation you’ll use.

Finally, decide on capitalization rules. Will you write your stitch abbreviations in all caps, like SC, DC, SL ST, or in lowercase, like sc, dc, sl st? Again, consistency is key.

Final note on abbreviations: Though it’s perfectly okay to decide to write everything out long-hand, do not fall into the trap of thinking that using more words makes for clearer instructions. Overly wordy patterns can be too long to follow easily.


In all projects that are worked in rows, and in some that are worked in the round, you must tell your crocheter over and over again to turn their work. Be consistent about where you place this instruction.

Is it at the end of the row?

Row 1: Ch 1, skip 1 ch, sc in next ch and in each ch to end, turn.

Or at the beginning?

Row 2: Turn, ch 1, sc in each st across.

Pick one, write it in your style sheet.

Brackets and Parentheses

Square brackets and parentheses are used to group instructions within a row or round of a pattern. Be consistent in the way you use these; do not use them interchangeably!

Generally speaking, use (parentheses) to group a set of instructions to be worked together one time, and [square brackets] to indicate a set of instructions that’s to be repeated.

Row 3: Ch 3, skip first dc, (dc, ch 1, dc) in next ch-1 sp (v-st made), ch 1, v-st in next ch-1 space, dc in top of tch, turn—2 v-sts.

Yes, I did use parentheses in two different ways in this row from the Resa Shawlette. But that doesn’t make it confusing. It’s clear that the first set of parentheses indicates that those three stitches should be made in the same space, and that the second pair of parentheses houses a straight-up parenthetical comment.

Here’s another row from the pattern, which uses both square brackets and parentheses, nested for added flavour:

Row 5: Ch 3, [(v-st, ch 1) in each ch-1 space of inc-w] 2 times, dc in top of tch, turn—4 v-sts.

See how the part inside the square brackets groups instructions that are to be repeated? Very useful, that.

As I said, this list of style-related decisions to make is hardly exhaustive. You also need to think about how you’ll use asterisks in your pattern to indicate repeats, how you’ll use hyphens or m-dashes, and what kind of wording you’ll use over and over again. As long as you keep a running list of the decisions you make, you’ll ace it. I know you will.

Coming up in the next instalment: The Instructions. In other words, the nitty-gritty.

Get Next Steps in Crochet for 50% off!

Not writing your own patterns but ready to up your crochet game? To celebrate this long-in-the-making blog series, here’s half off my class Next Steps in Crochet! See you there!

Get it now!

Supporting Refugees and Combating Bigotry

Last week I stumbled upon a campaign to distribute donated baby carriers amongst asylum-seekers in Greece, organized by a California-based organization called Carry the Future. I’ve had our old baby carrier hanging unused in our closet for three years, and when I looked into the work the group is doing, I did something I don’t ordinarily do and jumped on their bandwagon. Usually, it’s best not to send in-kind donations during a crisis, but rather to donate money to a reputable organization. In this case, these in-kind donations are fulfilling an immediate need, and CTF is delivering the carriers themselves, in person, on the ground to refugees traveling with babies and toddlers as they arrive by boat in southern Greece.

There are well over 3,000 volunteers now organizing local donation drives around the world and helping CTF to do this very valuable work. If you’re in the Vancouver area, here’s how you can donate a used or new carrier and get involved with the local donation drive.

I was on the radio this morning along with the PR director of CTF, and we had a very long conversation with the host, not only about the great work CTF is doing, but also about the challenging responses many Americans and Canadians are having to our countries’ commitments to receive refugees into our communities. Usually radio interviews are about three minutes long; this one lasts nearly twenty. So click here and listen to it as if it’s a podcast, or catch the part I’m proudest of starting at 14:30 minutes in.CTF interview quote


How to Write a Crochet Pattern: Kate Atherley on Setting Expectations

This guest post by technical editor Kate Atherley is part of an in-depth series on how to write an outstanding crochet pattern. In addition to designing her own knitwear patterns and serving as the lead tech editor at, Kate has written an incredibly useful book called Pattern Writing for Knit Designers. She and I have spent considerable time discussing the particular challenges crochet presents when it comes to writing clear, enjoyable patterns. Read Part One: The Front MatterPart Two: The Numbers, and Part Three: The Language.

How to Write a Crochet Pattern: Tech editor Kate Atherley on questioning your assumptions and setting expectations, at

There’s an interesting challenge in writing any sort of instructions: to put oneself in the shoes of the person who will be working through them. It’s pretty common in schools to assign students a technical writing challenge – for example, asking the students to write instructions on how to make a peanut butter sandwich. When I was in university, my first-year computer science professor dedicated an entire lecture to the instructions on the shampoo bottle: “lather, rinse, repeat”.

The purpose of those exercises is to think about who is going to read (and attempt to follow) the instructions, and what they know. Think about how much goes unsaid in “lather, rinse, repeat”: most notably, any instruction to actually put shampoo on your hair. Heck, even to say that shampoo goes on your hair requires background knowledge. “Lather” requires knowledge that shampoo goes on hair, and an understanding of how much to use, and even the most basic knowledge that to create a lather requires water. Right… and you have to be in the shower or bathtub! And then “rinse”. Ok, assuming that you’ve figured out enough to get that done, you’re told to repeat… but crucially, not what to repeat. The rinse? Or the whole thing?

Now, I don’t know anyone who has seriously failed at using shampoo. There are three reasons for this: It’s a simple thing, there aren’t that many variable or steps in the process, and it doesn’t actually require that much accuracy. If you use too much or too little, nothing disastrous will happen. If you repeat only the rinse and not the whole process, you won’t notice a difference in the end result. Also, most of us learned to shampoo our hair as a child, from our parents. It’s an activity that we see modelled on a very regular basis, from early childhood.

These things aren’t necessarily true, however, of crochet. There are multiple stitches and steps and skills required to make even the simplest project. Accuracy is important: if a hat turns out too big or too small, it won’t be able to fulfill its purpose of keeping your head warm. And chances are, even if someone near you does crochet, you won’t get the daily in-depth modelling of the craft starting at a very young age.

When writing up a pattern, consider what you’re expecting the crocheter to know.

The first time I tried to work through a crochet pattern, I made a complete mess of things. I had learned in the U.K., but the pattern I was following had been published in the U.S., so of course the “sc” I used wasn’t the “sc” the designer was expecting me to use. The pattern writer had made a dangerous assumption: that my “sc” would be the same as hers. That is, the pattern writer had expected me to read the terms in a particular way, but didn’t indicate that expectation.

There is an easy solution to this particular issue, one you’ve probably seen in use: a simple statement that the pattern uses U.S. (or U.K.) terminology.

But this sort of thing happens all over the place in patterns: we give instructions and assume that the people using the pattern can follow them. You need to ask yourself over and over if they’re going to know what you mean. For example, assuming the regional issue has been resolved because you put a note in the pattern, you can safely assume that the crocheter knows how to make the basic stitches like sc, hdc, dc, and probably tr. But can you safely assume they know what you mean if you refer to a 5-dc shell? Probably not. For one thing, there isn’t only one way to define how to make a 5-dc shell – don’t assume that the crocheter knows exactly which variation you mean. Also, you may consider a 5-dc shell to be simple enough to include in a pattern aimed at beginners, but don’t assume your crocheter even knows what a shell is. Always define what you mean if there’s even a slight chance your crocheter won’t know before they start in on your pattern.

As another example, finishing instructions often get short shrift when it comes to being explicit. A pattern may only say “seam and block” in the Finishing section. Can you be certain that your crocheter knows how to do those things? If you can’t be, then you need to expand these instructions.

This isn’t about you having to write out every single detail of the instructions and every required technique line-by-line. If your hat needs a pompom, you don’t have to give instructions for how to make one, but you are going to significantly increase the chance of success and happiness with a project if you do one of two things: either identify up front that the pattern requires knowledge of how to make a pom-pom, or provide instructions or a reference to a tutorial (or do both!).

Including a good glossary and list of references can add great value to a pattern, making it significantly more accessible to a broader range of skill-sets (thereby broadening your audience and potential sales, too…).

This isn’t about “dumbing-down” patterns or projects. It’s great to have a pattern that uses lots of interesting and challenging techniques – many crafters are attracted to those sorts of projects. This is about playing fair. Make it clear up front what’s going to be required for the crocheter to be able to successfully work the pattern. Because after all, this is what pattern-writing is all about: making sure that users of your pattern are successful!

Look for more from Kate later on during this series!

How to Write a Crochet Pattern, Part 2: The Numbers

This is the second part in a five-part series on how to write an outstanding crochet pattern. Read Part One: The Front Matter.

There’s as much math as art involved in creating something awesome out of yarn. The key thing to keep in mind when you write up the pattern for your creation is that the follower of that pattern does not know what you know. Take no assumption for granted beyond the crocheter’s knowledge of how to make individual stitches. Your job is tell them what stitches to make, in whatever order and combination produces your design. And you need to give them exact, precise information that will enable them to know they’ve got it right, or to diagnose where they’ve gone wrong. How to Write a Crochet Pattern: The Numbers. How to treat measurements, gauge, etc. Here are some dos and don’ts about treating numbers – and everything to do with them, including but not limited to measurements, stitch counts, gauge and sizing – in your pattern:

  • Do provide the finished dimensions of the project, including measurements for all critical parts of the design.
  • Do provide gauge information. Do not skip this under any circumstances, even if you think the exact dimensions of the finished project aren’t important. You must give your crocheters the information they need to make the best possible project. Always, always list the gauge.
    • You must be specific when telling the crocheter how you’ve determined the gauge required to replicate your design. Unless the entire design is created using one kind of stitch exclusively, you must specify exactly which stitch you used to determine gauge, or which stitch pattern. If you don’t provide this specific information, your crocheter won’t know how to match your gauge, and they’ll give up in frustration, or they’ll forge ahead without knowing if they’ll be successful with their project, or they’ll (rightfully) inundate you with emails asking for clarification. Here are a few examples of properly listed gauge information:

12 sc and 12 rows = 4″ (10 cm).

12 sts and 12 rows = 4″ (10 cm) in sc.

9 sts and 7 rows = 4″ (10 cm) in stitch pattern (see Special Stitches).

  • Don’t be lazy about sizing. If your pattern is for a garment, do not offer it in only one size and tell crocheters that they need to do the work to resize it. Obviously, you don’t need to include every imaginable size, but don’t be lazy about sizing. It’s totally fine to provide a range of sizes and then expect individual crocheters to adjust particulars on their own. It’s not okay to be lazy. Don’t be lazy.
  • Do provide the total stitch count at the end of every row or round that involves a change in that total. If you call for increasing or decreasing, or if you change up the stitch pattern, list the total number of stitches (or some other designation like the total number of shells, pattern repeats, whatever is most straightforward to count) at the end of that instruction. If your pattern calls for a repeat of increase or decrease rows, instead of a total stitch count, indicate the number of stitches added or removed from the total. For example:

Row 5: Ch 3, [(v-st, ch 1) in each ch-1 space of inc-w] 2 times, dc in top of tch, turn – 4 v-sts.

Row 12: Ch 3, inc-w in first v-st, ch 1, (v-st, ch 1) in each v-st to last v-st, inc-w in last v-st, dc in top of tch, turn – 2 sps increased.

  • If you have a repeated set of increases or decreases, list the total number of stitches the crocheter should have when all repeats are completed. Like:

Rep Rows 5 and 6 three times – 10 v-sts total.


Rep Rows 5 and 6 three times – 9 sts remain.

  • Note that in the example above, I followed a numeric digit with a number written out as a word. See the difference:

Rep Rows 5 and 6 3 times.


Rep Rows 5 and 6 three times.

The former example is potentially confusing, because the digits could be read as “63″; the latter is unambiguous.
For the same reason, always write out the word “first” instead of using “1st” – the latter can easily be misread as “one stitch”.
  • If your design involves a stitch pattern, be sure to include – in the Special Stitches section, the Notes section, or when you introduce the stitch pattern within the instructions – the general multiple of stitches the pattern requires. This enables crocheters to easily create a gauge swatch in pattern, if needed, and also to resize the overall pattern as desired while maintaining the stitch pattern.
  • Imperial and metric. The vast majority of people in the English-speaking world, and most of the non-English-speaking world, use the metric system for all measurements. Most print publications based in the U.S. include both Imperial (inches and yards) and metric (millimetres, centimetres and metres) measurements in their patterns. Self-publishers should do the same, even if you’re not U.S. based, so you can meet the needs of as many crocheters as possible. You can use Google’s search bar to convert units if you don’t already have a preferred tool for doing so, just enter something like “12 inches in centimetres” and it will return the metric equivalent; the same goes for converting metric into Imperial units.
  • List measurement equivalents like:

Finished length = 4″ (10 cm).

Enroll in Next Steps in Crochet for 50% off!

Not writing your own patterns but ready to up your crochet game? To celebrate this long-in-the-making blog series, here’s half off my class Next Steps in Crochet! See you there!
Sign me up!

Coming up in Part Three: all about language and terminology. Stay tuned!

Clay Adventure: Making a Mug

Handmade clay mug.

A few months ago, my mother-in-law told me she’d been dreaming of taking a ceramics class. A wheel class for beginners is proving difficult to find here in Vancouver, but I did eventually come across a one-night workshop at a local arts studio on how to make a mug.

If I had to name a single kind of object that’s my favourite, that embodies qualities I find important and beautiful, it would be the humble handmade mug. These are the objects I can’t resist at a craft fair. These are the objects I seek out at open studio events.

Even when money is tight and original art is too expensive to buy, a handmade mug can be affordable. That I’ll use it regularly as part of a daily ritual that brings me joy makes it all the more valuable a purchase. Working from home, I routinely use two mugs a day – one for my morning coffee and one for tea in the afternoon; maybe another for herbal tea at night. I have a relationship with my mugs.

So it was thrilling to make my own at the workshop last week. Clay feels so good. It felt good to throw it down onto the table to get air bubbles out of it. It felt good to roll it and smooth it into this shape, however clumsy I felt about it. It felt good to quietly work on it as my mother-in-law quietly worked on hers next to me.

I realized while enjoying myself so completely that this mug is as much a product of my first Year of Making as anything else I’ve made*. It wasn’t too long ago that a one-night workshop about something I had no experience with would have been a little stressful to me, no matter how much I wanted to be there. But I wasn’t at all stressed about making this mug. I wasn’t concerned about getting it done in time. I wasn’t concerned about screwing it up to the point that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the finished product. At the same time, I was excited about the finished product. Though I was happy to live with the many imperfections I put into this mug, I didn’t go all Mighty Ugly on it. I didn’t throw this first mug under the bus in the interest of calming myself down. I started out calm. My enjoyment of learning and exploring and making was total.

I’ll show you a photo of the fired mug after I pick it up!

I made a mug at a 4Cats workshop. So much fun!

* I haven’t been chronicling my second Year of Making on a daily basis, but I have continued to make something pretty much every day this year. And I’ve been thinking about how my experience this year has been different from my experience in 2014. I’ll write more about it very soon!

PS Are you doing a Year of Making? How’s it going?

PPS Do you want to do a Year of Making? There’s no rule about when to start, so start now! This can help.


How to Write a Crochet Pattern, Part 1: The Front Matter

This is the first part in a series on how to write an outstanding crochet pattern. Read Part 2: The Numbers and Part 3: The Language.

Two unexpected and delightful things happened recently, and they’ve combined to finally get me to write up a series of posts I’ve been meaning to write for years. I mean years.

The first thing was that a student in my Next Steps in Crochet class asked me if I had a good resource she could use to learn how to write up an original crochet pattern. And the second is that I wound up a skein of yarn and it shouted in my face that it needed to become a certain kind of shawl, and I’ve been meeting its demands. Which means that just as I’ve had a request for a resource on how to write a crochet pattern, I’ve come up with a pattern to write up. Score.

So here’s the first post of a five-post series outlining, in broad strokes, how to write a solid, accurate crochet pattern that crocheters will enjoy following.

I will be blunt and uncompromising about this. If I say that a certain piece of information is necessary to include, I don’t mean sometimes, I mean every time, no exceptions. Writing a clear, easy-to-follow crochet pattern – even for a complex, complicated project – relies on a set of skills that’s wholly different from the skills required to design a crocheted piece. We’re talking technical writing, here. So if you’ve got the design part nailed but need a hand conveying clear instructions to others, this series is a great place to start.

I’m going to break up the sections and aspects of a pattern and cover them one by one, because each is very important and deserves its due.

Note: I’m writing this series with beginner designers in mind, but this information is as applicable to a seasoned designer’s patterns. I’m focusing on technical information rather than on style or graphic design, because it’s the technical information that’s harder to come by, and unlike with style and design, there’s actually very little wiggle room when it comes to covering the technical stuff.

One more note: I’m writing this with self-publishers in mind, but publications require the same kind of information in their patterns. If you’re going to self-publish your pattern, please have it tech edited after you write it (if you’re writing for a publication, your editor will have the pattern tech edited for you). This is a required step to ensure that your pattern is as clear and accurate as possible. Even the simplest patterns should be tech edited. Before I release the very simple shawl pattern I’ll be using as an example throughout this series, I’ll have it tech edited.

How to Write a Crochet Pattern, Part One: The info at the beginning of a pattern is superduper important. Here's what to include, and why.

I’m not sure if anyone else calls the beginning bits of a pattern the front matter, but that’s what I call it, probably because that’s what publishing people call the first few pages of a book – the ones containing copyright information, publisher info, title page, table of contents, etc. But unlike the copyright page of a book, which you can totally skip without it affecting your experience of the book in any way, the front matter of a crochet pattern includes information that’s very, very important.

The Intro

The first text you see when you open up a crochet pattern is the description of the project (this is often what designers copy and paste onto sales pages, too). This might seem like inconsequential filler text, but it’s not. The pattern intro is the second place crocheters go for information that will help them decide whether they want to make the pattern or not (the first place, obviously, is the gorgeous photo you’ve taken). So the intro is very, very important.

Write a short paragraph – two to four sentences should do it – about the project. Describe your inspiration or motivation briefly, and be sure to include some information on how it’s constructed.

Go ahead and include flowery (for the love of puppies, not too flowery) marketing copy here, but also include enough plain-language technical information that crocheters can determine if they have the skills and/or curiosity to commit to making it.

Here’s an example:

Named after my paternal grandmother who was, by all accounts, both stylish and of colourful personality, Risa is a triangular shawl designed to showcase high-contrast variegated yarns. The pattern’s two-row repeat makes it very easy to memorize, and the simple stitching is appropriate for beginners ready to experience the wonder of crocheting shawls, and for more experienced crocheters who enjoy a relaxing, rhythmic project.

See what I did there? Not only did I explain why the shawl is named Risa, I also included enough about how the project is made that beginners know they can totally tackle it, and advanced crocheters know there’s something in it for them, too. I also specifically mention that the design is lovely when made in high-contrast variegated yarn, because this kind of yarn can be hard to pair with a great design, since the bold colour changes can drown out details like lace or cables, and colour-pooling drives some crafters nuts. Based on the two sentences of the introduction, crocheters know the shawl is shaped like a triangle, that the pattern is a two-row repeat, and that it’s simple enough for beginners to make. They also know that my grandmother was a character, which isn’t important to the writing of the pattern, but it’s important because it allows crocheters to feel a personal connection with the design.


List all the tools and materials the crocheter will need to complete the project. This section is extremely important, because crocheters must make decisions about the materials they’ll use, and those decisions will directly affect their happiness with their finished item. (We all want our pattern followers to be happy with what they make from our patterns, in case that needs to be said!)


Specify the exact type of yarn – its weight, fiber composition, and quantity – you used to make the sample(s) shown in the photos. You may want to acknowledge that crocheters can easily substitute a different yarn for the one you used. Here are two options for how to list the yarn requirements for the project. Either is good, just choose the one you prefer.

Yarn: SweetGeorgia Yarns Silk Crush (fingering weight; 50% superwash merino, 50% silk; 375 yds per 115 g), 1 skein in Starfish custom colourway. (This colour is not readily available, but any boldly contrasting colourway will look great in this design, and solid colours or low-contrast variegated yarns will look great, too.)


Yarn: 375 yds fingering weight. Shown here in SweetGeorgia Yarns Silk Crush (50% superwash merino, 50% silk; 375 yds per 115 g), in custom colourway Starfish.

Both options tell the crocheter the weight of the yarn required, and how much of it they need.

You must include all of this information: the yarn weight, what the yarn is made of (the composition of the yarn is very important to the overall look, feel and behaviour of the project), and how much the crocheter needs to buy. Unless you have no way of knowing exactly what name the manufacturer calls the colour(s) you used, also be sure to include the colour information so crocheters can buy that exact colour if they want to replicate the design exactly. (In this example, the colour I used for the shawl is not readily available because it was an errant skein the manufacturer had leftover from a colourway she designed for a specific client. That’s not ideal, because crocheters won’t be able to exactly replicate this shawl, but I’m going with it because I want to, so I’m also including information about other colourways people can use.)


Tell the crocheter what size hook they should use. Note that this is always a recommendation, not law, because as we all know there’s quite a lot of variety in people’s tension, so crocheters should also be told to adjust their hook size if needed to obtain the required gauge.

Important note: No matter where you live or how you think of hook sizes in your mind, you must, without exception, include the metric size of listed hook(s). Alphabetic and non-metric number sizes used in the U.S. and elsewhere are not standard from manufacturer to manufacturer or region to region, which means that there can be variation between the actual sizes of hooks bearing the same designation. The metric size of a hook, given in millimetres, is not variable. Ever. So even if you decide to include letter or non-metric number size labels, you must also include the metric size. Otherwise you leave your crocheter to guess. And good instructions never rely on the follower’s guesswork.


List any items the crocheter will need to finish the project, in addition to yarn and hook. If buttons are needed, indicate how many and what size. Same with beads, zippers, etc. If you use stitch markers in the pattern, specify how many. You don’t need to list obvious things like a yarn needle for weaving in ends, or scissors.

Finished Size

List all relevant dimensions of the finished project, as measured after blocking. If the design is flat, as in a scarf, blanket or shawl, list its finished length and width (or wingspan and depth, if you prefer those designations for a shaped shawl). If the design is made in the round, as in a hat or mittens, include the circumference at the most important place, like the brim of a hat or the palm of a mitten. If the design is a garment of any sort, include, at a minimum, the finished bust or chest circumference and the intended ease. (Ease describes the difference between the garment’s finished chest/bust measurement and the wearer’s actual measurement. Ease can be negative for a snug fit, zero for a flush fit, or positive for a loose/relaxed fit.)

If your design is for anything beyond a simple hat, scarf or blanket, consider including a schematic drawing of the finished shape so that you can include as many important measurements as possible. For example, the schematic for a sweater design should indicate not only the chest/bust measurement, but also the length of the sleeves and their circumference, the width of the neck opening, the length from armpit to hem, and, possibly, quite a bit more.

You do not need to create a schematic on your computer if you don’t know how to do that. You can use graph paper and draw it out – just make sure it’s neat, accurate, and very clearly legible.

If your design is written for different sizes, include the finished measurements for every size. For example, if I’m including instructions for a small and large version of the shawl:

Length: 60 (72)” from point to point; depth: 24 (29)”.


Gauge information is crucial to include. Crucial. Even if you don’t think the exact finished size of your design is important, you must include information about gauge.

Determine the project’s gauge by measuring the number of stitches and rows in a 4″ (10 cm) square. For example:

12 stitches and 8 rows = 4″ (10 cm) in dc.

If your design is primarily composed of a stitch pattern, list the gauge in that pattern. Like:

8 v-sts and 7 rows = 4″ (10 cm).


3 shell-st pattern reps and 5 rows = 4″ (10 cm).

Do not list the gauge in a smaller range than 4″ (10 cm) square – it leaves open too much room for variability, and therefore inaccuracy.

Be specific to the half-stitch – if there are actually 12.5 double crochets in 4″, that half a stitch makes a difference, so don’t round.

Gauge is usually measured on blocked fabric. If, however, there’s a good reason to measure the gauge before blocking, specify that the crocheter must measure gauge before blocking, and put in a note about why.

(And yes, as a crocheter, the way to ensure that your project is the same size as the designer’s is to make a gauge swatch before you start, and block it before measuring.)

Special Stitches

If your pattern involves a stitch pattern, define that pattern here. Likewise, if you’re using any uncommon abbreviations, like stitch combinations that go beyond the basic stitches, define those abbreviations here.

For example:

V-st (v-stitch): (Dc, ch 1, dc) in same stitch or space.

Inc-w (increase): (Dc, ch 1, dc, ch 1, dc) in same stitch or space. (Note: I made up this abbreviation because I think it’s the most direct way of easily indicating exactly what I want the crocheter to do. You can totally make things up – but only make them up if you’re solving a problem that hasn’t already been solved in a widely known manner, and only if you very clearly define what your made-up instruction means.)


This final section of the front matter is where you can tell the crocheter important things she needs to know before starting to crochet. Tell her about the way the project is constructed – if, say, the hat is worked from the top-down or the bottom-up – and if there are any potentially unexpected quirks she should know about ahead of time. If there’s lace in the project that needs to be blocked severely in order to look best, say that here.

Stay tuned for the next instalment in the series!


To celebrate this long-in-the-making series on writing crochet patterns, here’s 50% off my class Next Steps in Crochet! See you there!

A Finished Shawl

crocheted shawl

I’ve finished my latest Seraphina’s Shawl. My fourth! Have I mentioned how beautifully Madelinetosh Tosh Merino DK crochets? It crochets just so, so beautifully.

crocheted shawl

I used three colours in this shawl, and I’m not entirely happy with the third colour. I wanted it to be darker so there’d be more contrast between the two border colours, but it’s what the shop had when I was buying yarn and the project was time-sensitive, so there you have it.

Every stitch was fun to make. Every one felt meant to be. Love.

I’ve put all the project details on Ravelry, if you’re on there!

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Seraphina's shawl. Finished crochet project.