Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Tip for Pattern Writers

No, I am not getting into the pattern writing business, but I AM a pattern user and I've run into this issue with quite a few of the patterns I have used.

Here is the tip:
When writing pattern instructions, try not to write it referring to the specific colors that were used in your own block or quilt. Instead, refer to objects, sizes, shapes or locations.

I will give examples of why that is important.  Recently, Karen of Tu-Na Quilts, Eats and Travels had members of our International Stash Bee make a cute poodle block for her.  Here is the block she chose for us to make . . . sooo cute!

She requested either a black poodle with a white background or a white poodle with a black background.  The instructions on the original tutorial (which is found at The Objects of Design) made a turquoise poodle.   Now, these instructions are great (and her design is WONDERFUL)  if you are making a colored poodle similar to the one below like the designer made.

The instructions telling how much fabric to buy talk about light and dark fabric when referring to the poodle.  This can get confusing if you are planning on making a white poodle or a black poodle.  Or even a pink poodle with black poofs.

I will repeat my tip:    Refer to objects, sizes or locations rather than specific colors or patterns.  For this pattern, it would be more helpful to say "buy X yards for the body (instead of light fabric), buy Y for the ears and poofs (instead of dark fabric), buy Z for the background (that was already generic enough)."  And when you are talking about which pieces to sew together, it's much easier to understand sew 1 1/4" background piece to four corners of a leg poof piece than it is sew the background fabric to the dark fabric (when the leg poofs you are using might be white).

Big shout out to Karen at Tu-Na Quilts for realizing this would be confusing and creating a set of labels for those of us making poodles for her.  Her labels were perfect!  "Eye", "Ear", "Top of Head" ,  and seriously, even if the instructions mentioned the exact same colors of fabric I was sewing with, I would have still have used her labels.

Here is my version of this cute poodle block.  I probably should have pressed it before I took the picture!

If it is too difficult to name the pieces by type of object, size or location, at the very minimum use lettering or numbering to identify parts and label them on a pattern line drawing.

So that is my 2 cents on writing patterns.  Hope that all makes sense!  I know that is only one small part of  pattern writing, but every little thing you can do to make your directions clear and easily translatable to other fabrics is a plus!

Now go out there and design something awesome for those of us who can't design to save our lives! (or maybe can, but have no desire)
How's that for a pep talk?

Now someone give me one please.  I haven't sewn anything for a week and probably won't be able to for at least another week while we're packing up and preparing to move into a 5th wheel.   I would LOVE to know what your favorite inspiring quote is when you're feeling a little out of sorts.

Linking to:


  1. Yes, I know exactly what you mean Janice, partly because I made the pattern too and partly because I have had similar problems with other patterns. The finished result of the poodle is wonderful, a great block, just a little confusing to follow the instructions. One of my favourite sayings is 'Start the day with a smile, and get it over with'. There again I usually remind myself that moods and feelings are transient, I know fine well that in an hour or a day my mood will be completely different and the best advice I can give myself is just ride it out until it passes, and think of something nice.

  2. Your poodle block turned out so cute! And thanks for the tip on pattern writing. I think Karen came up with the perfect solution in this case. The labels sure would help!

  3. yes - a lot of patterns are written very confusing - some to the point that I begin to read them and decide I do not want to make the pattern!!

  4. I agree to a point - Her pattern is free, and was a gift, she makes no money off of it, and was basically answering questions as other quilters wanted to make her block - so in that respect she is sharing what she learned. If it was a paid for pattern, or something she was making any money off of, I would agree with you ;-)

    1. Very good point, Alycia. I hope I did not sound critical of this specific pattern writer. I admire what she did. And the pattern as it stands is still doable. It is a super cute design and I appreciate those who write patterns because I don't like to myself! Just trying to suggest a way that would make it easier to follow using different color ways.

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  6. Such a cute poodle. Thank you for the tip. I always try to make my patterns as easy to follow as possible but feed back is great :)

  7. I have written a few tutorials on my blog - Sew Preeti Quilts. Most of them are simple and easy to follow. But that is my opinion. It is so important to have the end user's perspective. Your input is really valuable. I hope that others can benefit from it. And most importantly, will you test my pattern/tutorial?

  8. I have run across a few patterns that were so confusing with the wording that I just looked at the pictures to figure out what to do.

    Your poodle block came out adorable. Good job!

  9. Coming up with terminology for pattern writers can definitely be a learning curve and a process. Your suggestion is definitely worth keeping in mind, and I'm so glad Karen wrote a pattern that was so helpful. Thanks for linking up with Tips and Tutorials Tuesday.

  10. I am so glad you found my tips and labels to be helpful! Thanks for the acknowledgement. I wanted to make sure that everyone in our Bee group could make this block. I found myself handwriting a set of labels for me to use when the light bulb went on (yes, it was a real light bulb moment) to have each of you in my Bee have access to those labels. They were a life saver for me and for a number of my hive members, too. This same label idea could be applied to other patterns.

    Sally at The Objects of Design designed this free, cute, poodle pattern and it is available on her site under tutorials for all to use. It was not my design. I just gave some ideas and tips on helping to make this complicated, but oh so cute, block a little easier.

    My quote to share with you is one that I used to tell my kids all the time: "There is always more than one way to solve a problem." I have no idea who said it or where I got it from but they heard me say it to them for years to the point where I'd begin and they'd finish the sentence. So, here it is for you as you go through this moving transition, "There is always more than one way to solve a problem."

  11. "The difference between an ordeal and an adventure is ATTITUDE!" Good luck with your move; make it an adventure! :)

  12. I agree. Sometimes it's hard to follow a pattern for this reason. That's a cute poodle.

  13. Good post, Janice and I agree that it was a very confusing patterns. I laughed when I read one of the other comments saying that she works from the photos when the written instructions are confusing because that's what I did. Unfortunately there were other different errors in the photo instructions from the ones Karen identified. There were tears and swearing.
    My favourite saying in times of frustration - you want to do one thing but you have to do other things to get there is 'that which hinders your task is your task'. It saw me through some renovations.

  14. Your block is adorable!

    I agree - referring to colors makes the patterns hard to follow, particularly when the pattern uses a family of solids. Manufacturer names for colors are not always informative.

  15. Good advice, Janice. I live, and sew, in a large motor home during the winter that is not a fifth wheel. I'm very comfortable. It is set up as wide open, so I can have everything I need, and still move around comfortably. My daughter came and stayed at a campground with me for a few days and I didn't need to pick anything up except the ironing board. You won't like my quote....I often tell my self, "It is what it is." And I move on. Not very inspiringšŸ™ƒ.

  16. Lots of great advice here Janice, thanks for the tip on pattern writing and sharing this post on Linky Tuesday.

  17. I think that is great advice. A lot of times what I will do before I start making the pattern is print it out and color code it with crayons or pencils. Scribbling over anywhere that says "Color A" or "Light Fabric" with my blue pencil for example. It helps a lot if the pieces are not a thing. In my own patterns, I like to put what color is what (if they are a thing) in the fabric requirements. So Color A (windows) 1/4 yd. would be listed, then it would be Color A through the pattern.

  18. Great advice, love your poodle!


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