Pattern or tutorial?

It’s WIP Wednesday! I have totally abandoned my knitting momentarily and have started crocheting some things with cotton. I’ve made up these things on my own and now I’m wondering what to do for FO Friday. I mean, they’re more than likely going to be done by Friday. I can’t decide if Friday will usher in a couple of patterns or a “how to.”

The things I’m crocheting are place mats. I’m tired of buying them and trashing them so I decided to make a bunch of them in 100% cotton. My plan is to binge on this crocheting activity and stockpile them. Place mats eventually bite the dust and we use place mats every day at my house for a variety of reasons, one of them being that a table cloth is not helpful for our quotidian habits. You see, store bought place mats are often made with synthetic materials which means they stain pretty much permanently and live shorter lives. Cotton can be washed and chances of stain removal are far better, which means they will last longer and in turn I’ll get more for my dollar, I mean Euro. Here’s my progress on a green one and a blue one:

There is really nothing special about these. They’re crocheted rectangles. Which brings me to a funny anecdote and the reason why I can’t decide if I want to write up a pattern or a “how to.”

A few weeks ago a friend of mine and I met up for coffee and we were looking at crochet patterns on my friend’s phone and we were laughing at a lot of them saying, “That pattern costs €7? Seriously? I can make that without the pattern!” We said that about a lot of the things we saw, which included some baby clothes, a baby blanket, and some place mats. Consequently, I am absolutely uncertain about whether or not I should write a row-by-row pattern to show people how to crochet some monochrome place mats to lay on a table under a plate. I most certainly wouldn’t charge any money for such a pattern (never mind €7, ridiculous) but I keep thinking about how it isn’t necessary to write a pattern for such a thing. And then, we must remember that I only write a pattern if I think it could help somebody. A pattern for some rectangles isn’t all that helpful. Finally, I remember Elizabeth Zimmerman and how she wrote up knitting patterns and other directions. Her books definitely instilled in me a certain independent confidence about my knitting and, by extension, crochet. (Anecdote: the first yarn craft I learned was actually crochet, I learned to knit about ten years after that).

A “how to” post would probably be more useful. Leave the gauge up to the crocheter and focus on more important points: how to make the rectangle actually be a flat-lying rectangle despite the fact that the main stitch patterns are dense front-post and back-post double crochets which distort shapes, and how to make the rectangle be its shape without having to block the living daylights out of it. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d find a place mat very helpful for everyday use if I had to starch it, dry it flat and pin it carefully like a splayed-out taxidermy project, to only then iron it, just so it could be laid out on a table waiting for food to spill onto it.

Not to mention, I was quite clever and used a pattern to manufacture one of my place mats, which is in fact finished. I made some squares from a book about motifs and crochet patterns and sewed them together in a clever way that I could include in a “how to” but not a strict pattern.

I think I just wrote my way through a self-convincing post about how I’m going to write up a “how to” about how to crochet practical place mats for everyday use instead of writing up a pattern with a set gauge, recommended yarn, row-by-row boredom, and so on. This calls for a “how to,” right? If it doesn’t, please let me know. The more I write this the more I feel the spirit of Zimmerman and her pithy directions for knitting. I’d just be sourcing this spirit for crochet. Did you know that Elizabeth Zimmerman was of the opinion that crochet had no place in knitting? Ironic, considering that she has impacted my attitude about patterns in general, knitting, crochet, or not!

By the way, last week I was browsing through my magazines looking for place mat patterns and I actually found one that called for merino wool. Can you imagine? Merino wool place mats. Yeah, that’s not going to happen at my house, not even if everyone at the table maintains their pinkies extended throughout the entire meal. How about at yours?

I don’t think I should write a formal pattern for these place mats. There’s nothing special about them. Yet again, a pattern would be helpful for new crocheters, right? I think I’m back to where I started. I can’t decide.

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9 thoughts on “Pattern or tutorial?

    • tonymarkp April 12, 2017 / 10:02 pm

      After pressing the post button it occurred to me that I could do both. I’ve done that in the past. If I use my gauge as an example and provide a means of calculating, it’s a compromise, right? Seriously, the main part of this pattern would be like, “rep Row 5 until piece measures X” Not really rocket science.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. MrsCraft April 12, 2017 / 10:46 pm

    A how to might be useful, there’s a lot of common problems that are easily overcome. The baby blanket I’ve just finished doesn’t easily lay flat in the early rounds, but does later on. I asked in a crochet group and everyone said theirs did it too and they just blocked them, but if I hadn’t asked I might have ended up frogging it or giving up. Lots of the time people look for advice online, I say go for it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • tonymarkp April 12, 2017 / 10:49 pm

      Thanks for your input! As a fellow crocheter, I think you hit the nail on the head. Crochet is very difficult for this reason. It feels quite unpredictable in terms of resulting shape, especially when varying the stitches and not using single crochet. Whether you start from the center or work in rows back and forth, shaping is complex.

      Liked by 1 person

      • MrsCraft April 12, 2017 / 10:51 pm

        It is, it almost needs a trouble shooting guide like the one you get at the back of instruction manuals for household appliances!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Anita April 13, 2017 / 3:05 am

    A how to, but I’m biased because I don’t really like to follow a pattern. Maybe both, like you said in a different comment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • tonymarkp April 13, 2017 / 11:39 am

      Thanks for your opinion! I think you’re right the more I think about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. jessicacrafts April 14, 2017 / 6:39 pm

    To be honest I’d personally call a ‘how to’ a pattern. Haha. As long as you give all the information for a beginner to make it. I’ve seen plenty of patterns for scarfs and blankets that have no gauge or specified yarn.

    Liked by 1 person

    • tonymarkp April 14, 2017 / 9:02 pm

      I agree with you! Often, a how to is more work than writing up a strict pattern, which could be just two lines of instructions.

      Liked by 1 person

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