Thursday, April 11, 2013

Yo, Designers...Write It Right!

Best Quote I Heard All Day

“When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.”  Stephen King

Way back when, editors always used blue pencils to mark manuscripts. Yes, I did that too. Back when I began editing in 1983, I'd sit at my desk with the pencil. Now I simply use Word's Track Changes.

Busy editing for Yarnwise, that lovely British knitting magazine. In 2011, I started this-- Write it Right. Knitting Tech Writing for Dummies. Part 1. Now that I am back editing directions, it's time to continue this  series because many designers don't have a clue.

Part II: Listen to the Foghorn: How to Write Clear Directions

Before you submit a design, you'd better pull your directions together. Obviously, if you or your knitting assistant are making the piece, you'll need decent directions right off the bat. 

First off, read the magazine's pattern directions. Most magazines will give you their style sheets and possibly a directions template. However, if you're selling your designs online, you have the opportunity to add a lot more info. And make a lot more errors if you're not careful.

Magazines have X amount of space for directions, due to ad placements, so you can't add an entire page of designer notes that contain minor information that the user should know. For example, if you specify the cast-on method, the magazine will have the instructions in their reference section.

However, if you're dumping your design on Ravelry, Patternfish, or via Etsy, you need to give your knitters instructions for methods and techniques. What you can do is see if there's a YouTube video that displays the technique or written method directions on a site so you can shove the link into your directions. Doing an illustration for the method can be tricky if you don't draw.

Many designers do what's called "needle designing" before they set up the directions completely. Yes, do your sizing immediately. Here's what hit me last week. Check out my Aran vest design swatch.

Originally it was gonna be made with Louet Gems Sport Weight but I decided that I wanted to use Aran weight so it was Cascade 220 that I selected. And what was the fuckup? The original design worked fine in sport weight but with the bigger gauge on worsted weight, I had to dump part of the pattern. This came up when I began sizing my directions. 

Why? Because the armhole decreases for smaller sizes would have entered the cabling. NO! With Aran designs, you always place a basic knit/purl pattern on both sides so that when you decrease for the armholes, you won't hit the main stuff. 

Once you've draft-sized your design, get the directions going. Writing clearly means that you've got to trash your brain and pretend that you're a novice knitter. Don't presume that users know what you do. And try to give the directions to a novice knitter too. They'll let you know "WTF are you saying?"

The one big issue I have seen as a knitting technical editor is designers who write their directions in huge single paragraphs, with junky steps. When you view published directions, you can see that the text is separated so that your eyes don't pop out. And remember what "assume" means? Makes an ass outta you and me. Heh.

Temple of Templates

Make yourself a Word template for your designs. And use it from the beginning. Do a SaveAs with your design title so that you can start your directions immediately. Even though I do have a design notebook that I can carry in my bag, when I put in new info, I add it to the design file asap. Here's a look at my directions template. The first page is the title page, with a picture of the design, descriptive text, the sizes, and the Craft Yarn Council Skill and Yarn Weight Symbols. They are downloadable.
Here's the second page that contains my talk to knitters, "From Me to You" and the Materials, Gauge, Finished Measurements, and below are the Abbreviations, which didn't show up in the photo.


That's the second page. Here's where the direction text begins, on the third page.
A Word template makes it easy for you to keep your directions in the same formatting. It's important to do so if you're selling your patterns online. So as soon as you start designing, set up the directions file.

So next week, you'll have Part III: App Hazard--How to use computer applications for knitting directions. I'm planning on developing a workshop for this because it's a visual learning deal.

I'm moving my Steekin' Geek blog here. There's not enough stuff to write about on a regular basis, so I'll make it a little rare and handy column.

Later, skanks.