Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What makes a good pattern?

This is my Folded Pockets Purse, a pattern I sell and teach. It looks hard, but turns out to be very easy, has loads of "fudge factors" (hard to make a mistake), and many options.

Each side has two pockets: a large pocket with a secret pocket inside, perfect for keeping things secure & safe.

You may have purchased a similar pattern (folding a square to make a container). Many have come out since I first made this in 1999. That's OK, because it's based on an old Japanese sort of design, and you can hold a copyright for instructions but not really for an idea.

Originally I taught it as a class for two years, and then designed the pattern because there were so many requests for one. It was an interesting process that helped me clarify what makes a good pattern:

1. Complete instructions so the item can be finished. Skipped steps are frustrating and not fair to the person who bought the pattern.

2. Just the facts! It's better to give more information that to add some chatty humor or non-helpful suggestions.

3. Diagrams are the saving grace of many patterns...if they are good ones. People learn in different ways. I know several people who try using patterns by only looking at the diagrams. Though a pattern cannot meet every single need, it is good to consider the various ways people take in information.

4. Information on the cover needs to include a good picture, the size(s) of the item, and a very good supplies list.

I'm glad to say I did OK on most of those points...though I think in the picture it's hard to see that there are flaps covering the outside pockets!
There are two things I am very pleased about: that I was able to write the folding instructions without using the terms "left" and "right"; and that several people have taught this as a class using my pattern.

There are patterns on the market made by people who just toss something together and assume it's OK because that's the way they did it, so everyone should be happy. It's very disappointing to buy a pattern and still have to figure everything out on your own...if you can!
Most patterns are designed for sale by people who have put a lot of work into them, including many trials and working with "beta testers" to make the best product possible. Those are worth every penny you pay.

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