I've been thinking, for years now, about how to make crochet patterns easier for me to present visually. I tend to think in pictures, not words, and turning text into something visual is kind of annoying for me. Symbolcraft charts help, but I still find myself hunched over charts, trying to figure out where I am in the chart and having to flip the image around in my head. Plus there is the matter of space. The publications I'm familiar with that use charts will run a chart, but as an entire motif or piece, not as a line-by-line representation. Space is definitely an issue for books and magazines! It's also an issue for PDF patterns - the size of the file, for starters, and then how users will use the pattern - some will read it off the screen, others will want to print it out, and those who are printing often have concerns about how much ink and paper the pattern will use.
A few years back, I started to acknowledge that my strongest designs are the ones that happen because I want to make something for myself or for a gift. Why has it taken me this long to figure that I can also apply that to how I format the patterns I self-publish? Not everyone will like the format, but that's always true; I can't please everyone - and in this case, I might as well please myself. Even though I have good eyesight, I don't like squinting, so the symbolcraft charts will be relatively large, with line-by-line instructions in at least 14-point font. To acommodate those who do not wish to print out the entire pattern, I am trying out ways to fit the entire written pattern on the final page with the completed chart, so that there's an option to print out just one or two pages. This new format that I'm playing with turned the 2-page (including pattern info [description, yarns, hook sizes, etc.], photos and chart) Anne Crochet Lace Scarf pattern into 4 pages for just the charted instructions.
I couldn't have done this back when I first started thinking about it, really. The phenomenon of Ravelry.com, for starters, has made selling PDF patterns to a larger audience even easier. There are many niches available to designers; I can opt to do PDF-only, which means not having to worry about how much it will cost to print and ship a pattern. Vector Designer, a drawing application for Macs, has meant not having to invest a large sum of money and time into acquiring and learning Adobe Illustrator (which may be fantastic, but much too powerful for my needs, as well as harder for me to learn than Vector Designer). I've also switched from MS Office to iWork, and the iWork Pages application has a layout option that is making pattern formatting a lot easier for me. My school schedule has gotten lighter, so that I can choose to spend more time messing around with the program and thinking about how I want things to look, and the ulnar nerve impingement issues in my right arm have eased up enough so that I can work at the computer without pain.
Two upcoming patterns in the new format have gone through pattern testing (again, I've got Ravelry to thank for the ease of finding and communicating with experienced pattern testers) and the responses have been almost entirely in favor of the new format, with a couple of concerns about the
number of pages. Feedback has included the observation that it's much easier for beginners to understand, even if they aren't familiar with how to read a symbolcraft chart - because the chart is being built as the instructions go on, and is oriented to look like what is in the crocheter's hands at that point, the extra translation step of trying to turn text into an image in your head can be skipped over.
What you see is what you get.
Yesterday, I completed the 4-page symbolcraft chart add-on for the Anne Crochet Lace Scarf pattern. Ravelers, if you purchased the pattern through Ravelry, the new PDF files are included in the pattern library and you should be able to download the update through your personal library page for PDFs. If you purchased through my blog or through Etsy, and you'd like to get the additional charts, email me (carroll[dot]mk[at]gmail[dot]com) and I'll send it to you. I do not plan to offer this as a pre-printed pattern at this time.
I hope that this is going to help make crocheting even more pleasurable for some people; it's giving me a lovely sense of satisfaction as a designer.