Posts tagged craft
Writing a Craft Tutorial: Top Tips
writing a craft tutorial top tips

Things just got meta.  Every time I write a crochet or yarn tutorial (and lets face it, I have written a fair few), it occurs to me how much work it takes to write, photograph and publish a craft  tutorial. Of course, its never the writing that is the hard part, but the photographing, the editing and the promoting that take up a lot of time. 

Why write tutorials:

One of the most common queries I get about writing tutorials is around whether its worth writing one when there are just so many out there.  My answer is always YES! And there are a number of reasons for why its worth doing your own:

  • You will have a unique take on what you are doing and may help someone who has never "cracked" that stitch or technique before.
  • Tutorials you write relate specifically to your work, especially if you are in the business of writing patterns (for free or paid), selling kits or writing for magazines. You can tailor them so they use your stylesheet, your voice and  act as a set up for whatever larger pattern you may be linking to them.
  • Tutorials create traffic for your site. Not only are How Tos great traffic drivers in and of themselves, but if you are going to link to a tutorial in a pattern, it may as well be your own. Don't give your traffic away!
  • They show you know what you are doing! With so many voices in the craft world, showing folks you know your stuff is an important element of standing out!

What makes a good tutorial:

The sky is the limit. Any tip, technique or stitch can be used for content.  I always try to link mine to upcoming or newly released patterns as a way of promoting both the pattern (or book) and helping those who are likely to be starting the pattern at the same time. 

Writing the Tutorial:

  • break your tutorial into steps, but not too many. Use your judgement, but in my experience, people don't like to scroll for days down a post.
  • Think about your audience - do they know the basic abbreviations? Do they know the basic stitches? In very beginner patterns, everything will be spelled out to the letter. In more advanced tutorials, I will assume people know how to: chain, double and treble crochet and know the basic abbreviations. It can be easy to get lost in the minutiae, but its usually better to link to a different tutorial than go into every single technique used in project.
  • Think through the whole of the tutorial before you start.  There is nothing worse than getting half way through and realising you started something wrong or don't have enough materials and have to start at the beginning.
writing a craft tutorial top tips

Photographing the Tutorial:

Basic photography rules apply here and getting to grips with your camera will help your make tutorials that shine.

  • Make sure you are photographing in natural light. 
  • Use a background that will contrast sufficiently with the yarn. I like texture, so rarely use flat painted backgrounds, but that is a personal preference and certainly against the trend of flat white or solid colour backgrounds. Coloured paper, painted wood, fabric and tea trays are all good backgrounds for tutorials.
  • If you have control over your settings, shooting at an aperture of between 5.6-4 tends to be  the sweet spot when using a 50mm lens to photograph your crafts. This means that there is sufficient focus on what you are doing, but you don't have to hike up your ISO to crazy levels. The size of what you are photographing and your lens will play a roll here, but try to make sure the whole of what you are showing is in focus.
  • Speaking of ISO, if you are using the photos only for your blog, you will probably be ok using up to 1000 - 1600 at a push - beyond that grain will likely be visible.
  • If you have one, use a tripod and a timer/remote so that you don't have to be up and down taking the photos.  I use my Canon 6d connected to my iPad - a set up I cant recommend highly enough. Working in this way also means I can edit them in bulk via Lightroom. I simply sit next to what I am photographing with my ipad next to me and work from there.  If you don't have that, a remote will mean you don't have to get up and down to press the shutter.
  • A tripod and remote also is helpful if you are shooting in low light - it means you can slow down the shutter so that you get as much light as possible without camera shake from touching the camera.
  • Thumbtacks, masking tape and blue tac are your friends to keep your bits in place when working on tutorials.
  • Experiment with the materials you are using, the backgrounds and the tools.  Certain colours (hot pink and red for example) are hard to capture and high contrast items can be hard to expose correctly. 

Almost all of my tutorials have been tech edited in some form by Joanne - usually they are modified from technique sections of my patterns, so I have the benefit of always having 2 eyes on what is going live.  However, if you don't have that, ask a friend or someone who knows something about what you are doing to have a quick read through before it goes up on your blog. 

writing a craft tutorial top tips

Making it live and shareable:

  • Make a header image. This should be portrait orientation and with a "call to action" ie, tell people what they are getting when they start reading the post or click through from Pinterest.  If you don't have photoshop, why not try PicMonkey or Canva to create your header images.  
  • Make a landscape image with similar characteristics for sharing on Facebook.
  • Make sure your images have titles that relate to the content - this means that when they are pinned, the subject comes through in the pin description.
  • If you use Squarespace, make sure you add a thumbnail image to the post under "options" so that its pinnable on mobile. 

There is no question that writing tutorials can be a ton of work, but totally worth it! 

On my Desk


1. I love post it notes.  In fact, one of the reasons I left the NHS was that they no longer had a budget for post-it notes*. My world is filled with them, stuck to books, on the computer, on the walls  - my progress chart for the book is a series of post-its that get moved around as patterns move through different stages.  Even Ellis insists that all of his toys are labeled with them and he gives me detailed instructions each morning on what I am to do with his "messages".

2. I have spotify or netflix on constantly whan I am working. I recently upgraded my RAM to 16GB so that I can have everything + photoshop running at the same time.  Its like computing nirvana.

3.  I have this thing about pens.  Seriously obsessive issues that they have to be black, roller ball and thick.  My handwriting is illegible otherwise.

4. I am totally in love with the new Simple Things magazine.  Love.  In the US there is this magazine, "Real Simple" which my mother saves for me by the boxfull, but this is SOOOOO much better. Its the kind of thing you want to savour with wine in the bath...which is exactly what I plan on doing tonight. 

5. Peeking out from underneath the mag is this great stitch dictionary. Its fabulous and really inspirational. Worth every penny!!

6. My phone - work avoidance #1. I have blocked everything on my computer - twitter, facebook, pinterest, ravelry, but not on my phone.  I am just too weak. Plus, I have read 4 books this week as I been sick on my kindle for the phone. My favourite was a newer Alice Hoffman, Seventh Heaven**.

7. I usually use these crochet hooks from America, but I don't have a 4.5mm and needed one, so I ordered an Addi swing.  I am so not in love with it.  It feels really bulky and horrible and my gauge is all over the place with it. I figured out that I hold my hand quite close to the hook and this won't let me.

8. Ruler - for gauge, for drawing diagrams, for scratching the hard to reach place right in the middle of my back.

9. Calculator.

10. I have laminated all of my favourite sizing tables. This one is brilliant for making any kind of children's head-wear. 

11. Yarn. Baron Green Back from Babylonglegs.  It sits on my deak as it refuses to tell me what it wants to be.  I think its because it wants to be knitted and not crocheted, but I am not sure. 

12. I currently operate a 3-moleskin regime.  1 design notebook. 1 for Capturing Childhood. 1 only for to-do lists. It works, until I lose one of the notebooks. 

13. Hooks and buttons.  My 2 favourite things.  They are also everyone else's favoruite things and the first item to go missing if my office door is left open.

14. Theo gave me a moose.  He insits it sits on my desk, I learned a long time ago, its never worth argueing with a 17 month old. 





* not strictly true, but it was a sign of impending doom.

** Mom, you might like it as it had a similar feel to the Third Angel. 


New Pattern: Goldenrod

IMG_9957.jpg The moment I saw the mustart yellow/brown Flump Aran from Babylonglegs that was supposed to be a gift to myself for finishing the book, I knew 2 things:

1. I wasn't going to wait until September to play with it

2. It would be a hat

3. It would end up being a gift for Kerstin, aka Tantie.


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And so here it is, called Goldenrod after the yellowy brown orange flowers that grew in every ditch in Iowa.  The hat's tall posts echo the plant's tall stems.


The crown of the hat is made out of clusters of double crochet (UK trebles) and chain spaces, copying the way goldenrod flowers shoot off of tall stems in long clusters.


Its a semi-slouchy design, perfect as is for pulling up your hair into it on a bad hair day.  There are also instructions for adding in extra length for a more slouchy design.


And, before you adjust your computer screens, it really is this green here.  It is the remarkable upside to the rain. It is like living in a rain forest, but without the heat or I guess its really like living in Scotland.


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Its model is its intended recipient, Kerstin - who did not have to be bribed with chocolate or cake or TV or toys to take these pictures.  She was also much more compliant than my usual models and she didn't scream and cry after I dragged her out for a second time to get one more shot.  These are all excellent qualities in models...*looks accusingly at her 3 live-in models*.



Materials: 5mm/H8 Hook 4mm/ G6 Hook 1 100g skein of Babylonglegs Flump Aran - 182 yds/166 m (pictured in “MooTard”)

Gauge: 15 sts and 12 rows in 4 inches in HDC with the 5mm hook.

Final Measurements: Hat height: 8 inches Diameter: 21 inches

Stitches: HDC = Half Double Crochet (UK Half Treble) DC = Double Crochet (UK Treble) FPTC = Front Post Treble Crochet (UK Raised Double Treble Front) FPDC = Front Post Double Crochet (UK Raised Treble Front) BPDC = Back Post Double Crochet (UK Raised Treble Back) Ch = Chain

Tech edited by Joanne Scrace.

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Making a Rocket (and a Splash)


Recently, I have been doing a TON of product photography.  Almost every day, something arrives in the post for a quick photoshoot.  I love it.  Its like a beautiful combination of getting cool stuff in the post, a nice change from my normal and we get mailing tubes. Mailing tubes are awesome.  They are car ramps and telescopes and (probably much to my neighbours' delight) trumpets.

I currently have 27 mailing tubes.  So, I did what everyone else would do in that situation...made rocket ships*. 

I put them together, as it seemed like a good idea that I be the only one horribly burned by the hot glue gun, but then I let the kids paint them.

Here is how Ellis paints:


Notice the serious look of concentration, the deliberate brush strokes?


Here is how Georgia paints:




She then stripped naked and painted her entire body. It seemed fitting that my wildling be painted like one. Oh and did you know that the paint from Tescos stains EVERYTHING? So, she is green. So I hosed her off.


She is still green. I find it funny (obviously).  Kevin doesn't find it AS funny. Meh. Who cares if she's green.  Apparently you grow a whole new covering of skin every 7 years. And, did I mention we have sun?  So at least my house isn't green.


* I didn't follow any instructions for the rockets. However, if you want to make some, here are my top tips:

- Hot glue is your friend

- Cut slits in the bottom of the tube to slide the fins in for security (I just freehand drew ours)

- Th nose cone is 1/4 of a circle.  to get it the right shape and size, I just measured around the mouth the of the tube, and opened up my compass the same length and drew a half circle (for 2 rockets).  You could use string to measure the circumference and then attach it to a pen to make a compass yourself.  I learned this technique in the 15 minutes I wasn't goofing around in Mr Bunting's Geometry class. 


Bringing the Crazy

Aren't these sweet? I am not really into the whole Cath Kidston floral and polka dots thing, but I saw these in a charity shop and had to have them.  They sung to me and at £4, unmissable. 

They were supposed to be £4.50, but I had all 3 children with me, creating havoc with the shop and as I was paying. Georgia was trying to climb into a tub of scarves, Ellis was playing swords next to the ceramic egg cups and Theo was screaming.  When I couldn't easily find the extra 50p, the shop attendant waved her hand to say forget it.

That happens to us a lot.

I have never been organised. I am great at other things, totally crap at organisation.  I always thought/hoped that motherhood would bring out a ruthless efficiency hidden somewhere within me.  Uh, er, nope.  Not a sausage.

In fact, the level of crazy we bring with us as a family of five is starting to become awe-inspiring.  In the last week, I have forgotten nappies 3 times when we've gone out for a few hours.  How many children do I have? 3. How many are in nappies? 2. How long have I had at least one child in nappies? Almost 5.

My friends are very tolerant.  They sigh and hand over their spare wipes/nappies/drinks/snacks/change, knowing that I am good on my debts...or we just confound them with our craziness and dazzle them with our smiles.


A couple of catchy- up type things:

- I have released the North Sea Herringbone Hat pattern for free.  It is here.  My 3rd pattern for knitting! Woo-hoo!

- I am in the process of a big bloggy overhaul.  Liz from Violet Posy is sorting out some layout issues and I am going back through and recategorising my old blog posts and creating sections for patterns, etc.  Please bear with me. There are likely to be new logos and a new banner as well.

- I have set the date for my first crochet workshop on the 25th of Feb called Crochet and Cupcakes.  Places are booking up quickly, so if you are interested I urge you to book soon.  I will be running more workshops, both beginners courses and on specialist days on hat design, flowers and cabled crochet, so watch out for those.

Like Buddy the Elf

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We are trying to reinact the scene in Elf where Buddy redecorates the department store. We are getting close, helped by a multitude of tutorials on pinterest and blogs all the while being serenaded by Kevin and his new guitar. He can now play Jingle Bells and has had the thing less than 24 hours. Awesome.