"No matter how terrified you may be, own your fear and take that leap anyway because whether you land on your feet or on your butt, the journey is well worth it."
-- Laurie Laliberte
"If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough."
-- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
-- Anais Nin

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Pattern Testing and Comedy Don't Mix

I've recently become hooked on ravelry.com (yeah, I couldn't resist) which is where I stumbled upon an extremely talented designer by the name of Donna Mason-Svara aka SmoothFox. Her blog and Etsy and Ravelry shops are packed with gorgeous patterns, mostly for motif squares. Her patterns are beautiful and versatile....Can you tell I'm a fan? I like to crochet motif squares to use as luxury washcloths for gift baskets, so I'm always on the lookout for squares that look great on their own and don't need to be part of a larger piece. That said, I must have about 200 total patterns saved on my hard drive and at least as many bookmarks, yet I continue to search for new and exciting items to crochet.

I began following Donna's blog shortly after I began writing this one. When I saw she was looking for testers for her newest pattern, I jumped at the chance to be one of them. The picture of her finished piece tugged at my heart. It was one of those projects I didn't just need to do; I needed to do it NOW! Little did I know....

As an experienced crocheter, I'm used to simply working through patterns at a breakneck pace. If there's a mistake in the pattern that I catch, I usually make a note on the pattern page (if I've even bothered to print the pattern) in case I ever make it again, then it's forgotten; I move on. When there's someone counting on you to edit a pattern, you must be more diligent. You're not just throwing together a quick project; you're helping someone fine tune their hard work.

Don't get me wrong, I found my experience testing Donna's two newest patterns to be invaluable as well as rewarding. I decided to offer my services (read that I would have BEGGED to test this pattern) because I had become quite a fan very quickly.

*Donna's patterns may be found on her blog: http://smoothfoxlover.blogspot.com/ and in her Etsy shop http://www.etsy.com/shop/SmoothFox*

I was smart about the first pattern I worked for her; I started in a quiet spot with no distractions because she warned that she had written the pattern "late one night" and she expected it may contain a lot of errors. Before I even began, I received another email with corrections for the first three rows. Okay, weeeeeelllll, we're off!

Because acrylic can be quicker and easier to work with than cotton, I opted to use an inexpensive, plain, white, worsted weight acrylic (Caron One Pound) so I could focus on the pattern rather than dealing with the friction and splitting sometimes associated with cotton yarns. Sure enough, there were several errors to be corrected, one of which was a simple omission that threw off an entire round. All in all, with interruptions and stretch breaks, It took me about four or five hours to complete one 12" square.

I was diligent about taking notes through the process so I wouldn't miss any subtleties that may not have affected me, but might throw off a newbie. I emailed her a few times as I crocheted and then when I finished so she'd have my input and my thoughts would be fresh. While I took my duty seriously, let's be real; it's just yarn. We may not be saving lives, but we may as well get it right.

The next day, I opened all the shades to let some light into the dining room and took a few shots of my finished project. I must say I was pretty darn proud of myself because it looked as good as Donna's original did. It also surprised me that the white photographed so well. I was able to get a nice clear shot in just daylight. Of course, being the Queen of Dumb Mistakes, I sent the email saying "look what I did!" without first attaching the photos..... DUH!

I wasn't really sure what I would do with the finished piece. There were quite a few possibilities that I toyed with including just taking it apart and reusing the yarn. In fact, the first photos I sent to Donna showed a loop still in the end of the square because I hadn't finished off the last row and woven in the end. It wasn't until Donna emailed me asking for a picture with the end hidden that I decided I definitely wanted to keep the square and expand on the project.

*Possible ideas for expanding on this square included:
-making 11 more and turning it into an afghan
-making 4 or 5 more and turning it into a scarf
-making 11 more different squares and making a sampler afghan*

A day later, I set to making the square one more time using the most recently revised version of the pattern that I received that morning from Donna. I really wanted to make this one in cotton because I've been using cotton almost exclusively lately and I saw so much potential for color in this pattern. I wasn't sure how much yarn I'd need for the cotton version and I liked the idea of mixing neutrals, so I pulled out a new ball of Soft Ecru and a new ball of Terra Firma (a variegated brown) by Lily Sugar 'n Cream. I was able to breeze through this one in just about 1 1/2 hours with no problems at all and not much left of those two balls of yarn. I loved the finished product; it turned out better than I expected. I was so excited to send the photo of it to Donna and even more excited to see it posted in her blog. (You'll find more of the finished squares and the free pattern here: http://smoothfoxlover.blogspot.com/2010/07/testers-pictures-of-foxs-amethyst.html)

And then it happened (queue the ominous music): Donna posted a request for testers again, this time for her "Ripple Star Square." Uh, oh. You guessed it... Thankfully, Donna still needed testers when I contacted her. The center star looked more like a snowflake, I thought, so I wanted to accentuate that point by doing the center star in white and surrounding it in rounds of red, white, and hot green.

I set about crocheting in my more standard way: butt on the sofa, laptop on the coffee table with the pattern on screen, and the TV on. This turned out to be a mistake for several reasons. First, my friend and I started watching Comedy Central at about 8:30 p.m. Jeff Dunham was on (I ADORE Jeff Dunham). Turned out they were having some sort of stand-up marathon for the holiday weekend. Second, I read through the pattern and THOUGHT I was following it to the letter, but I kept stopping to laugh, so I didn't make very good time. Third, I was wired on caffeine and determined to finish this block before I went to bed. I finished shortly after 1:00 a.m.

Except for a minor miscount of stitches, I found no mistakes in the pattern. (I did, by the way, reread it after I finished because I knew I'd been somewhat distracted as I worked.) I made one color change as I crocheted. If you look at the photo of my finished square, you'll see that the last round is white. Originally this was to be red, but I got about half way around and decided red/green/red made the square look too much like a man's tube sock, so I started at the next corner with white to see which I preferred. Needless to say, I ended up ripping out the red and finishing in white. In hindsight, the only thing I would change about the color choices is that I would use red where I used green and vice versa. I think the center star/snowflake would pop more if surrounded by red.

*When I finished making the center motif, I laid it out and thought it would make a great pot holder, so that may be my next project.*

I emailed photos of the finished square to Donna this morning who was concerned, after examining those pictures, that she'd made a mistake in the instructions. You see, I misread the instructions and my long double crochets in row 6 aren't long enough. Darn you, Jeff Dunham and Peanut! Darn you Larry the Cable Guy! Oh well, as I said before, we're not saving lives here; it's just yarn.

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