Difficulty Dilemma

Lots of informative comments have been left on my post about categorizing patterns and articles, and one topic has come up that I'd love your further feedback on — difficulty ratings.

As you know (if you notice these things), the patterns in the magazine do not include a formal difficulty rating. This is a conscious choice on my part. I have the hope that without a difficulty rating, crocheters won't shy away from patterns because they've labeled themselves as "novice" or "beginner" and the pattern says "intermediate" or "advanced." (I'm not a fan of labeling. I'm a fan of trying and trying again.) A pattern is a pattern is a pattern, and sometimes we learn a whole lot about our abilities when we look back at something we've made and say, "Man, if I only knew how intense that was going to be, I never would have started. Now I know I can do it!" (Insert after school special music here — but I think you catch my drift.)

This is, in part, due to my own style as a crocheter. I'm a dive-in crocheter — most patterns have made sense to me from the day I picked up my hook, and I like to challenge myself to try things I've never done before. I do understand, however, that many crocheters have a steeper learning curve or want to find easy/hard patterns quickly, without having to read through each individually. So here's my request:

  1. Please comment on my reluctance to label patterns by difficulty.
  2. Anticipating that most of you will disagree with my reluctance to label by difficulty, please let me know:
    1. How many rankings you think there should be (3? 4? 5?)
    2. What skills you think should fall into each category


**Update** Case in point: I just found a blogger whose first crochet project is an awesome amigurumi cat (yes, I am obsessed with amigurumi). She taught herself to crochet from a Japanese book, and she doesn't read Japanese. All I'm saying is I think she should be even more proud of herself because lots of crocheters consider working in the round, changing colour, increasing, decreasing, and seaming not to be first-project skills.

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25 thoughts on “Difficulty Dilemma

  1. I’ve noticed a lot of people get scared when a pattern says advanced… but it really doesn’t take much skill to be able to crochet an advanced pattern… assuming the pattern writer hasn’t made a bunch of mistakes, of course. ;)Personally, I’m against labels. I ignore them, and I dislike how they discourage my friends. (Who don’t think to ignore them.)Maybe you could use labels like knitty.com, where they’re called something else… that way, people who specifically want to know the difficulty rating can see it, and those who don’t just won’t look up what the labels mean. ;)Another possibility is to label them by how much *concentration* they take… have levels like “crochet in class,” “crochet in front of TV,” and “turn the TV off”… 😉

  2. i agree with you about not having a difficulty rating because what one person considers challenging, another may not and vice versa. i hate to use a knitting example since this is a crochet site, but it’s the one that pops up in my head. i’m afraid of knitting socks. but i’ve been doing cables since practically day one. well there are plenty of sock knitters out there who thought they won the super bowl when they did their first cable project — something that i think just looks difficult but really isn’t. perhaps what might be helpful to folks would be to list some of the skills required to do a project — color changing, crochet in the round, new stitch, so people know what to expect, rather than give the project a 1, 2, 3 etc rating.and i’ve been looking at the amigurumi — any chance of having such a pattern in crochetme soon? before i invest in a book?

  3. Well, after reading the link to Mr. Pink, you’ve converted me to not even paying attention to the difficulty level at all. If you can teach teach yourself to crochet they way Lydia did, then it doesn’t matter what the difficulty is. I will not look at the difficulty ratings any more! I am going to dive in.So my vote is, keep them off.

  4. *Love* Andrea’s concentration-rating suggestion.I like ratings for the fact that it helps me quickly locate a quick & easy pattern — or a challenging and difficult pattern, depending on what I’m doing.BUT, I dislike them when they discourage people from trying a new challenge. I would advocate a non-traditional rating system with no more than 3 levels of difficulty.A pattern decoder link in each pattern could help newbies bolster confidence! I’ve always found it interesting that crochet/knit patterns are communicated in secret language.

  5. Andrea — Yes! I love it! Your idea for *concentration* levels is the perfect compromise. Whee!Maryse — We (behind the curtain) have been talking about amigurumi for a while; I’m definitely going to try to have quite a bit of it in upcoming issues. (But I still say invest in a book. The photography is awesome, and it’s way cool to see how well instructions are given, so you can follow without having to read anything. I’m pretty stoked that I made my first amigurumi from a book where I couldn’t read a word.)Carolb — You rock!

  6. I was thinking possibly a 4-step rating system (Beginner, Simple, Intermediate, Advanced), with a Difficulty section at the beginning of the pattern. You know, like they do with movie ratings now. “Rated Intermediate for shaping, color changes, and assembly.” Heeheehee.I’ve also noticed that it seems to be the ‘thing’ to come up with your own rating tags on these sites now (like on the AntiCraft? Simple would be MoonPrincess RavenDark. Eeenteresting.) The only one that I could think of for us would be something like ‘Crochet Goddess’ for difficult. Eh. Whatever.The only problem that I have is, what exactly makes a pattern difficult? Beginner would be like, squares, Simple could include shaping or unusual stitches, Intermediate would combine techniques, but difficult is what – working with thread and a steel hook to make a multicolored lace ballgown? Hmm…I’m thinking most patterns here would be simple or intermediate. Maybe we could take a poll and have people rate the patterns already up?

  7. I like Andrea’s suggestion, too. That makes a lot more sense to me — it’s how I think about projects for myself. I know I can DO anything, but some things I can do without focusing or looking at the pattern much, other things I need to focus a lot. When I’ve had a long day and my brain isn’t running at top speed, I pick out a simple project to work on. When my brain is sharp, I pick out something that requires more concentration. 🙂 Perfect!

  8. I’m the type of person who tends to just jump into things if I like a project enough, so lables don’t scare me too much if I really want to make something. I’m nutty enough to see an “advanced” label as a challenge.How about listing the skills you need like changing colors, working in the round, making a post stitch, or increasing and decreasing stitches?Perhaps by listing a skill set as part of the pattern, the crocheter can see what skills she needs to have in order to complete the project and perhaps brush up on some that she doesn’t have.

  9. I *was* one of those that would label myself and not try anything I considered “above” me. Somewhere along the line, I realized I was not giving myself enough credit. I now dislike difficulty ratings. I adore the “concentration level” idea. Ultimately that’s what it boils down to for me, is it something I can do for a quick ten minutes during lunch, or do I need to wait until I get home and everyone is asleep. That’s what I’ve been thinking when I pick projects. “Hard” or “easy” doesn’t factor in.

  10. I think it is easy to avoid the pitfalls of difficulty ratings in this way: use a 5-hook tier (my personal method), and reserve the top hook (advanced) for absolutely the most challenging projects you’ve ever seen.I don’t think amigurumi is difficult, and I would give it only 2 or 3 hooks anyway (isn’t usually all sc? so what that it is in-the-round… if anyone thinks that is an advanced skill I imagine they only make scarves…?).Of course, I say don’t pander to the fraidy cats. If they want to miss out on something because their perception of the difficulty is that it is beyond them… well, that’s one of them separating-the-girls-from-the-women sorts of things. The joy of jumping in can be encouraged, certainly, but some people just don’t jump.

  11. how about user reviews? anyone who has completed, or at least attempted a pattern, could leave a review letting others know what they thought of the pattern, whether it was difficult or easy. maybe just something like how we can leave comments from your blog entries, there could be a comment section on each pattern page….maybe even just a survey.

  12. I think that there’s already a section in the forums for commenting on patterns. Maybe we could set up a new section specifically for rating difficulty or intensity and for comments and ideas about the patterns? I don’t know…I think the existing board covers that, although people don’t seem to use it for that.

  13. I’m in the dive-right-in group. I think difficulty labels are too subjective for them to be accurate. And personally, I love the challenge of figuring new things out. But if some people need a label, I do kind of like the concentration rating.

  14. I’d go for the ratings of no more than 3 or 4. Only b/c I’m like some here who like to just find something quick & simple to work on. I do agree that the ratings can deter crocheters from trying something a bit more challenging, but not necessarily difficult. If nothing else, a rating can imply how much, as another put it, concentration and time is needed. And this can decoded, as yet another commenter said, with movie type rating explanations. I’m currently working on a stole w/ Red Heart’s Light & Lofty. The pattern is rated as Beginner, but I’m having trouble with it b/c I can’t find my stitches. So, case in point, it’s more than just the pattern that should be considered when rating.I’m also working on Lion Brand’s cottage socks pattern, which is marked intermediate. The Wool-Ease is easy enough to work with, but the pattern does take more than a look over to get it to work. I like the idea of reader/crocheter comments on the patterns. Something just like this blog. 🙂 If nothing else, it gives a round-table if you’re having troubles with the pattern and feedback if you’ve tried different yarns, etc. If there is a forum/board, I’ve never seen it … 😕 oops!

  15. I like the idea of rating. I would use it for my creative mood. Sometimes soothing, simple crochet is what I need and sometimes a challenge is what I’m looking for. How about letting the desinger rate the skill level and maybe use a rating like you do on the forum: Superwash and so on.

  16. I love Andrea’s suggestion, too. I think that’s part of why traditional ratings tend not to apply much to my skills–I’ve been totally stumped by a pattern labeled as “beginner” when I was way past the beginner stage, and I did patterns labeled “intermediate” or “advanced” when I was still pretty much a beginner. For me it really is a matter of how much concentration is required, rather than, say, how intricate the individual stitches are.(I have an afghan pattern I really want to try but am seriously intimidated by the “advanced skill and patience required” label. Not so much the advanced part, but the patience! LOL)

  17. Wow! I fell a little behind, so I’m not going to respond to each comment individually. But thank you all!Ok. I’m definitely going to go with concentration levels rather than skill levels, but I’ll also look into an easy way to list what skills are required by each pattern so that they’ll be easy to judge.And consider your (fairly collective) request for comments noted. Our fab new back-end will allow for this, but it may take a bit of time for me to tweak it to my liking. Also, it may require some moderation help as the site grows, so I may need to ask for help down the road. But I agree that it will make the site that much more valuable, as people will be able to share their experiences right there for all to see. I wonder if people could post thumbnails of their finished objects… Must look into it.You kids rock!

  18. I’m coming in late to this but I vote passionately for the concentration rating. I never use difficulty ratings. When I have to include them in a pattern I’m writing, I break it down and let the editor decide. For something I just submitted I wrote: “Beginner level because of the stitch pattern (sc in front loop only), Intermediate because of the shaping, Intermediate/Advanced because of the crazy yarn”Also love the pattern comments idea, esp. thumbnails–that’s one reason I go to lots of blogs, to see everyone’s variations of a pattern or idea. I’d rather see these permutations in one place (even though nothing could replace a blog).

  19. I really like the concentration level suggestion… Looking forward to seeing what you finally do when it’s all… well… Done! 🙂
    CIP (Crochet in Peace)