Monday, January 5, 2009

Writing Craft Instructions

I've been doing crafts since I was a small child. I remember sitting beside my mother watching her and trying to do the various crafts that she did, like sewing or the tiny intricate dough flowers she used to make with white bread, glue and food color. I still have one or two of these. She later taught me and my sister to make baskets which took me into the large realm of professional crafting. We joined the North Carolina Basketmakers' Association and for years attended their annual conventions. We also each taught classes there, in Tennessee, and South Carolina. One thing that I learned from this was the importance of writing down instructions correctly. This is crucial for your students and for yourself. There's nothing more frustrating, and embarrassing than to begin teaching a craft class and realize there's a mistake in your instructions. Oops! You really did mean to look over them before you ran them off, didn't you? Here are some tips to keep in mind when creating your next project, just in case you may wish to offer the directions to someone else or to use them in a class at some point.
1. Write down everything you do. It may not seem important at the time, but the details make the difference.
2. TAKE PICTURES. Now's the time to record the steps with good pictures. If you miss a step, that means more materials to buy to repeat the whole process to capture the step you missed.
3. Write down all of the materials you use. If you're a painter, write down type, color names and code numbers if any, paint brands, types of brushes and their sizes, surface used and the source of the surface.
4. If you can do this, it's helpful: Don't put away your materials until you're finished with the project if you haven't done #1 and #2. Yes, it's good to be neat and tidy, but once those paint bottles are back on the rack with a hundred others and your paint darkens a little from drying, can you match it again?
5. Write down instructions in order. This will make it easier to type it later on your computer.
6. This might need to be #1, but since I'm not following my own advice, here it is: Keep a notebook and Pencil with eraser on hand. Sure, you can use a pen, but you may want to change your mind and your directions half-way through.
7. Have a safe, find-able place to keep your directions.
8. Have someone who crafts read your directions to see if they make sense.
9. Have someone who doesn't craft read your directions to see if they make sense.
10. Have someone who crafts make your project using your directions.
11. Repeat for someone who doesn't usually craft. Maybe, you can get them hooked. Also, if you're designing crafts in order to publish, chances are that someone who might read your book has never tried origami or polymer clay or whatever you've created.
12. Make your project again yourself using your directions.
13. Once you've gone through these steps and your project is coming out spectacularly for everyone, type the final revision on your computer.
14. Make back-up files and CD copies. CD's aren't absolutely necessary, you think, but remember the last time your or a friend's computer decided to die for no reason? Also, if you sell your patterns on a website, here's your original copy.

Crafting has been done for eons now. But it's important for those of us in the business to share our work with others to keep it going. Take time when your next great idea comes along and start recording what you do. Someone else will be glad you did.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for mentioning "A Writing Playground" on your blog. I'm posting goal type posts all month.

I'm so glad Google Alerts let me know. I'm always looking for crafts to do and have been writing "how to" PDF download crafts on my website. All of the points you make are so true.

It's really frustrating to have to muddle through directions & have to figure out what the writer did because they haven't clearly described it.

So all points are seeping into my little brain.

Happy New Year,
J. Aday Kennedy
The Differently-Abled Writer

Craft Write said...

Thanks J. Aday,
I've been on both ends of the bad directions, so I understand your frustration and the embarrassment of not doing my homework first.