When I put out the call for contributors to Q1’s tutorials week, Shay inadvertently volunteered herself for this tute. I think she was trying to be funny, but that’ll teach her ;o) It took a few e-mails before she realised I was serious too, and that I had already signed her up, because I knew she would rock this topic. So take it away Shay!
I’m putting my hand up here and admitting that I’m pretty much the Queen of Not Understanding Proper Patterns. Once, I managed to sew stuffed rabbits head on inside out and backwards while following a pattern that I’m sure didn’t instruct me to do that. So in times past, I managed to convince myself that I couldn’t possibly do whatever the instructions were telling me to do and went merrily along my way making stuff up as I went along. I avoided zips, and cutting bias binding and sewing curves and pretty much anything else that didn’t involve straight lines of sewing.
But as my creativity has burgeoned, I’ve wanted to do more complex projects and try new techniques and because I don’t have a sewing fairy on tap to show me how to do those things, and because it’s inappropriate to call your sewing mates at 3am for help, I’ve had to suck it up and learn how to do things myself.
Fortunately, for the instructionally challenged, the Internet has opened up a load of possibilities in the form of online tutorials. People are incredibly generous with sharing their knowledge and skills and its possible to teach yourself just about anything you want to learn. Having a good tutorial is just like having someone there guiding you step by step (and tutorials don’t roll their eyes at you when you stuff up for the third time…)
I’ve discovered in my travels that not all tutorials are created equally. So here are some tips for creating the perfect tutorial for all of us visual learners that need all the help we can get.
Give your tutorial a clear title
I have no idea how many sewing and quilting tutorials are out there in the Internet ether ( it must be millions and millions ) and they cover every project you can think of. So how is someone going to find your tutorial by doing an Internet search? “Quilt Tutorial” brings up over 12 million results . “Pickle Dish Quilt Tutorial” brings up about 70,000. So be specific in your title so that people can find your fabulous tutorial. After all, you worked hard to create it!
I find it really helpful to know at the start of a project exactly what I need to whip up my creation du jour to get it to the completed stage. There’s nothing worse than getting halfway through something and discovering you need something you don’t have and having to rip out to Spotlight or your local quilt shop (for me that often means having to change out of my pyjamas…ugh…although its often touch and go about whether I shower first ) So somewhere in your tutorial take pity on those of us who are too lazy to work it out for ourselves and provide a requirements list.
include fabric measurements, pins, tape measure, scissors, thread, interfacing, rotary cutter, lengths of ribbon or ric rac. And if you’re using a whizz bang tool that you picked up somewhere that makes your life easier please share the name of it and where you got it so your readers can run out and get one to make their lives easier too. PS. Chocolate should be on every requirements list – just putting that out there.
Degree of Difficulty and Time Anticipated to Finish
Lets face it – we all have different skill levels, and some of us are more confident than others. Giving your readers some idea of the degree of difficulty of your project and how long it’ll take to complete will help them decide whether they’re feeling brave enough to give it a go. We all have days where we think we’d like to whip up a quick project and knowing you can make a tissue box cover in 30 minutes or that they can put your quilt top pattern together in a mere three hours may just be the push they need to make a start using your tutorial.
Pictures Pictures Pictures
I want to see a picture of the finished product at the start of your post so I know what I’m making. This has the added bonus of allowing me to have a think about how gorgeous MY finished project is going to look. Pictures of finished products are a huge inspiration. Katy has had some great posts lately about staging and taking photographs too and you can find them here, here, here and here.
And while we’re on the subject of pictures, don’t forget to take lots and lots of photos of every step of the process and use them liberally to show me what I need to be doing. This is especially important for tricky steps. And if you really want to impress – give the masses video.
Sure – not everyone is going to need all that detail but those who don’t will just skim over the pictures they don’t need. Assume people need a ton of instruction and show them all the details. I’m firmly in the “give me too much information, rather than not enough” camp because when I’m doing this at midnight the last thing I need is an unexpected roadblock or to be furiously googling to work something out.
Use plain language wherever possible but don’t skimp on your explanations. Imagine a flock of inexperienced sew-ists or crafters is going to drop by and test your tutorial . You want it to be fun and a success. So if you talk in your tutorial about paper piecing you’re going to have to show people how to do it. ( I bought a paper pieced pattern recently that was just the pattern for the actual quilt block – it didn’t have one skerrick of information in it about how to paper piece the blocks – I felt pretty ripped off)
And while we’re on the subject of words- for the love of Mike please put in the seam allowance you want your tutorial users to use . Using ½ inch seams where you thought it was going to use ¼ inch seams can make a HUGE difference over the
course of a project. Let your readers know what seam allowance you used from the start. There is nothing more frustrating than getting halfway through a project only to realise isn’t right!
Thats just my 2 cents worth , and I’m sure I’ve forgotten a ton of other important stuff. So over to you – what is a must in your favourite tutorials?
What a great tutorial for writing tutorials!! Lots of valuable tips! especially the required chocolates.
Excellent, I think that covers pretty much everything I'd want in a tutorial.
Great tips…too bad I didn't see this last week when I put the Angled Frames tut up…I think I'll go do some edits…like better labels!:)
Great tutorial. The apron is so pretty.
Oh yes, the seam allowance, I HATE when they don't say that one!!!!
I'll try not to forget the chocolates next time. I don't often put a list of the tools down, I will also try to do that more. This was very helpful, thank you.
Couldn't agree more, especially about the chocolate 🙂
Great points! I love tutorials that anticipate what the audience might have troubles with and gives helpful hints. It's great to learn from someone else's experiences.
I think a good tutorial not only explains the process thoroughly, but also provides links to other tutorials which beginners might find useful. For instance, I recently read,
"Make half square triangles by your favourite method".
At which point it would be useful to have a link to other tutorials showing the various methods. Most of us have a favourite method, but some may only know one.
Well said! Thank you!!
Great tips!!! I love tutorials and especially like ones with loads of photos as I'm a visual sewer.
Excellent! Every tute should have m&ms on the list of requirements too.
I love this list of helpful tips. I have planned some tutorials myself, and sometimes feel like I want to include too much, but I need to put that thought aside include as much detail and chocolate as possible! Thanks for all of the tips.
Shay is always entertaining and this post doesn't disappoint. Excellent tips!
A tutorial should always be aimed at numpties – mainly as that's exactly what I am!
this is awesome! i think there also needs to be a lot of thought when instructing things like upside down/rightside up, backwards/forwards, top/bottom, right/left, ETC – because every one of us knuckleheads is holding that rabbit a different way at home in our pj's at 2am, & it is VERY EASY to sew its head on backwards if you happen to be holding it the totally opposite way you should be when the tute says 'sew the head on'. just sayin'! (:
oh ya, also be careful and consistent when talking about 'parts' – if you're going to call a part 'main', then don't go calling it 'exterior' or whatever later – better to even call it all things all people might think of it as, every time you refer to it – main/exterior for example.
& i really want some m&m's now.
That was great, informative AND entertaining! I think I'm familiar with most sewing acronyms now but it used to annoy me to see liberally sprinkled HSTs, RSTs , WOF or WOW!
(Half square triangles, right sides together, width of fabric and white on white – just incase the younger me has a bizarre time travel moment and reads this !)
Hello! Great tips! Thank you.
I'd add the finished size of the project at the beginning (near the picture of the finished project!).
And I'd try to include a daily object in the picture so we have an idea of the scale of the project (off to read the posts about staging pictures).