For a long time I was reluctant to use patterns for anything. It stemmed from looking at a very complicated pattern years before I knew how to crochet. I was convinced that all patterns were a gobbly-gook compilation of letters and numbers, and that I had to count EVERY SINGLE STITCH. I really don't like having to count everything, so I shied away from patterns.
Then my husband decided he was going to make a Santa hat...from a pattern. When HE succeeded, I HAD to at least give the idea another visit. I put it off for a few months, figuring I would come across a pattern I really wanted to or needed to try. Then it happened, it was a pattern for a cat toy. Being a foster home for a local dog and cat rescue, I figured I would give it a go. I meticulously followed that pattern, and I ended up with an incredibly cute and adorable cat toy...that no one played with.
That is the story of my life as a dog/cat mommy; I find a toy that *I* love and think will be a hit, and they just snub it and walk away. First attempt at a pattern was a success for me, but an epic fail for the item. I played around and made a few more for the rescue, figuring SOME cat would like it. As I was making the toys, I decided to see what I could come up with to make the toy more appealing. I have to say that MY version was more widely received, and the cats in my house actually played with it. I was thrilled!
Some might say I had written a new pattern. I did share it with a crochet group, but I guess to make a crocheted cat toy, you have to be in the mood. I don't think I wrote a new pattern. I think I merely took the pattern as a guide, and switched things up and took it in my own direction. My end result was still a cat toy, and it still had many of the features of the original.
I also love to quilt. In looking at patterns for quilts through the years, and more recently at crochet patterns, I am stunned by how many people change a color of fabric or yarn, or the finished size, and claim to have written a new pattern. I have to laugh at the patterns, online especially, that say you may not use any part of this pattern in a new pattern. Does this person REALLY think they have created something so new and so far out there, that no one else would ever think on their own to put a single crochet stitch beside a double crochet stitch!? Some of these people act like they just re-invented the crochet hook!
All that said, I use patterns as a guide. I often combine elements from several patterns, to get just the look I want. I am not writing a NEW pattern, I just am not following THE pattern. I am pretty sure we have all seen a pattern that we just have to make, and then something either doesn't make sense or we dislike a certain part. Why be stuck doing it according to the pattern?! Why not explore your options and your skills, and do something different?
And then there are mistakes. Yes, some patterns have mistakes! *GASP!!!!* Do you stop and go no further, or do you try to fix it on your own. I know many people are actually afraid to fix it on their own. I also that MOST of those people COULD figure out how to fix it, or change it to work better, but they are afraid to venture out on their own. It is only yarn. It isn't going to explode if you change something, and it isn't going to bite your finger off. The pattern writer isn't going to come yell at you for changing a stitch.
Patterns are written by people. Most patterns are written by a person who has decided to try a different yarn or pattern combination, since that makes all the difference... I intend for that to come across VERY sarcastically. You and I are not yarn drones. You and I are hookers. Hookers that likely have at least 1 HUGE pile of yarn. I will often see a pattern that calls for a bulky yarn. Bulky yarns are more expensive than the 4ply worsted weight yarn, so I tend to buy them more selectively and less often. I will try a pattern, at least part of it, in a "regular" yarn before I go buy MORE yarn...
Well, I USUALLY do. I participated in a Mystery Crochet Along a few months back, and I bought the yarn FIRST. That crochet along was for a hat. The pattern was written in such a way, that MOST of us ended up with REALLY BIG hats. I had to rip out my hat and start again. Then I figured out I didn't really want to. That yarn sat around for awhile, and I JUST used it for a set of wrist warmers.
Crochet patterns for the most part, are not like sewing patterns. Crochet patterns can be played with and moved around and mixed and matched to give YOU the look YOU want. Using a dishrag pattern for an afghan is fine, as is using an afghan pattern for a dishrag! Taking bits from a pattern is fine. I just made some Christmas trees with stars on the tops. I used a pattern for the stars, from a napkin ring pattern. I like to think my trees look great, even IF I didn't use the pattern the way it was written!
Improvise! Play around! Explore! Experiment! Look at patterns with the idea that you are looking at the elements within the pattern, and not necessarily with the idea that you have to make the whole piece. You might just be surprised to find how truly creative you are!
Remember, no one is going to knock on your door and yell at you for not doing precisely what the pattern says. The yarn won't bite you. Crochet is all about the finished product, NOT the pattern(s) you used to get there!
Here is the original cat toy pattern: http://www.lionbrand.com/patterns/80063AD.html?noImages=
Here is what my more popular with my cats cat toy looked like: