Give Me the Fucking Instructions! The Wide Awake Nightmare of Crafting and Recipe Websites

When I decided to make my Horizon Zero Dawn granny square afghan, I started by buying a book of granny squares patterns because a) I’m a beginner and couldn’t design my own, 2) the book I bought promised 365 different patterns at one price, which definitely seemed like enough options to piece together what I was looking for, and d) I assumed that if I used squares off the internet they would be different sizes and I wasn’t skilled enough yet to start shrinking or embiggening squares to fit each other.

Turns out the book is super poorly edited and probably not proofread at all (????!?) and I ended up having to do a lot of size maintenance anyway, but going with a book still managed to be the better decision in the end for one hard, cruel fact I had yet to learn: a lot of craft websites are shit.

I Don’t Care That Candied Yams Remind You of the Last Good Thanksgiving of Your Childhood Before Your Parents Divorced and Your Mother Married a Hitchhiker She Found Outside of Twentynine Palms and Your Dad Denied Material Possessions and Moved Into a Yurt in some Undisclosed Location in New Mexico, Deborah. I Just Want to Know if I Should Use Pecans or Walnuts.

Not everyone sews or crochets, but I think at this point most of us have tried to find a new recipe only to be hit with the Wall of Emotional Baggage. All you want is a recipe. You don’t want to read the things that honestly need to be said to the blogger’s therapist. You don’t want to read multiple, obviously made-up paragraphs about their obsession with crème fraiche. You definitely don’t want to read a fucking lecture on techniques or, even worse, have them try to sell you a fucking Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer in breathless tones like no one else on the planet has discovered this miracle kitchen tool before. Just get to the part where you tell me how much of what shit I need to put in the bowl before putting everything in the oven for however fucking long and so help me Christ if everything is in grams, I am shutting it all down and ordering a pineapple pizza.

It’d be like if you went to a restaurant, but before you were even allowed to order Papa Leone himself came out and spent half an hour telling you all about how the recipe came from his great-grandfather and the memories he had back on the Amalfi coast and where they get all their produce and how he killed a war buddy in Vietnam over a cigarette lighter and how he uses the pasta maker attachment for this brand of stand mixer he’s sure you’ve never fucking heard of even though its one of the best known kitchen brands in America.

Of course, this isn’t Deborah’s fault. As always, it all comes back to the algorithm because reality is a nightmare. As this article explains, if these recipe bloggers just throw up similar recipes (because, honestly, how many different ways are there to make a Frito pie?) then Google decides they’re being little copy-cats and shunts them down the results list. They need to get some original content on that page, and no one really knows how much they need before the Google overlords decides its enough, so some people play it safe and start using their recipe blog as a personal diary.

Searching for Stitches? The Bloggers Have You Covered. Eventually.

The thing about any craft is that first you learn the basics, and then you take those basics and put them together in interesting ways to actually make something, right? I’m not telling anyone something they didn’t know? Good.

So, when you’re trying to make money off crochet, you can’t really do that off just stitches. You can sell something you made, or even sell the pattern, but if you run a website and you start trying to charge people on how to learn basic stitches they’re going to quietly nope the fuck out of there and go find someone who doesn’t wear their ass as a hat.

But these people have to be making money off their blogs, right? Late Stage Capitalism dictates that we all take our hobbies and turn them into side hustles, squeezing dollars and cents out of literally every aspect of our lives until we are technically working every second we are awake (and, for those YouTubers and Twitch streamers who record themselves sleeping, even when asleep) to Make Something of Ourselves because we’re only worth something when we’re producing and God forbid anyone just enjoy existence for five fucking minutes without making a profit.

So, you’re an intermediate crocheter who has mastered the building block stitches and you’re ready to try something more advanced. Waffle stitch is pretty cool, and you have all this cotton yarn you want to use, so it’s time to make a dish towel! You head on over to The Googles and type in ‘crochet waffle stitch’ and, of course, the first handful of results are YouTube videos. Except you mainly crochet on the couch next to your husband while he plays video games, and you’re also watching the video game and don’t want to split your attention even further, so you skip over those to find a written tutorial. Ah, there’s a promising one!

You click on the link and almost immediately this white woman – these blogs are almost always written by white women either from the Midwest or the UK, often with at least one Y-substitution in their name. Seriously, I have yet to find one by a dude or a woman of color – is immediately asking you to Pin the article to your Pinterest board (which is worthy of its own screaming rant). Don’t have a Pinterest? A) what in the Martha Stewart Autumn Wonder Wreath is wrong with you, and B) that’s okay! You can share this article on Facebook! Or Instagram! How about Twitter? Reddit? Next Door? LinkedIn? Grindr? Stack Overflow? Where ever you would like, here’s a series of buttons for you to press and easily share this great tutorial you’ve just found! Don’t worry, those buttons are going to detach from the top and follow you the entire way down, sometimes covering the exact words you’re trying to read! Yay!

Okay, now that we’re done with the housekeeping, it’s on to the disclosure! Yes, many of these websites have a disclosure at the top that these blogs have affiliate links, and if you go there and buy something they’ll get a cut! Super fun! Keep squeezing all the pennies and dimes out of your hobby as you can, ladies! #bossbabe! 🤑🤑💪💪

Finally, we have gotten through the sharable links and the affiliate disclaimer, so let’s move on to the advertisement for their free printable crochet planner! All you have to do is sign up for their newsletter! SEVENTEEN PAGES OF PLANNING, Y’ALL.

And then, finally, you have reached the content you want: the actual fucking tutorial.

I want to stress here: I am not placing any blame on these ladies for the structure of their web pages. I don’t know what their lives are like. Maybe they live off this money, maybe it’s putting their kids through college, maybe they just enjoy have that little extra scratch. Just because I’m eternally exhausted with the planet we live on doesn’t mean they are. My ire is entirely with the Side Hustle culture that has made all of this possible.

Also important to note: once you do hack your way through the thorny maze of Maximizing Profits, you generally find excellent tutorials, usually written both as typical crochet pattern instructions and in full-sentence instructions that are easier for beginners to follow, complete with pictures. Getting to these stich tutorials is mildly irritating but at least you end up with what you want.

Trying to Read These Pages on Your Smartphone is Like Trying to Decipher the Rosetta Stone With a Bunch of Ads in the Way.

I crochet on the couch and I cook (obviously) in the kitchen, so instead of dragging my desktop down and setting it up on the coffee table or next to the microwave I, like every other sane person, pull up whatever I’m looking at on my phone.

And it’s the fucking worst:

  • Cookies: Hey, we use cookies like every other website since about 1996 is that okay or do you want to turn some off you can do that here but please don’t because we want you to have all the cookies
  • Alerts and Location: Hi, can we know your exact GPS location even though we can’t give you a good reason why we would need that (except for targeted advertisements but sshhhh) and you can’t think of a good reason? Also, would you like to get super annoying alerts through Chrome that you’ll never figure out how to turn off?
  • Won’t You Subscribe to My Newsletter? Don’t you love me? *sniff* I’ll give you a free planning calendar…
  • Social Media Buttons That Follow You Down the Page: I noticed you haven’t clicked the button that will Pin this page or post it to your Facebook, so I’m just going to send these buttons along with you so they’ll be there for you (covering up the text) when you decide you want to help me instead of just USING ME LIKE EVERYONE DOES
  • Ads: Here’s a video ad at the top of the page. Oh, you’re already scrolling down? That’s okay, I’ll put it at the bottom of the screen so it will follow you! Well, not the very bottom. That’s where another ad lives. Oh, you don’t like them? That’s okay, you just have to hit the X button at the corner of each one that’s about the size of a pencil eraser. Careful you don’t miss it, or you’ll open the ad and invite all sorts of potential viruses, tee hee

Want To Find a Pattern? Follow This Trail of Links That May or May Not End in What You Want. Also Fuck You.

Patterns are where things get super fucky. People went to the trouble of designing, troubleshooting, and writing down a pattern, they generally want to get paid for it.

But sometimes you’re not looking to make a stuffed animal or even a complicated blanket. You just want to make a shawl. Simple shawl, nothing fancy, surely there’s a free pattern out there so you can get your feet wet, yeah? Time to ask Google for ‘crochet free shawl pattern.’

The first thing you’re going to notice is the results are not simply free shawl patterns. Oh, no. That would be way too easy. Instead, the first page of results are all lists of free shawl patterns. Ten here, twenty there, fucking seventy-six on this page! Boy howdy, there sure are a lot free shawl patterns out there! I tell ya, you can’t even open your car door without hitting a pile of shawl patterns all aggregated together.

So you open up the webpage with seventy-fucking-six different shawls you can make. You find one you like and you search around in the accompanying text trying to figure out which of the three phrases made into links is the one you want. Apparently, the answer is ‘get fucked’ because none of them bring you to the shawl.

Okay, fine. You go back to the list and pick another. This one is obvious, because there’s only one blue link in the text.

And it’s broken.

Or, not exactly broken, but it’s not bringing you to a shawl pattern, either. It’s bringing you to fun Halloween crafts. Okay? But you wanted a shawl?

You go back to the list and pick another and success! You have found the actual page for the shawl! And the instructions…

Are in a downloadable PDF.

FUCK.

Repeat After Me, Ladies: ‘I Ain’t Downloading Shit’

In 2011, anti-virus vendor Symantec released an Internet Security Threat Report that rated which sort of websites were most likely to be hosting viruses (full disclosure, I found tons of articles from 2012 about this report but could not locate the report itself). The news went buckwild because, among other things, the report stated that people were more likely to get viruses from religious websites than from porn sites.

It had become a joke, back in the Wild West days of the internet, that if you ended up with a virus on your computer you were obviously doing something shady. Only those freaks going to the foot fetish websites would end up with something as dirty as a computer virus, amirite?

Well, no. The truth is, the internet was fucking riddled with viruses. It had more viruses than a Trump rally. It was mostly viruses, with some content thrown in the mix to keep you guessing. And honestly, they weren’t even being subtle. The people creating these viruses knew that at that point, 85% of internet users didn’t know shit about fuck and they could say anything to get you to click and download.

You’ve just won a free laptop/cruise/motorcycle! Just click here to get your prize!!!

YOUR COMPUTER HAS A DEADLY VIRUS. CLICK HERE TO FIX IT.

What if Internet Criminals already have your credit card number? Better click here to check!

Hey kids! How would you like to have a cursor shaped like a hot dog? No? How about this Xena: Warrior Princess screen saver? Not your thing? How about making the scroll bars orange? Or, ooh, I know what you want. How would you like a purple gorilla to hang out at the bottom of your screen all day and DEFINITELY NOT LOG YOUR KEYSTROKES LOL WHAT EVEN IS THAT??

Full disclosure: I definitely downloaded Bonzi Buddy and a shit ton of screen savers at the end of the nineties. How my computer didn’t just implode in on itself like the house at the end of Poltergeist I’ll never know.

Everybody was getting viruses, it was just the porn sites that had the really embarrassing viruses where all the pop-ups for even more naked ladies kept appearing until your screen was covered in boobs which, to this day, is an extreme problem in the workplace.

Eventually, though, people got wise, and unsurprisingly it was a direct correlation: the more time you spent on the internet, the better you got at picking out viruses. The people making these things didn’t give up, oh no, there’s money and embarrassment to be had. They got a little better at hiding them, but they also got a lot better at knowing who to target.

Which is why by 2010 more people were getting viruses off religious websites than porn websites. I have exactly zero evidence to sum this up, but I’m guessing the average internet porn viewer clocks far more online hours than the average Christian going in the chatroom to talk about the best bars to bring to church next Sunday (it’s the seven layer bars, Janet, and you fucking know it). The virus makers aren’t going after the religious types because they’re all Satan-worshipping atheists or whatever, they’re going after religious types because when it comes to the internet, they’re far more likely to still not know shit about fuck.

The same can be said for crafting websites. Most crafts don’t really need a lot of internet support, and traditionally (gag) crafts are done by housewives and grandmothers (retch) who stereotypically can’t turn on a car stereo without it bursting into flames (barf). Sure, there are plenty of tech-savvy people who also do crafts, but the virus-makers aren’t after them. They’re after your Nana who only ever uses the internet for e-mail, Facebook, and finding new knitting patterns. Nana is going to see a cardigan she just has to make for you, seriously, you will look so cute, and it’s free, yay! She just has to download the PDF and then the pattern will be on her computer! SO EASY!

Bam, virus.

Most of the time, it isn’t even the website creator’s fault. These websites are notoriously easy to break into. All a virus maker has to do is sneak in and change what that download button actually puts on your computer. To most people, it’s going to look totally legit. The only thing possibly saving you is the sixth sense about shady links that you develop after being chronically on the internet for years and years. I don’t even know how to describe it. Some websites are the digital equivalent of Gary, Indiana: you take one look, throw the car into reverse, and shoot back onto the freeway.

The takeaway here is STOP DOWNLOADING FREE PDFS OF PATTERNS. Even if the website it’s on is legit, it might have been hacked and you could still be downloading a keylogger or some shit. Find a different pattern that’s simply on the webpage or just bite the bullet and buy a pattern on a reputable site like Etsy or eBay. And if I’m telling you stuff you already know, check in on your friends and family who don’t. The last thing you want to do is show up at Nana’s to pick up the cardigan she made you and find out she’s in the middle of wiring her pension to some dicks in Pasadena so they’ll unlock her family photos.

In Conclusion, This is Why I Buy Books

Look, I already have too much anxiety for all this shit. We’re on the verge of losing our democracy and killing the planet and everyone who can do something about it is like, ‘nah, profits’ and makes everything ten times worse over a weekend, and also I identify some new symptom that’s definitely the things that’s going to kill me first, like, every other week, and it is exhausting. Crochet and cooking are supposed to be the things that calm me down. I do not have the mental space for all this bullshit. Do you hear me, Deborah? Caryn? Aimeigh-Leigh? Ladies? Can we just make this easier on ourselves? No?

Fuck it.

Go to abebooks.com or thriftbooks.com and get everything you need from some Goodwill in Dallas for three dollars and free shipping. Not to sound all forwardsfromyourgrandma, but books don’t try to sell you shit, try to get you to repost their content, and they definitely won’t give your computer a virus. Unless it’s a book about making viruses, and then you make one and accidentally unleash it on your own computer, but I feel like in this scenario that’s on you.


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