Saturday, 20 October 2012

The How to Write a Tutorial, Tutorial

For the last 18 months or so, I have written a weekly tutorial and a number of people have said, “Wow, I could never do that, I just wouldn’t know where to start.”  Well that is stuff and nonsense, all a tute is, is a little history of how you made something, so in the immortal words of Julie Andrews and Messr’s Rogers and Hammerstein, “Let’s start at the very beginning...”

Choose your topic, the thing that you can make sublimely, that you enjoy doing... it doesn’t matter that it is not original, let’s be honest very little in the craft world is, after all there are only so many things to make or do, like bunting, peg bags, cook a chicken, put a child on the naughty step.  What matters is that you show how you do it and how great it is to be able to do it your way.

Next the title, I have decided we are going to make pom poms, so I could be very technical and say ”The Pom Pom Tutorial”, it says what it is but to be honest I think it is a little dull (actually it’s deathly boring) so I might go with “Pom Tiddly Pom – Pooh’s Pom Pom Tutorial” hoping that most of my audience had been brought up on a diet of AA Milne.

I love poms poms and they are really easy to make, you don't need any fancy kit but if you follow my instructions, you will get a great result each time... although perhaps not the mega pom pom that Carol Parkinson had in the infants which looked to me to be the size of a fooball (nb this is not an exaggeration).
Start with an intro, or if you are in education, a plenary telling us what to expect together with a picture of the finished item... I want to know that when I read this it is going to enable me to be the bestest pom pom maker in the whole wide world, or maybe just in my house.

You will need the following:
Wool - Don't bother with the good stuff, chemist shop acrylic will do, double knitting is great for this
Cardboard - Breakfast cereal boxes are ideal
Sharp scissors
A mug and a wine glass
Ribbon, I use Jane Means from my stash
After that, I want to know what I will need, I don’t want to be blind-sided by you telling me in the middle of making this that I will need something that is not readily to hand... so you need to tell me what I need from the get go.  If you use a particular brand of wool, let me know, otherwise I could be the muppet who buys a hand dyed silk and cashmere hank costing a fortune to chop into little bits.  Even better if you use a particular stockist, provide a link to them.  Think of this like a recipe, you see the picture of the stuffed boned chicken, then you look at the list of ingredients and gather them together and next you jump straight in and follow the recipe, well a tutorial is essentially the same. 

Everybody has a different style of writing and I am going to let you into a little secret, technical writing is the most difficult to do well and to read, especially if you assess it with the Gunning Fog Index which tests readability... so keep it simple.  Remember you want to keep them reading through till the end, not to be confused and turned off by long technical words and terms.

Let’s get going, you have told your reader what they will need, now let’s get to the method.  It’s easiest if you write this as you go along and take pics... I am useless at snapping but here are the basics, take pics in natural light, keep the background clear so we can see the magnum opus in construction, try not to use a flash and if you can rest your camera on something so you do not get the blurry wobbles so much the better.  Also pics break up a post, allowing the readers eye to rest and for them to get their breath back.

You will need to cut two circles out of your cereal boxes using the mug, then using the wine glass pop it in the centre and cut out the smaller circle.  Place the circles together.

If something goes wrong, tell your reader and show them, if there is a point where it looks awful but it will come right, let them know.  If you have ever boned a chicken, you will understand... there comes a point when you have a very sharp knife in your hands, your hands will be slippery from being stuffed into the chicken’s carcass, one leg will be detached and then you will stand there wondering why the heck you didn’t just roast it?  You need to tell the reader that this will pass a few moments later, you will have released the breastbone and be ready to put in the stuffing and sew up the bird and everyone will think you are just sooooo clever!
Take your wool  and start to wind it around the doughnut shape you have created, you will need to create small balls so it fits through the hole in the middle... you may find that the end will not stay put so tie a knot in it... when you have wound round once snip the knot out.  Continue winding until you fill the hole in the middle.  You could use one colour or to make it more fun, use lots of different colours, it is a great way to use up those scrappy ends that are not long enough to use for anything useful!  Don't worry if you cannot fill it all the way to centre but just be aware it will not look as dense and as fluffy as mine.
I am serious about writing as you go along, as it is really easy to miss out a step or a stage because you know what you are doing, remember back in school when they asked you to write up making a cup of tea... our English teacher took our class to the kitchen and used several of the essays to literally follow instructions... it was carnage, empty teapots, cold tea... and no tea at all.  I have a real bee in my bonnet about getting projects tested so, get another pair of eyes to look over it to see what you have missed.
Now comes the exciting bit, position the blades of your scissors between the two circles of cardboard and start snipping, take it slow and steady, the wool will not fall out but will remain trapped in the centre.  
Cut a length of wool 18" long, slip it between the two layers of cardboard and wind it around the your cut wool, slip a 12" length of ribbon under the wool which you are using to capture all your cut ends now draw it really tight, tying it with a secure knot.  Slip the cardboard off  and fluff up your ball... doesn't that look great?  You can hang it up using the ribbon... or if you are a small child it makes a marvellous weapon to hit your siblings without bruising them.
Use you final paragraph to suggest ways in which to use the item, cheaper alternatives and if it takes a long time tell them this too.

Making a pompom is a great mindless task to do in front of the TV on a cold evening and should take you about an hour.  Get the kids to join in and you will have a set of new decs for your Christmas tree or make smaller ones to attach to the ends of laces on sweaters etc.

Paste in your pics onto the blog, tie them up with the relevant description – don’t be tempted to state the obvious under the pic – use them to move the story along.  Next spell check and then look at it in preview... you will see where extra lines have crept in, tidy it up ready for your public.  Once you have written it, don’t leave it there, share it around, tweet it, facebook it, tag it and send it out to other people... you have worked far too hard to let it be a Billy No Mates Make!

In short the principles are as follows:
  • Title
  • Opening
  • Ingredients
  • Method
  • Options
  • Check and Share
And that dear reader, is how I tackle a tutorial... if you have other ways of doing it, please share.  And here is the ultimate musical tutorial, easy to follow, easy to understand, easily remembered and it comes out well each time.
And in case anyone is interested... no, I have not taken down my curtains to make play clothes for my friends!

So next it's off to Handmade Monday to see what other great crafty goodies have been made this week.


Kate said...

You make it look so simple. However, if I were ever able to offer a tutorial I would surely follow your instructions - thank you.

Lyn said...

You're a clever blogger - a tutorial within a tutorial!

Your sewing tutorials are good because you really know your stuff and you are able to write in a very entertaining way.

Wendy said...

A simply superb tutorial tutorial. Love the humour - and the fact that thinking about making pompoms take me back to being about eight again (a long time ago!).

karen said...

You know I haven't thought about making pompoms for a very long time! You've given me an idea now - glitzy wool pompoms for the christmas tree.

Carolee Crafts said...

Well done on all you tutorials, amazing what us humans can do when we put our minds to it. You make it sound easy but am sure quite a bit of skill needed to make it clear what you should be doing.

CatkinJane said...

Wonderful :)
and so right about writing it as you go along or you forget steps (strangely I learnt that whilst annotating computer programmes!)
Pom poms keep coming into view and I'm sooo close to getting my cardboard, scissors and wool out!

Free Spirit Designs said...

this is right up my street as i loooooooove pom-poms (i am a grown up, honest :))

teaching others is never as easy as it seems - well done on a fab tutorial! x

AliceAndFlorence said...

What an inspiring blog! Factual but interesting and fun too. I liked the hints as too improving how to write about things, eg post titles, and photo captions. I know I have to work on those!
Thank you for the help, I feel the urge to make a pompom coming on!
Wendy X

Little Harriet said...

I must admit your tutorials inspired me to have a go at writing some. Love this tutorial on tutorialing (I don't think that is a word!)

Anonymous said...

Really great post - enjoyable to read and very useful. Thanks.

Jam Dalory said...

You do make everything look so easy! I remember being taught these pom poms when I was little, I used to make them in yellow and turn them into little ducklings! x

Anonymous said...

Brilliant, a fab tutorial with a tutorial in it! Genius!

Highland Monkey's said...

Great tutorial. You seem to have a knack of making the instructions so eary to follow. Thanks for taking the time to do it.

Bev Newman said...

This is a really clearly written how to - I learned the hard way about sitting and writing as I do a project and getting tutorials, patterns and instruction sheets proof read, Thanks for sharing :-)

threads 'n' shreds said...

A great tutorial, tutorial!

Handbags by Helen said...

Fab idea for a tutorial. One day i will get around to writing one myself!


Well done Ros, it is a great tutorial, tutorial. It's very hard to write material that enables people to visualise easily what they are making. Clear, easy to follow instructions are important. I have had over 20 years of writing teaching materials and I know it is hard getting everything in without overwhelming the reader. Hope you have a good week.

Picto said...

I always enjoy reading your blog Ros, it puts a smile on my face, now I'm off to de-bone a chicken :)

Jan x

Planet Penny said...

That's a really useful tutorial. I don't think anyone realises just how time consuming it is until you start writing them yourself! The other thing I do at the end is to make the item up using the tutorial because I've slipped up in the past and missed out a vital image because I'm tired and not seeing things straight!

Fiddly Fingers said...

What perfect timing! I am just beginning to write my very, very, first tutorial ever!! Your fantastic instructions should make it sound simple .... although it is proving a little more challenging than I thought. I'm hoping to have it finished for Handmade Monday next week, keep your fingers crossed for me!

Ginx Craft said...

Very useful. I think you are so right about picking a title. I quite often try to get a joke or a song in there somewhere.

Ali said...

Great tutorial tutorial. I always like yours as your great sense of humour comes over.
Ali x

Stephen @ Soy of the North said...

A tutorial about tutorials, what a novel idea. Next you'll have to write a tutorial on writing a tutorial for a tutorial.

buttons and beeswax said...

Thanks for this! It's something I've been thinking about for sometime but just haven't got around to. I think tutorials are a great way to generate traffic, and obviously we would all like a bit more of that! :) Also I've found a nice new blog to follow now!

The mum of all trades said...

Great tips. It definitely does take a bit of practice to get the hang of writing tutorials. Its too easy to leave something out.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this :)

Asia King (aka Joanna K) said...

What a great read and a fab idea for a tutorial - TFS! Following your blog now :) x

Kathy Shea Mormino said...

Hello, new follower here and I’d like to invite you to join me at my weekly Clever Chicks Blog Hop:

I hope you can make it!


Kathy Shea Mormino

The Chicken Chick