Ah, Facebook. The home of people who want to spy on their old school friends (or enemies) and see who got ugly and had 14 kids, people who can’t help but get themselves involved in petty political arguments (you’re never going to change anyone’s mind – just stop doing it) and confused older people who think the status bar is the same as the Google search bar. What a place!
One little thing that never really occurred to me was how Facebook could be used together with other social media accounts as a potential source of engagement, followers and – hopefully – purchases of my patterns. When I started out using social media to plug my work and share my content I did set up a Facebook page but – to be brutally honest – I never updated it and just gave up on it. It was just there gathering dust and doing nothing, like one of my many half-finished WIPs that’ll never turn into anything. Let’s face it, Facebook never was cool, never will be cool and Instagram is where it’s at for creators, even if it is a hipster TikTok at this point. A bearded Tiktok in a flannel shirt who lectures you about coffee and craft ale.
That was until a friend of mine started mentioning the wonderful (not actually wonderful) world of Facebook craft groups. I’d seen a few of these around before but didn’t really think they were worth joining. I must mention that I joined these groups not only to share my patterns and drive revenue/traffic to my other accounts but also to help beginners get better. Let’s be honest, even though I am mostly a cantankerous old fart I do enjoy helping people out with their knitting and crochet, and as a battle-hardened designer I do have some useful advice to share. I remember the struggles and annoyances of being a new knitter and crocheter so I can empathise. I mean, just look at this blog! It’s packed to the rafters with hints and tips! Why not spread those same helpful hints over on Facebook and plug myself whilst doing it, right?
Wrong. So very wrong.
When a person talks about hateful stuff on the internet they usually mean vile tweets from Twitter trolls, Far-Right websites and groups and the comments feed of The Daily Fail, but craft groups? Really? Yes.
So, what follows is my honest account of my adventures in the world of Facebook craft groups. I can safely say that every group I joined was a chaotic and extremely odd. Spending a month in this horrible world was also extremely damaging mental-health wise and reminded me of just how crap humans can be to each other, especially when you throw social media into the mix.
NOTE: It goes without saying that, apart from one, I won’t be sharing the actual names of any of these groups (if you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know my stance on this) or referring to any of the charming, twitchy people involved. Please also bear in mind that this post is based on my lived experiences and I don’t give a monkey’s if you’ve had good experiences in knit/crochet groups and think that I’m somehow wrong. I couldn’t care less. There will also be some swearing and brutal honesty, so pearl clutchers and people who say sugar instead of the proper swearword might want to sit this one out. Any messages to inbox complaining about how I’m being unfair and should be more understanding and shouldn’t swear so much and how I’m disgusting because I don’t support the monarchy will be deleted and the person blocked. I’ll also use your messages for a future blog post so you’ll be indirectly helping me out… 😘
Group members who encourage pattern theft
I thought I’d start this work of art by sharing probably one of the most heinous things about these groups, the fact that pattern sharing is rife. There are two sides to this, the worst one which is people sharing paid patterns and therefore doing the designer out of money and also the sharing of screenshots instead of links to free patterns which means the designer – who kindly made the design free and as such worked for free – misses out on traffic to their website, loses track of the number of downloads and the like.
I’m not going to bang on about this because anyone with half a brain knows that sharing patterns in this way is theft (no matter how many twitchy, inexplicably angry ladies tell you otherwise) and it’s not only illegal but also morally pants. However, the sad thing is that many of these groups do not remove posts that contain copyrighted materials no matter how many times they are reported, and very often admin don’t publish posts written by designers (such as myself) asking people to refrain from doing so. Evidence of this is below.
Take this little nugget that I commented in response to someone who asked if it was ‘in poor taste’ to share a paid pattern in the group.
This was followed by a heap of comments from very angry women saying that I was ‘talking nonsense’ and that what I was saying was ‘ridiculous’ because ‘what about when you buy a pattern book or get one from the library – is that theft too?’ and to be honest I lost the will to live and stopped replying. My comment was deleted by admin an hour or so later. Which brings me to…
Group Admin who enable pattern theft
It’s one thing when group members do the above, but when group Admin are in on it and don’t see the problem with it it really makes you lose faith in humanity. What I’m sharing below is one of THREE posts (you read that right) I tried to get through Admin of a particularly weird little haven of illiteracy and vileness called “Crochet for Beginners UK” which, to be blunt, would probably do better if it was renamed “How to be a Rude Twat and Learn How to Crochet at the Same Time and Blame everyone Else if you can’t master the Chain Stitch”.
The self-obsessed admin of this group would pop on every few weeks to apologise about how she doesn’t have enough time to accept all new posts (funny how she had time to publish certain, rather useless and repetitive ones (HI THANKS FOR ACCEPTING ME INTO THE GROUP! Ugh.) but not ones that address serious topics like, pattern theft) and also to talk about herself and bang on about how amazing her life is and other stuff that nobody cares about. Quite honestly, thinking about this group still brings me out in hives. Only join that group if you’re a masochist.
Plain bloody stupidity
“Where can I find patterns?”.
“What is a crochet hook?”.
I’ve added two of the most facepalmy things I encountered below for your delectation. Seriously the fact that some people think that posting a question in a group rather than using a search engine to find out simple questions quickly really baffles me, especially the ones about where you can find patterns.
Weirdly Wonderful Finished Objects
This is not toxic at all but deserves a mention. One of the only positive things about the groups I encountered on my travels around the Facebook hellhole was the amount of hilarious finished objects that some people come up with. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not slating anyone’s creativity here or making fun because, after all, one man’s horrible-looking gingerbread man (see below) is another man’s fantastically ugly/cute/amazing gingerbread man and, as they say in Spain, “Para gustos, los colores“.
That said, I did come across some absolutely fantastic and frankly terrifying makes that remind me of my beginnings as a crocheter when I also made some funny little onions that looked awful but I would pay proper money to still have now. I would proudly display them in my craft room! However, that doesn’t mean we can’t have a well-meaning chuckle at some of the stuff people in these groups share. Here are a couple of my favourites…
More Royal-themed tat than you can shake a stick at
I don’t support the monarchy, let’s just throw that out there to start with. I am aware that many people do – especially older people – and that’s fine, but I remain puzzled as to why a person would spend time and money knitting or crocheting something that represents such heinous things. I’ll leave it there as I don’t want this article to turn into some kind of Republican rant. I mean, the guy’s overall wealth of over a billion quid could be spread around the UK a bit and help out the NHS, people struggling because of the cost of living crisis etc but I digress.
The point remains, though, Who in the world needs a Chocolate Orange cosy? Why? Are you afraid of it getting cold? If anything it helps the melting progress. The only foodstuffs that need a protective cosy are fruits. That’s nothing to do with the crown design, it’s just silly. Do people actually spending hours and hours and loads of money making tea cosies with Charlie on top? Or hats for post boxes with the late Queen on them? Or huge blankets in frightful primary colours with royal emblems and crowns and stuff on them? Yes, yes they do, friend. Maybe it’s me, but the mind boggles.
Defensive women on the verge of a nervous breakdown
The majority of these groups are filled to the brim with extremely defensive, angry women (not sexist. There were no men in these groups) who act like they’re being forced to learn how to crochet by some kind of Kalashnikov-wielding terrorist. From posts such as “HELP ME I AM ABOUT TO DIE BECAUSE MY GRANNY SQUARE IS WONKY I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF THIS IT’S NOT WORKING OMG THAT’S IT I HATE YOU ALL” to the frankly baffling “what is crochet pls teach me thanks in advance” ones, it’s an absolute mess of fury, illiteracy, irrational rage and people who should really put down their hooks and needles and try another hobby.
I’m not saying that the process of learning a new craft can be absolutely infuriating on occasion, mind. I’ve been there, we’ve ALL been there, and sometimes you really do want to give up altogether and forget it. We all have the right to and SHOULD complain about things when they get tough – not just in the world of crafts – and having a support group online to vent to when you’re hating the process is a splendid thing. However, there’s a difference between acting like a total baby on social media when you get frustrated over a stitch and asking politely for help. Craft support groups are a thing of beauty, but they don’t seem to be any useful and nice ones on Facebook.
One of the most ridiculous displays of thickness and total rudeness I experienced in the aforementioned UK-based crochet for beginners group was a woman complaining about a crochet pattern. This lady was a complete beginner who bought a pattern aimed at advanced crocheters. Anyone with half a nut knows that total beginners – to minimise stress – shouldn’t be touching anything close to a pattern at that stage. The only sensible thing to do is practice all the basic stitches until you’ve got the hang of them, make 400ft chains, make stacks of simple scarves, watch a heap of Bella Coco or VeryPink YouTube tutorials and repeat ad nauseum until you’ve mastered them and gained the skills needed to finally attempt a pattern. That also includes learning the weird terminology as 99% of patterns use crochet language. If that stuff sounds boring and you want to start making elaborate pieces IMMEDIATELY then you’re setting yourself up for failure. Issa fact, babes.
Imagine you’re a guitarist. You pick up your first guitar and start looking at tabs online. Would you look at scales and simple chords or get stuck into the tabs for Stairway To Heaven or Comfortably Numb expecting to suddenly morph into Jimmy Page or Dave Gilmore?
The woman in question, surprisingly not in her mid-60s and without a photo of her pet dog as her profile picture, let’s call her Chantelle, posted something along the lines of this;
“I just got this (DIFFICULT) pattern and I’m totally lost and losing all hope. I don’t understand any of these abbreviations and I’m about to give up. Why is crochet so COMPLICATED? I am a complete beginner and this pattern is sTrEsSiNg me out!”
Sadly, some people take their anger about not being able to work a single crochet out on others who try and give them sensible advice. Very politely, I expressed sympathy and mentioned that maybe she should try and get a grip on the basics before trying patterns and stick to something ‘more suited to beginners’? Extremely offensive, I know. I mean, you’re in a beginner group and can’t accept the fact you’re a beginner.
What followed (I’m wishing I hadn’t accidentally deleted the screenshots at this point) was a huge tirade of abuse and how ‘appalled’ she was at being told that she should try something appropriate to her level and she’d enjoy the learning process more. How VERY DARE I mention that quite possibly, maybe she wasn’t skilled enough to attempt a higher-level pattern after only a week of crocheting!
Either Chantelle has deep-seated issues with defensiveness or she’s just… I dunno.
What is it that brings so many furious people to decide to learn how to crochet? Hopefully they’ll manage it at some point (after learning how to relax) and the crocheting itself will give them a hand with their blood pressure levels.
Spam, clickbait, crap
Finally, the most common type of group you’ll find are ones that are just full of patterns – normally stolen from other makers – that, when you click on the link, force you to pay a surprise fee, subscribe to a mailing list or simply don’t contain the pattern that was advertised. These stick out like a sore thumb because they are usually written in the same way, usually a made-up sob story about how the person’s family hate the fact that they crochet, in order to get comments from other people saying ”Aw, your work is lovely! Don’t do yourself down” (weird, I know). These groups are easily identified after you join also because anything you post NEVER gets approved and the only people who post anything are the Admin who ONLY post their own shoddy, clickbaity content. Sadly, 99.9% of the members of these groups never pick up on the fact that the posts are just total spammage and that the group is basically bollocks and continue to comment, try and download the pattern in vain and stay in the group like numpties. Take all sorts, I guess.
What’s the verdict, then?
Here’s the crux of the matter. As someone who cares deeply about mental health, in the name of all that is sensible and holy, I’d recommend that you stay away from these places if you value your free time and sanity. The toxic thing about Facebook and – arguably – social media in general is that inevitably you get addicted. You keep refreshing the page to see the most recent post and just how strange people can be, get irritated to death, post a comment which you later regret and dirty delete, and basically end up wasting huge amounts of time doing nothing but rolling your eyes, getting maddened and saying “what the hell am I doing in these groups” under your breath but still coming back to the groups like they’re crack. Normally at 2am when everyone’s asleep and you’ve had a glass too many of Rioja after a crap day and you’re feeling particularly hateful.
So, what to do if you need help, I hear you ask? Facebook groups are not going to help you learn a craft in any meaningful way. Sure, there may be some decent groups that are absolutely lovely that I didn’t come across that could be a nice complement to your learning process, but I didn’t find any, Sheila. I did notice that the knitting groups were actually a bit politer and more interesting than the crochet ones. I wonder why?
The best thing to do if you want to learn is to get hold of some ‘how to’ books, watch YouTube tutorials, join a supportive platform that has less toxicity – like Instagram – and share your progress and work that way. You’ll make friends and have a visual account of your progress, too. You can also communicate and make friends with designers and experts who can give you advice and give you inspiration – I always love hearing from newbies, for example. Send me a message! Let’s be pals!
I’d love to hear your experiences of Facebook craft groups. Have you had a similar situation to me or have I been particularly unlucky? Do you have any ‘nice’ groups that you’d like to share with us? Drop me a comment and don’t forget to to share this article if you enjoyed it. And stay off Facebook, you hear? 😜