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Basics of Designing Crochet by Cherie of Sweet Bird Crochet
Home Crochet Designing Tips Basics of Designing Crochet

How does a crochet design come to life? What design basics should I know before getting started on my journey into designing crochet?

If you’re an aspiring crochet designer needing help and guidance to get started on your crochet design journey, you’ve come to the right place! In last week’s post, ‘How to Become a Crochet Designer’, I explained what crochet designing is, what skills you need to become a crochet designer, resources all crochet designers need, and so much more! If you missed the post, you could read it HERE.

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Basics of Crochet Design

Basics of Design

To become a good crochet designer, you need to learn about the basics of design.

The definition of design is still the same, no matter what medium we use to execute it. Designing can be summed up as a plan or drawing produced to show the look and function or workings of a ___insert crochet item___ before it is made. Designing any crochet item usually has a process. It has a starting point, a development process, and a coming-to-life moment. How each designer gets from one point to the other is uniquely different. However, I’d like to share with you some steps in the design process that can be helpful no matter what design stage you’re in! Using these steps will help ensure you’re not “copying” other crochet designs, and the piece will be uniquely yours!

If you want to find out what stage of design you’re in, take the test HERE.

Identify a problem

Identifying a problem is the first step in the process of designing a crochet item. There needs to be a problem that YOU can solve. This market may be oversaturated with crochet designs, but trust me when I say, YOU have a solution to a problem someone is facing! The problem doesn’t have to be disastrous. The problem can be simple. An easy fix. An easy design to create!

Take my CORVIDAE COWL, for example. This crochet cowl design was hatched because I couldn’t find a cowl pattern to fit my specific needs.

Here’s the problem I faced:

  • I live in the south, where winters aren’t typically harsh. [Problem: We don’t really need cowls here in the South, but they are a cute accessory]
  • I’m in menopause and needed a cowl that wouldn’t make me feel overheated. [Problem: Menopause. If you aren’t there…you will be one day! If you’re going to wear anything around your neck, you’ll want it to be made of breathable fabric AND something you can rip off when that hot flash hits you!]
  • I wanted an adjustable cowl that I could wear loosely around my neck or make it tighter when the cold wind blew. [Problem: All the crochet designs I saw were bulky, didn’t sit right around my neck, and didn’t have the choice to snuggle it close without having to hold it]

I searched high and low and couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for. I began thinking about the kind of design that would solve all these problems. The CORVIDAE COWL PATTERN was hatched, and my problem was solved! I used a yarn that was breathable, I added drawstrings so I could either wear it loose or tighten the drawstrings to make it snug around my neck. I also designed it so I could easily take it off without having it rub against my hair which creates a static cling. I HATE static cling! (Great tip if you’re anything like me with static cling hair: Flip your head over and lightly spray some static guard on your hair. This is especially helpful when wearing cowls or scarves).

Find Out the Inspiration Behind the Pattern

Crochet Cowl Pattern with drawstrings and pompoms

If you talk with most crochet designers, their first crochet design likely comes from a problem they faced. In a recent interview with Toni from TL YARN CRAFTS, she shares how her first crochet design happened as she was searching for a fall beanie pattern to sell at a craft show. She searched high and low for an extra slouchy beanie with a lot of texture and couldn’t find one. So, guess what she did? That’s right, she designed it herself! When she shared a picture of the beanie on Instagram, she was surprised that more people were interested in the pattern than the finished product! That’s when the MEGA POM BEANIE was hatched! Want to read the interview? Check it out HERE.

Crochet beanie and scarf pattern from TL Yarn Crafts

Ali from ALI FIBER ARTS shared with me details of his first crochet design and how it was hatched from a family and cultural tradition. He grew up surrounded by the Nazar motif (an eye-shaped amulet), which is believed to ward off evil. This motif was ever-present in his childhood. He shared that his childhood home had a wall hanging with the evil eye (Nazar motif) at the entry of his home. He recalls how his mother would attach a bead of Nazar inside his uniform before sending him off to school.  Such a unique motif wouldn’t easily be found in the crochet world, so Ali set in motion to design a piece that would honor his Greco-Turkish heritage and beliefs. You can read about his other designs HERE.

Crochet tapestry motif design from Ali Fiber Arts

Other times, finding a problem may not be one YOU have specifically. It could be a problem your friends or family experience. It could be a pain point for your Instagram audience. This is where doing a little exploring will come in handy! First, you must begin to understand THEIR perspective on the ‘problem.’ Find out why they care about the problem and what they think about the problem, and listen to their frustrations about the problem. Put yourself into their shoes so you can better understand their pain.

Once you identify the problem, then it’s time to move on to the next step!

Brainstorm Ideas

You’ve identified a problem, now it’s time to let your creative brain fly free and soar! This is where you begin to solve the problem you’ve identified and get all your solutions out of your head and onto paper! Don’t allow any kind of discouragement, overthinking, comparison, or doubt to get in your way! Every idea is a valuable and possible solution to the problem. This isn’t the time or space to sort through all your ideas, you’ll do that later. For now, get every idea out!

Here are a few great ideas for a successful brainstorming session:

  1. Set up a space to have a brainstorming session. This isn’t always ideal, especially if you have little ones. You may need to wait for naptime or bedtime before you can allow yourself to focus. Once you’re able to take the time needed (even if it’s in small increments), create a space that allows you to think best. This will differ from one person to the next. For me personally, I think best when it’s quiet. I mean, real quiet. When every creature in the house is sleeping, I can sit at the computer with a Word document in front of me. No music, no Kalani screams, no snoring husband. Just me and my thoughts. Your brainstorming space doesn’t have to look or be any certain way. There are no rules. The main goal is to chisel out a space (whether it’s a physical space or mental space) to allow yourself to think.
  2. Don’t set any rules. The most successful brainstorming sessions have no rules, no boundaries, and no reservations. Nothing is off-limits. This is a time when you can’t allow yourself to think or talk negatively about the ideas that come to mind. What you may think is a ‘stupid’ idea could very well be an ingenious idea! Allow every idea that comes to mind to have a fair shot at becoming the solution!
  3. Get some brainstorming tools. Your ideas need a place to land. A place where you can step back and see the bigger picture of all the ideas you came up with! You could simply write out your ideas in detail in a Word document, on a piece of paper, on a whiteboard, or on a hundred sticky notes. You could draw out your ideas on computer paper or use an illustration app on your phone or tablet. You could create a memory board or mood board to capture each idea. The possibilities are endless, and again, don’t set any rules as to how you create a visual picture of all your ideas.

A few things to remember about brainstorming your ideas is you don’t have to complete your brainstorming in one session. It may take several sessions to get all those ideas out or to get those creative ideas flowing. When we allow ourselves to have this creative space, it allows for more creativity! Have fun with it! Remember…don’t set any rules!

Development Research

You might be wondering what kind of developmental research you would have to do for a crochet design. Maybe you’re thinking, “Shouldn’t I just start working up the project?” Well, no. Not quite yet. There are several things you should research before you start working up your project. Let’s talk about these in detail:

  • Yarn: The type of crochet design you’re creating will determine the type of yarn you should use. Not all yarn is created equal. Some fiber content is better to use for certain projects than others. You’ll also need to consider the weight of the yarn you want to work with. Let’s take my recent cowl pattern for example. I previously stated the problems I had were (a) I live in the south where we don’t experience severe winters AND (b) I’m in menopause. These two problems led me to use a fiber content that was more breathable and wasn’t bulky. If you’re not familiar with the various yarn fibers and weight, this is a great place to do A LOT of research! As you begin to gain knowledge of the various yarn fibers, it’ll be easier to make the right choice as you design more projects.
  • Hook: Many yarn companies (especially big box stores) recommended a particular hook size for certain yarn weights. However, you don’t have to follow their recommendation. Using a different hook size could result in a completely different look of the fabric created! Remember that the recommended hook size is just a recommendation. The fun thing about designing crochet projects is there are no hard fast rules to follow!
  • Stitches: Remember I said, ‘not all yarn is created equal’? Well, not all stitches are created equal either. When choosing the right stitches or stitch patterns for your design there are two factors to consider. Yarn weight and hook size. There are some stitches that really “pop” when you get the right weight and hook combination. In this step of the research, take the time to play around with different weights and hook sizes. Make several gauge swatches to figure everything out. A fun idea to keep in mind as you create various gauge swatches, is to keep all your unused swatches in a basket. At the end of the year, you can join them all together to start a ‘design blanket’ which can be a reminder of all the projects you designed!
  • Color: There’s nothing worse than designing an awesome crochet piece only to work it up in colors that don’t accentuate its beauty! Some designers have a knack for color theory, while others do not! I am part of the group that ‘do not’! Over the years I have studied color theory. I have read so many articles and books about color. Pairing colors isn’t something that comes natural to me. A great tool to have in your toolbox are these COLOR WHEELS. They have a lot of helpful learning information written right on them! This would be a great place to start in learning about color theory and help you decide on what colors to work with in your next project.
  • Sizing: Sizing is a very important aspect in crochet design. You’ll want to be very mindful of standards and best practices when designing your projects. Over the course of this series, I’ll talk more about sizing as I share in detail how to design particular patterns!

Creating Your Design

Once you’ve brainstormed your ideas and completed your development research, it’s now time to create your design. FINALLY! I know, it sounds simpler than it actually is. This is where you’ll sit down, hook and yarn in hand, and begin bringing that solution to life! Make sure you keep a notepad and pencil near so you can take notes as you work up your design. Write down everything! Every little detail! When you’re designing, there is no such thing as too many notes!

Can I talk about something that many people get mixed up about? Designing crochet is not the same as writing crochet patterns! You can have one without the other…but one can’t exist without the other!

Pattern Writing

Writing a crochet pattern happens after you design your crochet item. Once you’ve brainstormed all your ideas and decided on a design, once you’ve done all your research and decided on the perfect yarn, hook, and stitch pattern, Once you’ve decided on the size of your project and worked out all the math THEN you write up your pattern. At least, that’s what I do. Some designers will write project notes as they work up their design and then write a pattern using their notes, but I find it easier to do the opposite.

I’ll write up my pattern and crochet my design according to the pattern I wrote. Then, as I’m working up my project, if there are any modifications I need to make, I’ll make notes on the pattern.

If you’re new to designing crochet, this may not come easy for you. Sometimes, especially those who are first-time designers, you may need to visually see what you’re crocheting and write the instructions down as you go. This is totally okay. It’s a learning process, and as you design more items, you’ll get better at it!

Crochet Designing

When I said, ‘You can have one without the other,’ I was talking about designing crochet. For many years….way before I started writing crochet patterns, I was designing crochet projects. I would make up my own ‘thing.’ I would create unique blankets, stuffed animals, or bags without a pattern. I definitely didn’t go through any steps to create a design. I just grabbed whatever yarn I fancied at the time and got to hooking! As I became more serious about designing and pattern writing, I began to learn everything I’ll be teaching you!

There are hundreds of people who design crochet projects without using a pattern! You may have done it yourself! Designing crochet projects can definitely happen without a written pattern, but you can’t have a written pattern without a crochet design!

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