Saturday, April 5, 2014

What's Involved in Designing Crochet Patterns?

Documentation shows that crochet dates back to 16th century France and most likely developed as an offspring of the ancient Chinese needlecraft known as tambouring. Although evidence of crochet goes back to medieval times, I envision Neanderthal women gathered around the fire each evening after the little ones were all tucked snugly into their cave beds. I can hear the fire crackling and see the stress melt from their faces as they share their creations made from carved bone hooks and homespun yarn, while chat about the happenings of the day. Maybe that's just my writer's imagination getting away with me, but I've got to believe that crochet has been around longer than 500 years.

Because it's been around for a while and many stitches and patterns have already been created, I don't know how likely it is that we're creating crochet stitches and patterns that no one has ever thought of before. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't go on creating. We may only develop different variations or add our own twist to things. We might excitedly believe that we've invented something completely new...only to discover that someone else has posted the same thing on Pinterest. Yet for those of us who have creativity coursing through our veins, designing, developing and creating are as important to us as are breathing, eating and sleeping.

According to actor John Cleese, "Creativity is not a talent; it's a way of operating". I wholeheartedly agree. Each one of our lives is infused with creativity, even if those creative moments, ideas and outlets look nothing like anyone else's. There's creativity in the making of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as much as there's creativity in the making of a new crochet blanket design. Most of you probably know the process involved in making a sandwich, so I thought I'd give you a glimpse into the creative process of designing crochet patterns before offering you some suggestions of how you can begin creating your own crochet designs and patterns.

Everything in existence started with an idea. Inspired thought and need are the springboards from which many of my creations are born, like the Scrapbuster Crochet Cat Toys I made for my furry friends so they would be entertained (and so I could use up some leftover yarn). Despite how it begins or ends, my crochet design process tends to go something like this:
  1. An idea is born based on a need I want to fulfill or from inspiration. Inspiration comes from fashion photos, nature, from yarn play and from other crocheters.
  2. Being the writer/researcher that I am, I immediately search the internet to see what others have made. Sometimes I find dozens of similar designs and that may lead me to alter my ideas. Most of the time, I like my ideas for specific reasons and go with my gut throughout the design process.
  3. My supplies are gathered, and I begin to write out the pattern as I envision it. Along the way, I'll alter the written instructions to correspond with any changes I make.
  4. I crochet, crochet, crochet...sometimes unraveling two, three or four times during the process. This is not the most fun part of the process, but it's necessary to end up with a beautiful, functional finished product. Keywords: beautiful and functional. One without the other will generally lead to a yarny object that sits unused in the closet or hidden on a shelf. I think crochet items should be used and enjoyed repeatedly.
  5. Throughout the process I photograph and take notes, documenting the entire design process and pattern creation.
  6. Finally, the most joyous step of all...the Big Reveal. I love showing, sharing and using the crochet items I design. One of the things I love most about the crochet community is how supportive and enthusiastic everyone is about each others work.
Some of My Crochet Designs
So, You'd Like to Try Your Hand at Designing a Crochet Pattern 

First of all, congratulations! Secondly, breathe in, breathe out. It's a lot of fun and, dare I say that once you design one crochet item, you're bound to do it again and again. Here are my recommendations to you:
  1. Start with a crochet item you're already very familiar with. If you've made a lot of hats or love to make scarves, it makes sense to have your very first pattern design be one of these. You're familiar with the crochet process, your stitch options, yarn choices and possible embellishments. Go with what you know.
  2. Determine who you're designing for. If you want to make something for a specific person, size may come into play and will impact your design. 
  3. Choose your crochet supplies. To be honest, there have been times when I've created designs based on yarn I've found. But, most often, I have an idea first and then find the yarn for it.  This is where you'll decide if you want to use a cotton yarn, like Deramores DMC Natura Just Cotton yarn which comes in 50 different scrumptious colors, or something a favorite acrylic. You'll choose the hook size you feel is best and gather any other supplies needed.
  4. Sketch, doodle or write your ideas. They are likely to evolve before and during the design process, but keep documenting your ideas, thoughts and steps in the manner that suits you best. If you save this for after your crochet item is completed, you run the risk of forgetting bits and pieces or of feeling overwhelmed by the process of backtracking. It's so much easier to document along the way. 
  5. Begin to crochet. Using your ideas or pictures and the prior knowledge you've accumulated while crocheting other items, begin crocheting your design. If it doesn't look as you envisioned or isn't working, unravel back to the last point you were happy with and try again with an altered version of your plan.  Trial and error is the best way to learn when designing.
  6. Be patient with yourself, focusing on your accomplishments instead of your mistakes. This is a biggy because, if you allow your mistakes to get you down, you're not likely to ever design another crochet item again. When I designed a poncho recently I miscalculated the measurements and ended up having to unravel the entire project...all 5000 double-crochet and V-stitches.  I could have been devastated, but instead I chose to focus on how beautiful I knew my poncho would be once I made it correctly. (And it was worth it; I wear it all the time and get lots of compliments.)
  7. Celebrate with a "ta-dah" moment or "big reveal".  Your creation is finished! It may or may not be perfect, but it's yours and you designed it. Display or wear it proudly, knowing that you have indeed accomplished something special. 
 At this point in my crochet journey, I design more than half of the things I make. I guess you could say that designing has become as addictive to me as the act of crocheting itself. I encourage you to give crochet pattern designing a go. Start small or wherever you feel comfortable and don't be afraid to ask for help or input here or within your favorite crochet community.

Have you tried designing your own crochet pattern and items? What have you created? If not, what would you like to design and what inspired your idea? I look forward to hearing from you and am happy to have you reading this blog entry which is my submission to the Deramores Blog Awards 2014. Deramores is the UK's number one online retailer of knitting and crochet supplies.  


  1. Thank you Mary, for this very informative post. Also wishing you Luck with the Blog Award!
    Yes, I have done little patterns, for small things, but what I would really like to do, is write patterns for bigger women. There is so little out there for that. But I got to admit, I have always been a bit scared of the process. Maybe I just need to dive in and go for it. One day at a time, right? Well one thing is for sure, you are making me think about it once again.
    Wishing you a lovely weekend!

    1. Erika, you have nothing to lose by trying, so I encourage you to do so. At the very least you'll learn a lot. At best, you'll learn a lot and have something you created to show for it. :)

  2. Mary, sending you lots of love and luck on your blog award entry! I read your blog every day and try to be a part of the conversation as often as I can... I SO look forward to it because you write it from your heart. I said it before and I'll say it again, it's like talking to an dear friend.
    As far as creating my own patterns, I like to do both... I create my own but I also like to follow others sometimes, too. It's fun to make and enjoy something that someone else created and I feel like it supports them in a way, too. There are a lot of beautiful ideas and patterns out there for sure. But I absolutely feel such gratification when I create my own, too.

    1. Monica, I'm the same. I enjoy trying others' patterns and love to create my own things. With both, there's always something lovely to look forward to at the end. :) Thank you for reading my blog and commenting so often. It means a lot!

  3. Hi Mary, good luck with the Blog Award! Did you pick the winner of the yarn names yet and I wasn't sure when that ended? I had done very simple designing of patterns and it's not easy to make one so everyone will understand and I also like crocheting a simple patterns from other people. Reading patterns is like reading a different language! Have a nice Sunday.

    1. Yes, Julie, the winner was posted on the blog post and contacted.

    2. And I agree that pattern-reading is like learning a new language! But once you get started, it gets easier. :)

  4. Thanks for sharing all this information!!

  5. Your designs are beautiful. Thank you for sharing what goes into creating them.

    1. Thank you, Renee, for the compliment and for visiting my blog!

  6. I will follow a pattern if I can find one that has the look I want. I tried my own design out of necessity when I tried to find a baby blanket for my new grandson. They did his room in tractors, I looked all over for a tractor pattern and couldn't find one so I decided to try. Daughter was very happy with the end result.
    I will probably try my hand at designing again when the inspiration hits, but right now I have several WIPS. The current patterns I am following aren't being followed to the letter, I use patterns as a guide.
    Thanks for your blog.