Guest blogger series | Creating a Crochet Pattern

by contributor on 28/09/2011

in Guest blog series2 2011, knitting+crochet+yarn

Heidi writes the mostly crafty blog, Speckless, which started out as an extension of her Etsy shop and has evolved into a place to learn about art, craft, and life along the way. Heidi lives, loves, and makes in Minneapolis, Minnesota with the Musical Mr. Nicky and the Boy Cat Named Penny.

Belt gusset purse and Pretty little pleats bag

Heidi’s Method for Creating a Crochet Pattern
Hello there, Whipup.net readers! Today I’m going to share my process for creating a crochet pattern. By no means is this a scientific-one-size-fits-all process — this is just my method — and I hope it encourages you to create your own patterns! I think purses and bags are a great place to start building your pattern arsenal because you can be less strict about gauge and you don’t have to worry about sizing (like with a clothing item). This method has four key steps: (1) inspiration, (2) sketching for design and construction, (3) making and drafting, and (4) finalizing your pattern. Ready? Let’s go!

Blue raspberry evening bag

Inspiration
Inspiration can come from anywhere. For me, crochet inspiration usually falls into one of three categories: from a crochet stitch, from a non-crochet item, or from necessity. Do you ever see a beautiful or interesting stitch that you just can’t wait to try out? Making your own pattern is the perfect opportunity to do so! My Blue Raspberry Evening Bag [Pictured above] sprung from a recent obsession with the crocodile stitch. Vintage pattern books, which I count in the “stitch inspiration” category, are also excellent jumping-off points — For example, you might not want a granny square vest, but maybe you do want a skirt made from hexagon motifs (or a tote bag).

Non-crochet items are great inspiration, as they usually stretch you to think in new ways. If I see a purse or bag that I like, I try to visualize it in crochet. My Belt Gusset Purse and Pretty Little Pleats Bag are both direct responses to leather or cloth purses that I saw while running errands [both pictured at top].

And sometimes, there’s just something that you need but can’t find anywhere. Like this Tiffin Set. If there’s something that you’ve been wanting or needing, but can’t find anywhere, it’s a pretty good bet you’re not the only one (and this goes for bag designs, too)!

So go on, get inspired! Keep your eyes peeled and your mind open. Having an inspiration board and/or a sketchbook is helpful. I keep mine at Pinterest, if you’re curious.

Sketching for Design and Construction
Sketching for design is the fun part of this step. Using and combining bits from the inspiration step, make sketches of what you want your final design to look like — size, shape, proportion. If you have a specific color scheme in mind, it might be helpful to incorporate that here with some markers or colored pencils.

Sketching for construction is not quite as foot-loose and fancy-free. Sketch out the components of your bag to see how you will make your vision work. Will you be making your bag in the round or back-and-forth in rows? How will you attach the gusset/strap/motifs? I usually break down all the components and try to figure which way will be the easiest, most seamless, and most durable. You are basically dissecting your pattern before you begin so you run into less “surprises” later on. Although not necessary, it is helpful to have some knowledge of sewing and sewing techniques — it’s just a little advantage in visualizing how your bag will work in real-life-3D.

At this stage, you also want to start sketching a graph of the stitches you will be using, especially the first few rows/rounds. Often, I need to turn a flat, “made in rows”, stitch pattern to something that will work in the round — and now is the time to it. The more planning ahead you do now, the less frustration you will have in the next steps.

Making and Drafting
This is where things really start happening (or sometimes not, unfortunately)! Now we’re into the nitty-gritty. Arm yourself with hook, yarn, and optimism. Start following your construction sketches. Write down everything you do. In detail. IN PENCIL. You will inevitably encounter problems that you did not anticipate in your construction sketches. Some can be fixed easily and with minimal frogging. Others, not so much. Be patient, my friend! Just keep frogging, erasing, revising, and rewriting until it works, dang it! Be diligent about writing down exactly what you are doing row by row (or round by round). At the end of each row or round, go back and double check your work. Count all of your stitches. Dot the eyes, cross the tees, and weave in all the ends.

With a lot of patience and a little luck, you will come to the end of your creation (yip!). Take a moment to bask in your glorious genius. Analyze your creation as a whole and decide if it needs any finishing touches — a lining, some ribbon woven through, beading, a flower embellishment, a tassel or two? Enjoy this time, because the next step is, for me, the least fun part . . .

Tiffin Lunch Set

Finalizing Your Pattern
If you plan to publish your pattern in any way, for free or for sale, you’ll need to get everything together nice and neat-like. Even if you don’t plan on sharing your pattern, I suggest that you do this final step — you put in all of that work, and you’ll want a nice copy for yourself in the future! This last step is pretty self-explanatory, I guess. You’ll need to sit down at a computer and type up your pattern. You may want to add illustrations (hand or computerized) of special stitches or a graph of the first few rounds. Look at other patterns to guide you in your abbreviations, structure, and symbols. This free little bag pattern was one of my first patterns, and I’m sticking it in here because it shows a pattern graph, written instructions, and a lining tutorial. The cherry on top is going to be photos of your work. Take some beauty shots and add them on to your typed-up pattern . . . and . . . you’re done! Congratulations!

I hope this explanation is helpful, and if you have any questions, feel free to hit me up over at Speckless! [Or ask questions in the comments section]. Thanks, everyone! ~Heidi

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jodi Anderson September 28, 2011 at 8:53 am

I really enjoyed this post and I find it quite helpful. I do crochet and I’ve winged it with a few things, but I’ve yet to actually intentionally design a piece. Now, I feel a bit more certain. Thank you.

2 Eugene Feldman September 28, 2011 at 9:49 am

A great and detailed post, helped me a lot!
Thank you :)

3 Usha September 28, 2011 at 10:10 pm

Great pieces…superb inspiration…have learnt a lot about designing although I have been designing simple bags for my daughters and friends for years now.

Thanks for sharing.

4 Heidi September 29, 2011 at 7:18 am

Thanks! So glad this was clear and helpful . . . sometimes I worry that I babble on ;)

5 thezenofmaking September 29, 2011 at 11:04 am

This is such a helpful post!

6 Bianca September 30, 2011 at 12:37 am

Where can I find crochet software to make charts? Thank you for your help.

7 Marilee September 30, 2011 at 10:11 am

Like Biana, I’m interested in knowing more about crochet software to make charts.

8 Heidi September 30, 2011 at 4:51 pm

Hi, Bianca,
I have no idea where a person could find chart-making software . . . but if someone else knows, please let us know — it would be soooo helpful! I hand-draw my charts in Adobe Illustrator, which can be very tedious and time-consuming.

So, Bianca, if this doesn’t exist, maybe we should get into the business of crochet design software programs — waddaya say? ;)

9 Number19 October 15, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Adriprints makes a crochet software called stitchincrochet. I have made a couple crochet charts with it and I really liked using it. I don’t know Illustrator, so designing my own crochet symbols is not an option for me.

10 Heidi October 16, 2011 at 2:04 pm

I’ve never seen that before! Here’s the link: http://new.myfonts.com/fonts/adriprints/stitchin/

Is this just symbols, or is there a way to actually graph the stitches themselves? That’s what would really be amazing.

11 Sara October 26, 2011 at 7:44 pm

Es muy útil la fuente stitchincrochet.
Otro software para diseñar patrones de crochet es MyCrochet. Existe una versión en ruso (eso creo) pero entendible. No recuerdo de dónde se puede descargar, pero dejo los enlaces a 3 videos que explican su uso:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fc9y2AbJyJ0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4VCZEklZeQI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4zAY1im7Qc

12 Emily July 11, 2012 at 7:54 am

Hello, I’ve been wondering about typing up some of my patterns, but some are a little complicated. Do you have any special software for designing pattern graphs? Thank you :)

13 kath_red July 11, 2012 at 7:38 pm
14 Joan Silverston October 16, 2012 at 3:03 pm

If you want software to help draft circular, straight, or combination crochet designs using symbols, please look at SymblCro on my site, nhswinc.com. There is a free demo you can download.
Beware that since it has been designed for flexibility, it has a learning curve. If you download it, be sure to look at the help file to get started.

15 Leohnora Hillman August 13, 2012 at 9:23 am

Thanks for a very informative article, I recently started to teach myself crochet with the help of great blogs like this one and youtube, and am already itching to design my own work and patterns, this article has given me the confidence I need to get started, so Thank you once again!

16 Erin Shaw January 31, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Love love this!! Thank you!! How do you make your graphs though?!?

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