How to Start Creating Your Own Crochet Patterns
Have you been crocheting for a while and find yourself constantly altering, tweaking, and changing the patterns you’re working from? Maybe you’re just itching to get an idea out of your head and bring it to life.
I know that feeling all too well. But designing your own pattern is VERY different from following one. It’s scary at first.
Don’t worry. I’ve been where you are and I know it seems way too hard, but you CAN do it. By the end of this article, you’ll have the confidence to start writing your first pattern!
How to Create Your Own Crochet Patterns
Grab a sheet of paper and a pen or open a notetaking app on your phone. We’re gonna brainstorm this process.
Step 1: What Do You LOVE Making?
Think about what kinds of items you come back to over and over again. What gets your creative energy flowing?
Maybe you just adore making hats and scarves or maybe home goods like washcloths are more your thing.
For me, it’s amigurumi. I have a background in sculpture and I LOVE constructing things in 3 dimensions, so I was always playing with shapes when crocheting.
Let me be clear though, you don’t have to be an artist or have any design background to create your own designs. One of the women I look up to most is Pam Grice from the Crochetpreneur and she was a psycho-therapist before she launched her crochet business.
If you love making everything, don’t worry. Unless you plan to turn your hobby into a business, you can do whatever you want. (If you want to get into designing for profit, I recommend you check out Pam’s blog as she is an excellent crochet business coach.)
Action Step: For the sake of having a starting point, pick one item you’d like to create a design for. Write it at the top of your paper. (i.e. Washcloth, Blanket, Bunny, etc…)
Step 2: Get Prepared
This is kind of a broad step, so we’re going to break it down even further.
What You Need
- Design notebook: This can be a physical notebook or an app on your phone, computer or tablet. Pick one and stick with it. Otherwise you’ll have notes all over the place and it’ll be much harder to consolidate.
- Chanel’s Pick: Exceed A5 Dot Grid Journal (this is not an affiliate or sponsored link)
- Supplies: Yarn and a hook. Depending on the type of project, you may need different supplies. This list is by no means exhaustive, but instead meant to highlight some key differences between various projects.
- Amigurumi: stitch markers, stuffing, safety eyes, tapestry needle, sewing pins, embroidery thread…
- Garment: stitch markers, flexible measuring tape, hard ruler, gauge tool, blocking mats, T-pins, calculator… Disclaimer: I’m NOT a garment designer and there is a LOT involved with grading (creating multiple sizes) garment patterns.
- Blankets: blocking mats, T-pins, measuring tape, calculator…
- Wall-Hangings: bobbins (to hold multiple colors depending on the color-changing method), stitch markers, ruler…
- Camera: Start with your phone. There’s no need to go buy a super expensive camera when you’re just starting out.
- Text Document program: Microsoft Word, Google Docs, even Canva (although I wouldn’t use this unless you’re very familiar with creating templates in Canva).
Check the Standards
The Craft Yarn Council has created a pretty comprehensive list of standards for both crochet and knitting. Explore their site and click through the drop down menu under the Standards tab to become familiar with abbreviations, garment grading, and general standards for pretty much everything,
Even if you have no intention of selling your patterns, it’s a good idea to use the standards because it keeps things consistent. Plus, if you ever decide to sell your patterns in the future, it’ll be that much less work to make them ready for sale.
Action Step: Gather your supplies and review the Craft Yarn Council website (bookmark it for future reference).
Step 3: Brainstorm Your Design
Yay! You’ve made it to step 3! This is the FUN part!
Grab your design notebook and a pencil (or pen if you’re a weirdo like me). Draw a rough sketch of your idea.
If you can’t draw, that’s totally fine! The point of this is to get a better visual of your idea, not an art contest. Here’s what sketches in my design notebook look like.
All that crazy chicken scratch is a great example of how I worked and reworked my design for Orion the Deer until I was finally happy with it.
They don’t need to be pretty or even legible to other people. If you need to, write notes and draw arrows. (Example: This squiggle means, this row is done with the shell stitch.)
Worry less about it looking nice, and more about getting your idea across to yourself.
Try not to erase any sketches, even if you think they’re garbage and won’t work. Just redraw beside it or on another page. It’s GOOD to look back at you’re preliminary sketches because maybe you were right the first time or maybe after a couple of days, that sketch will remind you of the new direction you were going in.
This is why I always use pen, but you definitely don’t have to if you aren’t comfortable with that permanence.
During the process of sketching your design, think about what kind of yarn you want your finished design to be made of.
For example, if it’s a baby blanket, will you use a super soft and light DK weight yarn or maybe a slightly heavier worsted weight? If you’ll be selling this pattern, you probably want the yarn to be washable and dryable. Cotton is more durable, but heavier. Acrylic yarns might have unsafe dyes, but are easier to care for.
These are all things you need to consider when designing your project.
For amigurumi, I design with either 100% cotton or cotton blends generally because they are more durable which not only provides structure to the design, but ensure the toy will withstand the wear and tear of a child.
Action Step: Spend some time sketching. Try not to erase, instead make a note of what wasn’t working for you in that sketch and move on to the next. Make sure to write notes about the type, weight, and colors of yarn you have in mind for you’re project. When you feel you have a good idea of how to start your project, move to the next step.
Step 4: Make a Sample
Open your design notebook and refer to your sketch/notes.
Note: In the last step we talked about brainstorming yarn ideas for your project. If you’re on a budget, use what you have for the prototype. For example: Use a similar weight yarn or similar fiber content.
Create a sample or prototype. This step looks different depending on the item. However, regardless of what type of project you’re doing, TAKE NOTES. (Write down EVERYTHING you do.)
Let’s use the baby blanket example:
You want to use the shell stitch and double crochets in alternating rows in your blanket. So instead of making a whole blanket, create a small sample. If your design has a stitch multiple, of say: any multiple of 2 + 3, then create a swatch that has a foundation chain of 23 instead of 203.
Work at least 10 rows and then examine your piece. Are the edges puckering or rolling? Do the stitches look even and cohesive? Is your stitch multiple accurate?
For amigurumi, here’s what this step looks like for me:
Referencing my sketch often, I start trying to create the same shapes. Is the head round or tapered? Is the neck going to be thin and curved or straight? Do I want the body to flair out sharply or grow slowly?
After every single row, if I like the direction the shape is going in, I write down what I did. If not, I frog that row and try again. Sometimes, I get several rows down and decide I don’t like it, so I frog back to where I want to fix the issue (crossing out my notes and fixing as I go) and redo it.
The point is, this step is all about trial and error. You’ll be amazed by how much you learn in this step alone.
Action Step: Create your swatch/sample/prototype. Take your time. However, this is the practice run, so don’t spend too long here. It doesn’t need to be perfect. Be sure to keep track of stitch counts at the end of your rows in your notebook (you’ll thank me later).
5. Designer’s Choice: Make Another Sample or Start Writing
You can either make another sample and then proceed to writing or jump right to writing. This totally depend on you and if you feel comfortable in your design or if you think it needs more work.
Make Another Sample
If you’re just not quite happy with your first sample, make another! Follow your notes and pay attention to what you think it working and not working.
I like to use different pen colors. So my initial notes are in black and then I make corrections in red or blue. Maybe my stitch count was off or there was supposed to be 3sc after that increase instead of 2sc.
If you decide to completely scrap the first sample, that’s fine too! Just be aware of why. Keep it handy to you can compare the differences.
You can repeat this step as many times as you need. This is YOUR design.
This part is gonna seem terrifying, I’ll admit. You might be staring at a blank word doc, just wondering how in the heck you’re going to translate your notes into a cohesive pattern.
It’s ok. I’ve been there. When I started, I had literally no idea what I was doing, but through a little trial and error, I figured it out and so can you! But unlike me, you don’t have to do it alone.
Check out this Basic Pattern Template! Make a copy and save it to your Docs, so you can use it as a template.
- Start with a title page. Include the title, a picture, and any disclaimer information.
- Your next page should include: Materials, Stitch Abbreviations, Gauge (if applicable), and Project Notes (any additional information: difficulty level, etc…).
- Break your pattern into logical sections. For amigurumi, this may look like: Head, Body, Arms x2, Legs x2.
- Write one row at a time and be sure to include your stitch counts at the end.
- If your piece has several parts that need to be seamed or sewn together, put all the Assembly instructions in one section.
- Finish off with a final photo and a thank you!
If you’re still a little unsure, take a look at my free Nico the Narwhal Pattern to get a better idea of the structure of a pattern without photos.
Action Step: After you’re finished with you’re sample, start writing your pattern. It doesn’t need to be perfect right off the bat. Just get all the rows and instructions written and you can worry about formatting later.
6. Make the Final Version
You’ve got this! We’re nearly there!
Now that you’ve written your pattern, grab your chosen yarn and get settled.
Follow the pattern that you just typed up. If you run into any typos or little mistakes, go ahead and fix them as you go.
Be sure to take LOTS of pictures. I suggest pausing every few rows to take a clear and bright photo. You won’t use all these pictures, but you want to have a lot to pick from when you’re finalizing the pattern.
If there is a tricky section that you think might confuse people, take even MORE photos. Something that makes sense to you won’t always make sense to other people.
Also make sure to add instructions like: ‘Fasten off with a long tail for sewing.’ Best practice is to pretend that anyone who might look at your pattern is a COMPLETE beginner. Who knows, they might be. More is better than less in this case.
Action Step: Make the final version of your project. Take lots and lots of process photos, including nice finished photos.
7. ‘Final’ Edits to the Pattern
You might be wondering why I have ‘Final’ in quotations. The reason is that until that pattern is published, nothing is final. For the sake of not making this blog post a novel, I won’t get into publishing just yet.
In this section, we’re going to go line by line and proofread, edit, format, and add photos.
Google Docs functions very similarly to Word, but it’s free and better (in my opinion) because you can connect to Google Drive. If you have your photos uploaded to Drive, you can insert them directly from Docs.
Then resize, crop, whatever you need to in order to suit the formatting.
Action Step: Go line by line and insert your photos, fix your formatting, and proofread. When you’re finished, if you intend to sell this pattern, is to call for testers, but I’ll have more on that in future blog posts.
One important thing to remember is that these steps don’t need to be worked in order. This is just a general outline.
As you design more and get more practice, you’ll develop your own process and it may look very different from this. You’ll learn what you like and what works for you through trial and error.
- What do you LOVE making?
- Get prepared
- Brainstorm your design
- Make a sample
- Designer’s choice: make another sample or start writing
- Make the final version
- ‘Final’ edits to the pattern
I hope you liked this article and found it helpful! Are you ready to try writing your first pattern? If I can do it, you can do it and if you do want to start writing your first pattern and you need help, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’d love to help!