Learning to Design Knit and Crochet

While I was busy knitting and crocheting for the craft fair last year I got interested in Freeform crochet. Freeform is crochet that follows no rules. It can be used for yarn bombing, art work and so many other things. Just google freeform crochet. There are some pretty amazing pieces out there.

I do many different crafts like knitting, crochet, tunisian crochet and needle point. I never thought of myself as a fibre artist.  Many people made  sweaters, blankets and doilies. To me I was just another person that did “crafts”.

Following other peoples patterns has always been my go to. In the past few years I have found myself creating more and more patterns myself. There just seems to be something missing from the patterns I see online and in magazines. There are exceptions like the blanket I made below. The pattern is called Dreamweaver and it was created by Helen Shrimpton.  Trust me she is no beginner at design.


Dream Weaver Blanket

Crochet Design

Designing crochet pieces is relatively easy for me. I have done it so long I can look at something and figure out how to make it. As impressive as that seems, in doing the blanket above, I realized that there are many techniques I need to learn. Fortunately there are many different classes I can take.

The best way for me to do things is to mess up something I work on and discover that I like the result. The designers I watch online all seem to work this way.

I am currently learning some freeform stitches. Spirals are the first ones I learned.


Knit Design

I have knit longer than I have crocheted. Unfortunately I always knit easy projects. I am now taking classes on Craftsy in cable design and lace design.

The first thing I noticed is that in all the stitch dictionaries I see patterns close to what I want but not exactly.  My classes are teaching me how to create my own patterns. Drawing out a design and figuring out a way to place the cables to make it. Putting a number of lace patterns together to design your own unique piece.

My First Completed Design

20 years ago I got a large quantity of acrylic yarn (didn’t know about more natural fibers then). I had never done a cable in my life and I wanted to challenge myself. I found an afghan in the book  Afghans: Traditional and Modern by Bonita Bray. It was called Limerick. I got as far as knitting one panel.

I didn’t pick it up again until last November. Tired of making little things for the craft fair, I just wanted to complete something bigger. When I sat down to do the pattern I realized that I actually wanted to design something around this panel.  This is what I ended up with.

The Process

I am grateful to shawl designer Miriam Felton for talking about her design process. Her words helped me to not give up. She mentioned design means constantly trying things and ripping them out. I made at least 6 partial cable strips which I just didn’t like. I finally settled on a basic cable cross pattern (same blanket terrible camera) and an arrowhead cable for the borders.

Adding a crochet panel gave it and interesting look with the different types of materials together. I did a plain garter stitch panel as well. Adding plain panels helps the piece not look so busy.

I finally made my centre strip a lace stitch that I found in a stitch dictionary.

This one was knit at least twice. Although I tried loads of other patterns but this is the one I liked the best. I messed up my first attempt and got smart the second time. Thank goodness for lifelines.

A lifelines is a piece of thread (I like dental floss) that you thread through the last row of your lace pattern. If you need to rip the piece back it saves you from having to start over since you already have live stitches on the lifeline.

I love the way this project turned out. I learned a lot by doing it. What to do, and more importantly what not to do.

The best advice I can give at this stage of my design journey is to try things and don’t be afraid to ripit ripit ripit.