Updated: Jan 15, 2020
Rule #1 of designing your own crochet patterns is to embrace trial and error. You will most likely frog your project a few times before moving onto your “final draft”. What I hope to provide for you are a few tips I have learned through trial and error, to minimize your own learning curve.
Know the Stitches
You can't write what you don't know. Be knowledgeable about different crochet stitches, both how to make them and how they look. Figure out what you can do with different combinations of stitches For example, how does a row of half- doubles look next to a row of picots? This comes from experience and following a variety of crochet patterns.
Know the Yarn
Not all yarn is created equally. If you are considering designing your own crochet patterns you should already be knowledgeable of the fact that yarn comes in different weights. Apart from weight, the other important aspect of yarn to consider is its material. Different materials are more or less suitable for different projects. Here's a quick cheat sheet:
This is usually the cheapest option and the most versatile. Acrylic yarn is also usually easy to work with and is great for beginners.
Great for potholders, and certain garments and structural pieces.
A very soft material that drapes nicely, alpaca is great for garments, scarves, throws, and baby blankets.
A warmer material, wool is great for scarves, hats, and sweaters. Wool usually comes in a bulky weight and is therefore sturdier with a stiffer drape than alpaca or merino wool.
Merino wool is lighter and softer than its pure wool counterpart. Merino wool is great for sweaters, scarves, and certain throws and baby blankets.
With a funky, feathered texture, mohair can be fun to use on garments like sweaters or scarves.
Jersey is very sturdy and is perfect for structural pieces like baskets and poufs.
Think Texture, First
When we want to make an impact with design, usually the first element we play with is color.
While there are gorgeous colors of yarn available, it's important to not forget that texture is what makes crochet so special. Each stitch creates a unique texture. Each combination of stitches creates a unique texture, and each yarn has a - you guessed it - unique texture! My advice would be to consider texture first, and color second.
Utilize Visualization Tools
Having trouble working out your pattern? Not sure how many stitches to put where in order to achieve a certain look? I love stitchfiddle.com (not an ad) for this! Login, choose crochet, crochet with colors, and choose the amount of rows and columns (aka how many stitches wide and how many rows in height). From there, you can color in which stitches go where, or which colors go where if you are trying to work out a pattern that uses color. I did this with The Mara Baby Blanket. I visualized the diamond pattern in stitch fiddle and then included it in the pattern for makers who prefer visuals over written instruction. Sometimes I just play around with an idea a little bit in stitch fiddle and then launch into stitching and writing the pattern.
I cannot stress how important it is to take notes while you work up your pattern. Some important things to note are:
This may seem obvious, but it can be easy to forget to jot down as you move towards your first row. You also might end up redoing this step a few times in search of the perfect size. Make sure you have the correct number written down.
Super obvious, right? But it’s so important to write it down. With simpler patterns it can be tempting to assume that you will remember, or that you can look back, count stitches and figure it out. You can’t. Or maybe you can, but you shouldn’t. Jotting down your every move as you crochet can be annoying, but it is so important.
It can be easy to forget to do this if you are working on a very repetitive pattern where every row is the same, or have a few rows that repeat. I use the notes on my phone to update which row I am working on each time I finish a row.
This one can be really easy to lose track of if you aren’t used to writing patterns. Always write down how many balls or skeins of yarn you have used each time you finish a skein.
Your crochet hook
Again, this may seem obvious but I have forgotten to write this down in the beginning and then made it to the end of my project, after I had been done with it for a few weeks and was making some final edits to the pattern and thought “wait, which hook did I use?”. Write it down in the beginning.