Have you been looking at crochet designers who design clothes, and wondering how they do it? You look at their designs and wish that you knew how to make your own ideas come to life, but just don’t know how? For a long time I dreamed of making my own crochet garment designs, but never thought that it would be possible. From gauge swatches, shaping, how to begin, and grading patterns, it seemed like a code that I’d never be able to crack. Then I decided to go out on a limb and try my hand at designing a garment pattern, after making a few other designers’ patterns. Once I tried and figured out everything, it wasn’t so hard after all! Today I am here to answer all of your questions with my latest podcast episode guest, Emily from Hooked Hazel.
Emily is the crochet designer behind Hooked Hazel, and makes anything ranging from crochet sweaters to crochet beanies. She learned how to crochet years ago, but at the time she learned it wasn’t a cool hobby, so she didn’t really keep with it. Then after being in her career for a few years, she needed something that would be just for her outside of her normal routine, and picked up crocheting again. For awhile she was making other people’s designs, but in the last year and a half she decided to focus on making her own designs. Now she’s been putting most of her design efforts specifically into creating garments. In the latest episode of the E’Claire Makery podcast, she shares all about how she makes her garment designs so that you can do it too!
Watch my interview with Emily here:
The 5 Basics of Crochet Garment Design:
Find your goal and inspiration:
The first step in beginning to design crochet garments starts with finding your goal and inspiration for your design. When you’re starting out with your design you want to figure out what your intention and goal for it is. Do you want it to be full of complex stitches that create an intricate fabric? Or do you want to go on the less intimidating side so that any skill level could design it? Emily and I both aim for having our garments not be intimidating so that anyone could make them. I often will make mine as just being two rectangles that are sewn together, so that anyone who can crochet a square can make them.
Once you figure out your goal, it’s time to find your inspiration. Inspiration can be found almost anywhere! Emily and I have both found it from watching historical shows to see all of the handmade crochet or knit pieces that they have as a part of their costumes. I’ll constantly be snapping photos of pieces that characters in a show I’m watching a wearing, and then draw my inspiration from them. Crochet stitch books are another great resources as sometimes a certain stitch can inspire a garment design in your mind. When I find stitches I often get inspiration, and will start to see the garment forming as an idea. Social media and Pinterest can also be a good source of inspiration, but Emily says that she likes to not draw too much inspiration from other makers so that there isn’t any confusion in thinking that she copied them. You have your own unique voice, so don’t feel like you have to do something similar to other designers!
Figure out the style and shape:
After you have the idea of what you want your garment to look like it’s time to decide what style and shape of design that you’re going to make. When it comes to style, I am referring to the way in which the crochet garment is constructed, and the shape is how you want it to fit on you. Crochet garment construction comes in almost endless styles. From top down, bottom up, raglan, panels, and more there are almost endless ways you could make them. Here are some of my favorite ways to construct them:
- Raglan Style – This style of garments involves working in one piece for your whole garment. You do this be creating a neckline that is then made into a square until you create armholes by skipping the two arm sides, and continuing to work the piece in the round. I usually make mine starting from the top down, so then you do the raglan increases at the top. Emily has also done it where you start from the bottom of the garment and work your way up. The garment on the left was crocheted using the raglan style, and the chart on the right shows an example of what the raglan chart looks like in terms of it being made in a square. (It is not an exact replication though since there will be two increases before chaining two on each of the corners. This just provides an idea of how the shaping is done.) Once you complete the body of the sweater you work the sleeves off of the armholes. If you don’t like doing sewing then this is a great way to do garment design!
- Panels – When you make your garment from panels, you are creating a garment from different sized rectangles that are sewn together. This is a great way to start out with because you can easily figure out how many stitches across and down your piece will need to be to fit your gauge (talked about below). If say you’re making a cardigan, you might made it from 3 rectangles that are sewn together to create a cardigan, and then have separate pieces for the arms that you sew to it. You could also work the sleeves off of the sewn panels too it you want less sewing. The picture below shows a cardigan being made in panels that are sewn together.
These are just two of the many, many ways that you can make garments from! They influence the way the garment shape is too. Raglans can be made to fit closer to your body, where as garments crocheted from panels can make your piece be more boxy or have more drape. Sometimes you can combine the two, and figure out a way that you like to have garments fit. What’s so fun about designing crochet garments is that you can make it fit however you want!
Make a gauge swatch:
Now that you’ve figured out how you’ll be making your garment, it’s time for probably the most important part of garment design: the gauge swatch. What is a gauge swatch? It’s a 4″x 4″ square that is crocheted using the stitch you’ve decided to make the garment in, and using the hook size that matches the yarn that you’ve used. Once you have you swatch made you’ll then determine how many stitches across by how many rows tall that the square is. This square is then used when you are figuring out how many stitches that you will be chaining to start, how many rows you’ll use in your pattern, as well as how many stitches you be using in each part of the pattern for different sizes.
Use the gauge swatch:
After you have your gauge swatch it’s time to put it to use! In order to use it you’ll need the handy dandy measurements that the Craft Yarn Council has on their website. They provide all of the measurements that you’ll need in order to make your garment. Whether you’re a size XS or size 5X, they have every measurement from bust size to how wide it is from shoulder to shoulder. Click here to get the sizing charts and measurements on their site.
So say you are making a garment made from two square panels that are then sewn together. You have a bust size of 40″ and you want the front panel to be half that size. You’re using bulky yarn so your gauge swatch is 10 st across. In order to decide how many stitches you’ll be chaining for the front panel. You’ll first divide 40″ by 2, to get 20.” Then you will divide 20″ by 4″ to get 5, multiply it by 10 st, and you’ll get 50 stitches. So you’ll cast on 50 stitches for the front panel width. Your garment will be a total of 100 stitches around to get the total bust size of 40.” You’ll do a similar thing to determine how many rows you’ll want you piece to be as well.
When it comes to grading patterns, a.k.a. determining other sizes, you’ll also be using the gauge swatch to figure out how many stitches you’ll need in each row for each size in the pattern. You use the same type of math as above, just with different measurements. It can feel overwhelming sometimes, but there is a resource that I’ve found has helped a lot with this. Joy of Motion Crochet created a garment sizing calculator on her website that helps determine how many stitches your piece will need to be at certain measurement points. You enter in your gauge and it will tell you how many stitches the bust, armhole, waist, upper arm, and hips should be. Now it doesn’t tell you how much you’ll need for each row, but it’s a great starting point to double check your math that you do at different parts. It also helps if you want to work back from say the bust up to the neckline, so it’ll have a starting amount of stitches that you can work backward from to get your neckline stitch amount that you’ll start with. I use it all the time!
If you get frustrated with this part, and feel like you’ve tried everything you can do, reach out to another designer that has experience making garments and ask their advice. Both Emily and I have asked other designers for help when we feel like we can’t do anything else, and that has helped us get out of our ruts. Sometimes all you need is a fresh pair of eyes to help point out something in your pattern. Also, taking a step back really can help, because if you look at something too long then it will become way too overwhelming. However, if you take a break from it, you’ll be able to refresh your brain and approach it at a whole new way.
Create something that you’ll love:
Probably the most important part of garment designing is to make something that you’ll love. Since it is such a long process, this is key in finishing a design. You put all of that effort into creating something, spending hours on it, and if you don’t actually like it then it can feel like a waste of yarn. I draw a lot of inspiration from clothing that I already love and want to make myself, which makes my crochet designs something that I want to wear. I’m willing to take the time and effort to create the pattern, because I know that it will be something that will become a staple in my wardrobe. Not every design will end up being your favorite, and trust me sometimes you will get sick of it by the time you’re done grading the pattern, but all in all the whole experience of creating is so worth it. If you don’t want to design something right away, take time to make other people’s patterns, because you can learn so much from them and the ways they create their patterns. Then you can take the things that you love about their designs, and start learning how to incorporate them into the way you want to do your designs!
Overall, learning how to design crochet patterns is a detailed, but rewarding process. It’s a lot of trial and error, but every time you try you’ll just keep getting better. Stick with your crochet design as you’re creating it, and you’ll end up getting to wear something that you’ve made yourself. Don’t give up, because in the end it is so worth it!
If you want to learn more about crochet design, be sure to watch my video podcast episode with Emily, or check out my blog post with Chantal from Knitatude where she shares more about the garment design process as well. Be sure to check out Emily’s accounts as well on Instagram @HookedHazel and her Etsy store Hooked Hazel.