Garment design, a beautiful yet scary thing for all crocheters and knitters who want to get into it. You see all of the beautiful garments that people create, but the idea of it seems as if it is too unattainable. For quite a long time I never thought that I’d actually be able to make let alone design a handmade garment. I loved the idea of creating my own clothes, but I was too afraid to even try. I started seeing amazing designers like Chantal from Knitatude creating these beautiful pieces, and soon I got the bug to start making. My first garment project was Sewrella’s Penelope dress, and now I’ve designed 4 different garments myself! Who would have thought that I could actually do it. How do you begin though? How do you do all of the sizing? So many questions, and sometimes it feels as if you’ll never figure it out. Well friend, today I’ve got some answers for you with my special guest on the podcast, Chantal from Knitatude.
Chantal started knitting after seeing all of the beautiful infinity scarves on Instagram that kept popping up in her feed. She asked for one for Christmas, but no matter how many people she asked, she didn’t end up getting one. So she decided that she’d make one for herself instead of spending the $20 for one at a store. She set out to learn knitting, and fell in love with it after learning the garter stitch. She started making scarves, hats, and had friends asking her if she could make things for them. It wasn’t until a year later that she learned how to purl, and began doing markets. That’s when Knitatude was born! One day, feeling buried in all of her market prep that she was doing, Chantal decided that she wanted to set aside some time to figure out how to write a pattern. She’d been attempting to read other people’s patterns for awhile, but felt like they were too confusing for her. So why not maker her own instead? That set her off into the wonderful world of design, and now here she is with some amazing garment designs including most of them as kits available from Lion Brand Yarn. What’s so amazing is that today she is here to share some of her knowledge with you!
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Essentials of Garment Design
So you might be wanting to design, but you don’t know where to start. Here are some of the essentials of garment design that Chantal recommends:
- Make sure you want to make garments for yourself – Sometimes we see all of the garments being made by other designers, and feel like we have to design them too because we see their success. You don’t have to pressure yourself to do it though. Garment design is a hard process that will need to be practiced, and you want to be able to see if you even like it to begin with. If you like making your own clothes, and already know that you enjoy making those things then it is a great world to venture into! If you want to see if you like making garments, make other people’s patterns before designing your own, because you’ll learn so much from other people’s patterns. The people who are already designing are a great resource to see what you like about their patterns, and what you would want to do differently!
- Find your style – Each of us has our own unique style and voice that is reflected by the items that we make. As you look at other designers you’ll start to find the style that you tend to be drawn too, and that will be the style that you want to pursue. The moment when you figure out your style is so much fun, because all of the sudden everything clicks together and you feel like you’ve found your voice. There are so many styles out there to experiment with! You might be drawn to super elaborate stitch designs, or maybe you tend to go for more simple patterns. I go for easy designs, with a splash of whimsical stitch patterns thrown in, or boho chic. Your style will get you excited and make you want to start designing!
- Figure out what to make – Once you’ve found your style you want to figure out what you want to make with it. Do you want to focus on making hats and accessory patterns, or do you want to try your hand at making sweaters, cardigans, or even dresses? Sometimes it’s all of it! Sometimes you don’t know till you’ve started making something, and then you’ll learn that you hate make it. It’s ok if you don’t like making what you see all of the other designers making! Figure out what you like making, and go from there.
Missed other episodes of the podcast, check them out here:
- Take your measurements – This is one of the most important steps in garment design, and is something you should do before you even start designing. Your measurements are the basis for figuring out what size, shape, and pattern you will be making for your design. Each measurement affects the way that your design will come out from the measurement of your shoulders, arms, bust, neck to back, etc. How do you know where to start with these? The Craft Yarn Council is one of the all time best resources for finding out what measurements you will need for your design and what sizes those measurements mean. Here are some of the essential articles from them to help with measurements:
- Standard Body Measurement and Sizing (https://www.craftyarncouncil.com/standards/body-sizing) – This article is my go to article for finding out how to take measurements of myself. It has an amazing diagram that shows where and how to take measurements, along with what each measurement means.
- Women’s Size Chart (https://www.craftyarncouncil.com/standards/woman-size) – This chart is essential for interpreting what size your measurements match, along with telling you what measurements other sizes will need. It ranges from sizes XS-5X in women’s, which comes in handy when you are determining other sizes in your design. I use this all the time to double check that my designs are going to fit myself, and other makers who will be making my pattern!
- Make a Gauge Swatch!!! – This is the most important part of garment design, and we cannot stress it enough. What is a gauge swatch? It’s a 4″x 4″ square that represents the stitch and row amounts in your design. It is used to determine how many stitches you’ll have per four inches, along with how many rows are in four inches. This then is used to figure out how many stitches and rows you will need to do to fit with the measurements that you took of yourself. You also use the gauge swatch amounts to help you determine the other sizes of your pattern. So how do you go about doing the math for it? Say you have a 36″ bust and you want to figure out how many stitches you need to cast on. Your gauge swatch measurements determined that with the needle or hook size you’re using and stitch pattern you have 10 stitches per 4 inches. Then you want to divide your bust size by 4 to figure out how many 4 inch squares you need in it: 36/4 = 9. Then you multiply 9 squares by 10 stitches to figure out how many you need to cast on or chain: 9 x 10 = 90. Therefore you have to cast on or chain 90 stitches to begin your design. You apply those same measurements to each of the other parts of the design. (I’ll be doing a whole blog post on this soon as a part of a garment design basics course that I will be creating.) Once you’ve done your gauge swatch then you can start creating your design!
- Write down each step – As you create your design, make sure that you write down every single step that you did in your pattern: what the gauge swatch amount is, hook or needle size, how many stitches you did, etc. Every detail from what increases and decreases you did to how many rows are going to be details that will help you compile your pattern. No detail is too small to write down in garment design, because trust me somehow you’ll forget like me, oops. I’ve found that having a document on google drive for each of my patterns really helps. I pull it up on my phone, write down all of the details, and then I’m able to keep track of every step of the pattern.
- Decide how many sizes you want – As you go through your design, you want to figure out how many sizes you want to do for your pattern. Look at your pattern and think of if the different sizes would actually want to wear it. If it’s a skin tight design, some of the plus sizes might not want to wear it, or if it’s too baggy then super small sizes might not like it because they feel like they disappear in it. As a designer, you want to be conscious of your audience’s feelings, and figuring out how to help your design fit their needs is a great way to show your audience that you care.
- Grading your pattern – You may have heard the term grading your pattern thrown around with reference to design. This refers to do the math to figure out the different stitch amounts in each part of the pattern that other sizes will need. You’ll base all of these measurements around what your gauge swatch math was. Here is how you do each part:
- Stitch amount – So if your bust is 36″ and you had to cast on/chain 90 (36/4 = 9 -> 9×10 = 90) stitches to begin with, then if the next size up has a bust of 40″ (40/4 = 10 -> 10×10 = 100), they’ll have to cast on/chain 100 stitches. They had 4 extra inches in their bust size, so they needed one more square of your gauge swatch, which increases the amount of stitches needed by 10. As you grade, you’ll be figuring out how many stitches you will need in your row to match each measurement.
- Row amount – You also need to figure out how many rows each size will need to do in order to reach the right length measurement. Say your square has 4 rows to get to 4 inches. If the length measurement you need to get to from your back to waist is 16, then you’ll figure out how many of the 4 inch squares you need for that: 16/4 = 4. Then you multiply that answer by the amount of rows needed to get 4×4 = 16. So in order to get the right length you’ll do 16 rows. This same principle applies to any measurement amount.
- One of my favorite resources for grading as a beginner is Joy of Motion’s Women’s Garment Size Calculator for Knitters and Crocheters. I cannot say enough good things about this calculator. How it works is you enter in the stitch and row amounts of your gauge swatch, along with what type of garment style you’re doing. It will then figure out how the minimum and maximum stitches and rows you need to get for each size you have in your pattern. It won’t nail down how you need to write your pattern, but the numbers it provides helps make grading the patterns so much easier! Plus it’s free, so that’s amazing!
- Feeling stuck? Reach out to designers! – If you’re feeling stuck in your design and you have no idea how to do something, ask other designers. Try everything that you can to figure it out yourself, like googling how to do it or trying different method, and if you’re just too stuck then other designers are a great resource. Chantal asked Alexi of Two of Wands if she could help her with something in her pattern, and she ended up helping Chantal with a few things. I’ve learned somethings from the different makers I’ve interviewed, and it’s been awesome to get their advice! Sometimes designers might not respond to your messages, but most likely there will always be one that would love to help. I would love to answer any questions that you might have about design or help if you need some help with your pattern!
Probably the best piece of advice, would be to go for it! It takes time to learn designing, and the best way to learn is to start doing it. Your first design might not be exactly what you wanted, but each time you make something you’ll get better! If you want to practice some garment making before you start designing your own, Chantal has some amazing beginner knit patterns that are perfect for learning how to design. Be sure to check out her Etsy store here, and her Instagram @knitatude!