How to Get Started Designing Crochet Garments

by Kaitlin from Sass & Stitch

meet the maker

Hi everyone! My name is Kaitlin, and I am the crochet designer behind Sass & Stitch! My husband, pup, and I moved to West Kentucky this summer, and we are absolutely loving life here. I have been designing since November of 2020, and I am so blessed that this is my full-time job. When I’m not crocheting, you can find me antique shopping, sewing, or playing board games with my husband.

In my first year of crochet design, I mostly focused on home-related patterns – blankets, decor, washcloths, etc. I tried to dabble in garment design, but it was so intimidating, especially when I would look at all of the amazing garment designers who are already so successful in their craft. I thought that I would never “be on their level”. And honestly? I still don’t think I ever will be! And that is completely okay. There is still so much room in crochet garment design, for all different types of garments that don’t require you to be at the top of your craft.

Interested in learning how to dip your toes into the world of garment design? Here are my top 5 tips for getting started.

Study different garment constructions.

The best way to understand garment construction is to crochet patterns, designed by other people, with all different kinds of construction! In my early days in the crochet community on Instagram, I did lots of pattern testing for designers, specifically garment testing. Pattern testing is actually how I crocheted a garment for the first time! This allowed me to become familiar with many different kinds of construction, sizing, sleeve shaping, and so much more. 

It is completely okay to study another designer’s pattern to further your knowledge of garment design. Of course, this does not condone stealing their design, stitch counts, exact measurements, etc. But there is still so much value to gather that can be added to your knowledge of garment design for when you are ready to use it and put your own unique spin on it.

Keep It Simple

If you don’t take away anything else from this post, I hope you remember this – keep your first garment design simple! 

I struggled with the idea that I had to bring something completely new to the table. So many types and styles of garment have already been done by so many people; I thought that I couldn’t possibly add to this and that there was no room for me. Please hear me when I say that the crochet garment pattern “market” is NOT over-saturated! There is so much room for you to add your unique touch to a general concept that has already been done before. 

You will spend forever trying to come up with a crazy unique stitch combination, unique construction, or unique color layout, and all you will end up with is frustration and a big pile of frogged yarn. Trust me, I’ve been there too many times. Don’t try to reinvent the system. Start with a concept you are already comfortable with, and go from there.

(Cropped Summer Cardi, design by Sass & Stitch)

Don’t feel pressure to design within the current season

This is something that I majorly struggled with when I first wanted to start garment design. It was late Autumn, and I began trying to design a worsted weight sweater. I knew I was on a time crunch, because I needed to finish it, get it tested, and release the pattern all while it was still cold outside for people to enjoy making it that season. I was working on it all day, trying to get the shaping right (and at a spot where I can easily size it up), and it just was not working out. I was so frustrated and discouraged. I eventually gave up on it, because it was holding me back from accomplishing other designs and projects on my list. The time I was investing into it was not worth it. 

This spring, I attempted to design a garment again, and the process was almost flawless! Ideas came natural to me and I didn’t feel like I was trying to force anything. I now realize that sweater design is justtttt not my thing, and that I will likely stick to warm weather designs for a while longer. I see myself even designing warm weather garments throughout this upcoming winter, in preparation to drop a lot of new designs next spring and summer. 

Start with a design that YOU would enjoy wearing

I mentioned in the paragraph above that I once attempted to design a worsted weight sweater. I was going for a style that I had seen other designers create, and a style that I thought people would be interested in. Fast forward to this spring and summer, I have discovered my love for lightweight yarn and for garments without major shaping, such as my Cropped Summer Cardi or my Polly Peplum Top. Now, I would never even consider attempting to design a sweater with anything thicker than a DK weight yarn. It wouldn’t be my personal style, and I wouldn’t enjoy wearing it. Don’t try to force yourself to produce something that isn’t authentically you!

(Polly Peplum Top, designed by Sass & Stitch)

Take the time to gauge swatch AND block your swatch

This last one is more of a hands-on tip, but so so important in the beginning stages of design. I have made the mistake too many times of jumping into a new design without swatching. Or, I will actually swatch, but I won’t block it. Skipping one or both of these steps will almost always result in one of several things: frogging and restarting, having to do a lot of guesswork along the way, or having your finished piece not match your original swatch/measurements. 

I have a fall sweater pattern that I have not yet released, because my design process looked like me stumbling around, frogging, re-frogging, and not basing my work on a standard set of measurements. When I had my pattern tested, I quickly discovered that the measurements did not size up correctly for each size, and that this was a not a pattern that I could even consider publishing. That sweater still sits in my closet, as an unreleased pattern – I have yet to work up the courage to reconfigure it, and I’m not sure if I ever will!

Having a defined swatch (that has also been blocked) before you start crocheting your actual piece will allow to work based on math and facts, instead of basing your work on assumptions and guesswork. It’s one thing to stumble around the design for your own size. But when it’s time to write the pattern and size up your work, you have to re-analyze every move you made and figure out how to size your work up. Blocking your swatch will also confirm how much your piece might grow after washing, so you can factor that information into the design process.

(the “stumbling around” phase my un-released sweater design)

There is so much more that goes into garment design, but I just wanted to share some of the basic to-do’s and not to-do’s that I have learned the hard way throughout my process and growth as a garment designer! I feel like you are now ready to begin dipping your toes into garment design! I hope you have fun and truly enjoy the process.

<3 Kaitlin, Sass & Stitch

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Instagram: @sass.and.stitch

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