Saturday, August 23, 2008

How to be a Crochet Designer: Designing Your Own Wash or Dish Cloth

Okay, now for the fun part! The first things I designed were baby blankets and afghans. I never had any of these designs published, and I never bothered to write patterns for them, but I loved making them, and everyone I gave them to appreciated the fact that they were original, one of a kind designs, made especially for them. I believe that anyone who has a good working knowledge of crochet can create their own designs, too.

The easiest items to design are either square or rectangular in shape. This does not have to be limiting; just think of the possibilities of these two simple shapes! In addition to afghans and baby blankets, you can make table runners, placemats, dishcloths, hot pads, pot holders, coasters. rugs, shawls, scarves, lapghans, curtains, even full size bedspreads or tableclothes if you want. Some designers make clothing by joining rectangles together to form the sleeves, back and fronts of a garment. By folding squares or sewing two or more together you can form purses, bags, slippers and hats. I know of at least two designers who had fairly successful careers back in the early 90's by simply making afghans from stitch patterns found in the Harmony stitch guides. Sometimes they added a simple border, most times they did not.

Today, we are going to make a washcloth. Maybe two or three. They are quick and easy to make, pretty, and they make great gifts. You will need a ball of worsted weight cotton yarn in a color you love, and a crochet hook in the appropriate size (I am going to use a H hook.) You will also need to know how to make a favorite stitch pattern, or a book of crochet stitches, such as one of the Harmony guides. For this project, we want a pattern that repeats in as few rows as possible; look for one that says "repeat row 2 for desired length" or something like that. The more rows you have to repeat for the pattern, the more complicated it will be, and that is not what we want today. I am going to use a slanted shell stitch for my washcloth. It has a pretty texture, cool scalloped edges (especially if you use an eyelet chain-free foundation, but we will save that for another day) and is super easy to memorize. A pattern for this stitch would read:

Row 1: Ch a multiple of 3 plus 4, (2 dc, ch 2, sc) in fourth ch from hook, *skip next 2 chs, (2 dc, ch 2, sc) in next ch; repeat from * across, turn.

Row 2: Ch 3, (2 dc, ch 2, sc) in each ch-2 sp across, turn.

Repeat Row 2 for desired length.

Now, decide how wide you want your washcloth to be. I think 8" square is a good size. So I make a chain about 12" long, because I know when I work the stitches it will draw up some. I am not going to worry if I have any chains left over. If I do, I will just cut them off.

If you want to write a pattern for your design (so you can make multiple identical items, or so you can share your design with friends), you can either figure out how many chains you will need based on the number of chains needed for each repeat of the pattern times how many repeats you use. Or, you can just count the number of chains you use to make your starting chain, then subtract the number you have left over after working the first row. Say you chain 100 to make a chain 10" long, and after you finish the first row you have 18 chains left over. That means you needed 82 chains to start your washcloth.

To cut away the excess chain, leave the 4 chains closest to the washcloth, and cut away the rest. Now carefully unravel the remaining 4 chains, and hide the end as you normally do.
It took me a little over an hour to make this washcloth. Small items like this are perfect for learning new stitches, and deciding if you like working with them before committing to a larger item.
There you have it; the basic idea is the same no matter what you are making. Experiment with your favorite stitches; you will find that some work better for certain items than others.
If you have finished your washcloth, congratulations, you are a designer! Happy crocheting!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

How to Become a Crochet Designer: Part One

I can't tell you how many times I have been asked "How do you become a crochet designer?", especially when I was working for DRG publishing. That is a difficult question to answer, because it depends on several things.

First of all, do you want to do it for the money? There are many people who think they can get rich quick selling their designs. In my experience, this just does not happen. It is very difficult to make a living wage selling crochet designs, and I know only a few designers (three, actually) who are actually able to do so. And each of them has been designing for more than 20 years. Even very well known designers usually have a "day job"; or else do not depend on the income from their designs (they have someone else paying the bills).

Many publishers have scaled back the number of crochet books and magazines they put out each year, so it is harder than ever to get something accepted for publication. You have to have a thick skin (which I do not), because you are probably going to have your designs or ideas rejected at some point. I have been designing a long time, and I still get rejected. And when I do, it still stings.

Another thing to consider is the amount of time you are willing to devote to actually crocheting. You have to turn out new designs consistently to be successful; in my case this means crocheting at least 8 hours every day, usually 6 days a week; more if I have deadline to meet. And this goes on year after year. Burnout has been the end of many a budding designer's career.

I am sorry to sound so negative, but I have met so many people who truly (in my opinion, anyway) have unrealistic dreams of becoming a professional designer. I don't want to crush any one's dreams, but I think everyone should be aware of the pitfalls.

But there are many other reasons to become a crochet designer that do not involve being published. There is nothing more precious than a hand crocheted baby blanket, unless it is a hand crocheted baby blanket that has been designed especially for the recipient. While I cannot in good conscience encourage anyone to be come a designer for money or fame, I can, and do, encourage every crocheter to stretch their creativity and create their own, original works of art.

There are a few basic formulas and techniques that make it possible to quickly, and rather painlessly create beautiful, unique and personal designs, and I will talk about some of them in the next post. Happy crocheting!