How I Became a Crochet Designer (& How You Can Become One Too)

Yesterday, crochet designer and photographer, Mandy of RedAgape wrote a frankly marvellous piece about what it really means to become a professional in the crochet world. Every single word had me nodding in agreement and I can honestly say that if you think crochet design is something you’d like to do then Mandy’s words are a pretty accurate description of what to expect.

For three or four months I’ve had “write blog post – how to become a crochet designer” on my To-do list. I’d been putting it off as I knew it would be a long one. Inspired by Mandy’s post (and without treading on her toes) I’d like to share some of my thoughts and tell you a little bit about how I started.

How I started

There are three moments in my crafty past that have really stuck with me. 1 At eight years old, Nanna telling me “you won’t learn to crochet if you hold the hook like that.” I did eventually. Twenty years later. 2 Just over half way through that twenty year break (sometime in my early twenties) I saw my artist friend crochet cups and saucers out of plastic tubing and I said “I wish I could crochet” and she told me “it’s easy! Go for it”. I didn’t go for it. I really should have. 3 The birth of my first baby. Nanna made him a giant granny square blanket and I knew I had to make him one too. So I did. Sort of. It was actually a ripple and it wasn’t the first thing I made, but you know, same difference. That was just over seven years ago.

The first real step I took towards taking my hobby more seriously was to set up this blog. Admittedly it took me about five years of just thinking about it. I was daft to delay but it’s about confidence and I didn’t have any. I had very few designs at first and was constantly fretting that another would never come to me. So not true! The more you tinker and play, the more ideas you get, I promise.

Magazine Work

Several small baby steps later I (nervously) decided the time was right and in October 2016 I sent out emails to three magazines (you can find contact details at the front of your favourite magazines). I sent out pictures of a few different things I’d made, asking if they were interested. The designs were all originals that I hadn’t shown to anyone else (magazines prefer exclusive ideas, which is why I don’t say anything about a commission until it’s about to go on sale. That, and I’m scared they’ll pull my design from the issue – it happens. I’m really good at keeping secrets these days. I never used to be!). I was added to a Call for Submissions list by all three of the mags and one of the designs I’d sent was immediately accepted by Inside Crochet. Not only that but they also asked to feature my blog in their magazine! I properly freaked out, I was gobsmacked and completely delighted! Since then I’ve featured in all three magazines and had designs featured in many issues [my work is on the front cover of each of those magazines in the above pic!!]. I’ve also designed for Hobbycraft. I am super proud of myself and if I can do it then so can you! Anyway, enough of tooting my own trumpet.

Selling Online Patterns

I like Ravelry. I’m still learning about it even though I’ve been on there for years. I’ve experienced some really good sales and some disappointing sales. Once you’ve established how to add your pattern details and upload a pdf (I need quiet for all of this as I’m well known for temper tantrums when it comes to filling stuff out online) then you cross your fingers for the initial flurry of interest followed by passive sales. Etsy hasn’t worked for me in the past and I’ve only just dipped my toe in LoveCrochet.com so I don’t have much experience of that yet. If you use these platforms, I’d love to hear what you make of them. Maybe I should give them a proper chance.

Hints and Tips

This is the list of info I think will be helpful. I’ve had it scribbled down in my note book since the autumn…

  • Always be crocheting. You get better everyday.
  • Set up a blog to show case your work. If you haven’t got time, then Instagram is your best friend.
  • Keep a sketch book nearby (or scrawl things on your phone/tablet). Write down/sketch out every idea. If it’s a wearable item, draw someone wearing it. You’ll need simple sketches for submissions too.
  • Swatch swatch swatch. Make good swatches for all submissions. Swatches will help you work out little tweaks that need doing, help with shaping and help you work out if the maths is right etc. I hate making swatches, I force myself to do it.
  • Practice pattern writing with small design projects. Maybe they can become freebies on your blog. Freebies are a lovely thing to offer but I wouldn’t recommend doling out big designs. That’s a lot of hard work for very little in return and it doesn’t do the rest of the community any favours. Don’t underestimate your worth.
  • Be the best you can be. Don’t release patterns that you aren’t super proud of. I frog A LOT of crochet and 99% of the time it is the right decision.
  • Keep abreast of what others are up to. What are the latest trends? Popular yarns, popular colours?
  • Have a look at this post about choosing colour in your projects. It might help with the point above.
  • Keep the pattern writing simple. I use Google Docs. If it’s to sell independently I add a small intro, a few good photographs, “how-to” pics if I think it needs them and a chart (Stitchfiddle.com is what I use).
  • Just do it! Start. Now!
  • And tell the tax man…

Like other creatives I just wanna make stuff. I’ve learned a ridiculous amount by playing around (making lots of mistakes) and I’ve probably not even covered the half of it here. Crikey, I still have a ridiculous amount to learn. I’m coming up to my third year of blogging but have only considered myself to be a designer for one year. That’s not a long time so I reckon I should come back and look at this next year to see what’s changed!

Please let me know if there is anything else you’d like to know or if you think I’ve missed out a vital piece of information. If you are a crochet designer too, I’d love to know what your experience has been. Tell me! Thanks ever so much! X

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22 thoughts on “How I Became a Crochet Designer (& How You Can Become One Too)

  1. Nicola Florence @ ayarnyrobin says:

    Rosina, thank you so much for this post. I read Mandy’s post yesterday. I have been thinking about sending my work to magazines and producing paid patterns (mine are all free at the moment) but I wasn’t sure how to do it, or if I had the confidence, or the right amount of followers or if I even crochet properly.!!!!! I’ve just realised this is probably normal…thank you for inspiring me yet again!!! Xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Zeens and Roger says:

      Oh my, yes all totally normal!! You can do it, I promise!! Seriously, I’m such a wimp and I always feel I’m not ready. But if I don’t do the thing (whatever it is), afterward I feel like I’ve missed the boat. All those people that do the thing they want to do are all pooing their pants. We just don’t see it! ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ xxx

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Eleonora from Coastal Crochet says:

    Great article Rosina! I too read Mandy’s (from Redagape) blog post yesterday and was also nodding in agreement! And now I found myself nodding whilst reading your blog post too!! You and I have been on a similar crochet journey with our blogs, Hobbycraft designs and magazine work ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ And for me it’s been that shared journey with fellow bloggers and the connections I’ve made with other crocheters around the world through Instagram which has been so special and spurred me on. It would be pretty lonely being a crochet designer without the online element and ability to share experiences with others who really appreciate it! ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you for being my crochet buddy! ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 3 people

    • Zeens and Roger says:

      I really wouldn’t have stuck around if I hadn’t met such lovely people online. It really would have been lonely and I would have been completely lost. We cheer each other on, and that support makes such a difference to all of us! ๐Ÿ˜€
      Thank you too!! mwah mwah! ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ xxx

      Liked by 2 people

  3. themessybrunette says:

    That was a lovely read Rosina! Im a big fan of Mandy and I used to do a lot of her mandalas so I could learn the stitches and have something completed relevantly quickly !

    Its great to see you flourish and now a major crochet published star eh! well done you.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Keep Calm and Crochet On UK says:

    Great post Rosina! I think we all enjoyed reading Mandyโ€™s (from Redagape) blog post yesterday and our heads have all been also nodding in agreement! Although Iโ€™ve been designing independently awhile itโ€™s only last year I started working with magazines. Iโ€™d say if you want to design then definitely go for it! I do love it. My advice would be that you have to also get a bit thick skinned, Iโ€™ve definitely learnt that not everyone will like what you design and magazines may not take one submission but they may like a different one next time. Crochet Alongs have also always been my friend too, Iโ€™ve run three now and about to launch a fourth later this year. They have probably been amongst the most challenging things I have designed and run but they have been ultimately so rewarding! Youโ€™d like the Groovyghan itโ€™s granny stitch heaven ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

    • Zeens and Roger says:

      That advice is so true! I’ve learned not to take it personally too. The ideas will still be there anyway and you can use them for something else another time!
      I’m certainly going to enjoy the granny CAL but I aimed for easy so I can enjoy it all! ๐Ÿ˜€
      Thank you! xx

      Liked by 1 person

  5. atkokosplace says:

    What an encouragement you are! I am sure I wouldn’t ever be at your level as I don’t even remember how to at the moment, (I hope to pick it up again one day), but your words are inspiring! I wish you all the best in selling your plans. Keep it up! You do beautiful work. Koko ๐Ÿ™‚

    Like

  6. Becca says:

    Fantastic post, Rosina. I do have a question if you donโ€™t mindโ€ฆ

    When you get to the point of either releasing a design or selling to a magazine, how much research do you put in to make sure itโ€™s not exactly like someone elseโ€™s already released work?

    I have a blanket design Iโ€™m working on, itโ€™s my first and tbh something Iโ€™d never ever thought I hear myself utter ha ha. Iโ€™ve had a quick search online to find anything like it and havenโ€™t found much similar to date. I hate to release it and then find Iโ€™m stepping on someone elseโ€™s toes.

    Like

  7. Becca says:

    Fantastic post, Rosina.
    I would love to ask you about something with regards to releasing designs.
    I have a blanket idea I’m currently working on. I have had a good check around to see if I can find anything like it, but I would hate to release it and then find out I’m stepping on someone’s toes.
    Is there a failproof line of research I need to be doing?

    Like

    • Zeens and Roger says:

      Thank you!
      I used to spend hours trawling the net trying to find versions of my design ideas “just in case” but I realised there’s no point. It made me feel worse. I’d find things with similar elements and convince myself to bin the idea (even when they weren’t the same thing but just had one teeny thing in common). It’s time better spent on designing new originals!! ๐Ÿ˜„

      Liked by 1 person

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