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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Crochet Granny Stripe Scarf. Free Pattern

Here it is, a super simple yet surprisingly effective granny stripe scarf (I’m all over crochet colour block stuff at the moment). My arm doesn’t stretch far enough to allow all the scarf to get in on the action I’m afraid but I do show it off a bit more in Episode 20 of my crochet podcast. I shan’t dilly dally, it’s the pattern you’re after isn’t it?! Here goes…

You will need around 350g dk yarn, a 4mm hook and marginal approximations of brain power. I used Drops Lima: 2x dark grey mix, 2x powder pink, 3x dark blue. I’m not sure it’s the best idea to use something that’s not machine washable, maybe I should have gone for the super wash merino…

If you wanted to, you could go down a hook size for the ribbing, I did (you can see the effect in the above photo). However, it isn’t necessary and I sort of wish I hadn’t.

  • Multiples of three are what’s needed. Chain as many as you like, I chained 54.
  • OK, this is the (sort of) tricky bit but it is important. It will make one teeny little difference depending on whether you have an even or odd number of multiples, it will determine whether you land on a Front Post st or a Back Post st on the second to last stitch of the row. It really doesn’t matter but it will change what you work first on the next row. All you have to remember is to work a BP in an FP and an FP in a BP. That’s what creates the rib effect.
  • UK terms are used here but I use both in the video. A UK treble is a US double.
  • I changed colour after I ran out of each ball.  I counted to double check that the end mirrored the beginning (you never know, your tension might change a bit).
  • Go here to check out the YouTube tutorial

Row 1. 1 tr in 4th ch from hook, 1tr along, turn. For neatness, work in the back bumps of the chain.

Row 2: Chain 3 (counts a first stitch), *1BP, 1FP; rep from * to second to last st. 1 tr in last st, turn (please read notes about  BP & FP).

Row 3-8: Rep row 2 making BPs & FPs accordingly, turn

Row 9: (1dc, 1ch, 1tr) in first st, *miss 2st, 3tr in next st; rep from * finishing with 2tr in the end st, turn.

Row 10: (1dc, 1ch) in first st, *3tr in next space between clusters; rep from * to end, finish with 1tr in last st, turn.

Row 11: (1dc, 1ch, 1tr) in first st, *3tr between each cluster; rep from * to end, finish with two tr in last st, turn.

Repeat rows 10 & 11 until you’re happy with the length. End on Row 11.

Row 12. Chain 3, 1tr in each st along to end, turn.

Row 13-19. Rep row 2 (remember what I said in the notes!!). Fasten off and sew in ends.

Check out the quick tutorial to see exactly where those BP and FP stitches go! Thanks ever so much.

Tell me when you’ve made one. Here I am on Instagram.  #grannystripescarf  #zeensandroger or add it to Ravelry!

This scarf was inspired by the colour block jumper by cleck heaton, which I love! My scarf is a free pattern, you’re welcome to make as many as you like but please let people know where you got the pattern from. No, you can’t reproduce the pattern, or sell it. Nor can you pretend it is yours. It stings when people claim your things as their own. And it ain’t legal!

Don’t forget to come and say hi!! x

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The Craft Blogger’s Seasonal Nightmare.

cosy-crochet-blankets-copyAll old crochet blankets (and I don’t mean really old, they’re all this year’s but they’re just not mega recent – I renewed my Etsy listings yesterday and I’ve chosen to show these as they’re all on there waiting for someone to love them). What else can I do at this time of year?! Everything else that’s going on right now will be a Christmas present and I can’t show those. It’s a serious dilemma for a crafty blogger, I’ve got nuffink to talk about! Actually, I have managed to scrape a few bits together…

christmas-in-felt-copyI enjoyed last Saturday at the local school Christmas craft fayre. Not exactly a money spinner but it still counted as a success in my eyes. Plus it gave me an excuse to make things and making things is what I Iike best! (The owls are my new favourite).

felt-christmas-decs-copyI won’t blather on, I did that last week. Needless to say, I’ve got enough Christmas felt designs to write a book! (I even looked into that the other day but I’m still not entirely sure how it works. I’m too much of a chicken to ask the experts all the stupid questions that have arisen in me noggin).

turquoise-reindeerAnyway, Christmas came early for one person (sort of). I took part in my first (of three) secret santa type sign ups. It turns out that these things are absolutely brilliant. You get exactly the very best presents! Why wouldn’t you when like-minded crafty people are doing the buying and making? It’s great!

This crazy dolphin/reindeer was the present I made for my Colour Pop Craft Swap person. This swap was arranged by Miki at Set Free My Gypsy Soul. In my head it was the stuff of Legend: A Grand Stag of Epic Proportions! It ended up more cutesy and feeble than I’d envisaged, but do you know what? The recipient loved it and that’s what counts.

antlers-copyI used a pattern I’d found in a magazine from a couple of years ago. It’s also on Ravelry as Little Deer Toy. I designed the antlers and made two pairs, which I stitched together for a bit of stability. I also made up a little sparkly star to jazz up his rump.

crochet-coasters-copyI felt the need to compensate somewhat (I had rushed my deer and he didn’t turn out as expertly crafted as I wanted). Into the parcel, I also popped a few cotton coasters and a little toadstool brooch. I love these coasters, so so quick to knock up; I bet every crocheter has had a go at making these at some point.

christmas-colour-pop-craft-swap-copyThese are my Christmas spoils. They arrived beautifully packaged, from the Netherlands. I was so happy to receive this fabulous bundle. I can tell you that the cat has had her eye on the spangly jangly stars. She pounced on them this morning and I’ve had to put them out of reach. I’ve been wearing my wrist warmers ( I changed to mittens this morning cos it was -2) and I absolutely love my Father Christmas. He is super awesome! Mirjam from Stin’s Place is the creator behind all these marvels.

my-new-designs-hat-scarf-and-crochet-wrist-warmersThe last few days have been focussed on getting my winter set of cosy things ready. The patterns need typing up and some photographs need sorting. Then I can hopefully have a pattern for sale. This will probably take longer than I want because I’ll be making it up as I go along (when am I not?)! I’m aiming to work on it all day on Friday and I think that should get me a good way into it. Given more time and more energy, I’d make a whole other set in different colours. I really like it all would love to see it in a different guise. What I need now is a need a name!

Well, I haven’t done too badly with this blog post. This time of year is definitely a struggle. I’ll be scraping the bottom of the barrel next time. Crikey, what’ll I do!? Anyone else suffering from the same problem? At least there will be plenty to talk about in January!

 

The Usual Crochet Catchup.

granny-makingThis week I haven’t been making my giant crochet granny blanket but here is what I’ve done so far. It is a pick up, put down type thing. I’m using up any reject colours and leftovers. I’m determined to go as big as possible. I’m itching to pick it up right now but I’ll be sewing for the next few weeks.

stitchy-xmasI’m making loads of Christmas decorations for the school fayre (fair?) in about 3 weeks. The living room is scattered with lost sequins and discarded threads. The hoover objects.

paintbox-yarnsLast weekend I got a delightful parcel in the form of some Paintbox yarns. A present from Emma of Potter and Bloom. I was lucky to be one of the first to finish pattern testing for Emma’s Geoffrey Scarf and this was my prize! It’s aran and I haven’t decided what it’ll be. Do I focus on the colours I’ve got or do I get silly and buy loads more to go with? For some reason these colours are telling me poncho but I fear it might turn out Ugly Betty. Or I could do another scarf…?

drops-melodyI met in the middle with mohair, that was tempting me recently.  I wouldn’t have given this a second look a few weeks ago but after playing with Wool and the Gang’s Take Care Mohair I went on the prowl for cheaper alternatives. I really couldn’t afford to buy the lovely stuff they gave me so I thought I’d try Drops Melody. It is a lot cheaper but it isn’t real mohair. I’ll be tinkering with it in between Christmas decorations. I also got some silk stuff to compare. I think it was on offer.

cottonI also got a mixture of cotton double knits to experiment with. These ones have been stored with the fluffy Melody and are covered in yarny short n curlies. There are worse kinds. I have a design to work on that I think will look good in cotton. I wish I had more time! I need more time.

Over on Instagram I try my best to comment on things I like. Last week, maybe the week before, I casually joined in a conversation about naming some patterns for The Crochet Project. They are releasing a gorgeous quartet of wintery patterns this weekend. I didn’t really think my comments would be considered. I’ve only been fortunate enough to name two of the four projects!! And I got the patterns for free!! I am so chuffed. I had no clue that there would be a gift or even that they’d like my suggestions. I’m very happy indeed. If you see the Kelpie hat or the Selkie cowl, I named those! (I do like my fairy lore). However, now I need to get some yarn so that I can make the patterns. It’ll need to be a little bit special too. I also have The Crochet Project shawl books on my Christmas list. I want to make it everything!

On that note, I’m off. I’m hoping that my next blog post will be about this weekend’s Tar Barrels. If I survive.

 

Crochet Catch up. October.

tunisian-crochet-cowlI may as well start with more pictures of me! (I know why I keep having to do this, it’s because I keep making hats and scarves that have to be worn to show what they’re like). I promise it really isn’t going to be a regular occurence.

cosy-cowl-tunisian-crochetIt’s my Tunisian crochet cowl, which is a fabulous free pattern by BHooked. Once I got stuck in it took next to no time. I wrote about the beginnings of it a couple of weeks ago. I’m wearing it right now, I’m absolutely freezing. I used different colours to the original pattern. I ordered mustard and barley Lionbrand, Wool Ease Thick and Quick from Woolwarehouse. When I first put it on it was quite stiff even though my tension couldn’t have been that tight (I would have had loads of yarn left over if it was too tight and I didn’t). It’s sitting a lot better now that I’ve worn it a few times.

green-crochet-puff-stitch-hatTo go with my new snood/cowl, I made a hat with Drops Big Merino. The pompom matches the cowl but the cat found it and has mauled the hat slightly. I came down stairs the other morning to find lots of mustardy worms sprinkled on the carpet. She does love a pompom.

twatCan I get away with this combo? I’ll at least be warm!

crochet-kitty-purseI finally got this made. A cute kitty purse by Nicki Trench (from the book Cute and Easy Crochet). It had been sat waiting (half made) for a few weeks. I was gearing myself up towards getting out the sewing machine. The thought of dragging it out from the cupboard under the stairs and then setting it all up was a bit of an effort (so lazy). I thought it’d be better to wait until I had a few sewing jobs and get them all done at the same time. Mine looks more like a mouse but, whatever.

cute-crochet-kitty-purseIt has been posted to my niece whose birthday was in the middle of August. Seeing as she’s only two I didn’t think she’d notice that it was a momentarily delayed.

cat-fabric-liningThe lining is my favourite! More kitties! It’s from Fabricland. I bought it a year or two ago but I think they still sell it.

cat-and-kittyMarceline is always nosey. She came over and sat on top of all the crochet.

stupid-faces-in-my-crochet-geoffrey-scarfSorry, more selfies. I had no idea how tricky it’d be to take a picture of a scarf! The angle you need to get it all in! This is the Geoffrey Scarf by Potter and Bloom.

my-crochet-geoffrey-scarf-by-potter-and-bloomIsn’t it lovely?! I watch podcasts every now and again (they’re vlogs really but podcast seems to be the word that has caught on) and I have recently found one by Potter and Bloom. I have now stalked Emma everywhere: You Tube, Twitter, Instagram, Ravelry, her blog; I have probably made quite a nuisance of myself. But it has paid off because when she asked for pattern testers for her Geoffrey scarf I was there shouting “pick me, pick me”. I spent last weekend scrutinising every last word, number, asterix of the pattern… It was like a really weird crochet exam.

sausaged-geoffI have never read a pattern so intensely in my life. I wanted to do it properly though. I thought it’d be a doddle; it was only a scarf! I thought I’d get it done and dusted in a few hours. It was actually a lot of work. It was a good experience though and I’m glad I’ve done it. It also turned out that I was the first of a handful of testers to finish. That means I get a lovely gift of Paintbox yarn from Emma! I’ll report back on that another day.

middle-motifs-of-geoffreyThere’s a nice intersection of motifs in the centre of the scarf. When it’s wrapped around your neck they sit nicely at the front. My middle motif looks like an eye. It’ll be staring at whomever I talk to when I’m wearing it. Except for it won’t. I’m not keeping it, I’m putting it aside as a Christmas present. I’ve got my chunky Tunisian cowl!

geoffrey-scarf-by-potter-and-bloom Should I add tassels to the pointy ends, or leave it as it is? I think Emma decided to leave hers, she had pondered over the idea of pompoms.

geoffrey-on-the-stairs-crochet-scarf-by-potter-and-bloomIf you’d like to hear more about the Geoffrey scarf, pop over to You Tube to watch Episode 10 of Potter and Bloom’s podcast. Just before the six minute mark is the part where my fellow testers and I are mentioned. And If you watch Episode 9 just before the 27 minute mark she starts talking about yarn for a shawl. Yeah, that was my joke!! How exciting to be mentioned! I was watching the podcast whilst cooking the tea (sausage and mash!) and had to “rewind” as I hadn’t been quite sure I’d heard right. But you should watch all of them! Not just the bits I’m in!

And there have been so many other exciting things happen this week. It has been ridiculously busy… A winner for the Take Care Mohair Giveaway was picked yesterday (that was over on Instagram), I’ve been to an event run by The Creative Business Network to get a massive injection of motivation (the artist Sarah J Perry gave a talk on Imposter Syndrome) and I’ve actually been writing out some new crochet patterns. It all feels great! But I must get on, I need to continue writing patterns. I forgot that it’s half term next week, which means I lose time I thought I had!

 

Finding time in the Holidays.

crochet half circle

Finding time in the holidays to do crafty things… it isn’t really happening. I’ve got some new ideas too; I’d like to play but can’t. But this is the holidys and I’m just busy. Mind you, the lovely day out I planned only took about two hours and we’ve been at home all afternoon. All the “fun” things are getting on my nerves.  I’ll snap out of it and share the stuff I have managed to tinker with.

writing patterns

I’m trying out an idea for something. It’s slow going because I don’t actually know how to write patterns. I wonder if there is a secret that I’m not party to? I just keep trying different ways until I get it the way I want it. Is there a formula I should know about?

frogged

This sort of thing happened a lot over the weekend.

granny square

But also this! I found sparkly yarn in Poundland. I wouldn’t have known about it if it weren’t for folk talking about it on Instagram. It’s Granny Square day today so I made this granny square to put on IG.

new wool

Why wasn’t the green sparkly?!

sari  silk spun

I also made this. Aaages and aaages ago I took part in a craft destash swap on Twitter. It was very exciting to think about what parcel I might send to my crafty partner and even more exciting to receive a present of all things that appeal to me. I got this crazy yarn, as well as many other lovely things. One of the things we had to do was make something and share it on social media. I have no idea what I’ll do with the other stuff (I might have already messed up the lovely fabric I got). Have a look at the bottom of my birthday post from May to see the other things.

crazy crochet purse

It’s a little purse. It’s just rows of half trebles, with a button hole. I lined it with some cheap Ikea fabric and roughly stitched it together. I don’t mind that it’s not neat, it isn’t supposed to be neat.

cat basket

Remember my trip down memory lane? The basket I’m supposed to be fixing has been commandeered by the cat. Youngest thought this was great and wanted to carry her about. She wasn’t best pleased.

And this hastily put together post is pretty much all I’ve had time to do. You can even spot that I was in my pyjamas for most of it! I keep forgetting to take pictures of a blanket I finished too. I’ll do that next (as long as I don’t forget again).