As you may or may not know, I have a long and complicated history with the world of Fine Arts. In any Art community you are constantly exposed to other artists work, personally, this exposure would make me feel very inspired most of the time, while other times it could make me feel discouraged and insecure. I always struggled with the originality that came with Art, it felt like everyone around me was drawing or painting images that were made completely from their own imagination, and I was the only one that needed a photographic reference. Eventually I came to realize that everyone uses a reference to their own degree of necessity, it is all just part of the learning process. Although needing a reference when drawing made me feel inferior to other artists around me, using references while designing my clothing really only feels like finding inspiration rather than using a crutch. I’m not sure why creating original clothing pieces feels so much less intimidating to me than creating original art pieces, but it is definitely a medium that I feel much more comfortable in. Just in case there is anyone out there that really wants to create their own designs, but is too intimidated and overwhelmed to know where to start, I wanted to walk through how I create my designs in hopes that maybe breaking it down can make the task a little less scary. So let’s dive in!
Although Brain Storming in school was my least favorite part of any project, I actually find it to be extremely fun when it comes to designing clothes and patterns. This is because when it really comes down to it, you are essentially just shopping, except in the end you get to make the clothes rather than just buy them!
Generally when I set out to create a new design I have some kind of starting factor that has inspired me. Now this inspiration can literally be anything and it isn’t the same every time. Some times I go into things only knowing what color(s) I want the design to be, other times I’m lucky enough to know the actual kind of item I hope to make, and other times I have a specific stitch that I want to use. And keep in mind that there will be times where you want to create something but you don’t have any inspiration and that is okay!
My first step no matter what my initial inspiration (even if there isn’t any), is to just look at clothes. I will usually do this on Pinterest or even sites for clothing stores that I enjoy, as long as I am looking at clothes that interest me, I am essentially researching! Depending on what stage I am in in the design, my searches can be as vague as just “Fashion” or sometimes as specific as “Pink Off The Shoulder Halter Romper” it really just depends, but don’t be afraid to be as vague or specific as you’d like, chances are you will find something that interests you.
Now at this point I start collecting images of clothing pieces that I like. One of the most important things that I keep in mind when i’m doing this is to not be narrow minded about judging the clothing as a whole. What I mean by this is that even if you only like the sleeves or the collar of the pieces, still add that to your stock pile of images! I also recommend making a quick note indicating what aspect of that piece that you find interesting, this will help you later. Collect as many pictures as you like, although do try not to overwhelm yourself (I am often guilty of this), you will eventually learn where you need to draw your own limit on inspiration haha.
Brain Storming Part II
Maybe you started with no inspiration or perhaps you started with only a color in mind, but for now you have made it to the second part of Brain Storming! At this point you have collected a few images to get your creative juices flowing, now it is time to analyze them.
I mentioned in my previous post that I love the puzzle/ problem solving aspects of designing and this step is a big part of how I create my designs. I pick and choose certain things I like from different pieces of clothing and I create my own frankenstein out of them. This is not to say that you have to do it this way either, if you find a piece of clothing and you love everything about it, go ahead and recreate that piece of clothing (as long as you aren’t plagiarizing). However if you chose to go the mad scientist route, I am here to walk you through that as well!
So, start looking through the images that you have collected and start to analyze what you like about each item and how you might want to incorporate it into your own. I usually create a sort of template and make some notes paired with the item of clothing that I am referencing, It is here that I focus on two main aspects…
1. What do I like the most about this design? It can be multiple things, say you love the structure of a dress and you also like it in the color that it is depicted in. Now you can pinpoint that those are two elements that you would love to add to your own design.
2. What is challenging about this design? For this part, there might be concerns that come to you right off the bat, like that you would really want a strapless top, but you don’t know how to make it stable enough to not slip off. In addition there might be times where you have to come back to this because you realize later on in the development that there could be a complication. For example, this happened to me recently with a top that I was designing. I had made a lot of final decisions on the structure and design of the top, and once I finally found a stitch that I really wanted to use and thought would be perfect, it so happened that that particular stitch was not compatible with the structure that I had designed.
Thinking about what design elements I love, but also what could be challenging about those elements is probably the most important step for me. Not only does it help me really narrow down my final design, it works as a reality check of sorts. Really going over the design in your head and singling out some of the challenges you might face allows you to do some further research on those challenges before you even begin the project. Whether it be needing to learn a new crochet technique or even just how to size certain garments to be form fitting. Being aware of these things before you begin is going to help you immensely in the long run, and, although it is unfortunate, sometimes this is when you will find out that certain elements just aren’t going to work quite the way you want them too.
Once I start to finalize the structure of the design I also start to do some more research on what kind of colors, stitches, and hardware (if any) that I would like to use for my project. This part of the design process also has some reality check built into it. There have been many times where I have had a dream color for a project, but that color doesn’t exist in any yarn, or that it does exist, but just not in the type of yarn you need for the kind of stitch you want to use. This is where you are most likely going to make your final adjustments based on what you have available to you. In the most ideal situation you won’t have to sacrifice any of the elements of your design, but there will be times where you are going to have to make some changes. For example, I found a stitch I loved a few days ago for a project that I thought would be perfect, I had a dream color for it, but that color only seemed to exist in a much thicker yarn than I could use for that stitch. In the end I decided that the color mattered more to me than the stitch, and therefore I went with another stitch that I was still very happy with in the end.
By now you will have more or less finalized your design (I feel like everyone makes adjustments as they work on the project that weren’t originally planned haha). Before I started creating patterns, I never bothered taking proper body measurements, and if that still isn’t your thing, by all means continue doing what you’re doing! Personally, I have found taking measurements to be incredibly helpful since I started using them. Every project is going to need a different set of measurements, so at this point I like to look at my design and see which measurements I am going to need and try to get those measurements as accurately as possible before I start my project. Interpreting these measurements and utilizing them properly is going to be easier if you make a gauge.
When I first started crocheting, I didn’t understand gauges, I didn’t want to understand gauges, I didn’t care about them, and now I have seen the light of why they are so important! Knowing what kind of tension you must use to replicate the pattern’s gauge is very important, but gauges are also very useful for seeing how your yarn interacts with your hook and will ultimately help you get the best fit. For example, when I first started using measurements I thought “32 inch bust means 32 inch foundation chain” but boy was I wrong. Like me, you might not realize it unless you take actual measurements, but when you start working stitches into your foundation chain, that foundation chain and piece is going to grow. Depending on what size hook and yarn you are using, this growth should only be limited to a few inches, but if you are trying to make a form fitting design, then a few extra inches makes all the difference. At this point you would just need to do a bit of simple math and subtract those inches of growth from your foundation so that when your piece does grow, it will grow to be the size that you intended in the first place.
It is once I have gathered all this information that I feel I can begin my project with confidence! it is likely that I will make some creative changes as I go along, but who doesn’t haha.
I hope that you found this information helpful if you are thinking about creating your own designs or even if you have already begun creating your own designs! By no means am I saying that this is THE WAY to create your designs, every one has their own methods, but this is the general method that I find makes me feel the least overwhelmed and the most prepared. IF you have any questions or would like any clarification on any of the steps I covered in this post, please feel free to email me or leave a comment!