Ideas Formed in Fiber: The birth of an original design from concept to completion

It has come to my attention recently that some people may believe that the items I create and sell are from patterns found on the internet. And due to this assumption, that my prices are higher than they should be. In trying to figure out how to address this concern, I realized that an in-depth look into my creation process may be exactly the right thing for my first blog on this page.

While I work in quite a few mediums, today I will be discussing yarn crafts; Knitting and crocheting.

Coming up with an idea

Deciding what to create happens any number of ways. Sometimes it’s watching an episode of a great series and thinking, “Oh! A little plush of that character would be so great!” Sometimes a customer asks me for something specific. Sometimes a friend suggests something. And sometimes I see something else someone has created and it sparks the idea to try my own.

Regardless of how the idea comes to me, my usual goal is to create something great. If I got the idea from something someone else has done, I only try my own if I think I can improve on it or change it in some way to make it unique, more recognizable, etc. For wearable items, I want it to be something useful as well as attractive. A scarf that won’t keep you warm or be comfortable is no good! In fact, I have had hundreds of ideas that I haven’t followed through on, because I didn’t think they were practical.

Once I come up with an idea, I continue into:

The planning stage

Before I ever pull out my yarn and hooks/needles, I do a little research. I do a Google image search on the character/item and decide what, exactly, I want to create. What aspects of this character will make it recognizable? Which aspects are less important? Should it be more realistic or amigurumi-style? Should it be 3D or 2D? And so on…

Then I look up to see what, if anything, others have done. Is the idea I have in my head something that has already been done to death? If so, how can I improve upon it? Or, does it look as good as I expect it will? Sometimes, I realize that the idea I had just isn’t practical. Maybe the detail necessary to make it recognizable is too time-consuming and thus would cost more than most people would be willing to pay.

I also look up to see what others charge for similar items. Is my idea, and what I will probably charge for it, comparable to what’s already available? And I decide from there whether certain things should be improved upon or altered.

Once I’ve pretty much nailed down the direction I want to go in, I move onto

Creating a pattern

Now this can be quite a process.

Sometimes, I can just start crocheting/knitting and work out the details as I go along.  Pulling out stitches and trying again when a shape isn’t working out as I want, writing down what I do as I go (when I’m smart – sometimes I just completely forget to do this and then I have to try to remember what I did! :P ).  The first of any design usually takes at least three times as long as it will once I’ve worked out the final pattern.  This means that it may possibly take hours to come up with a simple hat or plush.

Other times, if I will be creating something with a shape or technique I’m not 100% familiar with but that is not uncommon, I will look for patterns that utilize these to find the best way to approach it.  And I don’t mean looking up the pattern of a specific character.  For example, if I am doing something that should be perfectly round, I will look up patterns for balls, globes, etc.  This cuts down on the time it would take me to figure it out through trial and error.

Using the knowledge and experience of thousands of others is especially helpful when it comes to items that need to be a certain size, like hats.  Instead of creating a bunch of random sizes and hoping they fit someone, I look up average head measurements.  Utilizing gauge, I can then determine how many stitches I need the hat to be.  This is especially helpful when creating a design with color work.  If I only have 50 stitches, I certainly can’t create a design that requires 100!

When creating patterns, my desk is littered with yarn, hooks/needles, stitch markers, a sketch book, scissors, and my computer screen with Word, Excel, a calculator, and  dozens of tabs with various pictures to click back and forth between to make sure I’m getting it just right!  It is by no means a clean, simple process.

Once I’ve finished making an item, and am happy with the final product, I

Finalize the design

Finalizing the design is probably the easiest part.  I edit the pattern to reflect the final decisions made regarding the design, so that I can duplicate it over and over again.  Sometimes this means including the simplest things because, when you make hundreds of items, it’s easy to forget.

I decide on the price.  This usually means making another one from the final pattern and timing how long it takes to make.  Calculating cost of materials, time, difficulty of the pattern, etc.

Even when I’ve finalized a design, I will sometimes change it after a while for any number of reasons.  Sometimes I discover a technique that would look better.  Other times I may realize that the technique I use is just too tedious or time-consuming.  And sometimes I just don’t like the way it looks anymore and I think I can make it better!  That usually means starting the process all over.  But I think it’s always been for the best.

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