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Amy Solovay

Simplify the Crochet Design Process by Working With Granny Squares

By February 2, 2014

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I've unofficially been a textile designer since childhood, when I first began designing my own crochet projects. "Officially," I've been a textile designer since I graduated from design school with a textile design degree back in 1998.

Since that time, I've designed crochet, knitting, weaving, textile prints, lace and nonwovens, and after those experiences I can safely say this: the design process is not a simple thing.

However, I've also learned an opposing truth: the design process can be simplified in zillions of different ways. One of the easiest ways to simplify the design process is, surprisingly, to put limitations on it.

That might sound like nonsense, but let me give you a couple of examples right out of my design career.

Once, a customer approached me and said, "I want you to design a new floral print for our summer line this coming year."

I said "Great! Let's talk about what kind of floral you'd like. Do you want realistic flowers or abstract flowers? Do you have a specific flower in mind -- roses, daisies, irises, peonies, or something else all together? Would you prefer large scale flowers, or smaller flowers? How about mood -- would you prefer playful, romantic, flirty or goth? Do you have a specific color palette in mind?

Her response: "I'm not sure. I'll know it when I see it."

A different customer came to me and handed me a folder. She said, "I'm working on our summer print line, and I need three new floral prints that we envision will be printed onto lightweight cotton jersey for making juniors' t-shirts. In the folder you'll find examples of fabrics that did well for us last summer. We want something brand new but along the same lines -- same spacing, same sorts of flowers, same youthful look. The designs need to appeal to both teen girls and their mothers at the same time. We've reworked our entire color palette for this season and you'll find swatches of all our new colors in the folder as well.

Which customer put the most limitations on my design process? And which customer do you think I had the easiest time designing for?

You probably guessed it: It was a breeze to complete the projects for the second customer, whose vision was much more limited but at the same time much more focused. It was not at all easy to complete the project for the first customer, who had no idea what she wanted.

Now let's talk about applying these same principles to the crochet design process. Some of you are crochet designers and some of you are not, but all of you can be if you want to be. And even if you don't want to be, you could design a few things here and there, just for fun. Why not?

So let's talk about some possibilities for how you could put limitations on the crochet design process in a way that would make it really, really easy -- even for a new crocheter.

One thing you could do is limit yourself to designing projects that are only comprised of granny squares, and at the same time, only flat squares or flat rectangles. This set of limitations allows for a lot of creativity, and allows just about any crochet enthusiast who has learned the basic stitches to participate.

Want to give it a try? If so, I invite you to check out this set of instructions I've created for designing your own crochet projects using small granny squares.

I want to emphasize a few important points:

  • Feel free to use these instructions as is if they appeal to you, or use them as a jumping-off point if they spark your imagination to go in a different direction.
  • Feel free to pursue a different set of limitations that you would find more appealing than these. For example, if granny squares make you yawn, it could maybe be more interesting for you to start with a different type of square, hexagon, or other shape, and then decide on a different set of limitations to work with, and go from there.
  • This is only one possible way to put limitations on the design process. By all means, dream up others. Try different approaches until you find a set of limitations that works for your individual aesthetic. If you want to seriously pursue crochet design, that's one way you could go about finding your "voice" as a designer, or at least, the next series of projects you might want to pursue.

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