8 Things I Learned My First Year Designing Knitwear
Last March I published my first real pattern to Ravelry for sale. Since then I’ve published 26 patterns! Let me start out by saying I am not an expert; my designs are not favorited and knit by thousands, and I am not well known in the designer world (YET)! But I LOVE the design process and believe that ANYONE can become a designer if you have that desire within you! I’ve been so encouraged and inspired by watching and learning from other designers over the past few years so I want to pass it on and share some of the important things I’ve learned so far on my design journey.
1. Start With What You Know And Don't Be Afraid to Learn as You Go!
I'm not the biggest fan of knitting socks. So I haven't wasted energy designing socks yet. Start with projects you like to make and wear yourself. The things you have the most experience with will come easier to you as you start the design process and you will be less likely to get frustrated and quit if you begin with the familiar. Its also okay to learn as you go. If you are anything like me you don't know every single knitting technique out there. Thats okay, you can always learn a new technique in order to incorporate it into a new design! You don't have to be a master knitter to offer something fresh and new to the knitting community!
2. Designs May Morph as You Work on Them.
Imagine you have a vision of an incredible lace shawl, but when you sit down to start cranking it out you run into some major roadblocks and can’t seem to get past them. Thats all part of the design process! So many of my designs had to be tweaked, altered or changed beyond recognition as I worked. Try to be flexible and not to stress when things aren't going as planned. Sometimes something even more awesome than what you initially envisioned will take shape if you just stick with it! And if it doesn’t…
3. It Is Okay to Frog an Idea!
Not every design you think of will necessarily make it all the way to Ravelry, and thats okay! You aren't a failure if you quit on something because it is just not working out. Sometimes you just need to go back to the drawing board and go in a completely different direction. Learning when to let go is an important part of creating great designs. Consider it all as part of the learning process. You will get better about knowing what will work well with a particular yarn, stitch pattern, or technique over time.
4. Wait Until You Can Get Great Photos BEFORE You Release a Pattern!
I learned this one the hard way! I've done a lot of re-shoots for designs that I was just too excited about to wait to release. But it is so worth it to take the time and find the right lighting and background to get a few great shots of your design! People also like seeing objects modeled by a real person so It is also usually better to find a friend to model or photograph you wearing your designs rather than using a mannequin.
5. Give an Incentive to Your Tribe.
As a brand new designer without a huge tribe (following) I have found it hard to get my patterns noticed. There are soooooo many people designing awesome things, we have the internet and Ravelry to thank for that! I do believe that the designs I make have value and considering how much hard work goes into designing, testing, and drafting them, I don't think it is fair to give all of my patterns away for free. So in order to get my designs out there in the hands of more people I decided to offer a $1 special release on Instagram for new designs for a limited time as an incentive for people to check them out. I’m not alone, lots of designers offer a discount for pattern releases, its a great way to grow a tribe and show some love!
6. Think Outside of the Box.
If you have an idea for a design but can’t figure out how to implement it think outside the traditional way of construction. My Pitter Patter Shawl is an example of this, I decided to work it as a modular construction so it could include all the elements I wanted without the headache of a traditional top down construction.
7. Find a Niche.
Find something that is missing and try to fill in that space. I started out designing because I wanted a shawl that had a lacy edging but couldn't find one exactly like I wanted so I designed the Boho Chic Shawl with a crochet edging. I’ve since made several other shawls this way. Not everyone will be into this and a lot of knitters don’t crochet at all, but of the ones who do it is a unique project that they are likely to be interested in. I also found designs for hand spun yarn lacking so I designed the Down River Collection of patterns which I specifically created to showcase hand spun yarns.
8. BE YOURSELF!
Sometimes I found myself wanting to hop on the band wagon of a popular style of pattern or design element even if I felt like it's not “me.” But I found when I used these elements just to try to create something I thought would be appealing to others it was a boring, frustrating process, OR I didn't like the end result. However, when I tried to put my own spin on a design or stayed true to the way I like doing things and my own sense of style I felt more excited and happy about the design process. I think it’s really important to be authentic to your own sense of style and color, make things that YOU love and feel happy with. Realize you aren’t going to please everyone; you don’t have to! The people who feel your vibe will be interested in your work. Even if thats only 5 people I am okay with that! Remember the worst case scenario is that no one will buy your pattern and in that case don't you want to be stuck with a finished object you yourself like?
I look forward to more designing, learning, growing, and creating over this next year. I hope to make more designs with combined elements of knitting, crochet and embroidery, as well as ones that utilize my own hand spun and hand dyed yarns! If you would like to be a test knitter for new designs feel free to join my ravelry group HERE