Drafting Patterns for Crochet and Knit Garments

There are few people who make their crochet ideas come to life without a plan and if your plan is to produce a pattern you will need some experience in pattern drafting. I have a background in theatrical costuming and have had to make many, many garments straight from a sketch. But unless it was a very small show, I had to be able to create a pattern that could be easily followed by cutter and seamstress to make my own design or that of another designer come to life. And it had to look like the picture.

The same holds true when creating a crochet or knit garment. It is unlikely that you will find a tech assistant that can or would be willing to create the first draft of a garment from a sketch. You could make the garment up first, but unless you are making something that is a variation on a standard pattern, you will need to draft the garment pattern first. Right now, I have started swatching for a vest idea, but I quickly realized that I need to draft the pattern in order to determine accurately where the stitch pattern needs to change for the proper fit and overall shape of the garment.

You don’t need to take a dressmakers pattern course to do this, but you do need to be able to draft a basic pattern and work from their. I’ll give you a few hints to get you started here and then give you some references for more in-depth instructions at the end.

You will need:

Large paper – at least half the desired circumference of your finished garment

Source options:

Dressmakers paper with large 1″ squares

Butcher paper  or brown wrapping paper – some art stores have it.

Reel ends of newsprint – used to be easily found at newspaper printing offices. Try calling around to any local publications that may still print their own papers.

Large paper scissors – an old pair of Fiskers works nicely

T square – hardware store or art supply store

Soft pencils and erasers – because you are working with cheap quality paper, the pencils and erasers need to be soft enough not to tear the paper.

Compass: for drawing curves

Let’s use a vest for this example. For a first try, let’s use a garment with a fit you already like. Creating the entire garment from scratch can come later, after you have the hang of how to get the basic shape down on paper.

Take the following measurements:

Largest circumference of garment: __________

Divide by 2: __________ = basic front & back width

Divide by 2 again: __________ = center front and back

Length of center back __________

Add at least 3″ top and bottom __________ = approximate length of front and back

Measure across shoulders __________

Distance across shoulder seam at neck __________

Distance from outer shoulder seam and lower armhole seam

__________

First measure the garment for the largest circumference (the entire measurement across front and back). Divide by half, this is your basic front and back size. You’ll see in a moment why we don’t measure each separately. Divide by half again; this mark is your center front and back.

Using front and back width and length draft two large rectangles with 3-6″ of room on all sides. It’s best to cut these into two separate pieces for ease of working with the sheets. Mark each sheet either front or back and mark the center point of each. All other measurements will start from this center point.

Back: Use the shoulder width measurement and center it over your center back. Mark the outer edges of the shoulders on each side. Draw a horizontal line 1″ above the shoulders. Center your ruler or t square and mark the inner neck measurement on the paper.  Use your compass to create a half circle by placing the point into the center back line and opening the compass to meet one of the inner shoulder seam marks and drawing your half circle to meet the other inner neck point. You should have a gentle curve that mimics the curve on your original garment. Take a visual check and see if this looks about right. You could lay the garment out on the paper and trace it but this leads to inaccurate curves because the fabric is not stable like the paper.

Are you confused, yet? You could trace around the entire garment, but then you would have to spend a lot of time truing up all your lines and you wouldn’t learn how the relationship between each line and curve works.

Front: Try taking similar measurents for one armhole. This time draw a rectangle from the top and bottom of the armhole inward to the deepest point on the armhole. Use this rectangle to round off the curve of the armhole, making the bottom curve close to a quarter circle and gently curving up to the outer shoulder seam. If you are familiar with commercial dresspatterns, you will recognize this type of curve. If you don’t sew, just trust me. It’s not and oval, it will create more of an egg shape when joined with the front.

For the front, save time by lightly tracing off the back. Measure across the widest part of the front (this will cross over the bust points if it fits well). Find the waist (in this case the narrowest point of the front. and mark that on your pattern. Be sure each of these marks are the proper distance vertically from the armhole and lower edge. For now, mark that distance and draw a line from the bottom front to the underarm seam, gently curving inward at the waist and then outward to bust line and underarm. You should have one continuous gentle curve. If you have sharp angles, soften your curve. If this means missing your  marks slightly, that’s ok. We are making a fabric that will have more stretch than a woven fabric, so it will ease over the curves.

This is a very simplified explanation and there are a lot more tricks and details that can be added as you gain confidence and skill. But this will give you a basic pattern to work from. You can then lay out a mock up of the stitch pattern in strategic places and discover where your increases and decreases will best be placed. Lily Chin’s book, Couture Crochet gives some good images of how a flat drafted paper patern looks. She actually works out the pattern on paper with the stitch pattern printed on it full size. In order to do this, you would need to go to an office supply store that has a printer used for printing architectural designs and have it printed there. I think it might be too costly for the beginning designer, but it is good to know it is possible.

Happy crocheting!

http://www.lilychinsignaturecollection.com/main.php

It’s Not about the Hook

We’ve considered crochet history and techniques and how they influenced today’s designs. Now we want to consider the process that gets us there. In order to create your own designs, you will need more than skill and great ideas. You’ll have to understand how fiber creates fabric.We say each fabric has a hand; meaning whether it is soft of stiff, smooth or coarse, whether it drapes well and holds a curve or looks better in pleats and tucks. When you knit or crochet, you are creating fabric and you need to take each of these things into consideration when choosing the right fiber for your design. But how do you know? If you are going to make a sewn garment, you go through the fabric store and look at color, sheen, and texture. You feel the fabric in your hand (thus the term hand) and you hold up a length of it to see how it drapes or pleats. In the case of crochet or knit, you are creating the fabric and you will need a good bit of knowledge about fiber to anticipate what kind of fabric you can create with a given fiber.

Reprinted with permission from Creating Crochet Fabric © 2010 by Dora Ohrenstein, Lark Crafts, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.

Reprinted with permission from Creating Crochet Fabric © 2010 by Dora Ohrenstein, Lark Crafts, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.

Dora Ohrenstein’s book Creating Crochet Fabric: experimenting with hook, yarn & stitch addresses all the procedures you need to follow in order to produce the right fabric for the design or pattern you want to make. She starts with the basics; going over the different types of fibers, their weights and size, and the different types of yarn that can made from them. Each of these elements alone will affect the resulting fabric. A fiber can have a thick or thin strand, it can have more or less twist, can have single or multiple strands, and more. The hook size, too, can affect your fabric but the yarn itself is by far the most important and complex choice you have to make. Dora has laid out all the details in this first chapter and then offered a simple circular motif scarf which can be made by repeating the same stitch pattern with a series of different fibers and gauges. This will give you a fun wearable project to experiment with and get the idea of how fiber weight and hook size affect outcome. You can follow this pattern or create a repeating design of your own as a practice piece.

In the following chapters, you’ll see many examples of swatches depicting definition with different types of fiber, how stitch patterns create geometric designs, colorwork samples, and swatches worked with different size yarns. Each chapter includes patterns you can use to go beyond swatches and make a practical project using the techniques you’ve learned. In the final chapters, Dora gives you suggestions for how to put together what you’ve learned, offers additional patterns and a short stitch dictionary to get you started. If you are serious about design, you’ll want to start collecting stitch dictionaries, too. But Creating Crochet Fabric will also be an excellent reference book that you will return to again and again as you continue to learn more about creating fabric in crochet. Read it cover to cover when you first get it and then keep it handy for future projects.

What’s your favorite crochet reference book?

Vintage Crochet Influences Today’s Designs

Have you ever wondered why some crocheted objects have a neat and professional look, while others have that homemade look as opposed to handmade? Skill with your medium, as well as with the hook, are needed to create a finished object that has all the qualities needed to serve its purpose and highlight its beautiful crocheted stitches. Crocheted garments need particular care in the choice of yarn or thread, as well as hook size. The wrong hook or a too think yarn can turn that gorgeous vest you worked so hard on into something as stiff as a throw rug.

It’s no wonder the choice of yarn and hook are the biggest challenge for crocheters. Historically, crochet was seen in household items, which required just such a stiff fabric. The other way we traditionally found crochet was in crocheted lace garments that were truly elegant, but could only be produced with thousands of hours of work, something most of us don’t have these days. So, the traditions were either very thick, dense, stiff fabric or very fine delicate fabric.

Knit fabric is naturally softer and most wool yarns were developed with knit garments in mind. So, this has been another barrier. Some folks, even think you can’t crochet with yarn, only thread. It’s true, crochet was most often done in cotton thread and thus we have those amazing motif designs which were seen around the house right up to through the 1950s as doilies and antimascars (seen on the backs of chairs as protection from men’s hair oil) which are the basis for many of the lovely exploded lace designs we see today on crocheted garments. A crocheted garment was for the most elegant occasions. So, if you could afford it, a crocheted wedding gown was a treasure, as was wedding gift of a crocheted bedspread.

In the 1960s there was a revival of crochet and other hand crafts. Today, we may remember the ungainly acrylic granny square vests as a testament to the ugly 1960s and 1970s, but this was also a time fo true innovation in the crochet art. As we saw in last week’s post, it was a time when wearable art came to the forefront and many innovative crochet designs remain as attractive and stylish today as they were in the hippie era. And don’t think it was all jeans skirts and granny square vests. I was recently perusing a website of vintage patterns from the ’60s and there were not one, but two, crocheted hoodies! If you made one of these, no one would never know they were designed in the 1960s. And how about all those fashions with ripple stripes we see today? Yep, 1970s styles in that amazing new polyester started the craze. Crochet pattern designers, also, had some lovely interpretations of ripple striped tops. What goes around comes around.

What was happening during that period more than anything else was experimentation. Sure some of the styles didn’t work, or they only worked for that time period, but the experimentation lead to a better understanding of how crochet works. Whether it’s crochet, knit, or woven, it’s the fabric that makes the garment. Fabric has a texture, a hand, and a drape that will determine how the final garment will look and all the experimentation during the mid to late 20th century helped develop the wide variety of patterns and even the influenced the innovative yarns and threads we have available today.

So, the next time you are browsing patterns on the web or stash diving at a garage sale, take a second look at some of the old designs. If a design was a great look back in its day, it is probably still a great design today. Try to imagine the same garment with today’s yarns and colors. With only minor modifications in fit, maybe the same pattern could be given a totally modern look. Women’s garments, especially can go from baggy to body hugging in just a few years. If you are crocheting it yourself, you can adjust that fit to suit your body and today’s fashion look. Bring the shoulders in, and a 1980s look can become a classic. Lengthen a 1950′s cashmere sweater, and you have an updated, yet still elegant look.

The trick is knowing how to get the look you want. Next week, we will take a closer look at creating the fabric. Getting that right is the number one skill you need to get a polished look with your crocheted garments. We’ll take a look at Dora Ohrenstein’s book, Creating Crochet Fabric, and highlight some of the basic skills and top tips she gives you in the next post.

Till then, Happy Crocheting!

Crochet in Korean

It wasn’t until moving to Korea that I was inspired to take up crochet for making garments. Korea is very hot and humid in the summer, but it is also a conservative place, so wearing revealing clothing in the summer is frowned upon. The rule at the workplace was no exposed shoulders. If you are American, you already know how hard it is in summer to find appropriate clothing for the work place. With this added restriction I had a dilemma. We were expected to dress in business attire, but how could I look as well kept as my Korean counterparts? I noticed that all of my female coworkers wore little crocheted jackets over their summer tops.

I knew I coudn’t just go out and buy something in my size, but I did know that I could crochet beautiful lacy designs if I could just get some basic patterns. That was the beginning of my adventure with crocheted garments.I started scouring the bookstores and online book sites for crochet patterns that might get me started.

That opened up a whole new world for me. I remembered the wonderful selection of crafts books that the Japanese bookstore, Kinokuniya, back in San Francisco had. They always had a good choice of Japanese craft books in English translations available. Not so, in Korea. But what I did discover was that they have Kyobo Bookstores, which are similar to Kinokuniya. Nothing was in English, but I soon found out that Asian patterns were always charted. I could make the patterns following the charts.

But what would I do if I had a problem? I was thousands of miles away and I had no idea. You can probably guess that I did an internet search and discovered hundreds of crochet sites. There were lots of blogs, as well as commercial sites selling all the supplies, including books and even free patterns.

If I could do it while living in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language, you can, too.

Here are a few guidelines:

Start with the basics. If you don’t have someone to teach you, find a how-to book that is easy to follow or look at some of the tutorials on YouTube.

Swatch. Make some practice swatches with the most common stitches.

You should learn the chain stitch, single crochet, double crochet, and triple crochet.

You will also need to practice some simple increases and decreases.

Start with a simple pattern, but one you really like. Look for a style you like that uses only one or two different stitches. There should be a list of abbreviations for all the stitches. I recommend getting a book that also has a chart, so you can visualize how the stitches line up.

Choose a good quality yarn in the weight called for in the pattern. If you don’t like the yarn, you won’t like the finished product.

Start with at least three hooks. Get the one called for in the pattern and at least one smaller and one larger hook. Depending on how tightly or loosely you crochet, you may need to use a different hook size.

SWATCH: Remember that yarn that matches the weight called for in the pattern? Well, there is no industry standard, so the yarn size is an estimate. That means the size of your project won’t be right until you play around with the yarn and hooks until you get the gauge called for in the pattern. Make a big swatch, at least 4 inches, preferably larger. Launder it and steam it according to the yarn label, then measure. Keep swatching until you get the right gauge.

What’s gauge: It is an estimate of the number of stitches per inch across a row and the number of rows per inch measuring vertically.

READ: The entire pattern! Try out any confusing parts, like lining up stitches or doing increases and decreases, until you feel confident.

Go for it!

If you get stuck, try finding an answer on an internet blog or an online video. A good place to start is Johnny Vasquez’ video tutorials “New Stitch A Day” There are hundreds of them. Become a member on Ravelry (www.ravelry.com) and post a question on one of the help boards. Or you can contact me by posting a basic question here. This blog is mainly for information and news, but I will be happy to answer specific questions about the basics of getting started with crochet and most likely, others will be able to offer additional information.

Here are some of my favorite websites, blogs, & podcasts: (Dear readers, please suggest more.)

http://newstitchaday.com/welcome

http://www.facebook.com/pages/KINOKUNIYA-BOOKSTORES-SAN-FRANCISCO/177633730285

Kyobo Bookstores online site in Korean only: http://www.kyobobook.co.kr/index.laf?OV_REFFER=http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=kyobo%20bookstore&source=web&cd=1&sqi=2&ved=0CCAQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.kyobobook.co.kr%2F&ei=FyhFUKa2BISB0QHfsIDIDg&usg=AFQjCNFHbRkAJ1H0vtMlDMRZVP9AnxUxUw&sig2=E9pUEthw4QEMgwqrW79z4Q

There is a store in Duluth, Georgia, but no website.

Happy crocheting,

Joy!

Crochet: Elegant, Fashionable, and Fabulous

What makes it work?
If you’re like most crocheters you probably started by making some fun little one skein items, like scarves or afghans. Once you realized how much you enjoyed crochet, you may have thought, “This is fun, but I’d really like to make something I can wear more often, something bigger that could be a part of my everyday wardrobe,” or maybe you wanted a fabulous crocheted piece you could wear for a special occassion. Recently, you may even have seen some really amazing crochet pieces on a runway fashion show and wanted to make something equally as fine for yourself.

Your next step might have been to search the patterns on Ravelry or at your local yarn store (if they are crochet friendly, that is). For a first fitted garment there were probably a couple of obstacles. First, there are a lot of crochet  garment patterns out there, but they are not all equal. How often have you seen a crocheted sweater pattern and thought, “I like the idea of this design, but something isn’t quite right.” That something goes back to the challenges we talked about in the last post. Crochet garments are often stiff and boxy. They don’t have that soft drape that flatters the way a perfect piece should.

The second problem is fit. You may have found a beautiful pattern that looks fabulous on the model, but you will need to modify it for your figure and you don’t know where to begin. This problem requires a bit of fitting know how. If you sew, you may understand the basic skills, but might not be sure how make them work when crocheting.

Never fear, there are some really smart designers out there who understand how to make a crocheted garment fit like a dream, drape like it came from a couture designer, and can show you all the tricks you need to know to make that dream project turn out perfectly.

Two great reference books

Flat pattern design in crochet
You may already have some crochet stitch dictionaries and how-to books in your crochet library. Now you will need some books that will become your go-to references for adjusting a pattern design or creating your own design. Today, I will introduce a couple of books that have been around long enough to be tried and true references for making fitted crochet garments. You will want to add to your reference library as you go along, but these might be good ones to get you started.

If you are new to the concept of pattern making, or you have some experience but aren’t sure how to adapt your crochet using traditional fitting methods, then Lily Chin’s book Couture Crochet Workshop is for you. She starts out with how a basic flat pattern is constructed and how to use an existing garment as a guide to do your own flat pattern. She gives you keys to getting the fit you want for the style you have in mind. And she also gives you some insider tips on making your garments look professional, like how to adjust armholes and shoulders. You may be familiar with some of the techniques, but be sure to review them before starting a crocheted garment. Unlike with sewing, you have to have it all planned out before you start to crochet. You will also learn to lay out your swatches on your pattern so to get increases and decreases that fit the curves for neckline, armholes, and sleeves while keeping the stitchpatten even. The patterns in this book are mainly classic styles that give you a chance to try out the techniques you’ve learned.There are also circular patterns which allow you to do wonderful things with vintage crochet stitches originally designed to be used for home decoration, but make beautiful shawls, jackets, and skirts when blown up to the larger proportions necessary for clothing.This is one of the construction types that works especially well in crochet.  She’s got all the calculations laid out for you. What a time saver! My favorite worked in the round pattern is the Cossack Hat. No book on crochet techniques would be complete without a chapter on lace and Lily breaks it down for you.  One of the toughest planning skills is adapting a lace repeat to give smooth curves where you increase and decrease. Lily’s got that covered, too. She also shows you how to avoid some of those tricky seam constructions on lace garments by working seamless bodices and sleeves.

The no math method
If flat pattern drafting leaves you flat, there is another method for getting great fit with far less math and alterations. By adjusting yarn size and hook size to the pattern you like you can alter the fit without recalculating the math. If you are working your own design, you can run a gauge swatch with different size hooks and alter the gauge where you want the curves; smaller hook, decreases size, bigger hook, increases size. Mary Jane Hall’s book, Crochet That Fits, gives you step by step instructions for using this method to adjust for hips, waist, and bust. The results are garments with drape that takes advantage of crocheted fabric’s natural stretch. And she shows you a simple graduated stitch method to get armhole and neck shaping. It’s just one more way to get great fit without the fuss.

All the patterns are labeled: beginner, advanced beginner, or intermediate. The little black dress on the cover shows off a crocheted necklace and both of the patterns are included in the book. I want to try the ballet neck sweater and the striped, sleeveless turtleneck. There is something for everyone here from simple accessories like hats and headbands to belts and purses. You’ll see how the same design idea can be easily be modified to make another garment and it will really get your creative juices going. Try a couple of the patterns and then take off with your own variations.

Find your style

So if you like a tailored look, Couture Crochet Workshop might be your go-to reference book for fitting and alteration. On the other hand, if you like a more softer more draped style, Mary Jane Hall’s book might be a good first crochet fitting reference for you.

Next week, I will be talking about some recently published books that build on the idea of fit and flatter for designing in crochet. It’s all about using the medium to its best advantage. What’s your best tip for making a crocheted project really shine?

Chin, Lily. Couture Crochet Workshop. Loveland, CO. Interweave Press, 2006
website: http://www.lilychinsignaturecollection.com/books.php

For mor about Lily Chin see the interview with Dora Ohrenstein on Crochet Insider:
http://crochetinsider.com/interview/lily-chin

See what it looks like to be the fastest crocheter!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPYS29CMwJA

Lily’s Ravelry page: http://www.ravelry.com/designers/lily-m-chin

Hall, Mary Jane. Crochet That Fits. Cincinnati, OH. Krause Publications, 2008
website: http://positivelycrochet.com/

Mary Jane Hall’s Ravelry page: http://www.ravelry.com/designers/mary-jane-hall

Mary Jane Hall on Twitter: https://twitter.com/maryjanecrochet

Mary Jane’s Pinterest page: http://pinterest.com/maryjanedesign/my-original-designs/

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