Guest Post: So, you wanna be a designer?

One of the many lovely things about running a yarn shop is seeing our customers and friends progress in their crafts, gaining more confidence and developing new skills all the time. Aoibhe Ni was already a highly skilled craftsperson when we first met her, but in the last few years she has become an incredibly talented designer, with a huge following on Ravelry, and a highly sought-after workshop teacher.

In this guest post she shares her thoughts on the process of becoming a designer and offers some advice for others who would like to follow a similar course. Thanks Aoibhe!


I think at this stage it’s safe enough to call myself a professional crochet designer.

I design, and I make a living out of it, so the definition fits. But I have to admit that I still feel like I have a lot to learn. Around every crochet-laden corner, I find a new knot I have never encountered before, and I suspect I’ll never run out of mathematical muddles to resolve.

But there are many things I wish I had known earlier, and that’s what this post is about. This is my attempt to give a hand up to anyone thinking of taking a similar path to mine. If I can help you avoid some of the pitfalls I encountered, then my work here is done.

So, let’s launch into a list of 5 things I wish I could tell younger me.


1. Starting out, keep it simple.

Ambition is a great thing, but you have to keep a handle on it. Baby steps, folks. Don’t try to run before you can walk. Design a simple glove that you’d like to wear yourself. Then write it up. Show it to some friends, ask them to give the pattern a go. If you’re not half bad at writing, bravo! That’s your first challenge overcome.

If, on the other hand, your writing makes about as much sense as sanskrit to a monkey, then read some patterns by the pros, learn the flow that good pattern text requires. It’ll stand to you.

Really, really simple

Really, really simple.

2. Free Patterns, Yea or Nay?

I have mixed feelings about free patterns. I actively warn my beginner crochet students against them, mostly because I fear they will contain mistakes or will be badly written, leaving those new to crochet feeling like it’s their fault, and that they’ll never “get it”. But, I also offer free patterns, myself.
“What’s up with that, you hypocrite?!”, I hear you bawling. Well, I reply above the din, I think a well-written free pattern that proves you can write well, and that your diagrams are clear and your style is legible, is the best thing a new designer can do. It will ensure people trust your ability to write. This may lead them to buy a paid pattern.

But don’t undervalue your work! Offer one or two choice patterns for free, but ensure they are on the simpler end of the spectrum. The key here is to whet the appetite, not allow people to satisfy their curiosity completely.

The right free pattern can bring a lot of good attention your way

The right free pattern can bring a lot of good attention your way.

3. A good editor not within your budget right now?

Never fear, Ravelry has several very well regulated, and extremely active tester groups. Search them out, follow their guidelines for offering your pattern for testing, be up front about what you want to get out of the test (do you need your testers to calculate duration of project? Yardage used? Do you need them to use a specific yarn?) and listen to your tester’s feedback. They will be the best resource you could ever hope for when it comes to honing your skills.

The Testing Pool

This group is my favourite; The Testing Pool

4. Remember that mistakes happen.

You will release patterns with errors in them, deadlines will come and go with a whoosh, everything takes longer than you expect it to (even this blog post… sorry, This Is Knit!), but own up to the error and you will find most people will understand. Stay silent, and any good feeling you may have built up will likely start to fade.

5. Most importantly, Be You.

Design for yourself above all else. Your taste will come out in your work whether you want it to or not, so go with it. Don’t try to design something that is fashionable right now. By the time you get your version out, it’ll be 6 months forgotten.
If you design to your own taste, for your own aesthetic, it’ll always look good on you and that is why it’ll sell. But even better, you will start to gather fans around you who like that style, and will stay around to see what you produce next, confident that they will like that too. And that really, from this designer’s perspective, is the key.

Be Yourself

Your own unique view on design is your greatest asset.

So, I wish you luck, and inspiration, and lots of yarn support from your favourite yarn makers. It’s more than a full time job; you’ll never stop working and planning and promoting … but if you catch it at the right angle, and are blessed with a smile from the yarn gods, it’s worth every ounce of effort you can give it.


Aoibhe’s next workshop at This is Knit is on Saturday the 21st of September and you book a place right here.

So, are you a budding designer? Have you been inspired? Tell us about your work in the comments – we love to hear what you’re all up to!

Comments

  1. Hilary

    Thanks for that!!! You are one of my favourite designers and I love EVERYTHING you do. I have recently put a couple of my own designs on paper but for some unknown reason (maybe fear!) I have not put them out into the world. This blog post has been really helpful. Always good to get sensible advice, thanks 🙂

  2. Nadine

    Hiya. Thanks for the post, Aoibhe, really enjoyed reading it.

    Quick question though: I can’t check Ravelry from here, so is that pink/purple Aran sweater/jacket available for purchase?