Menu Close

My 5 tips for a creative crochet garment design

It is two years now, since I created/designed my first ever garment. And I did not use a pattern. Not then and not in any of my other fifteen tops, cardigan, dress, coat, sweater, pants, bralettes… you name it! I like to approach each new project as an opportunity to learn or try something new.

How did I start to create my own designs without having any prior special structural/sizing knowledge? All it really takes is a speck of common sense, forward thinking in terms of functionality, and not being afraid of spending bit more time on practicing creativity – it all pays of when trying on the finished piece for the first time. 😊👌

Smart fact: Creativity is a skill that can be learned and practiced by applying creative thinking processes. Most educational institutions teach us convergent thinking (linear)- ability to “correctly” answer straight forward questions. Therefore, it is mostly up to us, to practice our divergent thinking (web-like) which helps us to “connect the dots” and come up with creative solutions. #noexcuses

With each new garment I learned a great deal. Either something about garment design, functionality, new technique or a stitch … While creating new and new pieces, I realized, that I keep finding myself following a few same “principles” while planning each new project. Whether these will be some news to you – I don’t know. 🙂 But I am curious to hear from you to find out! Will my free-hand crochet tips/principles make sense to you? Let’s see! 😊

Here is my five basic tips/ principles that I stick with to stimulate my creativity and ability to functionally execute a crochet/knit piece of clothing without using a pattern:

1. Be inspired by yarn that you already have

We are talking about a creative crochet here! Such project is not necessarily an “excuse” for going out and buying yarn of a specific size, quality and quantity. Such project is a perfect opportunity to look around and see what you have and get inspired by the yarn. Of course, you probably don’t want to use a chunky wool yarn for a bralette (or? 😅). So, of course also creativity has its practical rules in this case. But, what about all the “unassigned” skeins we impulse shopped or the leftover half skeins from other projects? 🤷‍♀️😅 Bring out all the funky colors and neutrals …and get to “yarn match-making”. 🧶💛🧶 Don’t forget that you can also combine yarns of different sizes and properties… just keep the future washing in mind as well.

A close up on a fingerless glove that I designed, combining white cotton yarn and a green/turquoise baby alpaca wool.

How to clear up stash?

I always keep my yarn sorted by the type – cotton/ wools/acrylics and blends. However, what I like to do once in a while, is to sort these also by color palettes. I would for example take all my cotton and pile together the skeins and leftovers which complement each other. Pastel colors, deep colors contrasting with white, neon bits in contrast with black … each of us has different sense and preference and a best buddy Google to help guide us in this step too. You can literally search for “which colors pairs well with neon yellow” and get an answer, or search for “neon crochet tops” and get a sense of what style suits the color best. 😉

Once sorted by colors, I look at the quantities of what I have and decide whether I can create a bralette, crop-top, vest, a sweater, long cardigan or a coat. Of course, each yarn has its properties which, I believe, should be used sensibly. I don’t think you want to spend time on creating an itchy acrylic bralette or a super heavy cotton cardigan just because the quantity and color fits.

2. Keep your style in mind – create something you will want to wear

I’ve came across many crafters who love the process of creating, but then end up adding to their yarn corner pile of “it was fun to make, but it’s not really my style” garments. Whether it’s a question of funky colored yarns, which one impulse shopped, or a question of quick fix – fast working up project just for the sake of being able to look at another finished piece. I’ve been there and I’ve done that. 🙋‍♀️😂 #grannysquares

And I learned my lesson.

Designing a garment for yourself does not necessarily mean that you have to reinvent the wheel and come up with a new, never to be seen wild shirt structure. Quite the opposite! Think of your wardrobe! Which shirt/ cardigan is your favorite and makes you feel the most confident while wearing it? And why? Is it the shape of it? Is it the colors? Do you feel confident in a crop top, or more covered? I used to “browse” my closet to look for inspiration. I would find a top or a sweater which I like on myself most, and then I give a thought to few things – if i crocheted this item, what would I wear it with? What color suits me and I would I like to see in my wardrobe more? Do I have the yarn that would work for such project? As I’ve practiced my creative thinking this way for last two years, now, new ideas just pop up in my head just by looking at a skein of yarn, or by thinking “hmm I have nothing to wear with this skirt, what kind of top would go with it?”.

3. Working in sections gives you flexibility

Now that you have an idea and a suitable yarn, you want to begin to think of a way to execute your new project. The first step is to “deconstruct” your item and recognize all the individual sections of the project that you will need to create. This is not really the time to think about How exactly you will execute these sections.

At this point, simply write down and possibly sketch all the different sections that you will need and their specifications or additional details. You might be thinking that the more sections you will add to your design, the more complicated it will be to execute the piece. This is not necessarily true, and I will explain to you why, in the last point nb. 5 below.

My design process for my Sweetheart Top showing all the different sections which were needed to execute the shirt. You can also brainstorm what order should your sections be created in and what would be the most logical way to create them (horizontal or vertical etc.).

As you are brainstorming more and more details for your crochet piece, think of the functionality of the sections as well. Is your shirt going to be form fitting? Maybe it needs a stretchy stitch or some kind of closing like corset lace, zipper or buttons. What should be the shape of your shirt? Should it have shaped waist? Or you need an extra space in chest area? What style of neckline? How about sleeves?…

This all sound like a lot of things to think about, doesn’t it? I see it as the super interesting part of things where you can really show your style! πŸ™‚ Imagine all the moments when you were in a shop trying on a shirt, which you “kind of like, except…” What is the “except” part? How would you make a shirt better more fitting your style?

4. Be creative with the skills that you have

It’s time to brainstorm creative ways to execute your different sections which you identified in your design!

If you would want to, you could create a top from two single or double crochet squares for front and back panel, sew together on shoulders and under arms, add a nice border … and … there you go – a top! 💁‍♀️ If you can increase and decrease stitches you can add a neckline and sleeves too. Hmm, why not to make the top stripy using up all of your leftovers from the complimenting colors. But I know that most of you know more than just a single crochet. 😉 How about making each row a different stitch? Hmm, if you combine a row of bubble stitch with a row of tilted puff stitches it creates a flower design. 🧐 Why not to make the bobbles pink and puffs green then. Bored? How about looking up tapestry crochet and incorporating a different colored picture into the shirt. A lacey pattern? C2c? Squares for a waistline? ….

I think you get my point. 😅 One does not need to know all of the above to be able to create a top.

Trully, sometimes it only takes a front and back panel and to execute these in an unique way.

5. Sizing – smaller is better

No, it’s not about you having to have to lose weight! 🤣💛

This is about the execution part of your designed piece. Firstly, I will come back to my point nb.3 where I promised to explain to you, why having more separate sections to your piece can actually play to your advantage while executing it.

Only one time in two years it happened to me that I had confidently started on my very well thought through and sketched project … just to find out 1/4 in, that I was totally OFF and had to “frog” the whole work. That was when I grabbed my circular knitting needles for the first time, and started casting on, just to find out that my cast was good 100 stitches too much (I’m serious 🤣). Then I realized what my mistake was … I never ever simply just chain a circle and attempt to make a sweater or shirt in one piece. Why? Because if nothing else, then creating a front and back piece separately, will give you the chance to “fix it”. So, now back to this current point nb. 5 – smaller is better.

My thinking is super simple here – you can always add a border to “too small” section -like for example a front panel of shirt – before you sew it together with other sections. But you cannot make your sections smaller – only by redoing the pieces. The extra border can actually turn into a really cool decorative unique detail too (picture below ⬇️).

The black details on the shoulders were created by adding a needed functional crochet border to both – the sleeves and to the back and the front panels before sewing the pieces together.

Wrapping it up

I am very curious to find out whether more of you keep these kinds of things in mind while thinking of making own designs or free-hand crocheting/knitting. Do you also maybe have any own tip you would be willing to share with me or others? πŸ™‚

I would love to hear your opinion in the comments section below or on my Insta – @KatarinaReckova or @yarnmyday 😊

Have a wonderful yarny rest of your day everyone! 🤗


  1. Pamela

    Awesome ideas! You are one of the most creative friends of mine on Insta. I would add to your list that it’s important to take risks, which can result in some mistakes (learning process), but it can also be rewarding if it works. I think you are comfortable with creative risk-taking and it shows! Love your new blog! ❀️

    • Katarina

      It’s such a nice compliment! Thank you so much! And for visiting and leaving a comment as well ! I absolutely agree with you. πŸ™‚ As I write, creativity is a skill not necessarily a “gift”. It can only be practiced by stepping out of a comfort zone and and taking a chance/risk with aim to create soemthing new.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *