Tips for how-to make high-fashion crochet designs and patterns
Looking at a piece of $1,000 designer crochet you make think you'll never be able to create anything as beautiful or stylish. But it's well within your reach. Shannon Mullett-Bowlsby of the Shibaguyz designer crochet duo underscores the importance of reading patterns and making smart choices to create designer crocheted accessories and clothing. His books have patterns that range in difficulty from beginner to advanced, imparting the necessary skills along the way.
Is it possible for an average crocheter to make a piece of crochet-wear on par with something sold in an upscale boutique for four figures? Are advanced skills and high-quality material necessary?
It is totally possible for a crocheter of any skill level to create upscale fashions. The key is to work within your skill set or, of course, to learn the skills you need to be able to finish the piece. Where folks get into trouble is where they dive into a project that is way over their head and involves a skill set they haven't learned or practiced enough yet.
That said, there are high-end fashion pieces that are easily accomplished with basic crochet skills. Just look at some of the pieces from "Designer Crochet" or "Crochet Geometry: Geometric Patterns to Fit and Flatter"!
The other part of this question involves the materials necessary to create upscale crochet fashions. If you want the exact same result the designer achieved with their pattern, you'll need to use the exact same fiber content. That said, with today's yarn market, there are affordable options for everything from silk blends to acrylics that work with most fashion items. It's all about using the right fabric for the right project.
If you're making our Filigree Leaf lace tunic and substitute worsted weight wool for the silk we used, you aren't going to have the same garment. Likewise, using a cheap — there's a difference between inexpensive and cheap —substitute will only end in frustration.
We've all worked with poorly made yarn that splits, has joins, and ugly inconsistencies in it. GAH! That's just never worth it… life's too short to work with BAD yarn!
But, again, there are always affordable substitutions on the market today. Even for that lace tunic garment, we've seen folks use lace weight substitutes in acrylic that look amazing and create similar fabric. Of course there's also the fact that sometimes you should just spend the money to make an AH-MAY-ZING piece for yourself in the higher-end yarn. We all have those special wardrobe pieces and should have those special wardrobe pieces.
What yarns do you prefer for a fashionable piece of crochet-wear and why? We always teach: "The right fabric for the right project." Once I sketch out a design, I start swatching to create the fabric I want so my finished piece looks like the sketch and the concept in my head. If that is a bulky weight wool, then so be it … If it's a fingering weight blend, that's what we use. I hardly ever reach for yarn first. Fabric first… then it's about picking the right yarn to make the right fabric for that design.
Which stitches should a crocheter hoping to do fashionable crochet learn and why?
The best thing about crochet is that once you master the basic stitches, you're all set! OK, it's a little more complicated than that, but only a little! Crochet has a lot of stitches that are just variations on the basic slip, single, half double, double, and treble crochet stitches. Once you have those mastered, a crocheter wanting to make garments should really start working with compound stitches like decreases so their shaping is smooth and beautiful. Then, to reach a higher level of mastery, they can work at becoming adept at techniques like post stitches for textures. Stitches can be learned — the real issue we see people having with crochet patterns is reading the actual written patterns so they understand the stitches they are making and when to make them. You can be a skilled stitcher but, if you don'tunderstand the written patterns for garments, you won't have any greater success than a beginner who takes the time to read the patterns carefully and patiently. The key to crochet garments is taking the patterns one step at a time.
Garments are as attainable as any afghan or dishtowel as long as you take it one stitch and one line at a time. Sure, there are skills like shaping that will need refined, but success is assured if you take the time to read the pattern and understand what you are getting in to ahead of time.
We cover this in our live classes as well as in my Craftsy class specifically on reading crochet patterns. Also, if the pattern says it is for a crocheter with more experience and you have only basic skills, either learn the skills the pattern uses that make it more advanced or find a pattern that is at your level and work on that until you learn the skills for the more advanced patterns.
As is the case with all of our books, we try to include garments for beginners so they can get their hooks moving and have something they can be proud of. At the same time, those beginner garments are teaching them the skills they need so they can move on to more complex garments. We're teachers and designers and our books work that way. Start with the basics and work your way up to the more advance projects.
Can you share any hacks or tips for shaping a piece that wound up too too big or too small?
That's really an issue that has to be solved way back in the beginning of a garment. There are some tricks like underpinning you can do so shore up a garment a little bit but, to really keep the wailing and gnashing of teeth to a minimum, Always make a swatch then block your swatch! Any of our students, folks who know our blog, or have our books know we are adamant about this.
A blocked swatch is where you learn if your hook and yarn will work together to create the proper fabric for your project. Without swatching, a stitcher has no idea what their finished fabric is going to turn out like. Not only do you not know if your stitches and rows per inch are going to match the stitches and rows per inch the garment designer intended, you don't know if your fabric is going to be something you even want to wear.
We always tell folks to swatch every stitch pattern for a project and to practice shaping and special techniques in their swatch before they even get into the project part of the pattern. Know the fabric first, check that your fabric is correct and that your stitches and rows per inch are correct, and you will have a much happier ending and will have a garment you can show off rather than chucking it in the bin.