When a Design Fails – and How To Not Let It Get You Down!

When a Design Fails – and How To Not Let It Get You Down!

As a crochet and knitwear designer, I’ve actually been pretty lucky most of the time. Very early on in my designing days I got the opportunity to work with the biggest Dutch yarn brand – Scheepjes.

I owe Scheepjes a great deal as they’ve managed to help me grow in so many ways. They offer me yarn support – which basically means I can request any Scheepjes yarn for a design idea I have. Not having to think about money when it comes to getting materials for a new design has just lifted so much pressure off my shoulders, and really gave me the freedom to design anything I wanted. Before, I was focused on amigurumi because the usually small items didn’t ask for much yarn. With Scheepjes, I’ve been able to design my first sweater, cute pillows with chunky alpaca yarn, and so much more.

Besides yarn support, I’ve been blessed with a whole new group of friends who like yarn as much as I do. With each of us being in different stages of our design careers, I’ve been able to learn so much from them, and I frequently turn to them for advice. Learn more about my creative tribe in this blogpost.

Through Scheepjes, I’ve also had the pleasure of attending several design-related workshop. I remember one of them being about garment design and figuring out the numbers for each different size, which was hugely interesting for me, and was one of the biggest catalysts for me to venture into garment design.

Most of all, Scheepjes has helped me to expand my audience by having my work published in their YARN bookazines and sharing my designs on their social media.

Seriously, I don’t think there could have been a better environment for my designing skills to grow. But! (yes, here comes the but) That doesn’t say I don’t run into obstacles with my designs, and that’s what this post is about. I’ve been having some struggles recently with some designs, and I thought, instead of feeling sorry for myself about having to fudge my own design, I can turn this into something positive and share it on the blog – and hopefully some of you will find it helpful! Social media usually only portrays the happy things in my life, and I think it’s okay to also share the not-so-great times once in a while. It just puts the good stuff into perspective!


So, just a little backstory, one of my new year’s resolutions is to finally finish the bathrobe I have been knitting since September, and write up the pattern. I started this project during last Bloggers Days, where I felt so creatively empowered that I thought: I can do anything!! So when I suddenly got an idea what to make with this insanely soft and fluffy yarn by Scheepjes pictured above, I didn’t hesitate and just cast on. Of course, I should have known better, because casting on a new design without doing any swatches or calculating stitch count beforehand just meant I had to frog the whole thing a few days later. I wasn’t discouraged though, as I knew exactly what I had to do to make it work. Yes, it involved a bit of math, but it was easy enough and soon after that I cast on for the second try.

I was determined to knit this bathrobe from the top down. I don’t know if you’ve ever knit or crocheted a garment from the top down, but it’s kinda awesome. You start at the back of the neck, and kind of form a ‘cape’ which drapes on top of your shoulders. Then, when you’ve made this cape to be long enough, you set some stitches apart for the sleeves, and with the rest of the stitches you continue to knit/crochet the body. All was well until this point! And usually, from this point on you don’t increase or decrease anymore, unless you want to add some waist shaping. I didn’t see the point in any waist shaping for a bathrobe, so I didn’t do that. Still, everything was going well.

At this point, I could just keep knitting without increasing or decreasing, which made for perfect TV-knitting! After a while I was ready to change to the second colour – as it is an ombré bathrobe – and continue knitting. When I had knit enough of the second colour, I changed to the third – a vibrant egg-yolk yellow. I decided to try the bathrobe on and see how much longer I needed to go. And that’s when I realized my mistake.

You see, when you knit a top-down garment, usually it doesn’t go lower than your hipline, so you don’t really need to increase for the hips again. As I aimed for the bathrobe to be knee-length, and my hips are quite sizeable, when I tried it on it kind of looked like an opened tent as the bathrobe wouldn’t close anymore. Yes. Not really the look I was going for! You can imagine how horrified I was, as I knew I had to fix it but with this yarn I wouldn’t be able to frog! And I hadn’t thought to put in any lifelines, so… how was I going to fix this?

Luckily, with all the garment design education I have from workshops at the Scheepjes HQ, I am able to make calculations to draft a pattern without actually knitting it. So, I would have to measure how wide I would want the bottom hem of the bathrobe to be, calculate from my gauge swatch how many stitches that is, and use gradual increases from the waistline to get to that point. This is actually quite easy to do, so I knew I could still produce a good written pattern for this design. Up until this point, I hadn’t really valued these math skills for designing, but I was really grateful for them now!

I am still going to finish the sample, just not in the same way as the pattern will be written. And it really is okay. I kept beating myself up about it because the pattern wouldn’t be ‘perfect’. How could I know the pattern is correct if I have not knit it that way myself? Well, I tell you what. Even if I did knit the sample according to the final pattern, it still wouldn’t be perfect. That’s why designers use tech editors and test-knitters/test-crocheters. Sometimes they may only come across small typos or faulty grammar, but sometimes they actually stumble across a big error that needs fixing. And that’s okay! As long as the errors are fixed and people find my patterns easy enough to follow, I’m okay with it.

So yes, I am working hard on the pattern and will hopefully publish it later this month. It will be a free pattern on my blog, so when it’s done you can find it right here. I hope you will all still like it 🙂 And even if people don’t knit it – it is a big project after all with yarn that people don’t usually have in their stash – it is fine. It has been a huge learning opportunity for me, and to have a free pattern at the end of this learning curve which I can share with my wonderful followers, that’s just a big bonus for me. I am still very excited to design more garments, and sure, the patterns to come will be better than this one. But that doesn’t mean I should be ashamed to publish any patterns while I’m still learning, right? Anyway, thank you for hearing me out on this as I really needed to get this off my chest.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, please feel free to comment below! Till next time,

x Carmen

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  1. Marjan
    January 18, 2018 at 4:59 pm — Reply

    Oh het ging niet goed! Dat is flink balen.!
    Maar gelukkig heb je al genoeg kennis om het op te vangen. Zo knap dat je dat kunt 👍🏼.
    Nu nog leren leven met het feit dat de badjas niet helemaal perfect is (is ook moeilijk hoor 😉).
    Groetjes weer

    • January 22, 2018 at 3:12 pm — Reply

      Dankjewel Marjan! Het afgelopen jaar heb ik veel geleerd, waaronder dat ‘af’ soms veel beter is – en natuurlijk haalbaarder- dan ‘perfect’. Al zal ik mijn perfectionistische trekjes nooit helemaal kwijtraken denk ik 😉
      Groetjes Carmen

  2. January 22, 2018 at 3:05 pm — Reply

    Ontwerpen is een proces van vallen en opstaan. De meeste ontwerpers vertellen daar nooit over. Veel ontwerpers stellen hoge eisen aan zichzelf als het om hen designwerk gaat. Natuurlijk fijn voor de mensen die de patronen gaan gebruiken, maar lastig voor de ontwerper als het eens minder goed lukt.
    Gelukkig heb jij een fijne groep ontwerpsters als vriendinnen en gelukkig ben jij een doorzetter. Je maakt vast een goed patroon en er komt vast een keer een badjas waar je helemaal tevreden mee bent. Goed is voor nu goed genoeg. Over een poosje maak je gewoon eens een verbeterde badjas, waarna je het patroon ook een update geeft.

    Groetjes, Margaret

    • January 22, 2018 at 3:09 pm — Reply

      Bedankt voor je steun en je lieve woorden Margaret! Wat fijn dat mijn lezers zoveel begrip hebben, ik stel het erg op prijs 😉
      Groetjes Carmen

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When a Design Fails – and How To Not Let It Get You Down!