A Knitting Pattern Designer's Guide to Generating New Design Ideas
Struggling to create new ideas that are fun, intriguing, fit your audience, and aren't just another version of something you've already done? There are several methods to generating new ideas. In this blog post, I'll take about five sources of inspiration for generating new design ideas.
But first, let's quickly talk about our creativity.
Tips for Cultivating Creativity
Here are a few of my favorite tips when it comes to creating. They all revolve around allowing creativity to begin, grow, and flourish in its own time.
#1: Don't force it.
Creativity can't be forced. It can be encouraged, but as soon as we put negative pressure on ourselves and feel stressed about it, creating is going to be hard. Our creativity needs a positive and encouraging environment (from ourselves even if no one else) in order to flourish.
#2: Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your creativity is relax and do nothing.
Allow your thoughts and your mind to wander. Let yourself be at ease. Stare at a blank wall, go for a walk, or visit your place of inspiration. When we give our creativity space, it finally has the opportunity to fill that space without fighting against the other things occupying our attention.
#3: Enjoy the process without worrying about the outcome.
It's ok if you don't follow through with every idea that you generate. Just start creating without judgment of what's a good idea versus a bad idea, or what's a right idea versus a wrong idea. As you begin to form ideas and give those ideas space to formulate and grow, you'll continue to create a stream of ideas. The amazing thing then is that you don't have to follow each idea; you get to choose the most valuable and interesting to you.
Alright, now let's get into ways that we can generate new design ideas. Of course, I'm writing this from the perspective of knitting pattern designs, but these can work for nearly any art or creative process you can think of.
5 Ways to Generate New Design Ideas
#1: Your Surroundings
There is so much around us to gain inspiration from, including nature, textures, clothing, and your favorite home fixtures and furniture. Pay more attention to your surroundings; not necessarily looking for a design idea, but instead noticing and appreciating the details in your surroundings. You just might be surprised when design ideas suddenly start populating in your head! (That's actually how I suddenly started designing knitting patterns - I was inspired by a scarf someone was wearing... and immediately I had 5 design ideas... and the ideas haven't stopped since!)
#2: Your Past Experiences & Stories
We carry so much with us, through each moment of every day, without even realizing it. Emotions, experiences, relationships, stories. They all hold so much value, depth, and potential for pattern design ideas. Think about those things that you love and cherish, the things that bring strong emotions when you think of them, and the things that you value. Consider how you feel and why they're significant to you. (This is how I prefer to generate my design ideas, and that's why I say I like to tell "the stories of living" through my designs.)
#3: Stitch Dictionaries
Sometimes just seeing a stitch motif can give us an infinite amount of inspiration, whether our ideas are centered around using the motif as it is or modifying it for our needs. When you're looking for a bit of design inspiration, begin to flip through your stitch dictionaries. Pay attention to the texture, drape, and style of each stitch motif. How would it feel to touch or to wear that stitch texture? (I often refer to my stitch dictionaries when I have a particular design idea in mind from methods #1 and #2 but I'm needing to find the perfect stitch motif. I then inevitably generate other design ideas from stitch motifs that aren't perfect for the design I'm working on at the time but would work perfectly for a new design idea.)
My favorite stitch dictionaries are The Knitting All Around Stitch Dictionary and 750 Knitting Stitches, although I also find some inspiration in Vogue Knitting's The Ultimate Knitting Book, which includes a section of stitch motifs and their respective instructions. Note: These links are affiliate links through Amazon.
#4: Mood Boards
Whether you're creating your own mood boards or using mood boards that you find online, the variation in colors, imagery, and subjects can be very inspiring for your creativity. If you're looking for mood boards in general, you can search "Mood Boards" or "Creative Mood Board" in Google Images or Pinterest. Or, if you're looking for something more specific, you can search for those too!
#5: Design Prompts
A common method that many knitting pattern designers use for generating new pattern design ideas is design prompts. Each time a magazine publishes a call for submissions, they'll share a design prompt (often a theme, and often accompanied by a mood board) that they want designers to design for. This provides parameters for you to design to, which is especially helpful if you find open-ended creativity overwhelming. You can search out calls for submissions, create your own design prompts, or join my 52 Weeks of Creativity email program for design prompts.
Stretching Your Creativity Every Week
Interested in stretching your creativity in new and interesting ways? I collaborated with a crochet pattern designer, Beth of Fig and Filament, to create a program just for you. It's called 52 Weeks of Creativity. We email you a design prompt every week and encourage you to follow a thought journey to arrive at a new design idea. So that's 52 prompts, 52 new designs, 30 minutes per week, for 52 weeks (1 year). You can expect that the prompts aren't like the prompts you'll see in a magazine's call for submissions, because we encouraging you to branch out into your own inspiration rather than confining yourself to certain parameters. Plus, you have the opportunity to connect and share your ideas with fellow designers!