Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How To Design Your Own Crocheted Afghan Pattern

Are you the kind of person who hates following directions, who gets overwhelmed at the prospect of devoting several hours to learning a pattern? 

Following crocheted afghan patterns can sometimes look complicated, and with interruptions from children, phone calls, and any number of events that draw your thoughts away from the task at hand, losing your place is almost guaranteed to squelch your desire to continue. On the other hand, some mindless crocheting can help to calm the nerves.

Know How To Crochet

YouTube offers many crochet tutorials. Just enter crochet tutorials in the YouTube search box. Before you design a crocheted afghan, though, learn something about gauge and tension. You don't want an afghan that's too loose or too tight and you don't want to struggle as you crochet.

Start With Something Small

Before you crochet something as large as an afghan, practice crocheting something simple, like a pot holder or a scarf, to familiarize yourself with how to create tension in your crocheted piece. A simple repeat throughout the pattern of a single or double crocheted scarf will give you an idea of tension.

Finding the proper tension means discovering a way to hold your crochet hook and yarn so that your hold on the hook and yarn is not too loose or too tight.

Sometimes initially following a pattern helps the new crocheter become comfortable with crocheting. Washcloths are a great way to learn how to crochet. They allow you to start over if you've made a mistake without losing too much time or patience.

Here are links to sites that include three easy wash cloth patterns:

Gauge Tells You How To Size Your Afghan

Once you are familiar with tension, you must understand gauge when designing your own afghan. Gauge helps you figure out your afghan's size. In order to determine gauge, choose the crochet hook you want to use to crochet your afghan. A larger crochet hook will take you less time to crochet the item, but the weave will be loose. A smaller crochet hook will take more time, but the weave will be tight. 

Chain a length of yarn at least 10 stitches long. At the end of the 10 stitches, single crochet several rows until the length of your finished piece extends to at least twenty rows. 

Now grab a ruler and count the number of stitches across the bottom (furthest row of your finished piece from the hook) that make up one inch. Count the number of stitches in that one inch space. Determine the size you want the width of your afghan to be (in inches).

If you want a 5-foot wide afghan, the width of your afghan will be 60". If your gauge tells you that one inch requires six stitches, multiply 6 by 60 to get 360 stitches. Chain 360 stitches to begin your afghan. 

If the pattern you create requires the next row to be single crocheted, add two chains to the original chain and, not counting the chain on the hook, place your crochet hook in the second chain from your hook to begin your first row. 

If the pattern you create requires the next row to be double crocheted, add three chain stitches to your original chain and, not counting the chain on the hook, place your crochet hook in the third chain from your hook to begin your first row. 

If you triple crochet your first row, make sure you add four chains to your initial chain, and, not counting the chain on the hook, place your crochet hook in the fourth chain from the hook to begin your first row.

Creating Your Own Pattern

Once you feel comfortable using yarn and a crochet hook, you might want to crochet something larger than a potholder. If you love to crochet but hate following directions, creating your own patterns is a simple way to experiment, and the process itself is easier than you might think. 

Patterns are merely designs that repeat themselves. In other words, if you start by crocheting three rows of triple crochet, then change to two rows of double crochet followed by three rows of single crochet, you must repeat that pattern to the end of the afghan. Introducing one other element when you've already set the pattern will disrupt the flow – unless you include it in the pattern.

How? Using the previous pattern as an example,

Chain X number of stitches
* Rows 1-3, Triple Crochet
Rows 4-5, Double Crochet
Rows 6-9, Single Crochet
Repeat from *

If you accidentally crocheted one row of double crochet after the three single-crochet rows, your pattern changes:

* Rows 1-3, Triple Crochet
Rows 4-5, Double Crochet
Rows 6-9, Single Crochet
Row 10, Double Crochet
Repeat from *

The pattern itself can include different weights, colors, and textures of yarn for a really unique style. For example, using a fancy fur yarn for rows 4-5 and row 10 in the example above while using a classic yarn for the rest of the afghan will add interesting texture to the finished afghan. 

Decide Which Stitches You Will Use

Crochet is not limited to single, double, or triple crochet stitches, nor is crochet limited to working in the front of the stitch; crochet includes various types of stitches. When you have worked with crochet for a while, you will invent your own stitches for which you will have have to provide your own name. To give you an idea of the different kinds of stitches available, please visit Crochet Pattern Central's stitch tutorial. They offer both written and video tutorials (click the links):

The following instructions won't work for complicated items like sweaters and mittens, but they will work for scarves and afghans. And when you become experienced at creating patterns, you might find yourself creating even more complicated patterns.

Shopping For Yarn

When shopping for yarn, visit a yarn shop in person. Once you become familiar with the different yarn selections, you can shop online. But first familiarize yourself with colors and textures in person. Visual and tactile choices of colors and textures are more apparent in person than they are online. Hold one yarn against the other. Do the colors and textures blend well? Or would the contrast result in an attractive afghan?

Perhaps you prefer different shades of green in your afghan as opposed to stark contrasts of red and yellow. Or maybe you'd like to use variegated yarn separated by solids that match one of the colors in the variegated yarn segments. The choices are many.

Beginning Your Own Pattern

Write your pattern out before you start. The pattern should be simple. First determine how many rows will repeat in your pattern: three? ten? Decide what types of stitches you will use in your pattern. What follows are examples of different crochet patterns using four, five, and six rows as a start. The pattern can be as long or as short as you want.

One thing you might want to keep in mind is that if you want the pattern to remain on only one side of the afghan, use numbers divisible by two. If you want the pattern to alternate with some of the pattern appearing on the opposite side of the afghan (textured yarns work great here), use odd numbers.

1st Crochet Pattern – odd number

1st Row, triple crochet – Color #1, using a baby soft yarn
*2nd Row, single crochet – Color #2, using a chenille yarn
3rd Row, triple crochet – Color #1, using a baby soft yarn
Repeat from *

2nd Crochet Pattern – odd number

1st & 2nd Row, double crochet –  Color #1, with classic yarn.
*3rd Row, triple crochet –  Color #2, with Eyelash Yarn.
4th & 5th Row, double crochet –  Color #1, with classic yarn
Repeat from *

3rd Crochet Pattern – even number

*1st, 2nd, 3rd, & 4th row, single crochet –  Color #1 for the 1st & 4th row, Color #2 for the 2nd and 3rd row, using a boucle yarn for Color 1 and classic yarn for Color 2
5th & 6th row, triple crochet –  Color #3 in a fluffy yarn
Repeat from *

Where To Buy Yarn

Jo-Ann Fabrics offers an amazing array of yarn options. After visiting them in person and once you know your yarn types, visit Jo-Ann Fabrics online. Michaels also offers yarn. Shop at Michaels online

How Many Skeins Of Yarn To Use

To get an idea of how large your afghan should be and to determine how many skeins of yarn are necessary to complete your afghan, follow the advice of these seasoned professionals at Crochet Pattern Central. Just take a look at the various samples, pay attention to the type of hook they recommend for the pattern, and decide what you will need. 

Think Outside the Loop

Experimenting with assorted stitches, yarns, and color is fun. But why not change your crochet hook too? Crochet a simple scarf using the same stitch, but give it an entirely different look by changing your crochet hook. 

For example, say you want to start by single crocheting an entire scarf. Crochet several rows with a large crochet hook using a classic yarn, then switch to a slightly smaller crochet hook for a couple of rows using a fluffier yarn. You are limited to crochet patterns you create only by the breadth of your imagination. WARNING: crochet a looser last row so that when you reinsert your hook, you will be able to work without struggling.

Too Much Yarn or Not Enough?

The nice thing about yarn is that if you end up with too much, you can always use the extra yarn for other afghans or other projects. Better to buy too much than too little. 

Word of Caution

Before you use knobby yarns such as the soft boucle, become comfortable with the smooth round yarns. Finding a stitch in a boucle will be difficult for somebody unfamiliar with crochet, and starting with a textured, knobby yarn may make the new crocheter want to give up.


Have fun coming up with your own patterns! Crocheted gifts, like towels and washcloths, are fun to make and you will be guaranteed that the recipient of your gift will receive a unique present.

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