Sometimes I wonder if crochet design is like writing. When the muse hits, I have dozens of ideas I put into a notebook. Sometimes they just sit there. Sometimes I look them over and wonder what on earth I had been thinking. Sometimes there is a true gem among them.
The overall design for my Herrschnerr's entry is now on paper. I know it will get tweaked several times before the final version is complete, but at least I now have a guide to go by. I've found that if I type the instructions as I go, it makes putting together the final printed pattern easier.
Basically, my formula works like this:
I am horrible at drawing, but I know what I'm trying to put on the paper. I might use symbols or write notes in different areas of the sheet. Usually there are arrows pointing at various things. To anyone else, it would look worse than a doodled on piece of paper, but to me it acts like a table of contents.
What yarn would work best? What hook should I use that will provide the proper drape of the yarn? What is my gauge when combining the two? How large do I want the finished product to be? How many stitches will I need? This period takes a lot of trial and error, and therefore a lot of time. I will usually make several different gauge swatches, trying to find the exact feel for the piece I want to create. Counting stitches, taking measurements of swatches, and doing the math is an absolute requirement. One of the toughest parts is making sure the stitch pattern I want to use divides evenly into the number of stitches I need to make the size I want.
Now that I have the pattern I will be using in my head, I need to start making it to verify that it will work the way I want it to. Every row gets a notation, such as "color A, 140 sts" or "hdc, (sc,dc) across. When I put the yarn and crochet hook down, I'll bring my notes to the computer and type in what I did in standard notation; i.e. "Using color A, sc in each stitch across (140 sc)".
Finish off the crochet work by weaving in all ends and blocking if necessary. Finish off the pattern by reviewing it to make sure it would make sense to someone else. I have a friend who like to pattern test for me, and she will email me any questions she has. I know that if she has a question, others would as well, therefore I modify the pattern to make it clearer.
All in all, I find designing crochet items a fun thing to do. I know I have a lot left to learn about it, but everyone has to start somewhere, right?