22 Tempting Ideas as Inspiration for Knitting and Crochet
How do you find inspiration for your next knitting or crochet project?
Sometimes you are itching to create something new, but you are not sure what to make. It can happen that you are spoilt for choice, and it’s a question of narrowing it down! How do you decide?
Do you already have a large stash of yarn, or will you buy new yarn specifically to make a particular pattern that caught your eye?
Looking around, it’s possible to find inspiration from the environment: shapes, colours, textures etc. Sources of ideas can include architecture, art, birds, ceramics, fashion, fish, flowers, fruit, furniture, gardens, geometry, music, parks, people, sculpture, the seasons, stained glass, trees, vegetables, water, wildlife…
Perhaps you can think of more?
The built environment can be the source of many ideas — from the regimented regularity of brickwork to the flying buttresses and stained glass windows of cathedrals and churches.
The image here reminds me of ribbing combined with cable as the pillars come together towards the roof.
The effect of the seating at the base of the picture could be interpreted with a contrasting colour at the waist, cuff and neckband of a jumper.
The Materialistics, who describe themselves as “a group of needlework enthusiasts who produce large exhibitions mainly in knitting but inclusive of other techniques” have created a variety of projects. Perhaps their most impressive was The Grand Tour in 2011, where famous works of art were re-interpreted using knitting, crochet, appliqué and other crafts. Pictured is their version of Hokusai’s “The Great Wave”, created by Sylvia West, Susan Davies and Tim West, and photographed by Maureen Wilson.
Whether it’s the birds you see in your garden, or brightly-coloured exotic tropical birds, there’s much to inspire a crafter when looking at plumage.
Quite often baby birds have a different plumage from the adults, so a small fluffy chick creates a different mood from a majestic swan or a splendidly outrageous peacock!
A baby bird might be the inspiration for a fluffy jumper, all snuggly and warm!
A swan could be the trigger for a monochrome design, black and white with perhaps just a dash of a contrasting colour to add interest.
The sight of a peacock in full display might make you reach for bright colours to create a statement throw, perhaps using granny square motifs to resemble the glorious tail feathers.
We shouldn’t forget the toning shades of brown in the humble house sparrow, or the vibrant colours of macaws — such a wide range of colours to inspire us!
Decorative wall tiles, artisan bowls, kitchenware, porcelain dinner services, flower pots, garden statuettes and even roof tiles as classified as ceramics.
Hand-painted tiles could inspire a blanket made from individual motifs.
The texture of roof tiles might be the inspiration for a jumper with squares in different stitches.
Mosaic tiles can be the inspiration behind a slip stitch pattern that incorporates different contrast colours against a plain background.
A fashion show tells us what designers predict we will be wearing, from colour schemes to outline shapes. Sometimes shoulders will be boxy and square, at other times more soft and subtle; the use of shoulder pads in a cardigan or jumper can help give the desired silhouette. The colours on the runway can suggest tropical or urban themes, for example. It’s all useful inspiration!
The bright colours, stripes and scales of fish can be an inspiration. Some tropical fish have neon hues, so they really stand out! Other fish go more for camouflage. There’s the Friendly Fish Collection in my pattern section if you’d like to try your hand at knitting some cute fish!
Flowers, blooms and blossom can remind us of spring and summer, and the different colours can be pale and subtle or bright and glowing. There also the shape and size of flowers to consider — a knitted or crochet flower can make a striking embellishment.
Embroidery on a knitted or crocheted item could be used to suggest flowers – how about French knots for the little lavender flowers along the stem? Lazy daisy stitch could be used for daisy flowers – the traditional white daisies, or mauve for Michaelmas daisies.
The bright colours, shape or a section through the middle of some fruit can be the basis for a design. The variety of colours from lime green, lemon, orange and ruby grapefruit with the outline from the segments and the peel creates a cartwheel effect: coasters in the shape of slices of citrus fruit could be a talking point!
Pom-poms could be used to represent round fruit such as apples and cherries; the pom-poms could even be trimmed to represent a pear shape.
At Halloween, a jumper with a pumpkin would be in keeping with the mood of the season, or you could make individual knitted or crocheted pumpkins for an indoor display.
The grain of wood and the rich texture of velvet could inspire the creation of a jumper with a variety of colours, textures and stitches to indicate a firm framework under a luxurious fabric.
The brass studs fixing the upholstery fabric to the wooden structure of the chair might be the trigger for the choice of brass buttons on a knitted cardigan.
The carving of wood could be represented by rib and cable stitches.
The soft pile of velvet can even be imitated by the choice of velvet-like chenille yarn.
Formal knot gardens make use of low-growing shrubs such as box to frame beds of other plants, which may be herbs for culinary of medicinal use, or for decorative purposes. This concept of different shapes with a border could be interpreted in knitting or crochet; for example, traditional granny squares could be joined together in green to represent the box hedge border. You might be inspired to visit Hatfield House (above) or the Chateau de Ballue (below).
There’s so much to see in the natural world and the built environment that relates to geometry. The way branches divide on trees, the relationship between different petals on a flower, or the patterns of windows on buildings. If you remember the Spirograph mathematical toy, various patterns could be created by rotating a toothed wheel within a cog to create a variety of geometric patterns. Here the “The Gherkin” (formally known as 30, St Mary Axe) is a building in London with an aesthetically pleasing geometric design. It would be interesting to make a jumper with this pattern, using different shades of yarn.
Whether it’s the notes on the stave on sheet music, the alternating black and white of a piano keyboard, the curve of a violin, or the brightness of a brass instrument, there’s lots of inspiration to be found in a concert hall looking around at the different instruments of the orchestra. Or perhaps you are more drawn to the geometric shapes of some modern electric guitars?
The regimented design of some bedding plants in parks can spark ideas for vivid contrasting colours, of perhaps the shape of the flower beds with their sharply defined edges can be the source for geometric designs in knitting and crochet, using motifs, mosaic or other colour work techniques.
It’s possible to be inspired by seeing what people are wearing, whether you meet them in person, see them on television or in a play or a film… Something futuristic, or a period drama perhaps? The job or role that a person represents could be inspiring — a nurse, firefighter or chef for example. There are even patterns of knitted dolls showing what people do in their everyday lives, like this book by Sarah Keen.
It’s certainly possible to look at marble sculpture and marvel at how the effect of draped fabric and the softness of skin can be created in a cold, hard rock. Sculptor Carol Milne takes things one step further by creating sculptures of knitting made in glass!
The seasons tend to have different colours associated with them.
While we might think of white for frost and snow in winter, the leafless trees in silhouette and the cheery robin redbreast, don’t forget the traditional green and red for festive celebrations!
Spring is associated with soft greens and pale pink blossom just coming into bud. The days are getting longer and warmer, chicks are hatching, the world awakens from its winter slumber.
The rich bright colours of summer are epitomised by a whole range of bedding plants and shrubs, from the traditional bright red salvia to the mauve of buddleia attracting butterflies and bees. Butterfly wings have colours and patterns that inspire… not forgetting the cheerful blooms of sunflowers!
As fruit and crops ripen, thoughts move to harvest festival and the golden tones of autumn leaves, and bright orange pumpkins. The look of leaves as they change colour from green to gold and then russet is amazing whether it’s individual leaves, or watching the deciduous trees change against a background of evergreens. Autumn is also known as “fall”, as the leaves tumble from the trees, their work done for another year.
17. Stained glass
This image of stained glass could be used as inspiration for motifs in knitting, crochet, appliqué or a patchwork quilt. The contrast of bright colours with a dark background can imitate the look of sunlight streaming through a stained glass window at certain times of day. It would be possible to use Fair Isle knitting or intarsia to alternate between a coloured yarn against grey or black to make a “frame”; alternatively, a slip stitch design with variegated yarn against a darker main colour would also create an interesting effect.
The form and structure can give us ideas for design, as well as the range of colours from unripe vegetables slowly maturing to bring a spectrum according to the seasons.
In this photo, I have made some knitted and crocheted vegetables; the skin of the cucumber is suggested by a ribbing variation, and the aubergine is brought to life with a yarn containing a lurex filament. The garlic bulb even has roots made from yarn!
Water can indicate many moods, from stormy seas, to quiet ponds and from surf to waterfalls! Just hearing the waves rushing to the shore can create a sense of peace and relaxation.
Yarn with a thread of lurex, or a satin finish could be used to represent water. The well-known feather-and-fan knitting stitch could be used in variegated shades of blue to echo waves coming in to shore. How inspiring to be able to use different yarns and stitches to create the effect of flowing water!
There is also the iconic image of the The Great Wave in front of Mount Fuji, as shown in 2. Art above which appeared in an 2011 exhibition of work by the Materialistics.
Wild animals and birds can be a great source of inspiration, whether it’s the texture of a prickly hedgehog or the showy extravagance of a peacock!
The stripes of a tiger or the spots of a cheetah can inspire colour work in a garment, combining different colours to give a vivid contrast or subtle shading. The wild tresses of a lion’s mane can be imitated with a looped stitch to create of fur-like effect.
If you have a good yarn stash — how could a yarn stash be anything but good? — simply browsing through your yarn can offer inspiration! There’s the possibility of combining different colours for a theme, for example, colours associated with the seasons: pinks and greens for the blossom and burgeoning growth of spring; hot oranges and yellows for the holidays and warm sunshine of the summer; rich auburn, copper and gold to reflect the changing colour of the leaves in autumn; black and white to suggest the leafless trees and sprinkling of snow in the winter. Another option could be to use colours to echo various festivals – who doesn’t want to cuddle a fluffy Easter chick?
There are many sources of inspiration in addition to looking through your stash of knitting and crochet patterns, books and magazines… which is a pleasure in itself! Most importantly, do what you enjoy!
Just as I thought I had covered plenty of options, a new idea came to me – “fireworks” – using sparkly or neon yarn, either knitted-in or Swiss darned on a plain item, this would have a “wow” factor! You could even create the effect in 3D by attaching a pom-pom in bright yarn! Keep those ideas coming!
24. Browse Patterns
If you are looking for some patterns to get you started, why not browse the Crafty Cavy pattern shop?
To start on your crochet journey, have a look at some easy patterns first, such as the simple daisy design.
There’s also a simple leaf pattern, to go with the daisy, or why not make a selection of leaves in different colours to show the progression of the seasons?
What do you use as inspiration for knitting and crochet? Perhaps you enjoy embroidery or painting – what makes you want to get creative? Please share your ideas and inspiration in the comments section. I look forward to hearing from you!
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