Thursday, January 03, 2008

Mailorder Catalogs for Design Inspiration

Happy New Year! I have a few newly published designs to blog about but today, a bit about January clean-up for designers: I'm staring at mailorder catalogs that have piled up over the holidays. Before I throw them out, I go through some of them for crochet design inspiration. Below are my favorites.

So much copyright infringement goes on and so many people seem fuzzy about what makes a design original that I feel I must say: I'm in no way encouraging or recommending that people copy designs, nor do I do it myself.

When I say "design inspiration", I mean that:
-- the way someone pairs a particular shade of brown with a shade of blue can spark a creative journey that ends in a design that might not even have anything to do with that brown or that blue or the way they are paired or the object on which they are displayed.

-- the way the border of a garment contrasts with lacy panels is exciting in a general kind of way.

-- the way a traditional crochet stitch pattern is rendered in a nontraditional color or fiber or gauge or wardrobe piece frees me to see familiar crochet a new way.

-- when I imagine something made of metal or glass in crocheted fiber instead, the radical change in style, subtext, and other effects can be startling.

-- the direction of sewn seams, pleats, knitted rows, or contrasting fabric nap sparks ideas for using crochet shortrowing decoratively rather than just for shaping or random free-form.

-- a toy in a catalog, or just a fabric print in a kid's decor item, might remind me of the general principle that a cool toy results from anthropomorphizing anything; and then my own imagination soars.

-- sometimes when I look at a woven rug, I see crocheted motifs that aren't really there, and the motifs would make a great bag or afghan or jacket. Sometimes when I look at leather belts I see crocheted bag straps or headbands, or when I look at metal jewelry I see lace garment edgings or headbands.

Women's fashion catalogs:

anthropologie--the ultimate in sweater art! I know many would agree with me because there's a Ravelry forum devoted to anthropologie knits. (The Ravelry links might not work for you yet if you're not a Raveler but I've provided them because Ravelry will eventually go fully public, and some forums already show up in my Google searches.)
Newport News--many crocheters would agree with me on this one too! This company tracks fashion fads and trends closely so a designer can use it like a trends newsletter--right down to the super-trendy catchphrases (see above photo). Usually lots of real crochet for dessert.

Peruvian Connection--for more ethnic and folkloric looks, textures, & color combos.

For jewelry, bags, other accessories:
Sundance--Rustic, western looks. I've been inspired most by the jewelry and sometimes the bags.
Chicos--Chico's fashions used to have more artistic, artisanal, and/or ethnic flair. I still scan the clothing but now am more likely to be inspired by their belts, and occasionally the jewelry.
Peruvian Connection and anthropologie can also be great for accessories.

For home decor:
Chiasso--My favorite for modernist chic. Also, West Elm.

Pottery Barn--The overall style is generally inspiring. (I guess that could be said of many catalog companies such as J.Crew, Crate and Barrel, Spiegel, etc.)

Home Decorator's Collection--mainly the rugs.

For kitsch, kids, useful items, etc:

Flax Art & Design--Fun, creative, and colorful designs, especially for kids. See also Chiasso.

There must be some good ones missing from this list so please mention them in the comments if you have a favorite. I have other favorites that I visit online rather than receive in the mail; but for a list of those you'd need to take my Trendy Crochet class at the next CGOA Chain Link conference!


  1. Great list! I would also suggest La Redoute, a French-based clothing/accessories catalog. They do some interesting sweaters and get some designers worth looking at putting lines together for them. Of course, they have a website:

  2. I totally agree. I often look at different catalogs for inspiration. I made 2 crochet versions of the Cropped Cardi from Anthropoligie.I haven't written the pattern (yet).

    I also like looking at for bags (especially during the Spring/Summer).

  3. Thanks so much for the suggestions!

  4. Anonymous11:21 AM more of a teenager thing but has lots of crafty ideas from crochet to embroidery

  5. Oooh thanks for this list! Bookmarking it!

  6. excellent work vasthi keep it up you rideas are so innovative keep it up malligashivaram


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