Obviously, the first step is an idea. I then do a search for other patterns in knit or crochet that might have the same idea. It is amazing how many times I think I have thought of something truly unusual and find that someone else has already got the same idea. Both knitting and crochet have been around long enough that it is really hard to find something that hasn't been done. I do not want to infringe on someone else's copyright.
O.K. Now I have an idea for something that I haven't seen before and can't find a pattern for. First since I make a lot of characters, I look up to see who holds the copyright for those characters. If no one does, and they are in the public domain I can now continue. I do an image search for that character and get a lot of different looks. Again, I do not want to copy one of these images as they are images that other artists have the rights to. I try to decide what elements the character needs to be recognizable as that character and come up with my own look.
Now the real work begins. Taking the yarn or thread colors that I need, I start making the character or item. When I am planning on using really nice yarn, I usually do this part in scrape yarn as I know that I will be taking it out a lot and trying something else and I don't want to ruin my good yarn doing this over and over again. I have a notebook and I write each stitch down. I also use the notebook to make drawings of what I would like the piece to come out as. As I take out different sections, I scribble out what I had originally put down and add the new way of making it to come out the way I want it.
I use a lot of stitch dictionaries that I have in my collection of crochet and knit patterns. Another resource I find invaluable to finding stitches is YouTube videos of different stitches. I have read how to make different stitches but find I can understand it so much easier when I see it. Here is one of my favorite videos on Kitchener Stitch which is really confusing when it comes to reading how to make this wonderful seamless seam. Kitchener Stitch Video
It usually takes 2 or 3 weeks to come up with a pattern that I am happy with. Now I go to my computer and type all those stitches that I have written in my pattern notebook. This can be a real challenge to read over all the cross out sections and put them into a document. I try to format the pattern to way I would find it the easiest for me to read. I space between each row with the row and number in bold letters so that it is easy for your eye to find the row that is being worked on.
On the second time through I measure the yarn or string that I use to make the piece along with the name of the color. It am trying to keep my patterns in line with the industry standards as found at this website http://www.craftyarncouncil.com/standards.html Here is an example from one of my patterns.
Materials: bedspread weight cotton threads (size 10)
33 yards burgundy (or choice of main bud color)
27 yards dusty rose (or choice of contrasting bud color)
4 yards Kerry green (or choice of stem color)
67 yards White (background color)
Boye Steel Crochet hook size 1 (2.25mm)
Gauge: 8 hdc = 1 inch (2.5cm), 5 hdc rows = 1 inch (2.5cm)
Skill Level: Intermediate
Finished Size: 10 inches (25.5cm) round diameter
Stitches and Abbreviations used: again I use the yarn council's standards abbreviations.
When the pattern is "correct" I send it off to at least 2 other pattern testers. These wonderful people will make the pattern for me, looking for corrections and offering suggestions on how to make the pattern easier to understand. I give them a deadline so that I will get it corrected in a timely matter.
When I receive it back from these wonderful people, I am ready to publish my pattern. It usually takes close to a about 45 to 60 days to get a pattern ready to be published. It is a time consuming process but I love sharing my patterns with others.
Is making patterns something you would be interested in doing? If you have the time and patience I would encourage anyone to try. I want to see the art of crochet and knitting continuing to grow with new ideas and designs.