This is my approach to developing a sweater pattern. Your mileage may vary (for sure!).
First disclaimer: I about as far from a trained fashion designer as one can get. In my head, I have to constantly squelch the voice of Nina Garcia (of Project Runway and MarieClaire fame) saying "I'm a bit worried about your taste, dear." I'm actually probably better described as a "patternist."
I'm not an innovative, forward thinking stylist who spends time pouring over the latest fashion magazines and blogs. I do however, love garment construction. I love looking at something and figuring out how it might be accomplished differently, maybe more easily. And then I love trying to communicate the "how-to" in a concise, effecient, yet effective manner. That process is a lot closer to my scientist/engineering training and inclination.
That being said, my first step is inspiration. For this, I do look at other sweaters, machine knit, commercially available sweaters, for design inspiration and sometimes interesting construction options. I can tell you I've learned some things taking apart sweaters to reclaim the yarn. I keep a small notebook where I jot down ideas and notes as I see them. It fits in my briefcase or hand bag, and goes with me everywhere.
For this Thankful Sweater (the working title for now) I've been looking at a lot of those circle type shrug/cardigans. The ones where the fronts just fall open and drape down. I want this to be an easy knit that will work with my bulky yarn, but still have some shape. I saw a commercial sweater that was basically a shrug with a large rectangle attached. It didnt' fit all that well, so I'm going to try to modify the shaping a bit still keeping this a fairly easy, fast knit. The prototype was also made in bulky cotton, so it was heavy and stretched out of shape as soon as I looked at it. I'm thinking my wool blend will retain shape while still draping well, and not be nearly as heavy as the cotton.
Here's my first sketch - as you can clearly tell, I can't draw. But I don't let that get in the way. This is my working sketch, just for me, and I know what it's supposed to look like in my head. Don't let a lack of fashion sketching skills get in your way either! If this design was going to be submitted for publication, I'd dress it up a bit. I'll do another post later on how I fake the fashion sketches.
Tomorrow - I'll discuss how the sketch turns into construction notes.