I am thinking of working up some patterns that would be handy for the Afghans For Afghans program. Right now I am thinking about sweaters for youth. Here are a few areas where I would love feedback from other crocheters:
Fabric: for the sake of warmth, the fabric wants to be fairly dense. Single crochet will make the densest fabric (even more so with variations like long sc). Double crochet will make a looser fabric, but goes faster. Half double crochet is a possible compromise -- makes an interesting texture, goes a little more quickly than sc but is more dense than dc. There are various stitch combinations, often some various of a short stitch (like sc or sl st) with a taller stitch (dc orh dc), where one alternates on each row putting the "tall" stitch into the shorter stitch in the row below and vice versa. It can make an interesting texture and can be a little more fun to make. Post crochets can be used to make cable-like or basketweave textures and add to the density, but they use up a lot of yarn. Shells are pretty, but generally are less dense.
Style: pullover or cardigan? Pullovers feel quicker and easier, but cardigans may be more flexible. One idea is to make a pullover with a something like a henley or polo shirt type collar (a slit with a few buttons and various collar styles). This lets the pullover be snug against the neck if the wearer chooses and gives plenty of room to pull it on.
Edges: ribbing or not? Ribbing at the waist and sleeve cuff makes the sweater fit more snugly and keepts out drafts. It is also more work than just making a straight body/sleeve and takes longer. Ribbing in crochet can be done with post stitches worked vertically across rows, or worked side to side with with rows of sc worked in the back loop, the width of the rows being equal to the height of the ribbing (usually with a smaller hook than the body). The ribbing band then gets turned on its side. There are 3 ways to deal with the second kind of ribbing: 1.) make the ribbing first and then work a base row of sc along one long side of the ribbing band as the foundation for the body, 2.) make the ribbing last (sl st into the body and ch a base for the ribbing, turn and sc in back loop only, sl st into the body to end a row and sl st again to begin the next row), 3.) make the ribbing separately (crochet a separate band) and sew it on.
Sleeves: many modern patterns have no sleeve cap or armhole shaping. This makes it very easy to do, but the shoulder seam is well below the actual shoulder/arm joint. This can make it a bit bulky, or if the sleeve isn't wide enough at the top there can be a problem with not enough ease. Does the convenience of working straight blocks of fabric override the shaping? There are some compromises here -- the sleeve doesn't have to be as formed as a suit jacket, but can be more trapezoidal in shape and set into a relative square armhole indented in the body.
Color: I like putting decorative color patterns on things. I also think it is good if a design encourages the use of small leftovers of yarn, like the Invest for Peace vest does. An easy way to use multiple colors is with stripes, of course. The ribbing and such can be a different color from the body. And one can use tapestry crochet methods to work colored patterns across the work.
Your thoughts and preferences on all these aspects of a pattern are much appreciated, whatever your experience level!