I'm nearly halfway through reading Sweater Design in Plain English by Maggie Righetti, and she has really opened my eyes to all of the different things you have to consider before even starting to cast on a self-designed project.
Like how cabled knitting doesn't stretch as much width-wise, and how there's no point spending a fortune on yarn if the colour doesn't suit your skin tone. Little things like adding an extra stitch to the end of a row of ribbing to make the rib pattern even at the seams was a total revelation. And I had no idea that chevron lace shouldn't be forced to have a ribbed border at the bottom of a sweater - apparently it doesn't like that.
I'm a long way off from designing my own, but this book is giving me so many different ideas. I just have to concentrate on something that's a bit simple at first, and maybe chunky - a fast-knit jumper will make me feel like I sort-of know what I'm doing.
I've made more progress with my second hood. I'm onto the sixth pattern repeat, nearly finished the main piece, and I got a lot done today at stitch n' bitch at the city library. So nice to hang out with people with similar interests!