This week I'm talking about how to turn your craft projects into pattern
instructions that you can package, market, and sell online. Whether you sew
softies or do another type of craft, creating patterns is a great way to add an
income stream to your handmade business. Pattern sales produce small bits of
income that can flow in while you are in your studio being creative.
I’m using my soon to be released Cute
Critters pattern as an example of my pattern making process this week. On
Thursday afternoon I'll be hosting a video workshop with plush makers from the
Etsy Plush Team who are interested in launching their first sewing patterns and
my Cute Critters pattern will launch on Friday! It’s going to be a great week.
Creating the Project: Breaking Things Down
Yesterday we thought through exactly which projects are most
suited to become patterns. Today we’ll make the project, breaking down and
streamlining the steps so that we can describe and illustrate them for someone
who has never made it before.
The best way to record every single step of a project is to
write detailed notes while you make samples. On the first page of your notebook
make two lists:
- Tools (these include all reusable items such as pins, fabric
markers, and embroidery needles)
- Materials (these are items you use up such as 1/4 yard of
felt, coordinating thread, and embroidery floss)
As you make the samples you’ll probably remember particular
tools and materials you need along the way. Add them to your lists. If special
tools or materials are required, you’ll want to add a link in your pattern to
the best online source for them.
In my Cute Critters pattern I have a link to
my favorite source of wool-blend felt and where to buy keychain hooks if you
want to turn your Critter into a keychain.
I measure the finished sample and jot down its length,
width, and height so that customers can know the exact dimensions of the
finished item before they purchase the pattern. And I weigh my toys to find out
approximately how much stuffing to recommend using. Customers appreciate
knowing exactly what they’ll need. Instead of “embroidery floss” try “a 12-inch
strand of 6-ply embroidery floss in light pink”.
Illustrate the Steps
In addition to a place to jot down notes, I have an area in
my studio set up for taking step-by-step photos.
I illustrate all of my
patterns with photos. You may choose to draw illustrations instead, or to just
use text, but for me photo illustrations get the job done remarkably well. I
recommend using a piece of white poster paper as a backdrop (as opposed to a
green cutting mat, for example) and you definitely need good lighting for these
shots. Check out this series on taking tutorial photos for more tips on taking
great step-by-step photos.
Explain the Basics First
For most craft and sewing projects there are a few
techniques that are so fundamental they are worth describing up front. I think
it’s best not to assume that your pattern customer knows these fundamental
techniques. Some pattern makers shoot how-to videos and link to them from the
pattern. I think that’s a terrific idea!
In my pattern for Cute Critters it’s vital that you know how
to cut detailed shapes from felt. After the materials and tools list I explain
my method for cutting felt. I took a few photos to illustrate this technique,
Write Down Notes and Take Photos as You Make Samples
And now make the project. After every significant step, take
a photo and jot down notes. Be as specific as possible. You may find you need
to add additional markings to some of the pattern templates to show where
exactly the stitching should begin and end or that you need to measure the
exact length of a particular piece. Write it all down and photograph
I always err on the side of too much information because if you
breeze through and forget to take a photo of a particular step, for example,
you’re going to have to go back and make another sample in order to get the
shot you need. Take your time and record everything!
Shoot a few photos of the finished sample from various
angles. These are helpful reference illustrations for customers as they are
trying to figure out how to put the project together. I call these my "Zappos" photos!
Use your notes to write up the pattern instructions. This
post about how to write clear and concise instructions has all my best tips on
this part of the process.
Tomorrow we’ll talk about pattern and template layout and
taking beauty shots. My new Cute Critters pattern will launch on
Did I miss anything or do you have a particular question about creating
patterns? Leave a comment here and we can talk about it! Thanks everyone!