I have a pattern in issue 29 of Mollie Makes. It’s a punk
and pretty topsy turvy doll (I call them Roxy and Rachel).
The idea for this doll came from the
magazine’s editor and it was fun to have an assignment. I spent some hours
studying British punk girls and the fabrics they wear, than searching for
something similar on a small scale at Fabric.com. Hot pink faux fur that I’d
originally bought to make monsters with became Roxy’s hair, and then I tripled
up a chain to go around her neck. Sweet Rachel’s dress is a vintage print I
found last year at a church rummage sale. The pattern and templates for this
doll are all in the magazine. I’ll release it as a PDF in a few months as well.
Recently I’ve been reflecting on this magazine project, and
on all of the design work that I do. I didn’t go to art school. I often
hear other crafters and designers say, “I can’t draw,” so I know that I’m not
alone in feeling like, despite being in an artistic field, I don’t draw all
I’m really good at achieving three-dimensional shapes from
paper pattern pieces, but after selling my own patterns for a year and half
I can see that the patterns that sell the best aren’t those with the most
accurately shaped bodies, or most clever construction methods. Nope. The most
important factor is the visual appeal of the sample.
A softie is, in it’s essence, an illustration come to life.
- It needs to make you instantly say, “Oh, how
- A smile helps a lot.
- It needs expressive eyes.
- Baby-like proportions help (big head,
wide-spread low eyes, big hands and feet)
- The fabrics need to have a good interplay of
In other words, the art has to be good.
I spend some time each week looking at the most successful
softie and doll pattern designers on Etsy and thinking about what makes them
successful. How is it that they sell 30-40 patterns, at $10 a piece, each and
every day? Here’s my answer: the art is great.
It’s funny because it’s really the same answer I give when
people ask me how to grow their blog audience or get more comments,
how to attract more followers on Facebook and Twitter. The most fundamental
answer holds the most truth: write better blog posts. Really good content drives traffic and, over
time, builds an engaged readership.
Learning to write great blog posts is very much aligned with
my formal education. I get it. I know how to do research, write, and rewrite. I
can find topics nobody is writing about, pull information from lots of sources
and come up with a post that’s wholly new and interesting. I’ve got a point of
“There is an easy answer to
how to make more money, and I’m going to tell you! Make your work great. In any
field, the better you are at your work, the more you can give; the more you can
give, the more people want what you have, and the more money you can make.”
In a later chapter she says,
“Every square inch of the piece should be of the same high quality. If you look
from corner to corner to corner to corner, the whole piece should have the same
level of professionalism throughout.”
You can sell a sewing pattern with the promise of
it being easy to follow. You can beef it up with supplemental tutorials or
instructional videos. In the end, though, a lot more people would buy it if the
art was better.
Here are some art books I’ve been exploring this summer.
Join me in becoming someone who draws.
- 20 Ways to Draw a Cat by Julia Kuo
- Illustration School: Let's Draw Cute Animals by Sachiko Umoto
- Illustration School: Let's Draw Plants and Small Creatures by Schiko Umoto
- Drawing Manga, Chibis, and Other Adorable Creatures by J.C. Amberlyn
Links in this post are Amazon affiliate links