One of the biggest advantages that self-publishing PDF patterns give us as designers is the ability to test the market in a very low-cost way. In June of 2009, almost seven years ago, I made a piece of pink patchwork, cut it apart, and sewed it into an elephant. You can see it here. Every few months after that I would get an email asking if I had a pattern for this design. I’d have to say no, I didn’t have a pattern, but I could clearly see that there was demand for one.
Finally, last summer, I made one. If you sell patterns then I’m sure you know that some designs sell much better than others and sometimes knowing which ones will be blockbusters and which will just sorta sit there is a mystery. Over time I’ve learned that the majority of people who buy sewing patterns for dolls and toys are making something for a new baby – either they’re having a baby or there’s a grandchild or niece or nephew on the way, or they’re going to a baby shower for a friend. There’s something about this life cycle event that makes people want to sew and, in fact, I think that life cycle events are often an introduction to sewing for many people.
The Patchwork Elephant pattern has been for sale in my shop for nine months now (how appropriate!) and it’s done very well. I know that part of the reason for this is that it’s made from quilting cotton. Although I prefer fleece for softies, I know that many people already have quilting cotton in their stash and feel comfortable sewing with it, plus you can’t beat the variety of prints available.
This pattern is made with a jelly roll which makes it easy and quick to sew the patchwork. When I chose the jelly roll for the pattern sample I wasn’t thinking about going to print with this pattern. I used a roll I found at Joann’s that’s exclusive to Joann’s stores and therefore totally unsuited to being the cover of a pattern that independent quilt shop owners would buy.
To get this pattern read for print I bought a jelly roll from Moda. It’s Meadowbloom by April Rosenthal. I chose it because it’s cheery and gender neutral and could appeal to both modern and traditional tastes. This jelly roll is something many quilt shops carry and it gives me the option of carrying them myself so I can sell kits in the future.
Over the next few months I’ll work on getting this pattern ready for print. This involves hiring an illustrator to turn my step-by-step photos into drawings, a graphic designer to do page layout, and a photographer to take the beauty shots. It’s fun to assemble the team and work together with other talented women to make this happen.
Printing a pattern is expensive, but I’ve had really good experiences working with Checker and Brewer to get my first pattern, Harper the Owl, into quilt shops and I feel confident that this one will sell well, too. A big part of making a business like mine work is diversifying my income streams which means money needs to be coming in from all different projects simultaneously (podcast advertising, licensing, freelance writing, royalties, ebook sales, consulting, and on and on) and I’m enjoying having print patterns be one of those income sources.