This week I'm going to be 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. It can be a great addition to what you’re already doing now.
I'll share with you my process in creating patterns and I hope you'll ask questions and explore your pattern own ideas, too. 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! It’s going to be a great week.
Getting Started: Choosing the Right Project to Turn Into a Pattern
Creating a pattern is a multi-step process that will take you a few weeks to complete so you want to put some time upfront into choosing exactly the right project. Here are three criteria that I think a project must meet in order for it to get chosen: I love it, it’s entirely mine, and I feel it will be successful in the marketplace.
This week I’m creating a new pattern for a set of Cute Critters. I’ll use my own process in choosing and making this pattern as an example all week as we look at each step of the pattern-making process so that you can see how my thinking applies to a real world example.
Some Questions to Ask Yourself
To begin choosing a project, look over your current line of handmade goods. Do you want to create a pattern for something you already are making? How will you feel when you see other people making that item? Some crafters feel thrilled to see others creating items made from their patterns, while other crafters would prefer to keep the how-to for their most unique items private.
If you choose to create a pattern for something you’ve already made many times, you’ll give yourself a head start. You’ll be able to skip the prototype stage and head right to creating the pattern. If you would prefer to create an entirely new project to make a pattern from, you’ll have to first spend time developing and fine-tuning the project. Either way is fine, though.
I get a real thrill when other people make toys based on my patterns and I’m always coming up with new project ideas. The Cute Critters I’m working on this week are actually an add-on to the first set of Cute Critters I released a few months ago.
Make Sure You Love It
Whether you’re using something from your repertoire, or creating something new, choose an item you really love. You’ll need that excitement to propel you forward through some of the less glamorous parts of pattern writing, and to help you market and support the pattern later. I am totally excited about these little felt animals and I have a million ideas for more variations to make in the future!
It's Gotta Be Yours
Be sure that the project you select is entirely yours. I’d advise against making a pattern for a project that uses a copyrighted image, for example. And we all learn from pattern books and form looking at projects online, but double check that the project you are selecting is truly yours alone. I got the idea for Cute Critters from looking at all the trendy plush keychains hanging on the kids’ backpacks at my daughters’ elementary school. I did a lot of research on the commercially produced plush keychains currently on the market, and lots of critter sketching, but in the end drew my own version of each animal and created my own body shape.
And finally, select a project that you think will be in high demand. Although it’s impossible to predict exactly how potential customers will behave, you can use some information gathered from what you’re already doing to inform your decision in selecting a project.
- Have people emailed you asking for a pattern for something you currently make?
- Is one of your items much more popular than the rest?
The Cute Critters I designed are really quick to make and they aren’t complicated. I’ve found that my customers are more likely to buy patterns that don’t require advanced sewing skills. And because plush keychains are so popular among tweens, my hope is that people will buy the pattern to make either with or for their kids. In fact, tweens could easily make these critters all on their own.
I’ve also found that customers like to collect patterns from the same series. By releasing several sets of Cute Critters I’m hoping that some customers will buy and make all of the animals in all of the sets.
Can you make several variations on a theme? I’ve found that customers feel like they are getting a better value if they are purchasing one pattern that includes several variations. My Lovey Dovey patterns remain best-sellers because each pattern includes four different animals. Making the variations wasn’t very much added work on my part and it significantly increases the value of the pattern in the customer’s eyes.
To get some customer feedback and buy-in I created one Cute Critter and put an in-progress shot on my Facebook page, asking people for suggestions for other animals to add to the series. I got lots of awesome suggestions (people sure do love hedgehogs!) and generated excitement about the pattern while it was still in development.
Okay, now that we’ve chosen a project to make into a pattern, it’s time to get into the studio and get to work! Tomorrow we’ll explore the steps you take while you’re making the project so that you’ll have everything you need to write it up and create a pattern!
If you have any questions or ideas about pattern development, please leave them in the comments. Thank you, everyone!