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, too.
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 everything.
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 Friday!
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!