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. Tomorrow afternoon I'll be hosting a video workshop on creating patterns. There are two spaces left so if you’d like to join me, send me an email today (abbyglassenberg at comcast dot net)! My new Cute Critters pattern will launch on Friday!
In this series I’m focusing on creating patterns to distribute digitally as PDFs. On Monday we talked about how to choose a good project to turn into a pattern and yesterday we explored breaking the project instructions down into manageable steps. Today I’ll discuss layout and taking beauty shots.
Creating the Document: Getting Everything on the Page
When I first decided to begin selling patterns I felt intimidated because I’m not super tech savvy. I don’t own Photoshop or any of the Adobe suite programs and I am not a graphic designer by any means. My business is small and I don’t have a ton of capital to invest in software and my time is very tight so fitting in time to learn new software can be tricky.
But here’s the thing: I’m a make-it-work-with-what-you-have type of person. I knew I could figure out a way to produce high-quality patterns anyway. My pattern layout may not be fancy, but to me the sophistication of the toy’s design and the quality of the pattern instructions is what’s truly important in a sewing pattern. I strive to make the content of the highest quality even if the page layouts of the patterns I self-publish are very simple.
Make it Fancy or Make it Simple
If you are comfortable with page layout programs and graphic design software you are going to be able to make really pretty pattern pages and I think that’s awesome! But if you’re not, don’t let that stop you from creating patterns for your projects. You don’t actually need anything fancy.
I write all my PDFs in Microsoft Word. I really do! It’s easy to insert images, edit the text, and then save the document as a PDF. You can reduce the file size right in Word to optimize it for sending via email.
I do all my photo editing and create all my pattern covers with Picmonkey, a free online photo editor. I love Picmonkey!
Sample page from my new Cute Critters pattern.
Viola! Is it fancy? Nope. But you know what? It works great.
There are other low-cost ways of producing a digital pattern. To digitize your pattern templates you can use PowerPoint or Inkscape. Lots of people recommend Gimp as a free page layout program and I know there are others, too. I’d love to hear your recommendations for free or low-cost software that can be used to make pattern PDFs.
Okay, now that you’ve got a your pattern on the page, you want to proofread and double check everything like crazy! I like to print out the pattern and templates (this allows me to see how the pattern will look if customers print it, too) and then I mark it up with a red pen (I used to be a teacher, you know!). You can also send your pattern out to a friend to test it at this point and then incorporate their feedback.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Are all the photos in the right places?
- Did you describe every single step?
- Could certain steps benefit from a few more illustrations?
- Has your terminology been consistent throughout?
- Do you refer in the instructions to every tool and material listed?
- Could you break the instructions up with subheadings to increase readability?
Make a list of what needs to be fixed. Creating a good pattern often requires repeated sessions in the studio making more samples, replicating steps to get just the right photo, proofreading and more proofreading.
If your instructions are long, adding page numbers is helpful. Look carefully at your templates, too, checking that you have marked grain direction, how many to cut, where any openings or darts should be located, and any other pertinent information.
Take the Beauty Shot
Now it’s time for a photo shoot! When you are selling goods online the quality of the main image is what’s sells the product. It’s worth your time to get a great shot! You may want to find someone to model for you, go to a particularly scenic location, or style the photo with a carefully selected set of props. Once you’re home again, crop and edit the photo and add text. Make it gorgeous. You’ll use this beauty shot as the cover image for the pattern and as the main listing image in your online shop.
I have over 20 patterns for sale right now and I really do love them all, but here is my favorite cover image:
Cover image for my Hobby Horse pattern.
To get this image I dropped my hobby horses off at my friend Carolyn's house for the weekend. She is a professional photographer and she has adorable sons. They ran around the backyard for an hour with the horses and she snapped these photos for me! Hooray for awesome, generous friends!
Alright, on Friday we'll talk about two more important components: listing your patterns online and customer support.
I’d love to hear your tips or questions about creating patterns. What programs do you love? What do you think makes a particularly good beauty shot? Let’s learn from one another!