Welcome to my continuing series on How to Make Quilting Your Business. I’ve been designing my own quilts for nearly as long as I’ve been quilting, but only recently decided to start turning them into actual patterns for sale.
My latest PDF pattern design – Modern X
First, I had to get over the idea that I thought it was somehow “cheating” for me to charge people money to tell them how many squares and triangles to cut out of a yard of fabric! I really enjoy figuring out the math when it comes to calculating yardage requirements, but I know not everyone feels the same way.
I recently I had a great discussion with my friend Lee Heinrich (a prolific pattern designer and recent book author) and she convinced me that it’s okay for me to share my knowledge and get paid for it. She told me that some people’s brains just don’t work that way and they are more than willing to pay for it. I finally get that now – thanks, Lee!
Today’s topic can be narrowed down to two main ideas: (1) designing the quilt (for business or even just for personal use) and (2) producing and selling the pattern.
Designing Quilt Patterns
When it comes to designing original patterns, there are a myriad of technological choices out there. It can be as basic as sketching your ideas out on graph paper, or as advanced as using specific design software.
Personally I use EQ7 for all my designs. My favorite aspect of the software is that I can import swatches of fabric from any manufacturer into the program. Although I’m by no means an expert, it’s been easy enough for me to learn the basics of what I want to do. I can even design modern “improv” blocks. 🙂 (I know – that’s kind of an oxymoron, right?)
I like to finalize my design digitally before I try it out in fabric. This was my working sketch that ultimately led to a darker background for Spiraling Out of Control.
Another good choice for computerized design is Adobe Illustrator. Several very talented designer friends of mine swear by this program and their work speaks for itself:
Cartwheels by Lee Heinrich, designed in Adobe Illustrator
Lindsey’s latest pattern – designed using Adobe Illustrator
No matter which software you use (or none at all), once you have the basic “sketch” nailed down, you’ll need to do something with those designs to turn them into an actual pattern. I use simple word processing software. I copy and paste my EQ7 images into a Word document and then add text where needed. It’s very basic and gets the job done and at this point matches my skill set. 🙂
Herringbone, designed by me in EQ7. Graphic designers from Camelot Fabrics imported my sketches and instructions into their layout software to create a professional pattern.
If you’d like a more professional look, you can import your design images into a higher-end layout and publishing software such as Adobe In-design or Microsoft Publisher. This is on my “to learn” list!
You can also opt to hire a graphic designer if you plan to produce mass quantities of a particular pattern. However, Lee’s advice is to just bite the bullet and learn the software. She states, “It will really cut into your profit margins if you have to pay a designer every time you have a new pattern that’s ready to release or you need to make changes to existing patterns.”
Selling Quilt Patterns
Once you’ve created your patterns, the next step is to start selling them! I asked Lee if it’s really necessary to sell printed patterns, or if PDF’s will suffice. This was her answer, “I absolutely think someone can get away with selling only PDF versions of patterns. PDFs are great because there’s practically no overhead, no page limitations, and you don’t have to rely on distributors to get them out there. But it’s important to understand that PDF patterns and paper patterns reach completely different audiences, at least for the time being.”
Charming Chevrons, my first PDF Pattern design
For the beginning pattern designer, there are several options to get your patterns into the hands of your customers right away! You can sell them yourself on your own website, or from online sites such as Threadbias or Craftsy. I’ve personally chosen to start selling my patterns on Craftsy because there are no selling fees there!
Another fabulous selling model implemented by my friend Alyssa Lichner from Pile O’Fabric is her Aria Lane design company. Alyssa says, “As an independent designer sometimes you want to stop hassling with all the business details and just design! Aria Lane give designers the opportunity to publish patterns without worrying about those details. At Aria Lane we have a very specific modern aesthetic we are trying to achieve for our designs.”
If you have a design in mind that you feel would fit that aesthetic you can learn about the details of designing an Aria Lane pattern here.
Another fabulous Aria Lane pattern, “Hemispheres” designed by Megan Nichols
I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface of this hugely broad topic. Just remember, there are several paths to success, but the first step on that path is to start making. Don’t be afraid to dive in there and learn as you go. That’s usually my method of doing things and so far it’s served me well!