Wednesday, February 3, 2016

PWS- How to Write a Quilt Pattern - Roundtable Topic 3 - Turning Designs into Patterns

Topic III - Turning Designs into Patterns - Round Table Discussion

On Monday, I covered Topic III which discussed how to start turning your quilt designs into quilt patterns and how I started to turn my idea into Ninja Bears.  I discussed how to find the block within your quilt pattern and then how to go about sizing the blocks and deciding on a layout to get to the quilt size(s) that you would like to include in your pattern.  

Two questions I have been asked over and over again are around offering a quilt pattern in more than one size and the difference between free and paid quilt patterns.  Our guest designers (and myself) weigh in on these questions below.

Do you typically offer your patterns in one size or more than one size? How did you decide on this?

Lorna of Sew Fresh Quilts - I typically offer my patterns in more than one size. This allows for more flexible use of the pattern to suit the buyer's needs.

Soma of Whims and Fancies - The size of my patterns is based on the details of the designs. I design them in such a way that they can be resized by printing them at different percentages.

Yvonne of Quilting Jetgirl - I have patterns both ways, and I price accordingly. A pattern that is only one size is slightly less expensive than a pattern with multiple sizes. Ideally, I would like my patterns to offer multiple sizes.

I always try to offer more than one size in my quilt patterns, but if a pattern is complex, making the pattern in a different size would require really odd measurements, etc., I will chose to offer the pattern in one size only.

Amy of 13 Spools - I only offer them in one size because it’s a freaking pain to do more! This is usually because my patterns have complex cutting directions, and it would be crazy to do it for many sizes.

Anne of Springleaf Studios - Right now it’s about half and half. The patterns that offer multiple sizes range from baby to queen size. Others have just a single throw/lap size. The decision is generally based on the design. If it’s a block based design, it’s easier to offer multiple sizes. Exceptions to this would be an overly large block which can make it difficult to work into traditional bed sized quilts or if the overall design requires a set number of blocks. The complexity of a design can also simply get to be too confusing for multiple sizes when it comes to listing yardage and cutting. I don’t want to overwhelm the quilter with things they don’t need. I do sometimes include tips on how to rescale a block or make another size when the pattern doesn’t include other size options.

Christa of Christa Quilts - I offer them in four sizes. When I was ready to get serious about pattern design, I began to do a bunch of research. I paid attention to what other designers did and asked my instagram followers if they wanted multiple sizes and what sizes they preferred. For my general pattern layout, I realized that four different sizes was enough to make the pattern valuable, but didn’t make the pattern too long for printing.

I also wanted to differentiate my single patterns from the patterns I write for books. My books are a themed collection of patterns in one size only; therefore the individual unit price of a book pattern is much cheaper when you consider how many patterns are offered in a book. For stand-alone patterns, I wanted to make sure I was providing enough value to the consumer to justify the higher unit cost of just one pattern. 

Cheryl of Meadow Mist Designs - As I stated in my Monday post, I do not think that you must include multiple sizes in your quilt patterns, but when speaking with pattern purchasers, most indicated that having multiple sizes made the pattern more valuable and that they tended to buy more multiple size patterns than single size patterns.  In my own patterns, almost all have multiple sizes, with the number of sizes and which sizes are offered based on the block size, complexity, and other factors.

With all of the free patterns out there on Craftsy, Moda Bake Shop, and blogs, do you feel that there is a difference in what a free versus for sale pattern should contain?

Soma of Whims and Fancies - I haven’t felt any difference between the two. My patterns contain the same level of detail whether they are paid or not. That way, people get a realistic impression of working with my patterns, regardless of which one they pick.

Amy of 13 Spools - For starters, I don’t really concern myself with what I think others should include in a free v. paid pattern - only what works for me. My situation (stay at home mom with 3 very young children; I can only sew if I pay for a babysitter, etc.) is not necessarily the same as quilter a and quilter b, etc. - so our needs are different, as well. That’s ok. If someone else offers a great pattern for free, I don’t worry about my own pricing model - I do what I need to do, and they can do what they need to do.

When I’m deciding whether to offer a pattern for sale or for free, it’s about three things: time, complexity, and pattern testing.  I nearly always make quilts for-sale patterns. That’s just a practical thing - my quilt patterns tend to take quite awhile to write, and I can’t justify that time if I’m not going to get at least some compensation.

Block patterns are a toss-up. Here, there is a difference in content - I usually don’t provide cutting directions for the free paper-pieced patterns. That part takes awhile to figure out & write, so I will decide to either 1) include it & offer the pattern for sale, or 2) skip it and offer the pattern for free.

For me, another concern with paid v. free is pattern testing - I always have my patterns for sale tested! I don’t have my free ones tested - it just doesn’t make sense monetarily for me.

Christa of Christa Quilts - I limit how much free content I offer. I have one free pattern called “Puzzle Box” that my readers get when they sign up for my email newsletter on my website. It is available in one size only and gives my readers a “taste” for my other multi-size patterns. I also offer step-by-step quilt along tutorials on my website. These aren’t full blown illustrated patterns, but they give me a chance to test-out my ideas before I create a pattern. These, too, are offered in one size only.

Yvonne of Quilting Jetgirl - When I am making a quilt pattern that will be purchased, I try to offer something “more” than would be realistic for a free pattern. For instance, I will include a coloring page, give detailed information on fabric selection, or even provide a worksheet to outline a thought process to help a quilter cultivate a story and meaning behind the quilt they are making. I have also included additional information like a secondary quilt pattern that can be made from scraps generated when piecing the quilt top.

I believe that a quilt pattern that is offered for sale should be pattern tested and edited more carefully than a free pattern / tutorial. It is one thing for me to write a free pattern / tutorial and work through the pattern on my own, but when I offer a pattern for sale at the very least I want several other quilters to have looked it over.

I think that Christa has a very good point about being careful about how much free content you offer. And I applaud Amy's opening statement about not being concerned with what others are doing. I do hope you start first by considering what works best for you in your own situation. Knowing what others do can help, but have confidence in your own intuition and work from your heart.

Lorna of Sew Fresh Quilts - A free pattern should contain as much or as little information as the creator of that pattern feels like offering. A for sale pattern should contain ALL the information needed for making the quilt from start to finish, including fabric requirements, cutting directions, block construction, and quilt top assembly instructions. Additional information may include a fabric selection guide, a variety of quilt layout options, a colouring sheet or quilting suggestions.

Anne of Springleaf Studios - As a designer trying to make money from my pattern sales it can be a challenge to compete with all the free patterns available. Most free patterns are fairly straight forward and provide a minimum of instruction. I try to offer more than what you would expect in a free pattern. Things like alternative ways to use the pattern and a coloring page to name a few. I really want the quilter to take my pattern and use it as a starting point to create their own unique version.

I might add that with such easy access to information online these days, I think there can be an assumption that everything online is free. What many people don’t think about is the amount of time it takes to fully develop a pattern. That’s what this series is all about and I hope by the end more quilters will appreciate the effort that goes into publishing patterns. You don’t just write one up in a day.

I especially agree with Yvonne's first paragraph about offering "more" for a paid pattern. Ditto that for Lorna's answer which I think she summed up quite well.

Cheryl of Meadow Mist Designs - For my free patterns, they are almost always one size and contain instructions for one design option.  For example, I might have a free pattern of a lap size quilt using a jelly roll.  If I were to make it into a paid pattern, I would try to expand the number of quilt sizes offered and would probably offer instructions for cutting and piecing from yardage, scraps, and any other pre-cuts that might work along with additional tips and content.


  1. Great information ! Thank you all who have been willing to participate and give us a glimpse inside.

  2. Awesome information and a special thanks to all the contributors. A question popped into my head about things like the general information that is the front or back of books/patterns - and this may be addressed later. Do you write your own instructions for binding (for instance)? If this is to be addressed in the series later, no need to answer. If I don't write it when I think it, the question sometimes disappears into thin air.

  3. Kathleen's question put one into my head as well, so if it's to be addressed later, you can skip it for now. But do you typically take the quilter through the whole process of quilt top assembly, basting, quilting, and binding? I mean, are these steps detailed or summed up with Layer, baste, quilt and bind? Thank you!

  4. This is just fabulous information, and so helpful. One of my goals for the year is to offer some of my designs as patterns, so this spot on info for me. Thanks to all.

  5. Great discussion Designers!
    I've wondered the same thing Kathleen just asked about how far you need to go with instructions.
    Can you assume readers have a basic skill level?
    Her example of binding the quilt is exactly what I was wondering about. Oh I see that Jennifer is also asking the same sort of thing.

  6. This is a great addition to the previous post and mirrors my own opinion. And I love the idea of having a coloring sheet available. That's just so useful and probably not that difficult to include.

    Might there even be an option for a digital (jpeg?) download option to color it in on the computer? Just thinking out loud... Really have experienced different pattern qualities so far and this is inspiring! Thanks for the hard work you all put into the series xo

  7. This has been my favorite post so far! I really appreciate the variety of views expressed here. I like what Amy said about doing what works for you - I also have kids and little time, so if I designed a pattern, it would have to be "worth it." And I love what Yvonne and Anne said about pattern extras, and Christa about uniformity within her brand. Excellent!

  8. I'm really enjoying these discussions.... am just a little behind in reading them :-) Thank you for your insights!!!

  9. Amy, I'm late to this party! I'm loving and appreciating all the information being shared. You mentioned you always have your patterns for sale tested first. Where do you find someone to test your patterns and do you pay them or barter for fabrics/kits, etc?


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