11 February 2016

My Perspective and Evolvement as a Pattern Writer

I made my very first quilt in late 2012. It was for my daughter and we worked on the design together. She loves books and she loves cats. The Krazy Katz quilt contained a pieced background that consists of a bookshelf. And three appliqued cats arranged around that bookshelf.

That was it. I was hooked!

It was soon after making that first quilt that I decided to begin this blog. And quickly realized that followers were mostly fellow quilters. It became obvious that blogging would not help me to promote the sales of any of the quilts I was making.

What can I do to earn money for more fabric?

I began to design patterns to sell to fellow quilters. And offered that first quilt design as a pattern.

Figuring out how to write a pattern was difficult. There are not many blog posts or tutorials out there on the subject. That's why I am so glad that Cheryl of Meadow Mist Designs has tackled this subject and is now running a Pattern Writing Series on her blog. You can find the Pattern Writing Series page at the top of her blog, just below the blog header. This is an in depth series that will take you every step of the way through the process of writing a quilt pattern, complete with an example that will be offered as a free pattern at the end of the series. Check it out!

Meadow Mist Designs

What do you include in a pattern? I began by putting myself in the shoes of the prospective pattern purchaser. Do I include instructions for pressing seams in this direction or pressing seams open? Do I show a diagram of how I cut the pieces from each strip of fabric or just simply give the instructions for how many pieces you should be able to get from each strip? Do I assume that the fabric width is 40 inches or 42 inches? Do I provide the fabric requirements with a little extra fabric in case of miscuts or leave it up to the buyer to figure in a little cushion room?

So many questions. And so many options!

As I began to develop my skills as a quilter, my patterns reflected those changes and I started designing quilts that were mostly pieced and not so much applique designs. Those patterns were geared toward prospective buyers and I began to design simple patterns for new quilters. A line of KYSS quilts were developed. KYSS stood for Keep Your Sewing Simple.

Later I began to design patterns that were geared more in line with what I wanted to make and less toward beginner quilters. And from there I developed my own design style and found my niche. I had gained a lot of experience in so many different methods. I tried it all! And I found that I was really fond of the Stitch and Flip piecing method and wrote about my discovery in this post.

As my style changed so did my method of writing patterns.

Here is link to show how I wrote the instructions for making an elephant block in the Elephant Parade pattern. In this example, the written instructions describe the size and colour of each piece used in each step of the construction of the block. Quite wordy and perhaps a little difficult to follow.

For one large elephant block, as pictured below, you will need: 

Snow 9000-10 (off white)
1 @ 2.5" x 6.5" rectangle, 1 @ 2.5" x 4.5" rectangle, 1 @ 2.5" x 3.5" rectangle, 2 @ 2.5" squares, 4 @ 1.5" squares.

Slate 9000-93 (dark grey)
1 @ 4.5" x 5.5" rectangle, 1 @ 3.5" x 4.5" rectangle, 1 @ 2.5" x 4.5" rectangle, 1 @ 1.5" x 4.5" rectangle, 1 @ 2.5 x 3.5" rectangle, 1 @ 1.5" x 2.5" rectangle, 4 @ 1.5" squares.

Glacier 9000-910 (light grey)
1 @ 2.5" x 4.5" rectangle.

If you are making the complete quilt, you will need 5 of these blocks - 3 facing left and 2 facing right.

Press all seams open and press seams as you go.

Step 1:  Take the 1.5" x 2.5" dark grey rectangle and 2 of the 1.5" white squares.  Draw a diagonal line across the 1.5" white squares.  Place one of the white squares on the top of the dark grey rectangle and sew along the diagonal line, as shown in red.  Trim a 1/4" seam.  Press the seam open.  Place another one of the white squares on the bottom of the dark grey rectangle and sew along the diagonal line, as shown in red.  Trim a 1/4" seam.  Press the seam open.

Sew the 1.5" white square on top of the 1.5" dark grey square.  Sew this unit onto the right side of the first unit.  Sew the 2.5" x 6.5" white rectangle to the top of this unit. 

Currently, when designing a pattern, I use a diagram to label the pieces in the block using the alphabet, identifying each piece with a letter. And then add a chart to list the size and colour of each piece. This enables the written instructions to be less wordy and easier to follow. Here is and example of how I wrote the instructions for the Elephant blocks used in the Jungle Friends pattern.

10 @ 2.5” squares
5 @ 2.5” x 4.5”
5 @ 3.5” x 5.5”
20@ 1.5” squares
5 @ 2.5” x 8.5”
Dark Grey
5 @ 4.5” x 6.5”
10 @ 2.5” x 4.5”
20 @ 1.5” squares
10 @ 1.5” x 2.5”
1 @ 1.5” x 6”
1 @ 3” x 6”
5 @ 1.5” x 4.5”
5 @ 4” x 4.5”
5 @ 1.5” x 5.5”
5 @ 2.5” x 5.5”
1 @ 1” x 6”

Step 1:  Draw a diagonal line across the wrong side of the (A) square. Place the (A) square on the corner of the (B) rectangle and sew along the diagonal line, as shown in red.  Trim a 1/4" seam and press.

This pattern writing journey has been such an wonderful adventure.... So far! I am looking forward to seeing how things develop and where they lead me from here.

What about you?

Do you ever think about developing a pattern for sale?
Have you ever wondered how to get started?

Keep On Quilting On!


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Sherry said...

No, never considered it. I just sit back and admire those like you who are so creative! My hubby is creative like that, but not with quilts, with building street rods. LOL Thanks so much for all you share on your blog!

Yvonne from Quilting Jetgirl said...

That is awesome to show your evolution in pattern writing. I have definitely noticed an arc in my writing, too. It is nice to see we continue to grow and learn!

Little Quiltsong said...

I admire your love and patience in writing patterns. Me - I just want to sew those lovely patterns from those other creative minds like yours :)! Your animal blocks just amaze me and I love that they are all in traditional pieced patterns.

krislovesfabric said...

Thanks for a great post! I love your newer format with the charts, for those of us who have sewn stitch and flip before we can just look at the diagram and chart and get to sewin' :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. I can only have an opinion about your pattern for the Dog Gone Cute and I can say that it is very understandable and easy to follow. Barbora

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

I'm afraid I have not the slightest interest in writing patters but what I like in patterns is more than words - the little diagrams are very helpful to those of us that are visual learners. I am so glad there are pattern developers and writers out there like you as there are many of us that just like to make quilts but not develop the patterns

Stitchin At Home said...

I have wondered about pattern writing, but I have a long way to go before offering anything for sale.

Cheryl said...

Awesome post, thank you so much for showing some of your earlier pattern instructions and contrasting them with how you write them today. You definitely have found your niche with the beautiful animal quilts, thank you so much for being a guest designer with the series!

the zen quilter said...

Hi Lorna, thanks so much for sharing. You are so talented, and I love your directions (even though I sometimes am not careful in following them but that's my bad!) I do really want to develop some of my designs into patterns. I currently have several pieces I would like to develop patterns for, but the graphics part is what is problematic for me(which is why I bought EQ&, but first I have to learn to use it!) I tried writing one using photos, but it's sort of complicated and I'm not at all sure it comes across. So this is super helpful to me. I can't believe you've only been quilting for four years - you are amazing!

Jayne said...

This series has been so helpful to us 'wanna be' pattern writers! Thank you for sharing your knowledge on writing with us Lorna! I'm hoping by the end of the Pattern Writting Blog Series, I will feel more comfortable and confident in myself to give it a try!

Donna said...

Your pattern for Elephant Parade was very clear and detailed. I thought it was great. Keep 'em coming.

Shelina (formerly known as Shasta) said...

I had no problem following the pattern for the Elephant quiltalong, but the chart does look much easier to see which part goes where. I have thought about writing patterns - as you say, it is how you can make money in quilting - a quilt is too expensive to make and as time consuming as it is, it isn't very profitable, so pattern writing is the way to go. I think my issue is that I make such a variety of styles that I wouldn't get a following like you have.

Sharon said...

Thanks for showing the way your pattern writing is evolving. Love your sweet kitty quilt!!!

Tish Stemple said...

Honestly, when I started my quilting journey, pattern writing wasn't even a topic I thought about. I just wanted to follow directions and make stuff. But since I started blogging and making friends, it has been a wonderful experience to challenge myself and experiment with writing. Your diagrams are one of the things I really like about your patterns. It can be so much easier just to glace at the chart and then at the diagram. I hate when I lose my place and have to go back are reread things. With your charts it's easy to keep track of where I am and what pieces I need at just a quick glance.

VA said...

I''m not cut out to design or write patterns.. I have to say that your pattern writing is top-notch! I often have trouble understanding quilt patterns, but I breezed right through your Dog Gone Cute directions with great results and thank you for that!

allthingzsewn said...

I Have never thought about it, but I might someday. I just bought the elephant pattern in the last week or so. I going to make a Mini wall hanging stating "One bite at a time" I'll know what it means as a reminder.
Interesting post Lorna, I'm sure you have gotten some bloggers to thinking. Who knows what you may have started.
And that's a good thing.

Carol Swift said...

Your patterns are so easy to follow...love them!

Ioleen said...

I love your patterns. I find them easy to understand and follow. Keep up the great work!!

Lisa J. said...

Yes your patterns are great and maybe one day I can make one of my own. It's wonderful to have the input and encouragement from those of you who have gone before.

Holly said...

I've put a lot of thought into pattern designing, and I am so glad you've been willing to share your insights. I thought your Dog Gone Cute pattern was wonderfully easy to follow, and am stitching down the binding of mine as we speak.

I'm glad that you touched out the development of your personal style. I think this over (and probably over-think it!) a lot. I'm hoping the answer is to just jump in and start, allowing MY style to develop as I determine what I enjoy presenting most.

Anne / Springleaf Studios said...

It was really nice to see your progression as a writer. I think I'm evolving as I do more too. It's one thing to design something and just know how to put it together. It's an entirely different thing when you need to write it out so another person can make it.

Sandra Walker said...

Okay, first of all, Lorna, how I ADORE your first quilt, and am AMAZED at your quilting prowess on that first one-holy wow! This truly is a great series that Cheryl is doing one I am following, having just released a few weeks ago, my first quilt pattern (for free) on Craftsy. Love seeing how your animals have caught on worldwide, you must be very proud. One day I hope to make your elephant quilt, as I have a great admiration for these wonderful 'beasts'. Thank you for all you share so freely with us. :-)

FVITH said...

I like how you have simplified and cut back on the writing. I actually like lots of instruction, but too many words can get confusing and difficult to follow.

Lara B. said...

It's amazing Lorna that for your first quilt, you dove right in with applique and with creating your own design... that's awe inspiring!
It's been so fun watching your quilts find an enthusiastic following of fans! It's also fun to see how your pattern writing style has evolved. i am hoping to absorb some better was of doing things by following this whole blog series.

Kate said...

I love that first quilt. My beginner skills wouldn't have been up to that task! Just as your writing style evolves, I think your ability to read patterns changes as you gain experience. I needed lots of words and directions for those first few patterns. Now show me a picture and I can figure it out.

Leanne Parsons said...

You sure went from new quilter to pattern designer faster than I did! I made my first quilt in 1997, but didn't realize I could design patterns myself until a couple of years ago! Your first quilt is so fun and the animals you design now are just amazing. I love them all :)

SarahZ said...

Yep, I am a little behind, but love your post...I have written a couple tutorials forMBS and between their outline/instructions, and filling in with what I find helpful in other patterns I have used, I have been able to at least "pass muster" in the blog format. I would like to develop a couple of those Bake Shop patterns, and a few others into patterns that I could teach in real shops...if I ever get back to civilization... ;) Thank you for your participation in this series...y'all are wonderful!!

Jane Holbrook said...

Thank you for this post. I love your patterns, so simple and the results are great. I am following the Meadow Mist Blog. The process you describe is easy to follow, I am pushing through this learning curve. It means time spent drawing on graph paper. I hope to find my own niche, not just copy yours! Hmmmm. I know it will happen, thanks again for your inspiration.

Christine @ 12,450miles said...

This was so interesting! I always wonder about the paths creative people take. I appreciate the insight! (And in answer to your question... I don't plan to write a pattern any time soon! Too many that I want to make first!)

Sarah @ Berry Barn Designs said...

Lorna, this is great! I like the example you gave of how your writing has evolved - I can see why you initially did it the first way and why it was beneficial to you as the writer, as well as to the end user to simplify over time. Also, I remember reading all about the Krazy Katz quilt when you made it... where does the time go?! It's been fun watching your style and patterns evolve : )

Allison Sews said...

I've done a few tutorials and being too wordy is definitely a problem for me! I need to work on that.

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