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What I Have Learned About the Pattern Design Process - Inspiration & Time

Michelle Burke

This is the first post in a series about the pattern design process from the perspective of new pattern designer. Yes, I am new to the process of pattern design. It isn't that I haven't designed patterns before, I have designed many patterns, but I am new to designing patterns with the idea that I will sell them.  Pattern design is very different when someone other than just myself will read and need to understand the pattern in order to, hopefully, enjoy sewing the final product. Since I am new to this pattern designing process, I thought I would share what I have learned so far to help others out there who are also new to the process; maybe it will help someone get a better, faster start at it!  This series will go through the pattern design process starting with coming up with design ideas, then move on to pattern writing and testing, and finish with getting your pattern published for sale online.

Today, I am going to talk about the start of the design process; coming up with an idea for a pattern. This is, of course, a creative process and creativity flourishes given two things, inspiration and time.  I find that I need inspiration in order to generate an idea for a bag pattern, and then I need the time to develop my idea into something that will really work and look good. My inspiration sometimes comes from seeing a handbag I like, or a particular fabric sparks an idea for a bag, or I have a need (or desire) for a specific bag.

A page from my graph paper sketchbook when I was designing my first bag pattern, and my new, bright yellow sketchbook!

A page from my graph paper sketchbook when I was designing my first bag pattern, and my new, bright yellow sketchbook!

There are times when the inspiration just isn't there, that is when I ask my daughters, my mom or my friends what they would like to have for a bag or a wallet. My first pattern was inspired by my daughters' desire for a wristlet. It is amazing what ideas others, who aren't thinking about the process of designing or making a bag, can come up with; then you add your creative genius and voila, a pattern design is born! 

I have also found that it takes time to be creative. Although I can have a great idea for a bag suddenly pop into my head, it takes time to develop that great idea into a truly incredible, pattern-worthy idea.  If I don't give myself the time to think through an idea both creatively and analytically (it does have to function in the end after all), it won't develop into a truly great pattern. I find that if I give myself even twenty minutes out of my busy day with a cup of tea and some chocolate, my sketchbook and pencil, and maybe even a few pieces of fabric, I can be inspired to create some great ideas for patterns. Given more time, some of those ideas have developed to the point that they are ready to move on to the next step in the pattern making process. Other ideas end up being discarded because they were never good, and some ideas provide inspiration later for even better ideas.  The important first step in pattern design is finding inspiration and giving yourself the time to be creative so that you can come up with a good, solid design. 

What gets you into a creative mood?


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