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Filtering by Tag: pattern writing

What I Have Learned About the Pattern Making Process - The Finding & Keeping of Pattern Testers

Michelle Burke

As someone who is new to the pattern making process, I decided to write a blog series about what I have learned as I have gone through this process.  In today's post, I will focus on finding pattern testers and how to work with them to make your job and their job easier.

I knew wanted to have a group of pattern testers test my pattern; I knew other designers had their own group of testers, but how would I find several people who would be willing to test my patterns for me? This was actually quite simple! There is a Facebook group, Sewing Pattern Testers, that is dedicated to pattern designers who want their patterns tested and people who are willing to test patterns. This is a closed group that you can ask to become a member of if you are either a pattern designer or a pattern tester. Once I was included in the group, I used Google Forms to create an application that I could publish on the Sewing Pattern Testers Facebook page. The application asked for several basic pieces of information including name, email address, sewing skill level. I also asked questions of the applicants, such as, could they finish sewing the project by a given due date, would they be willing to share pictures of their finished product, and how would they rate the quality of their pictures. I gave them the opportunity to share their website, Facebook page, Etsy shop, etc., and I asked them to tell me a little about themselves. At the top of the application, I included a picture of the final product so that the applicants would know what they would be testing. Google forms makes it easy to upload the application to a Facebook group and then as responses come in, it compiles the answers on a spreadsheet for you! After only a day or two, I had more people willing to test for me than I really needed! 

My group of pattern testers were very helpful in giving me ideas on how to best go about communicating with them; one suggested that I set up a Facebook group for my pattern testers to join. A Facebook group is a fun way to get to know your group of testers, and for the pattern testers to share pictures, ideas, and questions about the pattern. The pattern testers can also share their edits and feedback in the Facebook group. Creating a form in Google Forms and posting it to your Facebook pattern testers group is the easiest way to for testers to record their edits and feedback. This form includes questions that the designer wants answered as well as a place for comments. I will admit that I didn't create the feedback form for my pattern testers for my most recent pattern. My pattern testers emailed me their edits and feedback this time, but I will definitely create this form next time to make it easier for both my pattern testers and myself. Once again, I have to say that I feel fortunate to have a group of pattern testers who is willing to help this newbie learn what works well for everyone! :)

There is one more step to the pattern making process and that is getting your pattern "out there" for sale. I will discuss this in my next post!


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What I Have Learned About the Pattern Design Process - Using Pattern Testers

Michelle Burke

In this series of posts, I am sharing what I have learned about the pattern design process from the perspective of a fairly new pattern designer. Today I will share my thoughts on using pattern testers.

Have you ever tried to sew something from a pattern that is poorly written or illustrated? I have! I have sewn long enough to be able to stumble through a poorly written pattern; but the fun of sewing gets lost in the frustration of trying to decipher what the pattern designer is wanting me to do next. I don't mind having to spend a few minutes rereading a step that I don't quite understand, but when a pattern is so poorly written that I spend more time trying to read the pattern and understand it than sewing, it makes me never want to sew that pattern again! Then I imagine the insurmountable frustration of someone who is new to sewing, trying to follow the same pattern; it would be enough for me to give up sewing all together if I were in their shoes. For these reasons, I feel that having my patterns tested by a group of pattern testers is crucial to publishing a high quality pattern that anyone with basic sewing skills can follow, in order to produce a finished product that they can be proud of. 

Of course, one obvious benefit of having a pattern tested is having several sets of eyes looking for spelling and grammatical errors, but there are other benefits that I didn't expect from the process of pattern testing. By having several people of varying sewing abilities test my pattern, I learn what I need to change to make it more clear and easy to follow.  It is easy to write a pattern to my sewing ability level, using language that I am accustomed to using when I sew, but that doesn't mean that everyone else will understand what I am trying to explain in the next step in my pattern. I don't want to frustrate people as they follow my pattern, but instead empower them to sew something even if it is a reach for their current sewing ability. Pattern testers will point out steps that they feel are not clearly written and they may even suggest a way to write those steps in a more understandable way.

A sneak peek at something I made using my soon-to-be-released, next pattern!

A sneak peek at something I made using my soon-to-be-released, next pattern!

The final benefit of having a group of pattern testers test my patterns, is the fresh ideas that come from a wonderful group of people who are excited to try out a new pattern. If I had not had my latest pattern tested, I would not only have a few spelling and grammatical errors, some unclear steps, and a picture that needed more explanation, but my pattern would not have alternate closure options and a couple add-on features that make it even better than I had imagined it could be! I am now even more excited to release my next pattern at the end of this week because of the input and contributions made by my wonderful group of pattern testers! In my next post, I will share what I learned about finding a group of pattern testers and organizing the pattern testing process.


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Since I design patterns and I also sell handmade items, I would like to know which one you are most interested in hearing about. If you are interested in both, I have that option too! No matter what you choose, I am committed to NOT overloading your inbox with emails from Uniquely Michelle.

What I Have Learned About the Pattern Design Process - Pattern Writing

Michelle Burke

This is the second post in this series in which I am sharing what I have learned about the pattern design process from the perspective of a fairly new pattern designer. Today, I am going to share with you the approach I take to turn my idea for a bag into an actual pattern for a bag.  

Once I have my idea and I have sketched it out, I start getting more detailed with different aspects of the design like size of the bag, placement of different components of the bag, and the steps needed to make the bag. I handwrite a VERY rough draft that doesn't include details for construction, it is just a set of notes to get me started and keep me organized through the process of making the design for the first time.  I then pick out some fabric that I don't mind throwing away if it comes to that, and it sometimes does, and I begin making the bag.  The first time I make a bag it is slow because I stop to write down more details that I will need to add to the directions to make it understandable for others.  I also like to include notes to indicate where a picture of the process would be helpful. Once I am happy with the end result of making the bag, I sit down at the computer with all my notes and start typing the directions. I then follow my directions to make another bag, this time with fabric that I love and that I think will showcase the style of the bag well. I use nice fabric at this point because I will take pictures of each step as I follow the pattern.  I usually take more pictures than I end up using, but I don't want to miss any steps.  I also make corrections and add any notes to my directions that I need as I work through them. Finally, I am ready to sit down at the computer again to combine the directions and the pictures to make the pattern.

When I wrote my first pattern, one thing I struggled with was how much detail to add to the directions and whether to add photographs or line drawings to illustrate the steps. I know that some people like patterns with a lot of detail and others don't; I know that some like line drawings while others like photographs. There is no right or wrong with these options, it is all personal preference. I thought about the patterns that I most like to use from my favorite designers and decided to include in my pattern those elements that I felt made their patterns high in quality, as well as fun and easy to follow.  I personally like a pattern that is very detailed and has a lot of good-quality pictures. There are a few elements that I feel are important to add to a pattern, once again this is personal preference. They are: a title page and description, finished size, seam allowance, a list of materials needed, a list of fabric cuts, directions, and pattern pieces. I also like to add pictures of the finished product that specifically show the front, back, inside, and any other important elements of the bag. This is a good reference for people to look at if they are trying to understand how a component of the bag fits into the final product.

A few pages of one of my patterns!

A few pages of one of my patterns!

The final point that I want to touch on involving pattern writing is which computer program to use. I say "touch on" because it seems that if you ask ten different people what computer software they use to produce their patterns, you are likely to get ten different answers. I can only tell you about what I have used and how it works for me.  I use Microsoft Publisher, partially because it is already on my computer (I didn't spend any extra money on it), and partially because I know how to use it to combine text with pictures. I think it is good to use a program you are familiar with, or at least one that you can easily learn as you go when writing your first pattern. Some of the other programs that I have heard others have success with are Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, and Photoshop, to name a very few. Once I have my pattern written I save it as a pdf file, but then in order to make it small enough to distribute to customers via email or through Etsy, I use a program that compresses the file into a smaller pdf file. There are free programs on the internet for this and it is very simple to do with one of these free programs. I have used smallpdf.com and it works well. Once you have your pattern ready for distribution there is still one more (I feel) very important step to take before putting it out there for sale; having it tested. I will talk about pattern testing in my next post!


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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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Since I design patterns and I also sell handmade items, I would like to know which one you are most interested in hearing about. If you are interested in both, I have that option too! No matter what you choose, I am committed to NOT overloading your inbox with emails from Uniquely Michelle.