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Pattern Making FAQ

I read an article in the most recent issue of Threads (I don’t think the article is available on their site) about how to start your own pattern company, which as an extremely minor player in the pattern company game, I was interested in reading it. Unfortunately I was quite disappointed. The article covered basic concepts no real concrete steps to making your pattern making dreams come true.

The article could be summed up like this – appeal to a niche, provide some “extras,” find a mentor. What? That’s it? The most practical advise was to use one of the big pattern company’s to print your patterns. No info on where to get patterns graded or how to do it yourself, no marketing, no printing information or electronic delivery.

I think when people get the idea to start an indie pattern company they already know their “niche” and how to appeal to them. I guess for me I want to provide easy to make, comfy and quick patterns that are fun and can be downloaded from anywhere – kind of immediate gratification sewing.

I’ve gotten a lot of emails over the months on how I make my patterns and how I started, basically, a no-budget pattern company.

I was seriously disappointed with the lack of information provided in the Threads article so I thought I’d open up this blog as a conversation on pattern making.

So, if you have any questions at all about designing/sizing/production/selling patterns here’s the place to ask. You can also email me if you want (dixiedavis {at} gmail dot com). I’ll answer every question that I can and make a big FAQ post about my experience and how I do it.

Obviously I run a small operation – I don’t make print patterns (and I’ll explain why) and I don’t release big collections.

So ask away! Even if you don’t want to make your own patterns to share online but you still wonder how I do it, please, ask!

I’ll collect questions for a few days and write up a big post because here’s the thing – when it comes to indie pattern companies, the more, the merrier! I feel that the sewing community only benefits from more design options from around the world. This is a creative hobby and we’re always looking for new ways to express ourselves and challenge ourselves. If you’re thinking about launching your own pattern empire I’d love to share my experience.

BTW, speaking of new indie pattern companies – the amazing Elisalex and friends just announced their new line of patterns, By Hand London. Their printed patterns will be available for sale in October and I can’t wait!

Comments (16) for post “Pattern Making FAQ”

  • I too was disappointed because I would love to start a small line of classic children’s clothes and just don’t know where to start. Not so much the pattern drafting side of it, but the pattern production…how do you get 5 sizes of pattern nested, tested, converted to a PDF and up on your site.
    BTW…if you’d rather put this together as an eBook…it’s a resource I’d happily pay for.

  • Are there any pattern drafting books you recommend? I feel pretty comfortable drafting a pattern for myself, but I have no idea where to start when it comes to grading the pattern for multiple sizes. Also, do you ask people to test your patterns before you release them? Thanks for this post, Dixie! It’ll be very helpful!

  • What’s the creative process for you like? I can sew but I have a hard time of thinking up original designs, so I’m curious to see how it works for others!

  • Aaaah Dixie you are just the sweetest for mentioning us!!! Thank you! With regards to that article, I didn’t see it and frankly I’m glad I didn’t! Sounds pretty empty. I can’t tell you how many months we spent researching, doing our heads in (mainly when it came to where to print the blood tissue!) and basically having to figure it all out from scratch. The only thing I know for sure is that WE can make EACH OTHERS businesses a success! I think we’re all onto something with massive potential…! xxx

  • I would love to draft my own patterns but I don’t even know where to start! I admit that my fear of not being able to succeed of fund my endeavor has made me nervous to try to pursue anything. How did you do it? Where did you start? Is it really possible to make your own patterns with a lot of $?

  • Yeah, I read that and came out at the end of it thinking ‘huh’? No substantial or even useful info whatsoever! I think it was obviously geared towards people who have no intention of starting up such a venture, but like to think of it as ‘maybe’ something they will do in the future. I adore the idea of oneday drafting my own patterns, but I’ve still got SO much I want to learn first. SO MUCH TO LEARN! So open the floor Dixie – I’d love to hear all about it!

  • You go girl! Taking the initiative to pick up where Threads left off (or didn’t even start). You have helped me a lot with my pattern making issues in Illustrator but I’m excited to read this long post that you will create based off of the questions you receive.

  • I love your patterns. I draft my own too (though not as often as I would like these days) and have also wondered what it would take to turn into a small business). You should start by charging more! $3 is so little for the amount of work involved. There are always going to be people who say you’re charging too much, but they haven’t considered the amount of work that goes into making a pattern.

  • I second Evie’s questions above — my questions start with post-drafting… grading, then nesting and creating the tiled PDF format. Even a list of resources that you have found helpful would be awesome (books, Internet tutorials, etc…). You ROCK for offering to do this, Dix!

  • So interesting to stumble into your blog today! I draft my own patterns, too, and often get requests for the patterns, but I can’t send anyone a randomly drawn paper pattern! Over the last couple months I hired a graphic designer to convert my paper patterns to an illustrator file, then I’ve basically taught myself to use illustrator in order to create an illustrated instruction sheet. I am sending this (my first!) pattern to testers in the next two weeks, then hope to release it in late October! I know how to draft and grade, but would love to learn to convert my paper patterns into a digital format on my own, so I don’t have to hire out every time! Part of the beauty of doing this myself will be…ahem, doing it myself! I am thrilled to have found your blog, and excited to learn from you!

    xoxo Miranda

  • I am interested in what could be done to lower the bar for aspiring pattern designers to get their patterns out there.
    I started a bit of a hobby project recently that generates patterns based on your measurements (you can check it out at ).
    As I was making the site, I had to implement many things that every pattern designer seems to need (things like cutting up a large PDF into pages for example).

    I would love to have more patterns on the site, so I guess I’m going to have to find a way to seduce pattern designers 🙂 So, the questions is, what are you loloking for? What would really make your life easier and allow you to concentrate more on designing patterns, and less on all the stuff around it.


  • Hey Dixie,
    Just found this post while researching pattern grading.
    Pattern grading is the hole that I cant seam to fill. I can so market research, find a place to sell patterns, I can learn to draft.. But ah grading?
    Some people grade using computer software. Is this what you do?
    Gosh I have so many questions I hope you do come back to this topic 🙂 It seems to be pretty secretive to some bloggers! As if sharing this information, they will lose sales.

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