How to Sell Craft Patterns

How to Sell Patterns
This week, I met one of my 2012 crafting goals and released my first PDF sewing pattern. Because many of you are interested in writing and selling your sewing, quilting, knitting, crochet, or other craft patterns, I thought I’d share my experiences and some tips I learned along the way!

Write

The first step to making a pattern for sale is to create a unique product. Do your research and make sure that your idea is not already out there in the creative marketplace.

Sarai Mitnick, author of The Colette Sewing Handbook, shared about her pattern-making process.

“We start with some basic ideas about an overall look, combined with requirements about what kinds of patterns we need in the overall collection. Once we have several sketches and ideas, Caitlin and I discuss them and narrow it down to the few we’ll finally release.”

Once you’ve determined that your knitted goatee or infant messenger bag, for example, is a unique design, it’s time to create your prototype. Photograph each step along the way and take notes, so you can go back and write a complete pattern later. You might want to include your photographs of each step, so make sure you take high-quality photos in good lighting. Alternately, you might turn your photographs into digital sketches using a simple graphics program.

When you are finished with your prototype, take some time to consider your process. How many skeins of yarn or rows of beads did you use for each step? Is there an easier way to complete certain steps? Take some time to consider you overall project as well as the final product before sitting down to write you pattern.

Gather all of your notes, and write down your step-by-step process for making the product. Refer to photographs you snapped earlier, and pay special attention to measurements. Don’t forget to include your list of supplies and any techniques you use that others might not find obvious, such as ironing your fabric between steps.

Design

Whether you are creating a digital pattern (PDF download) or a printed pattern, you’ll want to format the text and photos using page layout software, or a desktop publishing program. Some examples are Microsoft Publisher, Adobe InDesign, or Quark. These programs are specially designed to create attractive and easy-to-read publications. Technically, you can make PDFs in Microsoft Word, but you’ll be severely limited as far as layout and working with graphics.

You may also wish to design a cover image for your digital or printed pattern. Make sure to include the name of your pattern, the size of the finished product, and a hiqh-quality photo of your finished item. Save both your cover image and pattern file as a PDF (Portable Document Format), that’s ready to go to your pattern testers. Save your cover image as a JPG file as well, so you can use it in online listings later.

Refine

“Pattern Testers? Why do I need a pattern tester?”

Because you will be sorry if you skip this step. Pattern testing is simply the process of refining a pattern before its release. If you have crafting friends, offer to send them a copy of your pattern in exchange for their advice. Ask your pattern testers to make the quilt top or crocheted teacup following your step-by-step instructions. They should jot down notes when they have questions, or suggest different wording to help clarify your process. Getting this outside opinion from one or more people will be invaluable, even if you have made the item several times on your own!

Incorporate your testers’ suggestions into the pattern file, and save again as a PDF. Print off a copy, and give it several more looks before the release date. Tip: You may need to lighten or darken photos so they look good on screen and when printed.

Price

“What should I charge?”

Patterns come in a whole range of prices, and some are even released for free. For example, digital sewing patterns typically range from $4 to $10, and printed sewing patterns may be a few dollars higher. When considering what to price your pattern, look around at comparable patterns and make sure you’re within that general range. You may have spent 40 hours or longer creating your crocheted wallet pattern, but the buyer is likely going to find many free patterns online and you don’t want them to pass on yours based on the price. Also, think about future patterns you’d like to release and how you might price those. Don’t sell yourself short, but do remember that the buyer will still have to spend money for supplies!

Anna Veach of Urban Stitches sells patterns by other designers in her modern fabric shop. “With digital patterns, I personally think you should price it under what a printed pattern would cost by a couple dollars,” she recommends.

Sell

If you have your own craft blog, that’s a good place to start selling your pattern. You can host a free storefront via Big Cartel or Meylah and link to it from your own blog or Facebook page. Both services offer free and paid versions, depending on how many patterns you decide to sell from your shop. Meylah is unique in that it offers buyers a free digital download of your product, so you don’t have to worry about sending them a PDF after they check out.

Two other popular craft marketplaces are Etsy and Artfire.

  • Etsy charges sellers 20 cents per listing, plus a 3.5% transaction fee, which comes out to 48 cents on an $8 pattern.
  • Artfire is a monthly fee of $12.95, so this would be the better choice if you plan to sell 27 or more patterns per month (at $8 a pattern).
  • These fees do not include PayPal merchant fees, which could be another 53 cents on an $8 sale (2.9% transaction + 30 cents).

In summary, if you sell a pattern for $8 on Etsy and use PayPal to process the funds, plan to receive $6.99. Although they take fees for selling patterns, Etsy and Artfire offer the advantage of built-in traffic and potential customers via their online marketplaces.

  • Pattern Spot is a site where designers can sell their digital sewing patterns, and the designer earns roughly half of the sales.
  • You Can Make This is another site that spans all types of crafting tutorials that may be submitted and sold through the site via a profit-sharing model (author keeps some, website keeps some).
  • Craftsy is an online community that just unveiled a pattern marketplace for all kinds of crafts, including paper crafts and jewelry. They do not charge fees to sell your patterns.

A number of online shops might be willing to sell your digital or printed pattern for a fee of around 50%. You benefit from the exposure to their customers who may find your pattern while browsing for fabric or other craft supplies. The shop owner typically sends the pattern to the customer for you, and sends you a commission on your pattern sales each month.

Printed patterns may be marketed to retail shops, and a new service called Patterns Gone Digital markets pattern cards or covers in local craft shops, which buyers can redeem online with a special code to download the actual pattern.

Polso Pouch Pattern by Studio Kat Designs

Polso Pouch Pattern by Studio Kat Designs

It might be worth trying more than one of these services to see which generates the most business for your patterns!

Summary

If you are meticulous and love the challenge of teaching someone your craft, pattern writing might be the business for you. It also helps to be friendly and personable with your customers, provide prompt delivery for digital and printed orders, and to be willing to market yourself a little bit.

Do you have any tips or questions about making your own patterns? Please share them in the comments!

Related Articles:

Winner: The winner of the Modern Fabric Studio giveaway is lucky #126, Nancy’s Couture!

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  24 comments for “How to Sell Craft Patterns

  1. February 10, 2012 at 8:22 am

    great tips. I have self published 3 bag patterns. One tip… make your patterns standard sized (8 1/2 x 5 1/2) and buy the standard plastic envelopes with a hole at the top if you plan to sell them to your LQS. they need to fit on the display with the other patterns!

    • February 10, 2012 at 8:55 am

      Thanks Ellyn! That’s a wonderful tip–I was looking around for those measurements as well!

  2. February 10, 2012 at 10:37 am

    very interesting .thanks for all of this information~ and some links for sites i hadn’t heard of yet. my current goal is to create some pdf patterns, so this has been helpful :)

  3. February 10, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    A super timely post – thank you so much!

  4. February 10, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    Congrats Lindsay! :)
    Great post too!

  5. February 10, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Great tips, thanks :)

  6. February 10, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    This was a terrific post, Lindsay! Really helpful and well-researched :)

    The only thing I would add to the “Refine” section is to hire a technical editor whenever possible. Tech editors will check your math, make sure your instructions are clear, complete, and consistent, and can generate schematics or charts. The tech editors I’ve worked with charge between $25 and $30 per hour, and usually 2-3 hours is more than enough for simple patterns. It’s well worth the investment!

  7. Elizabeth McDonald
    February 10, 2012 at 11:20 pm

    Thanks for taking the time to gift us with this post! Very informative – and appreciated!

  8. February 11, 2012 at 8:09 am

    I’ve been selling my original patterns from my own website for years. I followed most of your excellent suggestions, except:

    1. I didn’t have any testers. These were patterns I had made dozens or hundreds of myself to sell at craft fairs. I kept updating and refining my notes as I went along. So I felt confidant in the step-by-step directions.

    2. I haven’t made a colorful cover page. I need to do that!

    I’m interested in the Craftsy venue and have been watching to see how it goes. It’s looking good.

    Excellent and thorough article. Thank you.

  9. February 11, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    WOW..this is something I have thought about and didn’t have a clue how to proceed. I have created a cute little hat for babies and young children but not sure if anyone else has the same creation. Will have to do more research on that.
    Thank you for such an informative post with all the links.

  10. February 11, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    This is a very timely post for me. Selling my own patterns has been a desire of mine for 12 years now. I have two notebooks and a file drawer full of inspirational magazine clipping, photos and other patterns. But alas, the kids were small and I was just biding my time. They are all older now, I have more time and I have a goal to get three PDF patterns out there by Easter! Some of them have been stitched up for a few years and were just waiting to be published. Thank you for including all of the great sites. I have visited some but wasn’t aware of all that you have posted. Thank you so much for sharing!

  11. February 14, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    I love your advice to take pics and document the steps along the way. A lot of times I create something… and then I have to make it multiple times if I want to make a tutorial to share! There are some items you just don’t need 5 of :-)

  12. February 14, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    Thank you for sharing this! I have an original design that I have been intending to sell but haven’t had the time to dedicate to it right now. I was going to go into it pretty blindly and now have some insight to use.

  13. February 15, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Congrats to you and what a breath of fresh air all of this info is! Not only am I picking up great pointers but also this is reassurance that I’m on the right path. Thank you!!

  14. February 19, 2012 at 11:16 am

    what a fabulous post – thank you for sharing all of your tips. I am in the process of writing my first “for sale” pattern and pattern testing is definitely at the top of my list!

  15. June 5, 2012 at 9:06 am

    Hi…. I know you have written this a number of months ago… But it is great… I have worked for the past year designing and making my own patterns. I have agot one patchwork shop selling them…. and jsut got my second re-order… But that was a face to face meeting… What are your tips for emailing out your inventory/ product list….. I am stuck… I cant visit every shop…. Thanks

  16. June 6, 2012 at 10:44 am

    Hi Janeene,

    I think it would help to try a phone call or e-mail first, asking if you can send over your pattern inventory/product list. That way you can ensure some kind of response, rather than just sending the list and waiting to hear back. The shop owner will know that you are a person and not just an e-mail list. Be personable and be yourself. Hope this helps!

  17. Fran
    March 16, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    This information is great! Exactly what I’ve been looking for as I research how I can sell my patterns for purchase online. Once I receive payment either via PayPal or confirm the check or money order has cleared I am envisioning that I would just email the pattern (or mail a hard copy). Is that the process?

    • March 17, 2013 at 6:48 pm

      Yes, that is correct! If you go with a marketplace that offers instant downloads (Meylah is one of them), you can even save this step by letting users instantly download your pattern.

  18. Holly
    November 8, 2013 at 9:59 am

    How to I get packaging done?

  19. Nickeya
    November 28, 2013 at 1:07 am

    I know this is a older post but is there any places you can recommend at all where I can print out patterns to sell in stores? I have been having hard time finding printing stores that print patterns.

  20. December 4, 2013 at 3:27 am

    Thank you so much for referencing Meylah. We really appreciate your acknowledgement. To share more about Meylah’s pricing, our storefront doesn’t have any upfront costs, with 2.75% per transaction. There is no listing fees, no renewal fees and easy IT. You can participate in one or more marketplaces upon acceptance.

    If you need any additional information, please let us know. We are happy to collaborate with your community to provide the education and services to help them grow everyday. Our mission to connect small businesses with consumers to fuel local economy via online commerce. Thanks again for advocating for us. Regards, Chai

  21. April 6, 2014 at 11:41 am

    I have designed patterns and would like to find someone who could transform them into a resaleable product. Is there someonw out there who could help me?

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