Independent sewing pattern brands are growing in popularity with several new ones launching each month. Do you feel the urge to design your own sewing patterns to sell, but are unsure of where to start? We spoke to Claire Garside of Simple Sew Patterns (who also used to run Sew Print pattern printing company) to find out all you need to know. So read on to learn how you can unleash your inner pattern designer!
Where can you get sewing patterns printed?
There are a few companies offering sewing pattern printing services including Net Printer and Patternsy and These companies offer a sewing pattern printing service for home sewers wanting to print their pdf patterns, or larger print runs for sewing pattern designers. Julia from The Flora Modiste has written a really useful guide to getting your sewing patterns printed, with tips on patternsheet and pattern envelope design.
Read our sewing pattern printing made easy feature here.
Is there a particular format patterns have to be designed in? Any recommended software to use?
It all depends what type of pattern you are designing. Bag patterns and small craft patterns can easily be designed using Illustrator. (Illustrator CS6 can be hired monthly at www.adobe.com)
For larger garment patterns it is better to get them professionally graded digitally. Graders will accept a hand drawn base size of the original n dot and cross paper (or any other paper for that matter) which they then scan into their system (Gerber for example) and grade up to the sizes you require.
If you’d rather design your own patterns why not try the Pattern Workshop course which teaches you how to create your own pdf sewing patterns.
Is it possible to draw out designs by hand and somehow digitise them?
Yes you can draw them out and then have them scanned on a large scanner, then imported to Illustrator and traced over. This is good for smaller patterns, but not recommended for larger garment patterns. There are also companies who can digitise sewing patterns for you such as Black Cherry Fashion Development or Creative Hubb.
Where can I get good advice on drafting patterns?
There are so many good books on pattern drafting, you could see www.ralphpink.com who also has some excellent tutorials on his site.
What if I can’t draft or grade my own patterns, are there other people who can do it for me?
There are several companies who offer pattern drafting and pattern grading services in the UK including Fashionworks London, MIG Pattern Cutting Services, On Point Patterns and The Pattern Studio. There’s a really comprehensive list of companies who offer sewing pattern drafting, grading and digitising services for pattern designs on The Pattern Pages.
What markings should I use? Should I label the individual pattern pieces? What should I put on them?
Labelling your patterns is personal preference, you could go for industry standard markings, or you might want to add more or less information on each pattern piece. It all depends on how much you want to communicate with the sewer about your pattern. Clear, concise instructions in line with your branding are the ideal way to approach this and yes you should definitely label all of you pattern pieces.
What size range should the pattern cover?
Your size range is again personal preference. If you are designing for childrenswear then you should think about ages ranges and not ‘sizes’. For ladies wear you can go for industry standard sizing and use the sizing scales used by The Big Four (MCalls, etc), or you could go much more bespoke like the indie designers tend to. For example, indie designers tend to have much less ease in their designs and sometimes none at all. The Big Four pattern companies typically have generous amounts of ease in their patterns, it is down to what you feel is right for your target audience and what you think, or know they will want.
Is there an industry standard?
There is the standard sizing which goes up 2 inches per size (for adults’ wear), again you could use this or create your own.
Is it best to just print a few patterns initially and get them tested before doing a larger run?
For any business the ideal way to is to test a market before spending a lot of money on production. There are now companies which can offer a smaller print run which allows you to test the viability of your patterns and expand your collections, companies such as Netprinter.
Which type of patterns are easiest to start with?
Smaller craft patterns would be an good place to start to gain confidence, but really if you are a designer and want to sell your patterns, just jump in at the deep end and create the patterns you really want to make.
Are there any sites which are good for inspiration?
You should check out the Indie sewing pattern designers for inspiration, these are just some of them;
Check out our comprehensive list of Independent Dressmaking Pattern Designers here for other indie designer websites to look at for inspiration and advice.
How do I go about designing my pattern cover artwork? Any essentials that must be included?
You should build your brand really carefully and research who your target market is and design your artwork to appeal to that audience. You should ideally include the sizes within the envelope, front and back images and lined drawings of front and back images along with recommended fabrics and amounts of fabrics ( and interfacings, zips and buttons and any other notions) required to make the garment up in each size.
Where can I get pattern covers printed/made?
Netprinter offer a pattern cover printing and assembly service, plus they can store your patterns and ship direct to distributors when you need them to. They offer C5 high quality envelopes printed single side or double sided. You have the option to buy them fully assembled or to assemble yourself. They have a minimum order of 100 but as soon as your order gets to 200 packs you can order several designs – perfect for new products. Prices start from £3.37 per envelope with instructions and one A0 pattern. For more information and pricing contact them here or view this pdf.
Should I include written instructions, diagrams, photos, combination of all 3?
Again this is personal choice, how much info do you want to give? How do you want your brand be the same or different to any of the other brands out there? Only you will have the answer to this. Suffice it to say that clear instructions are key to a successful garment and a satisfied customer!
What kind of costs are involved? Will the price mean I will have to price my pattern a lot higher than the main pattern houses?
The costs differ per pattern design as it depends on a few variable such as length of pattern and amount of ink, black or white or coloured ink for example. Prices are normally set so you can still make a profit selling your patterns.
Any tips on marketing sewing patterns?
Developing an indie brand relies on great customer interaction as this is where your advantage lies in comparison with the Big Four. Sewers love interaction with the designers and if you can commit to the time it takes to build up and maintain relationships with your sewers then you should have no problem at all building a loyal fan/customer base and selling lots of your patterns!
Claire no longer offers a pattern printing service but runs her own dressmaking pattern brand Sew Simple Patterns which offers a big range of garment patterns for the style conscious home sewist for a range of abilities and sizes.
Footnote: I’ve found a couple of blog posts which you may find useful when designing your own patterns
The Sewing Directory have interviews with some well known sewing pattern designers here.