Pattern drafting

The Pattern Development Process

As a ‘new to the game’ indie designer I love reading from other designers about their process (most recently Marilla Walker’s). They make all the hard work behind a pattern visible and understandable. It has become clear that practically all Indie designers work their ass off for little pay, but for a lot of love, satisfaction and energy. For me it’s no different, and in this post I’d like to give you a peek behind the scenes and talk about what goes into my pattern creating process.

Pattern drafting

When I dreamed of making my hobby into a job, I mostly thought: I will be able to sew ALL THE TIME! While that is true in some way, there’re lots of other things to do too. When developing a pattern only the first phase entails a lot of sewing, and it’s mostly sewing the same thing over and over again. During the first stage I draft the design, sew a sample, wear it a couple of days and then the circle starts again. Adjust, sew, wear, adjust, sew, wear… tweaking the design until I’m happy with it. I use myself and my own sloper in this stage because I have to be sure that the issues that I see are in the design, and not because it has not been drafted to my own measurements.

When I am happy with the design, I move on to digitally drafting the pattern in Illustrator based on the Paprika Patterns size chart. I test it once again on myself to see how it fits ‘out of the envelope’. I then send the pattern off to a professional grader who writes out the grading rules. I did take a year of pattern drafting but not grading. With the grading instructions I grade the pattern pieces myself. Then comes the instruction booklet in InDesign, writing and making illustrations.

Then it’s time for the second and pattern testing round. Everybody has their own body-specific quirks, but it will tell me a lot more if 10 different people test it than if only I would test it. I simply would not dare to release a pattern without this stage! Also, I am not a native English speaker, yet my instructions are in English. I need you to tell me whether they are understandable. Plus when you have made a pattern over and over, many steps speak for themselves. It is not always easy to step out of this and try to imagine what it is like to make it for the first time. That is also feedback I get from the testers. If you would like to be part of this process, sign up for the list here.

While the pattern is at the testers I’m sewing samples for the product photoshoot and writing tutorials. Then I’ll incorporate your feedback into the design and the instructions. Then there’s the photoshoot, updating of the website, and finally the release. All of these stages are done by us and it’s a long process. And this is only the pattern developing process –  you have to consider PR, bookkeeping, responding to emails, writing blogposts… Those things actually take up 30-50% of the time. I hope to shorten it in the future by hiring other people for certain aspects. I am already very lucky that I didn’t have to build my own website!

One last word: I don’t mean to get a pat on the back for working hard: it’s what I choose and what I love to do. And it should also never be an excuse: working hard does not automatically mean the end result is good, and other people (you!) should be able to say so if it isn’t. I hope this space created by us will always be a place where you feel free to contribute your thoughts, be they positive, neutral or negative. I hope this has given you a bit more insight in my pattern making process, and I look forward to reading all of your thoughts and further questions.

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  1. This is an awesome post! Like I’ve mentioned, still trying to figure out my process exactly but it’s clearer and clearer every day! I really appreciate all the work you do with your patterns.

    1. Thanks Nicole! I’m still tweaking my process, but it goes faster with every pattern.

  2. Your hard work shows in a quality product. Thank you for sharing a little of what you do.

  3. Hearing about the behind the scenes stuff is so interesting, it’s not a career I can ever seem myself in so it’s fun to hear about the details you don’t see.

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