How to sell: your sewing patterns

by contributor on October 25, 2007

in Resources

When I began to look into selling my sewing patterns, I was swimming in murky waters. I knew absolutely nothing, and I couldn’t find any straightforward advice on the web. Such were the questions that were piling up in my mind: How do I make the layout look professional? How do I print those large sheets? How much should I charge? How and where should I sell my patterns? How do I get the word out?

To those who have created a brilliant sewing pattern that they would like to sell, but have no clue where to begin, this little cheat sheet is for you. It’s not super detailed, but if I learned one thing during my journey into pattern publishing, it’s that other pattern designers are very kind, and will give you wonderful advice if you contact them. So please, feel free to contact me at montessorirevolution(at)gmail(dot)com if you have any questions. You might also look into Nancy Restuccia’s book, Publish Your Patterns!, which is jam-packed with useful information.

So you came up with a pattern – how do you get your instructions and pattern pieces on paper?

Guess what? Microsoft Word simply won’t cut it! You need to look into getting a page layout program such as Adobe InDesign. InDesign will allow you to design a page of any size (that includes those large, 22” x 34” full-sized pattern sheets.) You can make instruction sheets look top-notch, and can use their precise drawing tools to make your full-sized pattern pieces. Once you have your pattern designed, you can export it as a PDF file and send it to a professional printer. I highly suggest you download the following tutorial and become familiar with InDesign: here


Kinko’s costs an arm and a leg, and other reasons to get you patterns professionally printed.

Unless you want to pay a ridiculous sum per pattern to print off those oversized sheets at your local Kinko’s [aka - online ordering solution for digital print-on-demand - ed], you are much better off getting your patterns printed by a professional print shop. I ended up going with Tri-State Printing Co. by recommendation of a fellow pattern designer. They have a department that specializes in printing patterns for the sewing industry, so they know what they’re doing! Plus, folding is included – which I couldn’t imagine having to do myself, over and over and over … The down side of printing in this way is that you will need to order a minimum of 1000 patterns. This can be scary, but it’s worth it. The cost of your order will depend on the size of your sheets, if they are one-sided or two-sided, and if you want the pattern front printed in color.

Consider all of the hidden costs when setting the price for your patterns.

You will need to purchase zip-lock bags [or other sealed bags - paper bags perhaps - ed] for packaging (I use clearbags.com, model ZR69V), address labels, business cards, mailing supplies, etc. If you have your own website, that will cost a bit to set up and maintain. Also, don’t forget to factor in all of those big, start-up expenses, such as the purchase of Adobe InDesign. How much did you spend for fabric and notions when you were developing your pattern? In short, there are a lot more costs than just the printing of the patterns. Don’t sell yourself short because you think your patterns won’t sell for market price because you aren’t a “known” designer. The industry standard is to charge half your retail price for wholesale purchasers. The distributor price is then 70 percent of the wholesale price.


Thank heaven for Etsy – how to sell your sewing patterns

The easiest way to set up shop is through Etsy.com. Etsy is, hands down, the best way to get your products online without having to study web design. Plus – it has a built-in audience. I started up my Etsy shop in addition to my own website, just to tap into all of the crafty action over at Etsy.

Your Mom can’t be your only customer and other marketing tips.

Although I’m sure your mom, aunt and best friend would love to buy up all your inventory, you are probably better off extending your marketing reach past your family and friends! A good way to do this is to pitch your patterns to nationwide distributors, such as Brewer Sewing Supplies and Quilters’ Resource in the US, Quilt-Craft Distributors in Canada, and Highland Quilterworks in Australia. If one of them decided to carry your patterns, they do all of the marketing work for you! Finding wholesale customers is as easy as contacting your own favorite fabric and pattern shops to see if they would be interested in carrying your patterns. A bit of time on Google is all that it takes to locate the contact information of most online fabric stores.

Promoting your direct retail sales is a bit more work. If you have a blog, you should set up a mailing list (I use www.ymlp.com) to send out promotional mailings, offer discount coupons, etc. Get the word out in whatever way you can – set up a Flickr group where others can post photos of projects made using your patterns, participate in crafty forums like Whip Up’s, and don’t be afraid to promote yourself!


About the writer:
Meg McElwee is a Montessori teacher who lives with her husband and two cats in rural Mexico. She spends most of her free time fiddling with fabric and keeping up her blog. She sells her Reading Pillow and Mei Tai Baby Carrier sewing patterns at montessori by hand.

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lemon Tree Tales October 25, 2007 at 9:53 pm

What a great article with lots of useful advice. Thank you!

–Tami

2 Lori October 26, 2007 at 1:05 am

Fantastic article.

3 Wanett October 26, 2007 at 2:02 am

This is a great article, thank you for sharing your research and experience with us all.

4 meggymac October 26, 2007 at 3:30 am

I’m glad you like it! Please feel free to contact me if you ever have any questions!

5 Josh October 26, 2007 at 7:29 am

Hello it was an absolute pleasure to come across, and read your blog. You really have some interesting information that I will have to share with my wife. If your ever looking for fabrics Lauren & I would be more than willing to help. Just let us know. Have a great evening.

Josh & Lauren

6 crafty nature November 12, 2007 at 6:51 am

This is a truly good idea

7 Heidi Slater April 8, 2011 at 12:00 am

Hello! Thank you for this wonderful info! I have designed a pattern that I want to sell, but had a question. Do I need to get it copyrighted or anything like that? I don’t want someone buying my pattern and then selling it themselves and saying it was their idea. I plan to sell it on etsy

8 Laura May 3, 2011 at 4:48 pm

Heidi, to copyright your pattern is very easy. All you need do is use the copyright symbol (“C” inside a circle) or write the word “copyright” with a date and your name on every pattern piece. Good luck with your project!

9 Briget March 18, 2012 at 5:47 pm

Actually that is very incorrect. You can place that C symbol anywhere you want, but that does not mean you have a true copyright! Sewing patterns on NOT copyrightable!

http://www.tabberone.com/Trademarks/CopyrightLaw/Patterns.shtml

10 Claire Lynette June 7, 2011 at 3:48 am

I just want to tell you thank you for putting this information out here. Thank you!

11 gaby August 22, 2011 at 7:40 pm

It is hard to find information on this. I appreciate you posting this, Thank you!!

12 Rosa Lamoureux September 11, 2011 at 12:55 am

I admire you! Thank you for sharing your experiences.
Rosa

13 Julie Baker September 18, 2011 at 6:42 am

This is EXACTLY what I have been searching for! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!
Julie

14 Michelle February 16, 2012 at 7:21 pm

This is EXACTLY the information I needed. Thank you! I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever get out of PDFland with my sewing patterns. Now I have some resources to research!

15 Sachiko Aldous May 17, 2012 at 3:58 am

Thank you so much for your post! I have been wanting to make my patterns look more professional for years, and had no clue what to do or where to go. You are so kind!

16 TK Langley December 30, 2012 at 11:07 pm

Awesome information! Thank You!

17 paula January 31, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Thank-you Meg,
For the great info…..but I can not find the tutorial mentioned in your post.
Please advise.
Thanks,
Paula

you download the following tutorial and become familiar with InDesign:

18 Denise E. March 20, 2013 at 4:17 am

Meg, how very generous of you to share the wealth of your experience with others who are just beginning to inquire, and have an easier path because of you. Your products and your work must shine with integrity, quality and good will.

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