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.