pattern design on a {little} budget

Let’s be real here, some things are easier with money!  Money quite often equals access, options, and flexibility in our crafty endeavors.  I often find myself drooling over new fabric lines, thinking how wonderful a design idea I have in my head would look worked up in the latest and greatest materials.  I frown at my simple quilting motifs when I see how custom quilting can truly bring a pattern to life!  Sometimes I tell myself  that if I had those things my quilts, and my patterns by extension, would be better and more successful. I could make more samples, more sizes, MORE MORE MORE!

The truth is, regardless of how much better an endless fabric stash would make my cover photo, or how many more quilts I could create by outsourcing everything to a long-armer, that’s just not my situation right now. Most of our family’s spending money beyond bills and food (OH GOD THE FOOD) goes to yoga, ballet, gymnastics, and baseball. > #momlife < Though I quilt like it’s my job, it’s solidly in hobby territory, folks!

SO working within that reality. . .

What’s good about working creatively with limited resources?

Lots of things!  For one, it keeps your stash small. You buy what you need, and use it!  Storage of my quilting fabric is limited to a few miscellaneous storage baskets in a tall IKEA cabinet. As all quilters know, there is always more fabric than there is money for fabric so it’s best to know your financial and spatial limits and stick to them.

Secondly, you are forced to stretch your creative muscles and make it work, Tim Gunn style. Many of my favorite quilts have been cobbled together from my stash.  I am more likely to make adventurous or unlikely combinations when my options are limited. My Kona pickle Tuesday Plaid is the perfect example of this. I wanted to make a second sample for my pattern release, but didn’t have the funds to order more fabric at the time. I had a half yard of pickle from a planned project gone by the wayside and it was calling to me. << Listen to these fabric whispers!!  Loath to add any more color, I pulled some random black and white fat quarters from my prints bin and went for it.  This darn baby quilt is my pride and joy y’all!!!

Futhermore, you learn new skills!  If you want a special touch to the quilting on your project but can’t afford to send it out. . . you go learn how to do it yourself!  Free motion quilting can be very intimidating, but just like most skills- practice makes (im)perfect. HAHA. It’s easy to stay in our comfort zones. You’ve mastered piecing and straight line quilting so now I want you to rock your OWN boat and quilt in ALL DIRECTIONS.  Those humps on the quilt above make me feel so happy and accomplished!  Adding skills like embroidery, hand quilting, free motion quilting, or applique to your repertoire makes you a more well rounded quilter. Your followers will be like WOW this is one impressive artiste, how do I be so awesome!?

Preserve your profits

If you are writing patterns or making goods to sell, I assume you want to turn a profit. Maybe you need the income for your household, maybe it’s just for fun money, but regardless of the motivation you want to end up “in the black” so to speak, yes?  If you are just getting started, do not overextend yourself with business expenses!!!

A lot of the advice I have seen for creatives new to monetizing their craft is along the lines of “fake it til you make it”. I even give this advice myself and I do agree to a point. Present a confident, well put together face. . . just be frugal about it! Don’t count on paying yourself back later with sales. Pay yourself NOW with sales that are happening NOW by keeping your costs low. For me, that means forgoing profesh frills like a Shopify store ($30/mo) and expensive Adobe programs like Illustrator and InDesign ($40/mo for the two).

Having a small but growing audience, I sell a modest number of each pattern I release. The more I spend per month on my business, the less I have to show for all my hard work. Currently my only recurring expense is my website hosting at $10/mo!  I am able to put the money I make from pattern sales (THANK YOU THANK YOU to everyone who has supported me :D) into the next pattern that I write, thus sustaining this hybrid hobby/business of making and sharing fancy blankets.

Find the free

There are ALWAYS going to be great creative and business services that you can pay for. What’s tricky is finding the ones you don’t!

  1. For graphic design: Check out my post here about Inkscape, a free graphic design software and Illustrator alternative that I use to design all the diagrams and mock ups for my patterns.
  2. For selling: Craftsy is the perfect place to sell that jazzy creative intellectual property of yours. It is easy to use, well known in the crafty biz, and um. . . FREE. ETA 2019: Since writing this post, Craftsy closed its doors to most independent pattern sellers. BUMMER!!  I currently am paying small fees to list and sell on Etsy as the user interface is so friendly! Payhip Basic is another good, cheap option for anyone selling digital downloads!
  3. For websites: I use WordPress! << That part is free, but I did have to purchase a domain and pay for hosting. I didn’t know the first thing about how all this worked when I started so in case you don’t either here is a little blurb from DreamHost about WordPress
  4. For pattern writing: While writing my first pattern, I tried a free publishing software and InDesign alternative called Scribus but after a couple hours I pulled all my hair out and went crawling back to trusty ol’ Pages. (it’s like Word for you PC folks :)). It’s FINE!  Pages does what I need it to but probably not in the most streamlined way. Maybe someday I’ll buckle down and learn Scribus? Give it a go if you like and then come teach me!!
  5. For email marketing: I use MailChimp!  I like to spend hours floundering around on this website and then send one poorly formatted email with a couple errors to stay relatable.  Really though I think it’s a good service, there’s just a learning curve!

do what you can with what you have

Keeping things simple and cheap now doesn’t mean your endeavor isn’t legit. Don’t let your limits keeping you from FULL SPEED AHEAD stop you from getting on the road!  Parades are fancy, and they go slow.

A little sneak of what’s coming next ^ 🙂 -Robin

2 thoughts on “pattern design on a {little} budget

  1. Victoria Alexander says:

    Wow! This is amazing! A friend of mine sent me the insta link. She is a good friend! Because this was very helpful! Thank you, keep up the good work! You put some wind in my sails!

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