How to start a sewing pattern business - Part 2, The design process

After more than five years of running Ploen Patterns, I thought it was time to share some things I have learned along the way.
If you are interested in starting a pattern business yourself - this series is for you!

In this part I'm going more in depth on the design process. You can read Part 1 here

(This post contains affiliate links). 

Everyone's design process will look different. There's no right or wrong way to do any of this. But there are more effective ways and I also believe it's important to create a good workflow to be able to design and develop products (in this case sewing patterns) more quickly.

Today I'm focusing on my personal design process, and I'm going to share what it usually looks when I design a new pattern. And I'm going to share some tips for those of you who are just starting out or if you are just interested in my process. 

So where do I start when designing a new pattern? I always have design on my mind, therefore I always have new ideas for patterns I want to design. It's a blessing and a curse because I never run out of ideas but I'm also easily distracted. I keep a few Pinterest boards with ideas going at all times. What I save as inspiration can be a photo of anything from nice topstitching to beautiful design lines to unusual fabric combinations or shapes. In addition to pinning on Pinterest I also sketch ideas as soon as I have them (before they are forgotten). Often on the nearest piece of paper but when I'm out and about I might sketch on my phone - insta story drawings can be a life saver sometimes. I choose a solid background in an instagram story and then I draw the idea I have. A rough sketch can always be cleaned up later. Then I save it on my phone and don't publish it to my actual instagram story. I'm sure there are better apps to draw on your phone but I haven't looked in to it. 😝  This works for me when I really need to sketch out an idea quickly. The notes app on my phone is also filled with design ideas. Sometimes it's enough to write the design to remember it later. The sketch can look something like this:

Or when I use a pen and paper it will look something more like this: 

Another place I look for inspiration is inside my own (and my friends) closet! Clothes I wear a lot and just love the neckline, fit, sleeves or any other detail of. Or when one of my friends wears something really nice and interesting I will always snap a picture and save it for later. Let's just say I never have too few ideas for upcoming patterns. The hard part is carving out time to actually make the ideas a reality. I'm sure you can relate... Here's a few photos of my friends garments that I just had to take photos of and save for later... :) 
My friend Ella wore this beautiful thrifted top when we were on vacation in Croatia. I thought it would be such a cute sewing project that uses a tiny bit of fabric! But I haven't gotten around to pattern it out yet. 

And my friend Isabell wore a cute top with a drawstring detail that I thought was very clever. This top was also thrifted and I had to take a photo to remember this detail. 

So, we have our ideas, what next?
When I've come as far as knowing roughly what I want my next design to look like - I sketch it out in Illustrator or sometimes on a piece of paper first. I create a 'line drawing' or 'flat' as it's called. This sketch tells me where the seams will be and all the design details. I also sketch out the views I plan to design. Maybe I want this pattern to have a few different skirt or sleeve options? Along the way I might add or remove some parts of the design, this first sketch is just that - a first sketch. It can look something like this (this is an early sketch for my Vera pattern):


During this process I might get ideas for different styles to make the pattern more versatile. I like to include at least two views to choose from but often more. The Vera pattern has five different 'official' views for example. The final version of the sketch turned out like this: 

A sketch like this is something I create in Adobe Illustrator. It's one of my favourite software of all time. It's so much fun and you can use it for so many things. This sketch is what I reference when I'm moving forward. 
After this it's time to start pattern making but that will have to be a separate blog post so stay tuned for part 3! 
PS. Are you interested in starting your own pattern business? Then I would highly recommend getting the Pattern Workshop course (and the facebook group for anyone who bought it). This course covers everything from how to set up the print at home tiling system, adding seam allowance, writing and illustrating the instructions to marketing the pattern once you have launched it. And so much more. If I have to give only one tip for anyone interested in starting a pattern business it would be to get this course! It's the singel most helpful thing I did to start Ploen Patterns. It saved me so much time not having to figure everything out on my own. 


Until next time, 

Happy Sewing!


Ploen Patterns

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