Patterns…and a teeny rant…

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Ever since I started sewing – and I’m talking way back when I was learning dressmaking at school – I have had a love/hate relationship with commercial patterns.

I threw in the towel with dressmaking after trying to make a pair of tailored culottes where the instructions told me to sew what essentially amounted to a 90degree seam, which had the unfortunate result of sewing one of the legs shut.

I gave up because it was too frustrating to tackle at the time. I do still own that pattern – buried somewhere in my sewing cupboard – however I highly doubt I will attempt it again. I would be more inclined to ask my work colleague, who has far more experience in dressmaking and bridal, for her help. Thanks Danielle!

But this tale of sewing woe has a point. It may not be pleasant for some of you out there to hear but a recent pattern purchase has made me see that I DO have to say something about it.

If you have ever written a pattern to sell, it NEEDS to be edited before you finalise your files for PDF’ing or printing.

Now I’m not talking just a spell check (that’s a start and you should be doing that anyway), I’m talking about having someone read-over your work so that a) it makes sense, b) flows properly and c) is helpful to those who will be reading it. It also needs to be formatted but I’ll get to that and a few other things later. First let’s tackle the main stuff that’s potentially driving away repeat customers and their money.

a) Making sense: This point should really speak for itself but unfortunately it isn’t always the case. This can be for a variety of reasons – for example; maybe you’re tired or in a rush to finish up the pattern – if you are tired or in a rush please just slow down or take a break. The pattern won’t run away and an hour less of sales while you take a nap or have a coffee WILL NOT HURT. Read through your pattern, read it out loud (to yourself or another person), have someone else read it, whack it into a program that reads aloud text like Text to Speech Reader and listen to the pattern being read out loud. By listening to your words, you will hear and pick up mistakes. Mistakes like repeated words – because you’ve typed too fast and doubled up or been distracted and typed appliqué three times – or things that just don’t sound right in your explanations, descriptions or methods.

Rule of thumb: Fresh eyes and ears help. Start by running your pattern through spell check and then go from there.

b) Flow: Flow and point a) go hand-in-hand, however flow will be more obvious, because what you have written is a set of instructions where it’s more important to get flow right so the progress of what is being made is done in the correct order. This is where many people rely on technical editors or pattern testers. Please don’t let this aspect slide – there is nothing worse than dealing with angry or upset customers because they can’t put together a project when the step-by-step instructions are in the wrong order.

Rule of thumb: Many pattern designers put a call out online for pattern testers – these are people who volunteer to make the pattern as it’s written and provide feedback. There are some who get paid and others who do it for fun and a free pattern. Who you use is your call.

c) Being helpful: This point walks a fine line between giving too much information and not enough to a customer. A pattern should not assume too much prior knowledge of the customer (basic sewing skills, terminology and product names for example) as this leaves out large swathes of information. A pattern should give a brief overview of the pattern’s needs (techniques, skills need, level of difficulty) so that the person making the project can then judge where they sit and what they will possibly need to search out on their own.

I have advised many of the people that I edit for to explain and then point people in the right direction – therefore giving reason for why something isn’t included and then pointing them to where to find such information. E.g. Binding – there are heaps of ways to bind a quilt. Find one that suits your style/taste/skill level and bind this quilt in the way you like, measurements for your binding fabric have included strips of up to 3in wide. Binding tutorials of all types can be found on blogs, YouTube and crafts sites like Craftsy.

Rule of thumb: Give the customer’s the info they need. Don’t be overly wordy. By guiding them in the right direction you make them happy and they’ll come back because they know you can help.

Now for the nitty gritty…

The pattern I purchased recently was from a well-known designer. The pattern cost almost $30 and basically was a few photos with captions and the appliqué templates. In my personal opinion – not worth the money. If I had no prior knowledge of appliqué or quilting I wouldn’t be able to make this pattern.

Now what I am about to say is all my opinion. I am happy to discuss and listen to others however this is me speaking from 10+ years of pattern writing for sale, magazine contributions and editing for other designers.

A pattern could/should include the following:

  1. A title – the name of your quilt, project or artwork
  2. An intro – a brief sentence or two about what it is/inspired you/technique or process explored
  3. Materials list
  4. Important notes – preparation for materials (washing), seam allowances, etc.
  5. Finished size of project if applicable (can also break down into block size for quilts if you want)
  6. Cutting instructions
  7. Preparation (making templates, tracing, ironing etc.)
  8. Assembly – can be broken down into block types or sections – such as sashings, inner and outer borders etc.
  9. Preparation for finishing the project (usually ironing, basting and sometimes embellishments)
  10. Quilting – description of what quilting was done to the quilt, name of quilter if sent to a professional long-armer etc.
  11. Binding and label – how to bind the quilt, suggestions for what to write on the label
  12. Contact details of designer
  13. Blurb for copyright and licensing, terms and conditions for pattern usage

As you can see there is a lot of work that goes into a pattern. So, my question is why don’t patterns seem to get that final touch they deserve? That final gloss to make them as perfect as they can be?

I don’t have an answer for that except for maybe budget and time. Designers are always under pressure to put more patterns out there as fast as they can and many designers might just be a one-person show may not have the budget to spare to send their patterns out for editing.

Now back to the other things I mentioned earlier – formatting, standard text and unusual instances.

Formatting:  Is basically setting out the text/images/diagrams so that your pattern is easy to read and follow. Pick a typeface (font) and size that are clear and easy to read (no Curlz MT please or heaven forbid Comic Sans!!). Make sure headings are clear, maybe you would like them a size larger than the regular text or bold them so they stand out. Sub-headings look good in italics. Ensure lists are numbered or use bullet points or dashes. You can change the colours of the text but keep in mind what it will look like if printed out – pale colours will fade out on white paper for example. Keep regular text black and if needed highlight important points in a strong colour like red (like you need to cut something 6 times). Centre images and diagrams, keep text to the left and for any tables you might have adjust as needed but keep in line with the other formatting you have done. Consistency is key.

Standard text: I have somewhere around 450 patterns that I have typed up over the years and standard text is my time saver trick. I have a folder on my computer with snippets of text that I use all the time. Things that don’t change much or a description that I’ve gotten to a point that I’m happy with the flow of. For example; binding instructions remain the same except I change the fabric description and the number of strips used. Particular blocks like Half Square Triangles – I have text saved for it and once again just change the fabric descriptions, then I change the size of the pieces cut.

Standard text is also useful for things like your contact information, copyright and licensing and your terms and conditions for pattern usage. Once you have these down pat, save the text and re-use for each and every pattern.

Unusual instances: This is the section where I am going to put a few rules that you might not know. Numbers are the most common thing we use in writing patterns – sizes for tools, materials lists, cutting instructions etc. However, there is a formatting rule for numbers that you need to pay attention to as it will prevent confusion.

  • Numbers 1-9 are written as numerals
  • Numbers ten and up are written as words (ten, thirteen, twenty etc.)

You can also write them – “Lay out nine (9) squares…” to help avoid confusion within the text itself however in cutting instructions you need to be extra clear. I like to use the below example –

Cutting instructions –

From the pink floral print cut –
– Seven, 6in x 4in rectangles

The other thing with patterns (mainly quilting ones) is that here in Australia we use both metric and imperial measurements. So, for the ease of my customers when they go shopping, my materials list gives them both. Metric so they can tell the shop assistant what they want and imperial so they know what it is when they start cutting from the instructions.

Materials list –

30cm (12in) pink floral print

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I am putting this post out now because this is something that I am passionate about and because I see the other side of it… I teach a class, it’s my most in demand class, called BYO project. It’s aim – for students to bring along a kit or pattern they have purchased from a designer or craft store and despair at making because they cannot decipher the instructions. I decipher the patterns for them and guide them through what should have been written there in the first place.

I have been editing patterns for pattern designers for a few years now and the most common themes I’ve been told are things like they are saving time dealing with people complaining about mistakes answering emails with corrections and chasing reprints. They are also starting to see customers returning, more in sales and feeling like their patterns are more complete.

I have spoken in several groups before about editing patterns and 98% are resistant because they don’t want to pay for the service and they think their work is fine as it is. I can tell you that it’s nigh on impossible to find a perfect document. It can always be better. Small changes can make a big difference.

So to that effect, to those out there that think they don’t need an editing service performed on their patterns… pick one and send it to me as a Word doc, I’ll edit it for FREE and send it back to you, sending you two files – one with tracking (all the changes I will make and suggest to you to make) and a clean file (which will be a final copy of all the changes I make) – so you can see the difference, see how it is done and maybe in time, learn what to watch out for in your own writing.

I will be only accepting the first 6 people to comment. When I have replied to you please email your pattern to frankensteinsfabrics@hotmail.com

If you have any questions please feel free to email me and ask.

Marni x

 

 

Kitten Mini Quilt Swap 2016

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Hello all!

Welcome to round two of the #kittenmqs2016.

Round one was a huge success without too much chasing of parcels and requiring angels to step in for flakers so I’m hosting round two but with a few changes.

Firstly there will only be 30 swappers in this round. Each applicant will be checked thoroughly against the black list. We will also be in two groups – Vlad’s Villains and Amity’s Angels

So let’s get down to the nitty gritty!

To apply you will need to come back here or my IG on the 10th of January and click on the link provided to fill in the details. I am opening up the signups at 12pm my time – NSW AEDST

Once you have registered your application, I and co-host Fiona from @bendigolioness will sort through, check the blacklist and allocate partners and groups.

This swap is open to Australians ONLY – this is due to the mammoth task of chasing international parcels and the extensive shipping times. I will be running another kitten swap either later on this year or in 2017, and it will be open to ALL.  I apologise profusely to all international friends who want to join in but its just not possible now due to so many variables.

Your mission: You have just over 3 months to create a mini quilt to send to your secret partner. The theme is Cats and Kittens. Mini quilts are generally larger than 16in and no more than 24in but please use your judgement. You are also required to make one smaller item – pincushion, zip pouch, basket etc Extras are encouraged, but not compulsory.

Swap Info: Signups open on the 10th of January and close on the 14th or when signups fill up. Swappers will receive an email with their partner info on the 15th (and 16th if it takes us a little while to get through them). You then have from the moment you receive your partner’s info until the 20th of April to create a parcel to their liking.

Swap tip 1: Read your partner’s info carefully. VERY carefully – we will be asking about allergies and this is important.

Swap tip 2: Post a mosaic with styles of quilts you like, cats you love and cat themed things. Everyone MUST post a mosaic to help guide your partner’s designing. Mosaics need to be posted on IG by the 20th of January.

Swap tip 3: We will be checking in – dates TBA – progress shots will be necessary. Failure to comply will result in you being removed from the swap and your partner reallocated to those on the waiting list.

Waiting List: Those of you who don’t make the final 30 will be kept on a list in case of flakers. You can choose to step in if we get in touch with you or say no. If you say no we just move onto the next person on the list. No problem.

If anyone has any questions please post in the comments below, DM on IG or email frankensteinsfabrics@hotmail.com

Happy quilting!

Marni x

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Quilt Sale!

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Hi everyone,

Here with a bit of a quilt sale to help me organise the surgery that my poor cat Vladimir has to have this month. Not something I would normally publicise but as it is unexpected, kind of urgent and ridiculously expensive that I had no way to prepare for it, I am here seeking help from my customers.

I decided to extend the quilt sale I was hosting before Christmas. So the 40% off the pre-made quilts in my Facebook album here will continue until the end of January.

So if you are looking for something for a gift or even for yourself head over and have a look and let me know if something takes your fancy. And the best part is that your money will not only get you a beautifully made (most likely published), handmade quilt but it will also help out my furry best friend.

Marni and Vlad x

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Why hello there, 2016!

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As we waved goodbye to 2015 last night, like all new years celebrations before it, many of us turned introspective. Minds turning towards the potential of the new year, whether it be personal or for business.

This year things are changing here at FF HQ. In fact they started changing a little while ago but the big jump into the new things is happening NOW.

Firstly – many of you know I am teaching. You might have been to a class or spoken with me about coming to one when you’re ready. This year is chock-a-block FULL of classes. Click here to sign up for class news. I’m running basic blocks for those who want to get started, project classes where we tackle specific quilts or designs, colour theory for those who are struggling with choosing fabrics and one-on-one classes for those who are determined to get to the bottom of the UFO box.

I am also in the process of designing a new range of quilts and unlike many of my previous designs these will not be headed to the magazines. These will only be able to be purchased through my online store. I’m returning to my designing and writing roots this year because that’s what makes me happy.

This year Dawn Lewis from DawnLewisImagery and I will be utilising a new video style platform in order to bring tutorials and unprecedented access to us in an interactive online session. This will enable you to sit in on a Skype-style video call and talk to us live online and with other customers. If you don’t want to be ‘seen’ on the video call then you are also able to jump in the question section and ask us anything you like. All you need to get started is a Twitter account! I have a session scheduled on the 20th of January at 10:30am if you’d like to join us  and see what it’s like. For those who aren’t quite ready for it you can watch online but you won’t be able to ask questions or join in live.

I’m also working on a batch of videos – reworking basic skills and techniques and getting a good bank of videos we can all refer back too whenever we need a refresher or if you want to encourage a friend to join in on this hobby. If there’s something specific you’d like help with please let me know.

I am still contributing to the magazines this year as well – you will continue to see my projects in Handmade and Patchwork & Stitching magazines as well as a few other projects elsewhere, that you’ll see later on in the year.

I’m re-working the shopping cart on this site as I am no longer selling fabrics online, most of the products will be digital and instant download (no shipping!!) as well as copies of Mollie Makes and hard copies of vouchers if people need them sent out.

Machine quilting bookings are filling up. January is full, February – April have some spaces available. Please book ASAP to ensure you get the slot needed for your quilt. I will be introducing a loyalty card system for machine quilting (retrospectively adding quilt jobs), with discounts and incentives for customers.

Currently though I’m having a bit of downtime as January is full of some crazy things that are happening. My birthday, a few health things I need to take care of and my cat requires some surgery so I will be around but if you  miss me I’ll get back to you all when I can. I am working at The Gosford Sewing Machine Centre – usually Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays but if you need to see me specifically please give me a call.

I hope everyone has had a lovely festive season and is now ready for bigger and brighter things in 2016. I also hope that you join me this year and continue to support Frankenstein’s Fabrics and the new direction that we are headed in.

Happy Quilting!
Marni x

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Kona Solids Curated Block

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A little while ago I was asked by the fabulous Emily from HandmadebyEmily to curate a selection of 5 colours from the extensive Kona solids range for her Aussie Kona Club.

Having not really worked with Kona solids before I did have a bit of trouble choosing from over 300 colours, but as I love Halloween colours and tones I decided to run with it and see what happened.

I chose more muted tones rather than my usual brights and worked out a block that could be used for any colour way but still had enough of a Halloween ‘feel’ for me – using the hourglass blocks to represent little bats. 🙂

Instructions are below to make one block but I will be making a few to make a table runner.

Materials
Kona Solids: Parchment, Peapod, Charcoal, Orange and Eggplant

Cutting:
From Parchment cut one 3 1/2in strip and cross cut four 3 1/2in squares
From Peapod cut one 4 1/2in strip and cross cut five 4 1/2in squares
From Charcoal cut one 4 1/2in strip and cross cut five 4 1/2in squares
From Orange cut one 3 1/2in strip and cross cut four 3 1/2in squares
From Eggplant cut one 3 1/2in strip and cross cut eight 3 1/2in squares

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Hourglass Blocks

Pin the right sides of one solid Peapod square and one Charcoal square together. Draw a line across the diagonal on the lighter fabric. Stitch a 1/4in on both sides of the drawn line. Cut along the pencil line. Press the seams to the darker fabric. Pin the right sides of the opposing fabrics together, abutting the seams. Draw a line across the diagonal. Stitch a 1/4in on both sides of the drawn line. Cut along the pencil line. Press the seams. Makes 10, but you only need 9 units per block. Trim blocks to 3 1/2in square, checking the angles with a 45degree marking on your ruler.

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Next lay out all of your squares in the following rows –

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Piece together in rows. Then once all rows are pieced, press the seams in alternating directions per row. Eg. rows 1, 3 and 5 press to the left and rows 2 and 4 press to the right.

Pin rows together abutting the seams and join.

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Press the seams and trim up the block to ensure a 15in finish raw edge to raw edge.

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Ta da!

As I’m writing this tutorial I’m thinking that now I might even embroider some little Halloween motifs on the Parchment squares. I have a few in my stash that will work perfectly. 🙂

For those who are interested in the runner or even taking it further and making a larger quilt –

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As you can see the secondary and even tertiary designs made by this block create interesting effects. I’d love to see what everyone makes so feel free to post me pictures.

I love making this block and curating a set of solids for Emily – loads of fun!

Happy Quilting!

Marni x