Saturday, August 3, 2013

Writing patterns

Jelly Bean Stars
Over the last couple of weeks I took a detour from sewing to write up a pattern for Jelly Bean Stars.  After much proofreading (thank you to my hubby for spotting the diagrams I had drawn backwards!) it is now available to purchase as a file download in my Craftsy shop. Payhip shop (updated Jan 12, 2015)

This is the sixth pattern I have written and yet again, the part that took me the longest was determining fabric requirements and deciding how to give instructions for cutting. I looked at other patterns for inspiration and tried to determine what I liked or didn’t like, or would like to see done differently.  I like the format I came up with but I’d like to pick your brains about what you like in a pattern, if I may.

Test block 2 labelledFirst question: How do you feel about charts or tables?  My science background likes them.  Everything is neatly and concisely organized.  For example, for this block I like the table below.  For a block where I have to sub-cut units after the first cut, I might have two more columns, one to say how to sub-cut and one to list the total number of final units.

Size to cut
Number to cut
A – Yellow background
4 1/2” square
B – Yellow background
4 7/8” square
C – Light blue corner
4 7/8” square
D – Blue star point
2 1/2” square
E – Blue star center
4 1/2” square

Second question: Do you like knowing what each piece will be used for?  When I’m changing the colors in a quilt, I like an easy way to keep track of what’s what and not have to find that particular size patch in the piecing instructions to determine what it is so I can use the right color for my new color scheme.

Third question:  Just how much detail do I need to give?  Can I assume that if I say to cut 8 - 2 1/2” squares, you’ll know to cut a 2 1/2” strip, then cut 2 1/2” squares from that?  Or do I need to specify to cut the strip to that width first, then sub-cut squares, and so on?  Is that considered basic quilting knowledge?  In some cases I do find a cutting diagram useful, for example when I’m trying to squeeze a set number of various sized patches from a fat quarter and only one way will yield everything I need.

Last question:  How precise do you want fabric requirements to be?  I understand that fabric is not cheap and you might not want too much extra (or maybe you do so you can build up the stash!).  On the other hand if I find that exactly 9 inches of fabric is technically just wide enough, I tend to add 1/8 yard to that.  What if the 9 inches (a 1/4 yard cut) shrinks a bit, or isn’t quite straight?  Then that 1/4 yard isn’t quite enough anymore.  So how close do you think is too close?  Do you like a little fudge room (no more than 1/8 yard) in the recommended fabric requirements?  Rounding to the next 1/8 yard? More?  Less?

I’d appreciate any feed back you care to give me!

Now I will work on moving a few UFOs along instead of getting sidetracked by that star block I just drew as an example…though I think it could be made into a simple, easy baby quilt…though I don’t currently know anyone who needs one…but it would be sweet and simple…  And this is how the UFO’s start piling up!


  1. 1. Programmer background - so I like the table format, too.

    2. Definitely want to know what pieces are used for, because I never know when I'm going to adjust on the original instructions.

    3. I don't think you need step-by-step instructions. I think anyone with even a little bit of quilting experience would be okay with the piece size and how many to cut. The only thing I might need to know, is something odd - like if a square needed to be cut on the bias, instead of the grain.

    4. I tend to pad whatever measurements I see in the instructions to account for shrinkage. How much I pad by usually depends on the size squares I'm cutting from the material - small squares, I pad just a little, but if it's big squares, then I pad more to account for shrinkage/shifting. I have also been known to recalculate the yardage (based on what pieces it will be used for) if the material I'm buying isn't standard 42-44" wide. I don't know how much of this has been from experience, or what is just how I was taught. Ooh, so that's a tough question. I'd probably go no more than 1/8 of a yard more, because I think people will adjust according to their experience.

    (And I really love the colors on that quilt!)

  2. These are all very good questions. I have written a couple of patterns myself, but have never bought one or made a quilt by following one. I have seen patterns in books and magazines and that is the style I use to write my patterns. I like your chart. I think how you give the cutting instructions may end up varying depending on the quilt. Relax. It looks like you are giving thorough instructions. And congrats on the new pattern. Wish you lots of sales!

  3. 1. Yes, I definitely like the chart/table.
    2. Yes.
    3. I agree with Sally.
    4. I think most designers give some extra amount to cover shrinkage, etc. So I think you definitely should do that too. As to how much extra, I'm not sure. Most of the time, I'm using stash and not purchasing specific amounts for a pattern, so it doesn't really apply to me.

    Good luck with your pattern sales! I really like Craftsy and have even bought a couple patterns from them.

  4. 1. Science geek here, too. Love charts, particularly those that are grouped by fabric like yours is.
    2. Yes yes yes!
    3. I've had patterns written both ways. If there are a lot of pieces that need to be cut, it is helpful to me to know to cut x strips and then subcut. If it's clear that one strip will make all the needed units, it's probably not needed, though.
    4. Definitely add a little fudge room. Nothing is more frustrating than buying exactly what a pattern says, getting it home and washed, and finding out you're 2" short because of shrinkage and unravelling. Or cutting a strip too narrow and not having enough to cut another. I would think 1/8 yard for smaller requirements and 1/4 for larger would be good?

    Good for you getting your patterns out there! I'm sure there will always be the one Grumpy Gus who doesn't like the way you've done things, but you can't please everyone, so don't let the complainers get you down. And good luck! I hope they're best sellers!

  5. Also a programmer background.
    1.) table format is neat and clear.
    2.) Yes, nice to know where it is used so you can modify color and sometimes value.
    3.) I think most quilters would know what to do from 8-2 1/2 inch squares.
    4.) I like fudge room on the yardage requirements. A little extra never hurts to have in the stash and for those that don't like it - they can add it to the backing!

  6. First, I love the quilt. Stars are my favorite, and your colors are gorgeous.
    Then, I'm not a programmer, but charts are much appreciated. I much prefer patterns that are easy to follow, and if I don't do all my cutting at once, the chart helps me keep my place.

    #2, absolutely. I frequently change colors, so knowing what piece goes where helps me envision how my scheme will work.

    #3, I don't need to know to cut a strip first. I will also use scraps that aren't large enough to make a strip, but I can get those 8 pieces cut from what I have. I guess it might help some, though.

    #4, I do appreciate the padding, for all the reasons you've cited. A little extra fabric can go into the scrap bag for a simply stunning scrap quilt one day!

    One thing I do appreciate in pattern instructions: if there are sub-units, I like to know how large they are supposed to be. I can measure everything I'm cutting, but once things are sewn together to make part of a block, I measure the size of the completed sub-unit to make sure it is the right size before I get the whole block put together. That eliminates a lot of frustration. If I have to stop and figure out the completed sizes, it just slows down the process, so I find myself trying to figure out the sizes before I even begin. If pattern-writers would do that for me, I'd appreciate it!

    Looks like it will make a great pattern, and thanks for asking for opinions!

  7. Hello- I just found your blog ! What fun !!
    1. Yes, I absolutely LOVE this format. It is clear and oh so easy to follow. I do this for myself every time I make a new block. So nice to have it already done for me.
    2. Yes again. I like to know what they will be used for. If I want to use another color I can just draw a line through it and write in my personal selection.
    3. Personally I do not need extra details.
    4.I am a scrap quilter so I do not use fabric requirements that are suggested. When I was a new quilter I did and would rather have a generous amount than be short. Gives a tiny margin for human error also.
    I love this star block ! Thanks : )


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