Monday, February 8, 2016

PWS - How to Write a Quilt Pattern - Topic 4 - General Pattern Guidelines

Section IV – General Pattern Guidelines

When you have the quilt design, including the block sizes and quilt size(s), set, you next need to start putting the instructions into words.

As you write and edit, and write and edit some more, you will start to develop your pattern writing “voice”.  This is not something that can be forced, but will naturally evolve over time.  Here are some ideas to start thinking about as you begin drafting your pattern.  

A.      Audience

When drafting a pattern, you need to decide who is your audience; is your pattern for a new quilter that needs more explanation for each step or a more advanced quilter that may not need as much detail?  This decision will affect how much explanation, tips, and illustrations you will need to include in the pattern.

B.     Basic Instructions

Most patterns do not contain instructions for basic quilting techniques (such as basting, quilting, and binding) but will contain detailed instructions for less common techniques such as curved piecing or binding corners that are not 90 degrees if the pattern utilizes them.  

If you like, you could add YouTube videos or tutorials on your blog that show how to do basic quilting techniques and reference them in your patterns.  If you start putting too many basic instructions into your patterns, they risk becoming more like books than individual patterns.

C.     Assumptions / Pattern Notes

In the beginning of your quilt pattern, I suggest that you write any assumptions and/or standards you have about the pattern or materials.  The following are some of the assumptions I put in the Notes section at the beginning of each of my patterns:
  • Seam allowance to sew with (for example ¼” or scant ¼”).
  • The assumed width of fabric.
  • Any abbreviations that you are going to use in the pattern (such as WOF = width of fabric).
  • Assumed number of fabric pieces per pre-cut packs or bundles. (Ex. Each charm pack is assumed to contain 42 pieces.)
  • Any specialty tools (such as specialty rulers or notions) that are needed or helpful for the pattern.
  • Size of templates (need to copy and/or enlarge the templates).

Pattern Piece Library
Your first pattern will most likely be pretty difficult and fairly time consuming to write (I know that it was for me).  However, once you have a few quilt patterns written, you will you will find that you will be able to re-use many pieces of your previous patterns.  Creating a pattern piece library of typical construction techniques, such as directions to make half square triangles (HST), flying geese, sashing, etc., will save you time and make subsequent patterns much quicker to draft.  

E.     Term Consistency

For my day job, I write patent applications and in patents the terminology is very important.  If you refer to a particular layer as a fabric, you must be very careful to always refer to the layer as a fabric (versus a textile, textile layer, fabric layer, etc.) or else you might not be granted patent or a court might not uphold your patent.

I bring this philosophy to quilt pattern writing.  I suggest that you pick certain terms for the parts of your quilt top and use them consistently throughout the pattern.  For example, if your pattern has instructions to create sub-blocks and then combine the sub-blocks into a block, make sure whenever you refer to the sub-blocks they are sub-blocks, and not components, not pieces, and not intermediates throughout the entire pattern. 

You will also have to decide how to write and format your numbers.  Will you use fractions or decimals and how will you format them: 2 ½” or 2 1/2” or 2.5”?  All are correct, but you should pick one, stick with it and use that labeling method throughout the pattern in the fabric requirements, pattern instructions, and any dimension labels in the illustrations.

In addition to general terms, you should also try to keeping the action and verb terminology consistent as well.  Are the actions in past, present, or future tense?  Do all of your sentences start with a noun or an action verb?  Keeping the action and sentence structure consistent will made your pattern clearer and easier to read.

F.       Naming Conventions

Another thing you will have to decide for your patterns is how you are going to name your fabrics.  Will they be Fabric A, Fabric B, Fabric C or Light, Medium, Dark, or Focal, Print, and Background, or will you use the names of the colors from the cover quilt.  There is no right answer and your naming convention will probably vary by pattern so use the names that fit  best for that pattern.  The most important thing is to pick a naming convention and use it consistently throughout the pattern.

G.     Pressing

Will you be putting pressing instructions into the pattern?  This is totally optional and personal preference, but can help out the quilter especially if some seams can be made to mesh or if there is a good way of pressing to reduce bulk.  You will have to decide whether to not have any at all, have blanket instructions for the quilt, “For this quilt, I recommend pressing all seams open” (or something to that effect), or have pressing instructions included with each step.

These are just some of the general pattern writing tips to start thinking about as you begin to lay out your pattern.  In the following weeks we are going to go into much more detail about the quilt math, illustrations, and pattern text.  This Wednesday, the guest designers will be joining the series for a round table discussion on their thoughts and tips for general pattern writing.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Diamonds in the Sky - a quilt for Modern Quilts Unlimited Magazine

Today I am so excited to show you one of my quilt finishes from last fall!  The quilt is called Diamonds in the Sky and it appears in the Winter 2016 issue of Modern Quilts Unlimited magazine

Way back in November 2014 I found that I had won Editor's Choice in the block design contest held by Modern Quilts Unlimited with my block Diamonds in the Sky.  As part of the prize, I got make a quilt and pattern from the block for the magazine.

Diamonds in the Sky was made using all Robert Kaufman fabrics; Kona solids in White, Seafoam, Turquoise, and Peacock and Equations in Black from the Science Fair collection by Illustration Ink.  The quilt is all paper pieced (which enables such cool angles and sharp points) and measures 48 1/2" x 60 1/2"".

I pondered the quilting a long time before deciding on treating each fabric separately using matching thread colors. I used a dense back and forth quilting in the blue diamonds, straight lines in the white, a switch back design in the light green, and an outline and swirl in the black.  

I must admit that this was a lot of paper piecing of the same block, but I think that the graphic design created by the blocks was worth it.

I love the Modern Quilts Unlimited magazine, the magazine is so full of great quilts and inspiration. Check out the Winter 2016 issue!

I am linking up to Link a Finish FridayWhoop Whoop FridayThank Goodness Its Finished FridayFinish It Up FridayFabric Frenzy Friday, and Show Off Saturday @ Sew Can She.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Midnight Mystery - February

Just as a reminder, there are no instructions for February for the Midnight Mystery Quilt, we are taking the month to finish our quilt tops and quilts.  (All of the instructions for the mystery quilt can be found in the Mystery Quilt Tab above.)  

The big reveal parade will be held on Thursday March 10th!  

To be eligible to win one of the many, many prizes, you will need to e-mail me a picture of your quilt top or completed quilt along with your name and state (or country) by March 8th.  I will collect all of the images and post them together to celebrate the Midnight Mystery quilt!!  (Feel free to share your quilt tops and quilt before then on any social media, no need to keep them secret)

Just to give you that final push towards finishing your quilt top and/or quilt, here is a little reminder of our prizes, there will be 9 winners in all!!!

1.   $20 gift certificate from Bear Creek Quilting Company
2.   $40 gift certificate from Pile O'Fabric
3.  1 Combined cathedral window pincushion / thread catcher from Meadow Mist Designs
4.  $100 gift certificate from The Fat Quarter Shop
5.  1 digital quilt pattern from Busy Hands Quilts
6.  1 digital quilt pattern from Busy Hands Quilts
7.  10-piece fat quarter bundle of Peppered Cottons from Studio e
8.  20-piece fat quarter bundle called Fusion Illusion from Blank Quilt Corp.
9.  Quilting of your mystery quilt (or other lap quilt) of a semi-dense all-over quilting pattern design by Jan from Quilting Among the Groves.

Thanks again to everyone who is participating in the quilt-a-long and thank you again to our generous sponsors! 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

PWS- How to Write a Quilt Pattern - Roundtable Topic 3 - Turning Designs into Patterns

Topic III - Turning Designs into Patterns - Round Table Discussion

On Monday, I covered Topic III which discussed how to start turning your quilt designs into quilt patterns and how I started to turn my idea into Ninja Bears.  I discussed how to find the block within your quilt pattern and then how to go about sizing the blocks and deciding on a layout to get to the quilt size(s) that you would like to include in your pattern.  

Two questions I have been asked over and over again are around offering a quilt pattern in more than one size and the difference between free and paid quilt patterns.  Our guest designers (and myself) weigh in on these questions below.

Do you typically offer your patterns in one size or more than one size? How did you decide on this?

Lorna of Sew Fresh Quilts - I typically offer my patterns in more than one size. This allows for more flexible use of the pattern to suit the buyer's needs.

Soma of Whims and Fancies - The size of my patterns is based on the details of the designs. I design them in such a way that they can be resized by printing them at different percentages.

Yvonne of Quilting Jetgirl - I have patterns both ways, and I price accordingly. A pattern that is only one size is slightly less expensive than a pattern with multiple sizes. Ideally, I would like my patterns to offer multiple sizes.

I always try to offer more than one size in my quilt patterns, but if a pattern is complex, making the pattern in a different size would require really odd measurements, etc., I will chose to offer the pattern in one size only.

Amy of 13 Spools - I only offer them in one size because it’s a freaking pain to do more! This is usually because my patterns have complex cutting directions, and it would be crazy to do it for many sizes.

Anne of Springleaf Studios - Right now it’s about half and half. The patterns that offer multiple sizes range from baby to queen size. Others have just a single throw/lap size. The decision is generally based on the design. If it’s a block based design, it’s easier to offer multiple sizes. Exceptions to this would be an overly large block which can make it difficult to work into traditional bed sized quilts or if the overall design requires a set number of blocks. The complexity of a design can also simply get to be too confusing for multiple sizes when it comes to listing yardage and cutting. I don’t want to overwhelm the quilter with things they don’t need. I do sometimes include tips on how to rescale a block or make another size when the pattern doesn’t include other size options.

Christa of Christa Quilts - I offer them in four sizes. When I was ready to get serious about pattern design, I began to do a bunch of research. I paid attention to what other designers did and asked my instagram followers if they wanted multiple sizes and what sizes they preferred. For my general pattern layout, I realized that four different sizes was enough to make the pattern valuable, but didn’t make the pattern too long for printing.

I also wanted to differentiate my single patterns from the patterns I write for books. My books are a themed collection of patterns in one size only; therefore the individual unit price of a book pattern is much cheaper when you consider how many patterns are offered in a book. For stand-alone patterns, I wanted to make sure I was providing enough value to the consumer to justify the higher unit cost of just one pattern. 

Cheryl of Meadow Mist Designs - As I stated in my Monday post, I do not think that you must include multiple sizes in your quilt patterns, but when speaking with pattern purchasers, most indicated that having multiple sizes made the pattern more valuable and that they tended to buy more multiple size patterns than single size patterns.  In my own patterns, almost all have multiple sizes, with the number of sizes and which sizes are offered based on the block size, complexity, and other factors.

With all of the free patterns out there on Craftsy, Moda Bake Shop, and blogs, do you feel that there is a difference in what a free versus for sale pattern should contain?

Soma of Whims and Fancies - I haven’t felt any difference between the two. My patterns contain the same level of detail whether they are paid or not. That way, people get a realistic impression of working with my patterns, regardless of which one they pick.

Amy of 13 Spools - For starters, I don’t really concern myself with what I think others should include in a free v. paid pattern - only what works for me. My situation (stay at home mom with 3 very young children; I can only sew if I pay for a babysitter, etc.) is not necessarily the same as quilter a and quilter b, etc. - so our needs are different, as well. That’s ok. If someone else offers a great pattern for free, I don’t worry about my own pricing model - I do what I need to do, and they can do what they need to do.

When I’m deciding whether to offer a pattern for sale or for free, it’s about three things: time, complexity, and pattern testing.  I nearly always make quilts for-sale patterns. That’s just a practical thing - my quilt patterns tend to take quite awhile to write, and I can’t justify that time if I’m not going to get at least some compensation.

Block patterns are a toss-up. Here, there is a difference in content - I usually don’t provide cutting directions for the free paper-pieced patterns. That part takes awhile to figure out & write, so I will decide to either 1) include it & offer the pattern for sale, or 2) skip it and offer the pattern for free.

For me, another concern with paid v. free is pattern testing - I always have my patterns for sale tested! I don’t have my free ones tested - it just doesn’t make sense monetarily for me.

Christa of Christa Quilts - I limit how much free content I offer. I have one free pattern called “Puzzle Box” that my readers get when they sign up for my email newsletter on my website. It is available in one size only and gives my readers a “taste” for my other multi-size patterns. I also offer step-by-step quilt along tutorials on my website. These aren’t full blown illustrated patterns, but they give me a chance to test-out my ideas before I create a pattern. These, too, are offered in one size only.

Yvonne of Quilting Jetgirl - When I am making a quilt pattern that will be purchased, I try to offer something “more” than would be realistic for a free pattern. For instance, I will include a coloring page, give detailed information on fabric selection, or even provide a worksheet to outline a thought process to help a quilter cultivate a story and meaning behind the quilt they are making. I have also included additional information like a secondary quilt pattern that can be made from scraps generated when piecing the quilt top.

I believe that a quilt pattern that is offered for sale should be pattern tested and edited more carefully than a free pattern / tutorial. It is one thing for me to write a free pattern / tutorial and work through the pattern on my own, but when I offer a pattern for sale at the very least I want several other quilters to have looked it over.

I think that Christa has a very good point about being careful about how much free content you offer. And I applaud Amy's opening statement about not being concerned with what others are doing. I do hope you start first by considering what works best for you in your own situation. Knowing what others do can help, but have confidence in your own intuition and work from your heart.

Lorna of Sew Fresh Quilts - A free pattern should contain as much or as little information as the creator of that pattern feels like offering. A for sale pattern should contain ALL the information needed for making the quilt from start to finish, including fabric requirements, cutting directions, block construction, and quilt top assembly instructions. Additional information may include a fabric selection guide, a variety of quilt layout options, a colouring sheet or quilting suggestions.

Anne of Springleaf Studios - As a designer trying to make money from my pattern sales it can be a challenge to compete with all the free patterns available. Most free patterns are fairly straight forward and provide a minimum of instruction. I try to offer more than what you would expect in a free pattern. Things like alternative ways to use the pattern and a coloring page to name a few. I really want the quilter to take my pattern and use it as a starting point to create their own unique version.

I might add that with such easy access to information online these days, I think there can be an assumption that everything online is free. What many people don’t think about is the amount of time it takes to fully develop a pattern. That’s what this series is all about and I hope by the end more quilters will appreciate the effort that goes into publishing patterns. You don’t just write one up in a day.

I especially agree with Yvonne's first paragraph about offering "more" for a paid pattern. Ditto that for Lorna's answer which I think she summed up quite well.

Cheryl of Meadow Mist Designs - For my free patterns, they are almost always one size and contain instructions for one design option.  For example, I might have a free pattern of a lap size quilt using a jelly roll.  If I were to make it into a paid pattern, I would try to expand the number of quilt sizes offered and would probably offer instructions for cutting and piecing from yardage, scraps, and any other pre-cuts that might work along with additional tips and content.

Monday, February 1, 2016

PWS - How to Write a Quilt Pattern - Topic 3 - Turning a Quilt Design into a Pattern

Topic III – Turning a Quilt Design into a Pattern

Once you have your design idea in your mind, it is time to get it onto paper (or the computer).  I tend to start drawing out at least a few blocks on graph paper just to more clearly visualize the design and then I use a quilt design program such as Electric Quilt (EQ7) to play with color, scale, and block repeats.  I tend to go to the computer quicker than some other designers as I really like the ease of being about to quickly change the block (and my drawing skills leave more than a little to the imagination). 

Do not feel that you need to go to the computer at all, nor that you have to have EQ7 to design quilt patterns because you absolutely do not.  You can do all of the quilt design rendering using paper and pencil or a computer program you might already have such as Microsoft PowerPoint™ or Paint™.

A.    Breaking the Design into Blocks

Take a look at your quilt design and find the repeating elements that form the block (or blocks if you quilt contains more than one type of block).  Most of the time, figuring out the blocks will be pretty simple, but if you have a complex design, it might be more challenging.  If you are designing an improvisational or very modern design this might be even more challenging. 

These blocks will form the building blocks for your quilt and pattern.  In Ninja Bears (our example quilt pattern that I am showing the development of throughout the series), the building block of the quilt is the Friendship Star block.  

B.    Even and Odd Numbers of Blocks

If your block is rotated or mirrored within the quilt top like On a “Jelly” Roll (one of my published patterns), then the design typically looks best when the blocks are in even numbers.  See how the same quilt pattern looks when there is an odd number of blocks?  It looks a little as though part of the quilt is missing.

If your blocks are symmetric like our sample quilt Ninja Bears, then you can have an even or odd number of blocks and the design will look cohesive and balanced.

If you have 2 different block types like the design below, the quilt top will most likely (there are a few exceptions) look better with the an odd number of blocks so that the design is book-ended with the same block (such as A - B - A - B - A).

C.    Multiple Quilt Sizes within a Pattern

Should your quilt pattern have more than one size?  There is no right answer to this question, the answer will be determined by block size, complexity, and your personal preference.  (Our guest designers are also going to be weighing in on this question in the Round Table discussion on Wednesday.)

In my opinion, for a free pattern all that is expected is one size.  In a for sale pattern, it is definitely not required, but is looked upon favorably for a pattern to have more than one size.  When I polled pattern purchasers, most said that having multiple sizes increased the value of the pattern for them and made the pattern more useful. 

Some of my own patterns are available in 5 sizes and some are only available in a single size or two.  The size options provided in my patterns depend on the pattern and whether the designs lend themselves to alternative sizes. 

To keep our quilt pattern for this series more simple, the Ninja Bears quilt pattern will contain instructions for only a baby sized quilt.  However, if this was a "real" for-sale pattern, I would probably offer this pattern in 5 sizes, baby, lap, twin, queen, and king (and probably additional fabric options too).

D.    Two Ways to Make Multiple Sized Quilts

There are two main methods to scale your patterns for different sized quilts.  The first is the more common where you simply make more blocks to increase the size of the quilt. 

For example, if you had a 12” square (finished) block, you might design a 4 block x 4 block baby quilt which would measure 48” x 48”.  If you wanted to also include a lap sized quilt you might go with a 5 block x 6 block design for a 60” x 72”.  To include both of these sizes, your quilt pattern would contain instructions for 16 blocks (for the baby quilt) and 30 blocks (for the lap quilt).

The second method to scale your patterns for different sized quilts is to scale the block.  Starting with the same baby quilt as before (4 block x 4 block arrangement of 12” square blocks for a 48” x 48” baby quilt), you could increase the size of the block 1.5 times.  This would result in an 18” square block which would make a 72” x 72” lap sized quilt.

Which method you use to scale you patterns depends on the pattern and your personal preference.  I would recommend that within a pattern you only use one of the methods.  If you try to change the size of the pattern by changing number of blocks for some sizes and block size for other quilt sizes, your pattern is going to get lengthy and complicated very quickly.

E.    Borders or Not?

Borders can be added to a quilt for a variety of reasons.  It could be that the quilt design looked better with framing or extra space to breathe, or needed to be enlarged to a particular size.  You can play around with your design by adding a narrow or wide border, or even multiple borders.

In our sample quilt, I did not want the points of the stars to be chopped off by the binding so I added a small border (2” finished) on all sides of the quilt.

F.    Determining the Size of the Block

Most traditional quilt blocks tend to be between 6” and 18” (finished), as these blocks have been found to be big enough to not have tiny piecing and yet are not too large to be unwieldy.  Blocks do not have to be square, but could be rectangular, or even triangular or other shapes.  

One factor in considering the block dimensions is the size of the smallest piece within the block.  If your block is made up of half square triangles, you probably do not want them finishing at 1”square, but maybe 2” to 4” square.  Figuring out the size of the smallest feature of the block will sometimes help determine the size of the full block.

G.    My Design Process for Ninja Bears

I made the Ninja Bears quilt a couple of years ago for friend's new baby.  I had a charm pack of Bernstein Bears I wanted to use, was on a tight timeline so I wanted a quick finish, and knew it had to be a baby size.  With those parameters, I started to brainstorm quilt designs.

I looked through one of my favorite quilt block book's, "The Quilter's Album of Patchwork Patterns" (non-affiliate link) for some inspiration and came across the Friendship Star block which looked like it fit the bill.

To figure out the block sizes, I looked at the layout of the block.  Each block is made of 9 squares, a 3 x 3 grid containing 5 square fabric pieces and 4 HST (half square triangles).  By changing the size of the squares within the grid I can quickly scale the design:

Size of each square within the block
Finished size of block
(square size x 3)

I decided to go with a 12" (finished) block so that each of the pieces within the block were 4" (finished) so I could make them with my charm pack (and the HST are a decent size (4” x 4”)).  

I settled on making my quilt in a 3 block by 4 block layout for a total of 12 blocks.  I added a small border to the quilt so that the points of the stars would not be cut off by the binding.   As an added bonus, the width of the quilt was about 40” (3 x 12” block + 2” border + 2” border) so I could use a single width of fabric for the backing (because I really dislike piecing backings). 

12” is a very popular size for a quilt block and a nice balance between a small and large block.  I could have also made the quilt using 4 blocks finishing at 9” across the quilt which would result in the same width as the 3 blocks finishing at 12”.  I went with the 12” because there were less blocks to piece and the ability to use my charm pack precut to make the quilt.

And that was how I decided on the block and quilt size for Ninja Bears.  As you can see, you can create an almost endless number of quilts just by varying the size and number of blocks.  

C.    Fabric Options

One question to consider when planning out your block size is are your blocks or any component of your blocks able to be made with precuts, like in Ninja Bears? (Precuts being fabric of a single color or a fabric collection that is sold already cut down to a certain size like 5” squares or 2 ½” x width of fabric strips).  You might consider amending your quilt block size to accommodate these popular quilting fabrics as precut friendly tend to be very popular.

I hope that this post helps you start to take your quilt design, break it down into blocks, and start figuring out block and quilt sizes!  The series will be back on Wednesday with a guest designer round table discussion around multiple sizes in quilt patterns and the difference between free and for sale quilt patterns.  All of the posts are linked in the Pattern Writing Series Tab above.