How to Write Your First Pattern in 6 Steps

You might think that you need a whole bunch of fancy software to put together a professional-looking pattern, but it just isn’t true! You can put together a great-looking pattern using what you probably already have on your computer!

I’m going to assume that you already have written a clear set of pattern instructions, and I’ll give you tips to turn those instructions into a beautiful pattern!

Step 1: Take fabulous photos

You don’t need an expensive camera! You just need your product, some good lighting and a regular point-and-shoot camera.

Rainbow socks

If you’re not rock-solid on your photography yet, check out my 5 Photography Tips and my detailed write-up of how to create a seamless white background.

The secret to good photography is taking oodles of photos. You can always delete ones you don’t like, but you want to maximize your chances of snagging that perfect one!

Don’t forget that in addition to the cover photo, you’ll want to take photos that show off any detail work or unique features of your design.

Step 2: Select your format

Chances are, you have a word processing program like Microsoft Word on you computer… great! You can use it for formatting your pattern!

Have a look at the features your program offers. Go to File > New. Is there an option of using a template? A template can be a great way to get started with the design of your pattern.

Screen Shot of Template

If you don’t want to go the route of the template, think about setting key elements of the pattern apart with simple design elements. Perhaps your materials listing could go in a colored text box. headers) to break up the text. Keep in mind that many people find a huge, solid block of text difficult to read, so use design elements (and headers) to break it up.

Step 3: Insert your photos

To insert your photo into a document, go to Insert > Picture, and pop in your selected photo.

Formatting a sock pattern

Take a look at the top of the screen after you’ve inserted your photo… do you see formatting options? In my version of Word (above), you can see a variety of picture formatting settings: such as changing the shape of the photo or adding a border. This is an easy way to add a personalized style to your photos.

Step 4: Add your information

Do you want to add copyright information? How about putting your email address on the pattern so customers with questions can contact you? Or maybe you’d like to include your website?

Don’t forget these details… remember that the pattern instructions are a way to communicate with your customer! You want to make things easy for them… don’t make them hunt you down if they have a question!

Step 5: Try a font!

Once you have your text and photos in… you’re finished (and can skip to step 6)! This step is optional, and just adds a little extra to your pattern!

I’m a big fan of fun fonts, and downloading a new font is a great way to add your own sense of style.

try a font at

My favorite website for browsing new fonts is There are two things to keep in mind.

One, be sure to read the conditions on the the particular font you’re interested in: fonts designed for personal use only aren’t intended to be used for commercial purposes. (…just like patterns!)

Two, most people find fancy fonts in the text difficult to read, so keep the fun stuff to headers and titles.

Step 6: Make a PDF

PDF stands for ‘portable document format’, and it’s called that because it’s a file that shows up exactly the same on every computer. You’ll want to convert your document into this format before it’s ready for distribution.

Fortunately, this is easy! In the old days, you needed fancy additional software, but now, it’s as easy as going to Print in your Word Processor and selecting Adobe PDF as your printer.

The result is your pattern… that’s ready to distribute!

Are you ready?

You shouldn’t let fear of technology or lack of a graphic designing degree keep you from putting together a pretty pattern that you can be proud of!

I hope I’ve encouraged you to give it a shot!


Spreading the Love of Crochet Design

I teach people to crochet. More specifically, I’m very keen on teaching folks how to crochet adorable stuffed animals. I also teach crocheters how to create their own stuffed animal designs.

teaching crochet at craftsy

This last aspect of my chosen career has raised some eyebrows. I’ve been asked, “Aren’t you diluting your brand by teaching others to crochet like you?” and “Aren’t you creating your own competition?”. Wow. Big questions.

Today, I’m going to chat about my answers to questions, and share with you the reason I teach design: because folks from my classes are becoming designers and releasing their own patterns… and that makes me ecstatic! Isn’t that why teachers teach? To see students put to practice what they learned? I think it is!

FAQ: Fears about teaching design

I understand where these fears come from. It’s tough to make a living selling $5 patterns, and so there’s a natural defensiveness that can arise.

But I don’t think of my job as competitive. My job is to publish high-quality crochet patterns featuring designs in my own, unique style. And people who like my style might buy my patterns.

It’s hard for me to get my tail feathers in a ruffle when a new designer comes along. Miss New Designer has her own style! Some people will like it, and that’s okay. People will still like my patterns.

I’ll answer a couple of frequently asked questions.

Q: Don’t you think that teaching other people to design in your style will dilute your brand?

No, I don’t.

First, I teach certain techniques (like crocheting through the back loop and crocheting spiral rounds) because I think these create a better crochet fabric & overall design. In my opinion, these are techniques for your crochet toolbox, not ‘secrets’ of my style. I wasn’t the first person to ever use the back loop in crocheting, and I won’t be the last!

Second, ‘my style’ is something that’s difficult to teach or copy. My style is the ideas that pop into my head. My style is my judgement call about whether a nose looks better attached to round 8 or 10. I’m not trying to teach ‘my style’ because I’m not sure that I could! What I teach is methods for allowing crocheters to express their own style in the form of a unique design and, if they want, a crochet pattern.

Third, my brand is more than just my designs. My brand is a reputation for incredibly clear and photo-rich crochet patterns. It’s my commitment to replying to questions via email in a quick and helpful manner. It’s my blog, full of tutorials and videos. None of those things are diluted by teaching others to design.

Aren’t you afraid you’ll sell fewer patterns if there are more designers?

Not really. Keep in mind: there are always going to be more designers! You can’t stop that.

A revised question might be: can there be too many crochet stuffed animal designers? And I don’t think so. There’s a very interesting phenomenon that happens: the more people do something, the bigger the niche grows.

I’ll give you an example. Let’s pretend you were a computer manufacturer in 1980. You were probably one of the only two manufacturers in existence. But, there were only a few thousand people using computers. What happened over time? The more manufactures built computers, the more customers bought computers. Which meant that owning a computer was more useful: more friends had them and more software was being made. The entire niche grew. Now there are dozens of manufactures, but there are billions of users. The number of customers per manufacturer has increased, despite increased competition.

And that’s how crocheting is. It’s a myth that there are x number of crocheters out there that us designers are fighting for. As more people crochet, it’s more likely someone will think, “hmm… my friend makes those cute animals, maybe I’ll give it a try!” We’re constantly adding to the pool of crocheters.

Is someone going to steal your designs?

Here’s another truth: if someone is steal your design, they’re going to do it. In fact, oodles of crocheters already have the skills to copy a design, even without the benefit of my fabulous teaching skills.

I’m not making the problem any worse by teaching crocheters to design. I’m training crocheters to come up with their own designs! To put in yarn ideas that come from their own heads! If anything, I think I’m solving the problem of knock-off-ing.

Anyway, every student I’ve had (in real life or online) has been a real joy. Once we’ve spent hours together, it feels like we’re friends. If anything, it’s my students who are the most protective in online forums about my rights as a designer. Because we’ve built a relationship of trust. They’re not in it to steal my designs or hurt me!

Meet who makes me happy!

Okay, now onto the fun stuff!

I want to introduce you to two ladies who make me deliriously happy. They’re students of mine who are budding designers!


Hollie is a sweetie, who also happens to be one of the moderators in the FreshStitches Ravelry group. She’s the one who puts together the amazing swaps that happen in the group, and also the one who surprised me with the FreshStitches Cowl that I chatted about as being one of my fave pieces.

Introductions aside, Hollie just published her first pattern this week!

Triceratops lovey crochet design

It’s a Triceratops Lovey… and isn’t it amazing? The triceratops is just stinkin’ adorable, and the detail on the lovey is fantastic. I couldn’t be more thrilled!

Love Hollie? Check out the lovey, find Hollie on Ravelry and check out Hollie’s blog!


If you follow this blog, you know Alyssa! She’s the author of the much-loved What does Amigurumi Mean? blog post and also winner of the Slug-a-long. Alyssa is a smartie with a fabulous photographic and styling eye.

Alyssa also just completed her first design:

amigurumi crochet horse

An adorable horse! It’s still in the pattern-development stage, but rumor has it that it’ll be released as a pattern next month. So exciting!

Love Alyssa? find Alyssa on Ravelry!

Do you see why I do what I do?

With great students like this… teaching is such a fabulous experience!

how to design crochet class

If you think you’d like to give designing a shot (even if it’s just for your own fun!), come over to my Design Your Own Monster class!

Looking back at one of my biggest FOs: Crocheted Softies!

It’s Finished Object Friday!

As you may have surmised from this week’s Work-in-Progress post, I don’t have anything finished that I can actually show you…

But, do you know what today is? It’s the 1 year anniversary of the release of Crocheted Softies! Talk about a big FO!

So today, I’m going to take a little look back and chat about my goals and how I chose the projects for the book!

My goals for Crocheted Softies

There are quite a few books of crocheted stuffed animal patterns out on the market. When designing my book, I wanted to make sure it was special and unique, so I set a few goals. I wanted to make sure that:

  • the book contained patterns for large, cuddly animals suitable for children to play with (many books available focus on teeny-tiny animals)
  • the book included Earth-friendly yarns, since one and two-skein projects are an excellent time to experiment with new fibers!
  • a newbie crocheter could pick up Crocheted Softies and make an animal
  • a crocheter of any level could find a project that is interesting and learn something new!

Selecting the projects

To meet these goals (the last two in particular), I had to put a lot of thought into selecting projects. I thought about what sorts of skills a crocheter might want to learn (from easiest to hardest) and then designed an animal that incorporated each one of these skills. Let’s take a peek!

The basics: single crocheting, increasing & decreasing

It can be daunting to start on a big project, so the simplest project in the book is also the smallest: Kai the Kiwi.

All photos courtesy of Martingale Publishing
This adorable little guy is a great project to start on (small, simple shaping, few pieces to attach) and also gave me the opportunity to use a yarn from New Zealand (that’s where Kiwis live!): Zealana Kia Ora Rimu DK. This yarn is made from New Zealand Merino and possum. The possums in New Zealand are an invasive species, and culling them for yarn saves the kiwi’s habitats! Isn’t that so poetic?

Practice attaching pieces, without complicated stitching

Many people tell me that attaching pieces is their least favorite part of making animals… so it’s helpful to get a little practice on a cutie that doesn’t require complicated stitching.

That’s why I designed this adorable owl: the stitches aren’t any harder than is required for the kiwi… but there are more pieces, so you’ll quickly gain confidence when putting him together.

And don’t you just hate buying three skeins of yarn for one project… and then having lots of leftovers? I designed this owl so that you could make all three of the owls with only 3 skeins of yarn! By using the main color of one owl as the contrast color of another… you use up the skeins perfectly!

(I thought it was very clever…)

Changing Colors

Changing colors is a skill that you’ll need for a variety of crochet projects! And, it’s a fun way to add character, so I put quite a few ‘color-changing’ projects in the book.

Maple the Moose is a great way to ease in to changing colors: each of his limbs just require one color change (going from the black of the ‘hoof’ to the brown of his ‘leg’):

The next level up in working color changes is to execute stripes… check out Fins!

And once a crocheter has mastered those skills, they’re ready for working color changes multiple times over the entire piece, as you do for the patches of the giraffe:

By working through these patterns, a crocheter would end up with a bundle of awesome color-changing skills in their pocket! And what’s better than feeling fully confident with changing colors? It’s a boost that’ll let you tackle a whole variety of (non-stuffed animal) projects!

Shaping with slip stitches

Aside from shaping by using increases and decreases, I wanted to include a project that used slip stitches to accomplish the shaping. This technique creates the curvy body of Slithers the Snake:

Doesn’t he look fun?

Shaping with short rows

Another technique for shaping is using short rows. I designed Tuskegee the Walrus, which uses short rows to achieve the curve of his body:

Shaping with short rows allows you to create a sharper bend than is possible with slip stitch shaping. It’s also a technique that will pop up in garments such as socks and some sweaters. I thought, ‘what better way to practice than on a stuffed animal that doesn’t need to fit anyone?’!

The loop stitch

Who doesn’t want to add a little bit of texture to a crochet piece? The loop stitch is a super-fun stitch that creates a fabulous look. It can feel like a lot to learn, though, so I made sure to include a project with very little shaping, so crocheters could just practice the loop stitch:

And then, you could try your hand at the alpaca, which uses the loop stitch and shaping:

The alpacas are crocheted with 100% natural alpaca yarn… giggle!

The bobble stitch

I created (at least, I haven’t seen it anywhere else!) a bobble stitch that can be used on stuffed animals, since it doesn’t leave a hole in the fabric like many other bobble/popcorn stitches. I wanted to use this stitch, so I had to come up with an animal that would have bumpy skin…

It’s a crocodile! The perfect excuse to use those bobbles!

Joining pieces by crocheting

Another technique I knew I wanted to include was joining separate pieces by crocheting them together. This is how I designed Zork the Alien’s eyes:

My hope is that this is a technique crocheters will fall in love with, and use on their own projects and designs!

Would you feel confident?

If you mastered all of these techniques, would you feel like a more confident crocheter? More willing to tackle patterns? My hope is that you’re saying, “Yes, I would!”!

There are more patterns!

Did you know that there were supposed to be 2 more patterns in the book? But that they got cut for space reasons?

And now… (this is exciting) those missing patterns are available for free!

One of these is M. Richard the Whale:

And he’s available as a free download from Martingale. (Do you like the name? Get it? M. Richard… think about that for a minute.)

The second is Hugo the hippo, available as part of Crochet Me’s free Amigurumi ebook!

Go ahead and grab those patterns!

Join in on the Crocheted Softies fun!

I’ve had a total blast in the year following the release of Crocheted Softies. It’s been wonderful getting emails from all over the world from people who have discovered/rekindled their love of crochet with my book! One of the highlights was when I found out that Adriana crocheted all 18 projects from the book! How awesome is that?

Crocheting doesn’t have to be hard or stressful… with the right tools (and I’m hoping the super-illustration-ful introduction of my book is one of them), you can develop the skills you need to make crocheting a fun part of your life!

So, thank you, everyone for loving Crocheted Softies and filling my year with fabulous projects and comments! If you don’t have it… maybe you should put it on this year’s Christmas list!

Thanks for stopping by and reading!

If you want to see more great finished items… make sure to visit Tami’s Amis blog, the organizer of this great FO Friday theme!

I hope you have an awesome and craft-filled weekend! I’m making it a goal to put some serious thought into my holiday crafting…

How to get started selling at craft fairs

Remember when I chatted about the results of the reader survey? And I even came up with an action plan, based on what you wanted to hear more of. One thing on that plan?

Increase the number of posts about the business side of things: from designing to selling your finished items.

You got it!


In thinking about how to get you more juicy information on the topic, I thought of Cintia Gonzales-Pell, who is the crafty genius behind MyPoppet.

Not only that, she’s the co-author of The Craft of Markets: how to achieve market stall success. It’s a great book that’ll set you on the right track for selling at a craft fair.

Cintia has been sweet enough to pop over and provide her top 5 tips for getting started at a craft fair! And then scroll down for my review of her book!

Five tips for getting started at a craft fair

by Cintia

So you like to make things? Maybe you’ve considered selling some of your craft. Well there is a whole world of markets and fairs out there waiting for you to dive right in. But before you jump into the deep end, a little bit of planning will help your market experience be a successful one.

Here are some tips to help you get started:

1. Think about why you would like to have a craft stall.
Do you want to market your business, make friends or make money? If your goal is to make the big bucks at a holiday-show, then you’ll spend much of your energy in the lead-up making sure you have plenty of stock. If your goal is networking, then you might want to be sure to email some people in advance to get your contacts off to a start.

By understanding your motives, you’ll be better able to plan for the show, and also enjoy the experience a whole lot more!

2. Choose the right style of fair for you.
Think about your product and lifestyle, and select a fair that seems suited to your craft. For example, you don’t want your product to be outrageously expensive or dirt cheap compared to the other sellers. Also, fitting in with your fellow sellers is a sign that the audience at the show is the sort of customer you’re interested in.

Attend lots of markets to see what the best fit is. Know that this will take a little trial and error!

3. When pricing your products aim for ‘good value’ not ‘cheap’.

Remember to price your product fairly for the customer AND yourself. You are selling your craft as a way to sustain your livelihood!

4. Plan how you will display your product and practice the set up at home to see if the layout works practically.

You want your display to shine from far away (it’ll draw customers in!) and set up so that items are easy for the customer to find. Keep in mind that you’ll have a limited-size stall, will need to chat with customers, store extra stock and run the cash register. Practice makes perfect!

5. The most important thing is ‘Have Fun!’ Be proud of your product and your enthusiasm will rub off on your customers. Enough said.

Markets are a wonderful introduction into selling your products, and often lead to other interesting opportunities. My market experiences started my journey into the retail and blogging world, and the friends and connections I’ve made along the way have been invaluable.

Where will your journey take you?

Are you a market newbie? Get the guide!

You may notice that the cover of the book says ‘from an Australian perspective’. Don’t let that scare you!

Australians may talk different (compared to us Americans) and watch funny sports (cricket, anyone?), but neither of those things are terribly important for grabbing the good information in this book. It’s full of helpful tips and ideas that, in my opinion, are applicable world-wide.

There are a couple words that might throw you off, so just to help you out, I’ll give you a little Australian-American dictionary: (in the order in which they appear in the book)

  • marquee = tent
  • bookings = reservations
  • Eftpos facilities = ATM/accepting a debit card
  • piles of washing = piles of laundry
  • dressmakers busts = dress forms
  • pin board = bulletin board
  • bar-be-que (barbie) = grill
  • trolly = dolly/cart
  • gumboots = rainboots
  • bum bag = fanny pack
  • Layby = lay away

Phew! Glad all that time I spend in Australia has come in handy!

Now that those worries are aside, I can chat about the actual book!

Why craft fairs?

This is the only book I’ve seen specifically aimed at advice for selling at craft fairs. Sure, many craft-business books include a little section on selling at fairs, but the advice is rarely comprehensive.

You may ask… why is it so important to spend so much time talking about craft fairs? Here’s the thing: craft fairs are an entirely different animal than other types of selling (in store, online). You’ll need to worry about:

  • the application process
  • the logistics of lugging tables/racks/product to a site for only a day
  • creating a display that shows off your product
  • accepting payment in person

All of these things are details that sellers with an online store totally avoid. So, if you’re interested in selling at a craft fair (which can be a great way to grow your customer base!), then this is stuff you’ll need to know.

The book is full of practical advice (you can tell these girls have done it before!). I’d recommend this book to anyone who’s even thinking of having a stall, since it contains information about how to decide if applying to a craft fair is right for your business.

Love Cintia? Love the book?

Cintia is a Crafter and Blogger and has many years of craft market experience under her belt. You can find her at My Poppet sharing one colorful crafty project a week.

You can buy the e-book The Craft of Markets from the My Poppet shop.

Thanks so much, Cintia, for coming by and giving us your tips!

Better Photography: creating a seamless white background

I’m really excited to be taking part in the Better Photography Blog Hop! I’ve joined some crafty geniuses: Diane from CraftyPod, Haley from The Zen of Making, Michele from Michele Made Me and Megan from Rad Megan’s… and we’re each sharing our great photo tips!

Scroll down to the end of this post to get links to each post this week!

Today, I’m going to show you how to get a seamless white background, with just a white posterboard and photo-editing software.

Why a white background?

When you’re running a handmade business, there are two important considerations for taking quality product photos:

  • Each photo needs to clearly show your product
  • Your photos should be consistent across your webpage/shop

I find a white background to be the easiest way to meet these criteria. It’s possible to find a lovely, non-distracting fabric as the background, but taking consistent photos with a patterned background requires much more photographic skill than using a white background.

And you know what? I’m not a photographer. I design crochet patterns… so I need something easy! And this is it… so follow along!

A note about software

I’m not going to try to pull the wool over your eyes… I have fancy photo-editing software. (I use Adobe Photoshop CS3) With the number of photos I need to process, it made sense for me to splurge and purchase it.

However, it may not be worth it to you… that’s a personal decision. Fortunately, many of the tricks I’m going to show you use tools that are available on freebie photo editors (PicMonkey is a great one).

So, don’t fret if you don’t have expensive photo-editing software. Follow the key steps on whatever software you’re using, and you’ll still get great white backgrounds!

The setup

Ready for the materials list? Here’s what you’ll need:

  • a white piece of posterboard
  • your camera
  • the thing you want to photograph
  • some natural light

Seriously. That’s all. Here’s the photo of the setup I used for the photo I’ll be editing today:

You can read some more details about setting up the posterboard and snapping the photos in this blog post. I live in a often-cloudy climate where I’m able to get great indirect lighting on my porch. But, if you don’t, you’ll want to read Megan’s post on creating a light box.

Keep in mind: the better your photo is, the less editing you’ll need to do. And there’s no editing that can fix a blurry or way-poorly-lit photo, so snap the best one you can!

Step 1: Change the Exposure

So, you’ve snapped your photo… here’s what mine looked like:

See how the background looks grey? Not good.

Open your picture up in your photo editing software:

Click on any of the photos in this post to enlarge
Your goal is to use the tools in the software to get the background as close to white as possible… without making the item you photographed look funny.

The first thing I like to do is run ‘Auto Contrast’. This isn’t required, but it tends to make the background whiter and the product a little sharper. On Photoshop, it’s under Image>Adjustments>Auto Contrast.

Here’s what my photo looks like after Auto Contrast:

See? The background’s a little whiter. You may also try ‘Auto Levels’, but depending on the color of your item, this tool can significantly alter the color, so it may not be best.

Okay, now we want to make even more of the background white. To do this, we’re going to increase the Exposure, which is under Image>Adjustments>Exposure.

When you click, a little dialog box will come up:

Fiddle with the exposure, increasing it until you get as much background to look white as possible… without making the item look washed-out. Here’s how mine turned out:

This step is an art… there’s no ‘right number’ that’s going to work. Just keep playing with it!

Step 2: Clean up the edges

My photo looks pretty good… but we’re not quite at the point where the background is perfectly white. To do this, we’re going to need to do some touch-up with a brush.

Now, you’ll select the brush (it looks like a paintbrush in the toolbar), set the color to white and pick the features of your brush:

For the ‘brush feature’, I like to pick a brush with a fuzzy edge:

This makes it easier color around the edges of your item and make it look natural.

So… go ahead and paint everything in the background to look white!

Some tips:

  • Pay particular attention to the corners: these tend to be the darkest parts of the photo
  • Be cautious when it comes to shadow: you may want to leave the existing shadow in place. It can be difficult to remove and still have the item look natural.
  • If you’re having to do a lot of painting, this might be a clue that the exposure needs to be higher (see step 1).

If you’re painting close to the item, you might want to zoom in and use a smaller brush:

Ta da!

Here’s how mine looks when I’m done!


As I said before, the better your photos are to start with, the less editing you’ll need to do. So, it’s worth taking the time to find a location with good lighting and become familiar with the exposure settings on your camera. If you take a fabulous photo, you’ll probably only need to paint the corners white to have a totally white background.

Give it a try!

I hope you give this tutorial a try! I’m sure that with a little practice, you’ll be able to take great photos with seamless white backgrounds.

And be sure to visit the other posts in the blog hop this week… such great photo tips!

Patterns & the sale of finished items, one designer’s perspective

I began designing crochet patterns 4 years ago this month (whoa!). Soon after I began selling patterns, I received the question:

Oh, dear. I hadn’t thought about that! So, I looked online to see what other designers did.

The majority of designers did not allow customers to sell the finished items made from their patterns. In fact, the policy seems to spread beyond indie designers: take a peek at the copyright notice in a pattern book or the small print on a McCall’s sewing pattern that you buy from the craft store.

The message is the same:

Surely these experienced companies must know something really important, right?

I, a newbie designer, followed suit. I replied to my customers that my patterns were for personal use, only. (don’t worry… this story has a happy ending, so keep reading!)

The Fear Factor

Why don’t many designers permit customers to sell finished items from their patterns? Let’s take a look at some of the reasons I read:

  • Allowing customers to sell finished items allows factories in China to mass-produce your design, making millions of dollars and stealing your potential customers.
  • If you allow a customer to sell finished items from your pattern, they could make thousands! And they only gave you $5! That’s not fair!
  • What if you allow a customer to sell items made from your pattern, but the crocheter has very poor craftsmanship. Then this will reflect poorly on your design.
  • If someone sells items from your pattern, it takes away customers who will buy the finished items you make!
  • Allowing people to sell items from your pattern promotes the illegal copying/distribution of your pattern.

Boy… the designing world is suddenly a very scary place, isn’t it?

Everything I read suggested that if you allow customers to sell items made from your pattern, you’re signing the death certificate of your design company. Scary stuff!

But… do any of the items listed above seem a bit extreme? Uh, yeah… they did to me, too.

Having a serious think about the problem

After a while (as I gained confidence as a designer), it became less clear to me that prohibiting the sale of finished items from my patterns was the right thing to do. So, I looked at all of the reasons I read about, and had a really serious think about them.

Below are my thoughts about each of the points mentioned above.

Allowing customers to sell finished items allows factories in China to mass-produce your design, making millions of dollars and stealing your potential customers.

This is a really common fear amongst designers: that a factory in China (or Vietnam or wherever) will snatch up your design and mass-produce it without your permission. We see these knock-offs happening to designers of red-carpet gowns the day after an awards show.

But, here’s the important question for our discussion: is allowing customers to sell items made from your pattern make knock-offs any more likely? My opinion is: no. Firstly, the knock-offs that happen are knock-offs precisely because they are copying your design, meaning they don’t care if they have your permission or not. Put differently, your design can be stolen at any time. Secondly, if you allow customers to sell finished items, you are not also licensing out the mass-production of your design.

Finally, crochet is notoriously difficult to mass-produce. So even if a factory fell in love with my design, it’s unlikely it would be profitable for them to reproduce it. They would turn to a knitted/sewn design, instead.

If you allow a customer to sell finished items from your pattern, they could make thousands! And they only gave you $5! That’s not fair!

Let’s get serious. No one is becoming rich by hand-crocheting items from home. In fact, I frequently talk about how to make a profit at all!

The fairness issue is something to mull over. Some designers license their patterns to crafters. For example, if you wanted to sell owls, you might be charged a ‘cottage-industry fee’ (maybe $50) to get permission to sell items made from my owl pattern.

To resolve this issue for myself, I had to think about my customers. I made up a customer, Zoe:

Zoe represents my typical customer. She loves to crochet, and her family and friends have asked her to make some stuffed animals for them. Because she values her time, she wants to charge for making a stuffed animal. Let’s pretend that I charge her a fee. One of three things will happen:

  • Zoe will think the fee isn’t worth it, and will use another pattern that permits her to sell the finished items without a fee.
  • Zoe will decide that the fee is too expensive, so instead of charging for her hard work, she will give the animals away so that she isn’t ‘selling’ them.
  • Zoe will pay the fee, significantly reducing her profit.

You see… most of my customers want to sell just a few finished products. Charging a fee would significantly impact their product.

And realistically, I want them to use my pattern! I love seeing people make items from my patterns. Why drive them away from my patterns by charging?

What if you allow a customer to sell items made from your pattern, but the crocheter has very poor craftsmanship. Then this will reflect poorly on your design.

Hmm… I suppose this is true. But frankly, people will crochet what they crochet and post the photos online regardless of whether or not they are selling them. And they’ll link to your pattern. Not sure what you can do about that.

The flip side is true, too! Customers will post beautiful photos as well! And oftentimes, the crocheter is happy to let you post the photo on your company’s Facebook page.

A photo of my Tino the Turtle, crocheted by Adriana. Just one of the many beautiful customer photos I get!
In my opinion, the solution is to promote the lovely photos instead of attempting to disconnect yourself from your patterns.

If someone sells items from your pattern, it takes away customers who will buy the finished items you make!

How severely this ‘scare’ affects you depends on your business model. My business is to sell patterns. I actually don’t have time to make many finished items for sale. So, if others sell finished items, it doesn’t take business away from me!

In fact, others selling finished items actually increases my business, because more crocheters are buying my patterns!

Allowing people to sell items from your pattern promotes the illegal copying/distribution of your pattern.

Uhh… I’ve read this a lot, but I just don’t understand how it could be true. People make illegal pdfs. But this is totally unrelated to whether or not you allow crocheters to sell finished items.

My policy

Have I busted all of those scary scenarios? I hope so!

I decided that, for my business, it was actually beneficial to allow customers to sell finished items from my patterns. Why?

  • It results in increased pattern sales: from customers who choose my patterns over others because I permit the sale of items.
  • I benefit from the increased number of projects connected to my patterns. If a crocheter makes 20 owl for sale, those 20 owls are listed on Ravelry, making my pattern more popular.
  • Customers are often keen to share their photos with me, and posting these additional photos on my Facebook page shows the variety of colors that look great in my pattern!
  • I am personally passionate about helping crocheters make a fair wage from their handiwork. By not charging a licensing fee, I am contributing to making stitching a viable wage-earning job.
  • I couldn’t find any reason not to allow folks to sell the items!

So here’s my policy: You are welcome to sell items from my pdf patterns. I ask that you include a note about the item being a ‘FreshStitches Design’ on the tag (at a craft fair) or a link to my shop (in an online store like Etsy).

It makes me happy. It makes my customers happy. What could be better?

Chime in!

Are you a designer? What’s your policy and why?

Are you a crocheter? How does the ability to sell finished items affect your pattern purchases?

I want to hear!


How I designed 10 monsters (without getting bored)!

Do you want to know the question I’m asked most often?

No kidding. Almost everyone asks me this. It was actually the only downside that my husband brought up when I began designing. “Aren’t you going to run out?”

In fact, the inverse is true: the more I design, the more ideas I get!

The key: flourish in the constraints

Do you watch Project Runway? Most of the time, the participating clothing designers are given difficult constraints: like designing a garment using $250 of candy.

And what challenge to contestants usually say is hardest? The one with the least constraints. While you might think it’s freeing to be able to do whatever you want… it’s actually debilitating. How do you know what to do? What criteria do you use to make your choices?

In my designs, I set a lot of constraints:

  • The yarns must be commercially available and easily substituted.
  • There can be no more than one technically complicated stitch (for example, the loop or bobble stitch)
  • Overall, the design must be accessible to a crocheter who has accomplished one simple amigurumi, and is open to learning a new skill.
  • Any new technique that I use must be accompanied by a video/descriptive blog post to assist my customers.

Why do I do this? I began placing these constraints so that my customer would receive the best possible pattern. With these constraints in place, my customers are guaranteed that:

  • they won’t get lost in a pattern due to insufficient photos/videos/help.
  • the quality of the finished product isn’t dependent on non-quantifiable artistic skills (because I have none!). If they follow the directions (attach to round 25), then their finished product will look lovely!
  • the pattern is accessible to their skill level and fun (uh… no color changes with a loop stitch and attaching felt pieces at the same time!)

This makes customers happy. But, over time, I discovered… the constraints make my designing happy!

The tale of 10 monsters

A few months ago, I was asked by Knitting Fever (the distributor of Ella Rae Classic, a yarn I frequently use in my designs) to design 10 monsters for distribution on their site.

Now… you get to ask that gem of a question: how do you design 10 monsters without getting bored?!? And, how do you come up with 10 different monsters?

I’m not going to fib… the number 10 even had me a little worried. After all, I’ve taught a course on designing your own monsters (which included patterns for about 7 monsters), and I couldn’t repeat any of those!

I started sketching…

As I was sketching, I knew it was not only important that I didn’t feel bored with my monsters, but that a customer would really want to crochet all 10… and love every minute of it! That meant that every monster needed a purpose: a novel shape or technique. And what’s that? More constraints!

In the end, I came up with 10 that I really loved:

And some that didn’t make the cut:

Among the winners were some great techniques, shapes and skills that I new customers would be excited about:

  • Legs that are joined as you crochet, instead of the usual stitch-them-on-afterwards
  • A ruffle!
  • Stripes that make use of stranding as you change colors
  • A fun rectangular-shape that uses working the bottom side of the foundation chain to begin
  • A monster that begins with a long chain: and not the standard circle
  • Funny antennae that make use of pipe cleaners for structure
  • Crocheted-on mouths with (simple triangle) felt teeth

All of these features (at least I hoped!) would make the crocheting exciting, but also teach the crocheter a skill that they could apply to other animals. Don’t like the mouth on a pattern? Now you’ll know how to crochet a smile and stick on a felt tooth!

Once I had my faves, I colored in my sketches so I could figure out which colors of yarn I’d like to use:

So does this mean that I could design another 10 monsters? I don’t know… maybe! But I can say that what helped me is coming up with specific goals (aka constraints) that I wanted each design to accomplish.

The finished monsters

Here’s the whole gang… do you like them?

I hope you do!

And you can have them all!

All 10 of these patterns are available as free downloads from Knitting Fever! Isn’t that awesome?

I really hope that you grab them and enjoy the process of crocheting these fun monsters!

Thanks for stopping by and reading!

If you want to see more great finished items… make sure to visit Tami’s Amis blog, the organizer of this great FO Friday theme!

I hope you have an awesome and craft-filled weekend!

5 Surprising Reasons Your Handmade Biz isn’t Making Money

I’ve talked before about pricing and selling handmade items, but the same principles apply to handmade businesses of all varieties. Because you may have missed it, I’ll summarize some key points here.

Here’s the kicker: whether you make items for sale, sell instructions/patterns for handmade items or are a teacher of a crafting skill, there are a few common roadblocks to earning the money you deserve. Warning: they may surprise you!

Reason #1: Your prices are too low

Counter-intuitive, isn’t it?

Here’s the thing: people often their perception of quality on what they pay. Think about it: if you were given the option of having a steak dinner at a restaurant for $3, what would be your first thoughts about the dinner? The restaurant?

You’re not assuming that you’re getting a lovely meal, are you? And why not? Because your alarm bells are telling you that the price is too low for a high-quality product. Not only are you going to assume the food is crappy, but you’re probably going to walk away from the entire restaurant. Who wants to go somewhere that serves (potentially unsafe) food?

Solution: Evaluate your prices

I’m not saying that you should to raise your prices just for the sake of it. But, you should ensure that you’re charging the correct amount… and not selling yourself short.

Do a market analysis. See what others who are selling comparable products are charging. This goes for teachers, too… do a little sleuthing to discover the going rate. You don’t want to be the cheapest one, around!

Reason #2: Your customer doesn’t know why they should pay for your product

I hate to break it to you: you can’t expect your customer to know why your product is valuable. Let’s say you charge $8 for a very detailed knitting pattern, which is slightly higher than average and seems very pricey in a sea of free patterns. Does your customer know that it’s full of step-by-step photos? That purchasing the pattern comes with unlimited email help? That the pattern has been tech-edited and is error-free?

How would they know unless you tell them?

Solution: Be clear about the value of what you offer in a concrete way

Maybe you think it’s obvious that any knitting pattern worth it’s salt would have clear instructions with photos. Maybe you’ve even attempted to convey this to the customer by saying “it’s a quality pattern”. But words like ‘quality’ mean different things to different people. So it’s up to you to concretely explain why your product rocks and is worth what you’re charging.

If you make products, do you make clear the materials and workmanship that go into your pieces? If you’re a teacher, is your skill at targeting in on student’s concerns apparent? I’m not saying this is easy to do… you may need to come up with creative ways of demonstrating what you bring to the table. But it’s worth doing.

Reason #3: Your customers don’t know what you do

Oy… this is even worse than the last one!

Let’s think about dinner, again. You really want a nice steak. Are you going to go to a restaurant with a reputation for being the best steakhouse in the area? Or one that serves lots of food… and sometimes it’s steak?

I think we both know you’d choose the one with a great reputation. And you’d probably be willing to pay more, too!

Are you heading towards being a person who sews dog hats, crochets baby booties and silkscreens onsies? Is that the best place for you to be headed? What if you could be the person who sews the BEST dog hats?

Solution: Make a niche

Who am I? I’m the chick who sells the most well-written crochet stuffed animal patterns. And… they even come with amazing customer service. I’m constantly writing tips and posting videos on the blog, and I take great care to answer questions that come in via email. That’s what I do.


Why don’t I design knitting patterns? It’s not because I can’t… because I can! But, customer service is my number one priority, and I know that I couldn’t provide the level of tips, videos and tutorials for both knitting and crochet (at least, not right now). So I don’t.

Can you find a niche? Don’t worry… you can still crochet baby booties on the side. But maybe just not for your business!

Reason #4: You’re not interacting with your customers

What’s the difference between you and a big company? YOU are a person. YOU make each item (or teach each class, or write each pattern) with your own little hands. YOU are a crafter with passions and ambitions that your customers want to hear about! In fact, the average customer is willing to pay more/more likely to buy from a crafter that they feel a connection with.

How do you build this connection? Maybe by sharing photos on Facebook. Or by posting stories about your work on your blog. Or even by putting a little bit of you in your item descriptions.

Solution: Share!

I know it’s hard. We all have a limited amount of time. As a small-business owner, you’re handling shipping and accounting in addition to the actual making of your product.

So, start with one way customers can connect with you. Begin with the medium that makes you most comfortable. And begin sharing your story!

Reason #5: You’re giving away your work for free

As crafters, we love what we do. It can be easy to forget that you should be getting paid.

I’ve heard it happen so many times: teachers who are roped into teaching a group of school kids to knit. Designers who add a new size in the pattern at a customer’s request. Crafters who put too much time doing modifications of a custom design without charging for the overtime.

Stop it! How are you going to earn a fair wage if you’re giving it away for free?

Solution: Set boundaries

I’m not gonna fib. Almost everything about running a business is hard. Especially setting boundaries. But you have to do it.

(I’m half kidding: don’t actually be mean. But, I’m serious about not working for free.) Don’t hesitate to quote a price for what is being asked of you. Watch, I’ll show you how it’s done:

Customer: Stacey, I LOVE the owl in your Etsy shop! I was wondering: can I order one with horns and pigtails (my husband is a Vikings fan), and about 24″ tall (he’s a big guy!)?

me, option 1: I’m sorry, but those modifications are pretty serious, and that’s not something I’m able to do. Thanks for thinking of me, though! When you need a just-plain-cute owl, I’m your girl!

me, option 2: Ooh! Sounds like so much fun! My rate for custom work is $xx per hour, and I estimate that those modifications will take about 2 hours, plus require $xx in additional materials fees.”

See? Either way, I’m not doing work that I’m not getting paid for.

Any of these reasons give you ideas for changing how you do business?

Designing a Banana Slug: a peek into the process

Right now, I’m in Santa Cruz, CA… tagging along with the hubby who has a conference to attend at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

In case you didn’t know, the UCSC mascot is a banana slug:

It’s not a fierce mascot, but a darn cute one. I, personally, am a lover of snails and slugs, so I just couldn’t help but to design a crocheted banana slug for the occasion:

How did I design a banana slug… you may wonder? Here’s how it went:

The sketch

When I’m designing a plushie, I want to make sure that I’m not copying anyone else’s design… and that my design is different enough from existing designs so that it’s clearly my own.

In the case of slugs, there is one undisputed queen of crocheted slugs, and that’s Cheezombie.

image from Cheezombie’s Etsy Shop
Cheezombie’s slug is characterized by a big mouth, eyes on stalks and a distinctive tail shape.

Fortunately, the sketch I had in my head of a slug was quite different:

My idea for a slug had no mouth, buggy eyes and separate antennae. Different and adorable- it was time to get crocheting!

As an aside: I don’t always sketch before I start crocheting. In this case, I had an idea in my head and got straight to work. I just drew this sketch for you to see… I’m so terrible at drawing that making a sketch rarely contributes much!

Starting to crochet

I started crocheting the pieces according to the idea I had in my head… and came up with a guy who was pretty cute:

He was cute… but had two problems:

  1. He was a bit front-heavy, meaning that he’d topple forward unless positioned very carefully.
  2. He just didn’t look… well, slug-y enough!

What to do?

Then it hit me… he needed a foot-ruffle!

The finished slug

I added a foot ruffle, and was very pleased with the result!

The ruffle allows him to sit nicely without toppling, and added that extra slug-i-ness I was looking for!

I loved him so much, that I made a ‘normal’ slug color as well:

Look out for the pattern!

That was a little peek into my process: a little sketching (sometimes), then crocheting and adjusting until it comes out right!

Get the pattern here.


How to take great photos with white backgrounds

How to take Great Photos with White Backgrounds - tips from FreshStitches and Shiny Happy World

Last week, I told you my top 5 tips for taking great photos. This week, I’m going to go into a bit more detail about how to get photos of items with plain white backgrounds.

Mastering ‘the white background’ is an easy way to get professional-looking project photos. This is how I take the photos of my stuffed animals for my website, skeins of yarn for my stash and small items that I’ve knitted/crocheted.

So, let’s see how to do it, step-by-step and without fancy equipment!

Step 1: Grab a piece of posterboard and find natural light

Last week, I showed you my setup: a piece of white posterboard taped to a box in front of a window:

The setup really is that easy!

What if you can’t find natural light? I’ve found this great tutorial on how to build a light box for $10, which might work for you. I’ve tried it, and while the box is easy to make, the lights that you need to cast a natural-colored light are pricey. If you use plain desk-lamps, you tend to get a yellowish tinge to your photos. So, trust me when I say it really is easiest to use a window- even if it means you need to take all of your photos at 1pm on the weekends.

Step 2: Use the Macro setting

We’ve all seen out-of-focus pictures like this:

Eep! What a disaster! Do I need a better camera? No!

I’m a big believer that you don’t need a fancy camera to take decent photos… you just need to read the instruction manual and know how to use the features that you have. Every digital camera has a ‘macro mode’ (with an icon that looks like a flower), and that’s all you need to get the photo in focus:

Isn’t that much better? You’ll want to use macro mode to focus on items that are close to the camera. No fancy camera needed.

The photo is still a little dark, though…

Step 3: Fix your exposure

Notice how the previous picture, while in focus, is a little dark? You need to increase the exposure (light) level. There’s two ways to do this.

Change the exposure settings on your camera. Most basic digital cameras do this… just read your manual! Here, I took the same photo with a higher exposure on my camera:

Edit the photo to change the exposure settings. Let’s say you’ve already taken the photo… you can also change the exposure in software like Photoshop or PicMonkey (which is free!). Here, I changed the exposure by photo-editing:

As you can see, both of these techniques get pretty similar results, and make a big difference!

Step 4: Crop or paint corners

Cameras, because of the curve of the lens, tend to leave photos with some darkness in the corner. For a totally white background, you’ll want to either crop the photo (cutting the corners out altogether), or use photo editing software to ‘highlight’ the corners and remove the darkness.

Here, I’ve cropped the photo:

And here, I’ve highlighted the corners:

Step 5: Show it off!

Look at your fabulous photo! Show it around, proudly!

You can see Wendi’s simple setup for taking photos here.