Hey! I just looked up and here it is the middle of the week already. Guess I’ve been in the zone, head down, working hard. I’m deep into PD. Product Development, that is!
I’ve started working on my next set of sewing pattern designs to be released at Spring Quilt Market in May. These things take so so much time. I thought I’d take a little break to fill you in on the pattern design process. At least my process.
I begin by looking at my current patterns and evaluate what’s selling well and what needs I think there might be in the market that I can fill. With the amount of time I have between now and Market, I’d like to try to make 4 new additions to my pattern line. Concurrently, I have been developing a new print group for my hemp and organic cotton canvas and would like my new patterns to be shown, made with this fabric. That leads me to think canvas bags, and perhaps another hat to follow up on the popularity of my Reversible Bucket Hat.
So, off I go sketching bags in my sketchbook. While I’m designing I think about certain details I’d like in a bag, how I’d like it to function and of course how it looks. I’m a fan of clean design with not a lot of foofy add-ons. The designs also need to be unique and compelling. Not an easy combo! Some ideas look too boring, a little weird, not *me*, or just wrong.
This round of sketching sent me into the direction of grommets and convertible straps. I LOVE the aspect of 2-in-1 functions! Can it be both a tote AND a cross-body sling? Can the messenger bag double easily as a backpack, without compromising either one? These are the things that keep me up at night people. I become OBSESSED. I draw them every which way I can think of and then wake up in the morning with more ideas on my mind. Often I just have to start making patterns and sewing prototypes before I can really see what is right and wrong about a concept.
The pattern shapes I start off with are usually very simple rectangles. I use paper pulled out of my office recycle bin as my initial patterns and scribble little notes on them as I go along. I use fabric out of my stash that most similarly matches my final fabric in weight and drape. My stand-in for my heavy hemp/organic cotton canvas is often repurposed fabric, cut from worn out cords or jeans that I’ve held on to for scrap. As my prototypes improve (maybe version 2 or 3 of a design) I’ll use nicer fabrics from my stash…just on the off chance that the sample, though not a final design, might possibly be usable in some way. (Wonky protos can make for good knitting project bags!)
I cut, I sew, I make notes. I adjust the pattern and make another proto. Sometimes I get a new idea, branching off of the original, that takes me in a different direction altogether. This can be exciting or frustrating or both! Sometimes I feel like my head is about to spin off of my shoulders and I just can’t sew the new idea fast enough. Many times I spend the entire day chasing that tangent design only to end up with a pile of floppy, misshapen, unusable…stuff. The past 2 weeks I’ve been riding the highs of genius ideas followed by the lows of a few heinous sample bags. It’s been a roller coaster!
All in all it’s been a pretty good ride. I feel like I made some great progress. I have 2 solid concepts that need only one last prototype each to nail the final details. (Um…I’m going to try not to feel angst over the fact that there are still 2 more concepts to go and I am behind schedule.)
Over the next month I’ll be writing the instructions, scanning the final pattern pieces and cleaning them up, creating diagrams to illustrate the steps in illustrator, etc. That gets formatted and arranged (with the help of my husband, thank you, Honey!) before sending it off to a proof-reader for edits. I’ll also send them to pattern testers to read through it all, make the project, and offer feedback.
After THAT, it’s time to make photo samples, shoot the cover images and layout the cover art. Copy for the cover gets written and formatted with the photography. Then someday, hopefully before Spring Quilt Market, everything will be so proofed and edited beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it will be ready to PRINT! We get the patterns printed locally so that we can be there in person to make sure everything looks just so.
So, yeah, it’s kind of a lot of work. And really, the last paragraph is just glossing over much of it. Things like “make photo samples”. I’ll just whip those up, don’t you know. Or shooting the covers. That requires nicely lit days and finding pretty models. But, it’s all part of the looong process that is designing and producing something that is truly your own vision. That’s why it’s so important (I’m reminding myself right now as I write this) to put in the time and the effort to really nail the design at the beginning. It’s like a marriage. You’ll be living with it day in and day out for the long haul, so you better love it!
Whew! That was a long post. Did you enjoy hearing about the prototyping process? Would you like to hear more? If so, about what ?