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Quilt Pattern Making costs

Autumn Leaves quilt pattern

Quilt pattern making takes a lot of time, experimentation and ideas. There’s a lot said about the costs of making a quilt, but what about the costs of being a quilt designer? We all have followers looking for ideas – the ones who copy and purchase elsewhere, hoping no-one spots them as a free rider. Many designers offer some patterns for free to try to encourage buyers. I always think this is false economy and the idea of a non-business person. People who want freebies end there, they do not suddenly dip into their pocket and start paying out.

Please understand that most businesses do not happen overnight. Most have spent years and countless thousands building a website, brand, designing before they even set up shop. Of course, there are those that dip their toes in and maintain a job, part or full-time whilst creating. I am a full-time designer maker, so I have given all to my craft, in the hope of making a small living. If I don’t sell, I don’t eat – it is as simple as that.

The costs involved in running a small business are:

Website domain, design, hosting, email, back up and these costs can vary enormously. Mine are minimal, I have a back-up drive and I am fortunate that my son helps with website design.
How you are going to sell patterns, quilts etc needs to be considered carefully in the light of VAT on automatic downloads and soon to be on physical goods. If we Brexit, the hard-earned limit achieved mostly by the work of one brilliant lady, Clare Josa, will be wiped out. So you might be forced to use Payhip or similar to send out patterns and cost that in too. Then you might have fees such as PayPal or stripe fees, it all adds up.
Software for design if needed, personally I do not use it currently.
Memberships – it’s good to belong to established groups etc to get noticed but also to have a sense of belonging. You might also wish to subscribe to industry standard magazines.

All this adds up to several thousands pounds a year. Divide by the price of a pattern, and you are left with how many patterns you need to sell, just to break even – that’s no profit yet at all.

Imagine your overheads are 1500 a year – that’s quite conservative and assumes you are working from home not a rented studio. If your patterns are 12 pounds each, then you need to sell 125 patterns a year to break even. That sounds like nothing if you are not used to selling. So let’s put it into context – the average paperback book from a good publisher sells only 2000 copies a year and it is in just about every book shop, physical and brick and mortar imaginable. You are one person with a small website lost at sea.

If you need outside help producing patterns such as editor, graphic designer, tester – these are not cheap and have to be costed in too. One thing you will always have to spend on is the fabrics to make a sample quilt and this is expensive (unless you are fortunate enough to have a company provide them for you). I am not. I spend well over 120 pounds on a test quilt. Then there is the wear and tear on tools including your sewing machine, at some point they all need to be repaired/replaced and if you have not factored a small percentage into every pattern, then you have no money to do that with. I still have not added anything for my time. Add these costs to the above and you can see with fabrics etc alone and no outside help, I need to sell another 10 patterns to break even.

Which brings me on to the main cost – one that is often overlooked, but absolutely necessary. Advertising. Word of mouth is great, but believe me you can be dead before anyone has said Karen who? Advertising costs big bucks and newbies often go wrong placing an ad here and there. Consistency brings results with advertising. So look at places where you can get your name around for free. You should plough some of your profits back into advertising and building awareness of your brand. How long is a piece of string? In my first year, I used my own savings to book a stand at the Festival of Quilts. The total expense including leaflets and accommodation of being there was over a thousand pounds. Whatever your advertising costs are has to be added into the mix and it is probably going to be your single most expensive factor because without it, no-one is going to know about you. That means over a 100 extra patterns before I break even.

I am already wondering why I am doing this!!! Then you have to remember if you are selling wholesale, you will be lucky to get 50% of the pattern price, so you have to double the number of items you sell to break even.

Do you earn enough to be taxed? Do you use an accountant? These costs too need to be factored in.

Then there is what you pay yourself. Forget the average wage, unless you are very lucky it is probably unachievable, at least in the early years. Minimum pay is a possibility, but unlikely that you would achieve it over the course of 37.5 hours a week for a year. The minimum wage in the UK works out at 15,269 per year (according to 2017 statistics). That is a low wage, difficult to live on. Even at this level, I would have to sell 1273 patterns. That is 25 patterns a week direct. Again it does not sound like much, but it is.

At my age and with my experience, it would not be unlikely to expect to earn 30 to 40,000 or more. But this would mean at least 50 pattern sales a week.

To cover my household costs and overheads I would need to sell at least 12 patterns a week before I even start to pay myself. It is an uphill struggle.

But designers sell patterns to magazines and must make thousands you say? Many patterns are obtained by magazines for free in exchange for ‘publicity’.

It’s hard to justify freebies. Please dip into your pockets quilters. It is hard to fathom why people are willing to pay for sewing machines, every tool imaginable and mountains of fabrics they are not even going to use, but that they expect a pattern to be free. So please be kind to pattern makers.

Take a look at my quilt patterns. Any support, no matter how small, not only means I can eat, but that you made my heart sing! Thank you.

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Progress Update – What Is Coming In The Next Month?

This is a progress update of new products and more. Even the smallest progress has to be acknowledged as a step in the right direction. Even though I am not quite where I wanted to be, I am making progress towards that goal.

Last week I added my first in a new series of Learn As You Quilt patterns and tutorials. You can find all the tutorials here. This week I almost completed two new ecourses that will launch this month – the long awaited one on COLOUR, and a new one on DRAWING FOR TEXTILES. These will be launched any time now here.

I made progress with my new quilt – tiny half square triangles have been made. A few problems to solve there. One round of triangles stitched into a row is not as long as the quilt, so I have to make a decision on positioning. Also still do not have the wadding yet.

There are now two knitting designs finished but not written up and launched. I have started another of my hats. I am thinking I might try payhip for the patterns although Ravelry seems the obvious choice.

The UFOs are mounting, so I must get those tackled this month. It is going to be a busy time. Number one on the list is the hand stitched quilt, it is so near the end and will allow me to launch the Hand Stitched Quilt tutorial.

I am also starting the Winter Quilt, the second in my Learn As You Quilt tutorials. I am very excited about this project. It will, of course, include the things I love about winter, but not be a Christmas quilt. I am not fond of quilts that you can only use for a short space of time.

Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2018

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New Quilts and Quilting Tutorials From Karen Platt

Autumn is well and truly here and last week I finished the new autumn quilt, so it is already to launch. If you do not have the pennies to buy a finished quilt, I have also created a new quilt tutorial to go with this new design. All the work has been designed by me and I created the quilt myself from scratch. I set myself a few headaches along the way, but solved them so that when you use the tutorial, you will not have any problems. I had so much fun designing and making this quilt and know that you will too. It is my first quilt pattern for sale on the website.

The quilt itself is for sale on the website. It is a one-off unique sample quilt I made, so there is only one – grab it while you can.

I have also designed and made a new landscape quilt. I am loving the colours of this one, called ‘Pebbles On The Beach’ and the original is on sale here. You can find my methods for making this type of quilt in my landscape quilt tutorial. The quilt that I made for that tutorial is also for sale here.

I have still to write my knitting pattern up, and will be uploading several patterns to Ravelry shortly.

Meantime I am also working on a new Inspiration book – Autumn. The Churches Inspiration book is finished but waiting for me to finish off the textiles. Keep checking back and meantime why not check out the existing Inspiration Series? So much to inspire for art, textiles and more. These are all manual downloads as pdfs so that you can enjoy the photos. So much to keep me busy.

Am I doing anything else? Yes, I found an embroidery I started some months ago – that will be finished soon too.

Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2018

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Professional Designer Quilter – A Day In The Life of Being A Quilter

one block wonder quilt Karen Platt

Professional Quilter – A Day In The Life of Being A Quilter

You can be forgiven for thinking ‘I could do that’ or ‘What a wonderful life to quilt all day long’. However, as much as I enjoy it and I really do, there is so much more to being a quilter than sewing.

Whilst it is true that some quilters use other designers’ patterns, I decided at the very start (being a textiles designer anyway) that I would have to design my own quilt patterns.

I do not have a typical day, my days vary so much. My day often starts in the middle of the night when ideas come to me unbeckoned, or perhaps beckoned subconsciously. These days if I do not jot them down, by the morning they are lost. I let ideas ‘brew’, it does not do to jump straight in. See my design ecourse by clicking this link – believe me you too can design.

I usually start with social media – promotion is key to any business and it is often the hardest part. You have to identify and know your market and how to tap into it. It’s more than just keywords, it’s a slog that could do with an army working on it – but there’s just me. I sometimes spend about an hour a day promoting my business in one way or another. On Sundays I write this blog. Did I mention I am a 24/7 workaholic?

Much of my work involves intense research. I am a born researcher and believe it informs my work, allowing me to reach beyond the obvious.

If I am starting a quilt, I might spend a morning choosing fabrics, longer if I cannot find what I want. More and more, I am leaning towards only using my own fabrics. Any successful business has to have a USP – a unique selling point.

I might draw, doodle, play with Photoshop, paint, sew – to test ideas, strengthen ideas or just play and hope something clicks. This is all part of the process. Then it is all down to sewing. I have one machine, so if I am working on more than one quilted piece, I might do all the straight stitching, then all the free motion.

I must admit, I find most of the sewing quite tedious, but I am much more at ease with it these days. In the evenings, I concentrate on hand sewing for another two hours. This could be a hand stitched quilt, jacket or just hand finishing binding.

Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2018

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My Year Offering Quilting ecourses

As a quilt designer I have taken the route of offering quilting ecourses. There are also other routes I can pursue – the doors are open far and wide.

It’s one of the first decisions you have to make as a professional – which path to follow and build upon. I chose teaching because I am a fully qualified and experienced teacher. I wanted to bring ecourses within the reach of the many not the few. I have not cut corners, just costs.

I started offering quilt design ecourses just over a year ago to start in September 2017. My first group of wonderful ladies finish their ecourse in the first week of September. It’s all gone very well, with good feedback. FOQ helped to publicise the ecourses, the feedback and interest were fantastic.

So where to for 2019 and beyond? I am offering in situ courses in a number of places, and looking for other places to offer courses too, see the website under ecourses, the link is above. I am also working on videos to expand the desirability of the ecourses. If you are looking to learn, please take a look at that section of the website – so much more than just design, I cover many aspects of patchwork and quilting.

So where to next? One of my desires was to produce my own fabrics – costs are a little preventative, but I can still produce hand dyed fabrics, so I shall develop one-off art cloths to be used in quilting. The kits are developing too alongside a range of unique quilts. I am creating my own quilt style now. Ones that build quilting skills. This second year will be building on the good foundations of 2017-2018. Wish me luck! The culmination will hopefully be a show quilt at FOQ 2019 and better recognition for all my hard work.

I finished 2 full-size quilts, one almost full-size, 4 lap quilts, at least 3 art quilts and 3 Cathedral Windows quilts. I am working on a new skill builder quilt design.

Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2018
Karen Platt teapot quilt series

Karen Platt tea quilt series

Karen Platt elephant quilt

Karen Platt bird quilt

Karen Platt Quilt along

hand dyeing Karen Platt

One Block Wonder Quilt Karen Platt

One Block Wonder Quilt Karen Platt

strip quilting, pre-cuts