Behind-the-Scenes of a Quilt Pattern Business

What it costs to run a quilt blog business

There’s been a few articles here and there in the craft sphere about free quilt patterns that I’ve been mulling over. I have my own opinions, but I was curious how my readers felt about the issue. So I decided to ask them! Here’s an excerpt from my most recent newsletter:

I’ve read a few articles about free content on blogs (free downloadable patterns, in particular) and how it is hurting the quilting industry. What say you?

As you know, I have both – a pattern shop and some patterns that are free to download. The latter help me get my name out there (via Pinterest and Facebook sharing) and get people signed up to my email list (where I can nurture a relationship with them). It also offers a risk-free way (for customers) to check out my patterns before buying.

But on the other hand, is it conditioning people to expect patterns for free? Is it encouraging a lack of respect for intellectual property ?

If a business site offers free content, do you accept they have to make money some other way (adverts, sponsored posts, affiliate links)? Or does it kind of offend you?

I spend a lot of timing thinking about these things, but I’m not sure if the average quilter does too? Are you interested in how a quilt blog stays afloat, what costs are involved? I understand if you don’t – there are many things I buy that I don’t feel compelled to know the ‘how” of its creation/business model!

Let me know your thoughts (just reply to this email). I’m keen to hear what consumers think of this issue. The quilting industry needs to serve its customers, but without killing off small businesses.

I received 94 replies and the majority understood that a business has to make money. They were very supportive and advised me to keep doing what I was doing (thank you!).

There were also a few replies that showed not everyone understands what goes into running a craft blog/pattern store, especially the costs incurred by owners. So I thought I’d outline some of the details behind the running of Bonjour Quilts, in an effort to show why pattern designers need to make money somewhere in order to survive. And let’s be honest – it’s better that they thrive, not “just survive”, because just surviving gets tiring very quickly and encourages business abandonment.

So let’s have a look at what it costs me to run my online business. And then I’ll show you how easy it is to support your favourite quilt blogs/quilt pattern designers.

Costs to Run a Quilt Blog – Annual Overheads

Although my blog started on a free blogging platform (blogspot), I now have a website (created for me by Teresa at A Fearless Venture) with a custom pattern shop that uses Sendowl. I worked hard to recoup those set-up costs last year so I’m only listing recurring annual costs here (in $US). But do keep in mind I’ve put several thousand dollars into my website and pattern shop over the past few years.

Website domain (Hover*) – $15

Website hosting (Lightning Base*) – $240

Site backup (VaultPress) – $165

Illustration software (Gliffy) – $95

Photoshop – $120

Email marketing software (ConvertKit*) – $1345

G Suite email address – $60

SendOwl* – $180

Tailwind* – $120

Craft Industry Alliance* – $60

There is no line item for the cost of my time here. I’ll get to that later.

Add it all up and I have at the very minimum costs of $2400. With an average pattern price of $10, I need to sell 240 patterns every year to break even on my overheads. 

But Bonjour Quilts doesn’t exist just to be a website – it has to produce patterns. So let’s have a look at those costs too.

PDF Quilt Pattern Production Costs.

Firstly, I can’t vouch for others’ costs, only my own. I know that there are cheaper ways (beware ye the risks!) of doing things, but this is what works for me. It’s important to me to produce a quality pattern that I have sewn myself and that has been technically edited by an industry professional. Do mistakes still occur? Sometimes. But I’m doing my best and learning all the time.

So – here’s an estimate of what it costs me to produce a pattern (all amounts are $US).

Technical editing – $100 – 150 (depending on pattern difficulty/length)

Graphic design – $200 – 300 depending on whether the template has already been set up (first pattern is most expensive).

Sample materials – $200

Please note that this doesn’t take into account the time it takes me to design the quilt, sew the sample, photograph the sample and edit the photographs. It also doesn’t take long-arming into account, as I probably send out only 30% of my quilts.

So the costs that come out of my pocket to create a quilt pattern are $500 – $650 (remembering that this doesn’t cover any of my time). Taking a $10 pattern price again for ease, you can see a pattern has to sell at least 50 – 65 copies to break even.

PDF vs Paper Patterns

Several replies to my newsletter question asked why PDF patterns weren’t cheaper than paper copies. After all, isn’t the main cost of a pattern the paper it’s printed on? I hope the annual overhead and pattern production costs I’ve outlined above show that this isn’t the case. A pattern, whether it’s paper or PDF, needs to cover production and overhead costs, as well as the intellectual work of the author. The couple of dollars it takes to print the pattern are a small portion of this cost.

There’s also another factor that needs to be considered in pattern pricing – selling wholesale.

Wholesale Pattern Sales

I’m a little on the fence with wholesale pattern selling. If you’re a quilt pattern designer having success in this area I’d love to hear from you!

Selling wholesale directly is quite simple. A quilt shop contacts you and purchases the patterns at half price. They then sell the patterns in their shop at the recommended retail price. This is why it’s important for a pattern designer to sell their patterns, both paper and PDF, at the same price. No quilt shop will want to carry your patterns if they know you’re offering the PDF version at a cheaper price (and rightly so!). The quilt shops would then have a whole bunch of patterns they can’t sell, or have to sell at close to cost price. So this is one reason why PDF and paper need to be priced the same – so it remains attractive to quilt shops to carry your patterns.

Selling wholesale through a distributor is another option. The distributor takes another cut of the pattern price, but the upside is they’ve a huge number of quilt shops on their books and can expose them to your patterns. The downside is they’ve a huge number of pattern designers on their books and your patterns won’t receive any special sales treatment. Distributors offer a service and have their own costs – it’s up to each quilt pattern designer to decide if that works for their business.

Here’s an indicative outline of the cost breakdown when selling wholesale through a distributor.

Paper pattern sells at $10 on designer’s website (pattern designer receives $10 per sale).

Paper Pattern sells at $5 wholesale to a quilt shop (pattern designer receives $5 per sale, quilt shop gets $5).

Paper pattern sells at $5 wholesale through a distributor (pattern designer receives $3.5 per sale, quilt shop gets $5, distributor gets $1.5)

The important thing to remember is that the quilt pattern designer PAYS FOR THE PATTERN PRINTING AND “PRINTER TO DISTRIBUTOR” POSTAGE.

Printing costs depend on how long your pattern is (more pages = more $) and how many you order. (Larger print runs are cheaper $ per pattern, but if your pattern doesn’t sell well then you’re stuck with a lot of money tied up in stock you can’t sell). Pattern printing costs can therefore vary greatly, but mine run in the $1.50 – $2 range per pattern. As you can see, there’s not much money left over from the $3.5 that goes to the designer in a wholesale distribution model.

When a distributor places a bulk order, the cost to send those patterns to the distributor is around $10-$20. It’s actually possible (if you have a paper hungry pattern or the distributor order isn’t very big) to LOSE MONEY when you sell paper patterns! This is why it’s really important to minimise the number of pages in a pattern. This is naturally at odds with a designer’s desire to give you as much instruction as possible. It’s quite conflicting!

So to recap – pattern costs are those directly related to producing the pattern and the overheads of the business.

To sell paper patterns, the designer has to be able to cover the printing and the pattern/overhead costs with the profits within a wholesale distributor model. Patterns sold for less than $10 make this very, very difficult.

To ensure quilt shops continue to stock paper patterns, the PDF patterns have to remain at the same price as paper. This ensures quilt shops aren’t undercut and helps offset the very narrow profit margins for the designer in the wholesale distributor model.

I hope this helps to show why designers can’t offer the patterns any cheaper than we currently do.

Additional Costs

There are other costs that aren’t captured above. One of these are fees. Paypal, Stripe (credit card payment provider) and bank transfers bleed small amounts of money away from each sale amount. 3% here, 2% there, bank exchange rates for those that don’t live in the US. They all add up to eat into profit margins. Once I change my shop over to Shopify, they will start taking a cut of my sales too. I’m not mad about it – it’s a cost of doing business.

What else? Quilting tools, fabric, rotary cutter blades, long arm quilting, thread, sewing machine repairs and servicing, electricity. Taxes – can’t forget those. Or the accountant. If you have a booth at Market, that’s a big expense (especially if travelling from Australia) Oh, and bar codes. If you sell paper patterns, you have to pay for bar codes. You get the drift – businesses have lots of costs.

Education is another expense that is really important for small business owners. Unless you’ve come across from a comparable employment category, you’ll be learning how to run a small business as you go. It’s important to me to take courses through the year to try and improve how I do things. I’m a member of an online business community and I’ve also taken several “one off” online courses to target particular topics – Sticky Search Engine Optimisation ($149), Affiliate Marketing for Bloggers Master Cse* ($297), Pinterest Traffic Avalanche* ($197). It’s a continuous process of learning and making myself a better business owner, and it’s a process I really enjoy, actually!

Here’s the big one – the additional cost that is really important. As you saw above, none of the costs listed so far cover my work, or the hours of time that I spend in the business.

I Need to Pay Myself a Wage 

The average wage in Australia is AUD$85,000 (this is US$60,000). I’d need to sell 6,000 patterns (at $10) a year to make a US$60,000 wage.

The median wage in the US is $45,000. (Given the cost of living in Australia is higher, the two are roughly comparable.) I’d need to sell 4,500 patterns a year to earn that wage.

And I’d have to sell them directly myself, as PDFs, not as paper patterns through a distributor. That’s a tall order!

(Funnily enough, I have 13,000 people on my email list. If everyone on my list bought just one $10 pattern every 2 years, I’d be supported!)

This is why those in the quilting industry have to work hard at developing multiple sources of income – books, courses, workshops, fabric design, offering advertising, using affiliate links, accepting sponsorship deals to try and earn a living wage. They really have to hustle!

You can probably guess I’m not making a living wage from Bonjour Quilts. I am in the black (not in the red), but it will be a while before I can build up the income streams and newsletter list that can support me in that manner. I’ve another job, one that pays me a wage and my superannuation (401K for US readers) so I’m able to contribute to my family while building Bonjour on the sidelines. It’s a lot of work, but I enjoy it.

How You Can Support Your Favourite Quilt Pattern Designer

So you’ve seen the bad news – how about some good news? The good news is that it’s really, really easy to support your favourite quilt pattern designers. You can support them with money, or with actions, or with both.

Support with Money

+Hands down the best thing you can do is purchase a PDF pattern directly from the quilt pattern designer. That puts the most money into their pocket. And the great thing is that it’s an environmentally friendly way to support someone. There’s no trees being chopped down or ink being used. If you don’t get around to making the pattern you can be happy you’ve supported someone with none of the guilt that unused physical products generate.

+If you can’t buy a pattern (PDF or paper) from the designer, the next best thing is to buy their pattern from a quilt store. The quilt pattern designer, quilt store and the distributor’s families will thank you for the support.

+If your favourite designer has a book, a special ruler or designs fabric, purchasing directly from them (rather than through a middle man or Amazon) will pass on the most profit to them.

+If you can, purchase through the affiliate links on your favourite designer’s website. (Only things you were planning to buy anyway – I don’t like the idea of people buying things they don’t really need just to help someone with a commission.) That said, the commissions via affiliate links are very small. But they can add up over time and contribute a small bump of income to a blogger, at absolutely no cost to you the buyer. Amazon is going to pay someone a commission, so it might as well be your favourite designer, right?

Support with Action

I have many newsletter readers who have never purchased a pattern from me. The majority of non-purchasers are people on fixed incomes who say they would like to support me with a purchase, but unfortunately can’t. Luckily, there’s plenty of other things they can do to help.

Even if these readers can’t afford my patterns, they can help to get my work in front of others who can. There are millions of quilters out there, and some of them would love to purchase from me – if only they knew my patterns existed! This is where you can help your favourite quilt pattern designer. Get their name out in front of new readers so they’ve a chance to connect with new customers.

+Pin their photographs to Pinterest. Pinterest is a fantastic traffic generator for blogs and such a great place for people to find new things.

+Post their blog posts and new pattern listings to your Facebook feed, or share it in quilting Facebook Groups (if it’s within the rules). A recommendation is a powerful thing.

+Like their posts on Facebook and Instagram – this encourages both programs to show the photos to other similar users.

+If you’ve quilting friends who you think would enjoy a quilt designer’s newsletter, forward the email on to them with a recommendation. It would be great if you could help recruit new readers for them.

+If you see someone online in a quilting forum or a Facebook Group (or in real life at a guild or quilting circle) trying to source a free copy of a paid pattern, please speak up and defend that quilt pattern designer’s copyright. The more people that speak up against pattern theft, the closer we’ll come to stamping it out.

Back to the Free Patterns…

There is a place for freebies. They attract new people to quilting. I believe being able to download a free beginners pattern and give quilting a try opens the craft up to more people. And once we have them hooked, we have a quilter for life! Quilters, for the most part, who’ll go on to improve their skills and buy patterns.

Freebies are also a useful marketing tool. I have a few simple patterns that I use to get people onto my newsletter list. (So it’s really not a freebie – it’s a swap; an email address for a pattern.) On my list they can get to know me and my designs better and decide if they’d like to purchase a pattern. They may also decide they don’t like my style of quilting and unsubscribe. No biggie. This type of try-before-you-buy marketing is not new – think of test driving cars or trying the cheese samples in the deli.

Some other points to ponder on free:

The mass dropping of free patterns by companies when a fabric line debuts to encourage fabric sales. Even if a designer is paid a fee to produce the pattern by the fabric company, is it likely to replace the revenue that the pattern would generate over the entirely of its life? (Anecdotally it would seem quilt shops don’t like these free patterns either – they’d rather sell a pattern to a shopper.)

Are all free patterns technically edited and of good quality?

How much time is needed to support those free patterns? I’ve had people email and ask me to resize my free patterns for them – without paying me for that work. Of course, I politely decline, but why do people expect that I would want to do this work for them for free? No doubt because they think if I’ve worked for free before (free pattern), I’d be happy to work for free again.

In conclusion…

Lots to read and lots to consider. If you’ve made it this far, you’re a legend and obviously care about quilting and the industry. Thank you for your support.

You can read more thoughts on this matter in these places:

A Craft Industry Alliance article on the ethics of free content in the craft industry

Steph Skardal has written about being a Quilt Entrepreneur

Jen Shaffer outlines how she costs her quilt designs

Just surviving isn’t enough – why one artist went back to a day job 

I’d love to hear your comments on the issue. Please let me know your thoughts below.

And if you’d like to support this quilter, please join my newsletter or check out my pattern shop.

Thank you – and happy creating!

Kirsty

*affiliate links!

What it costs to run a quilt blog business

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168 thoughts on “Behind-the-Scenes of a Quilt Pattern Business”

  1. Thanks so much for a thoughtful summary on this topic. I have returned to quilting after many years and immediately started hoarding free patterns. Recently, I realized that I will never make many of those free patterns. For the most part, I prefer the dozen or so patterns that I bought. Thank you for highlighting the best option is often to buy directly from the designer when possible. Best of luck for all your future work!

    Reply
    • Hi Cindy. It might have been those free patterns that brought you back to quilting? If so, they’ve been of good service! It’s a tricky balance to find, that between free and paid. Hopefully as an industry we can find the best way to approach it so that quilting as an business and historic past-time doesn’t suffer.

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    • I also stopped quilting for almost 20 years. I am retired now and was shocked to see precuts and free patterns. While I love the changes, how did the practice of free patterns begin? Another point I would like to make is there are so many duplicate patterns with different names. I have purchased about a dozen patterns in the last two years but like them no more than I do freebies. Hope I don’t offend anyone.

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      • Hi Kathy, you’re always welcome to give your opinion – thanks for taking the time to comment. I think freebies have been around for a while, to entice people to use certain fabric lines. With the advent of online sites the practice has increased markedly to bring readers to blogs etc. It’s a constantly evolving industry!

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    • Thank you Kristy! I’ve been considering constructive a Blog, and have joined & completed Shannon Brinkley’s 6 week Patchwork Classes. Then COVID-19 happened and my oldest sister died (not from the virus). I’m really on the fence now about it. There are so many things to do and consider! Thank you for adding an extra layer to my knowledge base.

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      • Oh Sheryl, I’m so sorry to hear about your sister. It’s so hard losing a loved one at any time, but I feel like current events must make it even more difficult. I really understand your hesitancy to make a business from your sewing. While it can be very rewarding, it also has the possibility of taking something you love and turning it into a duty or chore. And I do find that my time for sewing becomes less and less as the design/business side of things takes up more of my schedule. I’m lucky in that I find that aspect quite interesting too, so it isn’t a downside for me. But it really is a personal decision and I wish you all the best in deciding on the road that’s right for you. 

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  2. Two of my sons are small business owners so I know some what the cost of doing business. I think its both helpful and courageous of you to write in more detail so that quilters may begin to understand that the engines that help to drive the economy of a nation depend greatly upon the entrepeneur risk takers in the small business community. In supporting your businesses we help to keep our nations’ financial condition healthy. In addition if we fail to sport your business we will end up losing the creative patterns you design as there will be no incentive for continuing.
    Thank you!
    Roslyn Atwood

    Reply
    • Thank you, Ros. Small business definitely has it’s risks, but also some wonderful rewards. Every ‘thank you’ email I receive gives me much more pride than I could have imagined, as it’s come from my direct efforts. (And likewise the complaints hurt a bit more too, as they’re directly my fault!) Wishing your sons every success in their endeavours!

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  3. Kirsty this is such an incredibly good expose on what it takes to run your demanding business and your business skills. It’s 100 times more difficult and demanding than I imagined. Your artistic passions are evident in your Bonjour site and patterns making you the “complete package”. Well done!
    AND good luck with lots of creative thoughts!!

    Reply
    • I hope the article gives readers a feel for some of the financial pressures quilt pattern designers face. It’s a lot of work, but luckily work that (for the most part) I really enjoy.
      Thank you for the creative thought wishes – I’m hoping for them both in my designs and in my business skills! x x

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  4. Hi, Kirsty — Thank you for this article. It’s really good for us to understand the happenings behind the scenes! For someone like myself, I just quilt and sew for fun because I love it so much, but I really didn’t have any understanding about this at all and what it takes day in and day out to keep even a blog running, never mind patterns. I have to say I have never hesitated to pay for a pattern knowing it will support someone. I grew up on patterns (Simplicity, Butterick, etc) and those patterns are very expensive now — so paying $10 for a quilt pattern is a bargain. I want to say thank you for creating for us. Thank you for sharing your creative mind with us. I love your blog. I love the colors and the ideas. Now I’m thinking about below the surface — so thank you for that, too.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Janice, I appreciate you taking the time to comment! It can be hard to know why costs are what they are when there’s not a lot of info around on the business models. I hope this post will promote a better understanding of it.

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  5. I made it to the end of this very informative blog post. Thanks for taking the time to walk through the details.

    When I’m next in the market for a quilt pattern, I’ll consider Bonjour Quilts! In the meantime, I’ll continue adoring your fabulous designs … great eye candy!

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  6. Kirsty, yes, yes, yes!!! Thank you for adding such a thoughtful, valuable explanation to this industry conversation. I wish every single quilter out there could see this! A perfect addition to We Are S$w Worth It and No Value Isn’t Free canon. Thank you. Will be sharing for sure!

    Reply
    • Thanks Sarah, I’m glad it struck a chord. If it encourages people to think about small things they can do to help sustain businesses, I’ll be happy!

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  7. “What it costs to run a quilt blog”, this is a great article, thanks so much for sharing. While I know it takes money to make money, your article gave me a new appreciation for some of the behind the scenes costs I’d not considered previously, as well as what I need to consider as a quilter to support my hobby. Thank you!

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  8. Great article Kirsty! You have raised many valid points. I know I struggled also with the free tutorial content v’s pattern shop with my blog. I don’t think many people realise how much time is spent behind the scenes in running a running a craft/quilt blog. Thanks for highlighting this issue.

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    • Thanks Lisa. You have such a beautiful blog full of quality projects – it must take you a great deal of time and effort. Your love for the craft is plain to see. x x

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  9. I really appreciate the breakdown of the cost to provide free patterns for us. You have explained the cost that you incur with the blog you provide and inspire us to try different things.
    Thank you so much.

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  10. Interesting post, I had no idea of these real costs. I do like a free pattern but am more than happy to buy a pattern direct from a designer. As you say, often the free pattern makes me take a look at a new designer or blog . I’m a huge fan of PDF patterns, I can get it immediately and no postage charges. I did initially wonder why PDF patterns weren’t cheaper than printed ones but quickly realised that I wasn’t paying for the printing, I was paying for your ideas and creativity which didn’t vary whether the pattern was paper or PDF. I get the need for sponsors and advertising to help bloggers and designers make some money but sometimes the ads on some sites really annoy me and get in the way of reading a post but I ignore them and try to read the posts because I understand your right to make money. I think it’s hard work to be a designer and I don’t think anyone is getting rich by it. It would be nice if you could be financially rewarded for all your efforts.

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    • Thanks Dianne, I appreciate you taking the time to comment. I’m not a big fan of ads – I don’t mind a few here and there, but some sites have 2 ads in every screen view, which makes for an unpleasant reading experience. I end up scrolling a lot more than reading! But I know it’s a balance each website owner has to figure out for themselves. I guess if paid patterns were more successful then there would be less need for too many ads.

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  11. I understand and share in your frustration of trying to make a living out of a passion and sharing your creativity and expertise with everyone. I’m glad you wrote this so others will understand a home business, the positive and negative so there are no unrealistic expectations. On the surface it seems easy. Have you tried to attach yourself to a particular line of fabrics (as to design quilt patterns for a new line) like Art Gallery Fabrics? AGF (as well as others) is always introducing new lines and I love them but I am a novice quilter so I need ideas from a pattern how to whip it up into something attractive.

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  12. While I only design patterns for my personal use, I hand dye and sell quilting fabric and scarves. Some folks look at my items and move on when they see prices. They expect a silk artisan item to be priced similar to the mass produced polyester item at the discount store. Raw materials, dyes, shipping, water, etc. plus time have to factor in, though. And my costs are higher than they are in China. Consignment sales take a cut, as does etsy or square. And my profit usually goes straight back into more supplies.

    Reply
    • Hi Wendy, I think anytime a single person is hand making things there can be no competition with mass market, they are just completely different things. Best of luck with your business and that’s for your comment today!

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  13. Great post! I used to own a shop and once in a while a customer in a class would pull out copies of a pattern to share with others. I had to explain about copyright and why the designer needed to sell patterns. Very frustrating! Thanks for explaining it so clearly.

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  14. I so appreciate this blog post! A real eye opener. Thank you for taking the time to share this – it really puts it all into perspective. As much as I really appreciate free patterns – (it is, like you said, which helped me start quilting), I also especially appreciate the beautiful designs that designers can bring forth from their creative minds. I gladly support this. I cannot design – I can resize and maybe change the layout, but I’m the production type person. So thank you again, for what you do :)!

    Reply
    • Thanks Kim. You were part of my most expensive pattern ever (but it’s also my best seller). Almost 5 years ago, gosh, that’s crazy.

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  15. I thought this was interesting. For those of us who do not blog, it’s eye opening to know what really goes into blogging. Sometimes when I see a quilt pattern that I like, it’s tempting to think that maybe I can just figure it out, but time is money. So, for the low cost of $10, I don’t have to think that hard! I can simply buy the fabric and get started sewing!

    Reply
    • Yes, patterns certainly save time and energy for the sewist. It all depends on what you like to do. If you really want to make the most of your time and love the sewing part, then buying a pattern is the way to go.

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  16. Such an interesting and illuminating post! I have to admit to having considered a $10 pattern expensive, but you have made me understand its value. Thank you.
    A single pattern has seemed expensive when compared with the price of a book containing a dozen or so patterns, even if only a quarter of the book’s patterns really interest me. It’s not that hard to find books by designers and bloggers I like selling for $10 or even less — and on the publisher’s or distributor’s site, too. Are designers making a very big gamble when they write books?

    Reply
    • Books are such a big topic, Elizabeth – it’s another can of worms! :) But yes, publishing is another risky venture for publisher and author alike. The traditional publishing model is also going through pains due to the rise of self publishing. It’s certainly having an effect on craft books, and I’m not sure what the final outcome will be. Books still give a certain authority or professional credit, I believe. It’s whether an author is happy to exchange soooooo much time (for not a great deal of money) for that authority.

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  17. You are brave to share your numbers! As a quilter/artist I have been considering a online business. Your article and others I have read are making me realize the huge investment of time, energy and money is involved. You should share this with Elizabeth Townsend Gard from Tulane University who is doing a project on copyright, quilting and businesses and quilters. Search for Just Wanna Quilt and her name. Bet you would be great for her podcast and project.

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    • Thanks Jo. I’ve listened to a few of Elizabeth’s podcasts; they were great. In fact her podcast with Angie from Gnome Angel covers some of these topics too.

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  18. Hi Kirsty. This is an excellent post. Thank you so much for writing it. I found it fascinating and helpful to have an insider’s view of the costs of running a blog-based small business. I love your patterns, and as a thank-you to you for sharing this article (and as a treat for myself!) I just bought another one from your shop. I’ve also shared this post on Facebook because I have some friends who might find it interesting too. Thanks for the time and care you put into your blog, your site, your newsletter, and your pattern designs. You’re one of my favorite sources for patterns.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Rachel, this is pretty much the nicest thing a pattern designer could read. Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to comment and support Bonjour Quilts with social media and your wallet!

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  19. Thank you for the info. Wow! What a lot of work. But if you enjoy it, then goes d for you! I will think more about where a pattern came from now, when I consider buying!

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  20. I love buying my craft supplies from the specialists! What beautiful work they produce. Unfortunately, I have to decide where I put my quilt money, when I begin to plan a quilt. It has come down to using free patterns and designing the plan myself, so I can buy fantastic fabrics. I cannot afford what artists charge, so it is a compromise every time. Spending time with graph paper and pencil is a way to make an original look and save some money. It gives me something to do with my hands while my husband reads out loud or we watch a movie. I am willing to do some of the art work to save some money. Quilting is becoming so expensive that the average person cannot afford it. This leads to quilting going out of style for younger, less wealthy folks (though nit the only reason, of course).

    Reply
    • Hi Catherine, I’m sure there are lots of people like you who have the time and inclination to make their own patterns. For those who don’t, I try to offer a service for them. Happy designing and all the best with your quilting.

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  21. I found this all very interesting. I have always been curious. There is a lot more intailed then I would have thought. You put all the hard work into a business because you have a wonderful talent to share. And as a quilter when I make one of your I appreciate your hard work. Thank you.

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  22. Now that was a well written, super informative article! Thank you for such a detailed explanation. I had some idea, but at the end of the day, no REAL idea. I am amazed that you have stuck with it, I’d have given up…thank YOU for sticking with it and allowing me access to such amazing creativity! Am more than willing to do my part to support by buying patterns that I love anyway! Win win…

    Reply
    • Thank you Connie, I really appreciate your support – both your words and your purchases! I’m glad the article has helped to show some of issues designers are facing, I think it makes it easier to understand pricing, etc.

      Reply
  23. I’m not surprised about the costs to run a blog, having been married to a small business owner for many years. Unfortunately, something like quilting attracts do it yourselfers who will go to great lengths to figure out the pattern themselves. I have a life time of not buying things saying to myself “I can make that!” Ha, ha… I’m new to quilting and have actually purchased several patterns, about 1 a year. Hang in there and thank you for all you do to inspire and educate!

    Reply
    • Very true, Carolyn, and that’s where every pattern designer started – seeing a pattern and thinking, hey I could design some of my own. For those not interested in that, they can buy a pattern from someone who is. Win win!

      Reply
  24. As a pattern tester, I can understand some of the process that goes in to making a pattern. I always get asked if I get paid for testing… which you don’t. I consider it generous if sometimes I might get a little fabric or charm square pack as a thank-you. I don’t expect anything at all, as I do it because I love being part of the creative process. I completely respect what pattern designers do and never share my patterns at all, unless they are free content and then I tell them what website to get it from.

    Even if I do download a free pattern to try, I typically will also try to purchase something from a designer — who are mostly women entrepreneurs. We need to support each other.

    Thanks, Kristy, for all you do and the amazing work you have done!

    Reply
    • Julie, you’re a true supporter of the business, thank you. I have had a few testers here and there (I tend to test my own patterns when they come back from the tech editor), and I try to cover fabric costs where possible. Some testers already have a big stash (and are trying to reduce it through testing) so don’t want more fabric. Others have been long armers who do the quilting, but I provide $ for fabric. But it is essentially a volunteer job – one taken up because the tester loves sewing, or a particular designer and wants to be part of the inside process.

      Reply
  25. Thanks, Kirsty, for such a comprehensive post about this. I was aware of some of this, but not everything. I and love supporting designers by purchasing their patterns. I didn’t realize, however, the hit you take by selling to quilt shops. I’ll purchase more directly from designers when I can. I’ve also often wondered how expensive it was to run a blog–those whose blogs include advertising popups in particular have raised my curiosity about that. So I appreciate your outlining everything–it was very informative, and I hope many who “fuss” about costs will read it and grow a new appreciation for all the hard work a designer does to produce wonderful patterns and fabric for us to play with!

    Reply
    • Thank you Karen, it’s my hope that this post will answer some questions and make it easier for customers to see why patterns are priced as they are. As far as selling through quilt shops – yes, it’s a reduction in money for the designer, but quilt shops and designers are really in it together. They are also small businesses, so I don’t begrudge them taking their portion of profit in order to get me in front of new customers. If we all work together, we’ll all do better!

      Reply
  26. Hi Kirsty, thanks for sharing that article; simply written and well explained. I appreciate it is difficult to get a balance between selling a giving a freebie. I don’t have a problem with a bit of relevant affiliate advertising to help recover costs, but do have a problem with endless unwanted popups that happen on other sites.
    I consider a $10 pattern good value especially as I can download it immediately and don’t have to travel to get it! I do also appreciate a freebie as a gift and agree sometimes it can re-inspire us. Thanks for putting up a great blog with always interesting content!

    Reply
    • Thank you, Carol, I appreciate your comment. You’re right about the saving in travel costs – I hadn’t thought of that. Not to mention the impulse purchases I don’t make (although that will make the quilt shops sad to hear).

      Reply
  27. Hi Kirsty, greetings from a new-ish quilter in Nashville. I enjoyed reading your very honest blog post! It is a “labor of love” to be a quilt entrepreneur. I love to watch YouTube videos with quilt tutorials, and my two faves are Missouri Star Quilt Company and Fat Quarter Shop. They offer free pattern, but they both sell fabric and other quilt supplies, so I am thinking that is a good way for them to encourage us to shop! I have also ordered several paid patterns,and have thoroughly enjoyed those.
    Thanks again for sharing, and best regards!!

    Reply
  28. I read your complete article to the end and all the comments. Thank you so much for the insight ‘behind the scenes’. Very well written and informative.

    I am off to a quilt retreat next week and will take a printed copy of your article for the others to read. We will have no internet at the church camp and will be sewing for 4 days with some sleep and lots of good food. This will make an interesting night time discussion topic.

    I will have our guild put a link in our next newsletter to your article also. Good luck with your business and I will continue to buy patterns directly from designers.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Diane, I appreciate you taking the time to help raise awareness of the behind the scenes of quilt pattern businesses. I hope you and your fellow quilt retreaters have a wonderful time!

      Reply
  29. Kirsty, There is so much to this post. I know I will read it through a second time to absorb it all but after the first pass – Wow! I am a small business owner too. I recently started a newsletter and have a whopping 220 subscribers but it will grow. (I can’t believe you have 13K on your list! Awesome.) Reading the expenses necessary to carry out your business is really interesting. I wondered at times about the paper vs pdf pattern cost but never really thought it through. As a shop owner (who PROUDLY carries your gorgeous patterns – I have two different patterns in stock and more on the way) I didn’t truly understand the breakdown of cost. Because I live in the US and postage is crazy from Australia, I buy them from a distributor. I almost feel like I should apologize for that. Jeez!
    Anyway, thank you so much for your gorgeous patterns ( I personally have Fleur and Make a Wish – in the ‘free’ size and the larger sizes) Thank you also for taking the time to write this post. I am sure you thought long and hard about how to present it. I will be sharing it with others as I feel this is incredibly important insight for all of the quilting tribe we love so much.

    Reply
    • I just want to point out that postage from Australia is very affordable. Inlive in the UK and would much prefer to buy from Australian businesses as American S&H is really expensive.

      Reply
    • Bernadine, thanks so much for your comment, I appreciate hearing your thoughts. Thank you also for stocking some of my patterns! Don’t worry about buying through the distributor. In many cases if it weren’t for the distributor, many quilt shops wouldn’t know who I was. They have the reach to expose me to many more shop owners, including those far away in America.

      I certainly did mull on this post for a long time. There was a lot of information I wanted to include but I also had to consider what the average customer really wanted (or needed) to know. There was a lot of stuff I ended up pulling out because it would have made it all too long and complicated – I think I got the right balance in the end. I had some hesitation pressing “Post” but I’m really glad it’s been so well received so far.

      Reply
      • Very glad you hit ‘Post’. Great post. Very informative. Addressed questions I’ve had (pdf vs paper) and many items I had no clue went on behind the scenes. Will definitely be shopping for a new pattern to support a great blogger!

        Reply
  30. Thanks so much for sharing this information. I heard about via Alyce Blyth (yeah! for the on-line quilting community :-) )
    I am dipping my toe in the quilting industry: Designing quilts and publishing patterns for sale as well as leading small workshops at my local quilt store. You describe very well the steps and costs it takes to get a design from an idea to a well-written pattern.
    I will be sharing a link to this page in my next blog post.

    Reply
  31. Hello Kristy, I have learned so much from your fantastic article, it has just shocked me. When I began quilting and did not know very much at all. Thankfully, I at least had done some garment sewing and knew a bit. I was thrilled with the free patterns that I discovered on the internet and all of the helpful information. A few years ago, I discovered Pinterest and am basically addicted. Yet, I never thought in any way that I was hurting anyone. Wow was I wrong! I have thousands of FREE Patterns posted all over a variety of boards. Also, I joked about never being able to make but a handful of these beautiful patterns. I am so sorry! This article has made its mark on me and I have sat up and paid attention. I do buy patterns from my blogging friends whenever I can. Thank you for all your time in sharing this information.

    Reply
    • Hi Brenda, don’t be too upset about pinning free tutorials/patterns – that was no doubt why they were produced, to help a brand get its name out there. In fact, if you want to help your favourite designers then pinning their tutorials is a great way to do it, it helps bring them new readers. Happy sewing and thanks for your support!

      Reply
  32. Thanks Kristy for the detailed info, I never knew it cost so much to run a blog. I am a self taught quilter and if it wasn’t for the free patterns I probably wouldn’t have continued this hobby. But now I buy my most of the patterns because the free ones are usually simple and I need to be challenged. Personality trait I think lol. So you can count on me to spend and spread the news. Thanks again Kathy.

    Reply
    • Thanks Kathy! That’s the point of the free patterns, I think – to get more people into the industry so they can enjoy quilting and support it with their purchases later down the line.

      Reply
      • Yes, free patterns draw new quilter in. These also help out those that don’t have a lot of money to spend. Serious quilting is a challenge on a limited budget. I am still learning about copyright. I can see why quilters have a hard time wrapping their minds around not sharing patterns, because there has always been a history of sharing. I cringed a little when a member of the charity group I am in suggested a pattern in a recent magazine as a group project. I should have said something to her, but I wasn’t brave enough, I don’t know her well. No way every quilter in the group could or would buy the magazine so they could make a few blocks. Instead I sent a link to a free pattern. In actuality we haven’t done another group quilt. The first one was an awkward situation, too. One of the leaders of the group picked a paper pieced pattern from an older magazine and just gave us as many copies of the template as we needed. I never did know the name of the pattern. But when I first started quilting I never gave a though about making quits from patterns in the secondhand magazines and books I have been given. Now, I mostly do traditional blocks or make up my own. I could never be a pattern maker though, writing a pattern would be too hard.
        I do try to promote the designers that I like and from whom I use free patterns.

        Reply
        • Hi Kathy, thanks for dropping by the blog! Trying to work out quilting with groups can be tricky, but I always suggest contacting the author and seeing if they can do a bulk discount. When groups contact me I like to give a wholesale-type discount because they’re buying in amounts similar to a quilt store. But each designer will have their own ideas, I’m sure! Thanks for taking the time to think through these matters and for considering the point of view of the designer.

          Reply
  33. Dang girl!!! Way to open my eyes! I will be cogitating on so many aspects of this post for at least days to come! I appreciate the detailed breakdown of costs. What really got me is the suggestions of how to support in other ways than buying a pattern! I guess it just never really occurred to me how much FB etc could help. And as a result of this post, I will likely attempt to purposefully BUY patterns, which I have never done before! As much as I spend on fabric, I could easily allocate some of that to support pattern designers, especially those with whom I feel, for whatever reason, I have some “connection” . Epic post for sure! Thanks, Kirsty!!!!

    Reply
    • Hey Sarah, thanks for your comment. I’m glad the article was interesting to you, I’m happy to break down the costs if it helps people understand the pricing a bit better. It can be hard to appreciate something when you don’t realise what goes into making it. And yes, FB is a great way to share blogs you enjoy, it can really help bring new readers to a site!

      Reply
  34. Hi there, that is really putting it our there, thankyou. Like others have said about why are downloaded patterns not cheaper, I now appreciate your answers, ones time is so precious and when given so freely it gets to be a habit that is so hard to break and not appreciated by the receiver. In my case, yes I look at the freebies but now the most important thing in a pattern is what it does for me, which helps me delve deeper into my comfort zone and look for what expands me, so therefore, I buy patterns that do just that, but I would not have got there without the freebies. I thank you and others who put themselves out there so selflessly. Thankyou.

    Reply
    • Hi Carol, I think that’s the progression every pattern designer hopes for – a customer that comes for the free, but then grows and stays for the paid. It doesn’t always happen that way, some don’t get past the free, but you win some and you lose some! Thanks for taking the time to consider the industry and leave a comment.

      Reply
  35. Thank you for the thoughtful and enlightened post! I have a blog and yes, it costs me money but it’s fairly nominal for a hobby. While I would love to make money with it, I have no expectation that it will ever happen. It’s for me, my creative journal and therapeutic sideline. I love free patterns and such but do understand that it’s all supposed to drive business to that site or designer. I also occasionally buy things like patterns online as well. I know the industry is going through some hiccups but isn’t that true with all businesses once the internet became a giant? Keep this dialogue going because it is valuable and worthwhile. I applaud all those who do this for a living and will continue to support them when I can.

    Reply
    • Hi Elana, thank you for your comment. I agree with you on the internet – it’s definitely disrupting the way we do all things, and we’re adjusting to this new way of life. I try to remember that good service/good products/uniqueness will always be needed, regardless of how it’s sold. If anything it keeps us all on our toes and gives us all lots of new opportunities.

      Best of luck with your blog – I hope it continues to bring you much joy!

      Reply
  36. thank you so much for this article about the expenses involved in running a quilt blog, pattern pricing, etc.. i was one who couldn’t understand why the pdf pattern and the paper pattern were the same cost. i totally understand now. i think it was very brave of you to share all this detailed information. educating customers is truly important. thank you again for sharing this information. patti in florida ([email protected])

    Reply
  37. Excellent, informative post on the cost of running a blog. I don’t think people have any idea how much it can entail, I certainly did not! Thank you very much for educating the general quilting public! I enjoy your newsletter and posts. I started following you on pinterest and subscribing to your blog based on one of your beautiful, free patterns (chevron baby quilt), and since then purchased (but have not made yet) Diamonds in the Deep.

    Reply
  38. That’s a great summary. I knew a lot of it from other aspects of my quilting history (longarming, for instance), but I don’t really understand how you are even staying in the black.

    I’ve always done my own website work, though I know things are more complicated now than they once were, and I had no idea it cost so much for others to do it for you! It’s one of the negatives about the free platforms, actually. They are becoming less and less controlled by the blogger, and I don’t like it.

    My personal websites don’t pertain to quilting, but to education, from which I have retired, so I never had to put up shopping carts (though I saw that paypal has a relatively simplistic one). All of that to say, that’s a huge extra expense on top of all the others. It looks to me as if even selling 6500 copies of one pattern barely makes overhead and a salary. No wonder you’re still working another job!

    Reply
  39. Kirsty, from one pattern designer to another, nice work! It’s hard not to get a bit offended when someone comments on the price of my patterns. It’s definitely one of the injustices caused by an overload of free ‘stuff’ that is out there. Like you, I work hard to make my free patterns valuable – they have a very distinct purpose, as you explain – to try and attract new followers who will become paying CUSTOMERS. I’m not just doing it for fun – although I’m glad it IS fun for me! And thanks for the breakdown about paper patterns. I’ve been toying with whether it’s the right way to go for me and you’ve actually tipped me over the edge of ‘no’. Time to reconsider my next step… thank you ????

    Reply
  40. How much does it cost to proffesionally print and package each pattern? I always thought that was the only expense. Marketting seems to be expensive, and it also sounds like you have found your niche!

    Reply
    • Hi Dee, hopefully the post shows there’s a lot more than just the printing and packaging (which as I mention differs depending on the pattern’s length and the size of your print run)! There’s overheads and the time and materials it takes to produce the patterns and keep the business going. Marketing can be as cheap or as expensive as you like, in my opinion. If you spend a lot of time on social media you can create some great advertising for yourself, but if you haven’t got the time then the best bet can be to spend money on ads. There’s a lot to consider and you have to do what’s best for your own particular business.

      Reply
  41. Thanks for a great explanation. I’ve ordered several patterns from websites and blogs that I haven’t yet created. I will never have enough time to make all the beautiful quilts I see. Your article makes me feel much better about having these patterns in “my stash” – even if I never make the quilt, I have helped some great designers provide lovely products that continue to provide inspiration!!!

    Reply
    • Absolutely, Kelly – PDFs are such a great way to support someone without having more “stuff” clogging up your sewing room!

      Reply
  42. Hi–I appreciate you taking the time to write about this! I have to tell you a little story–I found a pattern I loved on Pinterest–lots of free tutorials on the central block, but I searched and searched, and could not find a pattern for the way it was set up, or get info from the person who posted it. A friend helped me draw it up on graph paper. I was halfway done with the quilt, when someone at a retreat said, “that looks like a _____ quilt!” Sure enough it was….So now I have a conundrum. I have thought about contacting the person who actually designed the quilt and sending them the money for the pattern, but am afraid I might end up being sued for copyright infringement. I guess the other option would be just to go online and buy the pattern, and say nothing. It would sure be helpful if people would credit the pattern-maker for those of us who want to make a similar quilt! It has always bugged me when people make copies of patterns (not free) for other people. I may just print your blog, as someone else suggested, and pass it around a bit, especially the part about pattern production costs, if that is ok.

    Reply
    • That’s a tricky one, Ellen. I’d say if you were just keeping the quilt for yourself, and you’d done all the “working out” yourself you could probably just go on with it. If you were planning to enter in a Show or put it all over the internet then purchasing a pattern might be easier so you can, without qualms, show off your work without the inevitable “hey, that looks just like so-and-so’s pattern” that might cause trouble. I’m not a lawyer – but I’m not sure if that would be copyright infringement as you’re not trying to sell the pattern or pass it off as your own. But I think it’s just easier to err on the side of safety sometimes, to save a fuss (for just $10). Also it helps me to think about how I would feel if I was the designer and someone was doing that to me – how would I feel/what would my POV be? It’s a curly one!

      Reply
      • Thanks for the input, Kirsty! I just feel like buying the pattern is something I want to do, as, had I been able to find it in the first place, I would have! When I found it on the site, I realized I had looked, just didn’t recognize because the quilt was sitting diagonally in the photo, and the centers where I used the inverted star block were all solid fabric, so it looked totally different! I guess that’s why I’m not a pattern designer–never would have thought to put a block in where the big pieces of fabric were….

        Reply
  43. Wow. I amazed anybody does this with all the cost and time involved. There are a few folks I buy patterns from because I love the pattern and the blogger and I want to support them. I’ve made some but not a lot because like everyone I’m busy. I just successfully purchased one of your patterns. I tried once before but ran into an issue . Thanks for all you do, and for shedding light on this.

    Reply
  44. Very enlightening blog, especially the analysis of paper v pdf. I prefer pdf for the immediacy. I download to my tablet and then my patterns are at my finger tips when I’m shopping and need to know fabric requirements. I’m ok with the same price for paper v pattern. I would only expect a slightly lesser price of not more than a $1. I do get the concept of contribution margin. As to free patterns, I buy as many as I have gotten free. But I hope there will alway be free pattern and not just easy or simple patterns. Overall I think the mix of sources (patterns, books, magazines) for purchase or free is good for the industry. It stimulates sales for fabric, tools and accessories.

    Reply
  45. I had no idea that it cost that much to run a Quilt Blog. Thanks for the info. Also I haven’t been able to find your pattern store. I am computer illit sometimes. I enjoy your site and all the help.

    Reply
  46. Thanks so much for writing this. My website/business costs are similar to yours. I don’t think my readers/subscribers (close to 8,000) realize how much it costs to just maintain the site, let alone the other expenses.

    I’ve been going through the free vs paid debate with myself for a while now. It’s definitely a balancing act.

    Reply
  47. Great article! I have a YouTube video you might enjoy regarding copyright infringement and PDF patterns. It’s called Love the Pattern? Respect the Designer.
    I’ll be sharing a link to this article with my Facebook group and in my email quarterly EZine to customers, thanks for the thoughtful content ????????

    Reply
  48. A very thought provoking article, it has made me more aware of costs that designers have to find before earning a living. $10 is the price of a drink or a coffee in some parts of the world. I know which I’d rather have. It really annoys me that people aren’t prepared to pay for an artist’s work, but will happily pay out for hugely overpriced branded items to impress their friends. good luck with your business I hope it will go from strength to strength.

    Reply
    • Thanks Patricia. I once saw someone refer to a pattern as a coffee + pastry price point, which is very apt. For the cost of your morning tea you can support a pattern designer!

      Reply
  49. This is exactly why I stopped designing / selling patterns. It stopped being worth it to me. I have seen the industry change SO much in the last 15 years. Why would anyone buy a pattern when they can find it or something similar for free online or copy It from a friend. I went back to work…

    Reply
    • I can understand why, that sounds a lot easier to me. This is why we’ll end up with fewer pattern designers as time goes on, which will be unfortunate.

      Reply
  50. Thank you for a very well written and informative post on the business side of quilt blogging/pattern writing. I, personally, am not a fan of freebies, either to give or take. With all of the work I put into blogging/pattern writing, I earn less than minimum wage. Thank goodness hubby makes the big bucks, because it’s difficult to make a living in any type of crafting.

    Reply
  51. I’ve wondered about the costs of blogs and designing patterns…not that I’m interested in doing it myself. ;)

    I also equate this to those who sell their quilts and people don’t understand why they can’t buy them for $50/$100 like you get in a big box store. Until you take them through the process and costs involved they just don’t understand. It’s a real eye opener for many, and I appreciate that you took the time to share with us.

    Reply
    • Definitely Sue, it can completely change how people see a business once they are made aware of the costs. Or, if they’re made aware of how other products get their costs so cheap (being made aware of child labour in overseas factories, for instance). Nothing is ever free – someone (or our environment), somewhere, is paying for it!

      Reply
  52. Thank you soooo much for this peek behind the scenes! I had an idea of what it might take – but it is as all good things are it is much more work than I even gave it credit for.
    I have a new respect for all of you in this digital world and am going to buy a pattern every quarter to ensure you stay online. I always look forward to reading your emails and have not actually completed a quilt yet – though I have made a couple of mug rugs, after all you put into this – I am inspired to finally finish one – if you can do all of this to bring us your wonderful patterns.
    Thank you again – for bringing quality quilting to the masses.

    Reply
    • Thank you Angie! I really appreciate you taking the time to read and mull over the post. I think that lots of people weren’t aware of all the back-end costs – I know I was the same until I started producing patterns myself. I learned as I went and then began to understand why certain price points were as they are – there was actually math and reasoning behind it!

      More than anything I’m excited to hear you’re now motivated to finish your first quilt – that’s pretty exciting! It’s really hard to find time to put towards a project as big as a quilt – especially the first one, which requires a great deal of learning (and maybe unpicking!) along the way.

      Best of luck!

      Reply
  53. Your article is essential and arrived just when I am planning to launch my business. I have been blogging for the past 12 year for Spanish speaking quilters all over the world. I have a huge huge follow and I am finally thinking on pattern designing. What I’ve always noticed though is that people are always looking for the free stuff, and I have had to nicely tell them I cannot share patterns. Your detailed post has given me many things to evaluate. Thank you again. Cheers from Mexico!

    Reply
  54. THANK YOU!! This is so timely. I was just having this conversation with someone trying to explain.

    I’m an illustrator- I create those pattern packaging designs for quilters and other small businesses. I also contract for a web design company, and can attest to all the back end costs of maintaining a businesses and increasing your visibility well.

    Someone asked why I don’t post something small on Fiverr just to get my name out there. It’s because when others sell their quilts, patterns, art, etc for cheap WE ARE HURTING EACH OTHER. Your average Jane just doesn’t know. And when we devalue our work it devalues our fellow artists’ work and hurts us all.

    I am in a season of financial ruin, so I am grateful for the free patterns out there right now. They ARE a good way to test a new artist you haven’t tried yet. But it should lead to conversions.

    Thank you for taking the time to articulate this in writing. I will be sharing this. A lot.

    Reply
    • Thanks Joy, I’m so glad this resonated with you. I’m sure you have many of the same issues in the illustration game too. Best of luck with your business!

      Reply
  55. All I can say is OMG!! I knew bloggers had expences but had absolutely no idea of the amazing scope of them. I do occasionally purchase directly to from the designers but will do so more often in the future. I came to this thru Alyce Blyth who I follow. Thanks for writing this article. I know it had to take a lot of thought and time. I will now be following you also. Again Thanks.

    Reply
    • Thanks for reading Elaine (isn’t Alyce great?!) I’m glad I was able to shed a bit of light on the matters that affect designers.

      Reply
  56. Yes I have always wondered how people could afford to give away free patterns. It must take a long time to make a full quilt pattern. Will try not to share anymore. Margaret

    Reply
  57. Wow! I had no idea that there were so many expenses involved in running an online quilt business and blog like yours. Your article was very informative. Thank you for taking the time to break it all down for us. I will be more thoughtful when purchasing patterns and making recommendations to friends.

    Reply
  58. thank-you for the information. It does bother me when people only look for free patterns. Get it once Get it always. PDF might make sense for quilt pattern but I disagree with clothing ones. Why should I pay USA 15 dollars for a PDF pattern then another 8 dollars to have it printed at print shop. My choice would be pay 18 dollars for a paper copy if still available. Many people say they want a PDF pattern to have it as soon they buy the pattern. No thank-you. Sometimes I will not buy a pattern unless it is available as a paper pattern.

    Reply
    • I do prefer my clothing patterns as paper patterns too – I don’t enjoy the printing and putting together part. But I have done it a few times as postage to Australia can be very prohibitive. I’m not sure what the answer is there as I’m sure the costs for producing paper clothing patterns are much higher than quilt patterns due to all the pattern sheets.

      Reply
  59. I love this post! It’s all so true and I feel patterns need to be a bit more expensive to account for these costs and time. Once you have bought a pattern you have it forever, it’s not milk or flour that you have to buy every week so $10-$20 is a great price for a well thought out, designed pattern that functions well. I started designing and making PDF patterns, because I had a background in creating boutique products for my handmade business I thought I’d take those skills and apply them to sewing patterns. The issue is, people don’t want to spend much on them so even though there might be less physical work involved once the pattern is published than my handmade pieces, I was struggling to even make an income off my patterns. I’d have to try and do wholesale to bring in bigger orders, selling my paper patterns for $20. I’m having a break now while I try and work out what the best way for me to proceed with my designs is. And here in Australia, the cost of living is high, just for your everyday basics.

    Reply
    • Hi Megan, yes its a tricky balance to find, and it does rely on volume which means you have to be creative getting more customers. Maybe wholesale would be worth testing out? You can also always email your best customers and ask if they would mind you asking them a few questions (via phone or email). Then you can get a feel for what it is your customers like about your brand (to make sure you focus on what makes you special) and their thoughts on price points. Good luck!

      Reply
  60. Thanks for the information. Not being business minded, this provided great insight. Thanks for taking the time to explain it.

    Reply
  61. I’m always interested in how other people are making money with sewing online! Thanks for sharing; just piping in to make sure you’ve looked at the Etsy affiliate network. Their cookie is longer than Amazon’s and I make way more on there each month :)

    Reply
    • Thanks Stephanie – I’m still waiting for my request for Etsy to clear. It’s been over 2 weeks now, I hope I hear from them soon!

      Reply
  62. Well-written article, Kirsty, with excellent valid points. I found this through links on some of my friends’ blogs. I design patterns mostly for fun, and the joy of bringing something from out of my head, onto graph paper, into EQ (another cost; not as fun ha but I’m getting better) and seeing it come to life in fabric! I’ll tell you that on Craftsy the designer also gets 100% of the proceeds, very generous of them, especially since their affiliate commissions are down to something like 3 or 4%… Having said that, the Craftsy pattern sales for my two lonely for sale patterns have sold, for the first pattern, approximately 15-20 copies in two years, and for the second, just 2 sales in not quite 2 months. Now my free patterns? I have some blocks, but also three complete quilt patterns for free: those three have ‘sold’ thousands, no lie, in this quarter alone just over 1800 downloads of the three!! If I had $1 per pattern, I’d be an ecstatic quilter. Makes me contemplate going back in and charging $1. The free patterns took me just as long to write as the for sale ones! I liken this to those who steal music by converting songs via a free YouTube converter…

    I’ve actually been in front of three people who bragged that they (except for one, she said she’d bought a few patterns) NEVER have ever bought one pattern in their quilting life; they just look at the photos and figure it out for themselves. I guess that is okay to a degree, once in awhile, if you are keeping that quilt, but to sell it?? I told them so, and they knew I was pretty angry. I’m still a small fry and doing this mostly for fun and a little to pay for the cost of running linky parties ($3US/month, so $4CA) and to pay for hopefully getting a logo together (have met with a graphic designer). She told me that to design a site through her company that would have a store built within it would cost me $3-5000! That’s Canadian. So I’m staying on blogger! Oh, as for designing for fabric companies, I get ‘free’ fabric to make the quilt, and $$ depending on size of the quilt as well. That is from Benartex for their ezine, as well as the now no longer in print Modern Patchwork magazine, in both of whom I’ve been published. I’d have to sell 25 copies of my latest pattern to equal the $250 they paid me to make it for the ezine. I’ve sold 2… Sewing for magazines for me puts more money in my pocket than selling them myself, but again, I’m just a small fry. Okay, now I will go and read the rest of the comments. :-)

    Reply
    • Hi Sandra – yes, it can be a real hard slog, that’s for sure. I don’t know what the secret is, only to keep at it – as long as it’s still bringing you joy.

      Best of luck with your patterns (and for what it’s worth, I think charging $1 for the free patterns is worth a try, just as an experiment for no other reason. You’ll never know until you try it, right? I really hope it works!)

      Reply
    • Sandra, I agree with Kirsty. Charge something for the free patterns you have on Craftsy. At one or two dollars, you will likely make a bit of money. Plus it is a really interesting experiment to try. Sometimes I think people see free and download anything and everything. Their computers must have three billion patterns sitting in the downloads file! Your patterns took you time and effort. See what happens!

      Reply
  63. Thanks so much for this informative post. I’ve long been curious about how all this works, and have wondered how much of a difference it makes to buy directly from the artist. I’ll definitely go that route whenever possible.

    In addition to the issues you raise, I always acknowledge the designer when I use one of their patterns. If I, say, make a baby quilt for a friend, that friend may not care who designed the pattern, but maybe a quilter will visit one day, see the label on the quilt, and decide to buy the pattern.

    I am curious what you think about a related issue. Some simple block/quilt patterns are really easy to reverse engineer—- that is, it’s obvious how to put it together. If I see a particularly clever combination of, say, half square triangles and squares, I will buy the pattern… even though I could copy the layout. But I’m surprised that some very basic arrangements are for sale. In fact, most of my quilts are improvisational and I’m surprised when people ask me for a pattern. I am not a pattern developer and honestly want to say “Just look at it, for Pete’s sake, it’s obvious!” What are your thoughts about very simple patterns?

    Reply
    • Hi Sunny, I think that different people have different ideas as to what defines “simple”. For unconfident, beginner quilters, even the addition of HSTs makes a pattern seem complicated and can cause angst. At the end of the day, if people buy something, it means they have a need for it – and we are all at different stages of our quilting journey. As someone who’s still working a job as well as quilting on the side, I understand why some people would also prefer to get to the sewing part without spending precious free time on math/design.

      If you see a simple pattern, or a very traditional (been around forever) block I don’t feel like you have to buy the pattern to make it. The value added by the seller there is not the design, but in doing all the math work for the buyer. If you’re able (and willing) to do that grunt work for yourself, then you are of course welcome to. I think when a pattern is quite unique – or at least identifiable as “belonging” to a designer, you’re probably better off just buying it. Of course you could reverse engineer the whole thing but I kind of think “what’s the point”? It’s already been done. Wouldn’t it be better to spend all that time making and calculating for your own design instead of copying someone else?

      So I have the same opinion as you – simple or traditional, do your own math and work on your fabric choices so you can bring a new spin to it. More complicated or identifiable patterns, just buy it (or make something just as clever of your own.) Hope that helps!

      Reply
  64. This is a wonderful, eye-opening post. I do love the free patterns, but prefer shelling out the $10 or so for someone else to have done the work of testing the pattern, figuring yardage, how to press seams, etc. It is helpful if the designers have a way to post about any errors, but after making quilts for over 30 years, I have yet to come across anything more than a spelling typo or mix up in colors. (Except one purse pattern that I never did figure out how to finish, even after emails with the designer!) I like to purchase printed patterns as I never know if I have enough ink or paper.

    Thanks for all the info, and I will be more likely in the future to purchase patterns and tools directly from the designer so you all will be properly compensated.

    Reply
  65. Thanks Kirsty for this article I think you are right on the money also people need to support their local quilt and sewing machine shops too , or there will be no one left to help them with classes and sewing machines etc.

    Reply
  66. This is such a heartfelt article, thank you for being brave and sharing with us! I’ve posted to my guild fb page. Good luck with making your work, your fulltime job.

    Reply
  67. Thank you for fully explaining your business! It really opened my eyes and I’ll be much more supportive of my favorite designers. Keep up your good work!

    Reply
  68. This is SOOOO good! Thank you for writing it! I am also a sewing pattern designer, though not quilts, and it is really hard sometimes when people get upset that I put things for sale. For some reason, it is expected of me that I provide free tutorials and patterns all the time without every asking for a cent for anything else. I really think that, unless you are in this business, it’s hard to realize just how much money, not to mention TIME, goes into keeping up a website and online shop.
    Thanks for writing this and helping to show people what it takes to keep up this type of business! :) Lisa

    Reply
  69. This is a very enlightening article!! Thank you for clarifying how your on-line business operates. I’m posting thus on my F/B page! From now on I will be more supportive of you and other artistic pattern designers like yourself.

    Reply

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