Tips & Techniques from Homespun Peddler

© 1998-2003 Homespun Peddler
Revised and updated December 2003

We get lots of questions from doll makers about how to get into the pattern business. We encourage everyone to give it a try for a couple of reasons:
  • it's a rewarding activity.
  • There is a demand; everytime we put up a picture of someone's doll we start getting e-mail from people who want the pattern!
Before thinking about making a pattern, you should be familiar with what other people have done. You'll find that although the covers of patterns look different, most of the insides are quite similar. Get a feel for how these are done and then plan to make your pattern similar. Of course, if you plan to make a pattern you probably DO know how patterns work.

We are not suggesting that you copy other patterns. What we are saying is that there are some generally accepted methods of work. When all pattern designers use those same general techniques then everyone benefits from standardization.

Before you can make a pattern you should really have made the doll. That process often starts with some sketches. Save them!

As you begin making the doll, be sure to sketch out the pieces so that you can use the sketches as the base for the pattern later. Also write notes on the sequence of events that you go through.

For a pattern to really work well, you'll probably want to make more than one copy of the doll. Each time you can refine your technique and make better notes.


When we think of patterns we think in terms of four parts.
  • First we need a cover. Most pattern artists come up with a general cover design that can be used for all the patterns they do. The front has the name of the pattern line (i.e. "PattyePoo's Originals") and a space for the dolls name and for a picture.

    The back of the cover is reserved for a list of supplies and other notes about the pattern. We pre-print our copyright notice there as well.

    We leave the inside of the cover blank in most cases.

    We keep our basic cover on our computer. To make a new pattern we copy the basic cover then fill in the back portion with the list of supplies.

  • Second we need a general "game plan". This is a conversational description of how the doll will be made. It talks about the concepts and any general things to keep in mind.

    Not everyone does the "game plan" section. We think that it helps. The interesting thing is that in our case, Pattye (PattyePoo) writes the instructions then Stephen (the non-crafting husband) writes the game plan after reading the pattern. If HE can understand the process then most people should be able to also.

  • Third is the detail instructions. This is the step by step part. It describes the techniques and order of events.

  • Last is the pattern itself. We try to make sure that each part is drawn to full size and is easy to read, trace, cut and generally use.

    We try to make sure that all pieces of the pattern fit on standard typewriter paper. That enables us to have the patterns copied on a standard photocopy machine. If you use large paper it means special printing.

    Keeping the pattern on standard sheets may mean that large pieces have to be put on two pages. We try to mark these carefully so that the person using the pattern can tape the pages together to make a full size piece.


Publishing, for our purpose, is getting the pattern printed. For many people this seems like the biggest hurdle to doing a pattern. A few years ago that may have been true... you had to go to a real printer, have the thing photographed or typeset, pay a lot of money and make thousands of copies.

Today publishing is a piece of cake. The entire printing industry has gone through a revolution and photocopying has become everyman's printing press.

Our approach is to produce a master pattern on standard white typing paper using our computer and laser printer. An inkjet printer would work just as well. When it's time to publish, we go to the local office products store or quick print shop and have them photocopy the pages. We bring these home, collate them and fold them and have a finished pattern. We can make single patterns or a dozen or a hundred for just pennies a copy.

Most of the photocopy work is done in black and white. The exception is the cover. Most people pick a special paper for the cover it, along with the logo or design, becomes the pattern line trademark. In our case we picked a heavy parchment paper from the office products store's stationery section.

You also want a color picture on the cover. There are a couple of ways to do this.

Our first method was to print the cover on white paper and tape a photo of the finished piece into place. We then had the kid at the copy center use their COLOR copier and our parchment paper to make the cover with pre-printed photo. The color picture wasn't perfect when printed on parchment but it was ok.

After comparing costs, we've started using the more conventional approach. We get the covers reproduced on a standard copier using our parchment, but we leave the photo area blank. Next we get a batch of duplicate photos and tape or glue a real photo on each cover.

One thing to keep in mind is to use standard size paper. Just remember not to get too close to the edges because most photo copy machines will chop off the outside quarter to half inch all around the page. If you're too close to the edges you can chop some of your pattern.


Most doll patterns are printed on 8.5 x 11 paper and folded in half. This size fits nicely into small ziplock plastic bags. That's become the standard way to package patterns.

If you choose to use a larger size format, you may still want to try for the ziplock bag for packaging. These bags are easy to display in a store, they keep everything together, and they allow the pattern to display itself.


This may sound obvious but new pattern makers sometimes miss it the first time around: Number your patterns in a consistent manner. You'll find that retailers will stock your patterns using your number and they'll order by number.

A subtle extra benefit to numbering your patterns is that it encourages customer to buy the entire series. It's just something in the human mind. If we have numbers 1, 2, 3 and 5 then we're not satisfied until we fill in the missing number 4 ... even if we don't like the thing!


Oh yeah, THAT is why you're making the patterns...

Well, selling your patterns is the real problem. There are several traditional methods for selling and some new ones.

Advertising in magazines is the traditional method used by the major artists. This can be expensive but also very effective. You can either advertise specific patterns or that you have your own catalog.

Catalogs You can do your own catalog or you can perhaps get included in someone else's catalog. Doing your own is easy... you can do any number of simple photocopied catalogs. It may be no more than a page or two.

Distributing your catalog is the next problem. You can purchase a mailing list or you can advertise that you have a catalog.

Getting into someone else's catalog usally means selling wholesale to the catalog producer. You'll have to do some legwork to find these people.

Wholesale Selling wholesale is ideal provided your patterns have become known and are in demand. Many craft stores stock patterns but they don't want to buy an unknown. Count on selling wholesale at half the retail price. You can stipulate that the store buy in multiples. That prevents individuals from acting like a retailer and buying patterns at wholesale prices.

The Internet has become the great new opportunity to get your work seen by the masses. You can start visiting all the message boards and talking up your patterns. You can start your own web site. You can get included in other people's web sites.

Getting into the internet world can seem easy. But just being there doesn't guarantee that people will find you. To get noticed takes time and effort. There is no magic formula.

Homespun Peddler has achieved some success selling patterns because we've been working for 18 months to get noticed. We are recruiting pattern makers to be listed in our catalog section and people are coming from all over the world to browse our pattern lines and purchase directly from Homespun Peddler.

Having your own web site works for some people... mainly those who are already well known and have a following. The problem is how to drive people to your web site. If people know your name, they can search for it. If they don't know your name and just enter "patterns" they'll get a million hits and you'll be just as lost in that pile.

Even if you're known, it doesn't mean that search engines will index your site, or that people will think to enter your name in a search, or spell it right if they do. If you take the web site approach, and you're serious about selling your patterns, it might be worth having a web professional help with the site. They usually know the best ways to get the search engines to index your site.

Selling on eBay is another option. It's becoming "the place" for many new web merchants. Again, the problem is to stand out in the crowd. The bigger you are, the more well know you become, the volume of items that you sell are all factors in getting seen.


Most retail prices are set by the retailer himself. The most common method is to double the wholesale price. If you sell a pattern for $3.50 wholesale, the retailer will sell it for $7.00.

Some pattern artists want to set the retail price. That is their option, but some retailers won't buy wholesale items which have a set price.

Regardless of how the retail price is set, you should NOT pre-print a retail price on your patterns. Leave that to the retailer.

Keep in mind that whoever is selling the patter will have cost in addition to the wholesale price they pay. For stores there is the storage, display, handling, and record keeping. At the time of sale there can be credit card and other fees. (New merchants are often shocked to see how much it costs to accept a credit card payment!) After the sale there is record keeping and re-stocking decisions.

For internet sales the cost are lower but there are costs. The most significant are transaction fees for individual sales. Many web merchants are using PayPal these days. It's a fantastic service and greatly simplifies the on-line shopping experience. But there is a cost. PayPal charges a transaction fee plus a percent of the sale. The merchant must mark their retail price up to cover these costs.

Homespun Peddler has taken the position that all retail prices will include shipping and handling. If a pattern costs $3.50 wholesale, we'd typically sell it for $7.00 in our store. If we sell it mail order it's more likely to be $8.50 or even $10.00. The direct costs of sales we consider for a $8.50 pattern include 50¢ transaction fee, 15¢ brown shipping envelope, 20¢ computer shipping label... that's at least 75¢ over the wholesale cost. It doesn't even consider the time to enter the order, pack it and drive to the post office. Nor does it include the fractional cost of the web site.


You should be certain to put a copyright notice and date on everything that you do. An attorney could advise you more fully on copyrights but GENERALLY all you need to do is to clearly display the © symbol, the date and your name or company name. This gives you basic protection.

Note that a copyright does not prevent people from copying your work. What it does is to give you legal recourse if you can prove that something has been copied.

You should also have a written statement about any restrictions about how the FINISHED DOLL can be used. Keep in mind WHO you plan to sell to. We find that there are two types of people buying patterns. One is the crafter who buys patterns and makes dolls only for their own enjoyment. The other person is the one who makes the dolls for resale.

We find that the person who is buying for resale may be the more serious customer. They'll typically buy entire collections of patterns rather than buying one or two at a time. Often they'll make up the dolls they like the most and sell these at craft shows. Some people will sell through shops or stores.

We find that if a pattern specifies that it cannot be made for resale then the serious crafter will not buy the pattern. In fact when they see this restriction they stop looking at the entire pattern line.

You must decide what is OK. If you don't want people to make your dolls and resell them then you must be very clear about that in your copyright notice.

Our view is that pattern makers should ALLOW doll makers to make their dolls for resale. This increases your exposure and may create a demand for your dolls.

We would suggest two special conditions when making your dolls for resale:
  • First, stipulate that the dolls can be made for resale in LIMITED QUANTITY. The finished piece NOT be mass produced. What you're really doing is saying that someone can't buy your pattern then factory produce the dolls.

  • Secondly, you may stipulate that the dolls must be identified as coming from your pattern. Here you're trying to prevent someone from making your doll and claiming that it's their own design. Most doll makers will agree to this stipulation since your name may be a selling poing.

For more information send e-mail to the Peddler.

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