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Tips for Writing and Publishing PDF Craft Patterns

Updated on November 24, 2013
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Rose is a full-time freelance writer who frequently writes about education, special education, DIY projects, food, Milwaukee, and more.

Copyright 2011, Rose Clearfield
Copyright 2011, Rose Clearfield | Source

I'd been making jewelry for a couple years (what I consider "serious" jewelry anyway, as opposed to simply stringing beads) before I started writing patterns. It took me a long time to develop my own designs and then figure out how to describe my process in both words and pictures so that others would be able to replicate the pattern. The process is lengthy but well worth it. It's important to remember that while the initial pattern will take many hours to make, once it's written, you can simply re-list the item online every time it sells with no other work.

In the past year, I've written 7 patterns. There is a lot that I've learned along the way. I've done my best to summarize my findings for you. I hope that this is helpful for any crafters create or are contemplating creating their own patterns. Before I get into the meat of this hub, I have to give credit to Carol Dean of Sand Fibers and all of the other amazing beadweavers out there who have developed original designs/graphs and taken the time to publish the patterns for them. Without them, I never would have been inspired to take up beadweaving in the first place, much less write patterns for my own original beadwoven designs.

I really want to emphasize that it is essential to "test drive" all of your patterns. It saddens me that I even have to include that note, but I have seen a number of patterns for sale that are computer generated graphics that have never been created. There is much more to creating a good pattern than simply developing an image on the computer. Do at least one test run with a pattern before you publish it!

What to Include in the Pattern

Attractive cover page. Browse patterns for sale if you need inspiration for how to format your cover. There are many possibilities. Make sure that you include the title of the piece, at least one picture of it, your name, and your online shop name.

Copyright information/terms of the pattern. I include "For Personal Use Only" on the cover of all of my patterns. On the top of the second page, I give more detail about the terms for my pattern. It's up to you what your terms will be. Some sellers, like me, choose to offer buyers the option of upgrading to commercial patterns for a higher price. Some sellers offer separate commercial patterns. Whatever your terms are, state them explicitly.

Supply list. Be comprehensive. Include all of the tools that you will need for the project. Be generous with the amounts of the materials. All of my current patterns are for bracelets. I specify the intended length for them so people can adjust their materials accordingly. Consider including intended measurements for your pattern if it's appropriate to do so. Include resources for any difficult to find materials and/or tools.

Directions. This can be any combination of words, photographs, drawings, and software charts/graphs. Think about what will be most effective for relaying the steps for your project.

Closure or other finishing steps. It is really helpful for buyers, especially those who are beginners, to have at least one suggestion for creating a closure or completing the finishing steps for a project. If you have created a graph pattern, buyers will need more information than this chart for creating a complete piece of art. If you need assistance with these directions, browse craft books or online tutorials for inspiration.

Pictures of the finished product. Make sure that you include at least one picture of the finished item that you created for the tutorial. It can be helpful to include pictures of the item from different angles and/or that provide closeups of different parts of the item (i.e. the clasp, the fringe).

Pictures of different color combinations and/or other variations. At the point that I have created patterns of my designs, I have already made at least a few different versions of those designs. On the final page of my patterns, I show several examples of other pieces I've made with those patterns. if you've made pieces with slight variations from a particular pattern (i.e. different fringe), consider including pictures of those pieces with brief explanations of the variations.

Page number and copyright information. I include the page number and a brief copyright (i.e. Copyright 2011, Rose Clearfield) on each page of my pattern. I create my patterns in Microsoft Word where it is very easy to include this information in a header or footer.

What to Include in the Online Listing

Once you've finished your pattern, it's time to write a listing description for your online shop. Here are some things to consider including when you write it.

Length/size of the finished product.

The technique(s) that you will need to know for completing the project (i.e. specific knitting or crocheting stitches).

Difficulty level. You can include a range for this level if that is appropriate (i.e. beginner to intermediate).

How many pages the pattern is.

What the pattern does or does not include. For example, the pattern might not include beads or thread.

Information about how this is a listing for a pattern, not a finished piece.

Copyright information. Yes, this information will be in the pattern, but it's important to include it in the listing as well.

Photos of and/or links to finished pieces.  In each pattern listing, I include a link for the pieces in my Etsy shop from that particular line that are currently available . Some sellers choose to use the additional photo slots in the listing to include pictures of pieces.

Other Things to Consider

Proofread and spell check. Again, it saddens me that I have include this, but I have seen published patterns with red underlined misspelled words on the covers. Check and re-check your pattern and then have at least one other person proof it for you. If no one at home is interested in doing this, see if you can send it online to a fellow crafter.

Varied readers. When I was writing my first pattern, I found it really helpful to have both people who do and do not make that particular craft (in this case, beadweaving) read over my pattern. Especially if you are creating a pattern that is suited for beginners, it's really important to ensure that the terminology that you use is appropriate and will not be confusing.

Converting to a PDF. As I mentioned previously, I create my patterns in Microsoft Word, which has a very easy method for converting files to PDFs. Many software programs have easy conversion methods as well. if you're using a program that does not have a converter included, there are lots of free converters online. I've included a link for one of them at the end of this hub. Converting to a PDF is not essential, but it is encouraged, as this is a widely accepted viewing form for files.

Screen shots. I use screen shots of my pattern covers for my listing photos. It's not essential that you use this method, but I've found it to be relatively easy and very effective. I use Picasa for my screen shots.

Pricing. If you're unsure about how to price your pattern, browse similar patterns online and compare price points. You can also consult fellow crafters.

CD option. Most people are happy to save the PDF file and print it as needed, but some people do like the option of having a hard copy. I offer a copy of the pattern on CD on request. I do charge shipping with this option.

You can also have patterns on CD at craft fairs. You can see some of my patterns on CD that I created for my fall 2010 shows on my blog here.

Kits. Once you've created patterns, you can make the transition from patterns to kits fairly easily. I have not pursued this option yet myself, but it's something to consider. There are numerous kits available on Etsy. Browse kits in your particular crafting area for inspiration.

Other online venues. If you primarily list online in one venue only, considering listings your patterns on other venues. Because you can sell an infinite number of your patterns, you do not need to worry about duplicate sales on different sites. Somewhat to my surprise, in addition to steady sales on Etsy, I have also had success selling my patterns on eBay.

Section in your regular shop vs. a new shop. Some sellers prefer to have a separate shop for their patterns. Personally, I think that if you sell patterns for the same type or similar types of items to the ones in your shop, it's okay to sell the patterns in the same shop. Simply create a new section for them.

Publishing patterns in magazines or on web sites. I have primarily pursued selling my patterns on my own as opposed to having them published in magazines or online, but you can pursue this option. Research magazines, both paper and online, that pertain to your particular craft and read current issues to determine which magazines are most appropriate for your work. You don't want to waste time sending lots of submissions to magazines that aren't likely to publish your patterns. If you don't want to pay for lots of magazines, browse in your local bookstore. Widespread chain bookstores such as Barnes and Noble have a large selection of craft magazines.

Anything else that I should include? Related topics that you'd like to see here? Let me know!

What works well about the instructions in your favorite craft books? Carry these ideas over to your own patterns.


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    • Abby Slutsky profile image

      Abby Slutsky 

      4 months ago from America

      This is an interesting topic. I never thought about all the patterns that are published. You sound like you are very talented.

    • randomcreative profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose Clearfield 

      9 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thank you so much Stephanie! I agree that proofreading and good photographs are so important for any published work. I think that it's important for people who use patterns, whether they are free or for pay, to understand the process of writing them.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 

      9 years ago from USA

      This excellent comprehensive guide to publishing craft patterns includes advice that could apply to other areas of publishing. Of course, your advice about proofreading applies to any published work if it is to look professional! I also think that good photographs make a huge difference to the value of the pattern to the user. Your hub is not only a great guide, but gives real insight into the process of writing patterns for public use.

    • randomcreative profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose Clearfield 

      9 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      You're welcome! I'm so glad that this is helpful for you! Best of luck with your endeavors.

    • wannabwestern profile image

      Carolyn Augustine 

      9 years ago from Iowa

      This is an excellent primer for craft writing and that is an area I've always wanted to explore. Thank you and kudos! I bookmarking and sharing.

    • randomcreative profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose Clearfield 

      9 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks Deb! I'm glad that I'm not the only one who thinks that is really important. I agree about the copyright. I know that people will see the patterns in my shop and still consider trying to duplicate them from my pictures. But hopefully they will at least think twice before doing that.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      proofreading is one of the most important things to do when you are "publishing" an article or post. I hate to find mistakes when I'm reading. But then, I'm an editor of sorts. And the copyright is really important, too. Some people will "steal" an idea or text no matter what you do, but with a copyright seal, at least they will think twice. Great post! {:-D


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