My Pattern Design Process

Pretty much all I’ve been doing this year has been working on bag sewing patterns, so I thought it might be fun to share a little bit about my designing process.

First, I get an idea for a bag and I’ll draw an initial sketch. I’m kind of terrible at sketching things, but my little drawing is good enough for me, for I know what I had envisioned in my head, and the sketch is just a little way to remind me of the main points of the bag. After I sketch out the idea, calculate the yardage of the supplies needed based on the size of the bag. This is done by naming all the pattern pieces that are needed to make the bag (i.e. Lining Main Panel, Strap, Pocket, etc.), and I’ll also note which pieces are from the exterior or lining fabric, as well as what kind of interfacing I will attach to each one. Some pattern pieces will actually be physical pattern pieces that I’ll need to draft out on the computer, and others are just rectangular measurements (i.e. 4″ x 30″ for a strap).

After I get my initial layout of the pattern doodled on paper, I move over to the computer and draft the pattern pieces. For this particular pattern, there were only two pieces that needed to be drafted (the front/back of the bag, and the bottom of the bag). I usually print the pieces out a few times and make adjustments as I go. Because this bag has the rounded bottom panel, the front and back of the bag have to be exactly the right length; if they are too long or too short, there will be excess fabric when attaching it to the bottom panel. I probably spent about 5 hours on these particular pattern pieces.

After the pattern pieces are to my liking, I type up the pattern instructions in Microsoft Word. I write the whole entire pattern without even touching any fabric. Since I’ve written a few bag patterns before, I’ll often copy and paste simple parts from previous patterns (i.e. making a strap, or installing a zippered pocket), just so I don’t have to write those all over again. However, the bulk of the pattern needs to be written from scratch just because each one is unique.

Once I have printed the pattern instructions out, then I begin cutting fabric. I usually cut fabric to make one bag. One entire evening is spent cutting and fusing, just because this is usually a lengthy process. After that, I begin sewing. I refer to my pattern instructions, and as I’m working, I handwrite any changes I decide on, directly on my print-out. As you can see from my photo, I’ve decided to change a lot of things on this particular pattern. This is common for me. This is where I tighten up what I’ve written – I make notes for suggestions to make the pattern assembly easier for the reader (which I call ‘Helpful Hints’), I might change measurements of something (like I decided to shorten the strap after I got a bit into the assembly, as I pinned and tried it out, and it was a little too long).

While I am sewing the bag together, I also take my step-by-step photographs. This makes the sewing take a little bit longer, but it really helps me focus on each individual step (as sometimes my brain would like to work on auto-pilot and just sew it together without looking at the instructions).

Once I’ve finished the bag, I take final photos, go back into the original pattern document and enter in all of the changes I’ve handwritten on the pattern, and I also enter the photo for each step. Then the pattern goes off to testers, who make the bag and send me detailed notes, which I’ll use to make changes to the pattern where I see applicable.

So this is my little process from getting here to there. I hope you’ve enjoyed this look behind the scenes. 🙂


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16 replies on “My Pattern Design Process

  • CJ Latour

    Thanks for sharing your way of designing bags. Definitely gets others who want to make a bag for themselves, know how to do it even if they are doing it to make for themselves.

    Thanks again!! 🙂

  • Katy Cameron

    See here’s where you’re so much more professional than me, I write notes to myself on one of those 3 1/2″ paper blocks, then try to remember at the end what I did, and I never think to copy and paste from other patterns lol D- for me ;o)

  • kateuk

    Crumbs- way more sensible than me- I race from sketch to first make as I just want to sew my designs- I hate the working out bit, especially the yardages…but I’m getting more organised these days and taking photos ‘as you go’ is really does save hours later on, I also now rough the instructions and re-write them as I go too…so impressed with your methodical approach!

  • Crafty Mom

    Thank you for your tutorial, I love dabbling in the design process as far as finding the perfect pattern sometimes is always the easiest thing to find, I have a vision in my head and sometimes see something that catches my eye but doesn’t always have all the features that I want. thanks for the inspiration to continue to do what I love and have a passion for.

    If you don’t mind me asking I use Word for directions but what program do you or others use to actually draw the pattern, do you use word? any direction would be amazing. Thank you for the inspiration, your free bag patterns and your details, have been my daily inspiration.


  • Angie

    I, too, am a pattern designer, and am extremely lacking in the diagram department. Do you use a diagram software, and if so, what is it? Also, how do you create those excellent pattern pieces on your computer?


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