Making ePatterns Part Two: “eFormat” Your Pattern

on April 12 | in Sewing Trends, Sewing Tutorials + Patterns, Small Business Ideas | by | with 20 Comments

Carla Crim from Scientific Seamstress and Sis Boom eBooks is back for Part Two in her three part series on drafting, grading, formatting and marketing your own ePatterns. In Part Two Carla explains how to “eFormat” your pattern, taking you through the process of scanning the pattern, recreating a full-sized image, and drawing overlapping pieces.

Part One covered pattern drafting and grading, and tomorrow Carla will be back for Part Three where we’ll learn more about writing instructions and marketing patterns.

We’re offering a 20% discount on all Scientific Seamstress and Sis Boom PDF Patterns in the shop! Take advantage of the discount today…

Now you’ve drafted a great pattern and are ready to share it with the world… How do you “e-format” it? It is a bit like making a jigsaw puzzle out of a large picture. The goal, however, is to make re-assembly as quick and easy as possible for the end user.

I’m going to take you through my process of scanning the pattern, recreating a full-sized image, and drawing overlapping pieces. For my software, I use very old versions of Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft PowerPoint. For the first few steps, any photo editing program that can do basic operations like cropping will work. You could even use a free online photo editor like Picasa. The drawing portion could be done with a more advanced CAD program, but I like using PowerPoint because it is so user-friendly, and great for writing instructions as well. I actually own three versions of PowerPoint, and the oldest (97) is my favorite because I am so used to it. You can buy the entire Office 97 Suite for $5 – $10 online, but you probably already own something newer. Just make sure it is a business/professional version and licensed for commercial use. If you have the newest “home” version, you can upgrade it through Microsoft. Another great option is Open Office’s Impress software, which is completely free an can be used without restriction. I downloaded it and played around a bit– It is very powerful and would be perfect for patternmaking.

I use a letter-sized flatbed scanner to import my pattern pieces. This means I have to make multiple scans and reassemble in a photo editing program. Since patterns are usually just simple line drawings, matching up scans can be quite tricky (especially if the rotation is slightly off on any of the pieces). I’ve come up with a method of scanning that keeps everything straight (both in my head and on the scanner).

Trace the pattern onto tissue paper, then divide the pattern into sections to scan. I drew my first guideline just above the top edge of the bodice, then spaced subsequent guidelines 7.5″ apart. I drew one final guideline just below the bottom of the pattern.

Make a fold in the paper a bit (about .25″) beneath the bottom of the first section. Make sure the fold is parallel to the guideline. Put a piece of card stock behind the section to be scanned and arrange it the edge is against the fold.

Place the pattern on the scanner (proper side facing down, of course) so that the folded edge is flush with the front edge of the scanner bed. Don’t worry about closing the lid, but do place a book on top of the pattern to keep things nice and flat.

Set the scanner up to scan the entire area in grayscale at 75 dpi. At this resolution, the document should come out at actual size.

If you are scanning through your photo editing software, the scan of the section should pop right up (if not, save and open in your software). The guidelines should be visible and nice and straight relative to the edges of the image. If needed, adjust the contrast or rotation (note: if the rotation is off, sometimes it is easier to just re-scan).

Crop the image at the position of the guidelines. Check the image size– It should be about 7.5″ wide. Save this image as Scan 1.

Make a second fold beneath the next guideline.

Repeat the scanning and cropping process and save as Scan 2.

After Scan 3, I noticed that my last piece was wider than my scanner bed. Wider pieces can be divided with a line perpendicular to a guideline.

Scan the first portion of the section.

Then crop to the guidelines and the dividing line.

Repeat with the other section.

Now comes the fun part: Reassembly! Open up Scan 1, and change the canvas size to be several inches larger than your original pattern in each dimension (I went with 32 x 14). In this case, I want to keep the original image in the bottom right hand side of the canvas. Fit the image window to the screen so you can see the whole thing.

Then, Open scan 2. Select all, and copy.

Paste Scan 2 into your elongated Scan 1…

…And move it into place!

Repeat with your other pieces until you have your full-sized pattern. Flatten the image, then crop away any excess canvas. If you wish, you can use the eraser tool to remove the guidelines (they don’t bother me so I just leave them). Make sure you save the image!

Before moving on to the drawing phase, write down your final image size.

Now we are ready to draw! Open up a new document in your presentation software. Go into page setup, and make the page a bit larger than the image you just made.

Either copy and paste, or use “insert – image – from file” to put your pattern image in the presentation software.

Before you do anything else, select the image and go into “format – object” and make sure the image is the right size. Sometimes the presentation software shrinks or enlarges the image to fit the screen (and even the slightest change can really mess up your sizing). If needed, resize to the size of the finished image in the photo editing software (aren’t you glad you wrote it down?!).

Basically, you will be using the drawing tools to trace the image of your pattern. There are lots of great tutorials explaining how to draw lines and shapes in PowerPoint (like this one from Microsoft), so I won’t go into every detail. One thing I will mention that is important if you are just starting out– Make sure the “snap to grid” setting is turned off. This will give you much more flexibility in drawing and object placement.

Before I do any tracing, I draw unfilled boxes, each with dashed lines (square shape tool) to represent the printable field in a letter sized piece of paper. A good safe size is 7.7 x 10.2″. The area contained within the box above is what will be Part A of my pattern.

The boxes can be arranged side-by-side, with symbols provided for matching purposes. I like to make the boxes overlapping so the resulting pieces can be taped together very easily. I usually do a 0.5″ overlap. I use the square tool to make a 0.5″ wide box (in green) to use as a gauge for overlapping the boxes.

The goal is to use as few boxes as possible to encompass the entire pattern (less work for you and less taping for the customer). In this case, I can fit the pattern into 5 boxes total, but I had to rotate the other boxes.

Now it is time to draw! I usually use the free-form polygon tool to make filled shapes and lines with multiple bends (points). For simple straight lines, I use the line tool.

The pattern layout is a lot like a floor plan. I need to draw “walls” at the position of the overlaps to separate the “rooms” (and even though the rooms are separate, they still share the walls). I use the polygon tool to draw shaded boxes.

This pattern has six “walls” total.

For each separate section, I use the line drawing tools to trace the pattern. For most of the sections, the lines (shown in pink) are straight and simple, with only a click or two needed to get the tracing.

The top section, however, has some curves to it. I used to deal with something like this by making lots of clicks of the mouse to go around the curves. Then I figured out how to make curved lines. Now what I do is draw the straight parts, skipping over the curves. I then go back in and make the connecting segment curved…

…And add in points to move around to get the curved shape I am after. If you are going to be grading or possibly changing the pattern in any way, the less points the better.

After drawing all of your lines, you can delete the dashed boxes and the scanned image. You can do as much or as little labeling as you like at this point. In this example, I just named the parts, but I usually do most of the labeling (pattern name, how many to cut, grainlines, etc.) before the next step.

Now we are ready to take the pieces over to a document with letter sized pages. Open a new presentation, and set up 8.5″ x 11″ pages in portrait orientation. Add in enough blank pages to accommodate all of the pattern pieces.

Arrange your windows so both documents are visible. Select all of Part A, copy…

Then paste into the other document. That was easy, right?

The other pieces will need to be rotated to fit in the portrait page orientation. The easiest thing is to group the entire layout, the rotate. After un-grouping, the pieces can be copied and pasted over individually.

After pasting, you can add in any additional labels. Above is an example of a finished Sis Boom pattern Piece.

In addition to the pattern pages, it is helpful to include a page that includes instructions for printing. Since our patterns are multi-sized, we include a “Quick Print Guide” that tells the user exactly which pages to print for a given size. In addition, we include a 1″ x 1″ box that can be measured to ensure the patterns printed at exactly the right size. I also include this box on at least one page of every size group so the user doesn’t have to print the instruction page.

I printed my example pattern pieces, taped them together, and placed them over the original pattern… Perfect fit! Of course, nice patterns are only one (albeit important) element of a great eBook. Tomorrow I will give my tips for writing instructions, making PDF files, and distributing your work.

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Today we’re offering 20% off all Scientific Seamstress PDF Patterns AND all Sis Boom PDF Patterns in the shop!

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20 Responses to Making ePatterns Part Two: “eFormat” Your Pattern

  1. Meg says:

    This is so, so awesome! Thank you, Carla!

  2. Sandy says:

    Thank you for the wonderfully detailed directions! Your children’s clothing is adorable.

    You’ve given some food for thought as to ideas of my own I could sell. I’ve had a vague notion for some time, but now I’m starting to think specifics; thanks for the inspiration! (Don’t worry, I won’t be doing clothing patterns. :-)

  3. nopinkhere says:

    You make this sound so reasonable and doable! I know this series took awhile to put together. Thank you!

  4. Marlo says:

    I LOVE Carla’s patterns! It is so interesting to see how she creates her visions. Her ways may not be the same method everyone uses as others have pointed out but not everyone has to do everything the same way. IMO The end result is the same a fantastic pattern! That is the point isn’t it?
    Carla you are a pattern GODDESS IMO! I can’t wait to see what you have coming up next!

  5. laura says:

    WOW! THANK YOU SOOOOOOO MUCH!

  6. Tommy says:

    These are great directions. I can follow them step by step and not mess up. How long have you been doing this? Customizing patterns is not my strong suite. Thanks

  7. Seanna Lea says:

    I’ve used all of the tools here for my day job, but some of these tricks would make life so much easier!

    For those that don’t have presentation software, you can put the images (using the same procedures pretty much) into Word. It isn’t really any more difficult to make the labels there.

  8. Katrina H says:

    Wow! Your knowledge is invaluable and much appreciated! This is stuff I would spend $ on for a class! Thank you!

  9. Kathleen says:

    My head was hurting because this is a lot of work! This is great if your resources are limited but if you have other tools or know someone who has them (a digitizer), it can be so much easier. Basically, you have it digitized and have it set to print via pdf (cute pdf etc) specifying 8.5 x 11 sheet size for output. If you have illustrator or gimp, you could then pretty up the pdf before releasing it for sale.

    Having something digitized (by a reputable party) is very inexpensive, you could even do it through the mail. The only downside is minimums. Technically a pattern like Carla’s that is this simple would take a matter of minutes (less than 10) so someone might not want to do it because a service provider needs a minimum return to set up a new account, the files etc (which isn’t something we can charge for), say an hour or so. The hourly rate is $50 to $75 depending on location so it wouldn’t be worth it to do one pattern. However, if you wanted to have five or six simple ones done, it could be done in an hour and would be better digitally and time wise.

    Oh, and a service provider might (but not always) also do the grading, which is also inexpensive for a pattern like this. The more pieces there are, the more costly the grade. Something like Carla’s pattern would be maybe $4 to $5 per size so four sizes (XS S L XL, no charge for the medium or base size) is @ $20. But again, services have minimums so the job would have to be enough to take up an hour (or 2) of time. You’d also have to specify you wanted pdf output (and maybe how to do it as above) which may be cause for puzzlement because we don’t do it that way.

  10. Andi says:

    Wow. Thank you for this great explanation. This definitely makes it seem doable!

  11. Amanda says:

    This is a great tutorial! Very much appreciated!

  12. Bethany says:

    Oh how I needed this tutorial!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. Lorrie Orr says:

    Fantastic information. This is so detailed and useful. Thanks, Carla.

  14. Valerie says:

    I can’t wait to try this. It was so helpful. Thank you!!!

  15. Carrie says:

    thank you so much for the series! I love it and have been looking for this type of information for awhile now!

  16. Julia says:

    Carla, your tutorials are absolutely amazing! Thank you.

  17. Angelina says:

    AMAZING!!!! Just the tutorial that I have been looking for…thank you so much!

  18. amanda says:

    I am totally freaking out about this. Thank you so much for being so generous with your know-how… this is going to revolutionize my etsy shop! :)

  19. Cassandra says:

    OMG!!! That is crazy and fantastic at the same time! Thanks for the tutorial.

  20. Teresa says:

    This is so neat to see how you do this Carla!!!

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