I’ve been on maternity leave for little over two weeks now. Besides sleeping and baby stuff, I have been busy with making PDF patterns on Inkscape. My goal is to self-publish a pattern book for the plushies I have designed over the years and am continuing to design now. Over the last five years, I’ve managed to create one PDF pattern per year (they are a lot of work), but their styles were quite different. This is to be expected I think, when you’re learning a new skill and still trying to find your own way. But if I want to make them into a book, I want them to be consistent and make up a harmonized whole together. So I have been working on that.
My first ever pattern from 2011 was for a Moose Ornament, which I designed for my brother’s metal band at the time, named ‘Monster Moose’. I looked at other people’s patterns for inspiration. Most people just drew their templates, scanned them in, and accompanied them with a step-by-step photo guide. So I also went with the photo-guide, but I wanted my template to be a bit more professional so I taught myself how to use Inkscape to create vector images. In the end, the PDF pattern included quite a few neat-looking computer graphics made by yours truly. I was pretty proud.
Soon, I had really fallen in love with making graphics on Inkscape, so my newer patterns did not have the photo-guide, instead they were more like comic book treasure maps. To be able to make the plushie you had to follow the Eleventh Monkey’s text balloons (up, down, left, right, and even counterclockwise) in which he gave instructions. I really liked this style because it was very playful and different from all the other PDF patterns out there. Most of the actions required were depicted with computer graphics, but there were also some real photos of the plushie-in-progress sprinkled in there.
My least favorite thing about pattern making was actually the photos. I’m not just talking about the tedious editing afterwards but also about simply taking photos. You need consistently good light, which really is not easy, so oftentimes I had to stop working on a plushie until a day or moment with better daylight came around. I tried a light-box, but that didn’t help, and I really wasn’t interested in getting a better and more expensive camera than my little easy-to-use Canon point-and-shoot camera. Actually, I became less interested in my little Canon itself, as I found myself using my iPhone camera more and more. What can I say, I am not a professional photographer, but if I use photos I do want them to look good.
So I’ve eliminated almost all photos from my patterns now. I know my patterns need at least one actual photo of the end product, so that’s all I’m doing now. I was a bit afraid to do this, but when browsing Japanese pattern books for inspiration I found most of them also use computer graphics for the step-by-step explanation, and actual photos are just for showing off the result.
Even though, I loved the messy treasure-map feel of my patterns I realized that it could be quite confusing for people. So I changed to a numbered frame-by-frame order, so there’s no guessing which way you’re supposed to go or what you’re supposed to do next. I’ve also put a lot of effort into clearly explaining, with diagrams, techniques and tricks that I take for granted. Things that I do automatically because I make a lot of plushies, but that are not always obvious to novices. I want crafters of all levels to be able to make my plushies, to enjoy my patterns, and to easily understand the instructions.
I’m excited because my old patterns are all available in the new style now. And I’ve even managed to create a whole new pattern for a Panda last week. If you want to have a look, you can download the Skull PDF pattern for free, since that started out as an online tutorial once. I’m excited to create even more new plushies and new patterns. The new plushies will probably become part of a mobile for the baby and the patterns are all for my future book. I wonder how many patterns will be a good number for a book. In any case, I’ll have to be much more productive than the last 5 years, because if I keep creating one pattern per year, I’ll take forever to have enough for a book.