When The Monthly Stitch announced their Project Indie contest, I had already been thinking about designing patterns. I had designs in my head and I had started learning about pattern drafting from books. I had really wanted to dive in further, but I needed a push.
And due to a certain quirk in my personality, contests appeal strongly to me and push me to try new things or finish what I start. I’ve known this about myself for years and try to utilize it to help me reach my goals when I can. That is why it seemed like incredible luck that Project Indie came up. Like it was made for me!
I quickly signed up for Pattern Workshop by Lauren Dahl to help me learn all the important details that make a pattern usable. I didn’t realize I would have to become proficient in two new, rather complicated computer programs. Learning something like Adobe Illustrator takes time and practice. I had a deadline and admit to getting frustrated. I certainly didn’t master it! But I got it finished and submitted.
It was honestly such a thrill to see my little top in the contest. I felt I had a slim chance of winning, but I was still so glad I completed the challenge and entered. When I heard I won I was totally taken aback. I assumed that the other two designers were much more professional and experienced (and perhaps they are) but the winner was determined by votes and a panel of judges. Since I did not expect to win, I had no next steps in place, no business plan ready, just a hazy vision of designing fun patterns of things that I would like to sew and wear.
Because I felt so inexperienced and unfocused I was very excited to have the help of The Monthly Stitch to guide me. I soaked up the advice and help. I got to Skype with Kristiann from Victory Patterns, who was a font of knowledge and so sweet to boot. The advice I got from Penny from Dresses and Me was also invaluable.
Most importantly, though, with winning Project Indie was the fact that I had a cheering section that liked my design and could help me see where I could take this. I appreciated that some people must have voted for me! And I could not just abandon ship because I felt it was overwhelming, especially when I had won the opportunity over the other talented designers.
The first thing I did was threw up a website. Because I am a web content coordinator for work, I didn’t buy a theme, I decided to customize a free one. I spent hours learning how to set it up. I wanted to learn some CSS, I researched options for layouts and colors, etc. I used the website as a procrastination tool, basically. All in avoidance of the real challenge of whipping my design into a pattern worthy of being bought by real customers.
Some may have noticed that my pattern is a little simple. That simple pattern had such a steep learning curve for many new skills. Grading was a huge one, writing clear instructions, drafting technical diagrams for those instructions. Then formatting it all in InDesign. During all that time I could not jazz up my simple pattern, I had to learn the other skills I was lacking.
I called for testers on The Monthly Stitch. I was worried about being forgotten while I learned the mountain of technical stuff I had on my list. So, despite a huge family emergency, I released The Sandpoint Top in October. I have to hand it to my testers, they were helpful, thorough, and very very kind, despite the many flaws they found. They helped me through that difficult time with their encouragement. I probably took on too many pattern testers (another newbie mistake) but in this special case of being so unsure and even unfinished due to the family emergency I think my testers helped me create a better product than I could have hoped to make on my own. They also formed a wonderful little community.
All these factors combined to make my first attempt at a commercial pattern and starting a pattern line not quite the vision I had hoped for. Or perhaps because my vision wasn’t clear enough to begin with, the final product wasn’t up to my high expectations. It has been a wonderful learning experience, but a bit more research and soul searching makes me think I need to reassess GrayDay Patterns.
And yet I am so glad I released The Sandpoint Top, because if I’d waited until I thought it was “perfect” it would have been forever. The act of putting it out there and going through the entire process is so helpful for me to set my intentions for the future. I know without the experience and the push I would still be frozen with uncertainty and lack of confidence.
To be continued…