More and more stitchers are becoming interested in creating their own patterns—either to break into next-level creativity or because they cannot find exactly what they are looking for from the many designers and creators out there.
Whatever your reason, here are some helpful tips and tricks for creating a cross-stitch pattern.
If you are not a designer (or have a designer's "eye"), don't start by trying to create a full-coverage piece. It's not that you can't, it's just that it takes time to build up to a piece with lots of details. Start with some smaller pieces so you can refine your skills, reduce frustration, and reduce the chance of giving up on pattern creation altogether.
Don't snag someone else's design
You may be tempted to use elements of other designer's work to create your own. Please don't. People work very hard to come up with their original designs. If you do see a design that you think would make a great pattern, reach out to the artist to ask permission. You'd be surprised at how many artists are flattered that you want to adapt their work, especially if they are not into stitching!
If you want to try your hand at designing but you're not a good hand-drawing, consider subscribing to services that provide art, like Creative Fabrica. If there is a chance that you may be selling these patterns some day, be sure that you have a service that includes commercial use of artwork or that the art you are selecting is OK for commercial use. This may require you to read fine print (GASP!) but it's important to protect yourself and respect the artist. Different artists and art sources have different parameters for commercial use so don't assume (ass-u-me) you're OK on one site because you are OK on another.
Decide if you want to design on paper or on your computer
I can't draw. I can picture what I want to create in my head, but I can't translate that to a drawing on paper or draw from scratch in Illustrator, Procreate, or another design software.
What I am really good at is putting together elements to make a design. For that reason, I use a design program to create the art for pattern then import that art into stitching software.
Stitching software is another matter of personal preference. While I use MacStitch (the Mac companion to WinStitch), there are many others. [Note: For a run-down on cross-stitch pattern creation software, you should head over to Lord Libidan's great cross-stitch blog.]
For smaller, simpler pattern — or if you are a talented artist — gridding it out on graph paper is a great, low-tech option. And, if you are designing just for your own enjoyment, it works perfectly!
Be prepared to modify your pattern while stitching
When you start stitching your pattern, you're likely to find errors or want to tweak parts of your creation. Don't be discouraged. It's absolutely normal. That's why pattern creators generally stitch their designs before making them available to the public.
If you are planning to sell your patterns, here are some additional tips:
Be aware of the size of your design
It's easy to get caught up in the stitching part of your pattern rather than the finishing part. Consider typical frame and hoop sizes when planning your pattern. If you make an odd-sized pattern, your buyers may have a difficult time finding off-the-shelf finishing options.
Use readily avalable flosses
Sure, there are some stitchers that like to bring their own flair to any pattern, substituting floss colors and brands, using hand-dyed fabrics, and so much more. But for those who like to follow patterns to the letter, don't make it difficult for them to find the called-for colors. There are some DMC colors that are not widely available, especially in stores. Yes, people can order floss online but if you only need one skein it's difficult to justify ordering it and paying shipping (especially if it turns out to be an international shipment).
Make the pattern available in different formats
As more and more people work from tablets, phones, and laptops rather than printed pattern pages, be sure to deliver the pattern in multiple ways: People who like to work from printed patterns appreciate when patterns are broken up into sections so individual squares are clearer. Those who work from a screen prefer to have a one-page digital pattern that they can display on their tablet or phone.
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