Sunday, March 30, 2014

Lets Talk....Poorly Written Quilting Patterns





It happened again.....I bought myself a quilting pattern, from a local quilt shop, only to be disappointed. What's to be disappointed about, you might ask?? Or perhaps you might be thinking "I know exactly where she is going with this!!!"

 I have been reading quilting blogs for over three years and quilting books and magazines for over twenty and have yet to see this topic addressed.

The majority of quilting magazines give book reviews of the latest quilting books, as do several bloggers. They feel free to review some of the negative aspects of the books along with the positive. But I have yet to read a pattern review. But why wouldn't we??? Why don't we?  Quilting patterns are rather expensive. In Canada the average cost for one pattern is approximately twelve dollars. Whereas  quilting magazines run anywhere from six to fifteen dollars (approximately). Each magazine has several patterns included with well written instructions including photos making it much easier for us visual learners.

Back to the pattern at hand:
I saw a pattern using a QAYG technique that I hadn't used before and rather than just try to figure it out from the quilt hanging in the store....I bought the pattern. I didn't buy the pattern for the design as it was a four patch alternated with a one patch square....nothing too original or exciting right. I BOUHGT the PATTERN for the TECHNIQUE.....only to have the technique NOT EXPLAINED in full. Sound familiar????

Here are my complaints for this particular pattern:

  • Fabric amounts not calculated....telling me I need twenty four 9" squares etc. is not calculating yardage as far as I'm concerned.

  • Spelling mistakes in the Supply list....calling sashing fabric cashing fabric might just confuse a new quilter.

  • Including a suggested free motion quilting pattern without showing stitching starts and stops etc. is again, not all that helpful.

  • My biggest complaint comes in the directions for joining the quilted blocks. One small paragraph of sketchy instructions just doesn't do it. I have a fairly good idea what they are trying to say only because I have a fair bit of experience joining quilted blocks. There are no instructions regarding the bulk in the seam allowances, of the joined blocks. To be fair, they do suggest to clip the corners of the blocks to eliminate bulk, but, that's all.  As written, the quilter has no idea which way to press, or should they trim the bulk etc. A few pictures at this stage would be extremely beneficial. I am then told to top-stitch my horizontal rows in the same manner as my vertical blocks but THEY NEVER MENTIONED TOP-STITCHING in the instructions for the vertical blocks, in the first place.

  • Also this particular quilt has reversible binding.....one small how to paragraph just doesn't do it. Yup, one would have to run to You Tube to figure it out or a well written book.

My question.....why is this pattern costing me twelve dollars?? 

Included in the small pattern bag there are 3 sheets of standard photocopying paper and a coloured picture of the finished quilt glued to the sheet......that's it. It certainly can't be high overhead costs. 

This is not the first time I have been disappointed by quilting patterns being sold in quilt shops. The standard might be different for patterns that can be downloaded, that I don't have much experience with. 

There are many of us who take the time to write comprehensive tutorials on our blogs.....which many of us, offer to our fellow quilters at no cost. It doesn't seem quite fair to me that in order to understand these poorly written patterns one would have to search the Internet for better instructions or take a class to figure out what the pattern is trying to tell them.  After all, the pattern writer is charging you 12 dollars a pop.....just sayin'!!

Any thoughts?

Marianne

Note: I will respond to all comments regarding this topic in the comment thread as with all my "Let's Talk Posts".

117 comments:

  1. Could not agree more. I have purchased so many patterns where the directions are just hand-drawn on a couple of pages ...really? I think they are self published. And I think we should feel free to return those patterns, ask for our money back, and say that they do not provide enough instruction to get the job done. After all, we can return McCall,s Simplicity, etc. if they are uncut. Unless we return them, it will just keep happening. This is a way of giving feedback to the pattern writer and that feedback is: give me my money's worth.

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    1. I thought I would just address the problem in general....because this does happen a fair bit, in my opinion.

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  2. I think I would take it back and explain WHY I am returning it to the shop owner. And if they would not take it back, I wouldn't shop there again. (I realize that sometimes there is only ONE choice in a town) I would also write to the pattern author and tell them that they did a poor job.

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    1. I shop at several wonderful shops and don't really know if they check out all the patterns they sell....It would be good question to ask, though.

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  3. Sounds like a royal rip off. I wonder if the quilt store is aware of just how bad the instructions are and if so, why they are still selling the pattern. You mentioned that the quilt was in the store but who put it together? Is there contact info for the designer on the pattern? Perhaps if enough people contact him/her, the designer might realize just how poor the pattern is. Then again, the designer has your money and may not care (but I find that hard to swallow.) Too bad there isn't anyone checking patterns.

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    1. I agree....I won't be buying anymore patterns without reading them first.

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  4. Suggestions? Yes! write to the pattern company (politely) and suggest those changes and additions. If they are smart, they will heed your advice. You may even get a proofing opportunity out of it. They definitely need at least one person actually making the pattern from their instructions to check for errors.

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    1. Thanks Melissa....but I'm not really interested in proofing someone elses work but thought It would be good to get this out for discussion.

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  5. Totally agree with all comments here. I would return it. I might also contact the pattern maker and express my concerns. I also have problems with books that have obviously not tested their pattern instructions. Well known books and authors. It's too late to cut 14 1/2" strip for wedge cutting when the instructions say cut 13 1/4". Thank you for posting.

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    1. Mistakes do happen but I'm talking more about overall quality.

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  6. Yes, I agree what do we pay for??? I have no problem buying a pattern of some of the well know bloggers, I know that they have tested their products well, bit I bought a book of a very well known shop and one of the patterns said to buy the template and follow the instructions, lol. I could hardly believe it

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  7. Totally agree with your findings as well as the comments made. Many times I've questioned whether the pattern was even tested by someone other then the designer, so many times I feel if it was tested by someone or even 3-4 people could pick up the weak spots. Pattern instructions seems to be something that some people are great at and some are not.

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    1. They should be tested....that's so true.

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  8. I agree your first move is to tell the shop owner, I'm sure she/he wouldn't like to be selling sub standard goods. An honest mistake with measurement say is understandable, but shonky instructions are completely unacceptable. I hope you receive satisfaction.

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    1. I'm not really worried about getting my money back for this particular pattern, but rather the bigger picture......the overall quality of individual quilting patterns.

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  9. I'm going to be writing my first pattern in the near future, and I'm worried about this exact thing! I hope I can explain the technique in a way that makes sense. It will be tested and looked over at least, but I'm still a little concerned. I don't want to be one of "those" people.

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    1. I think pictures along with written instructions go a long way. In my opinion individual quilting patterns should compare to the ones in books and magazines.

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    2. I'm in the same boat, Barbie. I've been sitting on a couple of patterns that I've developed for just the reason that I have yet to find people with enough time and experience to test them before I continue on. Marianne, thank you for the honest responses. Your experience seems both familiar and eye-opening.

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    3. Not always easy answers that's for sure. It's time consuming to test a pattern, I know, I've done it a few times.

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    4. Seems to me that the pattern writers/designers would engage friends or possibly blog readers, of all skill levels, to use the pattern as written, prior to actual publication & distribution. I'm relatively new to quilting, and I've been asked to make a couple of quilts with specific techniques, just to see if I could understand the instructions. I like to think my feedback is appreciated, incorporated & appropriate changes made...

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    5. Thanks for all of your replies! My husband is going to draft my diagrams for me with an AutoCAD program he uses at work. Kind of makes me chuckle to think about. Now I need to find time to do it. Thanks again for the post, Mari.

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    6. I might add--I used to teach Junior High, so I'm used to over-explaining things. I bet that will help!

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  10. I have recently published my very first quilt pattern, I have not bought (to be honest) ANY in the past, so I have nothing to compare it with or a clear view if my pattern is written clear and if the picture diagrams are clear either. The people who tested my pattern loved it, but I would love to get a clear/objective view from another. Would you like to have a copy of my pattern to 'review' and maybe share here on your blog? I have it published on Craftsy, for a quick view: http://www.craftsy.com/pattern/quilting/home-decor/summer-solstice-quilt/83828 Let me know if I can send you a copy?

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    1. Feel free to send it to me....I will give you an honest opinion.

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  11. Having just written my first pattern ....... I must admit I'm guilty of not explaining the QSYG technique - I have advised that there are various tutorials available (including yours) as guidance, though I did actually do another technique that had been floating through my head, and worked, but was likely to be too hard for a beginning QAYG'r, but I hope the pattern is understandable - especially as it has an improv format

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    1. Giving a references is not a bad thing, Ethne, but I do feel it is the responsibility of the pattern writer to write complete instructions for that particular project....especially if you will be selling the pattern. Maybe we should rate patterns for difficulty so new quilters don't get in over their heads and become discouraged.

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  12. I totally agree wth everything you have said. I have bought one pattern that was a PDF download and do not regret it. However some of the free patterns I've gotten were very poorly written and as a relatively new quilter sometimes those five extra words make all the difference. I am more than willing to pay top dollar for a very well written and explained pattern.

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    1. With free patterns....maybe we sometimes, we get what we pay for...but that's still not a good thing, as it will definitely create lots frustration, especially for new quilters.

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  13. I completely agree with your blog and are am glad you broached this subject. As a fairly new quilter, I have come across this on several occasions. How do I know who writes a comprehensive pattern for me to follow? I think returning the pattern and contacting the designer is a good start. They both need to know how poorly the pattern is written. It is, after all, a reflection of their shop and the designer. Good luck!

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    1. I can't help but think if they have been in the business for a long time, they are somewhat aware.

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    2. You would think they would be aware of the problem, but many people don't take the time to complain to the designer and/or the publisher. If they don't know there is an issue, the problem will never get fixed. If you are not the first person to bring a problem to their attention, maybe you will reinforce previous complains were not just a fluke.

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    3. Most quilt shops teach classe and help quilters with their projects all the time......how could they not know?

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  14. I just went through the same thing a month ago. I've been quilting for 20 years and the pattern was a nightmare. Bought it with a kit...should have been super easy. Told to cut out the middle panel to X size, it was incorrect. Told to make flying geese, no directions at all. Told to add on borders, never told what size to cut each one too! Took me way longer than it should have and was VERY frustrating. There is no way someone that was a new quilter would have been able to complete it! I was able to figure it out, what upset me more was knowing that someone new to quilting May be this and give up on quilting because of it! I was told,when I called the quilt shop to tell them about the issues...oh, it came off the internet. Well, why in the world would you sell it without being aware of what to change or at least kind "suggest" to a beginner not to purchase it, argh!! Sorry for the vent but this one just touched a nerve! :)

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    1. Thanks for sharing, Patti, I have never bought a quilting kit but I can imagine your frustration. There is something just not right about that.

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  15. You hit a nerve- this has been my pet peeve in quilting for a long time. Pattern writers really need to have an editor review and correct their instructions before publishing. Many are self-published and writers tend to skip this step. It's quite frustrating to have to figure things out after paying for a pattern.

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    1. I agree 100%. I think it all comes down to people trying to make a fast buck.

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  16. I think you make good points. I am working with a pattern right now from a designer I admire with a quilt I adore...not really "adoring" the pattern though, lol! I have been quilting for almost 15 years so I am able to decipher how to make the blocks based on prior knowledge but would not recommend it to a beginner as the construction portion of the pattern is quite small and sketchy. To be fair, the pattern is not labelled or advertised as a beginner pattern and I,myself, would have bought the pattern purely for the block pictures and the block sizing information so am not unhappy with my purchase. I believe it truly is a cost issue though and do not believe the designers are trying to "ripoff"...I have been to several workshops where the book/pattern authors only use their own pattern for the block sizing or yardage requirements-they then teach a method never discussed in their own patterns. I've been told in these workshops this is a publisher request...to use templates so "anyone" can make the quilt...then they proceed to give their special tips...I am at a loss as to why this would not be included in the books or patterns. As for mistakes and omissions, those should absolutely be vetted with pattern testers...I agree. Thanks for the conversation starter :)

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    1. Thanks for your input....not sure what I think of that. We should be sharing the best tips and methods. Outdated methods are another topic that could get one going.

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  17. To me, a quilt shop is different than a big box store. The owner and employees are experienced quilters. The products the shop sells carries the implied endorsement of the product, including patterns.

    Most patterns come in a zip top back, it is easy to open it and read the instructions before stocking the pattern. In a less than a minute I know I would not want to stock this pattern. It's a very simple design yet it lacks yardage requirements, and that's too difficult for beginners.

    I understand that a quilt shop may want to support a long time customer who has just written a pattern, but I think it's also the quilt shop's reputation on the line as much as the pattern designer.

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    1. I agree with you.....a quick glance at a pattern tells an experienced quilter a lot.

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  18. I don't buy many patterns any more as I found out most are leaving out steps and using confusing wording--not to mention the typos. I did buy a cute slipper pattern last year and it took me hours to understand what the designer wanted me to sew to what as it had different interfacings, backings, soles, etc.. I have been sewing for over 50 years and quilting for 35 so I know what I am doing when it comes to construction. A new quilter/sewer could not have figured this out. Very frustrating to waste time trying to understand a pattern when I could have been sewing!

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  19. I am new to quilting but have sewn clothing for years. There are tons of excellent reviews of clothing patterns easily found on the Internet, and I wonder why it is different with quilting. Is it considered bad form to voice a criticism of a fellow quilter or patternmaker? May I ask, what decided you against naming the pattern that you describe in your post? I hope that's not a rude question, as I said, I'm new to quilting and don't know the conventions.
    P.S. I LOVE your work and your excellent tutorials. Thank you for sharing your expertise.

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    1. That is not a rude question at all. I chose not to name the particular pattern because I have encountered this problem several times in the past. I'm just trying to shed some light on something that I believe is problematic in the quilting industry today. I believe if bloggers would give honest pattern reviews as they do book reviews it might make a difference. I just wasn't wanting to make a public example of one particular pattern maker.

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  20. I think this is a much under-discussed problem. I have been quilting for 30+ years so I don't buy many patterns anymore, but I have seen poorly written patterns as you describe.

    I would definitely notify the quilt shop that the pattern in question is very poorly written. I understand that you aren't necessarily concerned with getting a refund, but it would be nice if you would let them know that you are seriously disappointed.

    I would not feel any responsibility to write the pattern author. Hopefully the market will eliminate this pattern designer's products if enough people are disappointed.

    Poor proofreading and editing is my major pet peeve! Misspelling is inexcusable in any product for sale, but any time I mention it, people get all huffy about it, like I am being unreasonable.

    Generally instructions in magazines are better, as you noted, but I still see incredible in-originality in so many published designs. I think as quilters (and women) we are expected to be "nice" and not complain about poor quality in products produced and published by other quilters. Whew it feels good to get that off my chest!

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    1. Thanks for your valuable input. As for patterns not being all that original....now that's A WHOLE OTHER TOPIC!!!! Best not get me started on that.

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  21. What would you do if the pattern was obviously photo copied from the original pattern, from an A3 sheet onto two A4 sheets (A4 is half the size of an A3 sheet) which did not match in the middle? What was worse was the pattern had been cut up and used. It had pinholes in the paper. This happened to a friend of mine at a recent craft and quilt show. Very aggravating as the show was a a venue an hour away. The pattern cost $NZ20. Would you expect a replacement pattern and a refund? My friend only got a replacement.

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    1. I agree...totally frustrating. Replacement and refund would have been nice. Customer service always goes a long way.

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  22. I was an online quilt shop owner for 8+ years and I tried to review each pattern I sold. There was a pattern line (for bags, primarily) by a very popular fabric designer and they flew off the shelves. However, when I tried to make one of her bags using her pattern, I found it was very poorly written and lacking in good directions/instructions... almost as if she didn't know how to sew. At the expense of my own business, I stopped carrying her pattern line. I've heard that her patterns are now much better, but having had that bad experience I'm not tempted to try them.

    In defense of shop owners... they probably do not have the time to "test" every pattern they sell and they are trusting that the pattern has been "proofed/edited" before it makes it to market. I would recommend letting the shop know that you are disappointed by returning the pattern and explaining the situation. If they care about their customers more than their bottom line, they will stop carrying that particular pattern.

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  23. I have read and pondered all of the comments above. I absolutely appreciate and value the blog posting, Marianne. I am currently writing my first original pattern and wrestling with some of the mentioned issues. Since I have worked as an editor/writer and done a sampling of pattern testing, I hold my product to a pretty high standard and I empathize with the disappointment in receiving a sub-quality product for top dollar. I have even thought to offer my services as an editor for some frequent prolific bloggers as incorrect grammar and word usage (probably due to automatic spellcheck and minimal proof-reading).

    I don't know that there is really an answer to the quality control problem for independent pattern producers except to take the time to address the problem to the pattern author and/or the store where it was purchased. I'm sure the store owners do not have time to proof every pattern offered for sale and would appreciate the honest, constructive comments of an experienced quilter.

    I agree that the pattern should offer even more information than the tutorials found from generous bloggers ~ ~ but that would be hard to do for your excellent and frequently visited tutorials!!

    I thank you for the introduction of this topic and suggest it be revisited from time to time ~ ~ to keep all of us on our toes to create and expect the best!

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    1. I'm glad this has been helpful as you write your first pattern. Thanks for the great input. I agree tutorials are somewhat different even in the fact that the blogger is often readily available to answer questions....something I like to encourage.

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    2. Mari I am constantly amazed at the generosity with which you share your knowledge and skills on your blog. If you were set up to do so, I would pay for content! Seriously! With all of the terrible content out there, the really good stuff is worth spending $ for. Thank you for your generosity! I'm about to try to make a large donation quilt using QAYG....

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    3. Thanks so much....I love that I played a small part in your donation quilt, that's wonderful.

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  24. I have purchased horribly written patterns in the past and I totally understand what you are saying. The thing is anyone can write and publish a pattern, whether it is a paper pattern from a store or a pdf from online. There is no standard to follow for writing patterns. Since you don't need a publisher in order to write a pattern, then you never know what you are getting. However, I also have noticed how poorly books are written these days too. While the books go through a major publisher, the author doesn't necessarily have her quilts or bags, etc. tested. I made a bag recently from a book that was not written well and not enough instructions or good photos. Since I have a lot experience in making bags and quilts too, I can usually figure out a way to do it. But I could have figured it out without purchasing the book or pattern too. Sometimes I just want to follow directions because I don't want to have to figure it out myself. I nearly always end up making changes because of poor instructions or I do not have a particular bag closure and I need to use what I do have on hand for instance.

    I have found excellent tutorials online for free. Even if the instructions aren't so great if it's free you can't complain. But when you pay money whether a few dollars or a lot of money for a pattern, you expect it to be tested, and proof read and a good pattern.

    I just tested a pattern recently for a young woman who asked for testers. Her grammar wasn't the best because English is her second language. So I spent a ton of time correcting the written instructions. Then there were other things about the pattern itself that were not explained well, etc. If she had put that pattern out there to sell as is she would have received a lot of questions and complaints. But at least she wanted the pattern tested first. I have also tested bag patterns from a excellent bag designer. If only everyone wrote patterns like she does. I won't buy patterns from anyone now unless I know they are well done. Patterns cost as much as books now. I also go to the library for books.

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    1. Thanks for your input.....I completely agree.

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  25. To add to my earlier comments, I totally agree and understand that a quilt shop owner or manager does not have the time (or responsibility) to test each pattern that he/she sells. However, in the case of the pattern you mentioned, even opening the pattern up and reading it should have been enough to tell a quilt shop owner that the pattern was sub-standard and not ready for prime time.

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    1. I agree....even a quick read of the pattern should tell an experienced quilter if the instructions are comprehensive.

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  26. Hello Marianne, I agreed when I purchase a pattern, the total sum of all instructions should be included. I have participated as a pattern tester for a couple of bloggers, and some of them revise their patterns with the information they receive, and some do not. I have found that just because you started a blog, made a few things, attended a Quilt Market or Show, does not make you a good teacher, or writer, or instructor. I have even downloaded patterns from Fabric Company who have sent their fabric to various bloggers for a review, and a new pattern concept. But I feel they do not have much information on that persons ability. Just the information they read in the blog, or what the blogger has said. I do not know how to solve this problem. except to contact the Person who wrote the instructions and let them know that what they are selling is not "quality" work, and let them know that in future, you will have to verify what they are selling is really what you are purchasing. And if you see if repeated, I FaceBook my own review of their tutorial or instructions or pattern.....

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    1. It's a problem that's for sure. There seems to be such a push to "pattern" everything in the quilt world but if that's what one wants to do It should be done well, in my opinion.

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  27. Oh, I hear ya, girlfriend!! In the past, when I went to a quilt show, I always bought a pattern or two. I always hesitated to spend $$$ for a pattern that was a photocopy...and usually not a good one at that. I almost NEVER use that pattern because I don't understand the instructions. They are vague and incomplete. I'm not the brightest bulb on the tree, but I'm not a dim-wit either. I stopped buying patterns a long time ago. When I go to my LQS I always look at the pattern rack but never buy any of them. They're about $10-$12 and I'd rather add a few $$ more and buy a book with several patterns.

    There are so many free patterns on the web these days that I love that I don't have to spend money for. You have wonderful tutorials and that's how I learned to do QAYG :)

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    1. Thanks Colleen that pretty much sums it up for me as well. Plus the books have lots of lovely pictures....can you tell how visual I am?

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    2. That's funny; I think "visual" goes with being a quilter!

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  28. I recently did a quilt that must not have been reviewed for mistakes, the biggest one being that it asked to cut the panel piece longer than the actual fabric was....I added a piece of like color to the bottom to allow for that difference. Then the number of rows it said were required on each side was one too many. Even with all my experience as a quilter it proved to be very frustrating. Should I contact the manufacturer of the fabric as it was a pattern used to showcase their fabric....thankfully it was a free pattern. I enjoy reading your blog and hope to someday try the QAYG method....for now I mostly hand quilt.

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    1. Thanks for sharing, Debbie, it shows that even "free patterns" can cause costly mistakes not to mention lots of frustration. In this case I would most certainly let the manufacturer know.

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  29. I have been stung with this before...very frustrating

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  30. So happy you posted this. My group of quilting friends and I have discussed this for years! The number of errors and information left out is so unprofessional and something needs to be done about it. The cost is climbing, but the number of patterns that have all the information needed is actually decreasing! Listen up pattern makers! Proof-read your patterns and have someone who is a beginning quilter try and make your project.

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  31. So glad I pass over those zip lock bags of patterns. Although I sometimes get them as freebies during a shop-hop. But the books aren't all vetted either. I bought a free motion quilting book specifically for the motif on the cover, only to not have it even mentioned inside the book. Burnt. And I found your QAYG instructions exactly what I needed to demystify it for me, a belated thanks for that tute.

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    1. I agree some books are not great, but I usually find the instructions pretty good.....but as you said, not always. Thanks, so glad the tutorials are helpful.

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  32. wonderfully written rant!!!
    i tend to shy away from pattern buying just for that reason... i'm a visual person, i need to SEE it being done, then i can follow - and read a pattern afterward, however if a pattern isn't clearly explained.... i'm lost....
    i'd be so annoyed that the money i paid was wasted.....
    xo
    love your blog!!!!......AND your tutorials
    eva

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    1. Thanks and thank you for your input.

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  33. Just read this post and couldn't agree more. The answer is for someone to start a pattern review blog and call out each one of these pattern makers who could use an assist with either English or editing.
    I just finished making a knitting tote, which I downloaded from the creator's site and for which I paid $12.50.Her instructions had me seeing red. I abandoned the instructions and just used my sewing knowledge to put the thing together, all the while berating myself for not just pulling out some fabric and whipping the thing together without spending the money. At the very least, the pattern found wanting should be identified. Love your blog.

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    1. Thanks. A pattern review blog....interesting. It was good that you had sewing knowledge to fall back on, not everyone has that.

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    2. A pattern review blog is just what we need... well, maybe more of a forum, a place where people can go to report problematic patterns.... Great idea!

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  34. Having just done my first magazine patterns I have to say I used the help of one of the most reliable and detail oriented people I know to go through what I wrote with a fine toothed comb. This is before it went anywhere near the editor of the magazine. If you write a pattern that people are paying for one way or the other then it is the pattern writer's responsibility to make it as detailed as possible to suit all quilters. But I am sure that I too will make mistakes along the way so should probably just shut up now!

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    1. I'm sure yours is great....I find most of the magazine patterns pretty good, lots of illustrations and tips etc. Obviously mistakes happen, its the ones sold at quilt shows and at quilt shops etc. that I'm really talking about.

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  35. I could not agree more with you. I have purchased patterns that have not understood and are a nightmare or fabrics that I had to work were so fair that I needed more to finish the project.I have come to the conclusion not buy kits and if I buy any patterns relooked it and thnink twice before do it.

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    1. I am not familiar with kits but that must be so frustrating.

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  36. I agree! I bought a pattern for an overnight bag and became so frustrated making it. I emailed the designer and it took her 3 weeks to finally respond. In the meantime I had finally figured it out. Ugh. I ended up pitching the pattern into my recycling bin.

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  37. I highly agree with the idea of a pattern review blog, there is no real avenue for constructive criticism without one... and the quilting world is a little lacking in that department lately.

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  38. I do so agree ! I have given up on many a pattern for all those reasons....I now open and read any single pattern before purchasing

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  39. A fabulous discussion! And as a pattern designer, I have stuff to say too. You can read it here http://huntersdesignstudio.com/2014/04/02/the-quality-of-patterns-a-discussion/

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    1. Thank you so much for writing this Sam. This is such a worthwhile post, I suggest that anyone partaking in this discussion, head over to Sam's post.

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  40. The sad truth of the matter that rather than grow their business and following they are losing customers by not writing each and every pattern for the novice.

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    1. I don't know if I agree that every pattern should be written for a novice but if it is more advanced that should be noted on the pattern cover

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  41. The sad truth of the matter that rather than grow their business and following they are losing customers by not writing each and every pattern for the novice.

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  42. Why is that pattern costing you $12? That is the ultimate question.

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  43. I am so glad someone finally addressed this problem. You might think it is a rare situation, but I & my friends have found it to be more & more frequent. It is so frustrating to purchase a pattern (& they are not cheap) only to find very little direction in materials needed, construction &/or finishing. I have quit buying patterns, unless I know the designer from previous patterns or magazines.

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    1. I have found it more often than I would like as well.

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  44. I too have purchased patterns and books that had (in my opinion) poorly written instructions. I am a relatively new quilter, 2.5 yrs. Thankfully I usually only bought the patterns for yardage estimates because my favorite part of the process is figuring out my own way to assemble it. I have written a few patterns after being asked by my LQS to write one for one of my designs. I really enjoyed the process and tried to write it as if it was to be followed by someone with no quilting knowledge/experience. Was told by shop owner that it would be better to condense it to no more than 2 pages of directions. It sold well considering it was only in the one shop and I later met a few women who had made a quilt from the pattern and they gave good reviews, but after reading this article I think I will follow my instinct and write them all as if for a first timer. Maybe just put the skill/technique instructions on separate page so that more experienced quilters can skip it. Wish I could make a living from writing patterns for designers. I would be in quilty heaven...

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    1. I'm so glad the discussion has been helpful.

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  45. I have completely re-written the instructions for the first quilt my M-I-L wants to make for precisely this reason. It is supposed to be a beginner level attic windows quilt. The entire instruction sheet was a well-spaced A5 sheet. It took me 4 A4 pages to write instructions suitable for a beginner to follow without getting frustrated and giving up half way through.

    This is why I started writing my own patterns.

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    1. I can see how that was good motivation.

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  46. There is no doubt that there is a problem out there but I think that the problem lies as much with those who buy the pattern as those who make/sell it. Anyone can write a pattern and I'm sure there are a huge proportion of pattern writers out there who don't have their work tested before they sell it. They may lack experience, may think that because the pattern makes sense to them it will to everyone else, there may be any number of reasons they do so but one good one is that no one complains. No one gives feedback. No one stands up and simply says that the pattern is rubbish. You've said it yourself, this is a problem that is not discussed much. Have you gone back to the quilt shop in question with the pattern? Have you made an effort to contact the pattern designer and complain? If not then in reality you are just helping to perpetuate the problem. If every purchaser of a bad pattern (be it a stand alone pattern or a book) was to complain to the place where they bought the pattern as well as to the pattern writers then maybe shop owners would become a little more careful over what they stock and pattern writers would become more careful about what they publish.

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    1. Thanks for your input, Paula....I'm not sure I entirely agree with putting quite that much blame on us buyers. Not everyone is comfortable to go back and complain or they think of it as a one time thing etc. I chose to voice my displeasure with the situation by writing this blog post and will examine very carefully any future pattern purchases BEORE I actually purchase the pattern. I spent many years sewing garments before I started quilting and rarely found difficulty understanding those patterns. I think there was more of a standard.

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  47. This topic intrigues me greatly. I have recently started developing quilt patterns under the Betty Alderman Designs label. (I'm Betty's daughter). I am doing my best to make my patterns clear. I would love to have someone or a group of people who could take my pattern draft (when I think it is complete) and use it and offer me very constructive criticism. That being said - I am typically under a deadline and need good turnaround. The other thought from a designer standpoint, is that I have to balance the cost of printing with the contents. I completely agree that the drawings should be accurate, the text should also be clear, accurate and free from errors and the supply list right. That being said, I would love to be able to include color photographs and other pictures throughout. The reality is it costs a lot of money for color and the more pages you include, the more the pattern costs. Even the size of the paper the designs are on can be cost prohibitive. I think conscientious designers do attempt to be accurate and weigh the contents against the cost while still attempting to give you their best. Also, I would never hesitate to open a pattern in a shop and look at it before I purchased it. I wouldn't buy one any other way.. I also believe good designers will take their patterns back if their is a problem. Good customer service is so important. Thanks for listening! - Betsy Alderman Lewis

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    1. Thanks for your comments, Betsy. This particular pattern was only three sheets...black and white, not all that costly, I would think.

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  48. Same thing happens over here, on the other side of the Atlantic. I've never bought a pattern, but I've bought magazines, and they are usually badly translated or instructions are deficient, and you are left to your fate. They look like they have been done in a hurry, and so skip steps or over-simplify instructions, and you have no one to resort to. It crossed my mind to contact and offer help, mainly in translation, but I'm most sure they would turn me down claiming that it would take a lot of time and therefore not profitable. I've stopped buying them, and told the people I know to refrain from buying them. Am I doing right?

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    1. Thanks....I'm sure when you add translation to the mix, problems result.

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  49. I'd like to offer my insights as a person who designs and sells my own patterns Actually not quilting patterns, but sewing patterns. I have a team of pattern testers and recently I asked them and my readers whether a pattern instructions should teach in full all of the techniques involved in sewing a garment.
    For example, if a pattern calls for french seams, should I include a full tutorial on how to sew a french seam. The overwhelming opinion by about 95% was that a pattern is there as a template for the design and should include the instructions on how to complete the design/garment/bag etc, but is not the right place to teach a person how to sew. Unless the project calls for a unique or unusual technique or one that differs from the norm, I no longer write pages and pages for my pattern instructions on how to complete every technique in detail.
    However, instructions for all techniques needed are on my site, and if a pattern calls for a particular technique such as making bias binding, I will link in the pattern to where a full tutorial can be found.
    My patterns also usually include a link to a full video tutorial showing the piece being made as well for those who prefer a video instead of written and photo instructions.
    But it sounds like you and some of the other readers have come across particularly bad pattern examples and yes, I agree in that case you should certainly comment to the designer about where you thought the pattern was lacking and give them the chance to learn and improve their patterns for the future.
    Deby at So Sew Easy

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  50. I came to this post after reading Sam Hunter's post on the topic. Regarding taking a pattern back to the quilt shop where it was purchased--there are a lot of fabulous quilt shops out there that would honor your request to return the pattern, especially if you explained the issues. I'm a recovering quilt shop owner and I remember several patterns that when the deficiencies were brought to light, we would no longer sell them. The purchaser of the pattern has every right to expect clear, well-written instructions and diagrams, with indications of ability level needed to complete the project and, of course, the correct amount of yardage and notions needed.

    Great topic!

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  51. I'll be back to read all the comments as I am writing a pattern and sure do want to meet expectations. I am with you as to sometimes wondering what exactly I am paying for.

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    1. I am sure you will....you always write amazing tutorials.

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  52. Hello, I believe with what is now available online, we, as customers, have come to expect more and more from quilt patterns: colour pictures, detailed drawings etc. So we often feel let down when we open those zip lock bags.
    In old newspapers in the 1920s for example, patterns were sometimes just a black and white drawing of a block and that was it! (see examples in Ruby McKim's book 101 Patchwork Patterns, no indication of yardage either).
    Someone mentioned that we are now "visual" people. I would consider myself one. I think we always have been but in the old days, a relative, a neighbour or a member of the quilting bee, for example would have shown us / taught us. Nowadays we turn to video tutorials.
    That said, I expect patterns to be accurate (and if a correction is needed, a "corrections" page on a website is always appreciated) and not too wordy (a picture is worth a thousand words) - but that's a difficult balance to achieve.
    As someone mentioned before, I don't think we need detailed explanations for every step (although I sometimes long for pressing directions) except if the pattern is clearly labeled "beginner-friendly".
    And I'd say the people selling the pattern are as important as the people designing them. They could keep some sort of record of customers'comments and pass on the information to prospective buyers and to the pattern designers. I'm aware, though, of the fact that we sometimes make the quilt months after buying the pattern ... Do we always remember where we got the pattern from? I don't. In that case, I'd contact the designer directly if I felt the need to.
    I love it when I see the odd pattern review on blogs. It's happened with sew-alongs: each blogger has their own take on the pattern and they discuss it in their posts. PS I think it's because I love the "process" often as much as the finished project.
    (Well, speaking of being "wordy" ....) Beatrice.

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  53. I'm a quilt shop owner pattern designer. And while I agree that there are a lot of poorly written patterns out there, I take the time to preview each and every pattern I carry in my store. I make sure the pattern is well-written and illustrated. As a shop owner and blogger I also post occasional free patterns and tutorials also. I take time to make sure these are also easily understood. BUT....this is my business, how I make my living. I take the time to create a pattern idea. I make up the item (quilt, apron, bag, table runner, etc) sometimes three or four times to "get it right." It costs me $ for the materials and my time. After perfecting the design, I begin to write the pattern. I paid a lot for my design software and I paid to learn to use it. I provide graphics that I build piece by piece. I write, rewrite and write again the instructions so that they are informational and easy to understand. I have to figure and re-figure the yardages. I pay someone to test the pattern, I pay someone to proof the copy. I need professional photographs of my quilt/item for the cover of the pattern. I have to print the patterns, fold them and stuff the pattern bags (or pay someone to do it). I maintain a website I paid someone to design. I spend a ton of time keeping it up to date and processing orders. I pay for shipping containers and shipping to Quilt Shops. All of this takes an enormous amount of time and skill. This is my job. This is how I support my family. As a pattern designer I then get 50% or less from the Quilt Shop. I'm not whining...this is my job, this is how I work. But my patterns are great. Don't lump all patterns and pattern designers into one group. Peruse patterns BEFORE you buy.

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  54. As a pattern designer I found your post most useful. One of the things I appreciate most from my testers, and ask for often, is the clarity of the instructions. I implement every change they suggest. You have given me food for thought for other areas of the pattern including yardage calculations, material lists, diagrams. Thank you so much for this post.

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Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I try to respond to all of your wonderful comments....if you are not getting any response from me it's because you are set up as a no-reply blogger. In order to receive a response you can change your status in your blogger profile. I'm no longer accepting anonymous comments.

Thanks again for all your wonderful comments
Marianne

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