Jennifer original patterns, sewing 1 Comment

Concept drawingsI’ve been asked a few times lately how I go about coming up with a design. I don’t really have a step by step approach to turning ideas into toys but they usually (well…mostly always) start with a drawing. These are often on the backs envelopes (this proves troublesome when hubby then takes them to work to pay the bill inside and I have to ask for them back!). Sometimes they end up on the side of our daughter’s homework (again…I’ve had to wait out weekends for ideas to come back to me with the new week’s homework!). More frequently they turn up on the back of shopping lists or crazy stick it notes littering my wallet. I do try to keep a book with me and a lot of my ideas find their way there. Memo apps on phones are another gathering place for thoughts.

Drawings often take the form of the one above. Excited, crazy words scratched around the edges of drawings while I try and figure out how to form the toy in my mind. This is where I work through and answer a lot of questions for myself like…does the head need a gusset? Will tension on the eyes add needed shaping to the face? Will the head have three pieces and be nice and simple or should I trick it up with two extra shapes and some lovely shaping darts? (I do love a dart!).

This is also where ideas get whittled away. I always have three or four ideas that although I think are really quite good don’t make it to the final design. In the past I’ve fallen for over engineering designs. I consciously try to steer away from doing that now. Less is more they tell me! I’m not aiming for less as such though. I’m looking for a happy middle ground 🙂


Then things get VERY old school. It’s like I never entered the last century let alone this one!

I know that there are designers who have perfected digital ways of designing. I on the other hand have perfected (well…honed to a point where it makes sense to me at least!) the 2B pencil + eraser +Kellogs method of designing. Sketches become shapes on copy paper. These are then refined and taken to the next (terribly technical step) of being glued to breakfast cereal boxes! Stay with me….don’t laugh…I promise this is how I really work!

concept sample

Things then need to leave the ‘flattness’ of pattern shapes or I’ll never know if gussets fit or if limbs are too long. I used to work in substitute materials at this stage but these days, if I’m confident in the design then I tend to leap into my chosen fabric. This can be troublesome when the process uses up the last of a colour I really wanted to make the final sample out of! I often forget to think far enough ahead when that happens.

Sometimes it’s necessary to ask others to help with a design. This little guy is ‘Feathers’ and his entire design started in my mind as a name…’Chicken The Brave’. I REALLY wanted to call him Chicken The Brave because I think that I’m terribly wordy sometimes (I think I am…I don’t think other people do!) and it floated my boat to have a little play with them. However, as part of the design process it occurred to me that perhaps that would be a name that Native American’s may find insensitive. These are the times that I’m thankful that the design process can, at times be lengthy giving me time to think things through fully.  Not being American I really didn’t have any way of knowing if I was going to be doing the right thing or the wrong thing. I shared the grainy snap above and had a very productive discussion with some incredibly helpful followers on Facebook changed my mind about the name.


With tweaking and teasing Feathers came to life just like all his fellow Frazzy Dazzles critters do. His wings got a little bigger. I liked the idea of them being comically small but they really were too small and he wasn’t balanced enough to my eye. His feathers settled as a trio at the front of his headband. I thought about one at the back of the headband…but then where and how would the band fasten? I do like things to be neat and clean in their finishes.

Feathers onto band

Pattern writing would have to be my least favourite part of the whole process…followed by marketing and photography. They’re just not my strengths but they need to happen. When it comes to pattern writing I often find that there are just no words to string together to make sense of what my fingers ‘just do’. Does that make sense? At times like that…when I think my words just aren’t ‘right enough’ then illustrations step in. This pattern is scattered with my hand drawn illustrations. If you buy my patterns you have to forgive my do it all yourself, kitchen table, unpolished approach. Let’s just call it quirky and move on!


Somehow patterns get written.  Despite my attempts at proof reading spelling mistakes, a certain enthusiasm for unnecessary punctuation and backyard photography are included in healthy measures in every one. Then there’s nothing left to do but to share them. There’s nothing more satisfying and petrifying to me than letting a pattern go out into the world. I’m incredibly thankful to everyone who likes my designs enough to want to make them and I’m very flattered when kind words are said about them.

If you’d like to look at Feather’s Etsy listing he’s here . To celebrate me ticking his pattern off the list there’s a 25% DISCOUNT in my Etsy Store when you spend $10 AUD or more. Just enter the code FEATHERYFUN when you check out.

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