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Selling sewing patterns on Etsy

Among the PDF patterns Spokane resident Cherie Killilea sells in her Etsy shop are instructions for making these luggage tags. (Cherie Killilea)
Among the PDF patterns Spokane resident Cherie Killilea sells in her Etsy shop are instructions for making these luggage tags. (Cherie Killilea)

First of all, I'm so sorry for the crazy formatting you've been seeing here lately. I'm not sure what's going on, but we're trying to fix it. Thanks for following along, despite all the wackiness. Dizzy yet?

Anyhow ...

Last week, I wrote about Spokane seamstress/crafter/businesswoman/Etsy shop owner Cherie Killilea, whose chair slipcovers were included in a book released recently.

I wanted to share some more tidbits from my conversation with Cherie because it might be of interest to other Etsy sellers out there.

We talked a little about selling sewing patterns. I'm somewhat of a sewing pattern addict. I especially love collecting the 69-cent ones from Value Village. Styles always seem to come back around, and there are some patterns out there from the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s that deserve a second look today. (You just have to squint when you look at the funky drawings on the pattern envelopes and imagine how the outfits would look with today's fabrics ... and hairstyles.)

Etsy is another great resource for vintage sewing patterns, and it seems like there are more and more people selling their original designs online every day, too. I'm especially enjoying the kids' clothing patterns by a business called Heidi & Finn.

Cherie sells patterns for her frame purses, clutches, eyeglass cases, purses, diaper changing pads and other accessories online, and she recently bought a dress form so she can start making clothing patterns.

Patterns take a lot of time, effort and expertise to create, but once they're done, when someone orders one, you either just drop it in the mail or send it off as a PDF attached to an e-mail. Cha-ching!

I asked Cherie if there's much of a market for patterns, though, since there are so, so, so many free sewing tutorials floating around the Web these days.

"I think you get what you pay for," Cherie said, adding that a professional seamstress contacted her recently to thank her for her pattern for making luggage tags.

She told Cherie, "‘I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to make a luggage tag come out like yours. I tried a free tutorial and it didn't come out right.'"

Cherie has found that if you make the directions easy to understand and add tips and tricks along the way, you'll build a following of customers who want more from you.

"I never thought I'd do an apron pattern (since there are so many available already), but people are asking me for an apron pattern," she said.

(She's working on patterns for two: an ultra-simple apron for beginners and a "vendor's apron" that's for more advanced sewers.)

A few other random thoughts/tips from Cherie:

-If you're selling online, spend some time studying the photography of the sellers whose goods get featured on the front page every day.

"Some of the traditional product photography rules don't apply," Cherie said.

-Wondering what to sell on Etsy? Originality is key. Cherie sells a lot of her colorful clutches to brides who want to give them as gifts to their bridesmaids to carry on the wedding day.

"The brides that I've worked with want something no one else has. They might be buying the bridesmaid dresses at David's Bridal, but they want the clutches to be different," she said.

Cherie added, "People aren't deal shopping on Etsy; they're shopping for uniqueness."

-And tomorrow, one more tip from Cherie. A story tip, not an Etsy-selling tip. Stay tuned. It's a brilliant way a woman is helping poor kids in India get an education.



Artist and crafter Maggie Wolcott writes about craft events in and around Spokane, as well as her own adventures in creating and repurposing. Her DwellWellNW posts include project and decorating ideas, recipes, reviews of events, and interviews with local artists. Maggie spends her days as an English professor, and when she’s not grading papers, she can generally be found with a paintbrush or scissors in hand. She can be reached at