Bonjour Quilts and the Cost of Designing Patterns

I have long been a follower of Kirsty Cleverly, owner, pattern designer, blogger at Bonjour Quilts. (And for a quilt pattern designer and maker, isn’t her last name just awesome???) I think I first found Kirsty a while ago when there was a movement called May is for Makers to support indie pattern designers.  I remember I bought her Fleur pattern at that time (which I have yet to even use, sigh.)  After that, I started to read her blog and eventually signed up for her newsletter.  In return for signing up, she gave me a great pattern called When You Wish.  I did make this one though!  The pattern is now available in larger sizes and is called Color Explosion.

When You Wish baby quilt with my sweet great niece enjoying it!

Since then I purchased the larger version of the pattern and look forward to making it as a queen size.

OK – I am getting off topic.  What I really want to talk about is this incredible post Kirsty recently wrote discussing the costs of bringing quilt patterns to print and then selling them – both privately, through quilt shops and through large scale distributors.  Kirsty had posed a few questions in a recent newsletter, gathering information from her (13,000+) readers.  I thought it was an interesting topic and as such, responded to her and we had a nice exchange about it.  The resulting blog post is compelling.  I love interacting with and supporting our indie pattern designers in the quilt community but have to say, I didn’t know the extent of the costs of running such a business.  I really, really (!) hope you will click over and read Kirsty’s post as it applies to so many designers who provide both free and paid patterns.  One aspect of the post that I was surprised by was the discussion around pricing PDF and print patterns at the same price.  I suspect you will find it really interesting. Another part of the article I greatly appreciated was her list of suggested ways to support indie designers.  There are ideas listed which are easily done.

Fleur, Triangle Twist, Go West, and Diamonds in the Deep, by Bonjour Quilts

As a small business owner, this article was very helpful to me. I carry a couple of Kirsty’s quilt patterns in my shop right now. I buy these patterns via a distributor because of the high shipping expense that I would incur if I bought from Kirsty directly (she lives in Australia). But I had not given thought to how this affects her revenue as a designer. Maybe someday the postage will work out such that I can buy from the designer but for now, it wouldn’t make sense.  At this time, you will find Diamonds in the Deep and Triangle Twist  available in the shop. In another week, I will also have Fleur (mini quilt version) and Go West. I am proud to carry Kirsty’s work as the aesthetic is wonderful, her quilts are not ones that will take forever to make,  and the instructions are easily understood.

I am quite curious to hear your thoughts on her post. If you are a designer, do you have any thoughts to contribute that might not have been covered in this article?  Let me know in the comments!  Have a good weekend all.

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17 thoughts on “Bonjour Quilts and the Cost of Designing Patterns

  1. SarahZ

    I agree, Kirsty’s post is epic for me and I am still mulling it over! I too, very much liked her tips on HOW to support designers in ways additional to actually buying a pattern. I love her voice and her aesthetic as well.

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      I very much appreciated her genuine and honest essay. Sometimes I get the feeling that others think pattern designers are doing this as a creative hobby. Reading this shows how much work and expense goes into these amazing patterns. Very informative. Thanks for your input Sarah.

      Reply
      1. SarahZ

        Also, as someone who has (as I realize now!) “toyed” with pattern design, I realize just how much I have missed the mark, and how much more to expect of myself should I continue to work towards that.

        Reply
        1. Bernie Post author

          I am sure this was helpful to lots of quilters who have worked on designing a pattern. I respect the way Kirsty laid it all out. Not whining or complaining, rather just explaining the ropes to us. She did an excellent job of portraying her work in an honest yet very positive manner.

          Reply
  2. Wendy

    An interesting read, Bernie, thanks for sharing. I just subscribed to her blog. I appreciate her honest thoughts on being a small business owner/creator/designer. Much to think about.

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      I am happy you enjoyed the post Wendy. I really look forward to the tutorials and patterns Kirsty creates. I bet you will too! Have a wonderful Sunday!

      Reply
  3. Kirsty @ Bonjour Quilts

    Thank you, Bernie, I’m so glad the post has resonated with people. It’s hard to know what a fair price is for a pattern when you don’t know what goes into making it or how the industry works. I didn’t know a bunch of this until I was in the thick of it myself!

    P.S. I love that photo of your grand niece enjoying her quilt – what a cutie!

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      You’re welcome Kirsty. The article was really well written and clearly thought out. Great job! It is beneficial for all of us to understand the back end of these patterns, free and paid, we all use to create with.

      Reply
  4. Mari

    Thank you for sharing this Bernie. Lots to think about. The most important part, I think, comes near the end where she talks about time. Learning to write patterns and do a good job with it, and developing patterns at all, takes a tremendous amount of time and has a pretty steep learning curve, all of which is unpaid. I wonder if a part of the emphasis on “easy, quick, and fast” quilts is because the patterns are easier to develop and so designers don’t lose quite as much time when the pattern is offered for free. Even the easiest ones still take significant time to write.

    I also appreciated what she had to say about free patterns. After much thought, I think it does devalue the paid patterns, because there’s this idea that quilting knowledge should be free. Did our grandmothers pay for patterns? Yes, they did, when they purchased newspapers or magazines or books with patterns in them. “Nancy Cabot” didn’t write her column for free. Just because we live in a time when it’s easier to disseminate information doesn’t mean that information has less value.

    Very though-provoking, Bernie!

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      I am glad it gave you new information to consider. I was taken back for a bit, thinking about what all of these designers go through. Not just patterns but also fabric. At least the fabric designers are generally working for a manufacturer. Kirsty did such a good job of outlining the process for all of us.

      Take care and have a good week!

      Reply
  5. Lisa

    Thanks for sharing this. What a crazy amount of work and cost and while I’m emailing you, are the kids who live in Canada going home for your thanksgiving? I finally have the fabric requirements for a tunic I want to make. If not maybe I can get it mailed to my sister in law.

    Reply
  6. Emily

    This was a very interesting read, Bernie, I’m glad you linked to it. Like many other commenters, it has given me a lot to think about. As I have been pondering this (mostly) new information, one thing that I realized the article doesn’t address is patterns in a paid format that isn’t a single pattern, such as a magazine or book. When I think about where I get patterns, I think I’m pretty equally using free patterns, single patterns that I paid for, my own tinkering, patterns from magazines, and patterns from books. I’m curious if anyone out there knows if magazines and books are an equally good way of supporting independent designers? I realize that books, especially, require that designers be somewhat well known, and I’m not sure how either fits into the ecosystem. Regardless, thanks for a thought-provoking read!

    Reply
  7. Linda (txwxgeek on IG)

    I was shocked at the costs. I will remember this essay and gladly pay the price to purchase patterns I love, especially ones that are PDF. I appreciate small business and want our quilting suppliers to stay in business!

    Reply
  8. Sandra Walker

    I am just on my way to read Kirsty’s post (it’s open as I type in another Window) thanks to Cindy of Stitchin at Home and hmm, someone else in the couple hours of blog reading/visiting I’ve been doing this morning (and it’s now 12:30 gack!) so reading your thoughts on it is good to have ahead of me heading over. I know it’s laughable how many HOURS I have put into making the measly 2 for sale patterns in my shop, compared to how much $$ I’ve made off them, I’d say maybe 15 downloads of the first one from a couple of years ago, and a whole 2 downloads of the second one released a month or so ago. Compare those dismal figures to the downloads of the free patterns? Thousands of times, I kid you not. It infuriates me when I have heard from several quilters (IN PERSON as well as via email) how proud they are of ‘never have bought one pattern in my life! I just figure it out for myself.) How rude, how wrong, how deceitful; it’s stealing. Okay, before I get really wound up, I’m stopping now and going to read her post!

    Reply
  9. Allison Reid

    I found a link to Kirsty’s blog post via another blogger. I gave a link to it in my last blog post and I’m glad you have opened up the discussion too. I design patchwork patterns – mainly to use in workshops – and can only agree with what Kirsty shares about the time and expenses incurred in producing a pattern. I remember the May is for Makers campaign too. We all need to keep reminding each other and new comers to patchwork and quilting that designers work hard to produce good quality patterns and should receive adequate payment for their time and expertise.

    Reply

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