The betta fish was one of my first patterns I ever drafted entirely on my own with the intent to sell. This was back in 2012 before I even owned a sewing machine and much of the original pattern was designed to be hand sewn.
Here's one of the original fish, wedged into a sandwich, just for nostalgia:
Obviously a lot has changed since 2012 and the method I use to sew fish is entirely different. I now utilize a great deal of top sewing to make the fish rather than stuffing many fins in the tight confines of the body. The pattern also got some quality of life updates in line with my newest standards for my patterns which I put in place with the whale shark pattern.
First, a better difficulty rating.
Rather than give a generic rating of beginner, intermediate, and advanced I've expanded to a 10 point rating system of difficulty. This allows for a bit more room to describe the difficulty because there's a great deal of difference, for example, between someone who is a beginner and has never sewn a single thing in their life and someone who is a beginner, but has made one or two plushies and knows how to use a sewing machine. My hope is that a 10 point system will allow people to more accurately choose patterns for their skill level to avoid any disappointment or frustration when they pick up a pattern only to find it is too difficult.
My next change is minor, but may prove to be very helpful. I now include an approximate measurement for the required materials.
Previously I did not include fabric measurements as it didn't seem to matter to me. Rarely can you buy the exact quantity of fabric needed and even 1/3 of a yard (the smallest most places will cut when selling by the yard) is generally enough for any of my plushies. But I realize now that there is a great many holes in this logic. What if a customer is trying to gauge if they have enough scrap fabric left? Or their local store will cut exact amounts? What if they want to calculate how many they can fit on a yard? There are so many reasons someone may want more exact measurements beyond just initially buying a 1/3 of a yard of fabric and calling it good.
I'm still not 100% satisfied with this, though, as I get this measurement by laying out the pieces as I usually would and measuring, then adding an inch or two to be sure I'm not underestimating. Yet everyone's measurements are going to be a bit different depending on how they lay out the pieces on their fabric. A 17x17 square could also be a 10x24 piece just as easily. I'm definitely still open to suggestions on how I can make this measurement more clear, but for now I think this is still a great improvement over nothing.
Third on my list of improvements is printing instructions. I've been including these instructions in all my most recent patterns, but now I've gone back in and re-worded some areas to be more clear. I also include a blurb on enlarging patterns with seam allowance.
Which leads me to my fourth area of improvement. Seam allowance! This is a major change for me, but one of the most requested features. Adding it presents a whole world of new challenges. I've had to entirely change programs (from photoshop to illustrator) and teach myself how to use my new tools effectively. Seam allowance is also very tricky for plushie patterns with lots of detail because even 1/4 of an inch can obscure much in a pattern. Here's an example:
This is a small area of my crown tail version of the betta fish pattern. You can see the original pattern in the top left. The top right is the same pattern with 1/4 of an inch seam allowance added. Obviously I can't present customers with just this pattern as 90% of the important information is lost. My solution is as seen on the bottom, include both seam allowance and exact sewing lines. This allows people the choice to tackle the project in the way they feel the most comfortable.
The fifth thing on my list is that I'm also making an effort to include video tutorials to accompany the patterns. Personally I can make a plush just looking at the pattern with no instructions involved, but I know that everyone learns differently. Some like to jump in head first and figure it out while they go, others want incredibly detailed instructions. Some are fine with flat pictures, but others learn best from watching someone do it first. Similar to the way I include both exact sewing lines and seam allowance, this just offers customers more choices so that they can choose what works best for them.
Here's the new betta fish video:
There's definitely a lot of room for improvement in these videos, too! My long term boyfriend actually has a film degree and has worked on everything from movies and commercials to corporate product videos. He's just as busy as I am, but I'm hoping after the holidays we can sit down together and I can learn more about making videos and find some good ways to make awesome videos happen in my small space. I'm really excited about all the things I can show on video that are very difficult to explain with a series of photos.
Finally, there's also a handful of very minor changes. My new page layout allows just a bit more space for slightly larger photos. Patterns are all labeled on the bottom with the pattern and page number to help keep things in order while printing. I've banned myself from hand writing on any photos or pattern pieces (typed text only) to avoid issues with messy handwriting, even if it is tempting to just scribble words as I go. For patterns with drawn illustrations to show the steps, I'm added some grey flat colors behind the black lines to help visualize the pieces a bit more in a 3D space. Moving forward I'm also going to be making an effort to avoid colors that are difficult to see such as white or black. Even if those are the actual colors of the plush, it's more important that the images be easy to see than it is to have accurate colors.
I hope that all these changes help bring more clarity and ease of use to my patterns. If anyone has any further suggestions, I'd be happy to hear them!
And as a bonus, here's a video of me sewing a realistic a betta fish speed up 16X: