For today’s installment of my series on how to turn your love of sewing softies into a career that actually earns you an income, I want to explore selling printed patterns through wholesale distributors.

Okay, what does that mean exactly?

Have you ever walked into your local fabric store or quilt shop and seen a display of patterns by indie designers, some of whom you maybe recognize from the online craft community, and wondered how those patterns got there? Maybe you saw a Wee Wonderful’s Kit, Chloe and Louise doll pattern (I saw Hillary’s patterns for sale at Gather Here in Cambridge), or Heather Bailey’s Claira and Clancy Pigs (I saw Heather’s patterns for sale at JP Knit and Stitch in Boston), or Zipper Critters by Indygo Junction, or the Isabelle pincushion by BariJ. These designers work with wholesale distributors like Brewer and Checker to get their patterns into stores all over the country.

Cool, right? Design a pattern, write up the instructions, do the page layout, take the beauty shots…and then what? What comes next? I had so many questions!

I found a book, Publish Your Patterns by Nancy Restuccia, that looks like a great resource and I’m going to buy it soon, and this guest post on WhipUp by Meg McElwee from way back in 2007. Ah, we were all so young then.

I chatted with my friend, Wendi, who is exploring selling her patterns through distributors, and we came up with all sorts of questions including…

-How do you approach a distributor? Do you sign a contract with them or do they place an order with you and then renew as needed? Is this an exclusive thing or can you work with more than one distributor at a time? Can you still sell those same patterns as PDFs directly to customers?

-On average what percentage of the wholesale price does the distributor take? Is there a standard markup from the wholesale price to the retail price. Do you need a bar code on your pattern and if you do, where do you get one?

-If you are just getting started, what would be a sane print run? Who collates and packages the patterns? Are they stored in the distributor’s warehouse?

-How many patterns should you start with? Would it benefit you to go to a trade show like Quilt Market to show your patterns, or is that overkill?

We are curious people!

To get all these questions answered I reached out to BariJ, an amazing designer of sewing patterns and fabric.

BariJ and I met on Twitter a few months ago. I admire her business so much!

Her book, Inspired to Sew, was released the same month as my book. Bari’s fifth line of fabric, LillyBelle, will be shipping this June.

And just look at all of these gorgeous sewing patterns she’s designed!

Bari and I talked for about 25 minutes and I recorded our conversation so that you can hear it, too. She generously answered my million questions about selling patterns through distributors. In the talk you’ll hear her refer to this website for purchasing bar codes and we also refer to Quilt Market and she references the potholder pattern above.

We talk about printing companies and my research points to Tri-State Printers as a business that seems to specialize in the craft and quilting community. I haven’t worked with them, but my feeling is that they would do a great job. Other costs would include bags from ClearBags, like these or something similar.

I am forever grateful to BariJ for her generosity in sharing what she knows with us! I love to see members of our online sewing community sharing information openly with one another so that we can all learn and work toward our individual goals more efficiently and successfully.

I hope you’ll enjoy listening to our talk and I hope you’ll follow BariJ’s blog and Twitter feed if you don’t already. She’s amazing.

Listen to the interview by click below or subscribe to the podcast for free in iTunes.

And when you’re done listening come on back here and let Bari and I know your thoughts. Are you considering working with a distributor? Could it be a future goal? What is standing in your way? Let’s chat!

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