PDF Patterns Pros and Cons

I've been struggling with something behind the scenes for a while now. If you read my birthday post, you know that financially things have been tough for me, and that they are going to get better soon. But not that much better. I mean, I'm not winning the lottery or anything! What it does mean is that it won't be quite as tight from day to day.

My struggle is this: Printing patterns is expensive. That's the reality. Between the illustrations, grading, photos, models, hair/makeup people, and envelope/instructions/pattern printing, it costs a few grand to produce 1,000 patterns of one style the way I'm doing it now. And at that rate, I can probably afford to produce 1-2 patterns a year.

I have thought about ways to simplify things, and I know there are places to save money. For one, I can do the photographs myself in a more informal way. This works for loads of people, including Sewaholic, and I'm sure it would work fine for me too.

The big and obvious place to save money is in the printing department. Believe it or not, the color envelope is the most expensive piece of the pie. Right now I have an envelope with an instruction sheet inside and the printed pattern. All of that comes in a clear plastic envelope to protect it all. I could change the envelope and instructions to be an all-in-one booklet that comes inside the plastic envelope. That would save a ton of cash. If I made these changes, I could probably afford to produce 3-4 patterns a year.

Or, I could scrap all the printing and do PDFs. Lots of pattern companies do PDF patterns, and I could too. But, I for one really prefer a printed pattern over a PDF pattern. However, if the only reason my web shop isn't full of patterns is because of the expense of printing, is that enough to keep doing things the same way? I have no shortage of ideas and have a rack of patterns from my ready to wear days that could be for sale now. If I made these changes, I could afford to do dozens of patterns a year.

So, what's a girl to do?

My mom always taught me that if I'm faced with a challenge that I don't know the answer to, make yourself a pros and cons list. So here we go!

Pros to PDF Patterns:
- No shipping costs, which is especially great for international customers
- Downloads = immediate gratification for the shopper
- Less expenses for me = more designs
- Less expenses = cheaper pattern for the shopper
- I can offer them on other downloadable pattern sites, like Craftsy

Cons to PDF Patterns:
- Takes a lot of paper to print each pattern
- The endless taping!!!
- Customers can share files or photocopy the pattern (hopefully no one would do that, but still...)
- They would only be available on my website and not in stores
- Storing PDF patterns is totally annoying (no envelope, more bulk with all the taped pages)
- No matter how nice it's all packaged, it somehow feels less "professional" to me
- I've spent time building relationships with stores and now I'd have to change things
- No way around it, it feels like a step backwards
- Unlike many other people, I actually prefer sewing with tissue paper and not real paper
- Sounds odd, but I will actually miss packing up the physical patterns into pretty packages :)

Here's my issue- I think sites like Victory Patterns are awesome, but while I own three of their patterns, I haven't made one yet because the endless taping stops me every time, and then I move onto a pattern that is already printed. And I know from this discussion on Sunni's blog that many of you feel the same. I have made some of Grainline's patterns, but that's not really a fair comparison, since those were for tops and had very few pages to print or tape. I usually design dresses and those eat up a lot of sheets of paper.

So, as far as I can see it, here are my choices. I seriously NEED to hear opinions from all of you, so please let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

1- keep them printed as is and produce 1 or 2 patterns a year
2- keep them printed, but change all that I can to save costs and produce 3-4 patterns a year
3- change it up and release all future patterns as PDFs
4- split the difference- release some patterns on paper a year and do a bunch else as PDFs

Thanks in advance for your help! I really am not sure where to go with this and would appreciate your opinions!

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