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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Pattern Workshop - Using Inkscape and a Bit About Open Source

This post contains affiliate links, but ALL opinions - however nerdy - are mine and I am writing this of my own volition.  Also this post contains a bunch of poorly lit iPhone pics.  You've been warned.  

A little over a year ago I entered Lauren's Pattern Workshop course with the intention of seeing if her methods would work using Inkscape vs the Adobe Creative Cloud products used in her class.  It is well known that there are several successful PDF pattern designers that use or have used Inkscape, but I was curious about the tips and tricks Lauren mentions in the course and whether or not they would translate.  Fast forward, and although I am just now finishing this post I can say with confidence that almost everything taught in Creating PDF Patterns from Sketch to Sale is doable without Illustrator and the course is absolutely worth taking if you are considering digital pattern drafting.  Don't worry..... I'll get to that "almost" in just a minute.

First I'd like to talk a little about "free" and Inkscape for a minute.  Inkscape is an open source program which means it is free to use, distribute, and the code behind the software is viewable.  The no-cost-to-use part is pretty nice, but as a former computer science geek the other factors interest me more.  If you've spent any time with open source junkies you'll have heard the terms "free as in speech" and "free as in beer" to describe the differences between the two definitions of free: libre and gratis.  "Free as in beer" means there is no cost: gratis.  If someone buys you a beer there is no cost to you.  Yay, free beer.  "Free as in speech" refers to liberty: libre.  Here in the US, we take liberty pretty seriously and yet having the freedom to use a piece of software however you choose is not exactly the norm.  I am not going to get into the minutiae here, but software that is open source is safer, more flexible, and (one of my favorites) extremely well supported.  The freedom to view the Inkscape source code means that there are plenty of people who USE Inkscape that also can contribute to CODING Inkscape.  This means if there is something that Inkscape doesn't already do that most people would like it to do, then there is probably someone out there right now working on the code to get it done (see the "almost" above).  But, that also applies to bugs in the software - someone is working to fix bugs so THEY can get back to using it too.  That is pretty reassuring.

Before you think I'm a radical, I should note that I'm writing this from a PC.  That may be sacriledge for some, but using things as proprietary as Windows and iPhones on a daily basis only serves to remind me how beneficial open source programming is.  That is why I do my best to use any open source options I can for the software I use on my PC (ie GimpOpen Office, etc.).

It's hard to see, but in the reflection of my iphone above you can see the pc stickers on my laptop.  Yeah, I also use an iPhone all. day. long.   Not all open source programs are free, and of course not all free programs are open source.  I use the free program cutePDF as a part of my PDF pattern design and it is NOT open source.  So again, I'm not trying to be negative about  proprietary software, but rather positive about open source options.  I realize that most of you who are interested in using Inkscape are probably doing so because of the cost of the "Creative Cloud" and I don't fault that!  I just wanted to cover all the reasons I am determined to use Inkscape over Illustrator and the main one for me isn't monetary.

Now let's talk about the fun stuff!  Digital PDF pattern design changed the game for me.  Previously, I was drafting all of Bean's non-patterned clothes by hand which meant lots of time with paper, rulers, pencils, and most importantly alone in my sewing room.  By moving the process to Inkscape, I have more accuracy, less waste, and I can do it all on my laptop while Bean is safely hanging out next to me - away from the pins, needles, and giant piles of fabric about to land on her at any moment that live in my sewing room.  Not to mention it is WAY faster.

The information in Creating PDF Patterns from Sketch to Sale course translates easily to Inkscape.  If you're already familiar with Inkscape, you'll pick up the subtle differences and be able to get right to designing.  If you're new to Inkscape, this video is a HUGE help in figuring out all that it can do for you.  Heck, even if you're a seasoned Inkscape user, I'm sure you could benefit from watching that video.

Pattern Workshop comes with the option to join its Facebook group which is huge benefit to the course.  There are other Inkscape users in there so if you are stumbling over something that isn't explained in the course (which focuses on Illustrator) you can ask the group and there should be someone to help you.  I'm also available as a resource so feel free to tag me in any questions involving Inkscape in the group.  I don't feel comfortable sharing my exact process outside the Pattern Workshop Facebook group because some of it comes directly from what Lauren is teaching on the Illustrator side so it wouldn't be fair to those who have paid for the course.  However, inside the group you can ask me anything and if I have the answer I'd be happy to help!

So you're probably still wondering about that "almost" I wrote in the first paragraph.  The thing I haven't been able to replicate is the PDF layers printing option.  However there is a Windows work-around you can purchase from Titchy Threads which will allow Inkscape to save a layered PDF.  I haven't tried it, but I've heard it's great.  While I don't love that it's not open source when it's for use with an open source program, I don't fault Laura since it's a great work around and to be fair it's for Windows and AGAIN Windows isn't open source and I'm using Windows too.  Also I want to mention that I have NO issue at all with her charging for it.  Even if it was open source I would have no issue with a fee for the cost of the time it took to write the code and support it.  Again, free as in speech over free as in beer.  Layers is pretty much the only thing I haven't found a way to recreate in Inkscape (and I really don't find it necessary), but the postitive take-away here is that it's something that people want, so as mentioned earlier with open source software you know there's someone out there writing code for it as I type this.  Soon....

And speaking of soon, I've been hard at work on my first real PDF pattern for sale and I should be calling for testers soon!  I can't wait to share the pattern with you as it's been a year in the making.  Well, it's really been a month in the making, but it's taken a year to get my butt in gear, hehe.  Either way, I wouldn't be as confident in my first pattern as I am if it weren't for Pattern Workshop.  The course and fb group helped to pull all the bits and pieces I'd been learning through library books and googling together and I'm so grateful.  I'd love to hear your experiences if you've taken the course or even hesitations if you haven't yet jumped on board.  If you're unsure of the cost of the course, add Pattern Workshop to your amazon wishlist!

This is a great opportunity for a significant other to give you a gift that you'll love and will help you grow!


  1. Love this. I've been doing little bit with inkscape while waiting to get the creative cloud. And if I didn't want CC for Lightroom, I would continue using GIMP, Picasa and Inkscape for my blogging stuff. :) I love those programs, and I wish I was more skilled with using them. Can't wait to see your first pattern!

  2. This is great information. I have no interest in drafting patterns to sell, only to store my designs digitally and to provide designs free. But I love all the information and time you put into this. I can't wait to see what your pattern will be :)

  3. Thanks Melissa! I think you'll love the rest of the pattern :) And to be honest, even if I didn't ever release a pattern to sell I would say the Pattern Workshop course is worth the cost. Drafting even just in one size for Bean has been made SOOOOO much easier. I am constantly kicking myself that I wasn't doing it before Project Run & Play as it would have been 1000 times easier that way!!

  4. Oh yeah, it is definitely on my splurge list when I can afford it. I would love to learn the information because applying it even just for my home is enough reason for me. Plus, I will have all that stuff to hand down to them when they have their own families, hopefully.

  5. Really looking forward to seeing your first pattern. I have no idea what Ajaire would do ;-) hmmmm!!!

    I've been using Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign for many many years, I don't really know what Inkscape is. I'm a Mac girl through and through. That's not to say I love Apple. Just the Mac as apposed to a PC, nothing else.

  6. I was a mac girl for a long time too. Nothing wrong there :) Inkscape is a vector program that is just like illustrator. If you're already used to Illustrator there wouldn't be much reason to switch! Also, trust me when that pattern is finally released you'll be one of the first to know!!

  7. Thanks Maegen! If you ever have any inkscape or gimp questions, don't hesitate to ask!

  8. I have been toying with taking this class! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it!
    Please keep me in the loop. I would love to see your first pattern:)

  9. I'm excited for your pattern! That's also some really interesting info on programs as a non-tech geek I didn't know some of that :)

  10. I don't know who you think you are kidding with the "former computer science geek". Once a geek, always a geek. There is no former. Also, wearing the glasses to make you seem more authentic is pretty brilliant. I have to say that reading this post gives me more of an idea of what your major actually was.... I never understand those computer science majors. They always seem so vague to me.

  11. Michelle, I've found it to be a great benefit. Even without ever releasing a pattern, it's been worth it for drafting clothes for my girl. So much easier than with pen and paper. :)

  12. I'm sure you'll have extras! It's good to do scary stuff once and awhile ;)

  13. Thanks for writing about this! I've wondered if there was a pro open source person out there taking Pattern Workshop. I'm a GIMP user, and while I'm sure that Illustrator can do more, I just can't justify the expense--especially when I just want to learn and don't even know if I'd want to pursue creating patterns professionally.


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