A good pattern should be well written, fully illustrated --- meaning illustrations for every step of the project --- and clever construction techniques that make sewing really fun. And sewing is more than just sewing these days. Vanilla House talked with a group of sewers recently and they all agreed they love to learn new techniques as they sew a project as well as ending up with a well-made item without having to spend a ton of time figuring out the instructions. That's why Vanilla House patterns are kind of on the long side --- not because they are 'wordy' but because they are filled with illustrations. We are hoping the understandable illustrations are a 'quick read'.
That being said, every year our patterns get better and better --- at least we think so. If you purchased one of our earlier patterns, the above definition may not apply as well as current releases. Still not many complaints over the years, so that is a blessing.
Vanilla House does have two types of patterns these days, the paper versions and the online pdf downloads. The paper versions use black, white, grey, and textured illustrations where the online versions are in color. In our opinion, the color versions are a little easier to comprehend the concepts being illustrated.
Editors are also an important part of pattern writing. I remember my first editor, Debbie Soelberg. She was awesome and probably taught me more about technical writing then my college English professors. Her big deal with me was consistency within the pattern. For example, if you write a technique in one spot in the pattern, keep the same terminology throughout the rest of the pattern (ie. call it rst or RST or right sides together through out the pattern). The example seems obvious but some newbie pattern writers are all over the place and their patterns are a night mare. However it is handled, a good pattern has threads that weave the whole pattern together. It makes it easier to read and to understand.
I also had a editor who previously worked for McCalls Pattern Company as an editor. She was set in her McCall pattern method of writing and was not open-minded enough to see anything but their style of construction. That really left me out of being able to create new and interesting techniques. One thing I have learned, there is more, and in fact many ways to construct a project. McCalls constructs patterns so they are easy to write. I construct patterns so they are easy to sew. That does mean the techniques are sometimes harder to write, but it is worth it. The whole point of being an independent pattern designer is the large arena for creativity in your construction process. Once you figure out a creative technique, experienced pattern writers will figure out the best way to convey the process.
It is interesting to note that even with editors, mistakes still show up in the patterns. After all these years, I currently do not have editors but I edit the [darn] things about a hundred times before I publish. Still miss stuff but not as much as when I had editors, so there you are. Most honest pattern designers will have a correction site on the internet or some process to convey the slip-ups.