Do designers spend 100 hours making a cross stitch pattern?

I was on a facebook group the other day and I heard a seller of pattern software say “designers will make you think they spend 100 hours on a pattern, but you can do it yourself in 30 seconds!” Whilst this sounds like a great sales pitch, it put my back up. You see, whilst I’m not a designer per-say, this just isn’t true. For a few reasons. So, I decided to make sure the message was straight when it comes to pattern making.

Does it take 100 hours to make a pattern?


Does it take 100 hours to make a commerical pattern?


How long does it take?

Well, it might take 100 hours, it might also take 30 seconds. Yes, I see how confusing that is.
I have spent 100 hours making a cross stitch pattern, and I’ve also spent 30 seconds. When it comes to pattern making, there are a few things you need to take into account: Complexity, experience & quality.


I’ve spoken many times about finding the right cross stitch pattern software for you and I’m always talking about what you need it for. Some patterns are simply harder to make thanks to different elements. Let’s take a few of my patterns as examples.

Optimus Prime Transforming 3D Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan in robot form
Optimus Prime Transforming 3D Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan in robot form

The first is my transforming cross stitch which whilst having a simple color palette, was totally new. There wasn’t an image to work from to start, there wasn’t a guide on how pieces could go together, and there wasn’t a nice easy way to make the pattern. As a result I had to put each stitch together, in such a way that it made sense when making a series of boxes, that then get strung together to move. This pattern took me 100 hours.
Mass Effect N7 Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan

However, the next example is my N7 mass effect cross stitch. I took an image, put it through a pattern maker, and stitched it. It took me 30 seconds.
The difference between these two was how complicated the pattern was, and how much I could work from to start. Pattern designers need to stay away from anything possibly copyrighted, so have to make everything themselves, which takes time.


The second thing is experience. If you’ve been making patterns a while, you get the software, you get the way you need to make a pattern, you get the tools and can picture exactly what you want before you start. As a result, it doesn’t take that long. Again, let’s use some examples.

The above two patterns were roughly the same amount of work. They have similar stitch counts, similarly complex and they’re similar in design. However, the difference, is they were made a year apart. The first, the Portal tattoo cross stitch took me 100 hours. The second, the Pokemon tattoo cross stitch took me 5. Yes, that’s 20 times less, in only a year.


The final thing is quality. We’ve spoken about the quality of pattern makers before in our post about if free cross stitch pattern makers better than paid however lets put that to aside for a moment, as pattern makers themselves aren’t to blame here. You can make a 30-second pattern in any pattern maker, and you can make a 100-hour pattern in any pattern maker too.
The difference is what you do with the time. You can add dithering, you can reduce stitches, colors, add in effects, change the tones, you can rearrange stitches and move things around. The pattern you make in 30 seconds, is going to be a considerably worse pattern thanks to that. If those extra 99 hours and 59 minutes and 30 seconds were worth it or not is beside the point.
Designers want you to spend your money on their patterns. As a result, they want to give you a quality product, so they spend more than 30 seconds on a pattern.

So do designers take 100 hours on a pattern?

Well, it’s hard to say. However, I doubt it.
We know their patterns are detailed, they can’t work from imagery so have to make it themselves, and they make high-quality patterns. However, it’s their job. They’ve been doing this professionally for some time, and as a result, should be significantly faster than the rest of us at pattern making. So yes, they might take 10 or so hours, but not 100. In fact, the two projects I’ve shown above that took me 100 hours, were the only two, and they were both made only 1 year into me starting to cross stitch.
That said, I can guarantee you that any pattern designer worth their salt can make a considerably better pattern than any 30-second pattern maker.

Going back to the original quote “designers will make you think they spend 100 hours on a pattern, but you can do it yourself in 30 seconds!” I would have to say, by in large, its kinda correct. Designers do spend a long time making patterns, and you can make one yourself in 30 seconds. But those two patterns aren’t comparable.

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Nathalie

    I agree with what Angharad Green is saying, you talk about Designer, but what you are describing is only a good user of software, not a designer, nor an artist, nor a creator.
    Transforming an image, using a drawing is not creation, it is just transformation.

  2. Angharad Green

    I think the issue is that many people use the word “Designer” to describe two very different processes. Someone taking a photo or artwork and putting it through software and tweaking a few settings to make a chart is very different to someone sitting down making an artwork using cross-stitch as a medium. A designer is an artist and their work could easily take 100 hours, a person that coverts images in an operator using software and it take nowhere near as much time

      1. Maggie

        I actually had an issue using a perler bead pattern maker a few years ago, where what I thought was a five-color piece came up as needing ten colors. When I had the same kind of issue with a cross-stitch pattern maker on a small piece, I decided it was worth my time on the front end, to make smaller patterns manually. And by small, I’m talking less than five inches. This way, I know with certainty how many colors I need.

        For a larger piece, like I took a nice selfie that I wanted to turn into a proper self portrait, a computer program works fine–faster than I could have done, and maybe it will need some tweaks, but after a close look at the pattern, I’m fairly happy with it.

        I think intent is important. Perhaps you could steal that illustration for free and convert it for free, but I think you’re going to spend quite a bit more time gathering your materials–which, maybe you’ll get lucky and they’ll be cheaper than the kit, or maybe you’ll spend far more on the materials–versus just buying the kit. If you really sit down, create an illustration of your own and take the time to turn it into a pattern, you’re probably going to have a lot more appreciation for you those kits are so expensive.