This is going to be broken into multiple posts, mainly because there are a few distinct steps. I'll add links to the entire set as I go, but for now, these are the ones I plan on creating:
Import the image into Inkscape
Again, this is a relatively simple process. Using the final image from the previous step, we import it into Inkscape as an image. It doesn't matter if you link or embed, but I usually link to avoid bloating the SVG file.
Tracing the bitmap
Because I cleaned up the image in Gimp, it is easy to turn the raster image into a SVG image. Select the bitmap then choose
Trace Bitmap from the menu.
There is a quirk after you click "OK" on this dialog. It works for a few moments and then looks like you have to click OK again. Just close the window.
Cleaning up the images
The resulting item looks just like an image. Just use control and an arrow key to move one out of the way and delete the image behind the vector version. Once you are down to one image, select the traced outline and use
Break Apart (Control-K).
The resulting image will have each glyph as a separate image, but all of the loops will be filled in. To fix this, click on the filled-in bowl, then control-click on the outline. Use
Subtract (Control-Minus) to remove the bowl from the outline.
Cleaning up individual glyphs
This is the next tedious part of the process. I started by throwing everything on a baseline, just to make it easier to scroll.
Then, starting on the left side, I go through each glyph and clean it up before moving the next. I was going with an easier approach, so I use
Simplify Path (Control-L) to remove many of the control points and smooth out the lines. After doing that, I tried to remove other control points (F2 lets you see those) to create a simple glyph.
I took a couple passes going back and forth until I was pretty happy with the results. Then, I reorganized the glyphs again just to make it easier for creating the final arrangement.
After a bit more, I had this for the end of this step:
You may notice that the heights of the individual glyphs varies a lot. I did this for a few reasons, mainly for comprehension. I love Cherokee as a script, but it shows some aspects of being a constructed script. Everything has roughly the same height and it comes off as a block of text. I wanted something more flowing.
The bottom row has two versions because the lower set is the diacritic version (western) and the upper set is the inline (eastern).
In the future
One of the drawbacks of simplify path is that you lose a bit of the sharpness of the image. I would probably go with a different approach if I was creating the font again.
Also, if this was a non-handwriting font, I would be starting in Inkscape (or a C# program). I have an idea for a parametric font, but this "perfect" idea means that I will probably never finish it.