If you are on Twitter, you may see that #YarnIsForEveryone going around. It's a fantastic hashtag opening the discussion about accessibility and fairness in the yarn industry.
I have some thoughts.
Let me first introduce myself. I am a knitwear and crochet designer and released my first pattern in November 2020. Since then I have gone on to release 16 more patterns for both knitting and crochet and more are on the way! I just love it. I can't stop designing.
I will not lie to you- being a designer is hard. It is almost as unrewarding as teaching was for me sometimes. I earn significantly less money than I did when teaching, but at least I am enjoying most aspects of what I'm doing these days.
I won't go into detail of why I became a designer, but it was born out of a bad situation, and became a huge part of my small business. I would love to earn a living from designing patterns, but as we have seen, this is way off.
I'll tell you what I have earned from my patterns from 2020 to 2022, because there's no point in keeping it to myself!
This figure is from all of my pattern sale channels, on designs that have cost the consumer between £3 and £6 each (promotions included). While it may seem like a lot of money from patterns alone, it's not. Now, just think about how much lower that amount would be if I gave in to pressure to give away some of my patterns.
That number does not reflect tech editor bills, listing fees and transaction fees paid in order to get my work published. If you took away those elements, the amount would probably make you wonder why I bother at all. I have also funded my own yarn for these designs, and whether it is a budget brand or not, it is an expense. It's a good job I like doing it, because as I am typing this out I realise it may seem like a crazy thing to pursue.
We all have to start somewhere. If I didn't have other income streams through my small business, this number would be lower still. I wish I didn't have to be a jack-of-all-trades type of emporium, but I do.
The average tech editor fee is £25 an hour. I believe in paying tech editors to quality check and edit my patterns. I value their work. Do I make the money back on my patterns after settling the bill? Hardly. Most patterns take longer than an hour to edit. There is much more demand from consumers for size inclusivity, for more accessibility, which is absolutely fair. It just costs a fortune for someone funding their self published designs. Giving you free patterns and footing the bill myself does not help me to grow. It does not help me to raise funds to publish my next pattern, and the one after that, and so on.
I want to deliver patterns that make you happy, but I also need some awareness of how much is thrown at a design. It is my belief that it would be unreasonable to expect an independent designer to produce patterns to a high standard, and charge nothing for them.
My last crochet garment cost around £150 ($196) to produce. I have not made back anywhere near £150 in the pattern sales of the garment. This does not mean that the design sucks. It will be there forever, in digital form, and one day, it will earn back the money I paid to have it published. If I were to give that away for free, would it encourage you to come back and buy more of my designs?
I doubt it.
Although I have seen several indie designers offer free patterns, I don't believe that this is a good way of setting out your stall and finding your customers.
While I believe that on a basic level, patterns are products and that knitters/crocheters are customers, it's not quite like that. I have a repertoire with my customers. I care what they think. I love seeing their pieces and talking to them about what they like and what inspires them. I hope that they value me too. I'll even strike up a conversation about their progress on someone else's pattern, because I am genuinely interested!
I would much rather have a connection with the few that support me, than have hundreds of passer-bys take my freebies to then save and forget about them. One day, the amount of people coming to me will be even bigger. It grows every day. When you support an independent designer you are saying 'I am investing in design' and you are giving them so many chances to grow and produce even greater designs.
Just know that the majority of independent designers want to do right by you. We want you to be happy. We want to share the joy that we had when creating the design. This is why we have our patterns tech edited and tested. Would it really be fair to ask us to charge nothing for everything that you want?