You Don’t Owe Me a Cent: Making a Living in the Fibre Industry

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This blog post was inspired by “The Cost of Knitting Patterns” by Thread and Ladle and Hanna Lisa’s posts on Price Transparency. Definitely take a moment to read through them as they offer unique and valuable perspectives on this topic!

First of all, yes, there are definitely paid-for patterns that have not gone through the proper channels of editing and testing, resulting in a sub-par product. So designers, new and veteran, please take the time to at least get your patterns looked over by another set of eyes. Shoddy products only hurt our industry and the work of designers who do put in the time, effort and money into ensuring that their work is ready for publication. If you’re a new or aspiring designer and you want to make sure your pattern goes through the correct steps, I offer a course on how to create publish-worthy patterns, SWATCH Studio. You can learn more about it [here].

For the purposes of this post onwards, I will be only referring to patterns published via Aroha Knits or the Fibre Muse (basically, my work).

Finding the balance between valuing my work and what the market can bear is a tricky line. And finding the intersection between creating art that I want to make and creating something that my audience will care about is another.

Making a sustainable living in this industry is tough, and even more so when one has a team that helps run the business (but it does result in warm fuzzy feelings when your business gets to help contribute to other small businesses by paying them for their work).

After much discussion and feedback, while I believe that many of us are undervaluing our work, the solution is NOT to raise prices to what the “true value” of a pattern is. Based on your responses and feedback on my social media posts, it seems like the sweet spot for digital patterns if $5-$10, depending on the type of design. I agree with that and feels good to me, so you won’t see my patterns exceed that amount.

So what is the solution? Or a solution?

Well I'm not going to be able to answer that question in this blog post, that's for sure, but based on my (three) years of running a business and brand, here's what I've learned:

I believe that it is solely the responsibility of the designer to communicate to their audience why their pattern matters and how it can benefit them. Sure, it’s nice that I designed a pattern and published it, but why should you care? Why should you choose this pattern over the thousands like this one? The reality is, just because I put in hours and hours of time and effort to make something pretty, still doesn’t mean you owe me a cent.

If anything, it’s me who owes you.

I owe you a well-written, clear, complete and concise pattern, that has been edited and tested beforehand.

I owe you a pattern that provides an enjoyable, engaging and relaxing knitting experience.

I owe you a pattern where all your questions and objections have been anticipated beforehand. How do you do this stitch? Video tutorial is already at your fingertips. I like both written and charted instructions. Already there. I like to measure my progress throughout and make sure I’m on track. You like stitch count tables? Has this been tech edited and tested? I can provide you some numbers.

I owe you a pattern that you give a damn about. How will this pattern help you make an impact in the world?

If you’re going to spend $5-$10 on my pattern, I owe you the best of my work.

It’s only by your support and contribution that Aroha Knits is going into its fourth year. I definitely work hard to make sure my patterns are accessible and communicate their value, but because of YOU I’m able to continue my passion. That's why I pour so much time, energy and money into my pattern production, because you are worth it.

(And for new/aspiring designers, here’s a tip for you! Get your patterns edited and tested. Put out one or two patterns for free so people can get a sampling of your work. And if you want to be extra generous, set up an initiative in your brand to gift your work to those who can’t afford to purchase patterns).