Why Knitting Isn't Free by Michelle Miller the Fickle Knitter
Lately I've received a flurry of questions asking why my knitting patterns aren't free. I hope that this article will help shed some light on what goes into a knitting pattern and enlighten knitters a bit and give insight on the knitting pattern writing process. I don't intend to make anyone feel badly, but to open your eyes on the costs associated with producing knitting patterns and the expertise that goes into it. So instead of asking a designer "Why isn't your pattern free" maybe you'll have a deeper insight into all the hard work, sweat and tears that goes into producing the knitting patterns that you love to knit so much.
Why Isn't Knitting Free Dammit?
Yarn and knitting needles are not free. I've never gone into a yarn shop and demanded to have yarn and knitting needles for free (although I would have loved to do so many times), and the same goes for knitting patterns, books and literature that I've read and utilized in my knitting over the years. You pay your electrician, your dentist, your doctor, your plumber, and your yarn bills as they come due. And unless you write your own patterns or rely on those that do write free patterns, you spend a certain amount on books and knitting patterns each month so that you have something to knit with those beautiful yarns that you bought.
So What goes into a Fickle Knitter Design Pattern?
First and foremost, I wouldn't be able to write any pattern without the technical background I have in physics, mathematics (including many years of studying calculus), computer science, and experience that I gained in college, graduate school, and working in the defense industry. How much does that cost?
Undergraduate Education 2003
$50,000 (Although I had to work three jobs while attending full time, and I got approximately half of my tuition paid for because I was a minority in physics who maintained good grades while putting myself through college). This does not include living expenses.
Graduate Education in Physics for a Masters Degree in 2010
$25,000 (No discount on this one, folks).
Years of Experience learning Excel, Word, Powerpoint and all that Math
This one is hard to price, because how much do we value expertise and experience? For argument's sake lets say all my experience and time is worth only $30,000.
The Cost of being a Small Business
Okay so now we've racked up a debt of $105,000 getting me ready to write knitting patterns. Let's include the fact that since I own my knitting design business I'm not able to also work in the defense industry where I'd make anywhere from $65,000-$85,000 yearly as a physicist with a Masters Degree who has excellent work experience, plus some pedigree from working for Sally Ride and other prestigious collegiate institutions during the short months in between full time schooling each year.
I've been working in the knitting industry instead of defense since 2008. We'll take the lower end of the salary spectrum to be conservative which leaves us $65,000 times four years. That's another $260,000. Now we're at a personal cost TO ME of $365,000 to be able to write the knitting patterns that I sell to shops and knitters.
Well what about all the people who contribute to the publication of a knitting pattern? If my knitting patterns are free, what do they get paid?
To produce my first book I paid for:
- Professional Photography
- Professional Tech Editing
- Sample Knitting
- Graphic Design
- Test Knitting
- Computer that can handle the demands of publishing
- Adobe Publishing Suite
For a total personal cost of approximately $12,000-$15,000 to bring the products to press. And this was using frugality, doing as many things as possible myself! I spent six months researching publishing before I went to press, which costs a mere $32,500 at my billable rate as a physicist. So totaling that column, Leaves, Fickle Knitter Design, Volume 1 cost me $44,500 and that doesn't include all the labor spent on designing and knitting the patterns that went into the book!
What do you get when you buy a Fickle Knitter Pattern? And why must I pay for it?
For every pattern I publish I do the following:
- Professional Tech Editing
- Test Knitting
- Sample Knitting (for many patterns)
- Professional Photography (for most patterns)
- Graphic Design Costs
- Yarn Support
What this argument doesn't take into account is all the money spent to STAY in business as a knitting designer these days. This year alone I'm traveling to a minimum of 20 separate knitting events, which costs me time, money, and resources to get myself there, money spent to bring products to market, and money lost from time missed at work while making appearances.
Additionally, each bullet point that goes into Fickle Knitter Design pattern publishing helps support OTHER small businesses stay afloat. For each line item another woman owned business is making money so they can stay in business during these tough economic times. So by taking money away from my business by making patterns "Free", you're also negatively affecting small businesses in the knitting industry! And if we keep taking money away from these small businesses because we are hellbent on free products, there won't be anything left to buy or give away. So who is affected if I give away my work? Farmers who grow the sheep who make the wool, dyers who dye the wool, yarn shops who sell the wool, graphic designers, photographers, sample knitters, test knitters, tech editors, and knitting designers as well as the families of all these individuals who depend upon the income however small or large it may be.
Owning a small business is a juggling act where you must constantly rearrange yourself and your work to make a shoestring budget work. This is year four of Fickle Knitter Design as a professional business and I still haven't made a profit! What does that mean? It means that I put more of my own personal resources into my business than I get back out. And believe me, plane tickets, hotels, and all the other behind-the-scenes costs are not cheap.
So why do I do it? Because I have a passion for knitting and teaching and want my experiences with others to be TEACHABLE moments. I want you to have knitting patterns that you can TRUST so that you can walk to your own personal stash, pull out a skein of yarn and have a beautifully hand knit garment when you're finished. I want you to learn something new, stretch yourself in ways you didn't imagine possible, and feel like a better person at the end. I want knitters to feel as great as I did when we cast off our last stitches and block an amazing lace garment for the first time.
So basically what does all this boil down to?
That for the bargain price of $7 you can have an enjoyable experience assuming you get gauge where you can rely on the instructions, sit back, relax with your favorite skein of yarn and just knit. And for the cases where there is a small error which is not uncommon when generating 1500+ word documents, I send out a corrected version as soon as possible. For a mere $7 you also get hands on support in the Fickle Knitter Design Group on Raverly as well as additional help via firstname.lastname@example.org when you need it. And please, let's not forget the shops who stock my patterns. They are your number one resource when it comes to seeking knitting help, buying local, and the community atmosphere that knitting helps create.
If you've gotten anything from this long missive of mine I hope it's that
- Designers are not drying our tears with $1000 dollar bills
- Shop at your Local Yarn Shops
- Support a Designer and support the whole Knitting Industry
- Turn your knitting experience into teachable moments
Until next time, Knit Like No One is Watching,
I hope that you’ve enjoyed my tutorial on Why Knitting Isn't Free! You may also be interested in reading How to Knit a Gauge Swatch, How To Block Lace Shawls, Lace Triangle Construction, or How To Knit With Beads.
Interested in buying Michelle’s knitting patterns? Visit her online shop, ravelry shop, or etsy shop to buy one now. Each pattern purchased helps keep the lights on and gives Michelle time and resources to write more about knitting.
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