Happy Stitches

Keep your stitches smiling!

Eeeeck!! January 20, 2010

Filed under: General Musings — happystitches @ 15:21

I had a phone call this morning: “Could I explain if the $6 patterns on my web site were just one pattern or a pattern booklet?”

I confirmed that it was a single pattern, but full of information and detail – I forgot to mention that they had been fully tested and thoroughly thought through, usually in several sizes, and each was a small knitting course in its own right. Unfortunately I’m never very nimble with my verbs when non-plussed or trying to defend myself! Totally brilliant and incisive afterwards, though.

“Oh,” said the lady: “I think that is very expensive.”

This just stopped me in my tracks. I have now spent about 3 full days writing, re-writing and problem-solving with this latest sock pattern (and I’m not done yet by several days, or counting knitting time). In order to write this pattern I’m drawing upon 30+ years of knitting experience, using a computer and four- digit-priced software, and I expect that she rang on our toll free number (which is what it is there for, but it is paid for by me). Yet after all that investment, for the price of three cups of coffee you may obtain this pattern and re-use it as many times as you wish.

One of the challenges that independent pattern writers face is the loss-leader patterns provided by those interested mainly in selling yarn. It’s fine for yarn companies to sell subsidized patterns to promote their yarn sales, but they constantly reinforce the perception that a pattern is only worth $2. Sorry, this would barely cover the manufacturing cost of a multi-page pattern with colour printing, never mind give me a few cents for all the thought, time and technology I’ve put into it.

I’m not sure just how many patterns a day the non-considering public think we can sell, but we would not eat well and would have to get real jobs and stop writing patterns. Patternfish, Knitter’s Vault and Twist Collective are all going a long way to help designers, but the discount patterns are still out there, setting the bar low.

Also, not all patterns are created equal! You do tend to get what you pay for, although this is not always true. Word of mouth and Ravelry comments are helpful in determining the true value and effectiveness of a pattern.

Anyway, enough time on the Soapbox, this doesn’t get patterns written! My latest design snag was the result of a rash decision. Made from the passenger seat the other morning without the aid of paper and pencil, as to how to align the stripes after the heel turning was completed. I gambled and I lost!

Whoops! Pattern repeat not exact!

Look closely at the stripes, see how they fail to match after the gusset decreases are completed? I’ve now spent quality time with my pencil and paper and now all four sizes should be right on! Whoo hoo! (I’m fudging a little in this sock – please don’t tell.)

Design calculations in progress.

This sock has been affectionately fondled by Unbelievers: one and all have been blown away by how wonderful it feels. I’m using our Cat’s Pajama’s and Curious Creek’s Omo 50% silk/wool, both groan-makingly gorgeous yarns.

I have to try some mittens in this combo. I need to give up sleep and grow more arms.


39 Responses to “Eeeeck!!”

  1. I can see your point of view, but for someone like myself, unable to market my patterns via teaching or working within the sometimes insane deadlines magazine patterns demand, the alternate business model of selling my patterns via yarn companies with low price and high volume is my best (only) shot at contributing in a real way to my family income. I also sell patterns on my own, but keep within their price model to be fair to those who buy my patterns.
    I in no way think your patterns are over priced, and am certain I spend just as much time, energy and re-knitting on my own designs.
    But a different business model is the only way I can follow my own dream.
    I believe there is room for both, and that my patterns do not ‘devalue’ any one else’s.
    Knitters buy pattern from designer’s they like. It is not like shopping for the least expensive loaf of bread.
    Cost has very little to do with value in the art world.

  2. Marianne C Says:

    This conversation is one of the reasons why I don’t write patterns though I have had many requests to. I just can’t stand all the drama that surronds it.

  3. auntiemichal Says:

    Combine knitting (undervalued activity—UA—done mostly by women and so simple they learn as children) with writing (UA done by nearly everyone) and desktop publishing (UA doable by nearly any idiot with a PC), and some people will have sticker shock.

    A friend offered to pay me $20 to knit a pair of biggish fingering-weight socks to give as a gift and didn’t like my counter offer of $250. LOL I sent him a link to a woman who knits socks on her vintage sock knitting machine for $30 if you supply the yarn and foot measurements. I’m tempted sometimes to to that route myself! LOL

    I wonder if designers’ web sites could do with “about the pattern creation process” pages? Linked to sample patterns for easy quality evaluation.

    Too bad appliance repair, plumbing, roofing, etc aren’t undervalued activities, too!

  4. Donna Murray Says:

    I love your patterns and appreciate all the time and effort that goes into designing them! Can’t wait for the new sock pattern to become available!

  5. Annie Says:

    Sing it, sister!

  6. Marnie Says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. It’s nice to hear that I’m not the only one who occasionally has to defend her pricing model. Most people I talk to, minimally, respect my justification when I explain it, even if they still feel my patterns are not priced for their budget. To me, it’s the like buying organic veggies or fair trade coffee. Not everyone wants or cares about organic or fair trade but for those who do, they are willing to pay a higher price because they understand that the cost for production is higher.

  7. revknits Says:

    I’m wondering about the discounted patterns biting the designers at the end as well. I emailed one company about a sweater design I had, and the offer back was providing the yarn for the sample and some yarn from them. The $2.00 price might work for some, but for a sweater pattern in multiple sizes, I don’t think so.

    Right now, I suspect that the internet has increased the supply of patterns more than the demand, which is why this can happen, as with most publishing. Time will tell how it all shakes out, but I hope that we err on the side of paying folks a living wage.

    And your patterns are always very educational, and I love the DVDs too –

  8. Lisa Says:

    I am shocked that someone would have the gall to even say that a $6.00 pattern was too expensive. As a person that has been sewing, knitting and crocheting for over 30 years I know firsthand how much goes into pattern design. She needs to ask herself how much per hour should this designer actually cahrge for us to have the honor and privilege to use ourselves. If she had to create, test and market one herself I am fairly certain that she woudl charge a lot more than $6.00 each.

    I love your patterns and proudly own several and enjoy them every time I use them! Thank you for sharing your talents with us!

  9. aprilquilts Says:

    Don’t let the naysayers get to you. There will always be some who think that designers should provide all their patterns for little to nothing for the sheer pleasure of seeing their items knit. While I am sure that, as a designer, it is a pleasure to see your designs knit up, free patterns don’t pay the water bill. Keep on keeping on, knowing that there are many who value the time and effort put into patterns.

  10. Cora Says:

    As a designer, trying to find a niche and a way to make publishing my designs work; I have have struggled with the ideas of how to get published. I really believe that the knitter and crocheters (I do both) get the short end of the stick when being undervalued for what we do. I willing pay for the patterns at the offered price on many designers because of the thought process and often the help they give as a result.

    When I “publish” my own designs I do look at how the patterns are written (I tend to over explain) and what type of pictures are used. I want my pattern to be a success.

    Lucy, I have always loved you patterns and videos and I am more than willing to purchase at the asking price because of your experience. Same with the other designers. I know that this is a big problem, from Annie Modessit, and we as both designers and consumers should be supporting out designers.

    Off the proverbial soap box now. Love the sock pattern and look forward to seeing the pattern.


  11. I think a lot of people don’t actually realize what goes into the design of a pattern— and you’re right that the yarn companies are subsidizing that cost which hides the true value. I see progress in the right direction tho– with sites like Ravelry and stitchcooperative.com and Twist Collective doing a great job advocating for the designers.

  12. SandyPDX Says:

    Don’t let the remarks of one skinflint bother you. $6 is an incredible value for what we get, i.e. a genuine Lucy Neatby pattern. That person should try designing her own, or failing that, she can just get a couple of pairs of sox at Walmart for the same price.

    If you could design, create, & test a pattern in one hour, you’ve made $6/hour. If anyone buys it, that is. Bet it takes more than one hour to design, create & test a pattern.

    I’m glad to hear your remarks; it’s good for people to understand the reality of being a self-employed artist.

  13. jen coyle Says:

    I love your dvds, which is the only first hand experience I have with your work. You reputation, experience and skill level are amazing, so it would follow that your patterns/dvds would be fairly priced. I think they are an excellent value, and am off to buy a pattern now!

  14. You are a renowned designer. If people want your patterns they should pay the going rate or stick to cheap and free patterns. For shame people!!!! Get a grip. Pay up or shut up.

    Handmade in every area struggles in the same way and many sympathise. There will always be buyers for quality goods just not so many. Why? Because these buyers are discerning, they look for quality goods, and patterns designed and made with care, thought and love.

    Stick to your guns. You have a name and a reputation. You are much admired.

  15. Mya Says:

    Excellent food for thought. As a knitter and not a designer I hadn’t really thought about the time that went into designing a pattern and how that was sorely underrepresented in the pattern price. I used to think $6.00 was a little expensive for one pattern but later, after some lousy “free” patterns, realized it’s actually quite a bargain. (I also like the 3 cups of coffee analogy … but if you drink coffee from Starbucks it’s more like 1 and a half cups).

  16. lahondaknitter Says:

    I don’t think the public really understands how much work is involved in creating a pattern. I’ve made a few myself, and $6 is undercharging in my opinion!

  17. Donna Says:

    Lucy, I’ve deeply enjoyed knitting your patterns and I recommend Cool Socks Warm Feet all over the place. The class I took with you on sock knitting would likewise be a bargain at twice the price. Thanks for all the time and effort you invest – it pays off over and over again for me as a knitter.

  18. Cheryl Waters Says:

    I’m wondering if someone who thinks $6.00 for a pattern would like to get paid next to nothing because whether it is in designing or in actual knitting, that’s about how much the non-knitting public expects to pay. I’m embarrassed that a knitter would expect us to work for nothing.

    There is a place for new designers to do the inexpensive patterns for a specific yarn company, especially if it is for just a download since no printing costs are involved.

    But at the same time, designers with experience deserve the recognition of their expertise.

    Once someone asked me to knit a Christmas stocking. They asked if it would be about $25.00. I just laughed and they said $50.00? That would be really expensive! Well, at $50.00 that would pay me about $25 for the 25 hours worth of knitting time. If I knit 3 a week [that’s a 75 hour work week of JUST knitting] and was able to get the yarn at wholesale prices. My net income for a 75 hour work week for 52 weeks [no vacations, weekends or holidays] would be about $6,240.00 a year if I don’t count any other expenses other than the yarn – such as shipping, etc. I wouldn’t have to worry about income taxes because I’d be well below the poverty level. Which would be good because I’d have to be on medicaid for all the medical problems I would have with my hands from knitting 75 hours a week or 3,900 hours a year.

    Hmmm….. sounds like a good deal to me!

  19. Becka Says:

    I wonder if your caller has priced a sewing pattern lately. $6 is a bargain! Thoughtful, detailed, thorough patterns are worth their weight in gold.

  20. Virginia Says:

    I think on some levels, for those who want to eventually go indie with their designs, selling their patterns to a major company who then sells them for $2 a pop isn’t necessarily a bad thing. At least not up front. At the back end of things, it might bite them in the butt, yes, but as Diana said, for people who are otherwise unable to market their own designs, it might be a good thing.

    THAT said, I am vastly more likely to drop $6 on an individual pattern than I am to pay for a pattern or booklet from a major yarn company. I much prefer to put my money directly into the pocket of the designer, and know that I’m paying for a beautifully written pattern that has been tested and edited.

    And that I can contact the designer directly if I have questions, and say “hey, yo, what up with that?” if I don’t understand something, or if there’s something in the pattern that might make intellectual sense, but just isn’t intuitive to me for whatever reason.

    Also, yes, I agree with the undervaluing of work thing. I don’t think that the patterns the yarn companies sell cheaply deserve to be so cheap. Or, a new model of payment should be invented, like kits with yarn and pattern, and cutting the designer in on a *fair* portion of the kit sold. Or something.

    (found your blog off Interweave’s twitter feed, by the way. Have now bookmarked it!)

  21. Amen!

    And I looooove Cat’s Pajama’s yarn. But I’ve already shouted that from the rooftops. 🙂

  22. Robin Says:

    I’m sorry you weren’t able to express all of this during your phone call. I’m a knitter not a designer, and I personally appreciate all of the time, effort and work that goes into well written designs. I appreciate (and expect to pay for) a well written design in the same way that I appreciate a well written book.

    But I also read many blogs of designers such as yourself so I have seen a glimpse of the background work that goes into the end product. I would much rather pay $6 – $12 for an individual pattern purchased directly from a designer, than $18 and up for a pattern book from a yarn company that contains maybe one or two patterns that appeal to me. Not to mention the frequent errors found in said pattern books.

    This woman was expressing the same view point that many people express about the price of quality hand made goods. And unfortunately educating them about their erroneous assumptions is very time consuming, not to mention frequently a waste of your time.

  23. Peggy Stuart Says:

    Hi, Lucy! I have been knitting for more than 50 years. I agree that a pattern designer should be paid for his/her work. When I started out, I bought most patterns individually in the shop where I bought the yarn. I didn’t mind paying a few dollars for a pattern, because it was one I was casting on. So many patterns these days are published in books, which can make it pretty expensive, if you knit just one item from that book. They usually repeat information in the book that beginning knitters need, so I pay for that, too. I don’t think $6 is much for a pattern I plan on knitting, especially if it was written by someone with a good reputation, like you! I don’t know what the solution is. My plan is to gradually get into designing my own projects for my own use. –Peggy Stuart

  24. Anne Says:

    Lady hasn’t done her homework. That’s completely market rate for an independently released pattern–regardless of extras.

    I think my car was very expensive, but that’s what it cost. I could have bought a cheaper car, I guess, but it wouldn’t have done what I wanted.

    There’s a pricing theory that every time someone complains about how much your stuff costs, you should double the price. (I can’t remember the justification, but it was an interesting thought.)

  25. BlondiKnits Says:

    I do remember the justification for pricing — three times the cost of your materials equals minimum wage for you (and I learned that formula in the 1970s, when minimum wage was less than $2 per hour). So I believe $6 for a LN pattern is completely reasonable!

  26. Brenda Says:

    I’m with you on the pattern price. And people – DON”T COPY PATTENRS either. Coping takes money out of the designer’s pocket.

  27. Julia Holland Says:

    I agree that $6 is more than reasonable for a good pattern. I came up with an idea of my own a while back, for a simple hat, and thought it would be fun to write up the pattern. Well. Lots and lots of thought, work, rewrites, fiddling about with photographing the thing so it looks like more than a used washcloth (I’m not terribly gifted in that, it seems!), detecting all the errata, and so forth; not to mention the cost of the test yarn, the actual time spent knitting up the thing to be absolutely sure it is written down correctly……Lucy, I am in awe of the amount of thought and care that goes into even a very simple pattern. You are in no way overcharging, and the Dear Lady is obviously a skinflint of the first order. Ignore her.

    Your sock looks beautiful. It may be what pushes me over the edge into finally trying to make something with double knitting 🙂 I await the pattern with great interest, and my $6 in hand…

  28. Noreen Says:

    It must be hard sometimes not to get discouraged. Lucy, I think your prices are just fine and I expect they’ll go up because everything does. I’ve purchased 10-12 of them over the years, and never been disappointed except in my own sometimes lack of skill in the execution. One bit of encouraging news…I think? With the help of all the admittedly tedious discussions in the Ravelry forums and knitting guilds, and elsewhere, I believe knitters are much more aware of copyright issues than they were in the past. I believe there is less copying of patterns going on these days. In the past, when I refused that request I would get a lot of push back. I don’t see that (much) anymore.

  29. Erssie Says:

    $6 is nothing….especially compared with the price of some yarn, which most definitelyn does not have as much labour per skein as an individual pattern.

    The worst thing about this, is that it reflects even more poorly on UK designers. At the moment your $6 converts to UK £3.77 but the awful thing about that, is it is not even equivalent in its buying power. You say your $6 is about the same as 3 cups of coffee? Well you would not even buy two coffees where I live.

    So, if the US market were to buy my patterns, where I ask for around £3.00, they would think that is really expensive….but in terms of buying power to a UK designer, then that is more like your $3.00.

    I just had a begging letter this week.
    I have a sock, which does not have the same amount of labour/work as a lot of fancy patterned or lace others as it has been worked for larger ankles etc and so has just one ribbed expanding panel and the rest is stocking stitch so for this, I am charging only equivalent of $3 but that is to reflect the fact it is not complicated. However, my begging letter, told me how this lady with rheumatoid arthritis could not afford the $3 price, so could she please please have it for free! Could I bear in mind some people don’t earn that much and need to spend less on patterns to allow them to be able to carry on their hobbies in such difficult times?

    I wrote back, explaining to her, that $3 was well below the average cost, and was cheap to reflect the lack of complication in the sock. I also reminded her, that I too am very sick, and in fact, this is the only work I can do. I don’t have a choice of just choosing another career that pays more, this is the only thing I have found I can do well from home. I cannot even knit multiple items for a living being too slow with illness and disability, so all I can do is design. There are some designers who are still able to work in other jobs, I could not, and was medically retired so designing brings me in about £200-£400 per year and I have to live on that, even though my mortgage costs more than that so I have to live off hubbie. That hubbie,. who has just been made redundant, who is 50 next year, needs a tricky spine operation and another health problem that needs surgery, and has been told he is unlikely to find work again at his age and with those health problems…..

    On top of that, I have had a few people contacting me recently about those patterns I do have that are free (that were offered in online mags like MagKnits that were free etc) and they have told me, if I offer those as ‘free’ they can do what they like with them…..including knitting up items from them to make themselves money on Etsy. Their attitude was like, ‘Hey don’t offer it free and then tell me what to do with it…..its designers faults if they offer something for free or for a price and have not built in a fee for its possible commercial use’
    So that was the attitude of some knitters, who like to use people’s patterns to make money….and they are the same people, contantly looking for free patterns.

    Despite the fact their attitude might be in the minority, it made me think, right never ‘free’ again. I know that online mags do pay designers a fee, but as far as the public are concerned they still see something like Knitty as a free pattern so why can’t loads of other people offer them free too. These are the same knitters who will spend $30 or more on sock yarn, then grumble about the $6 pattern to make socks….which by the way they can use and use again.

    So really, I think, forget about that that person asking you to reduce your $6 because if you did…..there would always be someone asking you to do that again and begging for it free!

    Also, not just one’s labour goes into design, we have to pay tech editors to check stuff over for errors and myself not having any friends who are available 100% of the time to do it for nothing, it can cost around £20 per hour….which is $30 to you over there.

    There are so many overheads…..extra heating during the day, if you work at home. Paper, printer, software, packaging, postage etc etc it all adds up. $6 is nothing, and if there was a scale of prices that everyone could keep to, then people would definitely come and pay that.

    What do people spend on chocolate? Alcohol? Tobacco? All of which are ‘non essential’ things compared with their knitting hobbies I feel.

    • Cheryl Waters Says:

      Erssie, if you ever offer a free pattern again, I suggest that you put something on it that says it is only for personal or charitable use and that the item cannot be sold.

      There will always be those that don’t just want something for free, but expect it for free. You were right to tell that person that you have your own economic woes. The reason people will play the economic/health woes is because there are people that will fall for that line. As we say here in the USA, stick to your guns!

      • Erssie Says:

        My patterns do say not for commercial use etc…..but that makes very little difference under US law. See Ravelry for more info…the law does not clearly protect our patterns from being made into items to sell, as we do not own copyright in those items.

  30. Robin Hunter Says:

    This is an interesting discussion and a BIG concern of mine as well. I’m a newbie designer and plan to quit my job in the very near future to pursue a knitting career. I think that we are all underselling ourselves and that we may be responsible for under valuing our own work. I just paid my editing bill for what will be published patterns # 8, 9 and 10 and I’m concerned about how narrow my profit margin is. Hummm maybe I should become a tech editor? The hourly rate is better than what I’m earning.

  31. Sheila Says:

    I completely agree with you, Lucy. I dappled in designing embroidery and the amount of hours that I spent designing, researching threads and then stitching the teaching piece were very large. The embroidery pattern would sale for $5 and I am a very small indy designer. I think that $6 is a bargin for a pattern. And you definately get what you pay for. There are many unsatisfactory patterns out there for free. Your patterns/books are always well researched and proof read. Keep up the good work.

  32. Angela Says:

    Ha! I wonder if it was the same person who emailed me two weeks ago to tell me that she liked one of my patterns, but $6.50 was too expensive, and was I planning on offering it for free? My reply: “‘Fraid not.” I considered a lengthier explanation of the time and skills that go into creating a pattern, but then I thought, why waste the time– better to spend it working on another pattern for the knitters who do appreciate the effort.

  33. Sarah Says:

    This is the struggle I have about putting my time in writing patterns for things I created. When there are patterns offered FREE or at $1.99 a pattern, why would anyone buy my patterns? What also bugs me most is when I have people at the knitting groups openly sharing patterns they own or obtained via library books–one used to be a designer who made a living by doing so! I can’t say who they are as I don’t want to be outcast. It’s becoming more depressing to me to be there…sadly I may return to being a closet knitter once again! By the way, I enjoyed your talk at the Sock Summit luminary panel and hope to get started on one of your sweater patterns I purchased last year. Have a pleasant night, Lucy!

    • Cheryl Waters Says:

      Sarah, there will always be those who take advantage. Most of the time when you pay more for a pattern, it is because you are getting the benefit of someone willing to put the time and thought into not only designing something but also into receiving a pattern that is readable and makes sense. Those who know the value of a well-written pattern are willing to pay for a well-written pattern. I must say there are times that I might share a pattern but is only with someone that I know has already purchased the pattern and doesn’t have a way of making a copy of the pattern or has lost their copy. If you feel uncomfortable with your knitting group, then it is time to seek another group. There are now lots of groups on the internet so even if you are in your own home, you don’t have to be knitting alone.

  34. Erssie Says:

    One thing I forgot to mention is this. Some people think that paying $6 for a pattern guarantees a well written pattern and that this pattern will be superior to those selling for $3 or less.
    However I am finding this is not the case.

    I am coming across countless people on Ravelry who are set up as designers who do not put any work into writing the pattern. They scribble up straight from their notes, they don’t know standard terminology, they do not check their maths and they do not grade their patterns into a range of sizes or run proper tests or any of the other things that a lot of us spend money and time on.

    However, these people looking around at other pdfs for sale, will think ”OK I can ask $6 for this as I can see Lucy Neatby is charging that for her patterns for socks too”. However, paying more for a pattern, or just paying the going rate will not always guarantee that the pattern is of better quality. The same is also true of cheaper patterns, they will not necessarily mean that less works go into them.

    The difficulty for those of us who put a lot of work into getting an accurate and high standard of pattern is that we have to fight through the noise, to make this clear. Sadly a lot of people will have been let down by paying over $6 for a pattern and finding it not worth it due to errata or it being poorly written, and then that reflects badly on the rest.

    This is not so much a problem for people who have already made a name for themselves. It is more of a problem for people like me who are not ‘famous’ designers, but who work away from the public eye because we do not teach, run workshops, own LYS or write whole books as solo authors.
    I have a hard time trying to explain to knitters, that if they buy my patterns they have been developed, tested and tech edited as well as properly graded compared with another designer of my level, who is not doing any of this but selling patterns anyway because people like the photos of their designs and want to make them even though the pattern might be poorly constructed.

  35. Chantal Says:

    I teach knitting on weekly basis to about 50 people. My biggest problem is copying patterns. Slowly, they are starting to see it from the designer point of view. There is less and less copying but for some, I think it is a hopeless case.
    I have made a few design and the number of hours it takes is unimaginable for somebody who hasn’t tryed it.
    I have good support group who are willing to test for me but I still have to knit it first.
    I find your pattern are very reasonably price and is part of the price of the item you want to knit, just like the yarn and the needles.

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