Thoughts about independent design

Do you know what I do when I am not crocheting? I roll in my PILES of money. The HUGE money I make selling my 6$ crochet patterns.

It’s a lot of fun. Have you ever rolled in a HUGE PILE of money?

A dramatic reenactment of my piles of money. Image via Wikimedia.
Image via Wikimedia.

A dramatic reenactment of my piles of money. 


Well I haven’t either.

Because design work, while super rewarding, is not something I can rely on to generate these mythic piles of money.

Now, a warning. When you read the below, it’ll be easy to infer that I’m unhappy or ungrateful. I’m really not. I’m reorienting my platforms & I want to tell you why.

Image via Wikimedia
Image via Wikimedia

I’m lucky: I can pay for supplies with my designs. Supplies to design more (hopefully) awesome crochet patterns. Not all designers can even do that. I’ve seen many quit out of frustration – designers I really loved, and that had inspired me to launch myself.

I don’t want to quit. But I can see why they did. Absolutely.

When I started crocheting, I scoured the net for patterns. I emptied my local big box stores of their craft yarn & hooks. At the time, trying to find anything else was pretty much impossible over here. Then I started stockpiling books, subscribing to magazines, buying merino blends, favoriting patterns on Ravelry to purchase later, I got myself a set of comfortable hooks, etc. The more I fell in love with crochet, the more my spending revolved around it. Working with a well-written pattern, an ergonomic hook, and beautiful fiber made the time I spent with my passion that much more enjoyable.

I know a lot of crocheters are like me. I try to surround myself with them.

There are people out there though, that frown when they see that your newly published pattern is not free. That reprimand you for being greedy (yes, this has happened – recently). And I get it.. Money can be tight. There are priorities that far outweigh buying a crochet pattern. This, however, does not mean that I owe my pattern to the world. I love many things. I can’t afford all of them. I don’t go around telling people that they should give them to me for free because of that.

Image via Pixabay
Image via Pixabay

Design work is demanding. Designers spend a lot of time working out the kinks in a pattern, revisiting old patterns to make them better. Sizing patterns. Writing while respecting Craft Yarn Council standards. Testing patterns themselves. Having patterns tested by a range of crocheters. In some cases, translating them to a 2nd or 3rd language. Photographing them. Marketing them. Helping out the various crocheters making them (PS This is something a lot of designers will do for you. Be there AFTER the sale too.)

At 6$ a pattern, the profit margin for all of this effort is WEAK at best.

Why do it, then, if I’m going to complain? Because I love to. And I’m not complaining. I’m telling you what design work can be, from the point of view of a designer. I design because I want crochet to go viral. I love love love when people heart my designs, or buy my patterns & crochet them, I love when makers use my patterns to create crochet wearables to sell.

Yes, I know: there are a lot of free patterns out there. I know. You really don’t have to buy any patterns. And if you don’t want to, I don’t want to make you. Really. I just want you to understand why there are free patterns & paid patterns.

There are LOADS of awesome crochet designers – some offer their patterns for free, some offer them for a slight amount. Both need your support to keep going. The person giving away her patterns will get no new sponsorships if people don’t go to her website. The indie designer won’t keep designing if she has to take a huge loss to keep at it.

Some of these free patterns are free because it’s a hobby to the person sharing them, some are free because the designer is paid in sponsorships or advertising, some are free because they’ve been stolen, some are free because they exist to sell something else (ex. yarn). Some are free because they are crap. Yes, that happens too. (Some paid patterns can be crap. A price is not a guarantee of quality; that’s a topic for another day). New crocheters gravitate to free patterns because they don’t yet want to commit – that’s understandable. I did that too. But when I try to teach from a pattern that includes no gauge info, not much yarn info, colourful and inventive abbreviations, and the whole one picture… I cringe. I die a little inside.

Why aren’t all designers going after sponsorships or ad money instead of charging for their patterns? Well, simply put, if it were that easy we’d all do it. But try as I might, not that many people are trying to send me big money to keep at this for free. I like my independence to play with ANY yarn in the world, which I might not have if I were tied to a major company. I like my independence to design what I want to design, rather than what’s being asked of me, which I might not have if I were tied to a major company. I like that I keep ads on my free patterns only. I don’t like ads so much, they sometimes make reading a website a pain in da butt. So I want to limit that.

Image via Pixabay
Image via Pixabay

I’m part of 2 really awesome networks of designers & makers. These networks have given me many welcome opportunities to grow (as a person, and as a business woman). Both networks are filled with people who, like me, are trying to make a go of this design or handmade craft life. I believe in using my space to focus on them from now on. Independent designers that choose to sell their patterns for a variety of great reasons. Makers that value their time.

You can get the free stuff from a gazillion other places – that’s the nature of the internet. Understand, I am not against free! I just think it’s being shared rather easily already. The other side… not so much. It needs a lot more exposure. I’d already started doing that with my monthly #bethecrochetchange project – I’m just making that a bigger part of from now on because I believe in promoting muh people!

Understand, too, that this does not mean I won’t do any more sales, or promotions, or design free patterns. And the same goes for the people I network with – they publish free patterns, sales, and promotions too. Free patterns give you a feel for how we design, sales & promotions thank you for believing in what we do, for jumping first on new releases.

I will continue to do all of these things, of course, because rewarding the people that love my designs is SUPER important to me. You all matter a lot more than you know! I can never thank you enough.

Julie xx










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