It would appear now is the time for a lot of big discussions in the knitting world. As with the inclusivity discussion, the one on the cost of knitting patterns is also primarily happening on Instagram stories. I spend a lot of time thinking through this discussion and I always find it hard to wade in, so much to say and so many viewpoints.
This particular discussion is about pattern pricing and designers earnings. As I got started with this blog post these two blog post popped up; Hunter Hammersen here and Robynn Weldon here. Both make some great points, all of which I agree with and are well worth a read.
The basic thinking in this discussion started in one place and ended up in a REALLY different place. It began with a discussion about how knitting pattern pricing is much lower than that for sewing patterns. That historically, knitting patterns were a loss leader that supported yarn sales but sewing patterns were published to stand alone independent of material sales. This leads to calls for the raising of pattern prices and that then turned into a further discussion about poverty and privilege. So as you can see there are many, many layers to unpack here!
As a designer, you can, of course, choose to price a pattern as you wish. As a customer, you make the decision on whether that pattern is worth it or not to you. Or if you can afford it. As a consumer you get to decide; do I have the money for this AND is this item worth the money I will spend on it? If you are financially struggling €5 on a pattern may be more than you have extra that week or month. Pricing your patterns too high means you run the risk of excluding knitters who just can’t afford them. Woolly Wormhead has saved a long series of Instagram stories about this here. So how do you get the balance right? Fortunately, there is a huge range of free patterns available on Ravelry (126,951!), many designers do introductory discounts and newsletter specials on a regular basis.
On a personal basis, I’m very slow to spend my money, and I definitely like a bargain. When I’m pricing patterns I can’t justify going too far up with pricing if I’m not willing to spend it myself. So I sit somewhere mid-range; enough that pattern sales still make financial sense but not so high that it’s cost prohibitive for customers. I’ve had very few price increases over the years and it’s usually due to tax or other issues.
There seems to be a perception that designing is a ‘privilege’. I’m not really sure where that idea came from; perhaps the fact that designing is such a mix of people and situations really muddies the water. There are a lot of designers for whom it is a hobby. They love to design and the sales perhaps just cover their costs (sometimes not even). This is how a lot of us start out until it seems like a possible real ‘job’. Ravelry put some sale information up here about January 2019 sales. If you take a closer look, you will see that while there are a lot of designers out there, how many make a living wage? Less than 100 made over $3,000 in sales a month, and of course, this varies month to month. I really believe that it should be possible for designers to work full time at this and make a living wage. Also, this is just income from a pattern and not profit (all editing, photography, paypal fees and more come out of that total). You can read about the cost of producing a pattern by Woolly Wormhead over here and her follow up post here.
However, I know very, very few designers who exist just on pattern sales. There are definitely a few but it’s difficult. It’s even more difficult to sustain and grow pattern sales over the longer term. Most designers end up adding other strings their bow to grow, including teaching and yarn sales. For me, pattern sales have always been pretty good, but they have stayed fairly constant over several years with very little growth. This has meant that in order to grow my business I’ve needed to add other projects to what I do. Fortunately, I’ve loved everything that has been added but it was the only way I could easily grow my business. We are a 2-income household BUT we have 4 children (second on his way to college this year), 3 pets and family scattered across the world. To be able to meet the increasing costs of life I have to grow.
I’ve got huge admiration for designers that make pattern sales alone work for them. It’s tough to have a single income source. It gets even harder if you want to keep your prices accessible. I really like the concept of Patreon – this is a way for artists/designers to be supported by those that can afford it. If you love what a designer is producing and want to ensure that they can continue to do it this is a way of offering financial help to allow them to continue. It is a way for designers to keep prices low but give customers, who want to offer another level of support, a method to do so. Most importantly as it comes with special access to the designer, it’s not a donation, it’s another product.
I’m impressed if you got to the end of all that rambling! I’d encourage you to follow the links I’ve got in the post. All make slightly different points and this discussion is all about viewpoints. Life is messy, everyone has an opinion….I’m trying my best to keep an open mind, and see how the world around us and our thinking can change if we allow it to.
8 thoughts on “Thoughts on Pricing”
I have no problem with the going rate for sweater patterns and I understand that designing is a profession and designers should be able to earn a suitable rate. I would be hard pressed to pay $8 for a scarf or hat pattern though as they generally are less complex and don’t require as much attention to things like sizing so should priced accordingly. As for the comparison with sewing patterns many sewing patterns include more than one type of garment and it has been years since I have paid full price for a sewing pattern. Here in the U S ( and maybe other places?) they are often on sale for 50-75% discount. So I think it’s good comparison as far as looking at price increases over time, but not such a good comparison for price of one against the other. I also understand the inclusivity argument, but the real issue there, in my opinion is the cost of yarn. While sewing generally can be a cost savings over store bought, not so with knitting. Not sure how to fix that, or even if it’s possible.
I realize that a knitting pattern is result of a lot of work by the designer. There are some designers that I really like and will buy their patterns. I understand the issues around inclusivity but I think that a designer should be compensated for his/her labour in creating a pattern, having it tested and edited before publishing. As you’ve noted there are many layers to this issue but I don’t think that we should under value a designer’s skill and creativity.
My personal view is that I could not knit any patterns without brilliant designers. I know there are multiple free patterns on Ravelry but many are indistinguishable from the next one. What you pay for with a good designer is an individual concept of the basic formulaic patterns you see so much and as such they should be rightly compensated for all the time and effort it takes to get a pattern published. As for Paetron Carol, I already support Aoibhe Ni the Irish crocheter and if you are considering that as a way to go I would certainly support you as my choice of knitting designer. Keep up the fabulous work.
As a knitter I start with the pattern, then search for the yarn. Yarn cost can be the dealbreaker for me, but never pattern price. I love innovative designs and independent designers and internet access to their work. I’ve been knitting since I was a teenager and well remember the prohibitive cost of the knitting pattern booklets, especially frustrating because I generally wanted to make just one. I’m so glad to see the end of that type of marketing!
As a Canadian, the price of many patterns is already over $10 due to currency exchange. I buy patterns when I think I will learn something new. I read through most, but not all, of the links you posted (and the links within those links) but did not see any comments about market timing. Knitting seems to be on the downswing. People are buying fewer patterns and less wool because they have too much, are no longer interested in knitting, etc.; knitting publications take up less space now than say quilting publications in book stores; Rav may claim to have 5M members, but how many are still alive and go to Rav regularly; LYS offer fewer courses because there is less interest; publishers are going out of business, and; knitting has become expensive. These are just a few of my observations. Many people call themselves designers but what is a designer? People are selling basic hat patterns for $6 when you can get them for free; taking colourwork patterns from someone’s sweater or publication and adding it to a basic hat; taking another’s pattern, changing the stitch from say stockinette to reverse garter, changing the lace or cable stitch or are adding pockets, etc. Are these designers? Not in my opinion. Designers have the right to charge what they want for their patterns but consumers have the right to decide what they will pay for patterns. Is it better to sell 100 patterns for $5 or 30 patterns for $15?
Very interesting topic with many layers as you say. I come from a business and marketing background and look at most things from this perspective. You are marketing yourself and your products very well, whilst developing a loyal customer base. A lot of work and energy goes into this. Let’s not forget the basic 4 Ps – pricing is only one of them. Would I pay $14 for a pattern? Hard to say. I’d have to ask myself, ‘What’s in it for me?’ and if there is a value attached. As a loyal customer, I buy from you because I believe in your ability to produce a desirable product of the highest quality and value (your patterns). Patterns need to be priced according to what the market will bear; costs and expenses have to be covered through other revenue streams, like Paetron. I can’t remember the last time I downloaded a free pattern. They’re free for a reason and attract another segment of the knitting population. An interesting discussion indeed. You’re doing a fabulous job and I believe in you!😄
It’s a topic with many interesting angles, for sure. I’m a knitter in Canada with dreams of perhaps publishing a pattern one day. I subscribe to several knitting newsletters, and enjoying checking out new patterns on Ravelry and Instagram daily. Knitting is my hobby, but I have to keep it within a strict budget, so I’m usually pretty choosy when it comes to purchasing patterns, and yarn. I’m very slow to finish projects, and I’ve built up a huge library of knitting books, magazines, and both bought and free patterns–much more than I’ll be able to get through in my lifetime. Occasionally I’ll buy a pattern simply because it intrigues me and I just have to know how it’s done … even if I don’t know when I’ll get around to making it. I’ve also bought patterns in other languages, and enjoy trying to figure out the terminology and instructions, it’s like a puzzle. But I’m probably pretty unique as far as that goes! I would be sorry if it turns out that knitting on the whole is going into a downswing. I especially love seeing new shapes, new types of construction, and new uses of colour. I’m content with current pattern prices, and would be willing to pay even more, but I do like to have the option to buy patterns singly … I’m not going to buy a bundle of 6 if I’m only excited about one of the patterns. The cost of yarn is another thing. I just can’t afford to make very many full-size sweaters using good-quality yarn. I watch for good sweaters in thrift stores to unravel, and sometimes find a real gem. I especially like patterns where you can use different yarns and colours together, or I’ll buy different colours if necessary from a Sale bin, in order to put together a sweater’s-worth, with colour-blocking. But despite looking for bargains, I am willing to pay for quality, in both patterns and yarns–just not too many times per year.
I hate to break it to people, but the knitting world is subject to the same market forces as all the other worlds. Supply and demand. Econ 101.
I started knitting as a teenager more than 40 years ago. I had access to cheap acrylic yarns at the local Ben Franklin store, pattern booklets published by big yarn companies, and aluminum needles. All of it was expensive to me, the kid, because I didn’t have the budget space for it ( or said better, chose to spend my limited money on other things). I didn’t knit much for a long time, in part because access was still difficult and expensive ( LYS’s were the only source for nicer yarns and patterns), so I didn’t buy much. Fast forward 30 years and I start knitting again. Two big changes have occurred. Big box craft stores have entered the market, increasing the availability of somewhat better and more diverse yarn and equipment, and the internet and Ravelry, bringing a way to learn about and source the entire world of ALL KINDS of yarn, patterns, knowledge, everything yarn craft. These are huge disruptions to the world of yarn crafting. In economic terms, both the demand curve and the supply curve had major shifts. Our access to incredible amounts of information and economic activity in the craft world is at the same pace as the disruption generally initiated by the growth of the internet and the smartphone. It’s a whole new world.
So now we have lots and lots of patterns by many, many designers. Some cost more than others; some are free. Each designer can choose how to price their patterns, but they are the ones working, with the help of the information in the market, to assess which price will produce revenue for them. And unless the designer chooses to give away his/her pattern, no one is entitled to their work for free or less than what they demand. That is true of all work.
Some designers seem more successful than others. I would suggest that it is at least partially due to the time and effort put in. Carol not only designs, she teaches classes in various ways, sells yarns, goes to shows, write books, and maintains an internet presence with her blog. Another aspiring designer I follow does not do all those things, and she is less successful. There are other factors at play, I’m sure, but there’s a big difference in both inputs and outputs. That’s how the world works, and each person makes their choices based on their circumstances on how they choose to work.
In short, I don’t think a lot of younger crafters realize just how good they have it. If you knit in the pre-internet era, your choices were far more limited and usually more expensive, if you had access to them at all. In the vast and open market that is the internet today, some will succeed and some won’t, for good reasons and not-so-good, but access is far more available to the market of buyers and the market of suppliers than it ever was before. Just like buying music or books.
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