Sunday, January 27, 2013

Money for nothing, kicks for free

I just posted a new sock pattern on Ravelry for free two days ago.  I made a deliberate decision to give this pattern away.  My decision was based a a few factors:  I used a technique that I’ve not used before in a published pattern, it was not test knit, nor did I hire a technical editor.  There was another consideration as well.  I was curious to see how many people would download the pattern because it is free. 

Other than writing a blog entry about the pattern’s availability, I did not announce that it had been published.  Within an hour of putting the pattern in my Ravelry shop, it had been downloaded 10 times.  As of this afternoon, it has been downloaded close to 100 times.  I find it fascinating that I can give away so many copies without promoting.  What would happen if I actively promoted the pattern?  Perhaps several hundred more downloads? 

Which leads me to a question.  A serious question about knitters.  Why are so many unwilling to pay for patterns?  I understand that for some $4 or $5 many be a financial stretch.  Yet many of us (and I include myself) willing pay the same for a large latte and several times a week at that. 

Which leads to another question.  Do knitters expect free patterns to adhere to the same standards as patterns that are available for purchase?  In other words, do knitters expect the pattern to have been tested by others, edited by a technical editor, and offer multiple sizes?  

And a final question.  If you download a free pattern from a designer that also sells patterns, do you consider purchasing one of their patterns? 

I am not trying to start a war here.  I realize that we are motivated by many factors, including our financial means, our desire to support designers--well-known or not, our desire to see our craft thrive, etc.  I ask these questions because I am genuinely interested in the answers. 


Sarah said...

I posted this somewhere else but I will add it here too:

ive paid for patterns but before when i bought patterns they were in a book. 15 patterns for $20. Thats like $1.40 per pattern. now ive seen basic patterns for $5! that is crazy. ive also bought a couple of patterns that had problems. paying $5 for a pattern that i then have to fix isnt good. lacy shawl may be worth $8 but basic hat for $5? i would also add that prior to the industrial revolution i would imagine people sat around and knit together and shared their information. wasnt one of the estonian books compiled that way? now instead of sharing people sell it to make a buck. nothing wrong with that, but the pattern has to be pretty awesome for me to buy in. also i will add that i dont buy coffee or anything else because my spare money goes to yarn and fiber.

Marlowe said...

Sarah, I understand your point of view. Again, I am not trying to have a war here. I feel that your observations deserve a reply.

Patterns in books and magazines do cost you less on a per pattern basis. Generally speaking, designers earn significantly less per pattern when their patterns are published in books and magazines. The trade off is that the publisher provides technical editing. Some publishers provide materials as well as technical editing. So the designer does not incur those costs directly.

I also buy knitting books and magazines but rarely knit more than one or two patterns from them. Sometimes, I don't knit any of the patterns. In my view, I've actually paid more for those patterns I do knit.

I don't know how people shared patterns prior to the industrial revolution. I know that there were knitting guilds and that guilds were very protective of their skills and craft.

Emily said...

I happily pay varying amounts (I wouldn't pay $6 for a simple hat, but would for something that is either unusually constructed, complex so the numbers being done for me make life easier, a really novel idea etc etc). But I would download a free pattern if I quite liked it, whereas only a paid one if I really think its stimulating.

Ad no, I think if I don't pay my expectations of different sizes etc are much lower. I kntted something called 'knit in chunks' for example that was really not even a pattern, but rather a description of what the knitter had done - fine!

Tia said...

To keep it really basic, if I want to knit/crochet/etc. a pattern and it costs money, I pay for it.

I do sit on the fence if the cost is more than $5, and sometimes if it is part of a larger collection I will buy the collection instead if I see other patterns in it that I like (often the case), as you generally get more bang for your buck.

If it is a really simple pattern and I do not think the cost is justified, I simply don't buy it. If it looks like something I can do on my own, I just do it on my own.

I will pay for patterns that cost more than $5 if I cannot possibly live without knitting it, but that usually occurs at the time I am ready to start the project. Also, some patterns (such as the Niebelungs/intricate lace patterns translated and clearly detailed by doilyhead) take a LOT of work, and rightfully priced.

I know some people have the mindset that if so many people are buying the pattern, it would still generate a fair income to price a pattern $1-$3 cheaper, especially if it is "only" being released digitally since the consumer "does all the work" in downloading/ printing it (I'm not actually quoting anyone), but to me as a designer and artist that is a self-righteous mentality of the consumer that makes no sense if one's work is quality. I think this is a byproduct of this instant gratification culture that's been fostered by the ease of on-demand and pirating made possible through the internet.

I do have higher standards for paid patterns in terms of clarity of instructions and a good layout. When I use a free pattern, I don't go in expecting anything except someone was nice enough to share their work regardless of complexity and think others may as well. I definitely do not expect a free pattern to have multiple sizes or be tested by other knitters. If I have issues I use the magic of Ravelry to look at finished project pages for help, futz through, or frog it.

Some paid for patterns I do not buy simply because I can make something similar without needing instructions. If a friend is requesting I make them a pattern with a price, I have them pay for the pattern.

As far as free patterns being a gateway to a designer--definitely! If I like one pattern, I might like more! For example, I just looked at the rest of your designs after peeking the free sock pattern you released.


This is a very interesting discussion, especially as I am working on a pattern I plan to release without knowing how to price it. Thanks for bringing it up!

liz h said...

I'm very happy to pay for patterns, but I've been disappointed in the past when some patterns (not yours) have not met particularly high standards. As a result, I like to try out free patterns from new designers to see whether I like their style. Free patterns are also useful for looking at how new techniques work, or for deciding what sort of thing I like to knit.

As for whether I expect free patterns to be as versatile (sizing etc.) as paid patterns... No! It's free. I take it as a gift and if it isn't quite right I'll put the effort in to change it.

Anonymous said...

i know this thread is a little outdated, but...

it is interesting that i came across this today...
i was perusing sock patterns last night thinking that 5 bucks isn't enough for a pattern. i have designed socks also, just for me, and it is a lot of work. i can appreciate the time and creativity that goes into pattern making. i buy books and single patterns also, and am more that happy to.

Swantje said...

This is a great discussion! I am happy to pay for good patterns, and yes, I do buy knitting books without knitting a single pattern from it sometimes - it's my RESEARCH, a teaching aid, a tool! I love designing knitting patterns, I don't publish them because I don't have the time & patience to go over and over the pattern to do a good tech edit... so knitting from others' patterns is a great learning curve - free or not free! People are trying to make a living, so it is important we don't share patterns and get other knitters to pay for their own downloads, unless they are actually free.

Elizabeth Parker said...

I pay for patterns, but also keep free patterns too. A free pattern I may want to make someday, use for sizing reference, etc.