Holding pattern

Two years ago, flush with the confidence and hope of a fairly new knitter, I asked for the yarn to make a McQueen Knock Off.  It’s not a hard pattern, and the yarn is baby soft and relatively inexpensive, so I had high hopes.  I made some rookie mistakes, changing some of the cables on what I decided would be the back panel when my eye wandered from the chart.  And at some point, even though the pattern was moving along quickly, and even though it was easy and well written, I lost interest, shoved the finished front panel in a drawer, and set my mind to other projects.

A year ago, as my birthday rolled around again, I remembered that I’d never actually finished knitting my birthday gift of the year before.  Back out of the drawer it came, and in very little time, I had a front panel that was free of mistakes.  Both panels felt a little greasy and itchy, though, probably from having been dragged hither and thither for a year, so I washed and blocked them and watched in horror as they grew magnificently.

Discouraged by this accident, I shoved them back in the drawer.  I’ve peeked at them occasionally since, but mostly they’ve marinated in the drawer with other languishing and neglected projects.

It’s January again, though, and I’m through with holiday knitting.  I’ve been opening up drawers and reexamining the neglected and forgotten projects and determining to finish them up even as I work on a lot of new (and mostly secret) projects.  The first neglected project to get attention was the poor languishing McQueen Knock Off.

I’m a more experienced knitter now than I was two years ago when I blithely began this epic sweater.  It took just a few days to knit up the sleeves and just a couple of quiet evenings to seam the whole thing together.  And what do you know?  The blocking tragedy?  Not so much a tragedy.  No, if anything, it fits better, because it mostly grew in length, and now the sweater fits my really long torso.

Of course, it’s not all roses.  There’s some odd bunching under my armpits and I have yet to knit the ribbing that belongs up top and keeps scandal from occurring.  And the amount of yarn I have left to do this can be seen in the picture above: that sad little ball of yarn sitting atop the sweater.  It’s not really enough to prevent scandal.  But I’ve ordered a new skein of Andean Treasure, and now all that’s left on the McQueen Knock Off is a little bit of waiting, which it can’t mind much, as it’s become thoroughly accustomed to it by now.

Also in a bit of a holding pattern is the rewrite for the Maude Louise pattern.  Now, I’m working on it, but I’m also in a bit of a quandary over it.  I want to keep the pattern free.  However, I also am becoming aware, as I’m getting more organized and practiced at pattern writing, of how much time it takes me, how much work it is, and how time spent on a pattern like Maude keeps me from doing other things I could be doing.  Since I’m returning to school this month, time’s become precious to me.  Anyway, I wanted to put forward an idea I had about the Maude Louise pattern, and any feedback you have would be appreciated.  I don’t know how possible this is, but my thought was that I would keep Maude Louise free, but with an optional donation button as well.  It seems wrong to take what has long been a free, and incomplete pattern, and to begin charging for it once it is complete and errors are corrected.  At the same time, there is a lot of work involved in writing a pattern, and Maude has a lot of variables to account for and correct for.  I don’t think I’ve seen a pattern offered in this way, and I could see some ways it could be taken amiss.  However, I wanted to put it out there and ask what people thought, because it seems like a pretty good way to me to deal with the problem of work involved in designing and still keep the pattern easily available.  Any thoughts you have would be much appreciated.  I’m not sure if the donation option is worse than charging a small fee for the pattern, but an overly small fee brings me a bad feeling of undervaluing other designers.  I’d rather offer a pattern free than undercharge for it, and thereby drive down both the price and value of patterns that take designers many hours of work, much of their own money, and that, ultimately, they are not likely to make a big return on anyway.

So that’s the quandary.  I’m not terribly comfortable talking about or even thinking about money, which probably explains why I haven’t got all that much.  It feels indelicate to broach this subject at all, but it’s a real issue, and it’s one where I truly think I’d benefit from the input of others, designers and knitting consumers alike.


7 Responses to “Holding pattern”

  1. Clumsy Knitter Says:

    Personally, if I really like I sweater (and Maude Louise is in my queue), then I am going to knit it whether or not I have to pay for it. I know that designing is hard work, and I never begrudge a designer for charging for a pattern that they worked hard to complete. That said, I feel more lenient towards designers with free patterns if there are mistakes. If someone charges for a pattern, I expect it to be free of mistakes, and perhaps offer some support if I get stuck.

  2. Janet Says:

    I WAS going to write a proper comment. But given that Clumsy Knitter said it all, it doesn’t seem like much point… 🙂

  3. Kate (tattycat) Says:

    I would be willing to pay/donate for the pattern, because I really do believe that pattern writers should be compensated for their work.

  4. Cyn Says:

    The donation button sounds like a perfectly fair compromise to me – the only thing is, do people actually donate? I’ve never tried a donation pattern so I have no idea.

    Another option could be to keep your first version of the pattern free, and charge for your new version (which I assume includes a lot more than the first version?). Or, if you feel the first version doesn’t reflect well on you, you could make an abbreviated, single-size version free and the full version paid.

    It’s true that people get annoyed when a free pattern goes paid – but yet another option is to announce in advance that the pattern will go paid as of a set date, so that people know that if they want the free version, to get it now. I’ve seen designers do this and generally people seem to respond well to it.

    I agree with Clumsy Knitter on being more lenient towards free than paid patterns – so if your new version offers a lot more than the old version, it seems completely fair to bump it up to a paid pattern.

  5. diane Says:

    Maude Louise is in my queue but I would be happy to pay for the finished pattern. I am quite happy to pay for patterna as I assume a lot of work must go into them.

  6. jkaymartin Says:

    Hi Kristin –

    Actually, it seems perfectly reasonable to me that an unfinished, non-error-corrected pattern should be free; and that a complete, error-free pattern should have a fee – when my company beta-tests software, users are provided the software for free, but once we are officially offering it as tested, complete software, even those customers pay for it.

    As a knitter, I buy downloadable patterns for a fairly minimal fee, KnitPicks has some good examples of inexpensive patterns, for instance. I’ve never seen a donation link, but perhaps if that works better with your mindset, it’s worth a try ;-}

    Good luck!


  7. the Lady Says:

    I’ve seen a few donate buttons, I think they’re fine. If people want to take it for free, fine, and if they want to express their gratitude in dollars, they get to. I agree with you – I don’t like it when free patterns become pay only, but I do know how much work it takes (why I’m not trying to write any up, ha!) I say use a donate button, learn from your past experiences, and if you offer patterns in the future, get them test knit and well edited and offer them for a price, or let them hang out in the wild for free, getting the errors corrected as people knit it up, and offer a spiffy version later (with a donate button.) I *do* agree with the first comment – I expect paid patterns to be REALLY well edited, and in a lot of cases, they aren’t, which basically sucks. I don’t see why I should be paying for someone else’s mistakes and carelessness.

    I’ve become really picky about things I construe as patterns, personally. I will not pay for a pattern that is just a stitch pattern plugged into some shaping, but other people will. I think those are good “patterns” to offer for free. But if you’ve got lots of original thought and techniques going on, I happily pay for those patterns – it is helpful to list what those techniques and thoughts are in the pattern description.

    I also agree with Cyn – if you offer the pattern for a limited time as free, with the disclaimer that it will be pay after x amount of time, I think that’s fair.

    And – congratulations on going back to school! What are you going to be studying? And nice sweater story:-)

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