I like knitting pattern PDFs. I’ve bought a few myself. In fact, even though I’m usually more inclined to relish diving into a long, deliciously-complicated, painstakingly drawn out design process for most anything I knit, I needed to knit a shawl pronto for an upcoming event and I found something that fit the bill perfectly just a few days ago on Twist Collective. I love Twist Collective – for the wonderful designs and articles, for the top-notch-yet-sweet-as-can-be folks who run it, for the valuable and greatly appreciated outlet it gives us indies for getting our work to a broader audience. But, as wonderful as Twist Collective, and many of the other on-line and printed outlets, are for us indies, they don’t entirely supplant the need for our own, independent, individual outlets. In fact, doing so would sort of kill the whole “indie” concept, wouldn’t it?! And so, while I love being a part of such endeavors, I also keep plodding along, doing “my own thing”.
“My own thing” is stranded knitting; stranded knitting with unusual motifs; unusual motifs that demand large repeats, often with a limited number of size possibilities. Hopefully, my own thing is occasionally your thing, too. But I know it’s not most knitters’ thing. And, it’s not most magazines’ thing, either. But, without meaning any disrespect, I have to say that I really don’t care, for it’s what I love and I’ve (gratefully) been able to do it, through a combination of my own self-publishing and through partnerships, like Twist Collective. But recently, a problem has surfaced.
Yesterday, I posted my latest design, my Amaryllis Hat, here (see post below), on my Kidsknits site and on Ravelry. Apparently, it’s acceptable: within 1 day, it received 149 Ravelry “favorites”…and counting. Thanks! But, not a single sale. Yet, quite a few folks contacted me with inquiries about a PDF. The short answer to the PDF question is “No, I’m sorry, but I can’t put so much work into something, only to get pennies out of it.” Here’s the long answer, posted in response to the typical PDF question, this particular one posted as a comment on my pattern on Ravelry:
The question, as asked on Ravelry: “Just wonderful! Can’t afford the kit, though. Do you think the pattern alone will be available at some time?”
My long answer, also posted on Ravelry: “I always hate to say “no” to any knitter, so I’ll say that I might sell the pdf for the Amaryllis Hat someday; then again, if things continue as they have been, I’m pretty sure that I won’t. Truthfully, I’d really like to be able to offer everything as a pdf – it’s easier for both of us. But, as I hope you can understand, while I design and knit because it’s my passion, I sell my designs because I hope to make a little bit of money that way. Lately, I’ve seen overwhelming evidence that sales of pdfs by little independents like me do not make much money at all.
Originally, I sold my Amaryllis Mittens just as a kit. I always try to price my kits very competitively. As you’ll see from comments on my Ravelry page for my Amaryllis Mittens, folks were thoroughly pleased with the Amaryllis Mitten kits they purchased. I was thoroughly pleased, too, for I made a (small, fair) bit of money selling the yarn, in addition to the pattern, and that helped to justify the considerable amount of time I put into designing, knitting, publishing and supporting the mittens. Then, feeling mounting pressure, I published the Amaryllis Mitten pdf. Granted, I have sold a few of those pdfs, and I’m very grateful to each knitter who has bought it. But, I have not sold many. And sadly, sales of the somewhat more profitable kits have come to a screeching halt.
As you’ve probably noticed, many yarn stores hardly sell any knitting books or patterns at all these days. Little yarn store businesses, both brick-and-mortar and on-line, cannot compete with Amazon, the major knitting magazines and e-zines for pattern sales. Neither can I. Furthermore, the market for advanced stranded knitting designs is a small fraction of the entire knitting market. However, for each pattern to be knit, one does need yarn. Truthfully, there’s not a lot of money to be made selling yarn, either, but since designing, knitting and chatting with knitting customers are all things I just love doing, the little bit of money made from yarn sales (when they occur) is enough, to my mind, to justify continuing the business.
But, there’s a problem: I have a toll-free number for my business and I plaster my email on everything I publish. I really believe in being as helpful and informative as I can be about any of my products. And the fact is, it’s really enjoyable for me! But lately, I’ve received quite a few phone calls and emails from knitters who have the Amaryllis Mitten pdf, are planning to knit the mittens with their own yarn, but they are new to stranded knitting and whoever sold/gave them the pattern &/or yarn (not me) cannot (or will not) tell them anything about stranded knitting. Actually, there are a few problems with that scenario: Several of those folks did not purchase the pdf at all; they received (illicit) copies. Perhaps unbeknownst to them. Some of those copies were from stores that profited by selling yarn with (illicit) copies of my design. While I feel it’s important that I support my designs, I also feel it’s important that I not become a complete chump, helping other folks make money selling yarn while they steal from me.
Now, of course, I realize that there are some thoroughly wonderful folks who would like the pdf simply because they want to use their own stash yarn, want to use less expensive yarn, want to use different colors of yarn, want to use a different fiber, just want to read it the pattern but really don’t want to knit it…the list of perfectly plausible scenarios goes on and on. On one hand, it hurts me to not be able to give those dears folks everything they’re asking for. But the fact remains that, between all of the work that goes into a design like this, the relatively few knitters that are even interested in knitting something at this skill level, the time I (happily) spend helping knitters with questions and the many exasperating phone calls and emails I’ve received that were sparked by illicit pdf copies/sales, the only way for me to publish my designs independently and still have enough economic inspiration to keep doing it as an ongoing business is to sell my designs as kits.”