Dear Noway Unnecessary

Dear Noway Unnecessary,

Even though it’s not useful for me to speculate about your motives in downloading 31 patterns, not leaving a tip, and then checking out with firstname “Noway”, lastname “Unneccesary,” I find I can’t quite stop myself from trying to understand.

Were you trying to be cheeky or funny? Angry that I’m asking for anything at all from you in exchange for my work? Some other motivation?

Seeing your order, with your fake name, felt awful. Worst of all, the discomfort felt self-inflicted because I set up a system that allowed people to take my design work – all of it – for free.  That said, most are kind enough to leave their names.

I’ve been doing free patterns in one form or another for 9 years, and I’ve given away more than 15,000 patterns. It’s been important for me to have something tangible to give to the newsletter subscribers who allow me the privilege of appearing in their inboxes every two weeks. It aligns with my belief that the world can be a place where people take what they need and give back what they can.  It’s been a great way to build momentum and have structure around my design process. It’s felt like a way to show people what my yarn can do while giving something back to the fiber community.

It should feel great.  And it doesn’t.

Patterns don’t spring fully formed from the void. They take time, effort, and grit to create. A lot of knitters seem to think that pattern writing is a cushy aspirational job. Spoiler alert: Almost nobody makes a living at it.

Very few knitting designers make a living wage from their work. Cassidy from Ravelry occasionally posts anonymized sales data, and the last time I saw it was from January 2019 (spreadsheet here). Only 2.3% of sellers – 227 designers – made an amount of money equivalent to federal minimum wage that month. And that’s before you factor in the costs of a computer, software, editing, photography, yarn, taxes, PayPal and Ravelry fees, and before you cover any extras like health insurance or paid time off.

The other thing about writing patterns is that it’s work, not leisure. Anytime you take a hobby you love and turn it into your job it becomes work. It might be work you love, but it’s not something you can do to relax anymore – it’s work. And work demands fair compensation.

This free-for-all free library business? It’s not working. It enables behavior I can’t condone, and it doesn’t feel good. I really wanted to keep it free or donation-based, but in three weeks of asking for tips, four people contributed a total of $14. So I am changing my policies.

Everybody who supports my business with a purchase gets access to all my patterns for free. My newsletter folks will still get a free pattern every month for being a part of my business community. Anybody who wants or needs it can take one pattern for free.

Thank you, Noway Unnecessary, Nobody Likesdoingthis, X, Z, and J, for crystallizing this decision. Go in peace and don’t let the screen door whack you on the behind.