Little Golden Notebook

Where fiber art, inspiration, and words meet.

Why I’ll No Longer Offer Free Patterns

When I wrote my first pattern two years ago, the Owl Honeycomb Blanket, a friend told me not to give it away; she said that even though I didn’t think it was too hard to come up with, I still put valuable time and effort into it and should be compensated. She also pointed out that if I didn’t put value on it, no one else would. It boiled down to this: I didn’t think the patterns were worthy enough to be sold. But I listened to my friend and much to my surprise, people bought it anyway. Even people who didn’t know me bought it. I was grateful (am still grateful) and each new purchase puts a skip in my step.

Loerelei's Blanket 3
Owl Honeycomb Blanket

But then a year went by and none of the handful of people who bought pattern made the blanket (well, made the blanket and added it as a project on Ravelry). I added more patterns to Ravelry and etsy; even fewer people bought those and again, no one made them.

To encourage more people to download my next pattern, which I released last month, I made it available for free for a limited time. Lots and lots of people downloaded it – over 400. What an ego boost! Someone actually even read the pattern and found a mistake in it. Yes, I put it out there without leaning on my tech editor friend who helped me enormously with all my previous patterns. But I thought “I really got the Infinite Wave Cowl out there! People on Ravelry queued and favorited it and some even commented on what a nice pattern it is!”

So I released another pattern last week with similar results over less time – even more people have downloaded, queued, and favorited the second pattern, the Quill Eyelet Cowls. What an ego boost! How gratifying!

I thought people would fall in love with the patterns the way I did and start making them right away. I planned to continue releasing patterns as free for a week and then charge for them … until I read some really well-thought out posts from other designers explaining why giving away patterns, even for just a limited time, really isn’t going to be good in the long run for me or for other designers. Worst of all, it probably won’t help with my short-term goals of getting more people to actually use the patterns, see how well written & designed they are, and buy more/make more. Why won’t offering free patterns help me reach these goals? There’s very little overlap between the people who seek out free patterns and those who actually knit them; a lot of people just collect them. I know more than a few people who do this, and one who got an extra storage disk just for her knitting patterns.

I thought offering patterns for free for a time would help me avoid using a tech editor. It finally dawned on me on Friday, after receiving a private message about a mistake in the Quill Eyelet Cowls pattern (since corrected) that I would think a designer who has to issue updates so soon after a pattern release probably has mistakes even in their paid patterns, so why bother paying? Even though I fixed the problem immediately and issued an update, it still indicates some unprofessionalism. Really, I should tap into not only my tech editor, but test knitters before releasing patterns.

Other reasons to charge/not make patterns available for free:

  • If you don’t value the a pattern, no one else will.
  • Something that you put effort,time, expertise, and money into has value.
  • It adds to the flood of free patterns that are making it difficult for other designers to make a living in the industry – why pay for a pattern when there are so many good free ones available? Why pay for a pattern when you can spend your money on better/larger quantities yarn?
  • People may be less likely to pay attention to the difficulty rating or the skills needed to complete the pattern (which I include in the pattern descriptions), which would be frustrating for them and possibly for me from a pattern support perspective.

So. That’s it. That’s why I’m going to stop ignoring that friend who gave me such good advice two years ago and set a price on all my new patterns. I hope eventually people will read & use them, but even if they don’t, I still enjoy the process and will continue, which sounds like it could become an exercise in futility, but there it is. Writing patterns combines my creative side with my tech writing side and it make me happy.


11 responses to “Why I’ll No Longer Offer Free Patterns”

  1. Just a thought, maybe offer it free to one or two people to try out and provide feed back on any errors before offering it up for sale.

    1. I’ve thought about doing that too; I did give an earlier pattern to a friend hoping she’d make the item so there would be a completed project other than mine on Ravelry, but she hasn’t made it yet & it’s been a year. :/ I have had my tech editing friend go over my more recent patterns. But your suggestion is good; I should hook myself up on Ravelry with some test knitters in exchange for the pattern.

      1. If they blog about your pattern and put a link to the pattern that could get more traffic to your patterns too..

        1. That’s true! I hadn’t thought about that – thank you!

          1. You’re welcome 🙂

  2. What if you used test knitters? That way, your pattern will have that many projects associated with it when it’s released, and the testers will screen for errors. It would mean giving away a few copies for free but it might help drum up interest. I’m pretty sure there are some designers out there who use testers mostly for the traffic it creates on publication (from all the testers linking up their projects).

    You could also offer it for a discounted price initially. People who spend money on a pattern are, I think, more likely to use it. Another thought would be to host a knit along to get people invested in starting their projects.

    1. Thank you for the suggestions! I have thought about finding test knitters on Ravelry and also starting a Rav group for my patterns to host KALs. The last pattern I released coincided with a sale that I had on etsy & Rav to celebrate my birthday, MDS&W, and Mother’s Day but I didn’t get much interest even with that. Part of it is that I’m still fairly new at designing and not so great at promotion. I’m actively working on it though and have my fingers in a lot of social media pies; I think my next big effort is going to be focussing on Ravelry & getting a group going.

  3. Great decision! Let me suggest organizing a KAL, it definitely increases traffic and feedback and Ravelry is a great place to do that, but you could also use other platforms, like Facebook or Instagram for the purpose. You can start by offering an earlybird price to those participating in the KAL and, believe me, once people see that there are knitters out there who actually finished an item following your pattern, they will be glad to buy! Good luck!

    1. Great suggestion! I hadn’t thought of that – thank you!

  4. […] patterns to look after. But I also judge a designer on the content of their patterns, free or paid. Were I to offer free patterns, as I’ve contemplated doing in the past, I would treat them as advertising for my other […]

  5. […] upon I time, I swore I would never, ever offer a knitting pattern for free anymore ever […]

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