Tuesday, September 4, 2012

free patterns vs paid-for patterns

I've been debating for a while now, whether or not to write a post about this, since this is something that has affected not only myself, but several other designers out in the knitting and crochet community.

I've got quite a few patterns available for free, as you can see... but these are all for small projects (1 skein or less) - I haven't posted them for sale largely because I personally only would want to post larger patterns for sale, for items like shawls or sweaters. This perspective will vary from one designer to the next. The knitting community has, for the most part, greatly & graciously appreciated the quantity of free patterns out there, and whenever possible, supported designers who chose to charge for their patterns.

Designers should never have to feel guilty for charging for a pattern. Most people - whether they knit or not - can appreciate the quantity of work that goes into knitting a garment. There's as much work that goes into writing out that design, and making sure that it's as accurate as possible.

Now, it will happen, on occasion, that there'll be a pattern that will come up for sale online or in a book or magazine, and there'll be free patterns that are very similar to it that will pop up. Assuming that the authors of the free patterns aren't purposely and deviously trying to make a sale pattern available for free, but rather these free patterns are merely coincidentally similar, then whoever decides to make the pattern that's for sale shouldn't feel any sort of guilt from having to buy the pattern, despite the availability of the free similar ones.

In my case, what happened a couple years ago, was I designed a sweater similar to the one worn in the movie The Big Lebowski. My brother was a huge fan of the movie, he loved the sweater, he wanted one, and he had requested one from me. At the time, there were no patterns available. So, I had to somehow improvise one. I did, and as I knit mine, I wrote out my pattern the best that I could. I had never written a sweater pattern before, but I had already knit several sweaters, so I had a fairly good idea of how to go about creating one.

My brother's sweater was gifted in September, for his birthday. The pattern became available for sale soon afterwards in the etsy shop I had at the time. As it turns out, exactly a week after I had mine up for sale and linked to ravelry, another designer had come out with her own version of the Lebowski sweater, and had decided to share it for free.

I have to admit, at the time I prided myself in finally coming out with a sweater pattern that seemed to be in such high demand; people had been posting online for years, desperately wanting a Lebowski sweater pattern. And it did bother me a bit that someone else not only came out with a pattern pretty much exactly at the same time I did, but I felt a little undermined that it was available for free. But, our patterns were different enough, and at the end of the day, it was really coincidence that we both had a Lebowski sweater pattern that came out at the same time, so I really couldn't fault anyone for that.

The problem came, though, soon afterwards. And it largely came because there was a free pattern out there, which inevidably conflicts with a pattern for sale.

I had sold a few of my patterns, and as far as I knew, everything was fine. A year had passed, I had quite a few people buy my pattern and knit it, and I had received quite a few emails of people who had finished my design and they all seemed to turn out rather well. The issue, rather, came about on ravelry - I had a couple people buy my pattern, and within a couple months, wrote very mean messeges to me about how they believed I was trying to rip them off, SIMPLY BY HAVING A PATTERN FOR SALE when there was another one out there for free.

In my defense, I told them, that my pattern and the free one had come out within a week of each other, and a basic pattern search on ravelry would show both of these patterns. They chose to buy my pattern, I couldn't be held responsible for that.

It was only AFTER that, that I was told that my pattern was apperently riddled with mistakes, although those mistakes were noted absolutely nowhere. The couple who had complained about my pattern said they would ONLY let me know what these mistakes were on the condition that I paid them for it - which is unheard of, at least as far as I was concerned.

Sidenote: I've frequently come across mistakes in patterns, in both ones I've bought AND ones I've used for free. In EVERY case, I have not only contacted the designer with the mistakes I've found, but I've also made note of them in my notes on ravelry. If for nothing else, that there is SOME mention of erratta SOMEWHERE, and there's a chance that the next person who knits said design MIGHT come across my notes and can make the necessary adjustments. So far, in all of my years at least on ravelry, this has been what other knitters have also done with the patterns they've made. I've even posted, out of curiosity, in ravelry's forums, if a designer should pay their paying customers for pattern corrections, to which I've got an astounding 'no'.

Back on topic: I came to the conclusion that what these couple buyers had was buyer's remorse. I get it, it sucks to have to pay for something when you later discover you could've gotten something very similar for free. This was something that was reiterated a few times to me by these few people: I owed them because they believed I cheated them out of something. I even had one person wanting me to pay her back for the yarn she bought, because she used the colours I did in my original design, rather than using the origincal colours from the Lebowski sweater. Huh?!? And another knitter who, even though she bought the right yarn, knit much too tight and would up with a tighter tension (and therefore, a smaller sweater) so, according to her, I owed her for that as well.

Eesh... one has really nothing to do with another.

I want to note, only because I've been asked and this has been commented on, that I've absolutely not had a problem with the other (free) pattern, nor an issue with its designer. She's a wonderful designer and we've had a good chat about our sweater patterns when they were first released in the ravelry communtiy. The issues solely lied with the few knitters who have a) bought the pattern, and b) commented on their own issues of these seemingly conflicting designs.

On a personal note, it has hurt me quite a bit when my pattern came out that I was given as much grief as I had, simply because I decided to charge for my design, and I apparently had a very selfish audacity to offer a pattern for sale when was out there for free. I took it very personally then, and it still bothers me a bit to this day, to be attacked in such a way not only privately, but also blatently and publicly, online, simply for having a pattern for sale. I didn't steal the design, and yet I felt like I was being crucified simply for having a pattern for sale.

It had been, after a year of being available, taken down. I had completely removed it and was since very much discouraged for even considering sharing another pattern (for free OR for sale) because of those couple incidents.

I have, though, a number of times since, been asked to at the very least share my intarsia charts for the Lebowski sweater pattern I made, and I stood on the fence of whether or not I wanted to even share them privately, because of all that had gone on. So, I simply declined.

Now, 3 years to the month later, and after several more requests for at least the charts (and a few requests for my version of the pattern as well) I decided to post it up as only a ravelry download here - charts and all. I'm posting with a great amount of hesitation, but hopeful that maybe even part of my pattern is helpful to anyone who wants to knit a sweater, and that there's an effort for positive construction to move forward.

3 comments:

Christina Toppen said...

Wow. Thank you so much for sharing this. I've been starting to write a few patterns and am debating whether to give them away or sell them. I guess I need to think about this further. Please, though, don't let a few unreasonable (to put it nicely) people discourage you. It's ridiculous to think a designer owes you because a similar pattern is available for free, the knitter didn't check gauge, color issues, etc. No sane person would expect to be reimbursed for yarn, the pattern, etc. Thanks again for sharing your experiences so I can make more informed decisions about designing and sharing :) Christina

Kathleen Oordt said...

This is an interesting post. I love a free pattern when I can find a great one. There are times that I don't find what I'm looking for in a free pattern, and have to buy a pattern to get exactly what I'm looking for. I never expect to be reimbursed for the pattern, yarn, etc. if something goes wrong it's usually my fault anyways (especially tension!). When I post about my knitting on my blog, Etsy (when given permission to sell items), or Ravelry I always give credit to the designer no matter if it was a free or bought pattern.

Somerset Stitchery said...

I never mind paying for a pattern for knitting or whatever craft I am working on at the time. I have designed some of my own patterns and know how many hours can go into just coming up with the idea, making it fit, choosing stitches etc. I have made some things that didn't come out as designer said they would but that was usually my fault. Everyone knits at a different gauge and it is the knitters responsibility to check out the gauge the fit and realize that before you are finished you may have to frog or change up your needle size or yarn size to match the pattern. Sometimes even in the knitting the pattern you may realize that the arm length or the shoulder doesn't match you so you are going to have to change up the pattern. I usually put my own twist to the pattern such as joining shoulder seams using Kitchener stitch rather than sewing, knitting the sleeve in the round rather than flat. The same with sewing patterns it is ultimately the sewers responsibility to make the pattern fit not the designers. I realize this is an old post but I was looking at your owl cozie pattern and I am planning on making one for my daughter. As far as being upset that they found a similar free pattern that is the chance you take and if you are searching for patterns on the Internet or Ravelry it is your choice to purchase.