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New patterns, an ebook completed and some thoughts on pricing

by ysoldateague August 18, 2014 6 min read

You may have noticed that Wee Melia and the little beret to match Wee Liesl went live on Friday. These complete the Wee Ones ebook which contains a total of 7 patterns for babies and pre-schoolers. If you’ve already purchased one or more of the patterns you can upgrade to the ebook at the following prices until the end of August: 

1 pattern purchased = £6.90

2 patterns purchased = £2.96

3 patterns purchased = free (this will not be sent as an automatic update, you will have to add the book to your cart). 

The ebook itself is £10.95, which I hope will work for those of you who were interested in a few of these but couldn’t afford all of the ones you wanted. The slightly weird discount amounts are because we had to use whole number percentages to create the promotion. 

When I released the first of these baby sweaters I priced it at the same point as my adult sweaters. They were slightly less work to produce than an adult garment with similar patterning — fewer sizes, simpler shaping — but not that much, and certainly more than something like a hat. I’ve always had a couple of different price points, roughly matching up to the amount of work that goes into producing them, but that’s never going to be a very exact science. You just need to glance at the most frequently recurring topics on the designers’ groups on Ravelry to see how difficult I think everyone finds pricing.

Pricing hand made products is hard enough when you can work out the costs that go into producing each item you sell. When you have no idea how many of those items there will be in the end it becomes much harder. 

There are several more or less fixed costs, some of which might be the designer’s time, and some of which will be paid (usually upfront) to others. For most patterns these will be: preparatory knitting, knitting the sample, photography, tech editing, layout, admin in uploading. For every one of my patterns a minimum of four separate people have put many, many hours into producing it. All of those people have to eat, pay their mortgages, etc, and I firmly believe in paying them as fairly as I’m able. 

It’s not even true that these are the only costs so that you can set a minimum number that you need to sell to break even. Although the numbers undeniably work out better the more popular a design is, there are also costs that rise. I have no actual data but I do think that the more popular a design is then the greater the proportion of people who make it who’ll need some support becomes. That makes sense — more popular designs tend to end up on the radar of people with either less experience or who are less immersed in the knitting community with fewer resources to find their own answers. Don’t get me wrong, we are always happy to help if you don’t understand something, but I do pay Rebecca for the time she spends on that! 

While trying to make sure that my patterns are priced at a point, and that that they sell well enough, to cover all of their costs (and make a profit, I like eating too!) I’m also trying to avoid making them too expensive. The last few years have been tough for everyone except the super rich (if that’s you and you’d like to put a pile of gold to good use and buy everyone else one of my patterns please get in touch!) and I don’t want a knitting pattern to be the thing that makes you feel the strain on a tight budget. 

At the same time, knitting patterns have historically been priced artificially low. Whether being published directly by yarn companies or indirectly subsidised by them in magazines the whole point of the pattern was to motivate yarn sales. That’s changed, but the subconscious reactions to pattern pricing rooted in that history hasn’t — just look at the difference between sewing and knitting pdf pattern prices.

Sewing patterns have mostly been published by companies that did only that, and even the majority of sewing pattern magazines I know of aren’t supported by ads. They were also priced at different points depending, essentially, on the amount of pattern making time that went into them. A complex pattern with many pieces and a more refined fit, and possibly a well known designer, would have been priced much higher than an easy sew day dress. As far as I’m aware that kind of intentional variation in price points never happened in the knitting world, at least not in such an organised fashion. 

We’re currently storing bags of yarn on the floor of the studio because all of the yarn drawers are full, a third of my wardrobe is taken up with ‘future clothing’ in the form of length of cloth, and I read every craft related book in the library when I was a kid. Believe me when I say I understand the joy to be found in planning projects and collecting materials even for things that you intellectually know you don’t have time for. On the one hand, it’s good for business if people buy more than they need (and oh isn’t that the entire history of marketing), but sometimes it doesn’t feel good in the long term.

I want to sell enough to keep my business sustainable, but I also want the people who buy my patterns to use them, to be excited to cast on, to share what they make, to fall in love and make the same hat for every new baby that comes along. If the price point makes you pause on an impulse purchase that will be forgotten in a collection and wait until you know that that pattern is really the one you want to make, maybe that’s ok? 

Do you know how most patterns are priced in this industry? We can talk round and round about how to work out the costs and how many might sell, but the truth is most decisions are made by looking around at what else is out there. I’m very conscious of the fact that my prices will be looked at in this way by other designers. This is also made difficult by an international market and the complex fluctuations of currencies — it matters a great deal how my prices compare to others in US dollars but since they’re priced in Sterling that’s not something I can control directly (if I could predict changes in exchange rates I guess I’d be earning a lot more but my job would be a lot duller!). Currently the pound is fairly strong against the dollar and my prices seem rather high in comparison. 

There are a lot of people currently designing knitting patterns, which makes me so excited about the development of this craft I love so dearly. There are almost as many models for what being a knitting pattern designer is as there are individual designers but I think one thing is clear: the number of people who would like to develop it into a full time career vastly outnumbers the number of people who have actually done that. Of course that’s true to a certain extent of everything, not everyone will succeed for all kinds of reasons. But I don’t want one of the reasons that only a few people can succeed to be that the acceptable price point for a pattern requires selling a number of copies that most will not achieve just to break even.

As it’s become easier to self publish patterns it’s also become harder to make a living doing commisioned design work (fees haven’t risen in the last 20-30 years), I honestly can’t think of a single designer who makes a living only from commisioned work. I don’t know if those two things are simply correlated but they both make me wonder about the future of designing. Are we trying to divide a fixed amount spent on patterns into smaller and smaller chunks, is that amount really fixed or could it rise? I’m not pretending to have any answers here, but I think these are questions worth discussing. 

All of that background about the challenges of pattern pricing was really just to say that I am trying to balance the costs with feedback from customers. Consequently I’ve decided to lower some of the wee ones patterns so that all six sweaters can be purchased individually for £4. I went back on forth on whether that would be fair to those of you who had already bought them, although of course prices do change all the time. However, I’ve decided to offer you the chance to buy the ebook at a discounted price or, if you’d rather not buy the ebook but would like something else you can:

use the name of the pattern that you bought (eg. ‘wee liesl’) as a coupon code to receive a discount of £1 on anything else, valid until the end of August. 

I do hope you’ll feel like that’s a fair way of doing things! 


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