So You Want To Design Hand Knits…

So I’ve finished one project (all it needs is buttons – and we all know THAT could take another year…)

And I’m well on the way to project #2. This is a milestone for me because I haven’t felt this excited about a sweater for QUITE a WHILE!

So I’ve decided to blog about this piece to keep me honest. I’ll update daily on how it’s coming, and once it’s finished, the pattern will be for sale (baby!)

Think of it as an experiment whereby I walk you guys through the design process as it happens. Better get your swear-filters set up…

It’s going to be a cardigan worked in 2 weights of the same yarn, based on a cabled yoke (the yoke is worked, then stitches are picked up and the cardigan / skirt-peplum and lace sleeves are worked down from there.

Later more stitches are picked up around the neck edge of the yoke, and a shawl collar is worked in lace. Too fun.

Why does this make me so happy? Because for the first time in months I woke up thinking, “I’ve GOT to get back to that project!”

I’ve been on SUCH a hiatus from design – well, a hiatus compared to my rapid fire work habits of 2006 – but perhaps this means that 2008 will be a year that I’m able to break this designers’ block and leap back into the wool?

Speaking of patterns for sale, I wanted to comment on Natasha’s comment. Interweave Knits is offering patterns online which had previously been in their magazine. Up until a few years ago, the contract they offered was pretty clear that they were given ‘first North American serialization rights’ to a pattern, but after that the rights reverted back to the designer.

Then the contract changed, and they began claiming further rights – as in the right to distribute a pattern online.

Recently IK contacted folks whose work had been in previous issues asking them to sign a new agreement that would allow IK the right to use ANY of their previous work in their online pattern shop (or in any way they wished to, online)

I demurred. Not only was I protected by my earlier contracts (which did NOT allow IK the right to distribute my patterns electronically) but the compensation was incredibly slim. (And that was only if IK chose to sell a pattern. If they GIVE the pattern away, as they do with so many via the Knitting Daily newsletter, then the designer receives NOTHING.)

For many designers this is a moot point – if a designer doesn’t have a venue or structure set up where they can resell patterns that appeared previously in magazines, this would be the only way they could recoup $ on a pattern that appeared years ago (and for which they’d already been compensated.)

But It’s MY Pattern, Right?
But for a designer like me, who does sell her patterns online through my own website, and would like to RETAIN the right to do so, signing this after-the-fact agreement would basically mean giving up my the rights I currently hold to sell these specific patterns online.

The fact that I haven’t offered the involved designs through my own website is simply a question of time and inclination – but it doesn’t mean that I don’t want to make these patterns available at some future time!

So, if anyone is wondering, this is why I haven’t agreed to make my patterns available through IK’s new online pattern store – at least, not the earlier work I did for IK before they changed their agreement.

This is in NO way an indictment of IK – they’re terrific to work with, and I’ve found their contracts to be among the clearest and most fair of all I’ve signed as a knitwear designer.

However, this internet pattern sale thing is – to my mind – very similar to the complaints the comedy writers union has against the media industry right now.

It’s just that the comedy writers are a LOT better organized (and better paid?!) than the average hand knit designer.

When we give away our work – especially so that someone else benefits – it should be our choice and with our full understanding of the implications. It’s already very hard to make a living as a hand knit designer – I know of precious few who do this as their SOLE form of income, even folks who are relatively well established.

Add to that the extra demands that are made in terms of self-checking our work, providing our own tech editing in many instances, and you see how quickly a knit designer can end up behind the eight ball (with mortgage staring us in the face…)

And Now, We End With A Rant…

Yarn Market News ran an article a while ago breaking down the cost per knit magazine page (who is paid what; photographer, model, makeup, designer, editor, etc.)

Guess what? The designer earned almost less than anyone. And I would hasten to add that the amount of work involved in the designers’ portion is WAY more than the other folks pony up.

Designers portion of the work requires the following:

  • We have to come UP with the design
  • We need to FIGURE out a way to work it up
  • We need to WRITE THE PATTERN so it can be understood by the basic knitter
  • We must RESIZE IT into several different sizes,
  • and finally, we have to PROVIDE THE SAMPLE for photography

That’s a lot of elbow grease for someone who’s generally paid less than the makeup person.

And then on top of everything else there’s all of the time spent undoing ‘helpful’ edits by non-knitting editors (usually this is a book problem, and definitely not a problem with IK!) and even MORE time spent answering emails from confused knitters who are trying to decipher a pattern that may have been incorrectly edited or badly proofread – or just screwed up by me, the designer…

Donna Druchunas wrote about this recently on her blog – it’s worth reading!

Hand knit designers, unite!
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