Posted in Knitting
March 1, 2010

Another designers’ take on the KP IDP

Ruth, aka Woolly Wormhead, wrote a very thoughtful post on KnitPicks’ Independent Designer Program. I was just reading over my entire book manuscript yesterday, which features a short section on the IDP and how it compares to other sales options as a designer. She’s got it right: almost no designer earns nearly enough on their design work to make it a feasible full-time job. (This lovely article about Ysolda Teague shows she is one of the rare exceptions, and I salute her for it!)

One of the little jokes I played when I spoke to the Common Cod guild in Boston last year on this very topic was to write a giant “NO” on one of the multi-level blackboards in the presentation space, then pull it down after going into a long spiel about how I’d spent all afternoon making a flowchart about whether it was possible to earn a living as a designer. Cue the laugh track, even if it’s not very funny.

I sometimes get emails asking when, say, Stella Maris or Metis will be available for sale (since I have a tendency of posting the initial photos on Ravelry long before the actual pattern is ready), and the inconvenient truth is this: I frequently have to put aside finishing work on a pattern to prioritize a job or writing assignment that will earn me more (or better still, guaranteed) money. That’s life in the big city, friends.

And now, on a more positive and related note: it’s looking as if the Knitgrrl Guide To Professional Knitwear Design may be ready for pre-order even sooner than I thought, so watch this space! I’ll post a photo of the great big marked up paper copy of the manuscript later for your amusement.

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  • Woolly Wormhead

    Thanks for linking Shannon!

    Absolutely: very few of us make a living out of designing. I’m getting close, at least am earning minimum wage or slightly above but there’s still a long way to go. It’s not that we’re not good enough, it’s more a fact that the industry and those who look at it from the outside don’t appreciate the time that goes into designing something, even something as small as a Hat, and therefore don’t value it.

    And that’s the great thing about the IDP – allowing designers to keep the rights to a design is a big deal; that’s the first step on the right path.

    Reply to Woolly Wormhead
  • m.k.

    Hear hear – for those who know what archaeologists generally get paid, knowing that busting my butt doing CRM archaeology has been far more profitable for me that design work gives it a bit more perspective. It’s not really a situation in which if I budgeted better, or trimmed back on luxuries, I’d be able to make it on design work alone. And then there’s the health insurance…

    Reply to m.k.
  • Marnie

    While I don’t disagree that the best way to see if a program works for you is to try it, I do still think there are big picture issues to consider. This is not to say that I think KPs program is good or bad, simply that I don’t see it as simply a matter of being about how it serves a single individual and a single pattern.

    Just like, on principal, I do not shop at walmart, even though it may be a better choice for me fiscally, I think long and hard before offering up my work for what I deemed to be less than its fair value. I don’t do this simply as a designer who wants to earn money on her designs. I try to release a free pattern at least once a year because I consider it a nice way to give into a community I love, and I consider it a good business move to boot.

    That said, while the KP program may serve many designers well, I am loath to contribute to what I see as a continued deprecation in the perceived value of patterns. I see it as penny wise but pound foolish in that it may pay out well but over the long term, can hurt the industry at large.

    My preference would be that KP either offer more resources for the designer, such as paying for tech editing and support and doing the pattern layout, or have them increase the price per pattern. The current model, I feel, forces the designer to bare the bulk of the burden in producing the pattern but does not pay the designer a competitive rate and I feel the model doesn’t scale well, as, over time, more and more patterns will be available, making each less likely to be purchased.

    My 2¢

    Reply to Marnie
  • mary lou

    I just got the new catalog from Webs and it is full of 1.99 download patterns.

    Reply to mary lou
  • Post authorShannon

    So here’s a devil’s advocate-style question for you, Marnie — I think it’s fair to say ok, KP could offer tech editing resources (in all but a very few instances, I’m pretty sure most people would rather retain control over their layout, let’s take that out of the equation). Couldn’t you argue that this is what they’re doing in spirit by offering the up front monetary advance on the pattern itself?

    Or, aren’t they just distributing the tech ed work around the industry instead of keeping it in-house? Imagine this: you’re KP, and 100 new patterns have just come in for the program and need to be tech edited. It’s gonna take a month or two for an in-house tech ed to go through and approve all of those. By providing the $100 or $200 pattern advance, they’re allowing the designer to choose her own technical editor, and pay the TE directly, thus spreading the economic benefit around a little more. In the event the pattern had already been tech edited, the designer is already ahead by X amount.

    Mary Lou, mine hasn’t arrived yet — are they all for Valley Yarn (their house brand)?

    Reply to Shannon

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