21 Reasons You Should Forgo Your $5 Latte in Support of Indie Designers

White 8oz - $5 by Amasou Umasou is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Creative Commons License
White 8oz – $5 by Amasou Umasou is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Thank goodness for the internet! As a woman, mother, and knitter (and generally a person with an inordinate number of interests, trying to wrap up it all up into one unique lifestyle design, so that I can somehow do it all), I am excited to be living in an age in which the internet exists. Today, more than any other time in history, we have the opportunity to take control of our lives and lifestyle choices. We can take the pursuit of knowledge and learning into our own hands, and access unprecedented amounts of information and opportunities for personal development and growth.

The internet also connects us to others, giving us access to the work and ideas of millions of creative and incredibly talented people, from all over the world. Thanks to sites like Ravelry, Pattern Fish, Pinterest, Etsy, Flicker, and Instagram, we can lust over knitting-related eye-candy from the comfort of our sofas. I love that I can search the world wide web for a knitting pattern any time (day or night), and get started on a new project straight away!

The internet has changed the world for knitters and knitting designers alike. Not only has the internet helped to maintain a high level of interest in knitting, but it has also fueled a steady demand for quality patterns and instruction. The demand for individual knitting patterns, available to purchase online in instantly downloadable formats, is one that will probably continue to grow. However, there is also a huge number of free (and often poorly written) patterns available online, and this growth seems to have fueled an unhealthy demand (or expectation) that knitting patterns should be free.

Or perhaps people are just reluctant to pay for patterns? Why pay for a pattern when you can get one for free?

If I am totally honest, I used to think this way too. I would purposefully exclude “For Purchase” patterns in my searches and only browse the free patterns. I have also experienced this mindset amongst my own friends. For example, a friend was looking to knit something for a baby and I suggested a great knitting pattern – because, well, it is a great pattern – but my suggestion was dismissed immediately with “Oh, I don’t want to buy a pattern.”

Do you pay for your knitting patterns?

Here are 21 good reasons why you should consider purchasing a pattern:

  1. There are real people behind knitting patterns – this seems obvious, but there are still people who forget (or don’t think) about the person who actually designed and wrote the pattern.
  2. It shows respect for the designer and their work.
  3. Buying a pattern supports the designer, allowing them to continue producing beautiful patterns for you to knit! (If you don’t support the person behind the design, how can that person afford to produce more wonderful patterns for you to enjoy in the future?)
  4. Producing a pattern is a LOT of work,  especially if it is written for multiple sizes. We are talking many, many hours. Even if you knit for fun, or as a hobby, don’t take what the “professionals” do for granted.
  5. Pattern designers often make themselves available to provide ongoing pattern support online. Consider this support a valuable service that is worth paying for.
  6. It has taken many years for designers to develop the expertise required to write a pattern. They deserve to be paid for their hard work and expertise.
  7. You wouldn’t expect other people to work or provide a professional service for free. Designing and writing patterns is a serious business for many knitting designers and needs to be treated as such.
  8. You expect to pay for other materials that you need for a project (yarn, needles, notions, buttons, etc.)  Some people will spend hundreds of dollars on yarn for a project, but still hesitate to purchase a pattern for $4! Start thinking about the pattern as part of the cost of the project.
  9. It costs a lot to design, write and publish a professional pattern (at the personal expense of the designer). For example, an indie designer might have to pay for the following: a computer and design software, professional photography, professional technical editor, test and sample knitting, graphic design costs, and yarn support.
  10. To stay in business as a knitting designer, many need to travel and make appearances at knitting events across the country. This costs time, money and resources, not to mention money lost from not working while they travel.
  11. Earning a living as an independent knitting designer is hard work. I dare say many (or most)  struggle to actually earn a wage they can live on, never mind making a profit!
  12. Purchasing a pattern supports women who are trying to make a living, while choosing to stay at home to raise their children.  Many indie designers are mothers and have chosen to start their own small businesses in order to take control of their careers, while allowing them to raise their children and pay rent.
  13. Expecting to pay for patterns, you can demand and expect higher standards; and by supporting designers, they can afford to pay techical editors to check their work for errors.
  14. By purchasing a pattern, not only do you support the designer, but also other people (mostly women) and small (woman-owned) businesses in the knitting industry – test knitters, technical editors, photographers, graphic designers, dyers, spinners and local yarn stores.
  15. When you buy a pattern from an independent designer, you are supporting  and encouraging exceptional creativity and quality.  “Indie” designers are constantly pushing the envelope of creativity, introducing new patterns and techniques for everyone to enjoy.
  16. “Indie” has come to mean so much more than “independent”. It has come to symbolize ideas about originality, fresh concepts, and forward-thinking ideals – and that is worth supporting!
  17. By supporting artists who have developed a skill or talent for a particular process, you are also supporting the continuation of valuable art and handcraft. Arts and crafts are part of our culture, and if we allow them to be lost, we lose something very special.
  18. Standards and fair wages for fair work would go a long way towards making the industry stronger.
  19.  We’ve been told for so many years that our knitting/quilting/sewing/etc. is a “craft” and “women’s work” and is therefore less valuable than “men’s work” and “real art”. Women (and men) should stand up and be proud of the work we do and expect a decent wage for it. These professions and interests are undervalued in part because we let them be. Supporting women for the professional work that they do by purchasing their patterns is a way to challenge these norms.
  20. By purchasing a pattern, you are supporting artisans who earn their living project-by-project, rather than settling for mass-produced products from a big-box store.
  21. If we keep taking money away from these small businesses because we are hellbent on free products, there won’t be anything left to buy or give away. Who will be affected? Farmers who raise the sheep who make the wool, dyers who dye the wool, yarn shops who sell the wool, graphic designers, photographers, sample knitters, test knitters, tech editors, and knitting designers as well as the families of all these individuals who depend upon the income however small or large it may be.

Just for the record, I am not suggesting that ALL free patterns are bad – not at all! Indeed, many established designers offer patterns for free – perhaps to promote a particular yarn or a book they are selling. Perhaps they will make a pattern available for free, and if you like their pattern or design, then you can choose to support their work by purchasing other patterns, commenting on their blog or Ravelry page, and telling friends about it. If designers want to share a pattern for free, then that is their choice. However, we should take a moment to appreciate the work that went into producing that pattern, and think about how we can support that designer and their work.

Some newbie designers might be offering patterns for free because they don’t feel confident to charge for their work. I’m not really talking about them. But if you really like someone’s free pattern – especially if it is well written, free of mistakes, and unique – then perhaps you should encourage them to charge for it.

In general, free patterns cheapen the value of a pattern and devalue the work and talent of designers.

Consider it your vote – each time you choose to buy a pattern, you are voting for that designer to continue producing great patterns for you and others to knit. You are voting for, and supporting women and numerous other small business owners who are trying to make a living in the knitting industry. You are voting for quality, individuality, originality, and exceptional talent and creativity.

So, the next time you are searching for a pattern, consider purchasing one.

Most patterns are under $5 – that’s less than a latte!  Totally worth it!

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Let’s not call it Stitch ‘N Bitch

Knitting with Friends

Image by ©IvyBramble.com

Recently, I was outside chatting to some neighbors and working on a current knitting project, while I watched my kids play. They asked me about my knitting, and it soon came up that a couple of them had tried knitting in the past, had long abandoned their projects, but were interested in picking it up again. Another, was excited to learn to knit for the first time.

Awesome! I’ve been wanting to join a knitting group for a while, and this is the perfect opportunity. We talked about setting up a group to meet about twice a month and I’m super excited about getting together with these interesting and creative women, and sharing my love for knitting.

A few days later, word had reached another woman in the neighborhood and she was keen to join our “Stitch ‘n Bitch” too.

Hold it right there.

I can’t help but feel irritated. Irked. Annoyed. Frustrated.

No, no, no… it’s not because another woman wanted to join us – I’m always keen to introduce people to knitting and everyone is welcome.

It’s that phrase. You know, Stitch and Bitch’. I can’t STAND that phrase!

“Calm down” I hear you say. “What’s the big deal?” You ask?

stereotypes_feminsim

Okay, so it’s a fun, clever little rhyme, it’s sassy and it gets people’s attention, I give you that.

In fact, this phrase has apparently been used to refer to social knitting groups since at least World War II, and continues to be used by knitting groups all over the world. The phrase was further popularized by the recent publications  of the Stitch N’ Bitch knitting book series by Debbie Stoller.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it is great that the Stitch N’ Bitch movement, (along with the internet, blogs, social media platforms and mobile technology), has been so successful in bringing groups of women and knitters together across the world. Knitters and feminists have been able to build massive global communities and networks, while reclaiming the traditional practice of knitting in the public sphere and even challenging negative connotations associated with being a “traditional” or domestic woman.

Despite its popularity and apparent success, however, I think that the phrase “Stitch N’ Bitch”, perpetuates inequality, negative stereotypes of women, and misogynistic attitudes.

In this context, the word ‘bitch‘ reinforces the stereotype that women are incessant talkers, complainers or malicious gossips. It supports the view that when women get together, we do so to “bitch” or complain (often about other women).

I know that some may claim that in the context of modern feminism the use of the word “bitch” has been reappropriated to imply a strong female, one that challenges the stereotype of the weak, passive, and submissive woman, in much the same way that the word ‘queer’ has been reclaimed by the gay community. However, when used as a verb, ‘to bitch’ means to complain and its use in this context is almost always derogatory.

Throughout history, women have been marginalized in society, and as a result, gender specific insults toward women can hold a lot of power. We need to be careful about what language we choose to use and what it means for women’s equality.

Let’s continue to get together with friends and other women, to share, support and encourage each other, and to build strong, and lasting communities offline and online.

But please, please can we refrain from using the phrase ‘Stitch N’ Bitch from now on?

Does anyone else feel the same irritation when they hear this phrase?

I’d love to hear your thoughts…