If you're at all like me,
you've spent many an hour dreaming of ways to
make your yarn habit pay for itself. But how?
There's the knit-things-for-people-on-commission
route, but let's face it -- nobody wants to pay
what you would really need to charge. "$50
for a pair of socks?? I can buy 3 pairs for $5!"
That sort of thing.
A better option came to me,
but I quickly dismissed it as a ridiculous fantasy.
Designing? Would anybody actually PAY for something
I came up with? I doubt it.
But the idea kept nagging at
me. You're a good knitter. You can do math. Give
it a try.
So I did. And it worked.
Here's what I've learned.
First, you have options. If
you want to test the waters, you can post a free
pattern on your blog or website, or use the magic
of services such as Payloadz
to allow customers to pay for and download your
designs. If you don't want to do all the work
yourself, sites such as Chiagu
Knitting Vault can help turn your patterns
into attractive pdf files and handle the sales
(for a cut of the profits, of course.)
The upside of selling patterns,
either through your own site or someone else's,
is that the amount of money you can earn from
a single pattern isn't limited. There is, however,
the risk that no one will buy it, and you will
earn nothing. That's where magazines come in.
Magazines, both print and online,
will usually pay you a set fee for your design.
While online magazines generally pay less than
print magazines, they are also a bit more accessible
to the novice designer. Some do not pay their
contributors at all. Generally, online magazines
allow designers to retain copyright to their designs,
a plus if you wish to offer the pattern later
on your own website. Print magazines, however,
vary -- some just want the rights to publish it first
(they later revert to you) while others want all
rights to your work. Whether retaining the rights
is important to you is a personal decision, and
you can always try to negotiate any terms you're
not comfortable with.
While seeing your work in magazines
is probably the most satisfying, a more steady
outlet for your work can be found designing for
yarn companies. Some companies seek submissions
only a few times a year, while others accept designs
on a continual basis. Payment for designs tends
to be comparable to that of print magazines, and
once you develop a relationship you can expect
to receive samples of new yarns to experiment
with -- a definite plus.
You've considered your options,
you have plenty of ideas -- how do you know where
to send them? It is true that what is rejected
by one magazine/yarn company can be adored by
another. The key is understanding the style of
the publication/company to which you are submitting.
Spend some time looking at the kinds of designs
each publishes. Which best fits your style?
Next, you need to find out what
the magazine/yarn company needs. If you believe
that designing is only about artistic expression,
you'd be better off publishing patterns yourself.
The desire to SELL YARN or AD SPACE is in the
minds of many editors and creative directors,
and knowing what they are looking for will greatly
increase your odds of being accepted. Check magazine
websites for "submission guidelines"
and "editorial calendars". Armed with
this information, you are ready to start designing.
Submission requirements vary,
but in general you need to provide a sketch, a
swatch, and a written description of the garment.
The nice thing about this is that you can send
a proposal without a huge investment of your time
or money. Buy a skein of yarn you like, get out
the colored pencils, and put some ideas together.
If you lack artistic ability, you can find books
on figure drawing at the library or bookstore
to help you, but remember -- editors are not expecting
a masterpiece. A clear, neat drawing that shows
the details of the garment is all you need to
Generous swatches are preferred,
so don't rush it -- six inches square is a good
size. Be sure to block them! For the written description,
focus on what makes your design unique and add
more information about the details shown in your
swatch. To make a decision, editors need to have
a good sense of what the finished item will look
Once your submission is complete,
make sure you label EVERYTHING with your name,
address, phone number, and email. Drop it in the
mail (in some cases you can photograph your swatch
and scan your sketch, and send it electronically)
and wait. And wait. And wait. Sometimes it can
take up to six months to hear back, so you need
to be patient. When it takes a while, that can
be a good sign -- they are seriously considering
When you finally get the good
news, be prepared to work fast. Print magazines
in particular have tight schedules, and often
ask that the finished sample and pattern be in
their hands in as few as 3-4 weeks. Add to that
the time for the yarn to be shipped to you (at
no cost to you, of course!) and you are going
to have some late nights. Some designers hire
sample knitters to do the dirty work for them,
but that will really cut into your profit. Remember
too, if you want to get paid, you need to prepare
and send an invoice with the finished work, as
well as return any contracts that were sent to
Once the finished work is in
the editor's hands, keep yourself available and
check your e-mail regularly. Often, questions
will arise during the tech editing process and
you will need to answer them -- promptly.
Finally (and depending on publishing
schedules, this can be as much as a year later)
the day comes. You get to see your work in print!
Magazines often send you additional copies of
the issue so you can show it off to your friends
Publishing in magazines is fun,
but if you can't (or won't) take the breakneck
pace, self-publishing or designing for yarn companies
might be a better choice. Yarn companies frequently
ask YOU to quote a completion date, so you can
take your schedule into account. Be realistic,
but also courteous -- they want the finished product
as soon as possible, especially if there's a trade
show or other event coming up.
A final word of advice? The
best move I made when diving into the designing
world was to join the Professional
Knitwear Designers Guild. They offer a mentorship
program that was invaluable in helping make contacts
with yarn companies, know which magazines to approach
first as a new designer, and a lot more. Look
on their website for information on how to apply.
It may sound trite, but you'll
never succeed if you don't try!