Want to be A Crochet Designer?
Are you thinking about about being a crochet designer? What does it take to design or how do you get that status of being a crochet designer?
Being a Crochet Designer takes skills, not only for implementation of how to create a pattern but it also takes skills on communicating your instructions to the person who is reading it from you.
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I have designed over 150 patterns since creating The Crochet Crowd, only 1 has actually been assigned into a kit that you have to buy a kit to get it, the rest are all free online for you to have for free. I’ve had a few patterns being assigned over to Yarnspirations for their free pattern library. So I guess that makes me a published author but I don’t have my own pattern book. I’m okay with that for several reasons that I will talk about below.
Designers Should Posses the Skills of Pattern and Diagram Reading
Let’s face it, if you cannot read a pattern, how would you ever expect to write one. I have two comprehensive tutorials on How To Read a Crochet Pattern and How to Read Crochet Diagrams. Both are free to follow along. They are very detailed to allow people of all levels to begin to learn.
What is Adaptation
So you are learning crochet and becoming comfortable with reading patterns. You become to the point where you start making up the pattern as you are going. You are actually designing. Whether you choose to write it down or just do it for yourself, you are creating a design.
I’ve seen in my history people wanting to be a designer and then taking someone else’s design and adding or subtracting items from the existing pattern and suddenly make it their own. That element is called Adaptation. Not designing. You are using the core of someone else’s design to modify it a bit. So it technically doesn’t make it your design, you adapted the pattern. However, I should warn you, Adaptation needs to be done with permission from the original designer / publisher.
The Crochet Crowd Team has the power to adapt any Yarnspirations Design because of our sponsorship relationship. So when we see an opportunity for a slight tweak, we can do that. Usually when we have done so, we call attention to the original design on Yarnspirations as being our inspiration to extend credit out of courtesy and let the public know what pattern inspired us for the adaptation.
What is Designing
Designing is the concept of original thought. Original math, stitch combinations and much more. Above is a picture of me designing on the go. In fact, my notes are on tissues. I was so inspired but was without paper, I grabbed tissues to write my notes. I drew line by line and did up my sample and determined if it was going to work. You can see the lower napkin has a ton of scribble outs as I was frogging and retrying different concepts. You can see the crochet sample behind the paper that is a mirror of the instructions.
This is called designing. Remember in math class when the teacher insisted you show your work of how you got to the calculation? Designing is the same way, you have a trail of work in your design work as you work through the design problems. Some designers can probably design without having to go back and fix errors but I would guess most of us do that as we get our designs just right.
Steps Involved in Designing
Designers are strongly encouraged to make notes as they design. Sometimes in the future of the design, the project is going off the rails, if you are writing things down, you can find your error and where to frog to put yourself back on track.
Designers are so excited, sometimes they do an entire sample without writing down their notes but then end up going through their project and writing their notes by reverse engineering what they did. This works okay as long as the design is simplistic to follow and you don’t forget any steps you might have done. Especially chain counts and more.
For myself, I design using crochet diagrams before using the words. I write simplistic notes of stitch counts on a piece of paper that you see in the napkin. I draw the diagram as the pattern materializes so I have that as my back up to verify the stitch counts. So I have my notes, my crochet diagram and my physical example to follow as I write the final instructions. I then type it out on computer once finalized in rough draft. So if someone questions if I designed something, I have my notes to prove I did. It’s important to keep your working notes. So get yourself a design journal to make the notes to keep them all safe. For myself, I scan my notes so I have a document on my computer because I tend to loose paperwork. So get yourself a system that works for you.
I tend not to design with a laptop as my working notes. The laptop won’t show my corrections if I am back spacing out errors and only writing the final copy. So it really wouldn’t show my thought process at all.
Art of Writing A Pattern
Writing a pattern is one of the hardest elements of crochet. There is an art to writing a pattern. If you are ever unsure, there are 10’s of thousands of patterns out there. Look to how they are written. You will notice there is consistency with the designers.
The Craft Yarn Council controls the standards of abbreviations and consistency among all crocheters in North America. This prevents designers from making up abbreviations that don’t exist.
Pattern writing requires us to write in short form. Preventing a pattern from being pages long when simplistic and straight to the point instructions are made.
Let’s use an example:
- Incorrect: Chain 4, put hook into the beginning chain and pull yarn through to form a ring.
The instruction is long winded when it can be simplified.
- Correct: Ch 4, sl st in beg ch to form ring.
Notice that the correct version cuts out a lot of instructions that are assumed. It also uses crochet abbreviations to describe the instruction instead of long form like the incorrect version.
In time, as you become more comfortable in writing patterns, you will start to simplify the instructions. Be careful not to simplify too much though. Sometimes in unique designs, more explanation is required.
Pattern testing is always a really good idea, especially if you are intending on selling the pattern. I have seen way too often people asking publicly for pattern testing. I know a few people who have been royally screwed over by open themselves up to transferring their pattern and the person testing takes the design, tweaks it and calls it their own.
Once you have your design complete, put your copyright on the pattern. ©2018 The Crochet Crowd. It’s the Copyright Symbol with the year right behind it. With your legal name after it. It could be like ©2018 Michael Sellick if you are not a company and just using your name. This makes it legally binding.
There is no lawyers involved with copyright. This can be assigned to anything you need including your photographs and written words.
Should someone claim you are copying, your working notes showing your work and how you developed the pattern act as your proof.
Consideration of Conceptual Design
I am of firm belief that almost everything has been designed. With billions of humans on planet earth, it is possible that two or more people can have the same thought process and execution of idea to produce a very similar pattern to each other without knowing about it.
With 10’s of thousands of designs out there, it’s possible that a designer could have developed a similar pattern that has already been done without knowing an existing pattern has been done.
Time and time again, strong followers of a designer have a tendency to go after other designers who have similar concepts when both designers, in good faith, have designed without each other knowing about it.
This has happened to me. A consumer requested me to do something but emailed other YouTube Hosts. Another YouTube Host and I came up with the same concept on the same day of release on YouTube. Both fan bases attacked the other for claiming one of us were in violation of copyright. When in fact, the designer and I had a laugh about it. We received the same email and both of us acted upon it at the same time. So there wasn’t copying involved.
A lot of drama in the crocheters can be caused by the conceptual design
I once did a tutorial for a project and copyright was called upon me by the public. Against another designer that had developed a similar looking pattern. It turned out, the tutorial project I was teaching was developed 7 years earlier before this other designer was even of legal age. Not saying they copied the design, just saying it’s possible for the similar concepts to be developed as the world is a big place. If the designer is continuously hitting patterns that are constantly close to another designer(s), you may question the validity of their design but it’s best to know for certain before accusing someone of doing so. Designers know if they are copying and if they are called out upon, sometimes it sets them straight and they will most likely correct themselves though they may never admit it. I have had this happen to me where a design was directly copied and when I had asked them about it, turns out, they did copy my design and retracted the design. I will stand my ground as I know the rules of copyright.
Some Designers Don’t Care
I have seen some designers blatantly copy designs and reword them but the core instructions are the same. This is done when a design is doing really well popular wise. Another designer will copy them and post them as their own to split the revenue opportunities. From time to time, we have this happen on The Crochet Crowd where a pattern is copied from us, even using my name as the designer and is selling a pattern that I am offering for free. It happens, it sucks. It’s the times we live in.
Don’t Be Confused
Don’t be confused on what is copyright and what is inspiration. I have seen more fights about this concept than any other concept. For example, say Pink Elephants are the rage. Once the trend catches, you will find other designers come along and do versions of Pink Elephants. Executions are unique. The concept is being copied, not the design.
I have seen more designers fight with each other over this concept. When a concept takes on a life of its own, everyone wants to be in on it to capitalize on it. Concepts like this are examples such as Bun Hats, Colour Pooling and Arm Knitting. Those crazes came so fast and went out just as quick. Designers jumped in as fast as possible to take advantage of the trend but they have to move on.
I’m a huge believer, you are only as popular as the next project that is in your mind. By the time I get something out the public, I’ve already moved onto to something new behind the scenes. You cannot ride the trend indefinitely, everything has a shelf life.
Inter Relationships with Designers
One of the biggest surprises for me is the competitive nature of the top designers in the field. Designers are very protective on their work. Remember, this is a business for them. So the more they teach you, the more of a competitor they are making for themselves. So designers, generally speaking, are usually not willing to help out a new designer get off the ground. I don’t blame them. It’s not an easy road to travel. Most quit along the path.
From time to time, people email me asking me which programs and computers I use and wanting detailed lists of my studio equipment. This is a business for me and I didn’t have the mentorship in this area. I learned through trial and error. I have spent more money on things I didn’t need and would find better opportunities in other elements that I hadn’t considered. So my learning experience came to me for a cost of trial and error. To suddenly give over those details on what makes us work today seems unfair as I didn’t have the opportunity myself. So I am protective and guarded in this area.
Sometimes people ask me to get them contact information for people behind the scenes. I don’t do that myself. Again, same reason as the computer equipment. I had to earn the right to know people behind the scenes and work my way through the relationships to get in touch with people who count the most. So I will direct people to the general email of a company to make a compelling case to allow the company to make the decision on who the email should get directed to.
I have ticked off a few designers in my past through association and not doing enough homework. For example, I have run into a designer that I didn’t even know existed. Me, well I am just a country guy, I am too honest in my reaction. “Oh, I haven’t heard of you before!” Stupid move on my part. I should have faked it, in retrospect. There are egos in play and some designers need the stroke of being appreciated. There are some designers that down play their designing as well and you would never know they were designers. Some designers drop names of people they know to let you know where they are in the food chain. When you are new on the block, you will run into this quicker.
For me, I’m not focused on who I know. I am focused on the community that follow along with our crochet fun. Community first, always is my personal belief.
With designers, and including myself, your time is not their time. Let me explain. If you are in a hurry to talk to me, I have a lot of responsibilities on my plate and deadlines to hit. So answering back quickly is respectful yes, but time has to be available for me too. My internal contacts are priority #1 to respond to immediately. People whom I have never heard of go second and when time allows. Sounds rude, but when you receive as much email as I do, I have to prioritize my time because I have to get things done for things already on the burner. I have received emails from people giving me crap that I hadn’t responded to a previous email. The clock is not my best friend. There’s not enough hours and minutes on it each day to keep up. People classify as a lack of response or delayed response as an insult. You have to factor in that email may be going directly to junk and out of sight as well. People are generally busy and get side tracked as the day goes on and may never circle back as they forget to. Happens to me a lot.
As a new person on the block, I was trying to figure out how designers can design so quickly and pop off book after book. There is actually an outtake video as I was doing a review on a pattern book. The video is no longer online. So in reviewing the book, I was praising the designer and I noticed another designer name on top of the pattern in the section of the book.
I went back to the cover and looked at the designer name and confirmed it’s who is on the cover but the name is different. I surfed through the rest of the book and found other designs by other designers. I am like, “What is going on?”
The author on the cover is popular and she has a few patterns but she is not the designer of everything in the book. So why is she getting credit for the book if most of the designs are not even hers in the book. This is called collaboration where the designer has worked with other designers to pull together designs from others to form a topic or theme for the book. Yes, she’s not the designer for everything in the book but she is the one doing the leg work to pull together the book, so she appears on the cover. She’s essentially endorsing the other designers that helped her write the book.
Why would another designer agree not to have their name on a cover but is getting a credit in the individual pattern in the same book? Why do you think? The designer is helping the main designer and receiving credit to add a resume builder. She’s a contributor of the book. The designer may not be recognized yet, name wise, and is looking to get themselves positioned to get their name out.
Usually a contributor gets one time pay, regardless if the book is popular or not. While the original person on the front cover will receive a royalty and praises for the book sales, they are putting a lot of trust on the contributor designers to make the book successful. It’s a collaboration. Ultimately, the main designer on the front cover is responsible of the book doesn’t do well. I’ll explain later.
If a designer is the complete designer for the entire book, there will not be any other designers listed inside. There are several authors where the entire book is their own original work.
I attended a day long workshop several years ago that pretty much finished the concept of me wanting to be a book published designer. There were several experts that spoke. Some original full cover to cover designers, some collaborative designers and a publishers.
To do a book, it takes about 1 year from concept getting onto the shelves. A year… can you imagine? A year is a long time to invest yourself into a concept that may or may not be successful.
Usually but not always, a designer will get a basic rate of pay that okay but not fabulous. It usually doesn’t cover the time invested into the book. The publisher takes over converting the designers work into a full book. Many cases, the publisher will arrange photoshoots of the models for the book. They do so on their dime but the more they invest into the book, the less the designer will take from the royalty of the sales.
The publisher needs to have a reputation to get their books onto store shelves or at least a solid online reputation to have the book sold. Either a full hardcopy of the book or digital copy for options. The publisher will know the best way to get the book on the shelf and will have advice if the topic doesn’t fit and may give you direction to increase the book sales.
The deal breaker for me in this process is the final sales of the book. The royalty for book sales is not what people would think it would be. In some cases, a set number of books needs to be sold before royalties kick in so the publisher gets their initial investment back of giving a lump sum of money up front prior to sales. In having some acquaintances as designers who sell books, the kick back in royalty is low. In the cases that I know about, designers say the time invested is never really received back. So you may see designers suddenly stop writing pattern books, if the payback isn’t compensating for the time investment, it’s not really worth the time. Yes, it’s nice to see your name in print and add a resume opportunity but if the payback is too low, there comes a point where there’s a line in the sand.
Also, with book sales, guess who markets the book. The publisher helps you get it on the shelves, assuming the stores will want to put it on their shelves but it’s ultimately your responsibility to advertise your book to get people to buy it. So you have to lay out an action plan of self advertising to get the book to catch on to be sold. If you cannot convince people to buy your book, you won’t see a royalty cheque… it’s pretty much a game where you cannot predict the outcome. If you cannot get people to buy your book and the stores are not selling your book in volumes that matter, chances are, you will never write another book.
So the Collaborative Designer has the responsibility to ultimately sell the book. However, if you are a contributing designer, you may be required to help advertise the same book to get it to lift off.
The process of writing a book, to publishing to marketing isn’t for the weak. It’s a long time process and may or may not pay off.
This is a part of the business where there is a line in the sand of acceptable business practices and squatting on others to advertise yourself. This is a part of the business where I’m not so friendly.
We are now in a digital age where the online market is the place to advertise. I’ve done my share of alienating myself from designers for designers squatting on my platforms to self advertise for their own sales and reputation gain at the expense of the time an money I have invested into The Crochet Crowd. Some designers treat other pages, that don’t belong to them, as a free for all to self advertise themselves. In some pages, some page owners don’t mind this practice, I am not one of them. The Crochet Crowd is my property and I protect it and the community members who are part of it.
We built ourselves up through referrals of crocheters telling their friends. We’ve done this through providing a safe space for people to share their show’n tell and stories with us.
So, The Crochet Crowd, started to out grow designer pages years ago and has continued to grow. Once we started surpassing the norm of the industry, some designers feel they can self advertise on our property without even asking us. This is a HUGE NO NO! Not just for The Crochet Crowd, but for any designer who is using another space to self advertise without permission.
We don’t allow that on our page as we have spent a great deal of time of money investing in ourselves over years of work. For a (new) designer to start self advertising on our page is very disrespectful. We don’t go to other designer pages to advertise ourselves and expect the same courtesy in return.
Again, some designers and pages allow to self advertise and others do not. We do not accept the policy of “Do it and apologize later!” We have contact information to ask first and if the designer or self-advertiser doesn’t exercise that option first, it means they are most likely not going to be an active member of the community and are there to self advertise at all costs.
The Myth of 20% Changes
There’s a wives tale out there that changing a pattern 20% becomes your original design. This is false and will not hold up in court if a situation ever gets that far. If you are changing a pattern, you are doing an Adaptation. You are copying someone else’s work and using other’s work of mathematics and stitch calculations to make it your own.
How do you define exactly what is 20%? That is the legal question. If there are 5 lines of instructions and you change 1 line, that could be classified as 20% but the line changed may be so insignificant. For example, if you change the starting chain but nothing else, in an instruction of 5 lines, that would be 20% but the instruction change is so minor where you never had to put any thought to the remaining of the design. Even if you change 1 line that has a bit of math in it, the other designer has figured out the other 4. It’s pretty much content theft and violation of copyright if someone is to call it for what it is.
This is highly misunderstood by the public and new designers.
Clothing and utilitarian projects can have a copyright symbol but the design cannot be copyright. There are items in our world that exist such as human heads, body proportions and things that are consistent. Our head sizes are average arm lengths, heights and etc. You cannot copyright the project. The only thing that is copyright within the pattern is the stitch usage itself. The order of the stitches or even rows of repeating pattern can be copyright.
For example, if you are doing up a sweater for XL. The starting chain for the same hook size and yarn would most likely be the same across different types of sweaters. It’s just because the size is known and is for clothing.
Shaping of standard items like afghans being a certain size are also standard. It’s the stitch repeats that are copyright, not the shaping.
The public misunderstand this concept a lot as well.
Designers usually do a good job in respecting others in this area to try to be unique. Why design something that is already out there… Be unique.
Crocheters get hung on this concept the most. The ownership of a pattern isn’t always what it appears. The name of the designer could be on the pattern but doesn’t always make them the owner of the pattern.
Designers who are given opportunity to sell their designs to a publisher, which could even be a yarn company releases their rights to the pattern through the transaction of the sale. So for example, the one pattern I have done for Yarnspirations that is part of a kit, it’s no longer my design to give out. I released my rights to the pattern, so though I designed it, I am no longer the owner of the design.
There are a handful of companies that offer to buy designs for their own need to publish on their books or websites. Once it becomes their property, they can do pretty much anything they want with the design. Unless stated their are restrictions in the contract. Chances are though, if you are selling a pattern, you walk away. However, in many cases, if there are errors, the company will keep in contact with you for revisions or consumer help. Again, read the contract.
I have seen in the past where a design has been sold and a new design has been created by the designer that is close to the sold design. They have adapted the pattern that was originally their own design but the rights are released. So the adaptation is on a pattern that has been sold, this practice doesn’t create working relationships. It builds walls as the company who purchased the pattern were looking a unique design that doesn’t exist. If the designer is creating an adaptation of the same pattern, it devalues the original pattern which can have financial or website traffic consequences holding the designer liable.
Getting Customers to Download or Buy Pattern
So where do you post your work to get people to notice. You can try Ravelry or even ETSY. The Crochet Crowd doesn’t get involved in individual selling of patterns. We do not sell patterns books. We do everything pattern related for free.
You can open up your own Facebook Page under your designer name and let your consumer base refer you to their friends. That’s how The Crochet Crowd build up. With Facebook, garbage in, garbage out. Many people get on a kick with Facebook and then abandon it for a while and then return. Your customers need consistency, so don’t over extend yourself so that your social media is inconvenient that causes you to be away for extended periods of time.
People generally unsubscribe or unfollow if you are not being active. It’s a great place to set up questions or for consumers to talk to you directly.
Concentrate on the Photos
Remember that saying… “Don’t judge a book by its cover!” That is not true for the crochet industry. Your picture is your gateway to a sale or people to download the pattern. Most of The Crochet Crowd project photos taken by me are with my iPhone. There are tons of tutorials on YouTube about quality and conceptual display options for lighting and more. There’s no excuse for crappy photos.
Your pattern may be the next best thing to sliced bread but if your photo sucks, the consumers will completely miss an opportunity. So you have to put time into your photography, if not more time than typical. The best blogger for photography is Sarah of Repeat Crafter Me! Her photography is second to none! Hard to believe she takes those photos on the floor of her office on white board. She knows how to photograph her stuff.
The photos are the ones that people will pin and share with their friends. So you have to get in the game with photography.
Sales for Patterns to Publishers
From what I have come to understand. Publishers who buy your patterns have a set rate that they are willing to pay for designs. Sometimes, they will take your sample and have it photographed at their expense. They could keep the sample unless you negotiate otherwise.
Each set rate is unique between publishers. As cheap as $25 to several hundred dollars. Remember, the more you are paid, the more requirements you may have to help publicize the pattern. There’s no such thing as free money.
The Crochet Crowd has never sold a pattern to a publisher. So this is part of the business where I have not gone through the entire process of releasing a pattern to a publisher where money is exchanged. Any patterns that I have shared with others has been done so on straight exchange of they advertise it, I advertise it… I help them, they help me.
Sales for Patterns to Public
If selling through Ravelry or ETSY, you have to think about what you are willing to spend for an individual pattern. I have the mentality of MORE for LESS. The more expensive your pattern, the less you will sell. The cheaper, the more you will sell. There’s a teeter totter relationship here.
You have to price yourself based on what kind of sales volumes you expect. Yes, you could sell 200 patterns for 5.99 but what is you sold 600 patterns for 3.99. Crocheters are price conscious.
You also have to factor in the expenses that the service you are listing on will take for every transaction. In some cases, there may be two services that take a portion of your transactions. You need to consider that.
You may have a listing fee of a percentage of your asking price. If you are accepting PayPal as an option to pay, they also take a percentage of the transaction. So for a pattern of 99 cents, you may only see 60 cents by the time everyone takes their cut before you see the final amount.
Unfortunately, services taking a percentage of your sale is normal. Think about book royalty. The retailer gets their profit first, the publisher is paid the wholesale, and the author is given a small royalty that is negotiated. It could just be $2 on a book that is $24.95.
So self publishing may be the way to go to sell patterns individually. Less work and companies involved. Yes, you lose transaction fees, but the cost of those transaction fees may be far less than what you could score on a book royalty. Self publishing is looking better and better isn’t it!
Consumers want the patterns to be a downloadable PDF. Most writing programs have the option to save the pattern as a PDF.
Come up with your own unique look to a pattern. Highly recommending patterns be written in a two column format. Many instructions aren’t very long and two column format works wonders.
Use a font that is easy to read. Put you name on the PDF and put your ©2018 Copyright on the pattern to make it legal.
You can either email the instructions to the purchaser or have a system that allows people to download it directly upon purchase. I recommend the automatic download option. It’s pretty much seamless and the consumer doesn’t have to wait for you to answer your emails and for you to transfer it.
Once you start writing patterns and distributing them. You need to be available for consumer questions. Sometimes consumer questions prompt issues with the pattern to be fixed. So this gives you opportunities to have corrections suggested by the public. If you choose to ignore the public and questions, you have no business being a crochet designer. Unanswered questions, especially to those who have spent money on you is bad business. You will most likely get bad reviews and complaints in social media.
If you answer questions, consumers are likely to help promote you.
Suggested question turn around time is under 3 days.
Hopefully This Helps
Well that’s my synopsis in being a crochet designer. It’s fun to inspire others but there is a great deal of work involved in making it happen.