Thoughts

I finished my slippers. See?

I love them. Super comfy (making the inner sole and upper of the slipper out of yummy yarn helped). And it’s a relatively easy pattern. Not my own, you can find it in Crochet World, Dec. 2005. They’re called Gumdrop Slippers and are designed by Agnes Russell. I have one more pair to make for Kelli.

On to other thoughts….

According to Ravelry, people really like my designs. That blows me away. Perhaps it’s uncouth to discuss that here, but as a somewhat new designer it’s exciting to me. My free patterns are downloaded every day from Ravelry. That just blows me away. It really does. I’m not sure why. I guess it shouldn’t. I should be secure enough in my designs to know when I put a design out there that people will want it. Well, I’m not that secure. Again, I’m still new. Every time I finish a pattern and upload it, I hold my breath. It’s not until that first download hits, or the first sale hits, that I can relax a bit. Seeing a pattern get favorited helps, too.

Why?

Because designing isn’t as simple as I used to believe. As I mentioned in the CLF forum, I used to think designers just came up with an idea, crocheted it up, and wrote it down. Well, I can tell you now that it’s not the case. There is a lot of hard work involved in it. I am constantly designing. Even on my days off my brain is going. Any time I’m out I’m looking at new trends. I now have to pay attention to what’s cool and trendy. I never used to do that. When I see a cute top or skirt or outfit I pick it apart in my head to see if I can do something similar in crochet. I always keep my eyes and ears open to see what new yarns are out there.

I also have to keep all my skills up to date. I’m now learning new techniques so I can utilize those in my patterns and in my lessons. I am a process crocheter so even when I am making something for myself it is often to learn a new technique or learn how to construct something.

When I’m working on a design, it can take anywhere from 10-12 hours a day for upwards of three weeks. There is the swatching and the math before I can even start. Then there’s writing the beginning of the pattern and starting. Usually I have to rip back at least 3 or 4 times and redo my math. And once I finish the item, I’m still not done. I have to proof the pattern and make sure it’s written according to the industry standards. Then I either pass it on to a tester to double check my instructions or I wait a day before making a new item.

Once that’s all done, I’m still not finished. I still have to take pictures (I’m not a strong photographer, yet, so I take a lot of pictures and pick one or two), edit them to include my copyright, and add them to the pattern (if it’s for self-publication…submission things are totally different). Then I upload the pattern to my storefront, and that lately has been taking about 30 minutes to do because it’s been fighting with me.

After that I can consider myself almost done. I then have to add the pattern and project to my Ravelry pages so that others can see it. Ravelry has become the best source of promotion for me.

When everything is done then what? Then it’s on to the next design. I have to constantly design if I ever hope to make enough on this to at least pay my own bills. I’m very lucky that I don’t have to pay rent or utilities right now. I’m very lucky that when money is tight John covers my bills. I’m also dependent upon teaching as well. It’s my somewhat steady income.

So why do I do it? I had someone ask that the other day. I do it because I can’t not design. My brain won’t let me stop designing. I have to create. It’s what fuels my soul. I was told in the very beginning of this journey that if I was doing this to become rich and famous it wasn’t going to happen. If I was doing it because I love to design, then I’d be successful. I do it because I love the feeling of giving birth to an idea. I toil over a design (as evidenced above) and in the end, I have something that looks exactly like it did when it was in my head. Only now I can touch it and see it and others can, too. It’s an awesome feeling. For my really complicated designs, it’s made me cry every time.

There’s also the perks to this. I work from home. I set my own schedule. I don’t have to put in to take a day off next month to go to Disney with my niece for her birthday (a yearly event that sometimes I’ve had to miss). If I’m sick I can rest and do my research online and give my hands a break. Most of my deadlines are set by me so I can be realistic and change them if I know I can’t meet them. I can work in my PJs (come on, that’s a cool thing). I don’t have to put makeup on or fix my hair before going to work. If I want to start work late, I know that I can just work later that day. I can take my work with me anywhere, so if I have a friend in need I can go there to help and take my work with me. Next month I may need to go to take care of my dad after knee surgery (if he decides to do that) and I know that I don’t have to take a week off from work. I can just take my work with me.

So are there downsides? Yeah. There are. I left a job where I was making a very comfortable living. Last year’s taxes showed a loss in my designing and teaching career. Right now I’m holding my head barely above water in that regard, but I’m also not spending money on things I need to. Once my tax return comes in I need to invest in books on pattern grading, decide what I’m going to do about my website and domain, possibly hire someone to do my web design because I just don’t have time anymore, and I need to figure out a way to advertise my lessons more. I need to find a way to get to the CGOA conferences at some point so I can take the classes I need to take. Money is my biggest concern at all times. There’s a lot of work for very little return. Many people want free patterns and tend to shy away from buying patterns. This is hurting designers everywhere. I’m not even going to touch the copyright infringement issue and how that’s hurting designers (this post is already becoming too long).

So why did I go into all this in here? Well, because it’s stuff that’s been on my mind lately. And because I’ve had people ask me “How do I get started?” and “Why do you do it?”. And while I’ve responded in email and forum posts, I wanted this out to where everyone can see it.

My point of all of this? Know that designers work very hard to provide good patterns for you to use. If you like a designer and they have patterns for sale, buy them if you are able. Don’t just search for a free pattern that is similar to what they designed and have for sale. Yes, I have free patterns available. They were all written very well and I proofed them, too. However, I put more work into the ones that are for sale. That’s where my line is on these patterns. If it’s something quick for me to write, I’ll offer it for free. If it takes me more than 2 days to write it, then it’s going to be for sale. I value my work, and I ask that you value designers’ work, too.

Okay, off the soapbox. I need to prepare for a lesson today.