Monday, July 14, 2014

Battling Inner Demons- Free patterns and Paid patterns

Hello all (long post),

It's been a very long time since I sat down to the computer with the intent on sharing more than a new pattern with you. 

I recently read something somewhere about free patterns vs for sale patterns, and I want to talk about that. I think I might have brought this up once or twice in the past, but it's been so long now that I can't remember the previous conversation. I honestly can't remember the article I read, or where it was, but apparently it bothered me on an unconscious level because here I am preparing to pour my heart out on the matter. 

The feeling that I walked away with from reading the article was that, somehow, by giving my patterns away I am devaluing them, and other designers. I'm pretty sure that isn't what was in the article. And I'm also pretty sure my opinion was swayed heavily by my hormonal situation. Just the same, I want to address why I give my patterns away.

There are those of you who know me. Some on a personal level, most just because you've followed my blog for years. However, many, MANY of you don't know me at all. My "giving" started way before I knew how to design. My daughter was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) when she was 9 years old. She went through 2 years and 2 months of chemotherapy. The outpouring of support and love for us was a very overwhelming thing. I wanted to sow back to the people that had blessed us, and impacted us, and saved my daughter's life. I made boxes of toys, and blankets, and baby hats, etc for the hospital that Stefani was treated through. We dealt with the Child Life Specialists at the hospital on a quite frequent basis. They were so gracious and so happy with the boxes I brought. I really felt like I was making a difference in someone's life. Designing came much later.

I started designing toys just for fun. I think my very first written design came because I joined in a swap on Crochetville where I would send toys to someone's kids, and she would send toys to mine. I made her little girl a doll with red hair to match and a backpack to put the doll in. The little girl was easy. However, the little boy was into space and astronaut type stuff. This was about 10 years ago, and even though crochet patterns were on the rise, there just wasn't anything near the amount of patterns available now. Little boy patterns were especially hard to find. I came up with my Rocketship with Astronauts and Aliens toy bag pattern for her little boy. I, then, made a set for my nephew for Christmas along with designing the Fantasy Castle with Characters set for my niece. Toy patterns just started flowing out of me. Pokemon characters, and American Girl patterns, and more toy bags, and learning toys. I honestly didn't want any money for them, I just wanted people to have access to some fun toy patterns. 

As time went along, and my designing got better, I considered selling my patterns. I originally tried selling my AG patterns on Ebay. I ended up hating it. I can't stand Ebay, but Etsy was still a fledgling website and I really didn't know anything about it. I eventually ended up giving away my AG patterns too. I began to deal with some inner demons of a sort after that. People in my life thought I should be selling my patterns, I was worried that if I charged for them no one would want them...or use them. To be quite honest, I wanted people to use my patterns more than I wanted money for them. I spent a lot of time praying about what to do. I tried submitting some designs to a magazine or two. Never heard a word back from anyone. To me, that was the crochet world telling me I wasn't good enough, and my patterns weren't good enough. But, I had people that loved my free patterns. 

Over the years, I have continued to give away my patterns. Not because I felt like I had to anymore, (many of my patterns were gaining notoriety, and being shared by several free pattern search engines.) but because I wanted to. All that time I spent in prayer led me to the conclusion that this is a ministry for me. It not only brings me great joy, but I feel like I am feeding into people's lives...even if it's only in the smallest way. I had someone at a church that I started attending give me the "what for" because she thought I should be selling my patterns. She told me that those are ideas given to me by God to profit me, and that I wasn't being a good steward with what he had placed in me. She makes and sells jewelry, and told me that she would never teach anyone how to make jewelry because that would be taking business away from herself. I don't understand this kind of thinking. I honestly don't. God NEVER gave me my talent for me to hoard. I have received email after email from one person or the next telling me how grateful they are that I gave my patterns away. Grandma's on fixed budgets, mom's with a house full of kids and limited funds, etc that tell me if it weren't for free patterns like mine, they would have had a hard time making cute toys for their kids and grandkids for Christmas and Birthdays. I don't necessarily need the kudos, but I appreciate and treasure every single letter I get like that. It means so much that I was able to help them in their time of need. I have been through many dry years in my life where I needed and didn't have, and it was because of the generosity of someone else that I was able to get through or succeed. That's all I want to be. A funnel for the blessings that God bestows upon me. God has blessed me with this gift. All praise goes to him for it. Without him and the patterns he drops in my heart, I wouldn't be the kind of designer I am. I'm no Elizabeth Zimmerman (yet)...but, I am getting better with every design and every pattern. 

I have under 10 patterns that I have available for sale. These patterns were put up with a price because I asked God what he thought, and I felt peace about charging for them. If I don't feel peace about charging for a pattern, I give it away for free. That's just how it works. I believe he wants me to use my hands to create, and to give, and to sow, and eventually...to reap. It's all about him in the end, anyway. :) He has graced me with favor to have a pattern purchased by a major yarn company recently. I'm just waiting until they put it out so I can share it with you. But, I would have given it away if he told me to.

But...back to the article that put this bug up my booty. I think that if people want to sell their patterns they absolutely should, but I don't feel like a 'paid' pattern is somehow superior to a free one. I don't feel like a free pattern should come with a stigma of "lesser quality". I do my very best to make sure that each pattern would be worth purchasing. After all, shouldn't we be putting our very best foot forward? I have run across quite a few free patterns that were really hard to understand, so I can sympathize with someone raising an issue about  "just because it's free doesn't mean you don't have to do a good job". I just don't want someone labeling a free pattern designer as "not as good". 

It takes me back to when knitting was becoming this hot phenomenon about 10-12 years ago. All of a sudden all the Urbanites were buying knitting needles and hand painted yarns, and making scarves and socks. I happened to open a yarn store in the midst of it all. I had quite a few people come through my doors downplaying crochet, and turning their noses up at my simplistic yarn selection. I was servicing a small community in the middle of nowhere filled with little old ladies that wanted cheap acrylic yarn...not handspun alpaca for $25.00 a hank! The tourists were. the. worst. I even had one woman argue with me that the sweater that I had displayed in my window could not be crochet, because "you can't crochet like that." I simply said, "Well, it is crochet, because I made it and I don't know how to knit." This overall attitude permeated the internet too. That's why places like Crochetville were created. So there was somewhere for people who crocheted to gather and talk about their craft without fear of being treated like the red-headed step child of the crafting world...even though we were on all the other crafting forums. Even Ravelry was really bad for a while. Then groups like Crochet Liberation Front started up and took a stand. 

Don't get me wrong, I love knitting now. I became a dual fiber crafter when I owned my yarn store because I needed to be able to talk to my knitting customers knowledgeably. But, in this comparison between knitters vs crocheters, and paid patterns vs free patterns....that same "snooty" behavior is beginning to permeate the air of pattern designing. 

I guess what I'm trying to say to the crafting world is this: Please don't put out the vibe that just because a pattern is free- it's of a lesser quality. Those of us that give our patterns away do it intentionally. It's not a mistake. For myself, it is no longer an insecurity issue either. I want to add that I don't feel like I'm taking anything away from the rest of the designers out there because I choose to give my patterns away. I work very hard at not replicating patterns for free that I know are out there for sale somewhere. If something like that happens...I have no idea, and it's never intentional. When something pops in my head, I will usually do a search on Ravelry and Google to see if anything like that is already done, and if it is...then I don't bother sharing my version, because that's over kill. No sense in just continuing to repeat what everyone else has done. If it's not unique..then why share it? It's just white noise at that point. 

I am even going to be so bold as to say this...if you run across a free pattern....don't steal the idea and write up your own version and sell it. That's tacky. It's as tacky as stealing the idea from a paid pattern and giving it away for free. 

I know several designers now. Many of them are friends with me on Facebook. Many of them sell their patterns. In no way am I pointing a finger at any of them. They are full of integrity, and really cute ideas. I like to promote their patterns on my page. I like promoting their sales, etc on my page. I am all about a free market...I am also all about a 'good deal'. lol. 

If I injured you, I'm sorry. This long rant is in no way a "Down with paid patterns" rant. Instead, it is an "All patterns should be taken on their own merits" rant! Let me know if you have something to say on this subject.