Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Why I'm not Designing Knitwear Right Now by Kristin Nicholas

If you are a knitter and follow my blog because you knit, you have probably noticed that I'm not publishing new knit projects right now. I've had people say things to me like - "You could be making a fortune designing knitting patterns now." and "Knitting is so hot now! There are so many possibilities for you now." 

So what is up with Kristin? I began working in the needlework/knitwear field in the 1980's. I have been a Creative Director, written a few knitting books, designed hundreds of sweaters, mittens, hats, scarves etc., travelled to many great knitting fairs and conventions, and knit and sold some very good yarns. I have even been a Knitting Expert on PBS TV for several seasons. I've had my own signature yarn - 5 times. But frankly, I am not very interested in designing handknits right now. It's not that I am done with it forever. I guess I am taking a break.
I was passionate about knitting for a very long time. And it was my job. Right now I'm not feeling the passion. I am still being creative - just not with sticks and string. 

A couple months ago, a google doc began floating around the internet about pattern sales via Ravelry in the month of August. You can look at it hereThings have changed so much in the world of hand-knitwear design. The internet happened and knitters were one of the first groups to latch onto its power. Then came Ravelry. And it changed more.

I came up through the ranks of working for a yarn company. I started working at Classic Elite Yarns as the Creative Director in 1984. I loved my job and had passion for the knitting industry, for my co-workers, for my colleagues, for the yarns and the colors, for the challenges that it all offered.  For years, I swatched new yarns at night in my off hours - like my co-workers Cathy, Linda, Lori, Pauline, and Susan (sorry if I missed someone). We would write the patterns, find knitters to make them and then have a photo shoot for the knitting patterns. This is how it worked in those days. Designing was just a small part of each of our jobs. We wore many hats. I loved it. I had many great opportunities. I saw the world. I learned Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Indesign. I learned about business and life. I learned about marketing as I went. Sometimes I miss my old life - the structure and the camaraderie. 

Once I went freelance in 2001, I began designing for myself for the books I was contracted to do. I had always dreamed of being an author and I was thrilled to be able to pursue that dream and actually get someone to print my words and ideas. The publisher would give me a small advance I would swatch, write the patterns, find someone to knit the designs I didn't have time to do myself, help with the photography, do illustrations and then the book would be in the hands of the publisher. Once it was ready to go out in the world, I would promote the book. Those books are still in print and I cannot do anything with the patterns that are in them. All those designs - and there are a lot of them - are basically stuck in books and I have no right to them until they go out of print. Twice a year, I get a teeny royalty check or a notice that I still owe the publisher my advance. Knitters aren't buying knitting books anymore if you haven't noticed. Most publishers are only printing books that are technique based, not pattern based. Or they are doing books with yarn companies that act as part promotional and they do not have to give advances for or pay design fees for (as far as I understand that arrangement). 

When I wrote my last knitting book - Color By Kristin: How to Design Your Own Beautiful Knits (published by Soho/Sixth and Spring), I pretty much said all I wanted to say in the world of knitwear design. I wrote a book that gave 26 different classic and timeless projects along with scads of color work knitting charts and edgings. I gave the instructions for knitters to personalize these designs to become their own. I also instructed knitters on how to design their own color work charts. I consider that book Color By Kristin my magnum opus. Color by Kristin is still in print. Knitters have to buy the book to get the patterns. And that is too bad because knitters now want to only buy one pattern - not a book. My designs are stuck in that book and I do not have the rights to publish the patterns myself. And so - like many of my good designs that are in books or lost in the pages of knitting magazines that were recycled many years ago, my best work has become obsolete. 

I have continued piddling along putting out a pattern here and there for my website and Ravelry. When I released my latest pattern I sold a total of 36 copies of the PDF via both my website and Ravelry. That is $216. And for that $216 I knit 2 sweaters, photographed the pattern after begging my friends Will and Shalee to use their children Emme and Marlee as models (I gave them the sweaters), wrote and sized the pattern, desk top published the pattern using Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Indesign, and Acrobat. And I paid Paypal and Ravelry commission.

Available for $6.00 on my website or Ravelry
(Easy Aran Pattern - Available on my website here or Ravelry here)

Now maybe it wasn't the greatest sweater. It was a classic design and maybe too similar to others out there. But I'm not going to second guess that. I presumed that because it was very knittable and the type of design people love to make, I would make some decent money from on-line PDF pattern sales. I didn't have a sweater like it available on-line. The many classic designs that I did design are owned by the yarn company I used to work for and they get the pattern sales revenue. (Some magazines do pay the designer a small percentage of the sales of the on-line pattern sales. Yarn companies do not pay designers past the initial sale of the design). 

So I was wrong with that last PDF Kid's Easy Aran Design. Really wrong. It wasn't worth the time I put into it to do all that work. The lack of sales of that pattern made me re-think if I did want to keep writing patterns and putting them for sale on-line. Was that the way I wanted to spend my time? Was it worth it? 

The yarn biz has changed so much. I'm older and definitely not the hot young thing anymore. (That is an understatement.) I don't even know who the new designer of the moment is and I really don't care. I don't like to knit lace nor do I understand why so many people are interested in knitting lace shawls. Seriously, how many can you have? And socks? I just don't get it. I'm not interested in joining groups on Ravelry and interacting with people I don't meet in person. Boy, do I sound like a grump which I really am not. I do not think I have ever once looked at the Hot Right Now Pattern Section on Ravelry until today when I was working on this blog post. Did you know that there are now 274,008 handknitting patterns now available on Ravelry? How does anyone actually decide what to knit, or discover anyone new? I knit what I want to - not what others are knitting. I don't have the energy to become some kind of internet knitting star. I'm not interested in twittering my every stitch. I get tired of the self-promotion that is necessary to sell the knitting patterns. I find it too difficult to travel to far-off places to teach knitting because of my family and farm responsibilities. 

As I have gotten older - I have also realized that my time is getting shorter with each year. I need and want to do the things that make me happy and fulfilled as a creative person. If you are still here - I know this has been long - then you know I am still interested in designing all kinds of colorful and beautiful things, just not knitting right now. 

I am loving hand-printing fabric. 
I am loving painting pictures. I am loving embroidering fabrics. I am loving gardening. I am loving making pottery and painting it. I am loving cooking and enjoying my home and family. I am loving my family and our life here in western Massachusetts with all our animals. I don't really know what the next creative phase of my life will be once I finish the current book I am working on -- Crafting a Patterned Home -- but I can't wait to see what is next for me. I hope you all will keep reading even though I am not knitting much right now. 

I hope this post will open up some conversation within the knitting and creative world. I was spurred to write it after listening to this Crafty Planner podcast with Diane Gillead of the Craftypod blog and podcast. Listen to it if you get a chance. You can still buy my books via my website here. And my knitting patterns here or on Ravelry here. I will be grateful.

I would love to hear your thoughts. Where do you buy your knitting patterns now? Do you ever buy knitting pattern books? Do you only knit from free patterns? Do you follow the "hot knitters"? Do you follow knitters on Twitter? On Facebook? Or do you just like to knit to knit and could care less about what everyone else is doing? Are you a knitwear designer? What are you thinking about it all?

Added 12/6/16 - Let me make this clear - I do not hate Ravelry. I do not hate sock knitters or lace knitters - I'm just not interested in that kind of knitting nor do I understand the fascination it has for others. I am not sad or unhappy. The world changes and life goes on. I am moving on too and super excited about what the future will bring - different opportunities and lots of learning for me. I wrote this post for my many friends and followers who knit to explain why I am not designing knitwear anymore. Never did I think I would have hit such a nerve nor so many would have read this post. It is good that people are talking and I am happy I helped with the conversation. 

Here are some of the patterns I have designed in the past that are available from me as PDF Downloads. I will receive the money for the pattern because I published them. I appreciate every sale. I've included links to where you can buy them on my website and on Ravelry. It really doesn't matter where you buy them from - Ravelry graciously doesn't charge much of a commission so if you like keeping your patterns there - purchase through them and add them to your library. 

Description is below each photo.
Kristin's Colorful Christmas Stockings - 5 designs - one color/row - available on my website here or Ravelry here. $12.
Kristin's Creative Christmas Stockings - 6 designs, multiple variations - Available on my website here or Ravelry here.  $12.

A Dog in Sheep's Clothing - A Pattern in 8 sizes for dogs or lambs - available on my website here or Ravelry here. $6

Farmgirl's Stocking Cap - sized for kids and adults. Available on my website here and Ravelry here. $6

Quarters Cap - Sized for babies to adults. Available on my website here or Ravelry here. $5

Olympia's Felted Flowers - available on my website here or Ravelry here. $6

Heart to Heart Mittens - 2 designs, several sizes - Available on my website here or Ravelry here. $6


Melissa Morgan-Oakes said...

Thank you for putting into print a lot of what's been in my heart for a long time. I hope knitter people read and understand. I am and will always be insanely grateful to everyone who's bought a book or a pattern.

Barb Kehl said...

Good for you for following your current interests. We all change with time. Reading your blog and seeing what you are up to in your creating inspires me to see my world with more of an artistic view.

JackieLemon said...

You were one of my favorite designers during your Classic Elite days (still have 2 books from that time) & I could always pick out your designs in magazines. They were so distinctive. But things have changed & I no longer even get the knitting magazines I used to & yet I am knitting more than ever. I love your blog for all the colorful inspiration it gives me & I wIll continue to support you any way I can. Thank you so much.

Angelique den Brok said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I recognize a lot of what you say about the costs and profit of designing and it's the main reason I don't spend too much time at it. The really succesful ones on Ravelry do not just spend lots of time on designing and sample knitting, but also on photography, editing, marketing, customer support, etc.
I'm lucky to work as a translator and I translate mainly craft books and patterns - I had the privilige to translate your wonderful "50 Sunflowers" book into Dutch! For me, it's a way to be working in the creative world but still generate a steady income.
Have to go now, need to get a copy of Color with Kristin!

Anonymous said...

I am 65, and have long since learnt that our focus can change over the years in all sorts of ways, depending on personal circumstances, inspiration, and the wider social/cultural context. I have knitted since childhood, and still knit. When my older grandchild was born 13 years ago, I realised how much knitting had changed since I knitted for my own children - more exciting yarns and patterns, and knitting had become a social endeavour, not just something one did individually as it had largely become in the postwar period. And knitting was no longer a way to save money - generally a hand knitted garment made of quality yarn will cost more in dollars, including time, than an equivalent bought garment.

I have bought many knitting books (including your gorgeous books), patterns and magazines over the years, but I now seldom buy anything. I feel I am at peak publication for my needs and knitting inclinations. The challenge now is to make good use of the wonderful resources I now have. And to do a cull of issues of magazines, both digital and print, where I know I will never use a pattern or a technique within. I have also put a brake on yarn purchases, instead focusing on using what I have (which is a fair bit) and only buying yarn for a specific project, not just because it feels and looks appealing.

I will keep reading your blog, regardless of content, because I enjoy the glimpses of your life. I have lived in the country in a past part of my life, and know how it can be romanticised. You very usefully share the realities, including the challenges of making a living. All the very best to you and your family.

Susan said...

I've been a fan since you were at Classic Elite and CE was over on Perkins Street. I own single patterns and books by you, and I think you hit the knitting trifecta for me - cables, color work, classic. But I've enjoyed seeing you branch out and explore other forms of artistic expression, too.

I may be one of the rare knitters who still does buy books, but they have to be special books. I don't read a lot of the knitting magazines any longer. The designers who I am most likely to knit tend to be people who self publish their designs and take control of the entire process. From what I understand, some designers have done this after seeing other designers stuck, like you, in situations where they don't have control over their own work or, as in the case with Interweave, lose the rights to sell it even though it is still being sold.

Sometimes I despair of how yarn companies, publishers, and the Internet have created an environment which has a lot of noise that I don't want, but which also excludes things that I do want. I'm hopeful that things will work out eventually. That said, after knitting and only knitting for the past 25 years, I'm learning to hand sew, so I can expand my realm of expression. Don't stop your creative endeavors - you continue to be an inspiration!

Lee said...

I will always be one of your biggest fans! And I will continue to read your blog and support your work, even if it is not knitting. Your creativity is inspiring!

Gail the Kangaroo Dyer said...

Kristin, You hit the nail on the head. I view you as one of the hardest working people I know. Thank you for writing this and educating all of us.

Pammie said...

Kristin, I've been a fan since I took some of your Creativebug classes several years ago. That led me to your blog where I've enjoyed seeing what you're up to and creating. I've bought 3 of your books, and have bought a few of your designs on Ravelry. I'm a knitter, sewer and quilter, but primarily spend my time knitting. I typically use pay-for patterns but once in a while run across a free one that I like. I enjoy you and find you so inspiring. Maybe one day I can come to a workshop at your farm. Thank you!

Unknown said...

Thank you for your insight. Life transitions are a necessary step, especially when whole industries undergo immense change, as the publishing world has experienced. Coping with changes they bring is aided by thoughtful decision making. I use all forms of media, electronic and print, so when I find a pattern or book I love, I purchase it or access through a library, no matter where/how it's offered. Ravelry is an excellent forum, since it offers an international audience to designers. I use Ravelry a lot (75%?), though it is not my exclusive source for patterns, techniques, networking and support. I still love to have a book or pamphlet in hand to peruse and find inspiration.

Robin said...

Over the years, I have purchased a lot of knitting books. I've kept them, because it's fun to go back and look at them. If I purchase anything, it's mostly single patterns on Ravelry for a specific thing that I want to make. When Vogue Knitting Live was in Minneapolis, I took a class with Amy Herzog and I did decide to purchase several of her sweater books. She has good information about adjusting a standard sweater pattern to better fit you, given your specific measurements. I also took a brioche class with Nancy Marchant and I might purchase one of her books. By the way, your yarn is perfect for making nice squishy/bouncy brioche stitch scarves. I don't follow trends, trendy designers, or trendy yarn, although I do check out "what's hot right now" when I go on Ravelry and I have marked some items as favorites, so that I remember them.

While I enjoy all the variety that is out there in the knitting world if I were stranded (ha!) on a desert island, I could meet all of my knitting needs and be happy with your book, Color by Kristin, your patterns for felted flowers, and some of your yarn.

It's funny. For many years, knitting used to be my main (only?) creative outlet. It's not the main one anymore. In fact, I took an unplanned hiatus over the summer and early fall. It wasn't intentional. It just happened. I picked up my needles and yarn about a month ago and it felt good. I missed it.

Since I love your knitting designs, it does make me a little sad that you aren't doing this anymore, but I enjoy following and, hopefully, supporting what you are doing now. I also appreciate that, in particular with your stranded stuff, you have been trying to get people to branch out and not slavishly follow one particular pattern.

Mary Johnson said...

I buy some patterns on Ravelry and knit some free ones too but I love books the best for the value - number of patterns for the price seems better to me than the price of single patterns. Plus I love flipping through a book and yes, I do buy knitting books at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and online at Martingale.

I don't 'follow' knitting on facebook or twitter but I do read a few knitting blogs. I'm basically a quilter who knits and I blog and maintain a website myself with free instructions for quilts.

Unknown said...

You have always been a knitting rock star and a source of inspiration to me. I am someone who does buy books. I have several of yours. Your wild sense of color (and I mean that in a good way!) matches my personality and inspires me to try new things. I can only ever wish to be able to see what you see.

Best wishes to you... and now I'm off to check my (rather large) knitting library to be sure I'm not missing anything of yours.

Lynda aka FishWithSticks said...

I believe in you get what you pay for, so very rarely do I knit from free patterns. I mostly buy single patterns, but my rule of thumb is this:

I pay between $5-$7 for most random single patterns. So average it out at $6. For me to buy an entire book, it has to have enough patterns I want to knit that it's worth it. So for a $25 book, there needs to be 4 patterns. ($6 x 4 = $24) for a $30 book, 5 patterns, etc. But I generally prefer e-books over physical books because my house is small and I often knit elsewhere. So if I have an e-book I can always open it on my phone or iPad. Also it's much easier for me to keep track of what I own if I can look it up digitally.

I follow some knit designers on Twitter, but mostly friends. I mainly follow knitters for inspiration, and dyers for their yummy yummy yarns. LOL.

Crystal Palace Yarns said...

Hi Kristen,
As a fellow old time yarn industry person I totally understand what you are saying. Just as you have stopped designing handknits, we have decided after 45 years to leave the yarn business. Partly age, but mostly the market has changed SO much and we are losing so many LYS that we can't order the several thousand pounds of yarn needed for producing our own collections anymore. Hard decision, but necessary. We will continue with our Crystal Palace Classic Bamboo needles and accessories, but after late spring 2017, no more yarn.

I will continue to remember the good days when we all used to have fun at TNNA shows!

Fondly, Susan Druding,
Straw Into Gold/Crystal Palace Yarns

Jean Moss said...

I can relate to every word, Kristin. Professional knitwear designers have become dinosaurs. The democratisation of knitting on Ravelry, social media etc has squeezed designers so much that it's now impossible to make a living if, as you say, you're not the new flavour of the month. Also magazines are not totally blameless - everyone is looking for a cheap deal, irrespective of the hours that go into designing a knitting pattern. Just as everyone is said to have a book in them, so everyone has a knitting pattern in them, making places like Ravelry a knitter's oaradise. However, it's very shortsighted, as it's helping to dumb everything down to the same old stuff again and again. Young designers, in their rush to establish themselves are easy meat as they'll work for less than a living wage, not realising that when they need to pay mortgages, raise children etc the money just isn't there and they will have been instrumental in creating that situation.

Many knit designers get into it as they love the craft. Knitting is a part of me but I don't do it professionally now, in fact I rarely do it for relaxation anymore as it has such bad associations for me. I'm glad you've said your piece before it's made an impact on your health. I became so exhausted with the long hours and multi-tasking that it did take its toll.

Thank you for posting this, Kristin, tears welled up when I saw in print exactly what I feel. It's sad but there must be others who feel like this, I know at least a couple.

I know that you have many other creative outlets, as I do, but there'll always be a part of me that misses the whole shebang. But things have moved on and alas there's no room for dinosaurs in the knitting firmament.

Warmest wishes,
Jean Moss

Auntie Shan said...

Personnally, I'm still in AWE of your TIME *MANAGEMENT* skills!! So, a little "triage" of your CREATIVE *PRIORITIES* is no surprise. KUDOS for actually "steeking" it!

Speaking of... I just happened to be watching THAT K&CN episode the other day and caught your steek-demo. *Not* as SCARY a technique as I had imagined it to be. So, THANK YOU for that!

Anyhoo, being a person who just can't "read" Patterns - [Which is why I've never bought a Pattern off of Anyone] - I usually just stick to doing my own "designs", mostly with Colour and/or Texture. IF I happen upon a pic of an interesting Stitch or Pattern, I'll just work it out from there. Otherwise, I just let my massive YARN-STASH and HOOKS & NEEDLES take me along our own creative "ride"... ;-D

However, considering that I've also been a "BIBLIO"-Person since FOREVER, I've also amassed a rather LARGE "STITCHY" Reference Collection! Mostly yard-sale-thrift-store Finds of OLDER Tomes, with good Graphs and CLASSIC designs! [To me, "TREND" is a *verb*! It comes and eventually GOES! - Thankfully!]
I've also been acquainted with several Authors [SciFi writers] in the past. As one of the quite successful ones had truthfully put it on the subject of making WRITING a "paying"-CAREER, "...DON'T quit your DAY JOB!". And that was 20 years ago... With the INTERNET and the "REALITY"-UNIVERSE going on, it would appear that EVERYONE under "LOGAN'S RUN"-Age is a "Published"-Author now... At least until their batteries run out and/or there's a nasty solar flare knocking out their cell-service!

As for R"I"VELRY... I couldn't be bothered!

Whatever, taking a break from the rat-race and just sitting back for a while to persue OTHER interests is actually a smart move. -- But, no worries, okay? *WE'VE* got your back!

Meanwhile, GOOD LUCK with the WEEKEND *EVENT*!! I'll be keeping my hooks&needles crossed that you'll have CLEAR weather in time! AND, backed-up *PAYING*-CUSTOMERS!!


Marie said...

Your designs are still relevant to me and to my knitting friends...just two days, we were trying to recall which book of yours (yes, I buy them) contained a particular pattern. I have bags of Julia in my stash...I am sorry that the changes in the knitting marketplace have made it so difficult for talented artists to make a living in this business.

These days, I mainly follow your social media accounts for the visual inspiration that stretches beyond knitting--in my home, in my accessories, in my choices of art.

I still buy individual patterns, but mostly I delve deeply and buy books and magazines. The vast array of choices has made confusing and overwhelming the task of selecting what to knit next, so it's especially nice when a designer has a distinctive style and I can gravitate towards them when I know their style matches my knitting mood.

Your innate style will emerge in whatever you choose, just as it did when Kaffe Fasset expanded his reach beyond handknitting. Your fans look forward to seeing where inspiration leads you next.

Michele Jensen said...

So many things in your post have touched my heart. Recently, I have experienced a "crisis" in the online knitting community when all the posts became very political. I would be happy to engage in a conversation about American Federalism or American Constitutional Law to help explain my viewpoints -- but instagram didn't seem like the appropriate place! One knitting blogger asked people who voted for a particular candidate not to visit her blog. My internet knitting world dissolved in the blink of an eye.

So your post is very timely. I own many of your books and most of your self published patterns. I treasure them! But, honestly, I don't purchase many patterns anymore. After 40 years of knitting, I know what I like and have most of the patterns I need. In 2017, I plan only to purchase one Alice Starmore fair isle kit -- nothing else in the knitting world.

One of my CHERISHED memories, however, is of meeting you at a knitting convention. (Probably Stitches?). You were working a booth in the marketplace and I couldn't believe I was seeing a "knitting rock star!" Imagine my surprise when you took an enormous amount of time to talk with me and show me your work. We had a lovely conversation which was an incredible experience for me. And -- a much nicer memory than anything which has happened to me in the "online community." So it touched my heart to read that you didn't want to connect in Ravelry groups with people you won't be meeting in person. I feel the same way (but also I felt like a failure for feeling that way, somehow).

I adore your work. I spent some moments this week thinking about your beautiful home and your open house where people will be able to visit you. What an open heart you have. What a beautiful use of your gifts and talents.

If it helps to have a stranger who lives 800 miles away tell you that I am so proud of your body of work and so inspired by you, then know that this is true. "Julia" yarn was the best yarn ever and I have a son who asked for a hat knit from Julia every Christmas for years. Magazine spreads of your home are carefully clipped and saved in my inspiration folder. And in idle minutes while my needles are clicking away, I think of ways to afford a piece of your pottery or wonder if Julia has made any progress in searching for a care dog (I am so willing to contribute).

God bless you Kristin and thank you so very much.

Unknown said...

Thank you for this post and I completely understand why you are doing what you are doing. I discovered you years ago when I bought a hardback copy of "Knitting for Baby". I was a novice knitter and you held my hand through my first pair of booties. I admit to being one of those who does not often buy knitting books anymore when I just want one pattern. First because my shelves are cluttered with many many knitting and crafting books (some of which are yours) that I don't want to part with. Secondly it is cheaper for me to buy a pattern rather than the whole book. I know the media reports the economy has recovered, but not for my family. We are well fed, and our bills are paid but we don't have the extra cash anymore to spend on things that we want rather than need.

I continue to visit your blog because I LOVE your designs and style. I look at the pictures of your home and I wish I could make my home look that vibrant. I don't even know where to begin as I am not creative in that way. I visit your blog because you inspire me and I am hoping that when I am able to take a stab at making some changes in my home (with paint and color) I can be brave and bold yet inviting and warm, as yours appears to me. That chair in your kitchen that you had covered in the fabric you designed....I think about that chair often...someday I will have a high back chair in a beautiful cheerful fabric in my kitchen.

You are an inspiration, so I hope you will continue to blog for those of us following.

Meg Roke said...

I have only been designing for 5 years(mostly self-published and with yarn companies, some print as well)and I truly feel your pain. We are underpaid and undervalued. As one of your commenters said, everyone is looking for the cheapest deal, not taking the value. I hope you continue to be creative and design what you like (which is my cup of tea- cables, colorwork, classic with a sometimes twist)and I truly hope you continue to blog because I found your blog to be wonderfully inspiring for these past 7 years. I will certainly continue to follow your success in all its forms.

Hugs, Meg Roke

Theresa said...

Having been a knitter for over 50 years I too have seen such a change in the knitting world. I remember going to a "yarn store" in the Bronx NY with my mother. Once you picked out your yarn you went into a small room where a woman would fill in the blanks on the printed pattern page against your gauge, size and type of item you were knitting. Now we all know what is out there. You can spend days fretting over a yarn and pattern hunt. It is a huge business I understand but oh so overwhelming! Granted amazing knitting available out there for the taking or purchasing.

There are so many "rock stars" in the industry. The internet has birthed this tidal wave of interest, creating so many choices and people we can follow.

I came across your web site and I have enjoyed the freshness of your color, your abandonment of letting your crafting instincts come forth. Plus, your love for your followers comes through all the time.

Through this latest entry you opened up my eyes to the reality of what the industry offers and does not offer creative people. So many out there that have just not made the grade that is becoming harder and harder to attain. Those like you who have put such effort for decades have their hand tied behind their back due to rules and regulations. I understand the reasons behind this and times have changed causing these issues to arise.

I sense a bit of nostalgia in this blog post. I too feel it.
Theresa said...

Oh Susan, this is such sad news to me. Your yarns have been my local favorite for years. Back in the 80's before I started Lornas Laces, my friends and I would come down and buy bags and bags or yarn in your shop and upstairs warehouse. Good memories!
You will be missed.


Claire said...

I think that you have done all that you can with knitting for now, and are giving even more to us through your other creative strings. I have all of your books so far, and I love knitting books. I think that the cost of them has made them harder to afford, and the ability to buy just the patterns you want to knit, online, is attractive because of its affordability.

That said, everything seems to go in circles, and at sometime in the future, perhaps people will go back to buying books again as they have gone back to buying vinyl records again.

Your work is amazing and I love that you have grown and spread. said...

Thank you Kristin for your amazing beautiful colors. Your books inspire me! Everything you said about our industry rings true in my career also. I started Lornas Laces in 1989 and sold it in 2003. I also wrote books, designed freelance and worked as creative director until recently. Unfortunately I don't have another career income to fall back on. My life is yarn. (I do create in fabric, paints, beads and other but have never worked professionally).

I've gone back to dyeing yarn. It's my best hope at making a living again. Plus I love it and know it well.

Thank you for opening the eyes of the world to our industry. You said it well. Best wishes with your next colorful creations!

Lorna Miser, Zombie Yarns

Unknown said...

Loved your comments, Jean.

Unknown said...

You still are one of my favorite designers! I have all of your books and just love looking through them. I've even knitted some of the things in them!! LOL

I have fond memories of a class I took from you at Vogue Knitting. Traveled from Washington State to New York City just to see and take a class from you.

Patricia said...

My life, as is all of our lives are constantly changing. This year, we are planning to move from the east coast to Texas. I may end up in a forced retirement because who is going to hire a 57 year old woman. Yes I have degrees in corporate communications, publication design, and now do digital asset management.

I went from Customer service, to graphic designer to digital asset management. I still knit, in fact I define myself as a knitter. Lots of my favorite designers are still designing, and just as many have stepped away from designing, producing, marketing their designs. While I love many of the new designers, and buy their patterns, I love books. I think I might have all your books, plenty signed! Several have called you a rock star of knitting. Absolutely dead on. But doing the something for years and years becomes boring and repetitious. We as creative types, need to explore, grow, challenge ourselves to keep the juices flowing.

I understand that feeling of wishing everything could stay the same. There is safety to know that my favorite designer will have something to say through their designs. But it is expensive for them and cost verses output makes it incredibly cost prohibitive. While I would love to buy yarn directly from the producer (the farmer) I can't afford to spend the money. I know that $22 for a skein of yarn from a farmer is perfectly justified. I just wish I could afford it. I also wish that they younger designers would look back at us "old timers" with a bit of knowledge and respect for what we have done when times were not so internety. There is more of a hype about certain designs, certain shops, and certain yarns. It sometimes comes across as those kids who were popular in high school in their cliques. You are either in or out. I also see the feeding frenzy about the "newest designer yarn" and just cringe. It is not a quality yarn. There is no knowledge base to draw from or it they did draw they under estimated the criticisms of how the yarn performs, wears, the hand, and the longevity of their product. Knitting is changing.

You have been and always will be an innovator in colors, designing, whatever. I am glad I can support your endeavors as best I can. Honestly, I love the CE of old. Great story telling, good yarns, and classic items you would wear for years. Plenty has changed. While I like some things, I am far more picky about what I buy these days.


Anonymous said...

I, too, love that you put into print your honest experiences......that I'm certain most companies would rather not have publicly known. To me, it's like pimps/prostitutes. I've never understood how large corporations can get away with hiring engineers, designers, etc., filing patents on the designers' works, owning those patents, and the ALL the rights to them, all the while benefiting lucratively (often multi-millions $$) and NOT paying fair royalties to the PERSON from whose head came the design. The designer can, indeed, die before public domain time finally elapses.

I learned to knit when a child, knitted lots of things over the years. I've purchased knitting periodicals, knitting books, single patterns, some free patterns, I pay for patterns that I really love. I can no longer knit due to hand pain, but I still love working with fiber/yarns; so I spin and weave. Never thought I'd be a weaver, but I am loving it. Yes, paradigms do change. People's interests/needs/tastes change.

Marji; Marji's Yarncrafts said...

Well said, Kristin!
After 28 years of business in my retail shop, I have witnessed all of these changes and am certainly "feeling the pain". So many of these changes have been for the good, but so many have hurt the independent designers and small shops.
I have had to cut waaay back on my printed patterns and books, and will have to continue to carry less as the years go on. While I am grateful for the convenience of Ravelry In-Store sales, I resent what it has done to the designers who do have their designs "held hostage" in books and leaflets that are now not selling.
I so understand what you mean when you have "said all you wanted to say". There is only SO MUCH one CAN say, and you have shared so MANY creative and inspiring ideas/instructions/thoughts!
I have spent much of the last 28 years trying to put my finger on the next "big" thing, knitting models for my shop, designing knitter-friendly projects for the yarn that I carry, and putting off a lot of what I call "personal knitting". (Shouldn't all knitting be "personal"??)
I have enjoyed our acquaintance through ALL of the years that I have been in this world of knitting - from the Classic Elite days (and yes, I still have some of your old pattern leaflets in my queue) and all through the years since. I have taken inspiration from you and will continue to do so! I love the direction your designing has taken and am saving up ideas as always!

I wish I was able to make it to your open house this weekend, but I will get there someday1

Jennifer said...

Yay for you! I'm so glad you are following what your heart tells you to do. We are doing the same and it makes all the difference in the world! There is only so much time and we can't do it all, all the time. You make beautiful art in so many ways...high fives for doing what you most feel at this time in your life!

Lloer said...

I feel that the secret for those at the very top of the profession such as yourself Kristin and Jean Moss who has also posted is to move the focus from books containing collections of individual patterns because the reality of the marketplace has changed and it was always going to change, whether it was due to Ravelry or Etsy or Patternfish or some other online channel.

I think we still need books about individual style ethos, fit, design traditions, new techniques, explorations of old techniques.

Book and magazine contracts also need to change so that IP is released back to the designer after a certain amount of time - I'm not a designer but I think many have already?

I think the knitting world owes a great deal of thanks to the internet, I'm not sure that knitting as a craft would have made the huge comeback we've seen over the last 15 years or so without it but technology brings change and we have to work with it rather than against it.

Unknown said...

A wonderful article. In the past (pre Internet) I bought knitting books and patterns. I found for every book I bought, often only one pattern spoke to me. I preferred buying individual patterns. Now with the internet, I got rid of all my printed patterns and only purchase from Ravelry, no other pattern outlet. I love Ravelry as it's all in one place. The only books I buy now are stitch libraries .

I do download free patterns however I mostly buy patterns and find what I want is rarely free. I'd say I buy 90% of my patterns. I follow some designers on Ravelry and Facebook purely because I'm a test knitter and find out via this or newsletters if they're looking for a tester.

I'm also a spinner and dyer and there I will buy those books although if it's on kindle, I often go that route instead.

The reason I've gone paperless is also a space issue.

Julia said...

What an eye-opening post.I sit here feeling guilty that I am contributing to this situation.

I am 68, have knitted since my teens and have always bought many books, magazines, patterns and yarns (and sewing patterns...fabrics...embroidery stuff..and on and on).

I moved to another country when I retired and now live in a tiny house with very little storage, so stuff had to go. However, a light-bulb moment occurred comparatively recently when I realised that there really weren't enough years left even for the stuff that I still had! So I am constantly looking at everything in a new light, and only keeping stuff that I really, really need or cannot bear to part with.

Whilst I am not saying I will never again buy a book, magazine or yarn etc., I am trying to use everything I already have, and being very much more mindful of where my money goes (unfortunately there isn't too much of that around me these days!).

Such a sad post - and the comment from Jean Moss, another of my knitting heros - but I do hope I can continue to enjoy yours, and other like minded blogs for many years.

fracksmom said...

Sadly I buy the occasional book, or pattern, hut I tend towards free or what is in my head. I love everything about your blog. Knitting brought me here, but the variety of stories keep me here. And your photos are beautiful


Maven said...

I've been following this discussion thru friends like Abby and MaryBeth. And everything pretty much supports my decision not to get into design--my joy is in the craft itself, and I totally empathize with everything about the discussion from fair pay to concerns about intellectual property theft.

I'm an oddball. I buy books. Friends gift me individual patterns, but for my own purposes, if I'm so inspired, I support the designers by buying the books. To that end, for this year's holiday gifts, I ordered two copies of your "Color by Kristin" for two dear friends.

Unknown said...

You said modern day people don't buy books like in the past yet your current project is a book ?? Complain of projects locked up in books until they are out of print but continue the process ?

Anonymous said...

I am in the minority here for certain...
What I got from reading this is that a designer whose days of mass popularity have passed is resentful of the fact that her days of making money off of her designs are past.
Trends come and go, designers go in and out of favor. What keeps me interested, and spending my hard earned money, is positivity and an appreciation of the art.
The designers who aren't concerned with how much money they're making but who do it for the joy it brings them - those are the ones who I gravitate toward.
Posting a blog that essentially sticks your nose up at Ravelry because it has cost you money in pattern sales only to end by linking EVERY pattern you have on Ravelry is a turn off.
I'm sorry that you feel slighted. I'm sorry that you feel left behind. I'm sorry that the publishing industry is holding your 30 year old patterns hostage.
I'm not sorry that I'm knitting what makes me happy. And the negativity now attached to these patterns doesn't make me happy.

Celeste said...

Having so many choices now is wonderful and terrible simultaneously. I'm on ravelry all the time because I get inspired seeing what others are knitting. The "talking" parts don't interest me at all. I buy material everywhere:online, catalogs, stores...seldom use free patterns. Having just retired I'm going through 15 years worth of books and magazines, tossing most of the latter. But I LOVE books! Not just for the patterns to knit but for the inspiration, book design itself, colors, thought processes of the designer. I'm definitely keeping "Color by Kristin" for all those reasons, it represents your signature style which inspires me. I also love seeing your unique creative vision through other projects on your blog, I don't care that it's not knitting,it's all you.

I'm passionate about stranded knitting, I teach, design mostly for myself and consult with my LYS to bring fun activities and national teachers to the store. I think about writing a book, or publishing designs, but you've listed all the obstacles. Inspiring others to make unique, beautiful garments is most important to me so I hope to do lots more teaching. And encourage more playfulness and less seriousness into knitting.

barb :0) said...

Hi Kristen,
I am a 57 year knitter ..... I started knitting 13 years ago, after my Mom passed. When I began knitting, no one I knew knit. So I started reading knitting blogs and clung to You, and Susan B. Anderson. You were my best friends ( without you even knowing it !!!! ) I bought your books and I cherish them today ..... still !!!!!
I live on a farm and love reading about and seeing your pictures of precious lambs and Daughter :0)
I started off buying yearn and joining " yarn clubs " and then when I started traveling, I started buying books. I have never been a " hip " knitter .... I knit what I love .... and that is baby gifts. I Love knitting for babies ..... usually hats, bibs and booties :0)
I have recently started " knitting knockers " for breast cancer survivors and love that !!!!!!
I think as we grow older, we realize how precious our time is and I try to cherish each day, and enjoy Family and Friends.
I have enjoyed reading others comments .....
Thank You for your thoughts .....
Barb :0)
btw .... we also share the same birthday .... Oct. 1st :0)

Unknown said...

I still buy books, I own one of yours. I love Ravelry and don't know what I would do without it. I have been a member since November of 2007. I enjoy knitting lace, shawls, and socks. You may not, but please don't knock those of us who do. I'm sorry the knitting world has left you bitter. I knit because it makes me happy! I hope you find what makes you happy.

Nancy Paris said...

Dear Kristen,
This post is what I love about you. You have been there done that well. You have a whole picture view of the fiber business. You are a great writer and woman of many talents.
I have 4 of your books. I love knitting books as much as I love to knit. I have bought some of your embroidery kits for friend's grandchildren.
I myself have been in love with fiber and color. I wove for a long time, I had a Leclere and be still my heart a Gilmore loom. I got into beading. I got my undergrad with a split emphasis in weaving and ceramics. I used to do salt fired ceramics.
To answer some of your questions. I do buy a lot of patterns from Ravelry. I don't twitter or facebook but lately I have gotten into Instagram. I follow Ysolda Teague Ella Gordon, Stephanie Pearl McPhee and I will follow you now that I see you do instagram.
I would love to design but haven't felt like I had something unique to offer. But lately I have been thinking about a scarf that has motifs and colors from very old Navajo rugs. (I spent a few years teaching on Indian reservations and love their work.)
As far as hot knitters I do have stars in my eyes with certain "knitteratti". I live in southern Cal and I recently traveled to NYC to spend the day with Carlos and Arne. I have gone to Strung Along and met Debbi Stone and the spinner Judith Mackenzie. I guess I am a groupie.

I really want to spend some time with you at your farm too and that is definitely on my bucket list. Ann Budd has retreats now and I dream of you teaming up with her and I would be speechless with joy.

God no to the free patterns on so many levels. Not tech edited, not good for the designer.

I think I enjoy hearing accomplished artists who work in the fiber field. I don't really want them to teach me something, I just want to hear how they got to where they are, what makes them tick. Exactly as you did in this post.

If you are still reading, : )) I hope you keep on keeping on. I hope to meet you someday and hello to Julia. Is she still in love with Derek?
Nancy Paris

Daisy said...

I live in Western Mass and I love reading your blog for so many reasons... seeing the world through your artist's eye, your photographs, the stories of life on the farm, the recipes. I have the book Color by Kristin and I've even taken one of your classes at Webs. Due to lack of time, I only get around to knitting a couple of projects a year. I use pattern books, download from Ravelry, or most often order catalogs with patterns and the corresponding yarn from a French yarn company. That is where I learned how to knit and for some reason I find it's the easiest way to avoid problems with my gauge, which plague my knitting. Thank you for your blog, your work and inspiration!

Kim Werker said...

I didn't realize it until I read this, Kristin, but I haven't purchased a traditionally published knitting (or crochet) book in... years. I think this went unnoticed because I *have* purchased knitting books – they're just self-published. I bought books by a couple of local-to-me design teams whose designs and patterns are outstanding. I see them in person at events and at my LYS, and I love to support the work they do (and to make projects from it). Though there are many, many challenges to self-publishing (which I think you characterized well through your own experience), I find I'm far more jaded about traditional publishing. When a pattern or book is self published, I know there's a (good) chance the patterns haven't been tech edited well, and that the prose may be rough. But I also know that when self-published books are done *right*, they're better than most of the best traditionally published books I love. They're truer, both in style and in voice. There's a lot we creators sacrifice when we design books with a publisher, in addition to signing away much of the freedom we later wish we'd had. I have two books that have been out of print for years, and I *still* can't get the rights to the patterns from the publisher. Heck, I'd be happy to just get the rights to reuse the instructions and photos to make an ebook!

Anyway. I'm grateful to you for writing this out. And also in general for all the colour and light you bring into the world! No matter what you make, I'm eager to see it.


Kathleen said...

I taught myself to knit and crochet as a kid, and then more or less abandoned yarn crafts for the next 40 or so years. I am a graphic artist and a painter, but I make my living as a writer.

Three years ago, in the midst of multiple family crises, I decided it would make the time in waiting rooms easier if I could produce something pretty and useful while I waited. I began to crochet again, formally learning what I'd just guessed at as a kid. I trawled Ravelry and blogs, used book stores and sales to build a resource library. I have become obsessed with the practice of crochet, and with developing enough expertise that I can create my own patterns, inspired by whatever catches my fancy or moves me. I'm a book lover and use both paper and digital resources for most projects.I've never been able to conquer my desire for my own reference library. These days, I buy books used if I possibly can, and lately, frequently opt for digital versions for space and portability reasons. I have several of your books, from which I take ideas for design, for color and just the pleasure of beautiful things beautifully presented. I don't like that publishing deals hold artists and their art hostage- what can makers do about that, other than use only self published resources, I wonder?

I do love all the resources that are out there, love the free and paid patterns and tutorials and love the opportunities to pattern test for designers. I enjoy the global community of makers. I'm not sure how I found your blog, but I enjoy every post because your farm is lovely, and you are so fully immersed in your life and family. Thanks for all you share.

Kate M said...

Dear, dear Kristin. I am so sorry. I hear so many resonances in this post. Newspapers with sterling reputations competing with the unedited blogosphere, friends who have no time to knit once they open yarn shops, writers who find they must either follow the latest trend or lose readers and publishers.
I so hope you continue with your blog, continue playing with color, continue being the lively spirit you are. The world needs people like you!
For myself, I am also not a sock person or a lace or shawl person (although I have made myself do it). If I find a pattern I like I knit it to death in multitude variations. My favorite patterns are old ones I bought with the yarn back in the 70's. I do like to look at Ravelry and the magazines but find both are something of a time sink. I wonder why people knit trendy things that will be out of style in a year or two. I love my French beekeeper/honey provider who is in his 70's and still wears the sweaters his mother knit for him as a young man! Something to aspire to.
Take heart. We love you.

worldknits said...

VK/Soho is the company you're thinking of, not Interweave. After a period of 12 months Interweave returns pattern rights to the designer. The designer decides if he or she wants their work sold through IK's website and they receive a percentage of the royalties. If they decide not to sell through IK they are able to self publish the pattern after the 12 month exclusivity period. (I've published patterns through both companies and am familiar with their contracts).

Mary Ellen said...

Yeah, the scoffing at people who like to knit lace shawls or socks was off-putting.

Anonymous said...

I may be the only person who reads your blog that doesn't knit, but I could still relate to many things in this post. Things change. We change. Do what makes you happy, Kristin.

All the best from a fan of your colorful home,

Kim Cody

kingshearte said...

I'm a relatively new knitter (not that new at this point, but new enough that Ravelry predates me), but even with never having experienced anything else, I still find the sheer number of options on Ravelry pretty overwhelming. I queue up stuff I like all willy nilly, and then when it comes time to actually choose a sweater pattern, for example, and start knitting it, oh the hand-wringing over which one to choose! OK, it's not really quite that dramatic, but it is hard to choose sometimes.

Which may account at least partly for my love of sock knitting. I can't speak for anyone else, but I can tell you why *I* knit socks by the boatload. They're portable, so I can knit them on the bus. Once you've knit a few, they're really easy, and you can knit them without a pattern at all, for multiple people in multiple sizes (which also helps with portability). And I don't have to wade through all the amazing patterns available and make a decision, which is kind of nice, particularly because the biggest reason I knit socks is that I kind of just need to be knitting *all the time.* I am a serious fidgeter. Before I started knitting, I would fidget with whatever was handy. I am the person who will randomly fling a pen across a room because I lost control of it while fidgeting. I have broken things and injured myself (seriously, I will fidget with *anything,* including scissors and staplers). Knitting socks is, for me, essentially productive fidgeting that I can just about any time and anywhere.

Back to pattern buying. I buy the occasional book, but it has to really justify itself to me. I have a *lot* of books in general, so to add another one to the collection and find another half inch of space to jam it into a shelf, I have to really want it. Which for me means being interested in most of the patterns in it. And frankly, that rarely happens. No matter how much I love a particular designer or the theme of the book, in most cases, there will only be a handful of patterns that I am actually interested in knitting at some point. So I mainly buy PDF patterns (they also have the advantage that I can put them on my ipad, which is very handy — and also very portable, when that's relevant). I do use the occasional free pattern if it happens to fit my needs for whatever I'm looking for, but I certainly don't shy away from paying for patterns.

Diane Zangl said...

I just read your blog about why you're not designing knitwear any more and you've put into words the exact feelings I've been having for some time now. I have been designing professionally since 1984 and that side of it has changed greatly since then - gotten much more cut-throat it seems.

Jean, Lorna, Susan: your comments ring so true for many of us also. I've cut back on my designing quite a bit, but right now have 4 projects that will come due between the 20th of this month and the 20th of January. And all for a pittance of what magazines used to pay.

I guess what I'm trying to say is you can only keep giving and pouring our your design soul for so long before you feel that your are being sucked dry by everyone without anything to replenish you. What I'm really finding fulfilling is doing charity knitting for our church (hats, mittens, scarves, etc for the homeless shelters). It uses up a lot of stash yarn, I don't have to think about sizing, and it's helps a lot of people who need it. I plan on doing more of that in the future.

I'm sorry to hear Chrystal Palace Yarns will be no longer. That's the third well-known yarn source that I know of that has closed within the last 3-4 months.

The Millennials who consider us dinosaurs may be right in their thinking (we Are getting older), but I ask them to consider the fact that without us there would not be many, many of the patterns/techniques they enjoy today and that some day they, too, will be in our shoes. What I'm seeing out there now doesn't have the innovative techniques of Elizabeth Zimmerman, the color of Kristin Nicholas, nor the mind-bending movement of Norah Gaughan, just to mention a few.

Guess I just wanted to say 'Thank You, Kristin' for helping me put things in perspective, and making a decision on where I want to go at this point in my life. Maybe it's time to take down the old shingle, I think.

Diane Zangl
Stitch Witch Designs

Spiffypaws said...

I've thought for a long time it must be very difficult to make a living the the knit design business.I still buy books-I own Color by Kristin and just bought N.Gaughan's latest book.I purchase patterns also; the only free ones I use aren't really free because I donate to Knitty. I live in S.Fla so have to choose my knitting projects carefully.I knit socks because sock choice is the only way I can express my individuality at work-strict dress code!.Agree with your shawl issue, also what is the point?They don't keep your arms warm,just make the wearer look older.Also don't get the popularity of cowls.As a former Mainer, I'd prefer a scarf and most cowls look unflattering.I think there are so many on rav bec they are easy to design and knit. The most popular items on rav appear to be shawls, socks,free patterns and cardigans knit in the round without buttons. These are all garments that require minimal finishing. I hope your next book is a hit. I know I will be buying it!!

Mona Rae Hill said...

Hey Kristin.
What you say is true of so many things, not just knitting books. Authors of any caliber, have a hard time, now, actually making any money.
I seldom, if ever, actually buy patterns, or pattern books, but when I do, it's usually something I cannot figure out how to make on my own and it's usually under 10 dollars. (I wait until the ebooks go on sale, or haunt used book stores for the real version).
I agree with what you said, I don't know how pattern makers actually make much money, certainly not a living wage, from this endeavor. I have considered starting a graphghan page with my own designs, but it seems like a too high investment in a too low return, when what I really enjoy, is the making of the thing, rather then the making of the pattern!

Candi said...

Hi Kristin. First I would like to thank you for all the many episodes (on PBS) you appeared on. I learned many techniques from you. I started knitting around age 5 and am now 60. That's a long time. I never use expensive yarn as I can't afford it. I also look for free patterns on the internet. There are many. Last winter I made several hats for myself to find they did not look good, so I ripped them. If i paid 5 or more dollars per pattern I would have wasted many dollars that I don't have to spend. (I am on disability and husband has a low paying job).

I have found a crafter resell shop in my hometown. I was able to add to my collection of knitting needles, yarn and other crafting supplies that others have donated to this shop. Proceeds go to a senior center in the town where the shop is.

Vermont Grand View Farm said...

As I have gotten older - I have also realized that my time is getting shorter with each year. I need and want to do the things that make me happy and fulfilled as a creative person.

THIS is what is most important. As a recent empty nester, I have been re-evaluating all that I do here on my farm. It is exhausting to have to sell your own products. It can zap the creativity right out of you. I have come to realize that I am at a point in my life where I need to do the things that make me happy. Having a creative outlet has always been important to me. I have found through the years that my Creative Energy dwindles with the demands of running your own business. Thank you for writing this post. It is great to know that I am not alone in my thoughts.

Sylvie said...

Have you tried talking to your publishers about this? It's in their interest as well as your own to have you selling more stuff, and digital is definitely the way of the future (and at least the last 10 years).
Younger people like me don't buy as many paper books because we have jobs that don't pay living wages so we live in tiny apartments or shared houses and digital just makes more sense. You can also print out a digital pattern and write all over it without damaging your original source material, and it doesn't fill up heavy boxes every time you move.
The assumption that young people don't buy patterns just because they're not buying Kristin's books is a big logical leap. There are cheapskates in every generation, as well as people who value good work and are happy to pay for it. I work in a yarn shop, and at least in the shop I work at, most of the people I see looking for free patterns or balking at $6-8 for a pattern are middle aged rather than younger - millennials know all about side hustles and needing to get paid for your work because it's the only way for a lot of us to get by. Cheapskates aside, most of our customers of any age are fine with paying for good-quality patterns if they can find what they want.
I also buy a lot of knitting patterns for myself, but almost entirely in digital format. When I do buy a book, it's usually a reference or technique book rather than a pattern book.
I don't buy Kristin's patterns because what she likes to design is not what I like to wear. Her style fit a certain cultural zeitgeist in the 80s and 90s but hasn't really changed at all to fit with what people make and wear now. It's absolutely her prerogative to design what she likes, but it's also my prerogative to buy and knit what I like. While I can appreciate the interesting nature of Kristin's patterns and the groundbreaking work that people like Elizabeth Zimmerman have done, it doesn't mean that I'm going to suddenly love wearing boxy pullovers. Recently I've been buying patterns designed by Corrina Ferguson, Hunter Hammersen, Hilary Smith Callis, Justyna Lorkowska, Norah Gaughan, and Hanna Maciejewska to name just a few. Norah Gaughan has been around for decades, and seems to have a good balance of keeping her general style (cables and textures in sweeping patterns with unusual constructions) while updating the silhouettes and materials to be more in line with what people are wearing now.

birch7 said...

Such very sad news to read as I loved your yarns so much gosh just how 😭

birch7 said...

I respect every knitting designer that has come up the old way. Saddened by how many "knitters" continue to want every pattern for free not thinking about how much time the designer has put into the pattern. I continue to buy one monthly knitting magazine from the UK but no longer have the desire to have every monthly knitting magazine as most just lack quality. I have knit all my life since age 5 and do it as enjoyment and because I want to knit in colours and styles that suit me. I am sure many of us go back to trusted designers and yarn companies rather than trendy cut price bargains which fail to survive one wash and wear!!!!

Unknown said...

A really good article - you have touched on so much of what I have been seeing and feeling over the last couple of years. I have recently discontinued my retail business in a regular basis. I have generated better sales as a pop-up during the last two months. I believe that for me it is time to be creative for me and revisit various creatives that I have not had the time or energy to pursue for several years. Kudos to those designers that are achieving great success, unfortunately I am aware of too many crafters that will not pay for a pattern if they can find something for free and then want free help deciphering the errors of a non tech edited pattern. Guess I got on my soapbox - sorry. Ultimately what I want to say is good for you - keep doing what you are doing. I very much enjoy your posts.

Anonymous said...

I read this and I can feel your angry, frustration and disappointment but not much happiness for the people that supported you during your days and who support you then and now. Face it the industry has changed, The internet , social media are the big promotion now as with online learning, cruises and self promotion. It's a rough place as there will always be a rough spots some designers say they stay in the industry as they have a passion and they go out there and hustle themselves out, some grab on trends so people do knit socks, lace, fair isle if that's not your fort then don't promote it or down others who have knit a dozen lace shawls. I think as you have been in the industry for a long period you chose to move on, move on be happy not angry , you have touched many and you will always be out there some people never get there never and they are excellent knitters and designers. I wish you the best.

Anonymous said...

I like your comments here and I have thought about Nora and also Meg Swansen who have been out there but Nora stuck in my mind as she has worked for many yarn companies, freelanced and moved along. Shenis reinventing herself in this industry and appealing to mass markers and even new knitters. She also seems to have adapted and have a work life balance.

Unknown said...

I am 48 and fondly remember the old days where I bought patterns and books by the armful! That was a wonderful time for knitting! It became burdensome though to have so much and I gave most of my books away when we moved across country. I buy patterns and ebooks off of Ravelry now because it's so much easier to manage and find things and so much less clutter. I knit lace shawls constantly and almost never wear them because I don't have to worry about fit or gauge, they are truly beautiful, and one $40 skein of silk is still cheaper than a $125 sweater which rarely looks good on my 5'2" body. I noticed only two of your books is on Amazon Kindle. Surely you could sell more if they were available there in digital format. I would probably by some right now if they were. Best of luck to you and what ever creative pursuits you follow!

Angela said...

When you wrote about all the hours you put into your latest self-published pattern, and then it sold 36 copies, it really struck a chord! I love designing knitwear. I don't like to do the same thing over and over, so I spend a lot of time figuring out how to do things in new and interesting (to me, at least) ways. I've had some measure of professional success if you look at the many magazines, books and websites that have published my patterns; I also self-publish. I didn't come from inside the industry, just started submitting designs to knitting magazines around 10 years ago, so when my designs were accepted, I was thrilled. But by now I've realized that the wage I can realistically earn from my designing is pathetic. We pay our cleaning lady way more an hour than I make. (Yes, "we," which is crucial-- if it was just me supporting my family, I'd be doing something else, like being a veterinarian, which is what I used to do). I just finished a book of patterns, but I don't expect it to make much money-- the advance is tiny and I've heard enough stories from designing friends to know that I'll be lucky to even cover the publisher's advance in royalty payments. I did it because it sounded like a lot of fun having lots of control over my designs and yarn choices (and it was-- but a lot of work too); so I could say I wrote a book; and because 3 years after it's published, I can sell all of the patterns myself as individual downloads. It seems to me that most of the designers actually making a living are also teaching, and/or become associated with yarn companies, or make their own yarn, because that's where the money is. You can use a free pattern but it's hard to get free yarn.

Elise said...

I tend to buy what I like whether it's in book or digital form. Sometimes an ebook is easier for many of the reasons already enumerated. As for the "hot right now" section on Ravelry --that means only that a lot of people are looking at a particular design and not that they are necessarily buying it. What makes something "hot" usually comes down to one (or more of the following:
1. The work is promoted by a well-known knitter (think Yarn Harlot);
2. The work is promoted on a number of websites or Ravelry groups;
3. The work is timeless and of the moment --- lots of cowl or scarf patterns with interesting shapes lately because those are hot in fashion
4. The work strikes a chord.

Personally I think that Kristin, with your color sensibility and classic sense of style, would be a perfect fit with many on Ravelry and I think a lot of people would pay for your individual patterns despite the lackluster sales to date. I would love to see some new mittens or vests or cool pillows designed by Kristin and they would look fresh next to some of what is out there now. I respect that an enormous amount of work goes into the patterns, the tech editing, the knitting, photo shoot, and the pattern publishing, but it's a shame to think you have nothing left to say. Collaborations are also a great way to get the word out as well...I hope that you come back to designing. Quality always sells though it sometimes can take a while.

Caffeine Girl said...

Thanks for sharing your journey and your thoughts. You've been one of my favorite designers for a long time and I own both your knitting books. At the same time, I can understand your need and desire to pursue other creative outlets. I think many of us are multi-craftual! I've enjoyed your embroidery and other books, too.

If you ever do another knitting book, I'll buy it. I'm about your age and I still love the feel of a real book.

bmom said...

Interesting post.

I buy individual patterns through Ravelry (buy for the most part, not free patterns). I don't do books -- there are rarely multiple patterns that I'd make. [Note that I already have books collected over my and my late mother's life -- so lots of books.]

I look for cowls, shawls, mittens/gloves, hats, and sweaters. Things that are wearable and useful. I've made socks, but don't tend to wear hand knit socks. I like shawls more than scarves (scarfs) for winter wear. Sweaters are good if they're light and wearable indoors. Heavy, cable filled sweaters look great -- but don't fit into my wardrobe -- they're too hot to wear. All the kids I know prefer mass produced imported items -- so they get no handmade (and no clothes at all....I don't buy the mass produced imported).

Unknown said...

Absolutely understand what you write. I do this business since 4 years, from home, not as a hobby, but as my main activity. I checked my yearly income: with the worst month I'm in the best 16.8%, with my best month I'm in the best 2.5% (Ravelry table you shared). In average the 6.6%. And this is not enough to cover my expenses (homepage, virtual assistant, yarn, books, fees, newsletter service, etc.... I decided to continue as a hobby, and not making stress about making professional.

Patty said...

Oh, Susan, I am sad to hear this. I love your yarns.

Unknown said...

"Young designers, in their rush to establish themselves are easy meat as they'll work for less than a living wage, not realising that when they need to pay mortgages, raise children etc the money just isn't there and they will have been instrumental in creating that situation."

When I started it wasn't the newer, younger designers who were agreeing to fees equal to less than a living wage, we were trying out self publishing precisely because the fees were already so low. It's frustrating to be branded as unprofessional because of current popularity and generation when we should be working together to improve the industry.

Unknown said...

I'm not a designer, though I know some of them and follow some others. I primarily knit as my textile hobby of choice. :)

I am probably both someone that's helping and hurting, I guess. I do actually still buy knitting books, and I prefer doing that to ordering specific patterns off Ravelry. However, the knitting books I buy tend towards the side of talking about the basics of construction and about effectively tweaking patterns to suit my own needs. They tend to have lots of info plus some patterns in them that use their basic principles. Often I'm buying them not so much for the patterns as for the other information, though I usually have to like some of the patterns in order to get myself interested. This enables me to buy fewer patterns and to make garments that are doing what I want them to do. For example, I knit lots of socks (more on that later), but I have a couple of books on sock construction and have enough knowledge of how to alter the basic construction techniques that are out there that I can't remember actually ever buying a specific sock pattern.

Ravelry keeps me going in that it provides a great source of contact in terms of other people who are excited about knitting and keep me going with it. I made a bunch of false starts before sticking with knitting, and Ravelry was the glue that helped it stick for me. I've used it to meet other knitters when I move as well, strengthening those social ties that reinforce participation. I don't really have those social ties for knitting within my family -- it skipped a generation for us, the grandmother who taught me died before my children were born, and the others in my generation didn't stick with it.

I do feel the desire to explain myself as a sock knitter. Part of the reason that I knit socks is that I live in a warmer climate, and we wear socks for far more of the year than any cold weather gear would be useful. We just started bringing our hats back out and wearing them again about a week ago, almost at the beginning of December. Our mitts and scarves have been in storage since March, and we've not needed them since then. I can't justify knitting lots of hats, scarves, mittens, and sweaters. They're beautiful, but they also spend most of each year in storage. We wear socks for most of the year, so if I knit socks, I know I'm knitting something that will get some use. I'm also the only female in my nuclear family, and while I can and do knit tank tops and tees for myself, there isn't much of a call for similar garments for males. That pushes me farther into sock territory.

Anonymous said...

Your comments are spot-on, and it's good to see this talked about in public.

Not long after Ravelry first started, I was approached by a friend (a yarn dyer/designer) who asked if I was interested in designing some patterns. I was very flattered, but said that I thought Ravelry was going to kill the business for most independent designers. She was surprised at my answer, and said that Ravelry made it much easier to reach and sell to knitters. That was exactly my point. When anyone can be a "designer", everyone will be, and then the market is over saturated, often with pretty poor designs.

Pre-Ravelry, there weren't all that many designers who had made a name for themselves, so it was easy to be familiar with them and their styles. Now, unless you're one of the very lucky few who somehow manages to collect a big following, you're left in the dust, and can't possibly make enough money to make it a business.

I have a large collection of books, magazines, and printed patterns, but as you said, rarely buy them any more. Much of that is because I don't want to buy an entire book or magazine if there's only one pattern I want (and I can delay buying the pattern until I actually PLAN to knit it without worrying that I won't be able to get it later), but it's also because I have more technical and reference books than I need already, and also own more patterns than I could possibly ever knit. I do buy individual patterns occasionally, but usually because it's something quite different from what I have already. I don't have a problem making heavy modifications to patterns, or even designing my own items, so if I'm going to buy a pattern, it has to have a unique feature or technique.

I love Ravelry as a knitter, but I'm aware that it has changed the industry in many ways, both for better and worse. Yet life is change, and we must find ways to adapt.

I hope you have success with your new book, and it sounds like you have many things you love that will keep you occupied. Best of luck to you in your new projects.

~ Lisa said...

Congratulations Kristin, on the amazing contribution you've made to the fiber world and teaching knitters all over the skills they need to go their own way. I was inspired by you in Knitting In America so many years ago! While moving on is bittersweet you owe no explanations to anyone and my sense is that you needed to write this more for yourself than anyone else. Joy and happiness is what its all about. Your creativity will continue to bring light and happiness to many people for years to come.


Anonymous said...

People aren't exactly buying knitting books if you haven't noticed? That's cos you're not selling them where people are buying them. Amazon is what happened to Bookshops. I've tried to get certain Knitting books on Amazon and they are out of stock pretty soon after they are in stock. I buy my partner a few every year from Amazon.

Leah said...

The seasons of life. Things change through the years. Find your new interest, maybe you can join those of us who knit for pleasure, for ourselves, our loved ones. We don't design, we don't have to think about what will sell. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Artists often, perhaps usually, change media, change themes in their art over time. It is hard to make a living as an artist. Trying new things is energizing. Years ago you would not have been able to design the fabric as you do now. Seize the moment. We will make do with knitting patterns that others generate or create our own based on your guidance and inspiration.

Nancy Bowron said...

Whew! I can relate! I used to manage a knit shop and after I stopped doing that I moved on into other creative directions as well. I always thought myself strange for not sticking with one thing (which WAS knitting for 20+ years). I like to create in many different areas and I love learning something new.

I used to love Classic Elite yarns and collected your patterns just to study the aesthetics. I admire your path and appreciate the opportunity to communicate my gratitude for your contribution to the knitting industry to you.

Happy Creating!

Suze said...

It was an honor to meet you (however briefly!) at the Madison knitters' guild last winter. You are a rare creative person whose talents expand vastly beyond knitting and I find all of your work inspiring. All of it! My son (he is almost 11 now) made the stuffed cat from your (first) Kids' Embroidery book two years ago and it's still his favorite toy.

It's true that the market is over saturated and works best for people who know how to play the social media game to their advantage. That just looks exhausting to me.

I'm in the performing arts so I can relate to some extent, especially the whole issue of getting paid as a professional. Just the other day I was making the case to a fellow musician friend, who had her doctorate and is on the job market, that if she is specially invited to perform at a university 80 miles away that YES she should be compensated for it, rather than just be grateful for the exposure.

It's a long road, but worth traveling.

sewtuf said...

Hi Kristin,
I just read this post and "I LOVE IT!", and EVERYTHING that you said. I love all of what you do. I have been collecting your books as they come out. I do buy knitting BOOKS but only those that I am interested in and will stay with me and I can pass down to my daughters. I have been fascinated with you for years! If knitting is not what you're interested right now--SO WHAT! I love your farm, your pottery, your painting, your animals, your house, your painted FUN-erture ;-), your personality, your interest in other authors and artist (kaffe fassett), your love of all things. I love your blog, seeing your daughter grow up, your yarn line, which I have made several knitted gifts for others. 'Color by Kristin' is the book that got me excited and challenged me to try color knitting in the first place! I LOVE YOUR LATEST BOOK titled "Crafting A COLORFUL HOME"- I made the fabric HANGING EMBROIDERY HOOP LANTERNS, THE PAISLEY STAMPED TABLECLOTH and I MADE MOSIAC FLOWER POTS!!! All thanks to you! I'm excited about your New book that's in the making and can't wait to add it to my library! Do You is all i have to say to that!
Happy Holidays to you and your family!
Huisha Kiongozi

Angela's Diner said...

After reading through all the comments I will only leave a few words- I truly enjoyed meeting you and your family at your open house a couple weekends back. I went to Harrisville Designs that weekend too and met Nora Gaughan. "Santa" got books from you both so I will be curling up with them on Christmas Day .
As I get older, I have found my many many interests have been winnowed down to just the ones that make me happy. It sounds like you are on the same journey! I am very much looking forward to your new work - especially your painting.
My "focused creativity" nowadays includes plein air painting, knitting, quilting, and cooking. I am also trying to fit lampworking back into my days, but it is tough.
I look forward to seeing what classes and workshops you offer in 2017, and wish you and your family success in the new year.

Unknown said...

Just so you know...I picked up your COLOR book at my Lys several years ago and couldn't put it down. I am an experienced knitter including classic fair isle designs, but you put the fun back into it for me. When I want to play with color, I open your book for inspiration. I also have several of your other patterns which inspired a basket full of knit and crocheted flowers to embellish my projects. I have made slippers, socks, mittens and gloves, hats and scarves galore.(i don't wear many sweaters in Texas)....all inspired by you and I will continue to be so no matter what you do.

amy said...

hi kristin,
i totally relate to doing the same thing for 30+ years. we get burnt out. we love being creative and colorful but we need to spread our wings again with new and exciting projects - and often with different media!

and business isn't done the same way it was back when we started our careers. we just don't have the energy to deal with clients like we did when we first started our careers.

i don't buy pattern books anymore because i'm at the stage where i want less stuff hanging around. i buy single patterns from a variety of sources. if they are free, great - but they don't have to be.

i do make lace shawls because it offers a challenge for me. i'm too hot to wear the wool sweaters i made years ago so they are all in storage waiting for me to cool down!! i don't make socks much because i don't like knitting with tiny needles.

i'm all about the process now and enjoying the journey - not the end results. as ben and jerry said "if it isn't fun, why do it?"

see you soon at the farmer's market! <3

Jane Reiter said...

THANK YOU for posting this--I have never been a professional designer or knitter but I can totally relate to your comments and experiences. Thank you so much!!

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