Recently, Casey (the tech guru behind Ravelry) released pattern sales data for January 2019. The figures are eye-opening, but sadly, not surprising for most of us designers. I’ve written before about how knitwear design is not a lucrative gig and there are only a handful of designers who are able to quit their day job and pursue knitwear design full time. It really is a labour of love - love of the craft, and love of you (the community). January Ravelry sales data provides some context for this statement:
18% of independent knitwear designers who offer patterns for sale on Ravelry earned $100 in January. For the whole month. In other words, 1,835 of 10,059 independent knitwear designers. I can’t speak for other designers, but the fixed costs of my very-small-operation are $97 per month (this includes hosting fees for this website, a platform for sending emails to my email list, InDesign for formatting patterns and creating schematics and graphics). $100 per month is much lower than the poverty level. That being said, this data doesn’t differentiate full-time knitwear designers from part-time knitwear designers or hobbyists, so it’s fair to say that some designers included in the survey aren’t designing as a business.
255 of the 10,059 designers included in the survey earned $1,200 in January. According to Google, minimum wage in the US is $7.25, so working a full-time job at minimum wage (40 hours per week) would provide an income of $1,160 per month. 2.5% of the designers included in the survey earned more than minimum wage. 97.5% of designers earned less than minimum wage. This data only includes Ravelry sales, so income that designers earn from selling designs on other platforms is not included, but Ravelry is the largest platform on the internet for knitting pattern PDF downloads. Every designer I know earns the largest portion of their design income from Ravelry. Again, I can only speak for myself, but in January of this year, Ravelry accounted for 86% of my total pattern sales (I sell patterns on Ravelry, Patternfish, LoveKnitting, Making Things, and sometimes I sell wholesale patterns to yarn companies).
The income data provided for January includes data up to $3000 in pattern sales. 93 designers are in this tier, and while I’m not one of them, they give me hope that it is possible to have a financially successful career in independent knitwear design. These 0.9% of designers are my mentors and are pioneers in the industry.
How I Feel About The Data
Most of the knitwear designers I know do this as their 2nd job. Some designers have jobs and careers in unrelated fields, and many others supplement their independent design income with other knitting-industry-related gigs. Off the top of my head, I can think of designer friends who supplement their design income with technical editing, photography, sample knitting, graphic design, coaching, and copy editing. We tend to be a very resourceful bunch of creatives. Some are full-time parents or caregivers.
If you’re reading this, chances are you already appreciate the value in independent design, and for that I thank you! Your support means everything to me and to the village of people who I pay to help me publish professional, high-quality designs.
I totally understand that hobbies are expensive and I know that for some knitters there is no money in the budget to purchase patterns, and I’m not suggesting that all knitters must purchase patterns. I think it’s awesome that we live in a digital age where content is easily accessible and there are free patterns available for knitters who want them and I offer some free patterns myself. At the same time, I think that if someone creates a thing and that thing adds value to your life and makes you happy, it’s fair for the person who created it to be compensated fairly. I try to live by this belief in all areas of my life and actively support creators whose creations bring me joy, assist me in expressing my own creativity, or add value to my life.
Now that I’ve written this, I’m going to copy the link and save it to my bookmarks so that the next time I come across an online comment or receive a message about the price of knitting patterns being too high, or telling me that my pattern is really great and then asking me if I can recommend a similar pattern that’s free, or asking me to give a pattern for free because they never pay for patterns and they’ve tried the similar-but-free pattern but the instructions weren’t as detailed and it didn’t include their size, and they found some errors, I’m going to forward them the link. I’ll also forward them the link to the post where I explain that it takes a village of talented folks to produce a great pattern.
Have you looked at the spreadsheet? What do you think? Did anything surprise you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.