Just before Christmas I had an interesting email from a student and friend of mine, Ellie.
Hi Joanne,I know you often post against free patterns on your blog and Twitter. I completely understand your reasons, but I regularly use free patterns and thought it might be helpful to explain why, as this may make an interesting blog post.I both knit and crochet. There are elements of each that I enjoy and elements that I don’t enjoy. There are obviously also huge amounts that I don’t know yet. When using a free pattern you can see the pattern in advance and get a feel for what level the pattern is aimed at, what skills are required, and if you’ll need to learn anything new. However, paid patterns usually don’t give this type of information up front, and even when they do I’ve often found it lacking (e.g. I’ve just bought a knitting pattern which failed to mention I’m going to need to learn DPNs).While I really want to support designers, I simply find it too frustrating to not know what I’m getting into in advance.When dealing with complicated patterns e.g. clothing, my solution to this problem has been books. I’ve spent a fair amount of time sitting on the floor of Waterstones poring over books trying to work out if I can immediately do at least some of the patterns and want to work towards achieving the rest. This has the added benefit that it’s much easier to ask for books for Christmas than PDFs!I hope this helps you, and possibly other designers, understand this issue from the purchaser’s point of view. I’d be ecstatic if it lead to more information being provided before having to buy a pattern….
I was really pleased that Ellie had taken the time to remind me of a few things that I had forgotten from when I first started out. It is very easy for me to look at a picture of a finished object and decide if I think I’d like to make it because I’m pretty confident in my knitting and crochet skills. I must admit though that there are some techniques and some writing styles that I am not fond of and I do much prefer to review a pattern before I buy it so I can see if I’d enjoy making it.
So what can we learn from this? A lot I think. And it also raises some interesting questions.
- Ellie is really a very brave and confident crafter. She’s willing to get stuck in and have a go at most things. She is also very clever and persistent so she can teach herself most things. So if she feels this way then you can double or treble this effect for crafters who need a little more hand holding or who are wary of trying new things alone.
- Lets not make knowledge assumptions. Sometimes even experienced knitters have knowledge gaps. (For instance it was only eighteen months ago I first knit in the round on a small circumference) Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced doesn’t really cut it.
- One thing we can easily do as designers is ensure that all the skills needed are listed in pattern description. I am planning to have a brainstorm and list all possible skills and add them to my stylesheets as I think deleting ones not needed will give me better results than listing those needed.
- In the past I have been a little wary of writing very detailed descriptions of what the pattern entails as it makes it easier for people to reverse engineer. However Ellie has made me rethink this. I think giving a highly detailed break down will probably help me sell more to beginner and intermediate knitters (my target market) None of my for sale patterns are so simple that breaking down the steps will easily enable someone to make it and if someone is going to go to the trouble of reverse engineering something they are unlikely to buy a pattern regardless. Bear with me, this may take some time to achieve for old patterns!
- If we give accurate and highly detailed information before people buy then we build trust and probably customer loyalty.
- With PDF downloads is there a viable way of letting people look through the pattern before they commit to buy it? My guess is not easily but if anyone has any clever ideas then please let me know!
- Could I have a policy to refund people who buy a pattern then decide it isn’t the right skill level for them? This is certainly tricky because buying and refunding creates fees I have to pay (Paypal and Ravelry) – I am too small a business to be able to suck these up at the moment I think.
- Could my business expand into print? I would love to write actual physical books and pamphlets and fully agree with Ellie that I really prefer a printed pattern, magazine or book to a pdf download (call me old fashioned!) With on demand printing is this a service I could offer to customers? How could I get these distributed?