The Dark Side of Pattern Writing

KnittingChantal Miyagishima5 Comments

Well hello pattern designing anniversary (September)! One year. What a crazy and exciting ride.

I come at you today at a fragile point. I want to first tell you that I LOVE writing patterns. I really do. Getting to test new stitches, come up with ideas, swatch things out, send out to pattern testers and be as creative as you can be is like having my world burst into color. Plus, that moment where you finally get to put on the finished piece you've designed from top to bottom is unlike any other. It's the most exhilarating experience, but I also don't want to sugar coat it because I feel like pattern writing is the newest trend in our community. So many people are delving into the pattern world and I want to show you that it's not all light and bubbly. So let's take the plunge into the dark side of what pattern writing has brought out in me.

The insecurities.

Oh boy. Let's hash this out:

1. The Sizing

2. The Process

3. The Copying

4. The Policies

The Sizing

If you've noticed - I mainly make patterns for garments. Clothing especially. I throw in the odd accessories here and there but there's a reason for that (which I will get to in #3 & 4). With doing clothing comes a whole new territory of sizing. Ever tried on a dress and felt like it made you feel fat? Or you walked into a store thinking you were a certain size, but turns out you had to go up a few more just to squeeze in? I used to hate the fashion industry but now that I'm a part of it, I see how hard it is to fit every body size. By making garment patterns I am taking beautiful bodies and shapes into my hands and praying I do them justice. Newsflash: Boobs and butts are the worst. None of us are the same. My medium may be a B cup but yours may be a D. We could be the same "size" but I can't control all the factions. I am taking all your insecurities and holding them in my palm. If my item doesn't fit your chest size... it's my fault. If it bags around your waist... it's my fault. If I don't do it in every size under the sun - it is my fault. It's not a job I take lightly. 

The Process

Designing is just like social media. You get the sneak peeks, but you sure as shit don't see the tears; and trust me there are many tears in the background. You will rip your project out, you will waste yarn, you will tangle said yarn and cry a little more. You will finish a soon to be pattern to only find out that you hate it or used the wrong material and it stretches to the floor. You will come up with the perfect design, scroll on insta and see one almost identical. You will think yourself brilliant one second and then self deprecate the next. The thought alone of "Will people even like this" is a little monster waiting under your bed. Don't even get me started on the technology part. PowerPoint and Word will be your best friend one day, and then your sworn enemy the next. This process is so hard and time consuming for a measly $5 document. 

The copying

 I've been quite fortunate enough to say that I haven't been copied...yet. Well, maybe once - but we will call it "Inspired" by my pattern. This is inevitable. There are only so many stitches and trends that move back and forth, but I can promise you that you will become fiercely protective over your patterns. Crazy part? So will your die-hard followers. You will have others come forward to showcase similar items and ask if they copied you - hell you may have designers come forward asking if you copied them. Maybe even sending a cease and desist order. This stuff happens DAILY and it's just a new part of the world that you're taking part in. There's also the fear side of your brain that will manifest too.

Side note: You'll notice that I don't sell any patterns to items I sell in my shop and sell at markets. Only once they have been discontinued from my line will they appear in pattern form. Even then it's like ripping a part of my soul out. I can't get over the feeling that someone will undercut me with works that they've made with my patterns and my step by step instructions. I know it's paranoia but I can't get over it no matter how much I try. So to keep my heart (and sanity) at peace it's the decision I have made. It also means I don't have to troll around policing anyone who bought a pattern. I obsess and I know it, so there's no reason to put myself in that position in the first place.

The Policies

In the knitting and the crochet designer world it is custom to have policies at the bottom of your pattern that say if you can 1) Sell items made with the pattern, or 2) If items made from the pattern are for personal use only. Some people go as far to suggested a price (Which I totally am for!) in which to sell finished pieces at, as to make sure the designer isn't undercut who may be selling it themselves, or anyone else who is selling items made from that pattern. You as the pattern designers will have to make those decisions to put or not put them at the bottom of your page, and trust me... they will eat at your heart.

The two weeks before releasing the "You made that? Hat" pattern I was on the verge of a mental breakdown and jumped at every turn. Let me tell you: paranoia will destroy-ya. There are knitters and crocheters out there that downright will not purchase your pattern and get SUPER pissy if you state for personal use only. I have seen hate speech and awful things said about pattern designers who ask these measly things out of respect for their designs. It's appalling.

Note: When it comes to copyrighting a pattern the only thing you can copyright is the physical PDF and formatting of the written copy. Also as soon as you finish that physical piece you have an intellectual copyright on it. You cannot copyright a style, or a stitch (unless you physically made it up), or a fashion trend. You cannot copyright something like a "racerback t-shirt". These "policies" at the bottom are mainly for a respect purpose. Take into consideration that "For personal Use Only" does not hold up in court either. Just know some people are fucking assholes and they won't respect you and will do what they please.

Cold Hard Facts

Some patterns don't go anywhere, patterns do flop, and patterns writing isn't extremely profitable. Be ready for your pattern to not go viral, or make any money. We can't all be the next "Find Your fade Shawl". Some patterns flop and won't make your money back for your yarn and time. Sometimes people won't like them. So when you release a pattern, expect it to be a slow climb. Please don't expect your pattern to just take off. It may take time and a lot of marketing on your part. 

Pattern writing will not rake in the dough. The average cost of a pattern is $4-11 dollars. If you're material cost is $20, you have to make that up, and all the hours it took you to dream it up, design it, try it, frog it, write it, test it, finesse your final version and list it. Those hours add up, and you'll need to sell a lot of $5 patterns to make up for those costs. 


I really don't want to be a debbie downer, but I do want to be real with you. I see a lot of people jumping to get into the pattern game and expecting it to sky rocket them. My biggest suggestion is that if you want to get into the pattern writing game, do it because you want to and you want to design. Don't do it because it's the "in" thing to do. Spend that amazing time elsewhere in your biz.


-xox Chantal