Free Patterns: Why ALL Patterns CAN’T Be Free

Some patterns are free while others aren’t.

We now have over 200,000 members, a good number of whom are also designers.

Many of our designer members have posted one or two (and sometimes more) of their patterns for free, and others have decided not to.  This is a personal choice that every designer makes, and in this blog post I hope to outline some of the factors that go into that decision.

As a designer myself, this is a topic that I’ve personally dealt with a lot over the course of my 10-plus-year career in the knitting world. From a designer’s perspective, there are pros to distributing the occasional free pattern.

Why some designers offer free patterns:

(image from Joseph Robertson on Flickr)

1) More web traffic. A wildly popular free pattern can drive lots of traffic to a designer’s website where people will see (and hopefully purchase) some of the “for pay” patterns.

2) Contributing to the community. Giving the occasional free pattern is a great way for designers to contribute to the crafting community and return the love that loyal fans have shown over the years.

3) Building a following. Free patterns are a great way for new and established designers alike to get their names out there.  If a pattern is free, it’s likely that LOTS of people will see it and use it.  This is a great way for a new designer to get his or her “brand” into the minds of crafters.

At the same time, not all patterns can or should be free.  Many designers, myself included until recently when I took a full-time job, need the money that we make from our designs to pay the mortgage, put food on the table, and clothe our children.  Aside from the general need for money to live on, there are many other reasons that not all patterns are free.

Why most patterns cost money:

for sale(image from _gem_ on Flickr)

1) Tech Editing. Every good design must be tech edited, and this costs the designer money.  Tech editors make anywhere from $25 – $50 an hour, and that adds up!

2) Materials. Just as you are using materials to create your version of the design, the designer has purchased materials to create his or her version.  Many times the designer will create several versions in different colors, sizes, and styles, to test the pattern and make sure that it will work for you. (It’s true that a handful of well-known designers are fortunate enough to have materials provided by companies, but this is not the case for the majority of designers.)
3) Photography. Many talented designers are also talented in photography, but many are not.  Often the designer has to hire a photographer and model in order to present the design to you in the most appealing way.

4) Pattern Design and Layout. Just as designers may or may not be skilled in photography, the same may hold true for their skills in pattern layout and graphic design. A good pattern will also have schematics or other technical drawings that the designer will pay to have created for them.

5) The designer’s time.  Many designers, when we add up the hours put into our craft and compare it to income at tax time, realize that we don’t make minimum wage.  It can take weeks, months, or longer to create a design, find all of the contractors like technical editor, photographer, and graphic designer.  Most patterns cost in the range of $5 to $7, which is really a very small amount in terms of the time put into creating them.

The above points barely scratch the surface of the thousands of reasons that crafters should be compensated for their talent, their time, and their dedication to their art.  It’s a battle that artists and craftspeople have been waging since the first pot was thrown, the first loom warped, and the first thread stitched.


Free and “For Pay” patterns on Bluprint:

Here at Bluprint, we care about our designers.  We appreciate the generosity of the designers who have provided free patterns, and at the same time, we respect the inherent right of artisans to set their own prices.

(Click to enlarge)

Finding free patterns: You CAN (and we encourage you to) search Bluprint for free patterns, just go to the projects tab above, and click on “free patterns” at right, and every free pattern on the site will come up.  These are patterns that designers have very generously shared with the community, and we thank those designers for doing so while realizing that they may also have several wonderful “for pay” patterns as well.

Finding ALL patterns: If you want to see ALL of the patterns available for a certain type of project: shawl, scrapbook page, hat, quilt, etc., fill in the search box and click on “pattern included.”  This will show you every pattern that has been added to the site for that project type, and give you the option of choosing to use either “for pay” or “free” patterns.

I hope that this post has helped you to both appreciate the hard work, time, and monetary investment that designers and artists have put into creating both free and “for pay” patterns, AND to navigate Bluprint to find the patterns that best suit your needs.

I’m very interested to hear your thoughts on free patterns, if you’d like to comment below, I’d love to know what you think.

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