Today I want to talk about something that I've been thinking about a lot lately: pattern support.
Back in November I published my first pattern and since then I've been really flattered by the support, praise, and encouragement I've received both here on the blog but also on ravelry. I truly enjoyed coming up with the design. Knitting it a couple of times and having friends jump on the scarflet bandwagon was a blast. And then I got to have the fun of turning my thoughts and ideas into a printable document that anyone could use.
I put this pattern out for free. I didn't (and still don't) think that what I had done was different enough from what was already available to warrant charging someone money for it. I also didn't want to deal with the hassle of setting up a system of payment, figuring out about taxes, and dealing with the other business aspects of knitwear design. This is something I do for fun; it's not my job. And I wanted to contribute something to the knitting community that has been very good to me and has helped me grow.
However, publishing that pattern came with something that I really haven't enjoyed and didn't expect. I have received a number of requests from knitters asking for help with the pattern. For the most part, these requests have pinpointed a specific section of the pattern causing difficulty. But some of them were general cries for help where I couldn't even tell what the problem was, never mind begin to think of how to fix it.
I like to think that I am a nice person. I genuinely like to help people when I can. And I really like to encourage people in a craft that I enjoy quite a bit. For all of these reasons, I answer each and every request for pattern support that I receive.
But here's the problem: all of these request for pattern support could have been answered succinctly in one of two ways.
- Read the pattern (again).
- Count your stitches (again).
While I've been tempted to say this, I haven't. And instead I prepared a thoughtful response that usually involved just repeating what I had written in the pattern. I might rephrase something slightly but that's it.
All of this involves time, quite a bit of time. And time is not something that I have a lot of these days. I am the mother of a three-and-a-half month old daughter. This is a 24/7 job. In a few months, I go back to my "real" job where I will be working 60-hour weeks if not more. And I will still be the mother of an infant daughter. All of this means that I want to spend as much time with her (and my husband) as I can while also recognizing that I am an adult who uses real words in full sentences and has interests other than all things baby.
If someone genuinely thinks that there is a mistake in the pattern, I want to know about it so that I can fix the problem and issue a correction that everyone can use. But I don't want to spend what little bit of free time that I have gently urging someone to reread the pattern because I have already answered her question halfway down page three.
I accept that the knitting community has come to expect, and paid designers have come to provide, a fair amount of pattern support. But I can't do this.
There are plenty of resources out there if you have difficulty understanding a pattern. You could call a knitter friend for help. You could look on ravelry forums to see if someone else had encountered a similar problem or could help you better understand the directions. And if that didn't work, you could go to a help session at a LYS, pay the money for an hour with the on-site expert, and seek advice there.
I am working on a baby sweater design at the moment and I would love to share it with you. I think it's going to be a really great solution to the problem of figuring out how to make a sweater to fit a baby you haven't met yet (and to make that sweater last longer than two weeks). But for all of the reasons I've laid out above I can't keep answering questions asking for help with the pattern.
So here's my question: How can I contribute patterns to the knitting community while making clear that I can't and won't provide the sort of pattern support that many knitters have come to expect?
How would you feel if a free pattern came with a disclaimer telling you that the designer would not answer questions asking for help understanding the pattern?
Would you still want to use the pattern or would this put you off? More importantly, would you think to yourself "if I ask really nicely, perhaps she'll make an exception just for me"?
Would it help if I had an FAQ page on the blog where I answered common questions or provided clarification if people had questions?
Would it be better if I skipped the disclaimer on the pattern and instead went with a generic response to requests for help, saying that I don't provide pattern support?
Thanks for reading. I know this is quite a bit longer than my usual posts and not the rosy picture of knitting motherhood that you normally get here. But this issue is very important to me and I wanted to take a break from the usual content and talk about it. And I am really looking forward to hearing your thoughts and responses.
As an extra thank you to everyone who participates in the discussion, I'm giving away three skeins of Woolen Rabbit Essence in the oakmoss colorway.
How does this work? Just leave a comment letting me know what you think and I'll enter you into a drawing (random number generator) to receive one of the three skeins. Any comment whenever? No. Leave the comment by noon central time on Monday, June 27. I'll post the three winners on Tuesday, June 28, and ask them to tell me their mailing addresses so I can send off the skeins.
Next time: the best skein I have ever spun. Seriously.