Have you ever wondered what goes into designing a pattern and why you have to pay the majority of patterns? I was recently asked why I would charge for a pattern and I found this very thought provoking and I thought it would make a good blog post. I won't be able to answer why other designers charge or don't charge for their patterns, but I will be able to tell you what goes into one of my designs and hopefully give you an idea of what you are spending your hard earned money on.
I think that everyone's design process is different because we are all creative people. When I am starting a new design, it's often based on something that inspires me. The inspiration for my Mother of Dragons shawl for instance, came from Game of Thrones. When I watched the last scene at the end of the first season where Daenerys emerges from the remains of the funeral pyre with the dragons, I knew I had to design a shawl that would have some dragon qualities to it. I sketched out the basic shape that I wanted and then did a lot of research in my stitch dictionaries for inspiration. I worked on the charts for many hours to make sure I liked how the stitches were going to work and then I began swatching. I dug through my stash to find just the right yarn. It had to have a fiery effect with some variegation in the colorway to help show off the lace scales. The Biker Chick from Miss Babs was a perfect match. Once the swatching is done and the charts are laid out, then the fun begins! I knit every design that I create. I know this takes a lot of extra time, but I want to be certain that I like the way something is knitting up. Especially when something has a lace component in it. I think we have all knitted something at one time or another that just didn't flow well for us. It doesn't mean that it was a bad pattern or that the lace wasn't charted or written well. When this happens I think it just didn't have the right rhythm for me. With my patterns I figure that if the lace or texture is knitting well for me and that I am enjoying what I am knitting than there is a very good chance that other knitters will enjoy it as well.
Now we are at the point where the design (a shawl in this instance) is knitted up and I have blocked it. I work on the final measurements and verify that the gauge from my swatch matches what I knitted. Now the pattern writing begins. I take very detailed notes while I am knitting my designs and use them to help me write the pattern. Out of the whole design process I find that writing the pattern can be the most challenging. I want to be absolutely certain that anyone who purchases one of my patterns will find the instructions to be clear and easy to follow. I double and triple check what I have written and then have my editor go over the pattern in case I missed anything. Anything that needs to be corrected is done at this time and then finally the pattern is sent out to the test knitters. My test knitters are absolutely fantastic and tell me when they find something that needs clarifying or if something doesn't seem to be working for them or for the yarn they are using. Once the test knitting is finished, I compile their notes and make any necessary changes to the pattern. Then this final version is sent back to the editor for a last check before publication.
The photo shoot comes next. It's always a lot of fun for me to finally get to see how one of my designs is going to look in real life! Andy and I are always on the look out for new places to take pictures and we are lucky to live in an area with really great scenery. I edit the pictures and choose which ones will work well in the pattern lay out and which ones will work best on line. Speaking of pattern lay out, that is another very important component. I do the lay out myself and try to incorporate the theme of the design into the pattern. I put almost as much time and thought into the lay out as I do on the written portion. There are also advertising costs, fee's from the places that patterns are sold at (Ravelry, Etsy, etc.), and fee's for PayPal as well.
From start to finish not including the time that it takes to knit an item, a pattern generally takes me about forty hours to create.
I hope that this helps to explain the design and pattern writing process and gives an insight on why designers charge for their patterns. I would love to hear your thoughts on this!