I recently joined a knitting group through Meetup.com. When you’re new in town finding a tribe of fiber peeps is a great way to meet new people, so I bravely grabbed my project, put on a cheery face and got my patootie to the coffee shop.

HH in Orange

Although I’ve been knitting since my teens, I still consider myself a fledgling knitter. Thus, I tend to knit relatively simple things, especially when in a social setting. I want to be able to interact with people and not be desperately counting (or ripping) stitches! The scarf above is one of my favorite simple patterns – it’s the Hitchhiker*, and so named because when finished, it has 42 points. You can buy the pattern here on Ravelry (a lovely site for the knitting community).

Anyway… back to that knitting group. Soon after I sat down, the discussion turned to another pattern on Ravelry. It seems that the designer had initially offered the pattern for free, but was now charging a dollar for it. And just to be clear, that’s $1.00, one whole dollar. And this group of knitters was bitching about that dollar.

Poor gals…. they had no idea that I’m the torch bearer for We Are $ew Worth It. So I waded into the conversation and it went a bit like this:

Them: It used to be free.

Me: Offering a pattern for free is a marketing tactic… designers use it to introduce themselves to new buyers and drive traffic to their site.

Them: If it was free, they shouldn’t charge now.

Me: Why not? They made a product, they have a right to be compensated. You still buy other things like toilet paper when it’s not on sale, right?

Them: Well, it was a simple pattern, knit two purl two for a certain amount of rows and repeat. Like it needed a pattern.

Me: People like me appreciate that designers write out simple things because it all looks hard from here.

Them: But it was easy.

Me: But she still created it, figured it out, tested it, wrote it down, photographed it, took the time to distribute it. And even if you could do it without the pattern, there are a bunch of us that need such help.

Them: But it’s a dollar.

Me: And all of that effort isn’t worth a dollar in your eyes? How much was your coffee?

Them: Does anyone have a copy I can have?

Me: That’s a copyright violation. The law says that when you copy a pattern it is STEALING. If you wouldn’t steal a purse, why would you steal a pattern?

Them: But it’s simple, and it used to be free.

Me: Those socks you’re knitting look simple. Can I have them for free?

Them: NO!

The room was quiet for a while. And needless to say, I haven’t gone back because after that exchange, it obvious that these ladies are not my tribe. I’ve since found a different and lovely knitting group, so all is well!

So I’m issuing a challenge to you:

  • Pay for the patterns that turn you on, regardless of their complexity.
  • When someone asks to copy your pattern, ask them to buy it to support the designer.
  • When you see people swapping copies of things, remind them that they are effectively stealing from a designer, and that the designer deserves to be paid if they’re that interested in the pattern.
  • When you want to borrow a pattern from a friend – borrow it for a peek like you might a book, but if you make the article, buy the pattern.

Yes, in the past I have copied my share of patterns, and I know that in the karmic balance, mine are surely being copied. But no more. I challenge us all to not do this any more. It might not be easy, and it might not be popular, but it’s the right thing to do. Let’s support the artists so that they will keep designing things for us to make. Because THEY Are $ew Worth It too.


*For the non-geeks in the audience, 42 is the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything according to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a delightful book by the late Douglas Adams. Which, if you haven’t, you really ought to read 🙂