The Things We Do For Love

I have been avoiding blogging for about a week, a silly thing I know but the lingering feeling of being a sellout has kept me from my desire to write about knitting. Here’s the back story.

Since January 1st, it has become evident that my family is in the weeds. Money is tighter than ever and the time to step up and do what needs to get done has come. I’ve been working at both jobs, but I’ve also 1) laid flooring 2) spent an entire weekend (about 21 hours total) stripping wallpaper 3) shoveled snow and 4) walked dogs. Pretty much any task that can help us out financially I’ve attacked headfirst. There is no such thing as doing a job that is below you, I don’t think that exists. If you do a job well, then there is no such thing as a bad job.

Unless you sell out….which I have.

I have been working, for months, on a cabled hat pattern. This secret little project of mine was what I had hoped would put me on the knitting designer map, or at least the Ravelry map. I’ve made this hat so many times it is mind-blowing – thank goodness for Halos of Hope and other charity organizations that take knitted items. I wrote the pattern for every weight of yarn (except bulky), I had sizing for babies, toddlers, young adults, men and women. The idea was to create a variation on the same pattern that could be worn by every member of a family – be it blood relatives or the family we’ve created for ourselves. The cable pattern was noticeably the same, but as you got older, and the hats got bigger, the cable pattern would continue to grow and change slightly. Pretentiously, I was thinking of the movie The Fountain and how the tree continues to grow and change (ehh…admitting that makes me feel all James Fracno-y). Finally, about a week ago I was ready to write the pattern in PDF form to get it all ready to go on Ravelry – then I had lunch with a friend.

My Pretentious Tree of Life

My Pretentious Tree of Life – Photo Credit IMDB – The Fountain 

My friend, who luckily doesn’t read knitting blogs, is a very successful lawyer in her part of the world. In-between being as young and successful as she is she’s also found time to have three kids – all by the ripe old age of 31. We went to lunch to catch up ( she offered to buy, who says no to that?) and went on … a little incessantly …. about how great her life was going. I just wanted to add a little to the conversation, so I pulled my newly printed pattern out of my bag and showed her my pattern.

I was excited, besides the people I had photographed in the hats and my husband, no one had seen the pattern. I told her how I each variation was just the cables growing – from baby to adult the pattern grew in complexity while still obviously matching the one before. I pitched her my idea, and she went for it.

In less than 10 minutes I somehow had manage to sell her the patterns for $100.00, agreed to make her entire family their hats, agreed to never photograph my work and never make the pattern available to the public. She wanted this family of hats for her family, no one else’s. If I hadn’t just come off a weekend of mind-numbing, hand-breaking paper removal I would have thought twice – but that’s not what happened.

I keep telling myself that the pattern may have never sold and that a hundred dollars is better than nothing – not that I totally believe that. I’ve told myself that I have created something unique and wonderful for her family, but since she paid twelve-hundred dollars for a stroller I doubt that these hats will ever register for her family as “special”. I’ve been tip-toeing around it ever since I did it, but I feel like a sellout. There, I said it – I am a sellout. But one hundred dollars pays for four co-pays for my father-in-laws doctor visits – so it is time to suck it the f*#k up.

I wonder, is it more that my ego has taken a hit? Or is there some feeling of intellectual theft under duress? Maybe I am just blowing smoke – more than less likely that’s all there is. Either way friends and neighbors, if I designed one thing I am (hopefully) sure I can design another.

49 thoughts on “The Things We Do For Love

  1. stitches'n'scraps

    1) doing what you need to do for your family is not selling out.
    2) $100 seems way cheap for the amount of effort that went into that…but on the other hand, it may be more than you would have made selling the pattern.
    3) You can definitely come up with something new! You could probably even adapt that pattern – make it different enough, but keep what you learned about sizing and yarn types. Make a colorwork pattern instead of cables, but keep the stitch counts the same…that sort of thing.

  2. rainbowjunkiecorner

    I agree with stitches’n’scraps you should use your current set of patterns as a basis for a new set which are more or less the same. Your lawer friend’s can be unique but change the cable a bit or work in a texture and you can still try selling the patterns.

        1. allnightknits Post author

          I felt a little burn…like mild heartburn with a side of distracted rage 🙂 You’re right though, it happens to everyone – it’s how we learn (or end up bitter, either way).

          1. Rob's Surf Report

            That sounds like an angry trip to the Mongolian BBQ. But you can’t let that put you off your stir fry, is all. You just pick up your chopsticks and make another plate, and this time . . . you maybe not make it so spicy, I don’t know.

  3. Nadine Roberts

    I agree. Don’t worry about it. Take what you have learned and put it into a pattern. Then put that one on Ravelry, Pinterest, Facebook and everywhere else you can think of. Let us know it is your new pattern you learned from and watch it take off.

  4. lovelucie1

    That doesn’t sound like a very nice exchange. I’m struggling to think of a reason why would someone want to singularly own a unique cable hat pattern? I’m sure it is a very fine pattern and it sounds lovely how it is modified for different sized heads. But it’s not like owning a one off designer accessorie. No one else will know it is a unique pattern. Was she genuinely helping you out or just buying something so others couldn’t have it?
    And she expects you to make the hats as well? Your time is worth as much as the next persons. Exactly how much money will you make? I would try and re negotiate. Sorry if this sounds harsh.

  5. KarinKateriKei

    There is much good advice up above. I feel for you so deeply. When my children were small, I did seamstress work and had some similar experiences to yours. As a knit designer, I understand the effort that goes in. It is so difficult to find a fan base for one’s work and exposure is important. Some of the suggestions above sound like a perfect way to get round what is essentially an unfair agreement. Reverse the cable pattern, have someone else take the photos… Mostly be proud that you are doing the right things (I think) in a tough situation.

  6. lollyknits

    It’s tough, but sometimes you have to do what you need to do. There’s nothing wrong with selling something you’ve made to help your family make ends meet. That said, I think your friend was a total jerk. She took advantage of you, and you don’t need to feel like you can’t make something similar out of loyalty to her. I’d tweak the pattern, change it up but keep all your hard work on research and sizing, and put it out there anyway! Screw her, seriously. Some people just learn how to be jerks in law school. Keep to the letter of your contract (if it can’t be renegotiated) but don’t let this discourage you. Unfortunately, I think this happens a lot to new designers 😦 But you’re awesome, just keep swimming!

    1. JoJo

      I agree with everything said here! Someone offered you money… you had to take it. It’s tough to get a pattern going on Ravelry, so you may have come out well in the short-run. However, I’m surprised that your “friend” kinda screwed you over. You learned a lot coming up with the pattern. You can change it a little and still be able to sell it without running afoul with the contract. I know it’s disappointing, but I KNOW that you’ll end up with a new pattern that’s better than the original 🙂

  7. ilashdesigns

    begin: you know, (insert friends name here) I’m so glad to have you as a friend (list reasons why here) (many is good). I’m glad we are close enough that I can talk to you, honestly, about what’s been bugging me, I appreciate you for that! (insert friendly hug here)…because I did something that has been super bugging me…?

  8. The Twisted Yarn

    Ouch, but I understand why $100 in the hand wasn’t an offer you could turn down.

    She’s not been a good friend to you, though, as she? A good friend would have commissioned you to make hats for her family, but not deprived you of further earning a wage for your family by marketing the pattern. It’s cruel of her to stop you from making a living! Does she have any idea of how much work you must have put into your design?

    Sorry to be harsh, but I’m fuming on your behalf!

    1. allnightknits Post author

      You don’t need to fume! After writing about it, it just didn’t seem like such big deal anymore. Venting to people who understand what is involved made me feel instantly better.

      Sidenote: You’re awesome! 🙂

        1. allnightknits Post author

          I am glad that I can make you laugh. I get up everyday hoping something I do will bring someone joy – or a reason a giggle at something ridiculous I’ve done….it’s usually the latter. 😉

  9. Sofia Leo

    Wow. You didn’t sell out, but you did sell your talents rather cheaply. Is she paying you for knitting her family hats? Is she at least buying the yarn? $100 does not sound like a very good friend, IMHO, not for the kind of exclusivity she’s going to get. OTOH, bravo to you for turning your talent into cash 🙂

    I agree with other comments – use what you learned to design another pattern. Vary the cables but keep the sizing and shaping. If you really want to go all out, offer to design an exclusive pattern for other families as part of your pattern description – maybe that will be your road to riches 🙂

  10. lottieknits

    I find this very, very sad. Firstly, she took advantage of you (I’d be interested to know if she made you the offer after she knew the difficulties you are having at the moment, if she did that suggests that she knew you would say yes to a bad deal because you feel the need to take all the work that has offered to you). Secondly, that is a lot of work to do for only $100. How many hats do you have to make? It should be nearer $100 just for the hats, never mind exclusivity of the pattern.

    You deserve to be paid fairly for your work. For an accessory design usually the fee for magazines etc is approx £80 for which you must make one sample (not several) and write the pattern. Terms for publications vary, for example a yarn company will own the rights to your design whereas with a magazine you might get the rights back anything from 4 months to 2 years after the initial publication and often you will get the rights returned. Remember that you have designed not one but several patterns, so the fee should be more.

    Thirdly, have you actually signed anything (contract/agreement/whatever)? If there is nothing written down then the agreement is not binding and you might be able to re-negotiate perhaps a certain period of exclusivity, say 1 year, or 6 months, or perhaps agree to only sell the pattern and not the finished items. Consider how much you would charge on Etsy or at a craft fair for the hats. Making so many is a lot of work.

    If it’s not possible to negotiate I’d suggest (as have other commenters) developing the general idea into another set of patterns with slightly different cables. Yes, perhaps you would not have sold enough patterns to make $100 as quickly, but this deal is very unfair and you might well have been able to sell the finished hats on Etsy as well, giving you more regular orders.

    Unfortunately we all have bad experiences like this when we are starting out. A few years ago I made a bespoke outfit (tail coat shirt, trousers, bow tie) for a teddy bear. It was requested by the company that own the premises of the shop where I work and I got volunteered to make it. I was too shy to ask about money, so I just made it without asking about that. It took me every hour of spare time for three weeks to make it, and it was unique. I was paid one tin of biscuits and a small box of chocolates. Never again!

    1. allnightknits Post author

      I am looking at this whole thing as a stepping stone to success. You need to get hosed by someone to see that you have potential for a success designing career.
      In that thought, this is a good thing 🙂

  11. Christen Mattix

    What an awful feeling. I am so proud of you for facing your situation head on, and verbalizing it with such clarity and honesty. I hope things get way better for you, and soon.

  12. feelgoodknitting

    While the fee she paid is certainly less than many publishers would pay, it’s not necessarily less than you would have made selling it independently. Add in the amount of knitting you’re now going to have to do for her as well, though, and I do think you got a raw deal. Still, if you need money now you need money now, and sometimes it is better to take less money now than go into debt while you wait for your “more” money to come in. We all do what we have to, and there’s no reason for *you* to feel guilty here!

  13. Jennifer

    OMG we’re having the same life only I can’t design knitting patterns! I can barely knit – it was good you got the money. I’m sure dying out here trying to figure out where more money can come from – but you DID design the pattern and you can do another one unless you have the fortitude to tell her you just don’t feel right about the deal and you need to think about it. Either way – you’re sure not alone. Somehow money will come ………..

  14. Karen

    Sometimes doing what is right (get money now!) is more important than what you could have gotten if you had all the time in the world. You will design another fantastic pattern. I know it.

  15. oaktagdesigns

    I could have cried when I read this. Then when I read the comments, I realised that Ive had the same thing happen to me with sewing.
    I was commissioned a dress for an acquaintance to wear to her sisters wedding. I drafted the pattern from scratch to fit her body, from a photo of a dress she wanted. I sewed, fitted, refitted. In the end she paid me $70 (in Australia, so just previously I was getting $22/hr at my job) for labour, plus buying the thread (which was about $15). The dress style she had picked didnt flatter her body shape, and I don’t think she even ended up wearing it to the wedding. We were really short on money and I was fitting it in, in between looking after our first baby. So heartbreaking.
    I learnt a lesson and moved on, and Ive only been taken for a ride a couple of times since, but not as bad!

    I hope you can either revoke the agreement, or like others said, use all your measurements to make an even awesomer hat. 🙂

    1. allnightknits Post author

      I’m sorry your work was appreciated, but I admire your ability to do what needs to be done and to move on.
      Life is full of things that we learn from, this is just one of the bumpier ones. Thanks for sharing your story.

  16. knitnrun4sanity

    I think you did the right thing. It might have taken you ages to make that much from selling individual patterns and at the moment money is important now. Not in the futute. It is really hard to make a lot of money from patterns….. You got experience from this, there will be more patterns. Xx

  17. musingrunner

    I think that you have many more designs in there. You are taking care of your family, and that is NEVER selling out. Maybe later in the year we can have a design along…

  18. knittingsarah

    This will have some overlap from above, but as I’ve gotten older, I find that if I find myself wondering if something is fair or right then I probably already know the answer. That being said, I’m no stranger to stretching pennies. You do what you have to do & I have certainly given a lot of time for little financial gain. I would, however, definitely at least re-evaluate materials cost & time investment in the knitting portion. Have that figure ready. From there, I would figure what you feel is fair for the pattern rights. Then I’d go back to her and re-negotiate. As uncomfortable as that might be, it’s probably necessary.

    1. allnightknits Post author

      I am taking the “it is what it is” approach to it now. I think my need to vent to people that understand (ala blogger-goodness) has made me feel better. Just talking about it made me feel better.
      Either that or all the meditative sock knitting is just making me more zen 😉

  19. Maggie.Vincent

    It sounds as if it all happened so quickly, you really didn’t have a chance to think through what this agreement would mean to you. Perhaps if you explained the impact to your friend, told her how much the wool would cost, and set an hourly rate for your work, she might see your side of the deal in a different light. If she doesn’t, I think I would have to question my friendship with this person.

    I agree that it seems a bit odd that she insisted on having exclusivity, and expect you might have come-back should you wish to challenge the agreement; you did not, after all, have a lawyer there to represent your best interests.

    However it goes down, don’t be too hard on yourself: making an agreement such as this, with a lawyer, is a bit like playing tennis with a pro. You’re unlikely to come out on top.

    But aside from all the baggage this has brought with it, remember that SHE LIKED YOUR DESIGN! Keep the positive element in mind, and I’m sure you’ll soon be whipping up hats before you can say, “Is that my hat you’re wearing?”!

    In the meantime, you could google intellectual property rights, and you’ll be fore-armed for any future copyright tussles.


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