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Why I offer Cottage Licenses

By April 8, 2016 4 Comments

This is something that I have gone back and forth over. Inside and outside. Around and underneath.

I know there are many out there who believe they’re entitled to do whatever they choose with the pattern that they purchase online. And legally, they can.

But on the other side of the spectrum, there’s the thought that the person buying the pattern should respect the copyright of the pattern designer and contact them first for permission before selling finished items.

These are both valid points of view. But sadly, no one can seem to agree.

So I’m simply going to tell you my point of view and my feelings on the subject. As the creator and brainchild of WhiletheyPlay Designs, I feel that I certainly have a say over what should be done with my designs and this post will go over all aspects of the design process and why I personally have come to the decision to offer cottage licensing on all of my patterns.

So, to begin, let’s talk about the whole process of Design.

The Creative Process:

As an Independent Designer, I don’t just create a piece of wearable art. There is a methodical process, with a beginning and an ending and a whole lot inbetween!

For myself, I dream about a particular design, I sit down and I sketch it out. Make a few tweaks and adjustments here and there. I then think about what fiber would best fit with the design that I’ve sketched. I pull out several different yarns, and at times I may order a new yarn that I think may be a good fit, one that I haven’t used before. This may mean waiting several days or weeks for the yarn to arrive.

I then decide on a stitch pattern that will work well with my design. I start to create swatches using different yarns and begin to work out how I want my fabric to feel, which may entail changing my needle size. I may go up a size and find that the fabric is just too loose in that gauge, so I might end up going down a size or two. And sometimes, I find that the stitch that I thought I wanted to use just will not work with the particular yarn fiber that I want to use in my design. So, back to the drawing board I go.

When I do finally achieve the appropriate gauge, my work doesn’t end there. I now pull out my calculator and start to figure out the dimensions of my garment. Luckily, accessories such as scarves and hats don’t involve too much math. However, garments such as sweaters, socks or gloves all require sizing. And in order to tell the Knitter how to make the size that they’re wanting, you need to figure out how much shaping to do and where. How far to knit and how many stitches. When to decrease and when to increase.  This, of course not only involves math but also requires time and work. And more yarn. A designer can find herself knitting anywhere from 1 to 10 garments in the end of his/her design process, depending on how many sizes she wants to write up the pattern in. The different sizes must be worked up and measured and the yardage must be accurately calculated. This is also where the Designer may choose to hire a knitter or crocheter to create a sample. And the Designer may choose more than one sample knitter/crocheter for this part of the process.

After a design has finally made it’s way from inside the designers head onto paper and then into a finished garment, there is more work to be done. Now the design must be translated into a “pattern”. A pattern tells the Knitter all of the information that they will need in order to knit/crochet this design on their own.

So, here’s a summary of all that is involved when a Designer creates a “pattern”.

Details such as the finished dimensions of the garment in any and all of the sizes that the pattern is written in, the supplies used: which includes the suggested brand of yarn to use, the yardage of yarn for each size, the needle size required based on their particular gauge, the gauge in each stitch pattern that is given in the pattern, the instructions (either written, charted or both) for any and all of the stitch patterns that are used in the pattern, an explanation of all stitches that are used in the pattern, a description of any techniques or methods that are used in the pattern, a list of abbreviations that are used in the pattern, and finally we have photography. Because who wants to knit something without knowing what it’s going to look like when it’s completed?

Which brings me to….

Photography:

If you take a look online at any pattern, chances are the photography is what drew you in. The garment is well lit, the subject is wearing the garment so you can see how it will look when worn. And the backdrop of the garment may help tell the story of the name that the garment was given. Setting the mood, as it were, putting you in the frame of mind that carries you to the place where the Designer wants to take you. All of this, in just a photo. This is an important tool when designing. In fact, it can be just as important as the pattern itself.

So, pull out your cell phone and snap a shot of your garment laying on your freshly vacuumed carpet? Or invest a little extra time in finding a location that will help tell the story behind the garment, maybe hire a model or enlist the help of a friend who doesn’t mind posing for you. And if you’re going to be creating a lot of patterns, perhaps invest in a better camera? Lighting equipment? This isn’t to say that you have to have the top of the line equipment in order to take a great picture. Through trial and error and a little experience, you can create an amazing photo just in your lighting, camera angles and in editing. But again, this all requires time and some patience.

Creating a PDF of the pattern:

Now, once these details are all worked out and the photography has been done, the designer has to place all of this information in one location. Sometimes, a designer chooses to just type out their notes in a blog post that you have to copy and paste, in order to print the pattern instructions. But more often, the designer creates an electronic file that the Knitter or Crocheter can easily download. This requires a software program where the designer can layout all of the details. This includes typing out all of the information, selecting the proper fonts, selecting font sizes, laying out all this information in an attractive and easy-to-see manner, along with any photos that will be included in the printed pattern.

Storing your PDF:

After the electronic file for the pattern is complete, the designer must decide where they want to store the file. This is not always a free service. Many sites require a fee (either a flat fee or a percentage of each sale) in order for you to sell your pattern on their site. This fee may only cover the sale of the pattern itself. They may also require a fee for storing your files on their server.

Deciding on a Price and Payment:

If you are charging a set amount for your pattern, you must first decide how you want to be payed for the pattern file. No one offers the service of accepting money without charging you a fee. Which is usually a set percentage of your sale price. This entails setting up an account with that particular Merchant and giving them all of your information, which is usually address, phone number and banking information.

Advertising:

Now that you have your pattern file created and your photography is done and you’ve found the place or places where you will sell your patterns, you have to figure out how to get people to your pattern. How will people notice your pattern? What avenues should you go through to find the right buyer for your pattern? This all entails research. There are many sites that offer advertising at a price, in order to get your product out there for people to see it. You just have to weigh the pros and cons when it comes to how much this will benefit your sales.

Self-Promotion:

You can choose to self-promote your pattern on several social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, etc. You can also start a personal blog and promote your patterns there. These are all avenues that you’ll need to explore on your own. No one can tell you infinitively what will or won’t work. Different approaches may or may not work for different people.

Wrap-Up:

So, from inside the head of the designer up to the point where the printed pattern is in the hands of the Knitter or Crocheter who purchased it, there is a lot of time and effort involved. This is truly work. And some designers may be quicker than others. Some designers may have help with many aspects of the whole process. Not every designer is the same. But what they do all have in common is this:

They work hard to create a tool that you will use in order to create a finished object for someone to wear and enjoy.

Now ask yourself, “Is $5 too much for this pattern?”.

And I can’t answer that question for you. Because every Knitter and Crocheter is different. You may enjoy perusing the free pattern selections from the internet. (there’s so many great ones out there!) Or, you may be like myself….a complete and utter pattern junkie. Scrimping your extra cash to score that fabulous $8 pattern that you’ve been daydreaming about all month! Or, maybe you’re someone who can easily whip up a garment that looks similar and you can figure out how much yarn you’ll need and the math involved to figure out the appropriate sizing. And that’s awesome.

Basically, the person who is going to be buying a paid pattern is someone who knows that all of this extensive work and calculating has already been done for them. This is why we seek out a pattern to begin with, after all. Because it’s a “pattern”, showing us the way.

Now, we come to a subject that can be quite a hot button issue.

Pattern Copyrights:

A Knitter or Crocheter may say to themselves, “I payed for this pattern so I’m going to do whatever I wish with it. The designer has no legal right to tell me what I can and can’t do with the finished item.”

And you know what? They’re right. A designer has no legal right to tell you that you cannot sell the items that you make using their pattern. But they can ask.

And many designers do ask. When you think about all of the hard work and time and possibly money that went into the whole design process, how unfair is it for them to ask you to use the pattern for personal use only?

If you feel that this is completely unfair to you and you proceed to list your finished items online to sell for a profit, again…you do have the legal right to do so. But please first consider the feelings of the designer, consider their hard work, and consider giving them their due credit for the design.

Which then brings me to….

Cottage Licensing:

Many designers offer what is called a Cottage License. Again, this is not a legally binding contract. It’s just a way for the designer and the Knitter/Crocheter to work together as one entity to help you make a profit from the items that you knit/crochet and sell to people, using the designer’s pattern(s).

It is a courtesy to the designer because they receive the credit they are due for their hard work. And it benefits the knitter or crocheter because they are able to sell their items knowing that they have the verbal okay from the designer, and the designer can refer all interested buyers to his/her list of reputable licensees.

So after going over all of these aspects of the design process, I hope that you have a better understanding of all that is involved in the whole design process. I don’t want this post to turn into a rant session for designers who don’t feel they are being appreciated. The purpose of this post is simply to inform and to share my thoughts.

If you didn’t already know what all is involved in knit and crochet design, I think you can walk away knowing a lot more having read this. And my hope is that you can better appreciate the price that a designer places on his/her pattern. As well as the wish of the designer for a little control over what is done with their design.

As a community of Makers, be it Knitters, Crocheters, Sewers, Quilters, etc., we do each other a disservice by not supporting each other. Without Designers, I don’t think there would be nearly as many finished objects out there in the world. And without the Makers, there wouldn’t be a need for Designers. It is truly a two way street. Let’s help the traffic move more smoothly. Let’s all work together, one stitch at a time.

To obtain a Cottage License to sell items made from WhiletheyPlay Designs, click here.

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Sara says:

    This was a thoughtful post-I have several cottage licenses and am happy to purchase them just because I feel better knowing I’m avoiding sticky situations later, and it feels good to honor the creative process.

  • Sarah B says:

    Here’s my 2 cents….I understand the design process and yes it’s a lot of work. I have designed and published patterns myself. If the pattern is a good one and lets’s say 200 people buy it and you charge $6 then you realized $1,200 for that pattern. Now let’s look at the knitter’s situation. They buy your pattern for $6, then spend perhaps $80 for quality yarn, the license fee, plus days or weeks to knit the project and then sell it for maybe $150 if they are lucky….it makes it very difficult for the knitter to make any money at all. If you feel you need more than what you are making for the design process, then please consider adding a dollar or so to the pattern price, rather than add a much larger cost to the maker. There is a reason why copyright laws are written as they are. I do make and sell a few things once in a while. I stay away from designers who ask for a licensing fee. If I buy a pattern, knit the project and give designer credit, I feel that is more valuable than the fee. I hope you don’t feel that I am being too critical, just showing the other side of the coin…

  • Laura C. says:

    This is excellent information and provides valuable information into the creative process. I also think it also demonstrates that a Cottage License is a very fair and reasonable way to permit a crafter who wants to sell handmade products for designs that they didn’t create themselves. The cottage license recognizes the work of the people whose Combined Work brought the purse or the accessory or garment to market. Without the designer’s pattern, the crafter simply would not have the same piece to take to market. It is precisely because the design was created by a professional designer that the finished product has a certain flare, style and polished look that makes the final product so attractive in the market place. I don’t think doing the right thing is the hard thing. Creating and packaging a design, essentially creating something new in the world from nothing, is not easy, and your post identifies the multiple steps involved.

    Thank you for taking the time to provide this thoughtful and informative insight into the design process. It reminded me of a behind-the-scenes tour I once had of the enormous kitchen in a luxury hotel. While the final result of the design process, that pattern or a kit, that we see as crafters (and I am just that, not a designer) is lovely, and speaks to us of beauty, ease, grace, and style, we now know for the first time, or, for most of us, are reminded, that behind that beautiful pattern (or kit) was a tremendous amount of hard work, numerous options weighed and considered, and tremendous resources applied. Well done, Kalurah. I know this is a hot button issue, and I applaud you for your courage and leadership in facing this issue in an insightful, reasonable way..

  • Laura C. says:

    This is excellent information, and explains so well why cottage licenses are a fair and reasonable solution to crafters who use patterns that are not their own to create handmade articles to sell in the marketplace. Without the talent, time and experience of the designer, the crafter would not have the same articles to sell, and it is precisely because of the designer’s styling and expertise that the crafter’s finished items are so attractive to potential purchasers. Well done, Kalurah. Thank you for your courage, and the time you took to explain all of the work and expense that goes into the creative process. It reminded me of when I had a behind-the-scenes tour of the kitchen in a luxury hotel. What a wonderful reminder that just because what a designer presents looks beautiful, and so full of grace, style and ease, that behind the scenes, there is a tremendous amount of hard work, options weighed and discarded, and expenses for resources that are essential steps behind the finished design. Thank you.

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