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Bringing Rates Into the Light

One thing is clear: freelance knitwear and crochet designers are in the dark about the going rate for a design and how our pay stacks up against fellow designers. The goal of WhoPaysKnitters is to shine a light on what our industry pays by providing crowdsourced data on actual rates shared by those doing the work. Our hope is that this information better equips knitwear and crochet designers, tech editors, sample knitters, and teachers for future negotiations.

To submit or view posted rates for designers, tech editors, sample knitters, and teachers follow the links provided or use the menu at the top of the page. Please only submit rates of which you have first-hand knowledge and on contracts that have been fully executed. WhoPaysKnitters makes no claim to the veracity or accuracy of the information published herein.

Follow the company on Facebook and Twitter for updates on newly posted rates.


Following #FairFiberWage

Links to blog posts and discussions revolving around #FairFiberWage. If you know of any that should be added to this list, please email me at whopaysknitters@gmail.com.


#FairFiberWage on Ravelry

#FairFiberWage on Twitter

#FairFiberWage on Facebook


Blog Posts (in order by date with the most recent first)

Bolton, John (Interweave Yarn Fest. “New Interweave Yarn Fest Instructor Contracts” 19 Sept 2016.

Hunter, Robin. “So many of you have asked…”19 Sept 2016.

Berry, Mary. “Hello you. Yes, you. On the high horse.” 16 Sept 2016.

Fry, Laura. “Hidden Costs” 15 Sept 2016.

Knitmore Girls. “Möbius Starfish – Episode 394” 15 Sept 2016.

Franquemont, Abby.”4 Common Fiber Workshop Pricing Models.” 14 Sept 2016.

King, Amy. “Why I haven’t blogged my thoughts on Fair Fiber Wage…” 14 Sept 2016.

Glassenberg, Abby. “Changes to Interweave Yarn Fest Contract Shift Financial Risk and Promotional Burden from Show Organizers to Teachers.” 13 Sept 2016.

Fry, Laura Holzworth. “#FairFiberWage.” 8 Sept 2016.

Smith, Beth. “I Used to Hire Teachers.” 7 Sept 2016.


Boggs, Jacey (PLY Magazine). Fair Fiber Wage, a look from the other side.” 5 Sept 2016.

Grieger, Stephanie. “Fair Fiber Wage.” 5 Sept 2016.

Temple, Mary Beth. “NO APOLOGIES.” 5 Sept 2016.


Frye, Laura. “Labour Day.” 4 Sept 2016.

Franquemont, Abby. “In Response to Diane P. on Fair Fiber Wages.” 4 Sept 2016.

Temple, Mary Beth. “THE GREAT TEACHING KERFUFFLE.” 3 Sept 2016.

Franquemont, Abby. “What does it cost to hire top talent in fiber arts? I’m glad you asked.” 2 Sept 2016.


Catch up with WPK founder Alex Capshaw-Taylor at TNNA at the F+W Media booth #367 on Saturday from 1-2pm. You can also catch her knitting at the Marriott Marquis (next to the convention center)  on Friday and the Renaissance Hotel (next to the convention center) Saturday night. Stop by and say hi!

Staff writer Hannah Thiessen will also be out and about the showroom floor collecting info at TNNA from designers and shop owners for her next Tuesday Tips article. Be sure to stop her if you have some thoughts to share for the upcoming post. Her next topic will be “To Paper or Not To Paper”.

We want to hear your experiences with selling paper patterns in local yarn stores! What choices do you make when printing your patterns that you believe makes them stand out? How do you expect LYSOs to display them, and have you noticed major differences in patterns that sell well digitally vs. physically?


Hiring Designers: Helpful Tips for Indie Yarn Companies

The Tuesday Tips series by staff writer Hannah Thiessen

One of the biggest challenges any new yarn company faces is the issue of patterns, or rather, pattern support. Patterns are an important aspect of a yarn company’s marketing campaign: they help knitters and crocheters visualize, through a finished object, the unique and varied qualities of their yarns. Having spent time hiring designers for books, magazine features, and commissions, I hope some of my tips and direction will help new yarn companies navigate what can be a wonderful and rewarding aspect of their business.

Evaluate Your Market & Brand

Before you ever started your business, you probably knew what your branding and marketing plan would be — often, this is directly influenced by your aesthetic as an artist and dyer and how that translates to the yarn you create. Are your yarns light, airy, and romantic, bright and bouncy, workhorse and wooly? Your patterns should reflect this tone and message. Consider what your overall goal for communication is before you contract your first designer. This serves two purposes:

  1. It allows you to choose designers who have portfolios similar in feel to your brand’s direction. If you’re able to work with a designer who has a similar style, voice, or branding to your own, the process will be more seamless, with fewer design edits and modifications along the way.
  1. It allows you to guide the designs you need for designers you have hired by evaluating the best garment styles to show off your product. If you come into the relationship knowing that you need to show off the stitch definition of a yarn as opposed to its drape, you can give the designer an idea of what you’re looking for before they invest design time into the project.

Small Patterns, Big Rewards

Accessories are an easy way to dip your toe into providing great pattern support. They provide the most bang for your buck; a little piece, well planned, photographed, and backed with good marketing can go really far! In fact, if you search Ravelry for the most popular (read, most made) designs of all time, most of them are scarves, shawls, cowls, and socks. Not only that, but accessory patterns cost less time for the designer and technical editor, and less money for you. At the time this article was published, Freelance designer rates for accessory patterns via Who Pays Knitters were between $40-$700, averaging $246, and often do not include costs for technical editing, photography, and layout.

Valuing the Designers

Knitwear designers possess a set of specialized skills. Using your yarn as the inspiration, they take a sketch and a swatch and turn it into written technical directions that result in a beautiful finished object. A well designed, well written knitting pattern inspires knitters and crocheters to purchase your yarn, resulting in a boost to your bottom line. Knitwear designers are professionals and deserve a professional rate of pay.

The True Cost of Design

When working with a designer, it’s important to establish contractual obligations up front about rights, expenses, and presentation.

There are a few options when it comes to rights. As the yarn company, you can own all the rights, partial (or temporary) rights, or you can allow the designer to keep all the rights. Here are some notes on each option:

Full Rights: it’s becoming rarer and rarer for yarn companies to ask for or pay for full rights. First, it’s more expensive, especially since these rights should also cover the costs of purchasing the sample, managing the digital sales as well as the physical printing and distribution of the patterns, and providing pattern support to customers. This can create stress on sole proprietorships. The positives of this arrangement are that if the design goes big, you receive all of the profit.

Partial Rights: there are numerous ways in which yarn companies and designers arrange partial rights for designs. Some companies pay a flat fee for a period of exclusivity (typically between 6 – 12 months), where the designer has all rights to pattern sales after a specific date. This allows the yarn company to capitalize on the freshness of a new design, but not on long-term sales if the design is popular. Other arrangements allow the designer to concurrently self-publish the design, splitting the percentage of sales made by the yarn company through their website and distribution channels, over time, similar to an advance (in which your original payment to the designer is pre-payment for anticipated sales), with royalties (a percentage of residual sales, managed and paid out by the yarn company.) Some designers may have suggestions or systems that they prefer from past arrangements, and it can be worth it to ask.

Yarn Support: in this instance, the yarn company simply acts as yarn support for the design process and does not receive residuals on pattern sales. Typically, the designer will cover all of the other pattern expenses. It’s not uncommon to ask that the designer list your yarn as the only recommended yarn for the pattern.

In all instances, be sure to write up an agreement shared and signed between you and the designer.  A written contract protects you and the designer and helps correct any misunderstanding that may have occurred during the negotiation and discussions leading up to the design process. Make sure costs, payment, rights, responsibilities (such as who is responsible for tech editing, photography, layout, pattern support), a nullification clause, and deadlines are fully laid out, and be sure to include (after discussing with your designer) any mutual marketing or advertising plans you expect.

Choose Mutually Beneficial Collaborations

While many yarn companies big and small dream of having their yarns featured in patterns designed by top names, often you have a better chance of working with someone at your level or with a slightly bigger following than your brand. Many of the top-name designers are inundated with yarn requests and are given free yarn at most shows they attend — this means that unless they are instantly able to fit it into their schedule, your yarns could sit for years without being used. Remember that every skein of yarn you give away should be included in your budget and business expenses as potential advertising or marketing — treat it as such and set deadlines for designs to come back to you. I know it’s tempting, but try not to give away lots of yarn for free in the hopes that somebody might use it — that’s a good way to lose out on inventory you could sell instead.

In the same way that you wouldn’t want your work overlooked in favor of one of the ‘bigger brands’, you should consider who you hire in the same way. There are so many talented designers at all levels of their businesses. Those starting out are a great fit for small yarn companies doing the same — together, you can both attract more attention to your brands. If you’re willing to reach a little higher, look at designers who are consistent at publishing, either independently or through an established publisher, and have a good following of their own.

Evaluate your Expectations

When hiring designers for a project, there are a few things you can do to evaluate if they will be a good fit (designers, listen up!) First, look them up on Ravelry and open the page for their personal website and any other business accounts they have on social media. See how many of your social media sources match up and mesh with theirs — are you both extremely active on Instagram? Do you or the designer have Ravelry groups that are fairly busy?

Ravelry portfolios are a wonderful way to see how a designer handles photography and where they publish. Designers who have many self-published patterns are often used to working on their own or developing their own systems — make sure you discuss with them how they like working and see if they can fit your deadlines and requirements. Designers used to publishing in books and magazines should be able to meet deadlines, but might not be set up to handle their own photography. If you like their design aesthetic, but are unsure of their process, ability to meet deadlines, photography skills, or otherwise, contact them and ask.

Make sure you know what your own strengths and weaknesses are and look for designers who compliment and assist your business through their own strengths. In the end, this will help you create good relationships and beneficial partnerships as you develop your yarn company. Eventually, designers who are excited about your product will start approaching you, knowing that you’re professional to work with and know what you want.

About the Author: A staff writer at Who Pays Knitters, Hannah Thiessen has worked in the yarn industry since 2009 in various capacities, bringing her perspective to brands like Malabrigo Yarn, Premier Yarns, Willow Yarns, Shibui Knits, Zen Yarn Garden, Knit-Purl, Yarnbox, and The Sheep’s Stockings. She is currently working on her first book with STC Craft, to be released in Fall 2017. You can read more from her at www.handmadebyhannahbelle.com, find her on Ravelry as Hannahbelle, or follow on Instagram as Hannahbelleknits.

Negotiating Contracts & Living Wage

The following was posted on Ravelry on March 28, 2016 and was the impetus to create WhoPaysKnitters. You can follow the original discussion here and here.

This discussion topic has been a long time coming, still I find it difficult to broach. There is always the fear of retribution, either perceived or real, from yarn companies and publishers. However, after another demoralizing incident last week, I feel I must speak out.

I was contacted a couple months back by an established yarn company who told me I was at the top of their list of designers with whom they’d like to work. Vague terms were discussed in their initial email. I mentioned my typical going rate for work and was told I could negotiate terms if a design was selected. They sent me some mini-skein samples and I put together a proposal of a few designs, of which they selected one.

The yarn was shipped before the contract was sent. When the contract arrived, the terms were not equitable for the amount of time and talent that went into the work. Among other things, they wanted to purchase the sample for $0.15 a yard or $150 for approx. 40 hours of work (and I’m a fast knitter). Additionally, the contract was one-sided. The list of designer responsibilities was numerous, while those of the yarn company were sparse; they could nullify the contract, I could not.

My terms were not greedy and were in-line with previously agreed fees with other companies with which I’ve worked. I modified the contract to reflect my terms and sent it back. When a couple weeks had passed and I still hadn’t received a signed contract or counter offer, I contacted them. I was told that they hadn’t realized that I had modified the contract (apparently they hadn’t even opened it), would discuss it in their staff meeting, and get back to me. The next day I received a curt email that they had “decided to change directions, and will not be moving forward with your sweater design.” and “Could you return the yarn please?”

While disappointed that they decided to go this route, this is not what made me upset. I appreciate it is their decision to act in the best interest of their company; they have an established budget. As the designer, I act in my best interest by asking for fair compensation and terms and modifying a contract as necessary. What infuriated me was the fact that the contract that I returned to them WAS NOT EVEN OPENED. It made me wonder how many of us allow ourselves to be devalued because “that’s what they are willing to pay me.” This makes me both sad and angry. I think that it speaks to two larger problems in our society: 1. women’s work in general is undervalued and 2. women typically do not negotiate their contracts out of fear that they won’t be liked.

It is exasperating that people within our industry are willing to devalue the work of others and take advantage to the point of exploitation. The ultimate result is that we all lose. It is almost impossible to make a living wage as a designer in this industry (and I feel I’m one of the fortunate ones). Much of our work is treated like a hobby because we enjoy knitting. I do enjoy knitting, but I’m not a volunteer, I’m not working out of the ‘kindness of my heart’, or for ‘exposure.’ This is my livelihood. I’m a professional who possesses a unique and specialized set of skills that advance our industry and keep the machine running. My designs inspire others to buy your yarn. I earn my compensation.

I implore all of you reading this to not let others dictate your value, not to feel like you have to capitulate to the terms set by a publisher or yarn company, to have the courage to tell them what you are worth and ask for it in your contract. They may say no, but at least you know you stood up for you. And collectively, the more we do this, we can change the system. As for the design that this particular yarn company decided they weren’t moving forward with, it’s a strong design and I have no doubt that it will be published with another company who’s willing to equitably compensate me for it.

I am interested in how other designers have handled these issues, what your experiences have been, and what you think about how to address the systemic problem.