crochet · Knitting · My other ramblings

Patterns-To Pay or Not to Pay?

I’m currently on the hunt for a perfect pattern to use with my hand dyed yarn, although so far my search has proved fruitless (more effort may be required). As I’ve been browsing the plethora of patterns out there, I’ve been contemplating whether or not to buy a pattern. I tend to work from a selection of both bought and free patterns, depending on the project, and it made me think about how I choose. Lots of questions and thoughts whizzed through my mind, so I decided a blog postย might help me out.

Things to consider

Free patterns

  • Free patterns can be very handy, and there are loads of them about if ย you’re willing to search to try and find ‘the one’. (Especially good if you’ve blown all of your money on yarn!)
  • They’re a really good (and cheap) way of trying out something new to find out if you like it. E.g. if you’re trying amigurimi for the first time.
  • How well written is it? Some free patterns can be really good, for example Attic24 patterns are especially well written and have useful photos. Others are not so carefully written and can lead to confusion, frustration and disappointment. They are worth reading through before trying out, just to check, before making them with your finest yarn purchase. (This is not intended to be disrespectful to the writers of free patterns; I’ve shared some of my own, but sometimes we write things the way we see them and others interpret those instructions differently.)

Paid patterns

  • How much will you use the pattern-is it for a one off or something you’d like to repeat? For example, the mermaid tail pattern I bought from Etsy has been used 5 or 6 times now and gave baby up to adult sizes, meaning it has cost about ยฃ1 per use so far.
  • How much pattern do you get for your money? How many sizes/options are included? Is it a really complicated pattern which justifies paying a higher price?
  • What kind of recommendations does it have? (Before paying, read reviews and comments to get an insight, I’ve never been disappointed with a paid pattern, at least in terms of how well written it is, but I always choose carefully.)
  • Is there any kind of follow up support? E.g. an email address, forum links, videos. This is especially useful for trickier or larger patterns.
  • How well known is the designer? (This isn’t something that worries me too much, but if you’re paying it can be reassuring to buy from a well known name. Personally I am willing to give any designer a chance, based on the reviews and how much I want to make that pattern.)
  • Is the pattern written for the type of yarn you want to use? I’ve been caught out like this, which was my own fault for not checking, and then had to buy more yarn so I could use the pattern. Obviously this was completely devastating…

I haven’t even touched on video patterns as I don’t tend to used them. I do, however, find videos useful for learning individual stitches or new techniques. There are tonnes of videos about for patterns for making nearly everything!

I’m happy to pay for the ‘right’ pattern, especially if its just how I pictured the thing I want to make. I also use free patterns if I’m just making a quick and easy thing that doesn’t warrant paying, e.g. a simple scarf.

Do you prefer free or paid patterns usually? How much are you prepared to pay for the ‘right’ pattern? Which sites are your favourites to find patterns on? How much of a compromise are you prepared to make when deciding whether to use a free or paid pattern? And last of all, what would you make with 100g of hand dyed merino yarn?

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63 thoughts on “Patterns-To Pay or Not to Pay?

  1. I have used both at times.. Some smaller items like booties on line that were free patterns.. But some times I have come across knitting patterns that have been free, that can be flawed.. So I usually buy them for larger garments I make.. Sales are a good time to buy them too in certain shops.. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for the advice too xxx

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  2. All good points. I agree that if a pattern for anything is exactly what I want I would probably look at reviews but make up my own mind about a purchase. Flexible sizing is definitely a factor too. As you say, if lots of sizes are available then it is way more cost effective. Some of the free patterns are fantastic too though. I guess research is important!

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  3. It really depends on what the pattern is. Something like a plain hat which I could probably figure out for myself if I had to, I would go for a free pattern that I can use more as a basis to work from and adapt to my own needs.
    For other projects, I’m very selective about what I choose to make and so I spend time looking for the right pattern. If someone has come up with a quirky or clever design of their own, and I’m going to want to stick to the pattern precisely rather than adapt it for myself, then I’m willing to pay for a pattern. I pretty much only buy though if I KNOW I’m definitely going to make it. Free patterns get stashed though!

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      1. Haha yes, I think I more meant that I will save a pattern on my ravelry library and let it sit for a while. I’ll stalk it for a bit, plan it in my head, consider it some more, peruse yarns, sit on it for a while longer before fully committing to the idea of actually knitting it, and only then will I buy the yarn and then the pattern. I think I sat on the crazy stripes pattern for about a year before buying the yarn and pattern!

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  4. Thatโ€™s a good question! I think it all depends on the individual. I actually enjoy collecting patterns and perusing my library to see what I can do with this or that skein. My sister calls this โ€œshopping the stashโ€ for both yarn and patterns. I think I learned about the value of a pattern library from my mother, who also collects them. Of course, I started my collection before the days of the Internet, and that has definitely changed the game a lot. If Iโ€™m going to pay for something, I prefer to get a book or a magazine because you just get more for your money that way since individual patterns can be outrageously priced (pardon my directness, but really, they are sometimes outrageous in pricing). I certainly understand that the author has to invest in publishing a pattern (photography, etc.) but I really think some self-publishers ought to find ways to cut production costs. For buying patterns for download I prefer looking Ravelry so I can see what other people have done with them. Joining a club also helps in finding patterns for particular uses. My knitting and crochet buddies from my local club help me discover things to do with my yarn I hadnโ€™t known about. 100g of hand dyed yarn would be great for a nifty hat! Iโ€™m going to knit one with a premium hand dyed merino sock yarn I bought back home and itโ€™s a free pattern, actually! Itโ€™s called โ€œSock Head.โ€ Anyway, sometimes I think itโ€™s good to buy patterns even if you have no definite plans for them. Later on they can come in handy either for a project or to get an idea about what youโ€™d like to do on your own. Another good place to shop for patterns is at used book shops, thrift shops, and yard sales. Vintage patterns are often surprisingly modern and useful for this day and age. If you want to get really vintage (more like antique) you can peruse the antique pattern library web site! Itโ€™s good fun!

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    1. Wow! Thanks for the detailed answer, my mum buys patterns in charity shops and so on but a few have been a bit too ‘vintage’. Now when she gets the knitting bug I buy her a magazine so she has lots of patterns as she likes to knit for my daughter. (My son is less appreciative of lace!) A hat, scarf or socks seem to be the most likely uses for my yarn so far with your ideas in there too. I must admit my pattern library is a little limited as I’m more of an ‘acquire as I need it’ person. Thanks again for all the advice!

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  5. Excellent topic! I’ve used both and I tend to like the free ones best. Not only because of the money, but I like to see the whole pattern before I decide to make something and I’ve bought a couple of patterns that I just didn’t understand. If I had read them first, I would never have paid for them.

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  6. I have downloaded free patterns, and purchased patterns. I like to justify the money spent when buying, but as a pattern designer myself I do know how much work goes into getting it right. And yes, how we write them may not be clear to someone else. I too have bought the Mermaid Tail pattern, and have only made one so far. I think it was worth every penny though, because I probably couldn’t have figured it out on my own. As for sources of patterns, Ravelry, Etsy and some of the yarn manufacturers are my go-to’s.

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    1. Thank you, I think pattern designing can be challenging even for seemingly simple things at times and I’m glad you agree that sometimes the way we write isn’t always how others read it. I’d forgotten about yarn manufacturers, I had a lovely baby cardigan pattern free from lion brand yarns a few years ago.

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  7. I collect a lot of free patterns, but if I find something I like, I’m willing to pay for it. Not sure what to suggest for your yarn, but I would love to see whatever it is once it’s finished!

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    1. Thank you, that sounds similar to how I choose. I’ve learned from experience that sometimes comprising and going for the free pattern leads to regret if the thing you really love was a paid pattern.

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  8. I usually go for free(broke student), but I do have a handful of knitting books (mostly birthday/Christmas gifts). I particularly like using patterns from knitty etc since there the designer gets some money as well (and I keep adblock off of those websites too).

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  9. It always seem to be the way – have a great yarn, waste tons and tons of time trying to find the perfect pattern. Or have a great pattern and waste tons and tons of time looking for the perfect yarn for it. If I come across a FREE pattern on a blog or while visiting ravelry, I will save it or print if off and add it to my binder of patterns. I will also purchase a pattern from a blogger that is to my liking. Usually the best for me is to buy the pattern and yarn together so that I am not wasting so much time searching. Not that I haven’t spent countless hours in the deep hole of ravelry or pinterest ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  10. I have a few books that I’ve collected or been gifted through the years and I really don’t use them all that much but I do love to look at them. I go straight to YouTube if I ever have any trouble figuring out on my own how to do something. I like being able to see that I’ve got it right instantly rather than wait till the next row to find out I might be off. The only thing I ever like to spend my money on is yarn – there really is nothing that I would want to make so badly that I would be willing to spend any of my yarn budget on. ๐Ÿ˜€

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  11. You’ve hit on a real hornets nest here. I think there are some really good free patterns out there, but that if people have taken the time to write a good pattern, they should charge for it and we should be prepared to pay for good patterns, because a lot of work goes into them. I do however see some rather expensive very simple patterns that I think should be cheaper. I also hate that some people just chuck a load of rubbish together and stick it up as a free pattern – okay, people like me and you may be able to work out what to do or gain some inspiration, but I think they confuse people who are newer to knitting or crochet, waste their time and possibly their yarn. Of course it’s true, there’s no such thing as a free lunch and maybe if you chose to work from a free pattern, you shouldn’t expect it to be worth the ‘paper’ it’s written on?

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    1. You’ve made so many good points, free patterns can be ‘variable’ in quality! I agree with paying for patterns that have a lot of detail, because sometimes I want to make something without having to do the maths first! I’ve bought some great patterns with really useful photos and diagrams in, and I wouldn’t expect those for free. As someone who is only just dabbling in pattern writing, I wouldn’t dream of charging for mine yet but I do try to make them well written, tested etc. with extra details where needed. As a pattern writer yourself, do you consider free patterns to be a problem in terms of reducing your sales? Having just spent quite some time designing a pattern that in reality in quite simple I can only imagine how long it takes to write a jumper pattern, for example. (They’re the kind of thing I would pay for, I don’t think I’d wing it with something I wanted to wear!)

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      1. Interesting question. I haven’t really thought about it. I guess it must reduce sales, but then other people selling patterns will reduce my sales too. Also if people have a bad experience it may push them towards paid, so maybe a positive too? I aim to do my best and hopefully will build a solid audience of people who know and appreciate my patterns. However, with any printed output there are are also inevitably occasional mistakes that get missed however good someone is at writing patterns and having them tech editted – I think the key there is to be accessible and rectify anything that does show up. I suppose what bothers me most about free patterns is simply the arrogance of some people who think they can write a pattern when they have only just learned to knit. But maybe that’s just because I hate arrogance ๐Ÿ™‚

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      2. Thank you, I hadn’t thought of it like that. I think being honest and editing/adding notes to rectify mistakes is a good sign on a pattern as it shows that the writer is only human and that they are willing to take on board feedback. (I’m guessing an arrogant person may find that one tricky!) Looking arrogant is something that puts me off from sharing my patterns, but hopefully they are ‘good’ enough and if there were an error I’d like to think someone would politely let me know too so I could rectify it. Thank you for adding another perspective ๐Ÿ˜Š

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      3. I suspect you’ll agree when I say I think there are probably two ends of the spectrum, those who will slam anything up when they barely know how to knit/crochet themselves and those with masses of ability who write/or could write brilliant patterns, but are too shy or don’t think they’re good enough. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said you hope your patterns are ‘good’ enough. That’s all they need to be and I was unfair saying all new knitters are arrogant putting up a pattern – we all learn/grow at different rates and some may well write some fabulous patterns ๐Ÿ™‚

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      4. Thank you, I totally agree (and that spectrum exists in every job!) I think everyone starts somewhere in their journey as a crafter and a designer. I never shared my pattern for the jumpers for teddies as it was so far from perfect! (And also no one else would ever need that pattern!) When writing a pattern I try to include as much information as possible to make it easy to follow. Hopefully one day I may progress more with that journey. Thanks again for commenting. ๐Ÿ˜Š

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  12. When I making something large, like a sweater I would go for paid. There is a company I use, the designs look amazing, but the patterns always let me down, so complicated and always the wrong stitch count. It has rather put me off making things like that, but they do look wonderful on the pattern.

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  13. From a designers perspective, it’s not simply a matter of free or paid for, quite often a designer has spent many unpaid hours, and used a lot of yarn to produce a pattern and are asking for recognition of their work. Personally, all my patterns were once available for free, and I asked for donations. None were forthcoming. So I started charging a small price for my patterns, from which I actually receive very little, due to paypal fees, but over time, it allows me to buy more yarn, or new needles or hooks. I have a very limited income, so I don’t feel it is unreasonable to ask for a little, when you consider the price some people pay for yarn.

    That’s just my thoughts ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. Thank you, that seems a sensible approach. I prefer paid patterns for more complex things as I feel that more time will have gone into them. (But then, like you said, you offered yours free initially and I think that a lot of designers must start off that way.) Some of the trickier patterns I’ve tried have been from crochet alongs so they’ve been free. I still check out reviews though before paying and will often buy a pattern on personal recommendation rather than just finding one through a search. Thanks again, I’m enjoying gaining an insight. ๐Ÿ˜Š

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  14. Charity shops always have patterns, usually they keep them in the back with the hooks and needles so you need to ask. I have used Ravelry in the past and with a little time have found something perfect or close enough to adapt to perfect x

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  15. I use free and paid online patterns, but I like books best. I have 30+ crochet books, bit of an addict ๐Ÿ™‚ Of course you do have to accept that sometimes mistakes are made in print that are not as easy to identify and rectify as they would be if they were online. I like hard copy though, I guess I’m a bit old-fashioned! My goal is to create my own patterns one day, and I would like to make some money from it, so I’m enjoying reading the comments here and thank you for this post ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. I think having a hard copy us really useful, I print patterns and make notes on them to help me out or remind me of things. There are lots of fab books, I’ve got my eye on a couple of patterns in a book I bought ages ago. All I need to do is make them!

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      1. Love it! I made the mug cozy the day before yesterday and sized it to fit my Thermos travel mug – you can see it on insta if you like @hooksandhills – I’ve made the picot edge mandala too and currently considering one of the baby blankets ๐Ÿ™‚ What’s your plan?

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  16. Forgot to comment! I don’t tend to pay for patterns unless I really need a specific thing as some free patterns can’t be quite generic and paid sort of branch out with different sort of styles etc. I will say when I’ve bought patterns from etsy in the paid you can’t see a preview or sample and I’ve had one pattern that I bought and It was so confusing and I never actually have used it. On the other hand some sellers can be quite helpful and you can email them if you need an extra help. Free patterns just make it that much easier because you don’t need to worry about whether or not you like it etc as you’ve not paid and in my experience and most probably it’s a common thing, freebies are already written out on a blog etc so you can see it but again if it’s a download you don’t need to worry that you’ve wasted money. I think books with different patterns are really good as well as youtube having visual tutorials if you’re unsure. I always like to watch a video tutorial and jot each step down for my own use. Ravelry has been the best experience for me especially with paid patterns as you can easily contact the designer, I think just because it’s a specific community also. So all in all it really does depend on what your after especially if you want something different and specific.

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    1. Thank you, I’ve enjoyed reading all of the different perspectives! When it really comes down to it I have to consider how much disposable income I have at that time, and whether I’m prepared to wait until I can pay or if I really want a pattern right now! The mermaid tail patten I bought had email follow up which was lovely, even though I didn’t need to use it.

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  17. So far I’ve only bought patterns that use stitches I’ve never seen before so can’t figure out for myself, like the dragon scale slippers and booties. But now I know that stitch I’m not sure I’d ever buy another pattern using it because I know how to work it out for myself.
    So I guess I go for free patterns (or figuring it out myself), and only pay when it’s something I know I can’t already do.

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  18. Hi! Thank you so much for your lovely comments on my blog earlier. I have used both bought and free patterns. There is nothing more joyous than finding the perfect free pattern and making something up for hardly any cost at all. I am very grateful to all of the lovely creative people out there who share their patterns for free. However, there are some stunning items out there that require a paid pattern and although I like to figure things out for myself, I like to think that, by buying, I am recognising that person for their time and effort, especially when the end result is so amazing. xx

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    1. Thank you, you’ve summed that up beautifully! I’ve found that some of the yarn companies have some lovely free patterns lately. I’ve also got my eye on some paid patterns from Tin Can Knits. I do love a good free pattern though! xx

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