As of Saturday Aug 16 there were 32,357 knitting designers listed in the Ravelry database. They have provided 315,456 patterns in Ravelry.
When I started publishing patterns a few years ago part of the reason was the ease of online publishing.
I choose to tackle the challenges of pattern production in a pretty safe way. I had a corporate buyout package. I worked for five more years,banking everything I made during the last year. Then I quit my job.
I did a fair bit of pre-work while assessing my plan to become a professional knitter. I purchased some of the items I knew I would need while I was still working. I published a few patterns. I started writing my blog. I took some small business courses.
After I went full time, I established a professional networking group as a way of continuing to educate myself.
I publish interviews with other professionals almost once a week. Many of the interviews have been done with designers I admire. In other cases the knitting pros invited to do an interview are suggested to me by friends. I look at knitting books for additional leads and obviously I use the Ravelry database as well.
I'm noticing a shift in that I've recently had a number of invitations turned down because the recipient is no longer actively designing. This isn't always obvious because they keep their patterns available online. In a few situations I've gone to the designers site only to discover it is no longer active. I've also heard about several established designers who have switched to part time knit design while taking full time jobs.
I'm well aware that people leave specific industries for all sorts of reasons, however the rejected invitations are a new experience. In the past the most common reason for not doing my interview was the invitee didn't have time because they were so busy with other obligations. This is definitely a business that freelancers find it difficult to make a living in. I worry that there may be a trend that I'm becoming aware of due to the interview series. I hope I'm wrong because I believe the online publishing world has allowed some amazing designs to be created and many fresh, innovative ideas to revitalize the knitting world.