Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Where are the Designers Going? The Economics of Knitting
In August I wrote this post about how many designers appear in Ravelry. In it I mentioned a shift in the responses when I send out a invitation to do an interview. After a conversation with one of my peers about specific designers moving into other careers I looked back at my interview series. While many of those interviewees are either still active or in some cases retired due to age or the retirement of spouses, some have definitely left the industry.
I sent out six emails to designer interviewees (mainly from 2010). I purposely chose ones that I could find no recent pattern releases for. My note read: I did a interview with you in 2010. Are you still actively designing? The reason I ask is I'm becoming aware of many designers who are dropping out of the knitting world. I'm working on a post on the topic. If you have changed your career focus and feel comfortable sharing a few of the details I'd love to hear about it.
I got two responses. Only one of the six is still actively designing. She had a name change that I was unaware of which is why I couldn't find recent patterns.
The other one did give me a full answer, which I'm sharing with her permission in an anonymous way by changing the identifying details.
She said, "I would say that for me, it was a couple of factors: My husband and I are both self-employed. His company suffered during the 2009 economic downturn and basically all the income that my company was making went to keep us afloat. That left me no capital to invest back into my business. I don't say that with any kind of resentment; it was just what we had to do, and looking back, it gave me a good reason to get myself out of designing, because I was getting terribly burnt out.
I probably could have kept designing and made enough money to get us through the lean times, but I was getting tired of what I was seeing in the industry. I was tired of all the flame wars about intellectual property and knitters thinking they were entitled to do whatever they wanted to with patterns, as if designers were somehow part of the lofty 1% and were making a financial killing off knitters. I was tired of rude knitters expecting to get instant customer service at all hours of the day and night. I was tired of traveling, and it has gotten terribly expensive over the past decade. My kids were teenagers and getting ready to go off to college. I felt like it was really a struggle to keep up a continuous flow of creativity. In retrospect, it just seemed like a good time to make a change.
Being burnt out, I was ready to do something else, so I went back to school for a year and trained for an alternate career. I have a wonderful, flexible job that I love. I started doing other crafts, and now I really just have no desire to knit. My youngest child is a senior in high school this year. We expect to have an empty nest next year and I am looking forward to the free time to devote to things I WANT to do as opposed to things I HAVE to do.
I think there is a tremendous amount of competition out there from women who design knitwear with no intention of it being a business, and that does make it harder for everyone else. I have to say that Ravelry is a two-edged sword; it has done some wonderful things on the one hand and on the other hand, it has really affected certain parts of the industry rather negatively."
I was able to find one other designer's public posting about her career change in her Ravelry group. It is from Kristeen Griffin-Grimes.
"Thank you all so much for doing this revitalization!!! As many of you know, my full time business (and then some) is French Girl Organics and; leading our Cuvée:Wine and Cuisine Tours in France. I so appreciate everyone’s desire to keep French Girl alive and well on Ravelry and I will direct inquiries that I receive to this wonderful group! You all are the best…xoxo"