Should All Crochet Patterns Be Free?

By Rachel Choi – 78 Comments

Is it greedy for designers to charge for their work? Is it unreasonable to charge $4 or $5 for a pattern? Is it shameful for people to try and make a living doing what they love?

Recently, I came across a blog post that really got my insides stirring. It discussed how crochet and knit patterns should be free, or should be sold at an extremely low price. What disgusted me the most was the disrespect and ignorance the writer had for designers and their work. Being a designer myself it was hard not to take it personally. Designers aren’t trying to take advantage of people. We aren’t trying to “get rich quick” by selling over priced patterns. In fact, most if not all crochet pattern designers I know spend lots of time creating their work and helping customers with questions. In my opinion, they deserve what they charge. If you would like to read the blog post that I discuss, click here.

If you’ve been visiting Crochet Spot for a while, you’ll notice there are both free crochet patterns and for sale crochet patterns. Trust me, I like freebies as much as the next person, but should someone be expected to work for free all the time?

What do you think? Should all crochet patterns be free?

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78 Comments

  1. bella says:

    i think (as a beginner), having free patterns is a really good idea. even thought they are free, many people donate at this because to them this is a their only way to learn something new.

  2. Kristina says:

    I have used free patterns as a beginner, and I think it is great that companies like Red Heart and Caron can give lots of patterns for free but I also began buying patterns that were prettier, and fancier, than I could find for free. I never felt cheated for having to buy these patterns, they were always worth every penny. Now that I have begun dabbling in making patterns myself I feel it only fair that I have some form of compensation for the time and effort I put into making them. Making a pattern is not a simple as just making something, I often had to take it out and start all over when it wasn’t working out quite right. Every pattern takes lots of time, lots of effort, and lots of re-doing the work already made before. I think it only fair for a designer who is not a corporation selling yarn to be allowed to request compensation for their work.

  3. John Hablinski says:

    Some months back there was a discussion in this forum about whether all patterns should be free. There was a fairly lively discussion, including some who thought all patterns should be free, while others felt the creator of a pattern indeed had the right to sell the end result of what can be a very daunting task and then writing the instructions in a manner others might follow. I recall more than a few who expressed their thoughts concerning just what is entailed in the purchase of a pattern and whether a designer could then place limits on how an item made from that purchased pattern might be dealt with. In other words many felt by purchasing the pattern they ought to be able to sell handmade items made using a pattern either purchased or free. I happened to find this article http://www.tabberone.com/Trademarks/CopyrightLaw/Patterns.shtml which pretty well gives chapter and verse of what seems to be applicable copyright laws in the U.S. I certainly found the paper of great interest and I suspect others would find themselves enlightened by its content.
    I am not an attorney and it is not my intention to advise anyone on matters of law, so please don’t tell anyone I said this or that. I am merely providing a link to information I think many crocheters would appreciate knowing. Having read the article covered by the link and then looking at the rules The Crochet Spot has posted, they appear, to me, to be spot on. Please understand the only reason I have for sharing this info here is because of our earlier discussion.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    I love free patterns, but if a designer has spent time creating a pattern, that person should be able to charge for it. What gets me are the few who charge for an existing pattern or just put a slight twist on a pattern they got for free or even paid for. I’m nearly always putting my own twist on a pattern.

    I recently saw a pattern that I wasn’t about to pay for. The pattern was the same pattern I learned for my very first crochet project, that a friend and neighbor taught me 40 years ago. It was one taught to her by someone else. It’s one of my favorites, and I still use it, and I have my own twist on it that I use occasionally.

    I do have a bit of a problem when a designer prohibits you from selling a finished piece that you have made from their pattern

    Oh, Well….

  5. Lori says:

    I believe it is not greedy at all for designers to charge for their patterns. I, for one, find designing very frustrating. I can put my own twist onto an existing pattern, but coming up with something from scratch is hard for me, so I admire people who can create many new patterns.

    Everyone needs to earn a living. While I greatly appreciate free patterns, I don’t mind paying for patterns. Designers must earn enough from their efforts, that they remain free to create more so those of us who are design-impaired continue to have fun, interesting, and even challenging, new projects.

    I believe I should always have the right to sell my work, so I disagree with that restriction. However, I can understand prohibiting mass-production without further compensation to the designer. If I were to able to achieve such production, I would contact the designer and arrange royalties of some kind, even if the pattern had no limitations on sales of finished projects.

  6. David says:

    Intellectual property is a sticky issue wherever it comes up. My take on the question for crochet patterns is as follows:

    When you publish a crochet pattern, you are publishing a set of instructions for how to finish a project. In theory, you don’t need the instructions in order to finish the project. If you look at an item carefully enough, you can figure out how to crochet it without needing the instructions.

    Therefore, in my mind at least, crochet patterns occupy the same niche as educational and how-to books that you could buy in a store. Nobody suggests that a book with instructions on how to do home repairs should be free. Therefore, a book (or pamphlet) with instructions on how to make crochet projects should not be free either.

  7. Creative works should always be the property of the artist or designer. And as such, theirs to sell or to distribute as they wish. If someone wants to give their designs away, that is their right. If they want to sell their designs, that also is their right. But the potential purchaser also has the right to decline to pay for the design for whatever reason. That is pretty much undisputed.

    What is disputed is the restrictions that designers place upon the use and/or sale of products made from their designs. But that was settled in 1879 when the US Supreme Court noted that the owner of a copyright, or patent, could not control what was made from the copyright or patent, without a written contract between the parties. How many people sign something before they purchase a pattern? ZERO.

    At this time, Simplicity does not have a single registered copyright one any of their patterns except for a few on plush animals. Not one going back to the 1960s. Why? Because patterns are not generally copyrightable. As such, when a designer sells you, or gives you a pattern, they have no further property rights to that pattern. What you make from that pattern is yours exclusively and not legally under the control of the designer. I have not been able to locate a single lawsuit that has gone to trial over restrictions on use for a pattern.

    Any designer or pattern company that tells you that you cannot make items to sell, donate or give away is not telling you the truth. Consider this, Simplicity sell patterns to make aprons. Simplicity does not sell aprons. So why would Simplicity care if you sold the aprons you made from the pattern? Designers could sell the end product instead of selling the patterns if they wanted. But they do not. The product made from the pattern is yours, not theirs.

  8. John Hablinski says:

    Karen, Beautifully said and accurate!

  9. Lane† says:

    Wow, Karen, I agree, and as John said, “Beautifully said and accurate!”

  10. Squirrely Girly says:

    I think all patterns should be free, as some people don’t have credit cards to pay online with. The designer could always sell the finished project on Etsy. :)

  11. Alicia says:

    Did you know that if all patterns were free, the team of wonderful ladies that write FREE patterns and tutorials for you on Crochet Spot wouldn’t have a job? That’s right, all the ladies get paid to do it. Rachel made a program a while ago where she gives jobs to people who aspire to be crochet designers and writers. Did you miss that post? Here’s the link http://www.crochetspot.com/crochet-spots-professional-program/

    We’re all lucky that these people get paid to write patterns that are later published on the site for free. Without at least some paid patterns, where do you think the money comes from to give these ladies jobs? If all crochet patterns were free, then even more folks would be jobless. Saying that you want all patterns to be free is like saying you wish these ladies didn’t have a job.

    If you can’t afford to buy patterns or just don’t want to, that’s perfectly fine. No one is forcing anyone to buy anything. But to demand that they be free is completely wrong.

  12. Mary says:

    Hmmm….Squirrely Girly I don’t think your logic is completely sound. If you want to buy a pattern online but don’t have a credit card, you can always go to a supermarket and get one of those prepaid gift cards from American Express or Visa. You can buy those in plain cash. I’ve done it and it works like a charm when buying things online. :)

    As for the designer selling their finished item on Etsy, who are we to tell them how to run their business? In fact, I’ve tried selling my finished crocheted items online and it didn’t go so well. I’m starting to think that it’s more profitable to sell patterns.

  13. Squirrely Girly says:

    One of my friend’s parents own a little engraving company, and they go to craft sales and stuff like that to sell their stuff. Etsy isn’t super profitable, I know, but so many people go on Etsy everyday and buy little crocheted toys and things like that.

    Anyways, I like MY patterns free. And if I ever had a crafting website, all my patterns would be free, and I would sell the finished project. That is my opinion, and y’all can’t change that. :)

  14. Squirrely Girly says:

    Alicia – actually, I did miss that post. Whoops. :)

  15. Squirrely Girly says:

    OMG! I have an idea for Rachel and the gang!!!! Okay, here it is:

    All the patterns are free for ONE DAY ONLY! You can only get a limit of 3 patterns.

    Great, right? Okay, some of you might not think so, but… give it a shot. :)

  16. Lane† says:

    Alicia- I totally agree with you!
    As a crocheter, who has often been told that I need to start selling my work, I see how hard it is to make a profit. Yes, you want to be fair in your price but you also have to make some kind of a profit. With no profit then where are you going to get the money to buy the materials you need or FIND time to sit and crochet when you could be working somewhere else?

    I must admit that I have never bought a pattern off crochetspot because I don’t have a credit card. Thanks for that info, Mary!

  17. Lori says:

    There are times when Rachel has discounted the patterns. Also, if you pay your $10 for the month, you can download ALL of the paid patterns for no additional cost.

    I love free patterns. However, I really don’t mind paying for patterns, especially the fancier ones that I know took time, effort, and talent to create and write it down so it is comprehensible to other people.

    As I said in my earlier post, I am design-impaired. I also have difficulty looking at a finished project and reproducing it. I need a pattern. If I don’t like the price of the pattern/book, I simply don’t buy it.

  18. John Hablinski says:

    When I first opened my email account this evening and saw line after line of Crochet Spot emails I thought an error of some sort had occurred until I opened the first. Then I realized we were still discussing whether those who are creative, nose to the grindstone, people who expend the time and effort to design and then convert that design in a set of instructions another crocheter can follow and end up with something similar should be remunerated for the effort. I have to say I can’t quite understand why someone could dare expect someone should do that out of the kindness of their heart. I have yet to hear someone who thinks all patterns should be free tell us they feel so strongly about the principle that they are going to work tomorrow and tell their boss they no longer expect to be paid for their work! Because that is precisely what they are suggesting designers do. By that reasoning books should be free; bands should play for free and hand out CDs at every concert. In essence they are saying there is no right to intellectual property. There are items I can make without a pattern, I can hammer out an afghan or a scarf even a very nice shawl but any sweater I attempted to make without a pattern probably might not even have the right number of sleeves and the sleeves it did have might not be in the correct position. Please give me the link to the website of the lady who wants free patterns, I’d like to see her efforts.

  19. Squirrely Girly says:

    Ya know what, I am sick and tired of this bickering! I change my mind!!!!!!!!!

  20. Squirrely Girly says:

    I don’t mean to bring offense to anyone, I’m just speaking my mind! I’m sorry, Crochet Spot gang, if I ever offended you in any way. I really, truly didn’t mean to! I should have just never posted my opinion! I wrote all these comments because all the awesome patterns they do cost, like, $5! I don’t have that much money to buy patterns, and my mom won’t buy them for me, since I’m in my early teens! Please stop yelling at me for my opinion!

  21. Squirrely Girly says:

    I’ve decided to resign from writing comments on this website. I am tired of people being mad at me because of my opinion. Sorry, Rachel. :(

  22. Liv says:

    Squirrely Girl,

    I don’t think anyone is yelling at you. One of the things that makes someone an interesting, intelligent person is the ability to express your opinions and hear the opinions of others, even when you disagree, but not take it too personally.

    Others have stated the reasoning behind charging for patterns (intellectual property) so I don’t think that needs to be re-stated. However, I am genuinely curious about something.

    You say you can’t buy these patterns because your mom doesn’t buy them for you and you don’t have a credit card. So my question is…where are you getting the yarn and crochet hooks? Patterns are not the only thing needed to crochet that cost money. So either your mom is supporting your crochet by buying these supplies, or you are buying them somehow, or getting them as gifts. However you are getting yarn and hooks, do the same for patterns. If you get them for gifts, ask for patterns as gifts. If you have a cash allowance, do what was suggested above and buy a pre-paid Visa debit card. I don’t think this discussion is likely to convince Rachel to make all the patterns free and find a new way to make a living (this is likely a major portion, if not all, of her income). So if it really and truly is as impossible as you say to buy one of the $5 patterns on this site, you could get thousands of free patterns from this website, Lion Brand, Red Heart, Caron, and Crochet Pattern Central, to name a few.

    If all else fails, here is what I suggest. Do what I did at your age, and get a job. At age 12, I began babysitting. At age 14, I was mowing lawns for the whole neighborhood. I started a job at a grocery store when I turned 16. I bought my own car for $1500 in high school and paid my own car insurance and bought whatever things I wanted beyond the necessities. I worked all through high school and college, and wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. My friends who didn’t have to work in high school never learned to manage their money and are struggling for it now.

    I know it is frustrating when it feels like people are ganging up on you here. But the reality is, what you are asking is unfair, and people feel strongly about that. You can make excuses about how it’s impossible for you to buy the patterns, or you can be resourceful and find a way to get access to these patterns.

  23. John Hablinski says:

    Liv, you did a much better job of relating the sentiments of those of us who want to see creativity rewarded. I think we all have wishes and perhaps the opinion expressed was just that; a way of saying I wish all patterns were free. I see some very beautiful yarns I would dearly love to get my hands on. I have a pattern for a shawl that screams to be made of something like a silk cashmere blend. Alas my pocketbook has a way of screaming as well and it screams acrylic much louder than that pattern. So I sit here and I check out every yarn sale I can find. On several occasions I have found some great fibers at great prices, just not as often as I wish. I am sorry Squirrely Girl if I caused you any extra pain, that wasn’t my intent.

  24. Liv says:

    Thanks, John. I am definitely with you on the yarn coveting! The other day they had some great clearance items at JoAnn Fabric – I allowed myself $10 worth of pretty, expensive stuff that I normally never buy. Now I’ll do what I always do…hem and haw about what to make with it! Whenever I give in and buy good yarn on sale, it ends up sitting unused for ages while I try to decide on the absolute perfect project.

    I recently lucked out bigtime – my cousin was preparing for a move and decided to get rid of some of the yarn she had accumulated over time. She gave my mom FIVE tubs full of yarn and crochet/knitting books!!! I managed to contain myself and take only what would fit in one tub. I am making a beautiful wrap sweater out of some purple LB Jiffy yarn and one of the patterns in the books. I love my free patterns as much as the next person, but I do understand why they are not all free. All the more motivation to continue improving my own skills so I can start to create my own patterns!

  25. John Hablinski says:

    We understand one another very well I have 10 skeins of a yarn that is absolutely stunning to behold and for which I have nothing but ambivalence. Until you jogged my memory I had all but forgotten about it. I really should do something with it before it dry-rots.

  26. Lane† says:

    Squirrely Girly, I am so sorry if I offended you. I tend to speak my mind at times and not think first.

    I was trying though to point out the difference of having all free patterns or having some free and the others bought for a price.

    Again, I am sorry if I offended you and hope you will forgive me. Yes, I remember being a young teen with no money trying to figure out how I could buy my stuff. Like Liv said, I got a few baby-sitting jobs (which helped a lot). And I also requested yarn and hooks for my birthday and Christmas presents.

    If you do ever start your own crochet blog I will be more than happy to support you!

    God bless
    ~Lane†

  27. Judi Gums says:

    I guess there is always someone thinking they should get something for nothing. But after they spend their time and money to crochet an item do they not think it has value? It takes time to design a pattern, and a persons time should be valued at a reasonable rate just as in any job they might do. Heaven knows the patter prices aren’t going to make anyone rich.
    I do like the challenge of figuring out a simple pattern for myself at times. But some patterns are well worth the few bucks to help save me the time it takes to figure them out.
    So I ask the person complaining about paying for the pattern if they are willing to work for nothing all the time?

  28. Love of crocheting says:

    Well,it is really interesting reading all the comment and they clarify a lot for me.
    i’m a beginner myself and find that the only avenue open for me to hone my skill in crocheting is to find free patterns and tutorials but at times i wonder if i’m infringing on copyright by selling the works i made from those free pattern and in my opinion,i don’t think so,because i spend time recreating and adding a little twist to those pattern to get right just the way i want it, that is not saying that i cannot buy a pattern that i love because whichever way you look at it, this for Rachael and other designers is business and business only thrive when you pay for what you have bought,so giving out free pattern is a way of advertising their business and they really should not be crucify for this.
    Now i have tried several times to buy stuff from online shops but it never worked cause there are always restriction to where they can ship to and i really would love to buy complete set of crochet hooks and lovely yarns that are crucial to my finished product.
    Can someone link me with a site that can sell to a client from Nigeria?

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