The true cost of a pattern

I’ve been meaning to write a blog post about what actually goes into designing a pattern, and given the current discussions and my own recent posts, now seems as good a time as any. There is no set formula for calculating costs, and every designer’s experience will be different – this is a creative game after all, and we’re all individuals with different strengths and different approaches.


The production costs – actual expenses

This is the easiest thing to quantify. Each of my patterns goes through test knitting AND tech editing, and all of these people are compensated for their time. Each pattern generally gets seen by two tech editors, and the tech editing time for each is normally around an hour (simpler patterns less; more complex patterns more). Tech editing costs per pattern are roughly £30. Books and their patterns go through 3 levels of tech editing with both editors and a typical tech editing bill for a 10 pattern book comes to around £800 – £900, bringing the average cost of tech editing per pattern closer to £50.

Each pattern is also test knitted, and generally by two test knitters, who each knit a different size to ensure that that it all works out correctly. Many designers use editors OR testers but I use both. Not only does it reduce the chances of errors to virtually zero, and ensure that my editors get a very clean pattern (patterns are test first, then edited) but it also helps me understand how the pattern will behave when other yarns are used, and get feedback on the knitting experience.

Testers are paid a compensation that is based on yardage used, in addition to a flat fee to cover yarn costs, admin time etc. Obviously that means that costs can vary from pattern to pattern, but the average test knitting cost is £35.

Then there is the photography. I take all of my own photos, which helps keep the cost down considerably. I also pay my models, because it’s their time I’m taking and they also need to earn. I do try and photograph as many Hats as possible in one shoot, and the shoots are only a couple of hours each. Yet I will photograph each Hat more than once, which adds another level to the costs, but on average that’s another £20 added to the production costs (if I paid a photographer it would be considerably more!)

Next we have yarn costs. I do get sponsorship from yarn companies (i.e. free yarn for specific patterns) but quite often I will also buy the yarn I think will work best for the pattern; I’m happy to do this for a few reasons and don’t expect my yarn to always be free. I buy roughly 60% of the yarn I use; sometimes I’ll need more than the 100g (swatching, 2nd sample etc) and based on that the yarn cost per pattern works out to roughly £10

And then there’s advertising. This covers things like Ravelry ads or the cost of sending out a newsletter to promote the pattern. This averages out to about £15. I’m really frugal on this front – many designers will spend considerably more! That said, there are other advertising costs which are indirect and don’t fit into this first budget.

So… initial direct production costs come to £130. That’s how much I lay out directly for each pattern.

At full price of £3, and taking into account PayPal fees, I’d have to sell 49 copies to cover that. At a discounted price (i.e. coupon through the newsletter or wholesale rate) I’d have to sell 87 copies to cover these costs.


The other production costs

One of the hardest things for any designer to put a figure on is how much time is spent on producing the pattern. There’s the knitting time and the re-knitting time and the pattern writing time and layout time and photography time (because yes, I do all of it) And there’s also the thinking time and emailing time (discussions back and forth with testers and editors etc) and to be quite honest, if I sat and counted all of the hours spent it would work out to a thoroughly depressing hourly rate, so I refuse to do it for each pattern.

For the sake of finding some figures, I’ve looked at a quick pattern (chunky yarn, straightforward design) and a so very not quick pattern (fine yarn; frogged countless times) to calculate some sort of average. The numbers below are based on this average. And I’ve worked backwards, as it made things easier to work out!

Uploading & managing POS – 2 hours

Layout time – 2 hours

Photo editing – 1.5 hours

Photography – 1 hour

Editing time – 1.5 hours

Pattern writing and charting – 2.5 hours

Knitting time – 24 hours

That amounts to an average of 34.5 hours of my time spent on each pattern in the production stage. These figures will vary wildly for each designer, and they would change constantly too, as experience is gained and new avenues are explored. As I say it is the hardest thing to quantify and I’ve more than likely under estimated rather than over. Thinking time in particular is impossible to guesstimate.

So, based on an average of 34.5 hours per pattern, and if we look at minimum wage as a base point, each pattern would have to pay me £224.25. In terms of sales, and remembering that PayPal take their cut, I would have to sell 84 patterns at full price, or 150 at a discounted price.

That brings the number of copies that needs to be sold to 133 at full price, or 237 at a discounted price.


The non-production costs

This is the part that frequently gets over looked. And it’s probably one of the most expensive areas.

Let’s think about the photography for a moment… I keep production expenses down by doing the photography myself. Yet it’s taken years of practice to get my photos up to a half decent standard. And each time I get the camera out to practice, I’ve paid my models. And the camera itself has a cost too – the different lenses, the filters, and even odd bits like the camera bag and cables. I use open source software for just about everything so my software costs are low too (i.e. practiaclly zero) but a designer who edits their own shots and doesn’t use open source still has to buy the software to be able to do that.

We’re looking at thousands on this front. The camera alone has cost over £1,500 without adding in any contact hours. And you don’t just buy once and use forever; tech breaks. It needs repair or replacement. Tech gets out-dated. It’s a never ending cost.

Then there’s the computer. My laptop is now 3 years old, and it cost a small fortune at the time to buy (thankfully it was on sale, else it would have left an even bigger dent) but I got what I paid for, and have a powerful and reliable machine. I keep a laptop as my main computer because I travel so much – a desktop would be totally impractical!

Adding to the laptop is the cost of back up hard-drives, thumb drives, cables, the printer and a whole bunch of other tech. Tech is expensive, if you want to buy good stuff that lasts. I buy most things on sale or secondhand, yet I’ve still spent thousands and thousands.

Then there’s my knitting skill. I’ve been knitting since I was 3 – how far can you reasonably claim for hours spent developing skills? Training courses are an obvious and quantifiable cost, but practice and thinking time isn’t. Where do you draw the line?

Other costs are easier to see, the non-production expenses. Such as building a website and paying the monthly host fees (£15 per month) and annual domain renewals and email renewals etc (£60 per year). There are Ravelry fees for selling patterns, which are based on volume. There’s the cost of the internet and phone line (roughly £30 per month).

Whilst I do a lot of the production myself, I do outsource some of it. Such as the illustrations – my illustrator is great and charges a very reasonable rate per illustration, and the resulting tutorials add a lot of value to the books and patterns – they make the project easier for you, the knitter.

You have the cost of marketing and promotion – exhibiting and travel. Paying someone to write the copy (I’m useless at that!) or to copy edit your work. There’s the cost of business cards and postcards and the display items and head stands. There’s the cost of hiring a stand (a small fortune at a trade show) and all the time planning and developing the display.

You could argue that these aren’t pattern costs, and I get that. But when pattern sales make up 98.5% of your turnover (and income)(including books) then yes, they are pattern costs, as the patterns have to pay for them. Business speak says that these costs are “indirect costs”, and they’re still costs all the same. And how would you calculate how many patterns have to be sold to cover all of this?


The post production costs

Once a pattern goes out there, once it’s published and in the hands of the knitter, it’s costs don’t stop. If an error is found, I have to spend timing working it out and sending it back to the tech editor for review, which can often take more time than the initial production (getting back into a pattern that you haven’t looked at for 5 years isn’t all that easy). There’s time involved in uploading the revised file to the various sources, and that all uses bandwidth (my internet is mostly a PAYG modem, so bandwidth is a tangible cost).

Then there’s pattern support. I’m very fortunate in that I receive very few emails from knitters needing help with my patterns, but nonetheless, I still get them, and they still take time. I spend a huge mount of time writing to companies who sell my patterns, keeping services up to date, and generally emailing about other work related things that aren’t pattern support. These are all mostly good things, and essential things, but time it still is.

What about social networking? Time spent keeping up with knitters and Hat lovers? Posting photos and sharing tips? If I was a proper business sort I’d be counting those hours, but I’m not, and I don’t. But it’s still my time. These are post production costs too, as they are usually pattern specific.


The conclusion

Having read all of this, you might be thinking, well that’s easy, you must sell thousands of each pattern!

Well, no.

I don’t have any patterns that haven’t covered the expenses I’ve laid out in the first section. But there are patterns that haven’t covered the time I’ve spent on them. And few patterns can reach as far as helping to cover the non-production costs. Very few designers have pattern sales in the thousands on a regular basis. You’d consider yourself lucky if pattern sales reach the hundreds!

Would it put it into perspective if I told you that we as a family live below the poverty line? I don’t make minimum wage. We are able to live and keep fed because I’m frugal and our lifestyle is a cheap one. I don’t have a mortgage to pay; no-one would ever give me one on my income. I’m OK with that because I’d rather we live as we do and I don’t want to turn this into an emotional post, but sometimes a little context helps. We don’t charge what we do for our patterns because we’re trying to rip knitters off; we charge what we do because that’s what it costs. We’re not getting rich! And our time is no more or less valuable than anyone elses.

What you get when you buy a £3 pattern is an awful lot of time and energy and skill and expertise and creativity, all rolled into one. If you can’t afford to pay that, I totally understand, because I couldn’t either. But please don’t expect our patterns to be free; please respect our right to charge for our work and our time. Yarn companies can afford to give patterns away for free because they’re loss-leaders to them; they’re trying to sell you the yarn and the pattern costs are hidden. That’s not the case for us. When you buy a pattern from an independent designer, you are directly supporting a small business, an individual’s creativity and maybe even helping a young family like ours.

eta/ this post was updated on 11th March 2022 with a new post graphic. The image shows the crown of my Vlora pattern.

Woolly Wormhead

Woolly Wormhead is an internationally reknowned knit designer, specialising in Hats, technique and construction. Their patterns and techniques have been used by thousands of knitters worldwide. Join The Woolly Hat Society to be the first to learn of their latest projects and special offers!


  1. Katie

    I couldn't agree more.
    It's less of an issue, but still applies with in the dyeing community. I do get people looking at my stand at shows and commenting"that's expensive", and "I don't know how she has the cheek to charge that much for it"

    The raw fibre costs of what I do are pretty freely available, I'm lucky that I can buy in bulk, I usually get a discount, but less than many may think. Add in dye costs, electric, gas, water, detergent etc.
    Then you have the packaging costs, again, not cheap, even when you buy 1000 at a time. That's before Paypal and Etsy take their cut.
    Add in all those costs, I earn less than minimum wage for the time that I put in, doing the dyeing, sourcing materials, photography, editing, writing descriptions, updating websites, packing parcels etc.
    I refuse to under-value what I do, I happen to believe I'm worth every penny 😉 as is your work!

  2. G

    Thanks for this post, it is really interesting. I have bought and knitted quite a few of your patterns and I can't remember ever coming across a mistake, so agree that testing and tech editing is definitely worthwhile. I would be interested to know if you feel releasing patterns in magazines is important. Is it beneficial financially or more for awareness and marketing, so therefore attracting new customers.
    Love the hats and looking forward to this years MKAL.

  3. Helen

    Excellent post! And as the commenter above me says, dyers face parallel issues around costs, but at least we don't have anyone buying our yarn, copying it on a photocopier, and handing it to someone else to use.

  4. Rosie Madsen

    Thanks so much for posting this. I'm working on my first designs at the moment so this is very valuable. I am firmly on the side of charging for the time spent on the product. As you say, people often see the price as very expensive- maybe comparing with a mass-produced product- and don't always see the value of the considerable effort involved. Hopefully more and more will get inspired by unique and thoughtful designs and beautiful hand dyed yarns and value the labour and costs to the person behind them.

  5. Stash

    Thank you for posting this – I've known you and knitted your patterns for many years but had never quite comprehended the amount of work that goes into each pattern until now – you are seriously underpricing yourself!!

  6. Annie ?Modesitt


    Your breakdown of costs is right on, and folks are stunned when they learn the true income level of a handknit or crochet designer.

    I augment with teaching, but it's hard work. Thank you for your post.

    I do offer free patterns, but they're generally one size, simple things that I use to advertise my yarns, so even though they're "free" I consider the expense of making them as marketing costs.

  7. Oneday Designs

    Such a well written blog post. Here's hoping that the people who complain at the price of well written patterns will realize the cost and time involved in producing patterns.

  8. Debbi

    Excellent post. Hope everyone reads this and understands just what goes into pattern design. Thanks so much!

  9. Bonnie

    Thank you for writing this. I am a knitter and have never designed, so it is really helpful for me to read this. Thanks for making me aware of the cost–I typically think in terms of the time it must take the designer to actually design, but I rarely think about the cost of test knitting, photography, layout, etc.

  10. gina

    Excellent post! Thank you.

  11. Brenda

    I'm glad you posted this. Ysolda recently posted a similar blog post. I'm a knitter and I do buy books, but in the past I've usually just used free individual patterns, either from Knitty or from just browsing on Ravelry. I've also pretty much used inexpensive yarns. This started when I was young and broke and wanted to knit, but had to be careful about costs. As I grew older and started making more money, I did break away from acrylic and into using wool or alpaca or at least a blend- but still shopped the more inexpensive brands.

    After reading your post and Ysolda's post and some posts from Clara Parks and Jared Flood and others, I've started to re-think this. I am not rich, but I certainly do not live below the poverty level. I have some money and I spend it on this craft that I love so much. Now, I want to spend that money better. I've started buying some individual patterns and expect to do this more in order to support independent designers. I'm also becoming more aware of not only what fibers make up the yarn that I'm purchasing, but where the yarn comes from and how it was produced.

    I still find myself hesitating before making the more expensive purchase. However, I use the justification that I give probably 60-70% of what I knit away as gifts AND it is my entertainment – so really spending a few dollars on a pattern and several (or many severals) dollars on some yummy yarn is a cheap way to go, right? 🙂

    Keep up your wonderful work. Knitters who love this community and industry as much as I do will support you!

  12. M.M. Justus

    This is true of any craftsperson (and I include writers and artists in this category). As a self-published writer I run up against this sort of thing, too.

    Thank you for a really well-thought-out, really well written post. I will be sharing this.

  13. Emily

    Thank you for writing this! I tend to gravitate toward free patterns because I feel as though I have very little disposable income. Still, I don't think it's appropriate to grouse about those who do charge, for exactly the reasons you've outlined here. This is someone's livelihood! And, quite frankly, even if a designer isn't relying on patterns to pay her rent or put food on the table, she is still entitled to be compensated for her labor and expenses.

    As an aside: I feel like the "free" nature of the Internet (i.e. the glut of media we all consume without having to pay for it upfront) has changed people's attitudes about what they "should" have to pay for, and this seems to be part of that. I think many of the same people who balk at paying for a PDF download would happily spend money on a book of patterns, for example! There is something about the digital medium that gives some people an expectation that "I shouldn't have to pay for this." My two cents, anyway.

  14. YarnAddictAnni

    Excellent blogpost! Had a discussion on this topic just yesterday with my knitting students!

  15. Linda Pankhurst

    I have read and entirely agree with all that you say, but I just wonder if there mightn't be more money made if the patterns on Ravelry were a bit cheaper. I have seen patterns costing £6 or £7 pounds, where only a handful of people have actually knit the garment and posted the project details. I feel sure if they weren't so expensive they would sell more of them and perhaps make the same amount of profit in the end, or even more. Do you know if anyone has done studies on this?

  16. barbara

    Very well put. The real cost is eventually a decline in creativity because of lack of funds. Your designs are lovely. Hope you can continue to do more and that this will encourage more people to think about how they use another's time and effort

  17. Jill Jones

    Thank you! Great post!! I think sometimes that folk forget that its a struggle to earn enough to keep everything turning round (just). There is no sick pay, no holiday pay and EVERYTHING has to be found by one individual. This is even harder if children and partners are part of the equation. What sets some designers apart from others is the care, attention to detail and passion for what they do. These qualities come through the items and make the patterns interesting and a pleasure to knit/crochet. There is also the solitude in which individuals often work, which is never easy on a long term basis either. The image of 'poor, suffering' artists is an old one and a choice by the artist in the end………..BUT, whatever, it is not easy and every penny earned is defintiely well earned!! Thanks for a great post!

  18. Karen Butler

    Excellent post with lots to think about. Compared to the price of other things, knitting pattern and book prices have risen very slowly over decades.

    One thing that you haven't covered is the cost of books and resources. Developing skills and having access to reference material is important. Not to mention that having access to stitch libraries and the more comprehensive technique books is invaluable for the design process. Sizing information for grading is more relevant for designing garments: but is expensive for the comprehensive sources. And information on sizing changes too, so needs updating periodically.The cost of reference material and even occasional classes may be less than the technology costs, but it adds up too.

  19. Helen

    I for one appreciate all you do as a designer and fellow knitter, I certinaly will never understimate the skill invoved in creating a pattern thankyou for such an informative , blog . May my very best wishes go with you Helen

  20. Shannon (Knitphisticate Apps)

    Thank you for sharing all these details! I pay for patterns more often than I use free ones, but I knit without a pattern oftener still. Every time I think about writing down one of my designs, I realize how much goes into that process and I am definitely willing to pay for it!

    It seems charging enough is a common problem for creative independents, especially in the digital world where people so often expect to pay nothing, as other commenters have said. My own field (app development) is no exception. The direct costs are greater than most people realize and the indirect costs and the time required are enormous.

  21. Marina

    Good article, though a bit long; you could have made this tighter and more readable. You risk people passing it by because of it being too long, so you only end up preaching to the choir.

    Also, it would have been useful to state your point up front so readers know the "so what" of the article before plunging in. I had to read all the way through to get to your point, which is, if I understand it correctly, that each pattern represents many hours and lots of money in costs, costs that the price of each pattern can't possibly recoup. So when people complain about the price, you'd like them to know that the price is actually very reasonable. (And another cost I didn't see mentioned except by inference: the time people would waste if the patterns had mistakes.)

    Thanks for the article!

  22. Lori

    Excellent post! I think it's really helpful for me as a very frugal knitter to see the designer as a small business owner. I love to support small business, so it makes total sense to pay for something that has a value for me (knitting patterns).

  23. April Freeman

    I'm not a knitter, but I find that this post resonates with me deeply.

    We farm. So many people gripe about food costs, but they don't realize that, like you, farmers are barely making it. I don't like to think about our hourly wage, because it is worse that sweatshop income.

    I don't think that most people realize what all goes into many items. From food items, to knitting patterns, to books that have been written…the producers, those who actually create these items are rarely making it big.

  24. rebeccawip

    I have always been amazed at indie designers, dyers, business people. i know that it's an enormous amount of work that i couldnt even begin to fathom – im a 9-5 kind of person for a reason! these kinds of things are all beyond me. i have always respected your hard work. and when i start to think of all that goes in to my head spins. this post at least helps my mind stop spinning but still has me amazed. thank you for all of your hard work and best of luck to you and your fellow designers. i support you fully whenever i see a pattern i have to knit! prayers your sales exceed your expectations!

  25. Casey

    This is great and very true and I really don't mind paying for patterns in books and magazines.

    I have a problem paying for patterns online from individuals who don't put in the amount of time and money you just described but still charge the same amount as you. The biggest problem of all is that you just don't know.

    I once test knitted for someone for free. The pattern she gave us testers was so wrong, by the time it was finished we had all rewritten it for her. She used our photos to market the pattern and she was charging knitters $6!!

    Based on that experience, I don't pay more than a dollar for individual patterns unless I'm confident the work has put in.

  26. Pia

    Amen! I have to say that one more time: Amen!

    I used to think that making a pattern would be fairly easy and quick. I would think "they are charging for that! Really?" That was until I started designing myself. With the joy came many many hours of work, swatching, calculating, frogging, writing, re-writing, communicating, fretting. The list goes on.

    Thank you for providing an honest look into your side of the equation.

  27. Babs Ausherman

    Thank you for writing and sharing this! Many people don't realize all of the things that go into the work we create. I never realized that I would need to learn how to pull a trailer after learning how to hitch it to the trailer. This is just one of the "back side of the business" items that one doesn't realize is part of what you have to do to create the entire package.

    Thank you!!

  28. Caroline O.

    I am an artist and I understand the costs involved in production. The value goes far beyond just the costs listed. It is also the heart and soul. For me, purchasing a pattern is well worth the investment for myself and for an indie designer. If I'm paying for it, I do my research and make sure this is where I want to invest my money. I am a great proponent of supporting the indie artists, designers, creators, and producers of any medium.
    I thank you for sharing your knowledge with us all and for sharing your wonderful patterns with us. I really love your work.

  29. Lindsay Weirich

    This is so well written! I am asked by so many people about how to price their crafts and I say you have to factor in the cost of materials AND your time AND your overhead. You explained this so well. It makes me uncomfortable when I am around knitters who say, oh, let me just make a copy of this pattern for you. Even if it is free because as you said free patterns are not free, they are a marketing expense. At lease go to their website and download it so she get a little traffic for it. I think people assume ETSY crafters are rolling in dough, that is not the case. You made your point beautifully and after hearing the amount of work you put into this I really want to see your patterns! I saw the link from Knit Your City and this is the first post of yours I think I have read:)

  30. Nan

    Wow! Thank you for parsing it out in such detail. I am happy to pay for your patters and books, and will continue to.

  31. Michele

    I loved your post! I am a dyer and recently designed my first pattern and I had always appreciated a good pattern but now I had a completely different perspective on the process. And a process it most surely is. Great post!!

  32. Elise

    I prefer paid patterns because I know most designers have made them as user friendly as possible; and I want you to keep designing so I can make pretty things and don’t have to do all the above … Thanks for what you do!!!

  33. Liz

    Well said…….. worth every penny and some…….. xxxxxxxx

  34. Helen

    I just found this article via Ravelry, and gosh I couldn’t agree more.
    Someone once bought a copy of one of my self published and printed books, 30 miniature dolls house patterns, full colour, quality covers and paper, extensive hints and tips on miniature knitting, lists of suppliers etc etc. It took me about 2 years to put together. I had a very strong email from this buyer saying how could I justify charging £10 for a few pages of photocopied paper.
    I could have explained but didn’t expect them to appreciate the work put into it. So I refunded and told them to keep the book.
    It was only one out of many sales but it still upsets me to think about it.
    Keep up the good work.
    PS I am not sure if you also mentioned tax on earnings.

  35. Jacqueline

    For me, the most important Thing is my valueable time. Of Course, the Money you Paid for editing and so on is also important, but the time is something, that can’t be reimbursed, because it is gone. My Kids grow up so fast, that it scares me.

    Anyway. I will Always pay for Patterns and won’t complain About it. It is the least I can do in Exchange for the Beautiful pattern, which took you a lot of time and Money.

    Beautiful true article.

  36. Ciara

    I just found my way here after reading a comment by you on Ravelry, then looking at your profile. I couldn’t agree more, and found this post incredibly helpful. I’ve recently been forced to take ill health retirement from work, and finally found the time to focus on my designs, and wow is it both joyous, and panicky overwhelming, and very, Rey expensive to get started (paying tec editors, upgrading camera equipment, etc, etc, all from a base of no sales yet.)

    Thanks for this post

    • Woolly Wormhead

      I’m glad this post has helped!

      I really need to revisit it again as my costs and prices have changed so much but yes, there’s a lot more goes on and that needs to be paid for than folks realise, and pattern sales don’t come easy. We really don’t sell as many patterns as folks think, and there’s an awful lot of wheels that need to turn to ensure we publish good quality, usable patterns.

      Good luck with your venture, I know just how scary it is to lose your job to poor health and find yourself grappling trying to find ways to earn some money. Please don’t feel that you have to upgrade everything or pay full whack while you get started – there are ways to make the most of the resources you have. There’s plenty of videos on YouTube for editing phone camera photos, for instance 🙂


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