Further thoughts on the issue of Transparency

It’s 5.07am and I’m up with insomnia, as is often the case. There are words stuck in my head that I need to make sense of else sleep won’t happen. Regular readers here know that I’m prone to writing strongly worded posts like my last one, whether they be a deliberate reality check or a desperate need for honesty. It’s part of my healing process if you like, my need to keep myself sane in a world that often feels so alien and constructed. I just wish I had the energy to write them more often.

Thank you for your support and your wonderful comments and messages. Getting all those words out onto screen left me worn out, in a good way, and a little overwhelmed, and my usual reaction is to coil away from the spotlight. There are however many unanswered questions, which is par for the course when you’re trying to untangle feelings. Your comments provided lots of food for thought and my brain hasn’t stopped churning since. One thing that we all need to talk more about is privilege – the differences in our background, circumstance and support (financial or otherwise). It’s a very tricky subject, but it doesn’t go away by pretending it’s not there.

For those of us in the industry the low wages are not news. I suspect there are a few key earners, but many of the people I know are putting in a daft amount of hours to earn a relative pittance. Many continue despite this because they aren’t sole earners or have financial support, and are able to persue their creative dreams. Others continue to do it because they can work an irregular schedule around family, or because life and health means a regular job is no longer an option.

I’m still not sure though why it’s assumed that we’re earning a lot more than we are. It’s not as simple as throwing out a PDF and flogging hundreds of them (I’ll remind you of my post about the true cost of a pattern) yet you’ll still hear remarks along those lines. Ideas and education never seem to be as valued as tangible objects and that’s something quite deeply rooted, but I don’t think that’s the sole reason.

A couple of comments really got me thinking… comments along the lines of “I had no idea about the reality of designers – all I ever see are pictures of pretty handknits” and “so many designers seem more concerned with image”. And yup, it bought me back to that wall of pretend again.

Strong images sell, that we all know. They don’t have to be pretty, but it helps. And everyone loves nice yarn, right, and we all want to see it in our IG feed? Marketing would have us believe that unless we share the pretty all the time and have everyone cooing, we won’t sell our work. Admittedly, the fact that pretty sells more is something I’ll never get my head round, but there it is.

And I can’t help feeling that if designers really want to change the industry from the ground up and make a point of how difficult it can be financially, then they need to acknowledge that lifestyle marketing isn’t helping. In the efforts to make something look good and attract followers (and hopefully in turn customers), the impression that’s being given out is that they too live that lifestyle, and I know that the reality for most is very different. I’m no doubt over simplifying here (you got the sleep deprived bit, yes?) but if we want to bust the myth, then we’ve got to start telling a truer story.

And the notion that stopped me going back to sleep in the wee hours was this: what would happen if designers, like review bloggers, were transparent about sponsorship? What if designers started to let their customers know that the expensive yarn they see in the photos (Instagram, blogs, as well as Ravelry and patterns) has been kindly provided by the yarn company? More and more bloggers are adding disclaimers to their review posts in the interests of transparency. And I like it. As designers we generally endorse yarn brands, and I think it would be mighty refreshing if more of us took the same approach.

I’ll leave you with that idea; it seemed quite a revelation at 3am. Meanwhile, I’m going to make another cup of tea and knit for a while before sending out the final instalment of the MKAL.

eta/ I’ve heard this afternoon that some designers do state on their patterns that yarn is provided by Xx company, and others are upfront and openly talk about collaborations which can only be a good thing. Yarn sponsorship doesn’t just apply to patterns, though – what about blog posts and reviews? Instagram and social media? The law changed regarding transparency for book/product reviewers but how well does that apply to our field?

eta2/ I’ve had folk ask what I’m trying to achieve with these posts, and honestly, what I’m trying to do is work out where I fit within the industry, and how I feel about so many practices (including my own). Blogging can be just as organic and spontaneous as it can be scripted and scheduled. There doesn’t have to be a purpose. And if discussion comes from this then surely that is a pretty worthwhile achievement in itself?

Yes, I took this post down for a while. As I said, I don’t deal well with the spotlight and two honest and questioning posts in one week was more than my vulnerability meter could handle. I’ve made minor edits and reposted by request.

eta3/ this post was updated on 11th March 2022 with a new post graphic. The image shows the crown of my Coldharbour Twist 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. Nic

    Glad to see this back and sending you tons of positive vibes. I hinted on Twitter yesterday at my discomfort in the entire "lifestyle" marketing that I see in the world. On a general note I feel it promotes a sense of entitlement to many things – that pretty dress, NOW; that new car, NOW; that gorgeous bloke, NOW. It does nothing to promote the idea that we should plan, and save, for things we would like in the future. I also feel that if I was my 15 year old self living in 2015 as I was in 1985, I would despair. My "poky little house", (Mum's words, not mine) might bother me more than it did; my gawkyness and NatHealth specs definitely would; my desire to study sciences would not match up to any of the celeb obsessed ideals I see before me now and I would no doubt feel that I would be left on the shelf as those gorgeous blokes that are the only ones seen in the lifestyle marketing would never choose me. Superficial? Oh indeed, but it's the experience of knowing life is not like that that helps me to see it for what it is. How on earth can teenagers today pick their way through it?
    So, that explains my disquiet at the pushing of a lifestyle; that feeling that if yours does not measure up you have somehow failed.
    Your photographs are some of the most appealing of any on the market, precisely because they are NOT pretty. They are however, strong. Interesting in composition, often using depth of field in a way I find very appealing, and showing real people that are different. No less photogenic, but not the identikit models Sen in agency shoots (or even in Sirdar patterns). Your models make your hats appealing because they are full of sass. Maybe that's as much a "lifestyle" marketing as the big boys, but I feel it's more real. They look as if they would wear your hats, whereas other ad campaigns feature models that wear the clothes well. But don't look as if they would wear them in real life.
    Finally, regarding transparency; I am way more comfortable with people being open – I would much rather be told that something has been supplied for review, or that someone has bought something with their own money before reviewing it, because I will trust their opinion that little bit more. If I'm not sure that they're not just sucking up because they've been paid, I feel uncomfortable. Regarding yarn support for pattern design, I know it isn't as clear, but I'd appeciate more on it. A pattern using my yarn was recently published in a magazine; I know the designer, a member of the Knit group I sporadically attend, bought my yarn, but what do others think? Do they think I bribed her for the publicity? I would welcome much more transparency in this issue.
    So… You can see how this wouldn't fit in 140 characters… But it all came from these two posts and the ruminations from a day spent weaving, allowing plenty of head space…

  2. Leigh

    I like your thinking out load posts. I've followed your journey for a few years now because you are so open and honest about your life. The lifestyle blogs get boring, and I stop reading. Your blog is more than just marketing.

  3. Nan

    Three cheers for your honesty, transparency and bravery!!!


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