Unexpectedly Controversial

I believe that I have finally reached an age and station where I largely see stuff coming.  Most of the time, I say something, and if a few people go bananas, I’m pretty much not surprised. We all know what topics can be guaranteed to set some people off, and we even usually know who those people will be.  There’s hot button issues for those people.  We all know what they are – Religion, politics, human rights being equal for all humans – the biggies.

That means that if I say something like "I believe health care should be free and equal at the point of service for all people" I can expect to hear something about that.  Probably I’m going to hear from people with strong political views, and they’ll say that reduces choice, and that if you have money you deserve better/faster care, or that they don’t want other people in charge of them.  I’m going to hear from people who’s personal system of ethics dictates that a human’s independence is more important than their health, and finally, I’m going to hear from a few people who are going to tell me that I don’t understand anything about how the world works, and that my point of view is impossible, and where the hell did I get a crazy idea like that anyway?

The point is, I know if I say that, that I’ll hear about it.  You can expect some topics to be controversial, and as I said, mostly I know what those are.  I still get a shocker every once in a while though, mostly when it’s something that seems really, really clear to me and I can’t imagine there’s any debate. (That happened last week when I said that I thought it was entirely unethical for a medical professional to give a happily breastfeeding mum formula "just in case." and someone violently disagreed. Shocked the snot out of me – but that’s a conversation for another day.)  My point (and I do have one) is that it’s pretty rare for me to get taken by surprise, but that’s exactly what happened this morning.

This morning I was pondering hiring a test knitter, and wondering if what I pay is in keeping with what other people pay, and I Tweeted asking if anyone knew if there was an industry standard pay scale.  Imagine my shock, when not only did I discover that there isn’t, but was immediately inundated with offers to test knit for me… FOR FREE.  Very kind, I thought, but not the way jobs work.
I expect someone to do a job.  I consider proper test knitting a skilled job, and it’s part of producing a product.  Every product anyone would like to sell needs to be tested, and that’s part of the cost of doing business.  I declined the kind offers, and tweeted:

"Thanks for the offers all, but I don’t need free test knitters. I think it’s a job, and should be paid."

That was fine.  Nobody got up my grill, but there were quite a few people saying "Gosh – why?  Knitting is fun and we’re all nice" (I’m paraphrasing)  so I took to twitter again, and said:

How can we expect people to take the knitting industry (and those in it) seriously, if we don’t? #professionalismFTW

That, my friends, is when it all got really unexpected.  The private emails and tweets started pouring in, and while I don’t have their permission to post names or content here, I can tell you that I got some answers and attitudes to that tweet that were more surprising to me than the urge I got last week to iron, and that’s saying something.  I’ve already taken up the answers with the people who wrote, and they know I was going to post about it, because it’s been my experience that there’s seldom one person with the same questions or attitudes.  Usually the comments/tweets/emails I get are rather representative… so here’s some of the questions and comments, and my answers.  (Again, I’ve paraphrased.)

Comment: Hey lady, you’re nuts.  Knitting isn’t an industry that needs to be taken seriously. Knitting is fun, and nice and so are knitters, darn it. There’s no need to be dragging that nasty talk about money into it.  Be nice.

I am nice, and so are most knitters, and knitting is really, really fun. I’m not sure why paying people for their work would be not nice.  I think most of you like to be paid for your work, besides, people do better work when they’re paid.  The exchange of money for time and effort is a good way to make sure that people have the time and attention to do a good job, and you know what makes knitting more fun? Patterns with fewer errors because a proper test knitter did a good job.  As for the seriousness of the knitting industry, I don’t really see how you can imagine that there aren’t a lot of people taking it seriously.  I bet your local yarn shop owner takes it super seriously, right around the time he/she has to pay the rent.  I bet yarn companies (big and small) take it seriously too.  You know who else? Designers, test knitters, tech editors… all those people take it really seriously.  For you it might be a hobby, but for a lot of people trying to support their families in this industry it would be amazing if most of us could at least agree that there could be and should be an idea of what jobs are worth what money. 

Comment: Test knitting is fun! We don’t need to be paid!

That’s super generous, and yes.  Test knitting is sort of fun, but here’s what most designers need in a test knitter is the ability to   A) Work on a deadline and keep that deadline.  B) Provide valuable feedback to the designer that they can use to improve the pattern.  If you’re going to have expectations of someone, then you should pay them.  It’s not just respectful and a statement of the value of their work – it’s a commitment.  Let’s say you don’t pay the test knitter, and they do a crappy job.  They miss a bunch of things, fix a few things without making note that they had to correct it to make it work… and then give it in late.  If it’s all just a friendly arrangement, then you get a crappy pattern, the designer can have their business damaged….  the exchange of money keeps people accountable to each other.  It is not fair to have respect for someone’s work and abilities, and to have an expectation that they will do what’s best for your business without giving them something in return.    

Comment: Well, I like test knitting enough to do it for free. I’m not professional, and I’m just helping.  It doesn’t hurt anyone.

Well, it is very true that nobody can tell you what you want to do for free, and if you’re not a professional, and you’re not test knitting for professionals, then I think you’ve got a heck of a point.  If, however, you are test knitting for professionals for free, can I have a counter point?  Let’s say that Bob has spent a lot of time learning how to fix plumbing leaks.  He’s good at it.  He opens a little business and starts fixing plumbing leaks for a living. Then this guy, lets call him Marco, decides that he loves fixing plumbing leaks. He starts fixing leaks all over town, for free.  Pretty soon, everybody knows this, and Bob can’t get a job, because who would pay someone to do it when someone else will do it for free? Pretty soon, this is a town where nobody thinks you should ever pay to have leaks fixed, and those jobs disappear, along with Bob’s business.  By the way, the other thing that disappears is excellence in the field of leak fixing – because you can’t demand excellence from a free leak fixer. They’re just doing you a favour. 

Comment: Designers can’t afford it.

Most can, actually – although it would help if knitters didn’t balk at paying for patterns.  I’ve seen knitters buy an ungodly amount of yarn, then complain about the pattern not being free.  There’s some designers who are amateurs, or are just sticking a free pattern out there for sport, and I’m not talking about them.  I’m talking about the Pros. People who are trying to earn a living selling patterns to you.  Those design
ers? What they can’t afford is a reputation for having patterns with errors.  A good pattern makes them money. They can (and do) pay test knitters.

Comment: Well, I get paid in yarn.

Cool.  The barter system is an excellent way to go, as long as it’s an alternative, not an industry standard.  If two professionals want to enter a professional agreement where money is represented by yarn (or something else) that’s civil, but the amount that you’re compensating (however you do it) should be agreed upon, and more or less standard in the industry.

Comment: Are you saying anyone who doesn’t pay their test knitters is unprofessional? Or that you’re not a professional test knitter if you don’t get paid?

Let’s look at the definition of Professional. According to Wikipedia (I know) the first line is "A professional is a person who is paid to undertake a specialised set of tasks and to complete them for a fee."   I’d say that if you’re asking someone to perform a task a specific way, it is then unprofessional not to pay.  If you’re asking a friend to help you out,  that’s not the same.  You and your buddy can work it out, we all help our friends, but that’s not professional.  If you’re doing something and not getting paid (somehow, with something of value) then you’re not a professional.  Helpful, yes.  Providing a service, yes.  A professional? Maybe not.  I feel like if the person asking you to provide the service is going to provide a better product and make more money because you do that task? Yup. It’s unprofessional not to pay.

Comment: Knitting isn’t like that.

Yeah, I know – but take it from me, there’s a lot of shop owners, yarn companies, dyers, designers, tech editors and test knitters who wish it was a little more like that.  Contracts, standards and fair wages for fair work would go a long way towards making the industry stronger, not weaker.

Comment: You’re a commie-pinko-tree-hugging-hippie.

Maybe, and maybe I’m wrong – but don’t you think it would be a good conversation to have? 

Gifts for Knitters resumes tomorrow. I’m thinking.

594 thoughts on “Unexpectedly Controversial

  1. So pay me but if it’s by the hour you’ll lose money. — Woops, you did mention the “D” word, didn’t you? (deadline) Honestly, while I know many test knitters happily knit for free, my opinion (for what it is worth) is that that should be a mutually agreed-upon arrangement between the designer and the test knitter. AND it’s none of my business one way or the other. Pay if you want to, don’t if you don’t or can’t. Work it out between the two of you. Shrug.

  2. You saw this, but most people wouldn’t have. One important aspect of professionalism is respect for your colleagues. If you are in a professional programme at university, you are told in no uncertain terms to not undercharge. (Donating your labour is one thing, undercharging is another). This is specifically your Bob and Marco example, because you missed the fact that Marco is a real jerk towards Bob.

  3. I have to say, the last comment is actually completely opposed to your “people should get paid for doing their job” stance.
    Anyway, as a hobby knitter I had never really thought of this subject before. I think you raise some excellent points about the professionalism of test knitting as a job.

  4. Excellent posting today. We “non-professional” knitters too often take what the “professionals” do for granted. A lot of work goes into creating and perfecting a pattern. And I, for one, appreciate all that hard work.

  5. We (women) should stand up and be proud of the work we do and ask a decent wage for it. Consider teaching, childcare, small scale farming, art, animal care, textile etc – all professions/interests that are undervalued in part because we let them be.
    By undercutting and undervaluing our efforts we also undercut ourselves and our values.
    I am proud to pay well for the (few) things that I need.

  6. I have been a test knitter and I have been paid. I have been grateful (and honoured when the designer kept calling me back to do more test knitting) for the opportunity. It was fun. I was thankful for the money (not a lot, like I can’t quit my full time job to be a test knitter) and the knitting advice from the designer and for being able to knit a pattern before anyone else and for being able to keep the leftover yarn.
    I keenly remember the pressure of meeting the deadline. I was hired to do a job and had to get it done by a specific time. I don’t know if I would have taken it as an actual job if I didn’t get paid. The designer has a deadline to meet with publishers or whoever and the fact that I was hired (even if it was for, say, $100 to knit a hat, neck warmer and mittens on sock yarn in a month’s time) as an employee really drove home the point that I needed to take this as seriously as the designer. Her reputation with much more important people was on the line and I wanted to help her achieve her goal.
    I saw the money as an added bonus, to be honest. The fact that I had to bring samples of my knitting to the designer as part of an interview beforehand and was then hired was such a treat and honour that I was just delighted to do it.
    Sorry to ramble on … all of this to say, stick to your guns.

  7. I actually have a friend who had to pay to test knit a pattern (the designer made them buy a kit). It cost over $100.00. I have test knitted a few times and was usually given a copy of the finished pattern that I was making. One time, I was also thanked in the notes on the book. These are terms that I agreed to at the start of the testing.

  8. Agree with all. Which is why I don’t knit for pay. I want to do it on my schedule, with my own variable standards. I have a day job that I have to be professional at; knitting is for me, for relaxing. (But thank you for tweeting what you learned about the rate in case I change my mind one day.)
    (Also, I got the urge to iron last week too – really odd feeling. It came in useful for the linen napkins.)

  9. I think there are some areas where people have a hard time differentiating between things done as hobbies or for personal reasons, and things done as work.
    If I clean my house, no-one is going to pay me for it. It’s my house, so I clean it. But if Mrs Jones down the road wants me to clean her house, then we’re in a different set of circumstances. If it’s just a one-off for a sweet old lady who’s a family friend and just come out of hospital then maybe I’ll do it for free. It’s a favour to a friend.
    But if she wants me there 8am sharp twice a week, to stay for 2 hours and make sure X, Y, and Z are done, then it’s a job. It’s the formality – I can’t just go “Eh, I don’t feel like it… I’ll do it at 10” the way I would with my own home. Or I can’t do “Well, I’ve done X, but I’m not in the mood and there’s something on TV, so I’ll do the rest tomorrow”. It’s a job, and it’s taken seriously.
    Same with knitting. Right now I’m knitting a jumper for my housemate. But it’s a “get around to it when you get to it” thing – she’s bought the yarn but I’m getting nothing for my time, and there’s no deadline. So when the jumper and I had a difference of opinion, I put it aside for a few days and knit a scarf to get over it. Right now it’s hanging out in a bag while I work in my Christmas knitting. If I was being paid then I couldn’t do that – because someone would have paid for my time. It’s about expectations.
    I’ve heard people say “Don’t make your hobby your job, because it stops being fun”. Having worked in industries related to my hobbies, I have to mostly-agree – everything’s less fun if you *have* to do it. Which is why it becomes work.

  10. Those are some excellent points. I’ve volunteered to do test knitting before, but only for friends. And I love patterns that are test knit well. Sorry you were taken so off gaurd by strong opinions.

  11. Well, until you explained, I thought that I didn’t want my hobby to be converted to a job, I’m happy not being a professional. But, then perhaps that is why the craft is undervalued. Damn when only men were allowed to knit it was a Guild and elitist.
    But ho hum, you (as always) have made a fair and valid point which has adjusted my world view slightly, and trust me that’s a good thing.
    Love from another commie-pinko-tree-hugging-hippy

  12. Good post! We’ve been told for so many years that our knitting/quilting/sewing/etc. is “woman’s work” and “craft not art” and therefore less valuable than “men’s work” and “real art” that we’re starting to believe it ourselves.

  13. I agree with Steph. I mean, really, if you are knitting for your own personal satisfaction, that’s a wonderful thing. I tried to tell a lady at my church this as well. She is bound and determined to have me knit her some slippers. I’m not a fast knitter by any means. She even put a note in her Christmas card saying she’d pay me.
    I think I stopped her in her tracks when I told her it would be $10 an hour for my knitting – about $50 and she needs to buy the yarn. Then I gave her a list of our local yarn shops, none are any closer than 40 miles away, as well as knit picks and a few other web stores, with recommendations of type/weight/ etc. She was appalled to find out that it would be closer to $70 for a pair of slippers.
    That’s why you cannot pay me to knit something. If I do it, it’s out of love for the person, not because it’s my job. I have plenty I want to knit, I don’t need other’s queuing my queu.

  14. Thanks, Stephanie! This is exactly how I feel. I’m a professional knitting teacher and yes, it’s fun, but it’s also serious business for me. If I don’t get paying students, I can’t pay my bills. Even though I joke about spending my whole paycheck on yarn, I actually don’t. I have to eat and put gas in my car just like everyone else.

  15. Fo many of us knitting is a diversion and a relaxing change from the working world. But we should keep in mind that for some it is a very serious business and needs to be treated as such. Furthermore, the people for whom it is a very serious business make the knitting world a much better place for the rest of us by providing patterns, yarns, and supplies that are of high quality. I, like you, am baffled why someone would object to the idea of paying someone to perfrom a professional service. By the way, I would recommend that you pay by the pattern rather than by the hour.

  16. Since no one can stop me I’m going to throw this out there. I think another reason to insist on standard pay and have professional expectations is to raise non-knitter respect for knitters and their craft, which like most female dominated fields, i.e nursing, teachers, child care (yes I know there are male knitters and nurses too, it is still mostly women) are devalued and disrespected, a big part of this is when “they” balk at paying a fair wage for a fair service. Just because women are the ones who do it for a career does not make it easy. When someone does a job well they deserve to be respected for their work and compinsated for their skill, knowladge, hard work ect.

  17. I agree with you. Professionalism comes at a price. My husband is a professional in the construction industry. Normal people expect to pay him for his services (although they don’t want to pay too much!) and expect excellent results. Every other profession works like that and if you want knitting to be taken seriously as a profession then I think knitters need to be acting professionally. He may donate his services at times but if he continued to do that on a consistent basis, I wouldn’t get to eat. For some people, knitting is a business, even if it is something we love, and a business should be professional.

  18. Stephanie- I agree with absolutely everything you posted! In fact, your tweet “How can we expect people to take the knitting industry (and those in it) seriously, if we don’t? #professionalismFTW” got me to thinking why in the world have I never thought to be a professional test knitter as a part-time job?!!

  19. I knit for pleasure, so I mostly knit what I like. If I knit as a job, I would expect to be properly compensated for my time- and that would depend entirely on the time required per project, and the difficulty of the project itself.

  20. Commie-pinko-tree-hugging-hippie huh? I didn’t realize that insulting someone was a coherent argument. Lazy.
    You’re right, thought. Just because something is a hobby to you (like writing for some people), doesn’t mean that it’s not a job for others (like writing is for you).
    So the next time you have a pattern that is all jacked up, blame the hobby knitter that test knit it, because the professional would have something vested in making sure it was right.

  21. Actually, I completely agree with the statement that got flak. It’s the same with any activity traditionally marked craft (beading, embroidery, etc.), or activity traditionally relegated to women (librarians, grade school teachers, etc.) Too many times we sell ourselves short by saying ‘it’s only knitting/I do it because I love it not for pay/money dirties it or makes it not fun anymore.’ Not just anybody can be a test knitter, either. There is additional skill in reading for comprehension, not just finding errors. What we do is a skill, and people deserve compensation for their skill. As a librarian, I am particularly passionate about this subject.

  22. Clearly there are 2 types of knitters
    Professional and the rest of us who do it for enjoyment,gifts ect…
    Problem is people can’t seperate the 2 nor do I think they ever will its a state of mind.
    Bigger problem is when you cross over to professional,which I belive you are.They still think of you as someone who just knits a lot not how you make a living.
    I give you credit for a least trying to be FAIR in asking the professinal standard.

  23. I would love it if test/sample knitting could be a legit job. I would call myself an averaged speed knitter which means that I can knit between 100-150 yards a day (pattern, yarn and errands as variables). All I do anyway is knit, so it’s amazing to me that I found a paying gig, but it works out to $1 and change an hour. Nowhere near living wage.

  24. Bravo! I may not be earning a living from my designing, but I put a lot of time and effort into my work, I like to be treated with respect for what I do, and I like to be remunerated accordingly. I’m a former lawyer, and I just love it when my former colleagues look at what I do now, and treat it as a perfectly legitimate thing to be doing with my life. For me, it’s starting to be much more than just a hobby. It’s fun, but it can also be hard work and I like to be taken seriously.

  25. Hi Stephanie,
    I agree with you 100%. I also think it would be a dream come true to work with you. If you are still looking for a test knitter I would like to apply.
    Kris from Oregon

  26. There are parts of your post I agree with, and parts I disagree with. I have been a test knitter for free, in exchange for yarn, and for pay.
    However, in order to make my comment worth reading:
    The most fair way I have been compensated was a rate per yard knit, where the rate then varied based on how complicated the knit was. At base, I was paid 18 to 20 cents a yard for simple stockinette/garter projects. This meant that an adult sweater in stockinette at an average of 1000 yards would yield $200. At the high end, if it involved cables and/or lace I was compensated 30 cents per yard. This included all finishing, blocking and returning the garment in display condition.

  27. I’ve been trying to formulate my thoughts around it. And I’m failing, so while I try to do so, I’ll leave you with this one small thought:
    I find a certain irony in the fact that you’re being called a pinko-commie-tree hugger by suggesting that you pay someone to do something for you. Isn’t pay for work the nature of capitalism?

  28. I had a knitter balk at being paid, once, because she “just knits while watching TV”. My response was that there was no reason she couldn’t have good working conditions, and still be paid for her time and skill.

  29. Over time I have test knit for four designers/yarn companies. At one I had the option of pay or an equivalent in yarn. Since the yarn was top of the spectrum luxury that was my choice. Currently I’m test knitting for two designers and paid per yard 17 to 19 cents USD, depending on complexity. I usually commit to a deadline for a photo shoot, trade show etc. I also commit to helping with the tech editing of the pattern. This doesn’t interfere with my personal knitting pleasure and gives me the opportunity of knitting some exotic items that I’d otherwise not have a reason to explore. Win/win for me.

  30. I like this post; test knitting is a job and should be a paid position. I do not think that the internet in general is good for the industry either; it builds expectations that patterns are free, teaching is free, everything should be freely given for the “love of the craft” and to be nice and helpful and all. Ultimately, it hurts the designers and professionals in the fiber fields. I realize I am in a minority feeling this way, though. I suppose only time will tell.

  31. Thank you for standing up for those in the artistic community. If I played every piano gig for free because it was fun, I would get no respect. Art is work and work can be art and professionals need to be paid.

  32. In a similar vein — I have a friend who, several times a year, suggests that I join her in a craft show and sell my knitting. She truly doesn’t understand that I don’t want that time and that part of my life to become a job.

  33. Aaaah. This all has a familiar feel to it for me. I’m a professional bellydancer, and the dance community here has *exactly* this conversation about twice per year. (Not that we’ve ever resolved it, mind you.) I personally feel that test knitters for paid patterns *should* be paid. It is a different thing entirely if you are volunteering to test knit a free pattern for a friend. Just because an activity is fun does not mean you can’t get paid for it!

  34. Actually you’re the opposite of the last comment, Commie pinkos generally not being big into the whole capitalism pay for work thing. So weird that anyone would argue against your position, that’s for sure!

  35. Actually, I’m a professional designer- this is my sole source of income- and I would not be able to afford to pay 3-4 test knitters per pattern. If a hat takes, say, 24 hours to knit, and I pay them $10 an hour, that’s $720- $960 per pattern, which is just about my monthly income. (Yes, I live on it, and yes, it’s really damn hard to do so, and yes, we struggle sometimes, but I do it because I love it .)
    I pay my test knitters in patterns (a certain number free per item tested), I don’t demand a specific deadline, or that they put up pictures on Ravelry, and I certainly don’t demand the garment. No one ever has to make a pattern they wouldn’t want to make anyway. All I ask is that they work through it at their own pace and give me feedback. If I need something more complicated, I hire a tech editor (who can usually go through a pattern in a few hours, since they are not knitting the whole thing.) They are all wonderful people, and I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without them. I’ve test-knitted several of their patterns for them, when they’ve asked, but never worked it out ahead of time. I would love to have the money to pay them, but honestly, many of my patterns never even BRING IN $900. I know you’ve been famous for a long time, and I know that your patterns and books bring in a lot of money, so I’m not surprised that you’re out of touch with the average designer’s income but…trust me, when we say we can’t afford it, we’re not lying.

  36. The only real problem is that there are a ton of Marco arrangements that have already become the industry standard. Anyone who wished to be compensated with anything other than a free copy of the revised pattern or the yarn to knit the test version is going to be viewed as asking too much.
    I only test knit certain things: hats, mitts, gloves, mittens — small things — because for small things of a certain complexity, I think a bit of yarn and a pattern are a decent swap. I also tend only to test knit for people I know rather well so that my personal commitment to our friendship gives me the impetus to keep deadlines and do my best.
    I don’t know what a good answer is. I agree that the barter system is wonderful and should be an available alternate rather than the standard. I’m not writing this as someone who hopes to make a living test knitting, either. My life is too busy for that. I just want to see the skills of others valued for the artistic and technical endeavours they are. Thank you for writing about this.

  37. Interesting…I was wondering when I first started reading if people were reacting to test knitting for YOU. As in, “If I can say, on my knitting portfolio/resume’ etc. that I’m a test-knitter for THE Yarn Harlot, it will make me a lot more marketable/hip/cool/creditable etc.
    Just a thought.

  38. but I thought test-knitters were always paid. It’s in one of the first Vogue Knitting magazines, a profile of a professional knitter, and her staff. She did the work for Sesame Street, and for Cats. The British have professional, paid staff. That’s in interviews, too. How they pay for piecework, versus finishing. And the difficulties of finding staff.

  39. I like test knitting. I usually test knit for a free pattern or two. But if someone would like to offer me money to test knit, I wouldn’t turn it down. That’s just crazy talk. I would probably spend it on patterns, though.

  40. That last comment leaves me completely lost. Wouldn’t your insistence in paying test knitters make you a capitalist? If you were really a pinko-commie-hippie-yada-yada-yada, you would be all for the barter system of free test knitting services for free yarn or some other exchange. That’s just my $0.02.
    And for the record, I agree with your arguments for paying test knitters. If professional designers only used free test knitters, I bet those test knitters would very quickly feel used/resentful and would start to demand some monetary compensation.

  41. (I did want to add, though, that “test” knitting and “sample” knitting are very different things, and if you’re asking for the actual object, that’s a whole different ballgame. It’s no longer “get this pattern (which you want to knit anyway) for free, instead of for $5, in return for feedback.” It’s basically a commission.

  42. Most of the time I happily knit along to make gifts and to have handknits for myself. Once in a while somebody wants to buy something from me and I really struggle to know what my time is worth. How much is a pair of handknit socks worth to somebody else? For sure, it’s hard to charge what it would really be worth and for that reason I only gift my handknits. Plus it’s not nearly as much fun if I’m knitting somebody else’s choice in yarn and pattern. I truly believe in paying for the worth of hand made products. I know several potters who believe we need to get paid for our products and I agree.

  43. I’d fail as a test knitter because although I’m fast and picky there is no amount of money that would get me to sew two pieces of knitting together for someone else. Well, I guess there is but no reasonable person would want to pay it me.

  44. I like the example of the free leak fixer. You present many VERY good points. In fact, my boyfriend is a designer and is struggling with this right now. So many amatures are out there doing crappy work for free. Then people come to him and want him to do a Professional Job fixing their sites for free! It’s ridiculous. He spend YEARS and MONEY to study the art of design and people expect him to give of his expertise for free! Absurd. You’re right, there should be a Professional Knitting Standard.
    I do like a free pattern, but if I drool over a pattern and am not intimidated by the design, I’ll pay for a good pattern! Is there a industry standard regarding pricing for patterns?

  45. I’ve been a test-knitter (my work was photographed in the book as well) and I was paid for it – I completely agree with everything above.
    I can liken it to a similar instance recently – we have neighbors who love our cats. They are happy to take care of them while we are gone (to the point where one time we did hire a professional pet-sitter they were hurt and they made it clear that they really, really wanted to come in and take care of our feline horde when we traveled). So we ask them to cat-sit. BUT.
    They don’t scoop the box. Or if they do, not more than once every 2-3 days.
    How the heck do you tell your neighbor who is doing you a favor that they’re not doing their cat-sitting job – when it’s not a job?

  46. I volunteered to test knit once, and the designer was happy that I was actually knitting and sending her questions and suggestions on how to reword the pattern to make it clearer.
    Then when I ran into an issue which necessitated an answer, and she didn’t respond to my emails. Months passed, and I finally gave up waiting. So, the professional aspect goes both ways, even if the test knitter is a volunteer.

  47. I didn’t read all the comments, so I may be repeating. Sorry.
    I say “Hear, Hear!” And, “You go, Girl!”
    Women are women’s worst enemies. We undervalue or own work, devalue each others. I don’t mean to ‘diss’ the handwork of men, but I feel most handwork/needlework is still done by women. Your plumber analogy is perfect: we expect to pay the plumber; we don’t expect to pay someone who hems our skirt or knits a hat. Women admire a beautiful hand-pieced, hand-quilted piece, then expect it to be the same price as the one they saw in Walmart. Forget that the Walmart product was machine-mass-produced by underpaid workers in some under privileged country.
    Again, I say, “You go, Girl!!”

  48. Give up Steph! I agree with you, but this is an argument that has gone on in the realm of libraries/Librarians for decades and I see so many parallels. Sure there’s a lot of consensus on the topic but the arguments still go on.
    You’ve made your points well and clearly and I understand you were not attempting to annoy or dismiss the hard work of anyone, but some folks will continue to argue with you about this regardless. So don’t get hung up on whether anyone else changes their mind based on what you said. (And no, I don’t exactly get why this is a hot-button issue for some, but it is!)

  49. I saw your tweet and responded this morning… since I knit for enjoyment and have three children (ages 4, 6, & 8), I have very limited time to knit. If someone asked me to test knit, I would look at it as a job with a deadline, but I would be satisfied receiving yarn, or perhaps a copy of the book when the pattern is published.
    I have a dear friend who is starting up a dyeing business, and she needs sample knits for when she does craft shows, photos for her etsy site, etc. I would be happy to have her send me yarn, knit a sock (or whatever), and send it back to her. I support her in her efforts and would do that just to help her out. Now, if she came to me for regular projects, we would work something out.
    I guess, just like every other job, we place the value on what matters most. As a writer, I’d do a quick project for a friend in need without even thinking to ask for payment; a company in need of a freelancer, however, is another story.

  50. I haven’t offered cash, but I always offer the yarn to test knit whatever it is. If they don’t want the yarn, but want to use a stash equivalent, then I gift them something.

  51. As a new pattern writer, I don’t know how I feel about this. I recently tested a sewing pattern for free, and to me the compensation was getting a free copy of a pattern others would have to pay for. In the same vein, I’ve asked people to help me test patterns, and they’ve all been happy to get the pattern for free. Why is no one discussing the fact that the pattern itself has value, and a lot of work goes into writing them, so you are exchanging the labor of coming up with the design, making the test piece, writing the pattern for the labor of someone else then testing it?

  52. Stephanie, standing up for knitters and knitting is what I love best about you. Your post today reminds me of one of my biggest irritations: people selling their knitted garments for next to nothing. To me, it not only tells me that the person doesn’t value her/himself and her/his time and talents, it undermines my ability to earn a living as a knitter; it undermines as a whole, and relegates it to a low class activity.
    Keep standing up for what you believe!

  53. Just as many people write, not all get paid to do it (yet many feel-think they can write). I’ve worked in professions where this is a difficult subject and I am totally for being paid for professional work. Can’t pay my bills otherwise.

  54. Bravo, Stephanie! Yes to paying test knitters, yes to formalizing the testing arrangement as a recognition of the value being imparted by the test knitter, yes to elevating the work being done by both parties to the level of a profession, and yes to giving the test knitter as much respect as you’d like to receive!
    PS: the rates being quoted here are in line with what I know from experience is the going rate for test knitting. That’s not to say that it’s sufficient (which is a different argument on a sociopolitical level), but they are correct.

  55. Studies have shown that people enjoy doing things up until the point they get paid for it. Then it’s just work 😮

  56. Heh, this falls into the same debate as “Why would you pay $30 for a skein of yarn (or $15 or whatever) when you can buy one at for $3?
    I try to explain it (as you do above with paying test knitters) but if the person feels that ALL yarn should be $3-$5, there’s no convincing them otherwise.

  57. Ironic a it may seem, Quilters have been getting paid for their work and designs for years. They quote a price $$$$ without a blick of an eye.
    Now about test knitters being paid, I am a very believer in bring this up to the 21st Century.
    How do you think knitting was started back so many years? People knit to earn money to feed their families. So why not now?
    The “Test Knitter” could earn money and still meet a deadline, be home raising children. Life is not free.

  58. Right on, Stephanie. I would suggest that one could substitute “counseling” or “teaching” or any number of things for “knitting” in your essay and nobody would argue. Just because some people might choose to do something for fun doesn’t mean that others who have specialized training and specific practice requirements oughtn’t be paid for it.
    Thank you for a well-written and thought-provoking post.

  59. I’ve had this same discussion in regards to doula-ing. I think it all relates back to what is considered “women’s work” and gets undervalued in western society. Examples: parenting, house work, anything related to arts and crafts, doulaing/midwifing. Knitting got thrown into that pot and so isn’t valued as highly as other industries.

  60. You are absolutely correct that there should be an industry standard. Hourly wage is impossible. Fee per yard is interesting. How about a flat rate plus a royalty based on pattern sales.

  61. I think that there is value in opening up a pattern to a larger amateur group as well in the test knitting phase, hopefully people with different skill and experience levels. If you insisted on paying, some less experienced knitters might not want to test your pattern. And I’m not sure how cost effective it would be for you to pay someone to tell you that they can’t knot your pattern because it’s too hard. Let’s face it, professional test knitters are usually more experienced than your average knitter and I’d think that you’d want to know how your pattern works for the average knitter.

  62. I agree with you 100%. Especially the accountability piece. Having done lots of housebuilding, maintenance etc by trade or favor my experience is that it usually works out better if there is payment involved. Sometimes not, in which case its better to find someone else to pay.

  63. I think that part of the problem is the “I read about you and your life all the time, so we know each other” celebrity problem. You’re our friend who writes us chatty and amusing letters, so of course we’ll test knit your pattern.
    But that’s not really the case.

  64. I have to say that last comment is Really Ironic in a conversation about paying people for their labor, skills, and efforts. Isn’t the whole exchange of money a capitalism thing, and the whole work for free because I love it a “commie-pinko-tree-hugging-hippie” type of thing?
    That and: Rock on! I agree we need more professionalism! But then I am trying to act professionally as a designer…

  65. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! You’ve made my day, month, year! I’ve been knitting for 59 years; go to knitting classes and workshops whenever and wherever I can. I pay for these classes; I pay for transportation to these classes; I pay for hotels when at these classes. I’ve taught knitting for many years and have found that the majority of people think I shouldn’t charge for my classes or should only charge a few dollars for 2-hour classes. I’ve also found that when people pay a fair price they appreciate the information that they get and pay attention. This also translates to test knitting. Yes, it is a business – one that you (the collective you) enjoy. Your attitude of fairness is much appreciated here. I think that anyone who test knits for you would count themselves as fortunate.

  66. I love this post and your opinions about test-knitting. I didn’t offer to test-knit (although I would love to) because I work full time and know I wouldn’t be able to meet a deadline. I provide consulting service to people on a regular basis (I’m a statistician) and am constantly explaining to people that I must be credited or compensated for my contribution to their work (unless it’s just a quick question). Most people are cool with this, but being compensated adequately for your work is very important in EVERY field.

  67. From experience I learned that good intentions don’t get the knitting done! I took on test knitting for a published author — and it nearly killed a friendship. I was paid one dollar an hour for knitting a baby blanket that took 60 hours (or more, I quit counting at that point) to complete. The author failed to figure in important variables, such as mailing projects during the holiday season, and the fact that I had to sleep at some point. For anyone considering a test knit, I caution them to really think it through. The fruits of your labors contribute to the fruits of the author — can you really be that responsible?
    I do family childcare in home for a paultry $2.25 per hour per kid — so I get the whole low pay, high expectation thing. Many don’t. I hope you find an equitable solution that doesn’t result in name calling (tree hugging hippie — really?).

  68. I guess the question I have is, “what is payment?” Because I’ve seen everything from nothing (Ravelry forum, ahem), to yarn, to patterns, to money.
    My one objection to the points you give – because, even if I don’t agree with your point, I can see why you’d think that way – is point one. My word is my bond. If I tell you I’ll do something and I agree to the way we’re doing it, I’m not suddenly going to not do that task because you haven’t paid me. And a lot of people get paid that don’t do a good job (in all walks of life) so money doesn’t guarantee that a job will be done well. And when will you not pay them? If they miss the deadline (obviously). But I’ve never known a designer that didn’t have more than one test knitter; do you dock someone’s pay if they miss an error that the other person catches?
    I’ve been a test knitter very few times. Most of the time for free – because I like to knit and the pattern looks like something I’d actually wear. Once I was paid with a pattern. But it doesn’t matter – because I gave my word to do what they asked and in the time specified; paying me wouldn’t have made me do a better job.

  69. Hrm. Something to think about. I fall into the “but I do it for fun” camp. I think OTHER people should get paid, but I’m just doing something I would be doing anyway. I’ve test-knitted for a company before & did get paid, but most of the other testing I’ve done is in exchange for a copy of the finished pattern and/or yarn, and/or the item I’ve actually knit (if it’s not a sample).
    An industry standard probably would be very helpful, though, and I’d be interested to see what happens as a result of your posting. Food for thought.

  70. What I would ask all the people who think test knitters should be volunteers- have you ever worked with volunteers in any capacity?
    I have. Volunteers flake out- they show up late, cancel at the last minute, do a half-assed job, have any kind of bad attitude they like, etc. Because they’re not getting paid, and what are *you* (as the volunteer coordinator) going to do, *fire* them? If you want someone who’s going to do a reliable job, you need to pay them. I realize there are other issues involved but that’s what it would come down to for me if I were a designer.

  71. “Comment: You’re a commie-pinko-tree-hugging-hippie.”
    Huh??? Shouldn’t this be “an evil-industrial-complex-capitalist”? Just sayin’.
    I also think that we usually take a task/job more seriously if we are compensated fairly.
    And I wish I were paid to do something I liked as much as knitting. You can pay me for knitting anytime….

  72. remembers me about the time when I used to knit for my LYS: a lady ordered a cardigan, Sixe XL, needles 3 (US 2.5). As she needed it short term, I was knitting nearly day and night during summer break. When she was asked for the knitting-fee she was enraged because “she already paid for the yarn and people should be glad that they could enjoy their hobby for free”.
    So “Go for it!”

  73. Bravo! Professional designers who will make money from selling their patterns should be paying their test knitters. And those who want to test knit for professional designers should probably think of themselves as professional who should be paid.
    For four years, I chaired an annual day-long workshop on using the arts for healing grief and loss. We had several workshops in various artforms during the event. The non-profit I worked with (as a volunteer, this was something I chose to do in my late son’s honor) encouraged workshop facilitators (artists all) to donate back the stipend they were paid, but I insisted they think twice and keep it.
    We had grants (and I had fundraised by selling a lot of SolMate socks) so that we could fund these workshops. And that included paying artists for the time and care they took to present meaningful art experiences for our participants.
    Artists and crafters deserve to be paid for their work – it is the tangible way to show their work is appreciated and has worth.

  74. Right on, Stephanie. Keep shouting it from the housetops. Test knitting is a demanding occupation that deserves adequate pay. I am not a test knitter (I’m not fast or skilled enough, and anyway I’d rather knit for pleasure), but I greatly respect the work that test knitters do. It’s easy to identify the %&@#!! patterns that haven’t had the benefit of competent test knitting.
    Thinking about cookknitwine’s comment at 3:30, I realized that the male knitting guild members probably didn’t knit for relaxation and fun, they just knit for work and then went off to the tavern for beer and a game of bowls. It was obvious they were working when they were knitting. With today’s (mostly female) knitters, who don’t have to knit in order to have clothes to wear, it’s not obvious. So we’ll just have to keep standing up for the value of knitting, whether paid or recreational.

  75. From experience I learned that good intentions don’t get the knitting done! I took on test knitting for a published author — and it nearly killed a friendship. I was paid one dollar an hour for knitting a baby blanket that took 60 hours (or more, I quit counting at that point) to complete. The author failed to figure in important variables, such as mailing projects during the holiday season, and the fact that I had to sleep at some point. For anyone considering a test knit, I caution them to really think it through. The fruits of your labors contribute to the fruits of the author — can you really be that responsible?
    I do family childcare in home for a paultry $2.25 per hour per kid — so I get the whole low pay, high expectation thing. Many don’t. I hope you find an equitable solution that doesn’t result in name calling (tree hugging hippie — really?).

  76. I think Ravelry has unleashed many new designers onto the knitting scene. This has created large numbers of “free” test knitters (myself included) and new designers that are willing to use them. In these cases, being given the pattern is payment enough for me.
    However, when someone, such as yourself, is designing for a profession, I would think it prudent to hire a professional test knitter (which I am not.) I’m fairly certain that you are not the only professional designer that has people offering to test knit for free. I expect it’s one of the prices of fame in this industry.
    How to determine a fair price? I simply have no idea.

  77. It’s the same problem as in the art industry. People do not want to pay artists because it’s “fun” and it’s “what they would be doing anyway.” Unfortunately, there are a lot of artists–especially ones who are just starting out–who don’t know any better and are happy to work for free. This, of course, means that more and more people expect the professionals to work for free as well.
    I myself don’t usually buy patterns, but I really would love to. It’s a lack of funds thing for some, rather than a lack of interest or want. That and I had a bad experience with a paid pattern early on which put me off of buying patterns for a while. (I bought a pattern that ended up being very confusing and poorly written, to say the least. Then I found a very similar pattern that was much clearer and better written for free. Quite frustrating.)

  78. I agree with you.
    Frankly, I’m tired of having people wanting my knitting for free or dirt cheap. Once when I was 7 hours into a project for someone and I let them know how long I had been working on it they were like “Oh….so it’ll be more then $20.00?”. Needless to say, I ended up buying the material from them and keeping the stuffed horse for myself (he was awesome by the way).
    When Knitters/Crocheters don’t get paid for their work it cheapens up the craft. I hope you find a test knitter. I am a beginner at knitting and experienced at crochet but if you wanted to pay me to knit for you…..I’m all for it.

  79. And another thing! For everyone out there who sees knitting as just a sweet little hobby did it ever occur to you that without a knitting industry you wouldn’t be able to participate in your hobby. If you like ice skating and there were no companies making ice skates, you wouldn’t be able to ice skate. Sure–you could go out to your forge in your backyard and make your own skates but most of us don’t have forges.
    Considering the fact that the minimum wage in NY is $7.25 per hour (that’s just under $300 pre tax for a 40 hour work week) it seems the desire to get something for free is universal.
    Until we really look at the distribution of earnings and assess a more reasonable value to jobs, we’ll always be stuck with this.
    And don’t get me started on people who don’t want to pay for patterns. No–I’m not going to pay $6 for your plain mitten pattern. I know how to knit mittens and I can figure it out along the way. But if I was just learning how to knit mittens and needed a pattern to teach me how, then $6 is a great deal. So pay for your patterns damn it.
    Rant over. Peace out.

  80. Until the world switches to a gift economy,(which I do think is a pretty good idea,) professional knitters should be paid for their work. Designers should also be paid well enough to pay reasonable wages to their test knitters. How much does Interweave pay the countless designers they seem to rely on for their ever increasing number of publications?
    That being said, I figure I generally make about $5/hour for most of my commissioned work, which is why I rarely do it anymore.

  81. I agree with most of what you said about paid test knitters, but I still feel that some free knitters should be given a chance to contribute. A professional isn’t always going to catch the mistakes in a simple pattern.
    I happen to work at a large publisher who does knitting books, and it kills me when I pick one up in hopes of starting a project and there are blaring mistakes in the pattern … and no signs of test knitters ever having been used. Since the publishing industry doesn’t pay much/earn much compared to what some designer authors [i.e. Twinkle by Wenlan] are earning from advances, I’ve taken it upon myself to volunteer at my company in hopes of helping to produce a better product. I never get responses, either because of your reasoning or that editorial just doesn’t care.
    But sometimes, it helps having someone completely unbiased by money to take a look at what you are designing.

  82. That is great that some people like to knit for others for free. Professional knitting should be paid, and should be treated as a job with expectations and deadlines. I wish there was a standard as well because some people’s kindness can get taken advantage of. Also, a job well done is a job worth paying for.

  83. I Love You, Stephanie. Thank you for this.
    I saw someone recently (a well-known designer) posting on Ravelry for test knitters for her new pattern. Then I saw that she expected them to do it for free, AND buy their own yarn of XYZ brand. I couldn’t believe how hard people were tripping over themselves to volunteer. Me? No thank you.

  84. Must. Opine. On. Controversy.
    I agree with your ideas about professionalism. I work with a group of Direct Support Professionals (direct care workers for people with disabilities) and they are working to professionalize their work. Even though they are paid, there is a big struggle to see their field as a *career* – rather than a babysitting job.
    The one time I attempted to be a test knitter, I nearly strangled the “organizer” for her lack of professionalism. It was the most disorganized, confusing, painful knitting process. Bummed me out.
    I’m really selfish with my knitting time, but I considered the “pay” they were offering to be a fair trade for what I was getting…until I realized what a cluster it was.
    I support your work towards professionalization. I hope it makes a ripple. There are a lot of knitters in the world, however, with a huge diversity of thoughts on the issue, and we aren’t really all that connected – we can’t say “hey, let’s agree to try this” and ensure that even a small percentage of knitters are on board. It seems that the critical mass to making a change would be pretty big. Lots of work. Glad you’re starting (or likely continuing) the conversation.

  85. It is my opinion that test knitters MUST be paid in money and not in patterns. I am only a casual knitter/crocheter. But, I quilt almost every day and am quite good at it. One shop owner asked me to quilt for her store. I was thrilled until I found out that she wanted to pay me in fabrics! NO!!!!

  86. Why is it OK to pay someone to process my wool, to spin yarn, but NOT to knit?
    I have a skill and I choose to use it when/where ever I want. If you want to use my skill to better your business, then I should get paid too.

  87. I can’t understand how any of that makes you a “commie-pinko-tree-hugging-hippie” except maybe suggesting that fair labor practices are important. 🙂 To which I am in full agreement.

  88. One of the arguments seems to be test knitters shouldn’t be paid because knitting is fun. When did it become wrong to have a fun job? Isn’t that what everyone dreams of – getting paid to do something they like to do?

  89. I never thought about it that way. Usually I offer to test knit small items when I have a crush on the finished object and think: “well it’s a way to get the pattern for free, to get it early and because of that I accept there are mistakes and help the designer make it better”. Now to test knit a sweater or a blanket I’d probably think differently as for socks or mittens.

  90. Everyone is given a choice: you do or you don’t. You DO test knit at a standard wage and take your job seriously and make a living (or supplement your income) doing it. Or, you don’t – you knit for personal satisfaction. No one is saying that these two aspects cannot exist simultaneously!
    People who complain about the idea of paying for knitting boggle my mind. How many machine knit shirts, hats, scarves, etc. have they purchased? How many things are available that have been hand knit that people pay hideously low prices for? (This reminds me of your story about the Crochet in your latest book!!)
    If we don’t place a realistic, if “theoretical” value on our work, why are we doing it? Many people don’t realize how relevant Marxism is to our daily lives. Marxism is the only way that “frivolous” items such as art and performance are legitimate professions. (If someone told me I was a commie tree hugger, I think I would applaud them on their one moment of clarity in this discussion)

  91. I can see the positive aspects of both paid and free test knitters. And I don’t think that one is necessarily better or more “correct” than they other. They both have their place, but if we’re talking about a strictly professional/business relationship (i.e. you have a list of expectations/requirements for your test knitters, you need work completed in a specific way or on a deadline) then they absolutely should be paid. And I’m speaking more from the designer’s perspective.
    How can you expect to place demands on your test knitters if they’re not being compensated? It’s one thing if you have no guidelines or deadlines that you need to meet, but as a professional those are ALWAYS factors of the process. In some cases, they may not be quite as strict and having many free test knitters makes more sense than having one or two paid test knitters. But if a designer is looking specifically for paid test knitters, it’s usually for good reasons and not simply because they’re trying to take the “fun” out of it for everyone else.
    With that said, if you’re in need of a test knitter, I’d love to apply!

  92. Can I please just put in my tuppenceworth?
    I would much much much rather knit for love than for money…..
    I know some have to earn money, but I don’t need to ….(pensioner)

  93. I never thought about it that way. Usually I offer to test knit small items when I have a crush on the finished object and think: “well it’s a way to get the pattern for free, to get it early and because of that I accept there are mistakes and help the designer make it better”. Now to test knit a sweater or a blanket I’d probably think differently as for socks or mittens.

  94. I so love you!! I am so tired of people who want big box prices on homegrown products and other people who think they’re doing the industry a favour by giving away stuff. I pay my mills and knitters and weavers and if I knit something I pay myself but not as much because my knitters are awesome! and I’m really slow. Accountability and measurability are good things 🙂 I wish there was a like/love button on your page.

  95. Wow, I would LOVE to be a good enough knitter that someone would pay me to test knit…Sometimes I have a vague fantasy that a designer wanting to have work for beginners test knit would like to have a test knitter that still got caught up like a beginner – but it’s just a fantasy….

  96. Well here’s another question, at the risk of starting a flame war I won’t be here to fan.
    What about when a pattern is available for a limited time as a kit online, then discontinued. It is not available anywhere, for any price. You can’t go to the library for backissues, you can’t do anything. The pattern has – for all intents and purposes – completely vanished from the face of the earth.
    Is it unethical to borrow a pattern from a fellow knitter (a knit-night friend, not even a Ravelry buddy or fellow twitter user) for the purpose of knitting that project for your own personal use and enjoyment (not for sale – obviously sale turns this into dirty, dirty business)?

  97. I see your point. At first I was non-plussed – paid/don’t get paid – meh. But I understand now.
    So, I agree with you – on this point, plus the access to health care (which fortunately we get in this country) and the formula issue. Done – thanks for validating all my views 🙂

  98. I’ve never test knit, but it is something I would love to do. Never thought of it being a paid venture … but some very great points have been raised.
    I just did my first attempt at taking a verbal pattern to a written pattern. That was a fun job! Although a volunteer one – it was for our local knitting group.
    By the way … have you made any second mittens to your singles yet?

  99. Ah, Bob and Marco. Yes, this is one reason I can’t get an entry level job in my chosen field (not knitting btw.). Too much of that work is done by willing volunteers.

  100. As an Interior Designer (with a fancy – and expensive – diploma and everything!), I applaud you for this. I have been waging a (mostly silent, seething) war on HGTV for years, as they have completely devalued the services my fellow designers and I provide. I mean, why would you actually PAY someone to design a home for you when they’re giving the knowledge away for FREE on TV? And unfortunately, a lot of those shows (though not all) are pawning second rate advice onto their viewers and making the rest of us look bad in the process.
    *bangs head on side of desk, repeatedly*

  101. I completely support your position on this topic! I have spent years trying to persuade my mother, who bakes and decorates amazing cakes for special occasions, to charge an amount in line with what a professional bakery would charge – but she severely undervalues them and gives friends discounts (but almost all customers are friends) so she can’t make it financially worthwhile. I think this all is a symptom of the larger issue of undervaluing handmade crafts. The “amateur” crafters do it, society does it, and the disposable culture continues. I am frequently asked by non-knitters if I would ever sell my work. No way could I make even minimum wage doing so! Who would buy $200 socks? In sum: yes to paying people for their skill and time, yes to valuing what we do, even if it is a choice and a “hobby”!

  102. I vote for pay. It’s a skilled job, so well over minimum wage. Assume the knitter is more skilled than average when estimating hours.
    Idea: Knitter chooses size and colour (colour must be approved by photographer). Part of payment becomes the pattern and a hand-knit sweater.
    Also look at tax implications. It’s a business expense for the designer. There are limits, but it can help.

  103. I’m really enjoying this conversation. I just sent off my first test knit. I enjoyed the whole process and would do it again in a heartbeat. I will get paid in yarn. Does that make me a professional? I think I’ll start reworking my resume!

  104. I hadn’t given the matter much thought.
    Maybe breaking into test knitting is like breaking into being a designer. You have to do it for free a couple of times before gaining the trust to do it for money. The internet has made it so easy to connect with people, that I think it makes it hard to think about the ramifications of doing work for free.
    I think part of this goes back to your point that even though there are more knitters than golfers, this doesn’t mean the marketing might and attention is on us.
    Molly : )

  105. I am very grateful for test-knitters and believe that they should be paid for their time, whether by an industry $$ standard or barter arrangement. I am an attorney, and you would not believe the number of people who come up to me at social occasions with “just a quick question!” Honestly, I went to law school and have practiced law for over 30 years … my experience was hard won and priceless, why would I give it away for free? If I want to do that, I would volunteer, which I did when I was at home with my daughters.
    Or, actually, I teach first year legal research and writing. When I calculate the hours I spend divided by the pittance I am paid, I think I’m making about 10 cents an hour. But it’s only a second job, more like a volunteer effort, and it makes me happy to give back to the profession that I love.
    The most stressful knitting experience I ever had was when I agreed to knit gloves for a friend. Even though she paid for the yarn, the thought of that deadline hanging over me was just uncomfortable.
    So I will continue doing my own little knitting thing, secure inthe knowledge that a professional test knitter has made sure the pattern on which I’m working was written correctly and makes sense and will actually fit a human body!

  106. I’m a professional knitting teacher as well as a professional test knitter. Not get paid? I don’t think so! Thanks for standing up for us, Stephanie!!

  107. sorry I wasn’t on twitter today. This is an excellent topic of conversation.
    I tried to go the professional route. It didn’t work for me. I did get paid and all that, but it didn’t last as long as I would have liked.
    So I stopped for a long time. And I knit for me.
    But I did put my big toe in this summer and test knit something for 2 people. I did it thru a forum that (from what I hear in the grapevine) has very stringent rules for designers and knitters. I get paid in free patterns. I use the yarn I want and I provide feedback. I have a contract with the designer thru the forum and I fulfill my end and they send me the completed design once it has been fully finished.
    No, that isn’t a good system either. And yes, people should be paid for their work. I just haven’t seen a better one out there unless you work for someone or something famous.
    I don’t plan on doing it often. But it worked for me this summer to do it twice and see what I thought. I do appreciate that it is highly monitored and the contracts are fully spelled out on both the designer and knitter ends.
    I like doing it. It would be nice to see some dosh for it sometime.

  108. Man…if only paying someone guaranteed a higher standard. Or any standard at all. Or even that they’d turn up for the job.
    (I’m thinking more of plumbers here than test knitters.)

  109. Um, whoever called you a commie/hippie for wanting to exchange money for goods and/or services should invest in a dictionary – I think it makes you a capitalist. 😉

  110. I totally understand and completely agree with paying test knitters. It takes a lot of time, and while people enjoy it, if they’re being paid they feel they have to do a better job and keep to a deadline rather than work on it when they want to.
    I’m glad to say that I have no problem paying for my patterns. I understand the time and effort it takes to produce a good pattern. And while I love a free one, if there’s something I have to knit or a book full of good patterns, I have no issue handing over the money to support those that took the time to write it.
    I can’t make up my own pattern and respect those who can and use that skill to make a living. There are so many specialty yarns, needles, noting and what not but people have an issue paying for those special patterns. While the needles and yarn make knitting more enjoyable than using acrylic and aluminum yarns, you don’t really need them. In the end it’s that pattern that’s really providing the enjoyable knitting experience for you.
    Support our designers!

  111. I agree with you on all counts. Who wants a really really nice brain surgeon who doesn’t care if he gets paid?
    Ps. Please post that beautiful mitten pattern

  112. From one commie-pinko-tree hugging-hippie to another, right on, man! And I test knit (as a side line profession). I get paid. I work hard at doing a good job and I think I provide valuable feedback. No slight to those who want to test knit for friends for free (I’ve done that too) but I expect that my expertise and professionalism are worth a living wage to someone who is interested in availing themselves of them. Thanks for the thoughtful and thought provoking post.

  113. I guess I’m a commie-pinko-tree-hugging-hippie too, with a degree in economics. It only makes sense that every individual will do what they believe will bring them the most value (very subjective, as values are wont to be, but OH SO VERY TRUE, regardless). I’m sorry that people feel the need to correct your opinions.
    Also, I wish I had the time and brain power to focus on being a test knitter! Or a designer, for that matter. Alas, my little ones need me more right now, which I don’t mind at all. 🙂

  114. Agree with all that you said..and as a ‘novice’ test knitter, I appreciate the respect you’re showing us by believing that our time (and skills) are worth paying for 🙂

  115. I guess I’ll join you with all the other pinko-commie-socialists. Good company, all in all!

  116. I’m sure someone has already said this, but your post highlights the difference between someone who knits or designs for fun/as a hobby, and someone who does it as their job or career. It may seem like the same thing to some, but there IS a distinction.
    People have started asking me (a hobby-knitter) why I don’t sell the things that I make and my answer is simple — because it would become a job, and that’s not what I want out of it. I like not having any obligations with my knitting (deadlines, types of products, etc.), and if I knit to make money, I would lose some of that freedom.
    All that to say, I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH YOU about things like test knitting for a designer to be a paid position.
    I wonder if you’ve maybe (more quietly polled) other big-name designers (Ysolda, Rosemary Hill, Brooklyn Tweed, Westknits, and Kirsten Kapur, just to name a few off the top of my head) to see what they do.
    Good luck!

  117. I completely agree with everything you said. I DO consider myself a “professional” test/sample knitter and I can’t tell you how many knitting jobs I have turned down because the person asking didn’t know I would charge or thought that a skein of yarn or two was worth the time and effort put into an entire sweater. I’m right there with you trying to inform others that what I do is a skill and that my time is worth more than a thank you.

  118. LOL…pinko commie tree hugging hippie…. really? Someone actually said that because you wanted to PAY someone for their work?
    I’d call you that if you wanted it for free, 😉
    I wish I was a skilled enough to actually apply, because I would, but I’m not. So, I’ll just live vicariously thorugh those who are.

  119. This is a subject that hits very close to home for me as well. I am an illustrator and my field, like many others where creative work is done for pay, is constantly undervalued. I get so angry when people go looking for illustration work for free, promising “a good portfolio piece” or “lots of future work!” (Gee, doing more work for free later? Hooray!) Frankly, I don’t really want a good portfolio piece, I want to be able to pay my phone bill. I don’t agree with working for free, but I do agree with donating time or work to an organization or a person that I really believe in. If I’m working on my own dime, it better be for something I’m passionate about. This issue comes up a lot for me as an educator as well; my students are hungry for work, so that promise of a portfolio piece sounds really good, but it helps to contribute to the idea that our work isn’t important enough to be sought out for pay. This is my livelihood, and in the pro knitting world, the designers, knitters and writers pay their bills this way, too. In terms of test knitting, again, if it can be afforded to support a test knitter with financial compensation, it brings the value of all of that work up, for EVERYONE. I think the issue for me is the expectation and assumption that creative work (whether it’s test knitting, designing, or illustrating) is assumed to be “fun” and should therefore not be compensated because the act of it is fulfilling enough. It IS fun, but it’s also my job. Kudos to you for bringing this to all of our attentions.

  120. Huh?! I don’t get it. Gosh, people comment a lot on Ravelry that people don’t get how much effort knitting involves and when they are asked to knit something and give a price, people are shocked. I think you’re doing a great thing.

  121. Thanks Stephanie. I think we sometimes forget that although to a great many of us it’s a hobby, to a great many it’s a job… a fun one I hope, but still a job. I know that if I could afford to do it full time I would.. but that would require me to be paid.. hence your point I think.

  122. I do some test-knitting now and then in barter situations because I can’t afford to play with my income bracket by accepting cash in payment. Bartering is good, as you say.
    The thing that annoys me is designers who charge whole groups of people to test-knit their patterns. These situations are usually known as mystery KALs. Drives me crazy, because people have to pay to deal with errors that could have easily been avoided if the designer simply paid one or two people to test it first, then charge the customers for a fully vetted pattern.

  123. Having no experience with test knitters, I’ve found that volunteers (people not being paid) may have the best of intentions, but most often let their volunteer work slide in order to take care of their professional work and their families. I think you are right that if you want a professional job, done in a professional manner, completed on a deadline, you will get far better results with an arrangement that allows for some sort of payment.

  124. Not getting paid for test knitting seems a lot like not paying a designer for the pattern. When people ask me if they can make a copy of whatever pattern I’m working on, I say no and explain that designing is hard work (even if it is fun) and they deserve to be paid for their labor.
    If I could design fabulous, marvy patterns I would, but I can’t and so I pay someone else who can. And part of that design labor is test knitting.
    Test knitters should be valued and compensated because they add value to the final project. When I buy a pattern I want one that has been proofed and is correct. I love designers who use test knitters because their patterns work.

  125. As one “commie-pinko-tree-hugging-hippy” to another, we have a shortened term for that: Canadian. 😉
    I’m very new to knitting, so I’m not in a position to suggest rates or beg to be hired, but I am a writer and, occasionally, teach writing. Many people expect those whose livelihood come from jobs that they would love to be able to do (usually in the arts), expect that the love of the job itself is enough payment.
    I was asked to come up with a few lesson plans to shop around to schools last year and when I told the organization what I would expect to be paid (already lowballing because it was for a cause I believed in) and they were shocked that I expected payment. I have no problems donating my time and expertise, but it must be on my own terms.
    And finally, for those who don’t understand the “commie-pinko-tree-hugging-hippy” point, it’s because she believes work demands a proper pay. It’s what unions are about, which most capitalists fear.

  126. OK…I haven’t slogged thru the comments yet so I don’t know what others have said…HOWEVER…
    Having done some test knitting…and apparently given some very valuable feedback…I have some thoughts on this subject.
    There is a VALUE to getting a new pattern FIRST…and the downside is that there may be a few things…eh…missing…or perhaps…a little off…but I’ve had both of those circumstances in patterns that I have paid REAL money for…
    Second, as someone who actually occasionally knits from patterns…someone who is NOT a professional pattern testers MAY have VERY valuable insights as to what instructions MAY be missing or what is NOT clear to the average, common, everyday knitter…
    There are a lot of ways to make money knitting if you WORK at it…there are a lot of us who just want to ENJOY the experience…having just been to the final sale of a shop that was closing and talking to the owner…making money is NOT the end all be all of knitting…
    Last (probably :>))…professionalism is NOT all about the money…I know doctors who serve in free clinics that are far better doctors than those that take the most $$ they can…and you can substitute any number of “professions” for the word doctor above…hello, Steph…Doctors/Knitters without Borders comes to mind real quickly…what about volunteer disaster helpers…I know some REAL PROFESSIONALS at that…
    Have you thought about bartering for test knitting services???

  127. right on, stephanie!
    and just to fan the flames a little, how would you advise skilled hobby knitters to value their work when donating items to charity? my accountant had a FIT when i told him what a double-thick worsted sweater for a teen-age boy SHOULD be valued at. he said i’d probably get audited if i put it down at half its true value.
    (the piss-poor amounts people pay for knitted/crocheted items in charity auctions is another peeve, a friend put really nice yarn and hours of loving work into a knitted cloche that brought a relative pittance in her church fund-raiser.)

  128. From a consumer point of view I totally appreciate a well tested pattern!! Thanks for caring enough to put out a great pattern and create jobs in the process! Stand Proud America!

  129. Heavens do you ever get to the end of reading the comments? I can’t ever do it, and here I am adding to the list. You must spend all your time reading comments/writing posts/writing books/knitting simultaneously. If you could give a lecture series on how to do that, we’d all appreciate it. (just kidding.)
    I’m so pleased that this discussion happened, although I’m sorry you were bombarded with its beginning.
    I’d love to apply for the position, if you’re still accepting applicants. (Fingers crossed.)

  130. I’m excited that you raised this rather ugly topic. The knitting world is comprised of the widest age span of women thanks to the internet and writers such as yourself who keep us entertained and educated. So it was just a matter of time before this issue came up as many knitters are making money from knitting in one fashion or another. My writing partner and I have discussed this very issue as we look for knitters we may wish to include in a “profile” book. Because in the alternative to your situation, we’ve been presented with several interesting and attractive offers of services – for free once my partner announced she wanted to write a book about knitters and asked women to fillout a survey if they wanted to be included in the book. Having an undeclared major in Women’s Studies acquired in the 70’s(I started college in ’69 at the University of Wisconsin Madison campus)and am practicing law currently, I feel there is a danger in accepting free services. While this may be a continuing topic for the inteligencia, it has not come up in knitters’ circles until now. For this reason, I think a dialogue about this is very exciting. Please count me in on – well- anything.

  131. While I would not, at this time, be able to do something like knitting tester (my skills are not that great), but I have done some freelance copyediting for dissertation students, and knowing that I was getting paid (even at less than standard rate – because that was our agreed upon amount), having that incentive made me ask questions like “What’s the deadline?” and to commit to that. It also made me more comfortable to say “You know, I was going to do a final look at this, to make sure there was nothing glaring, but it took me MUCH longer than anticipated, so I am asking payment.” My time (and a test knitter’s) is important and should be valued.
    Knitting is a skill, and skills should be honoured and valued, which often times is associated with being paid for said skills.
    Thanks for posting this.

  132. Absolutely right, as usual, Stephanie. The idea that people test knit in exchange for a free pattern is silly. A pattern costs around $5-6, so unless the test knit, plus the time giving feedback, takes about 30 minutes, it’s not a fair exchange at all. (esp. since the test knitter gets a possibly-defective pattern!)
    A designer who posts a single popular pattern on ravelry can make $50-$100 or more a month, basically forever, with no additional work, so it’s not like designers have no income.
    Thank you for making the point so clearly!

  133. I get the same kinds of commentary from people wanting me to either “just proofread” their story/book/resume “real quickly” OR from people who want me to give their names to my freelance contacts because they “always find the typos in books.”
    After 14 years as an editor and a LOT of training, I find it VERY difficult on occasion to be polite about those comments.
    (And because I have to be that nit-picky for a living, I would never want to be so in my knitting, which is why I would not want to test knit. [And why I rarely knit lace.])

  134. Well, after reading all this, I am willing to test knit for you for the amount of money it will cost to purchase the appropriate yarn and maybe a little more. I love to knit and if you find someone willing to pay you for doing something you love, you should take that opportunity. If you’re still looking, I’d be down.
    What’s the deadline? Is there a deadline? What kind of pattern is it/Which pattern is it?
    I’ve been knitting for about 5 years and can handle pretty much anything. I just dislike intarsia, but that’s pretty much it. Email me if you’re still looking?

  135. Stephanie, I could not agree with you more. It seems to me that Test Knitters are in the same boat as many freelance professionals. They have made a living out of something they love to do by performing the job at high industry standards and charging the appropriate amount for their skill. My sister is a classically trained professional piano player. She took some non-paying jobs when she was getting first getting started to get her name out there and to prove her abilities. Now, though, she always gets paid. It should be the same for professional Test Knitters. They have the skill to quickly knit up the project by following the pattern exactly and then providing the designer with quality feedback on how well the pattern is written. The items are usually then photographed to go with the pattern. If they are not paid, they are not professional test knitters. The are kind volunteers.

  136. I agree with you. Test knitting really could be a job. Being “nice” is all well and good but it doesn’t pay bills and it doesn’t equal respect for a skill. I’m a teacher and you’d be surprised how much flack I get when I decline to do tons of extra work because it is the “right” or “nice” thing to do. You want me to use my skills to benefit you? Pay me. I’ll do any favor for any friend but my friends who who do any amount of skilled labor for me get paid. I’m going to go change into pink and hug a tree now.

  137. Thanks, Stephanie, for the cogent discussion. This issue of gratis versus paid applies to many areas of our lives–and truly, payment does represent value in a very tangible way, commie-pinko-hippie leanings notwithstanding. This post is a gift for the non-knitter and knitter alike (in view of your series of gift suggestions for the holidays!). I’m grateful.

  138. So far, I’ve test knit in exchange for free patterns and I’m happy with the arrangement….and so is TH (the husband) b/c I spend less money on patterns (more money for yarn). 🙂 I do understand what you’re saying about an industry standard for professional test knitting….I don’t consider myself professional and I try to do a good job b/c that’s how I roll. 🙂 Thx for bringing this issue up. It bears pondering over.

  139. I don’t know what the industry standard is, but I would love to test knit for you for $10 an hour. USD

  140. I would love to test knit for you! Also, I agree with all you said, and I’m not sure this issue is one that should have caused other people to make such a to-do about it. This is almost as good as the time some people got upset because you said the word nipple.

  141. Another argument that can be made is an economic one – the concept of opportunity cost. If we’ve volunteered to test-knit something without monetary compensation, we’re giving up our chance of knitting something that we want or need. And anyone who says that they only knit because they love it so much must be super-rich (to buy all of that yarn!) and sadly doesn’t own any hand-knits, since they’re obviously giving away every single thing they knit. Shame.

  142. Wow. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a test knitter! I suppose it was a bit naive to think that Kim Hargreaves thoroughly tests all her own patterns… (What am I saying? I know she doesn’t. Otherwise she’d realise what a nightmare they are to follow!) SO I learnt something, and of course, they should be paid! Who would want to knit for someone they didn’t dearly love if there wasn’t a fair exchange of goods or money in return?!

  143. well said. I am an artist with a degree, and quite a bit of expenses related to training and supplies, and it has taken me a very long time to realize that I will only be treated like a professional when I act like one. The ‘starving artist’ goes out the window when you also have 4 kids and a spouse.
    I am frequently asked to volunteer my time and talent. I am always surprised by the number of people who never consider paying an artist, but will spare no expense on the food, the venue or other entertainment, but will expect me to volunteer because what I do is fun.
    keep the conversation going. I hope a lot of people eavesdrop.

  144. “Comment: You’re a commie-pinko-tree-hugging-hippie.”
    Well, duh. (So am I, by the way.) But I don’t think the “commie” part applies here; what you are espousing is more of a free enterprise, market economy type of arrangement. While the market economy has some notable shortfalls — pollution, for instance — it does work remarkably well for a lot of things.
    Good post.

  145. I am with you. Everything you said is true. So many people could have more flexibility in their lives if test knitting was a professional arrangement. If I could test knit and stay home with my child or work part time so I could be a mum most of the time, I would. Making it ‘professional’ hurts no one and many people have much to gain.

  146. I(almost)TA. The only thing I take exception to is that I personally believe that industry-wide standards for pay are simply too broad in our fantastically-shrunken world (thanks to technology & communication). Not all local economies can support the same pay for the same work . . . places like where I live, where there’s not as much money as in a large city or metro area (such as Toronto, PDX, wherever), but it doesn’t cost as much to live, either. We have a couple of small motor dealerships, but no Mercedes-Benz or BMW. We don’t have as much money circulating in our small economy (despite the moderate influx of “outside” money due to telecommuters and rich vacation home owners), and so someone living here and earning an industry standard rate would be, in a manner of speaking, fleecing his customers. Whenever you can appeal to a higher but remote standard, things tend to stop working at a local level for all involved. Things are cheaper here . . . well, except 4Runners, which cost less in Portland, where you don’t really need them, and yarn, the prices of which are tightly controlled by the yarn manufacturers, which means I can’t knit as much as my more wealthy friends in PDX. ;o) It’s not that I believe that everyone should be able to buy the same amount of yarn . . . I just believe that everyone should be able to provide a reasonably decent living for themselves in their own local economy, and when manufacturers insist that their retailers not determine their own prices, it hurts both the retailers and their customers in economically poorer places like mine.
    Just some food for thought. :o) Thanks for sharing yours!

  147. I spent many years as a professional editor/manager in a field where people could die from bad tech writing. Everything we did was tested and retested. All types of tech editing, writing and testing are very hard work and time intensive. A good, trained professional deserves to get paid. I would love to see some standards set for the knitting industry as it is really easy in the craft industry to call yourself a professional. Ravelry especially makes this easy. Also, I just knit a ”buy the yarn and get a free pattern” that I picked up at my LYS. It was designed by the professional shop owner and test knit by a ”famous” designer. It was loaded with errors—everything from bad writing to math errors to mistakes in increases and decreases. So just beware that even paid professionals sometimes aren’t good. (As a professional, I also know that it is just about impossible to get everything petfect.) I think the Yarn Harlot approach is definately a good step in professionalism.

  148. I think it’s like a beta version of a program, you the designer are paid to develop and do the first test then they go to volunteer beta testers. Yes some beta testers do get paid, but many don’t, they do it as a hobby and are ok with that, no one is forcing them, and some of those same testers may be programmers for a different type of game(like having another designer test knit your pattern)
    The benefit they get is an early peek at what is to come, and to make something they like better.

  149. I agree. If you are a professional who wants something test knit (with feedback and on time), then you should have it done by a professional and pay a fare wage. And while many of us would gladly test knit something for free, it is not reflecting *your* needs as a professional.
    The funny thing is, most people don’t quibble when it comes to paying any other kind of professional. For example, we’re currently having laminate floors installed. I hired a contractor and we agreed on a price. I am paying him for his time and labor and he is installing the floor for the agreed upon price in the agreed upon time. There was never any question on whether or not he would be paid for his time.
    If I had asked a bunch of friends to help me with the floor, it would have taken two months rather than two days and they probably would have worked for pizza. But I needed it done in a timely manner and I wanted it done right. The point is: when you want professional results, you need to hire a professional.
    This is definitely a discussion that needs to happen for this industry. While many people are just in it for fun, their hobby wouldn’t be supported were it not for the professionals.

  150. I’ve been designing and selling patterns through my LYS for 25 years. They would buy my patterns in bulk and pay me at that time. Then they would sell and get back to me if and when they wanted more. I think this is a typical way of merchandizing. I now live in an area with no LYS and so I’ve started a small business and am selling my designs on my own. WOW – what a difference. Most people tell me, well that’s a nice little hobby. It’s not a hobby – I’m trying to make a living and contribute to my families monetary fund. It would be great to have standards – I try to set-up my own standards of fair practice and keep my business on a professional level at all times. I pay test knitters and I won’t use a test knitter that won’t accept payment. I pay models as well.
    You’ve made excellent points throughout this blog and I’ll stand beside you and whomever else wants to put standards in place for this industry. I know another knitting professional in South Africa that would probably agree with this as well. She’s always being asked to discount or give her patterns for free. I learned the hard way that once you’ve given a free pattern, people always expect it – it’s a little twist in thinking that happens. Interesting!
    Equal pay for equal work means just that and test knitting, no matter how fun, is truly work if the job is done correctly.

  151. I’m with you too. I love looking at plants and identifying them. I am also a professional botanist. I love knitting. I’m also a professional knitter. If I didn’t get paid to do those things, I wouldn’t be able to because I’d have to get a job doing something else to pay the bills! Just because I’ve chosen to go into a profession I enjoy doesn’t mean I could do it for free, seems pretty obvious to me….

  152. I had a coworker who wanted me to knit him an aran sweater. So I calculated the time it took, charged $25 bucks an hour, factored in a really good yarn and told him it would cost about $1500. He flipped. “Why should I pay you to sit on the couch and knit?” he asked.
    I told him that he was paying for years of experience, education and professional development. A lawyer doesn’t do $60 worth of work in one hour, it’s all the other work that was done to get the lawyer to that skill set that you are paying for.
    Every now and then he’d bring it up again as a joke and I started sending him links to cheap sweaters on e-bay.

  153. You know, I hadn’t thought of it in terms of test knitting, but I agree with you–and I have done some test knitting in the past. I make my living as a musician and artist..so, I’m inundated with requests for “free” services all the time…I have a lot to say about that–but will refrain. It is the same sort of thing, though….

  154. I appreciate the work that professionals in knitting do for me. I like purchasing my patterns with minimal errors. I like know that said pattern works — that’s one less strike against me from the knitting gods. I am entirely in agreement with you. I think you present an interesting discussion, one that’s worth having.
    Stick to your guns, awesome lady.

  155. Sorry to be Debbie Downer but if I take time away from my own knitting to test knit for you, on a deadline, to a certain set of specifications, I WILL WANT TO BE PAID!! It’s good that people are nice and helpful, but professional test knitting is serious stuff.

  156. Sometimes you get what you pay for and in the case of free you might get nothing. There are many women in the real world who earn their living by doing fibery tasks. They need the money to pay the rent and put food in their children’s mouths. Your point is well taken and a boost to those who toil with yarn and fiber to make a living and not as most of us do as a hobby.

  157. Odd that the comments are 99% in agreement – makes you wonder where the Twitter dissenters are from?
    My question is: how does one go about becoming a test knitter? Is there a guild, or a test you can pass? I don’t have time for it now, but it might make a nice additional job when I can finally retire from the ratrace.
    Volunteering to help a friend once or twice is fine, but if it were a regular thing, a professional agreement would ensure that everyone got what was expected. Paying by the yard instead of by the hour seems fair, too – no stretching out the knitting to pad the bill, that way.
    I think your position is entirely reasonable; stick to your guns (squirt guns, of course, if you’re a tree-hugging hippy, like me). 🙂

  158. I agree that test knitters should be professional and should be paid for what they do as if they goof up then I have to try to figure out why the pattern I am knitting does not turn our correctly which has happened on too many occasions. Thank you for bringing this issue to light.

  159. I love that your posts always challenge me and ultimately help me grow as a knitter and a human. Since living and traveling in the USA on a boat for the last 3 years I don’t know how many times I have quoted your explanation in a long ago post that describes why and how our socialized health care works. Thanks

  160. You always make us think. Thank you for bringing this issue to light, and opening the conversation. As always.

  161. Thanks for the posting Steph. When I first read the tweets I thought:”If I were a faster knitter, I would love to knit for the Harlot. Heck, I’d do it for free.” I have tried to test knit for a friend who is a designer, it is difficult work. She (and her future audience) deserve better than I could do. You are right, it would be nice if Industry Standards could be set. My friends who sell knit items would then have a base price to work from. Right now it’s all a guessing game as to how much they charge for their wares.

  162. I love this discussion! I am a retired *professional* Sign-English interpreter. I worked for over 35 years as a paid professional. You would simply not believe the number of people who would
    a) be shocked that interpreters are paid
    b) be angry that interpreters are paid
    c) be shocked and angry at how much interpreters are paid.
    The arguments I have heard were mostly along the lines of what you have experienced. Some sign language students take on interpreting assignments for free and then are shocked, hurt, and annoyed when the Deaf and hearing people in the interaction don’t like their work or at least are dissatisfied with the work.
    I’m sorry to say that some of the shocked and angry people are those who hire interpreters for, say, students in school. And some of these folks find ways of using other students to “volunteer” their services (getting credit instead of money) as pseudo-interpreters.
    One difference between interpreting for free and test-knitting for free stands out to me at this moment: at least with test-knitting, a botched job doesn’t lead to someone’s not getting a job, not getting the proper medical care, or not getting information they need for an exam.
    I could go on, but I’ll spare you.
    Here’s the really important parallel between the two situations: test-knitting and Sign-English interpreting are both fields dominated by women. “Woman’s work” need not be paid, as we’re expected to do it so as to be nice. And accommodating. And kind. And all that other cr*p.
    Thanks for listening/reading.

  163. As a crafter and small business owner, I agree with everything Steph said. Why on earth should I perform a skill, one which I have spent years perfecting and continually strive to improve, for FREE?? Why is my time worth less than what we pay to the kid who mows the lawn?
    People don’t expect a doctor to examine them for free, or a your mechanic to work on their car for free – and both of those take far, far less than the time needed to knit an item.

  164. I own a yarn shop, I have people who knit, some for free because they would be offended if I paid them. Others I pay a set fee per yard. It works. There is something in this industry that says we are supposed to share this craft for free. Customers come into the shop demanding attention to patterns and Yarn that I did not sell to them, but because I am a knitter I should and am expected to help them without a charge. (You mean you charge to teach people to knit?)
    Thanks for the rant. If it takes someone time to do something they deserve credit. (I love the mittens..hope you share the pattern!)

  165. Wow – I had never even considered the place of a “test knitter” in the knitting community. Thanks for opening my eyes.
    If you’re still looking for test knitters, I’d love to apply for the job! (Burlington, Ontario)

  166. I agree with all your points, I really do, but I have two caveats.
    1. Beginning knitters do find things that experienced knitters don’t. For example, I test knit a pattern with a cable chart when I was fairly unfamiliar with cables. I found an error in the key to the chart because I was unfamiliar with reading cable charts and had to look closely at the interactions for making a left or right cross cable — and these instructions had been reversed.
    2. Look at it from a knitters perspective. I test knit mittens from one of my favorite designers. This meant that I got a $6.50 pattern for free, and got close communication with the designer with quick answers to any questions, and got to knit a pattern I liked months ahead of the general public. I would have knit this pattern anyway, so the alternative case if I had not been a test knitter would have been waiting for the pattern, paying for it, and being way too shy (and respectful of her time) to email the designer with questions. So it was a much better experience for me — there’s no downside for me, only an upside. It’s hard to tell people not to do things that are advantageous to them, helpful to someone else, and not fundamentally unethical.

  167. If you the designer are going to get paid for your pattern, then it would make sense that you would pay the test knitter for testing that pattern. Otherwise, the yarn people are getting paid, the pattern person is getting paid, but the tester isn’t. That wouldn’t make sense.
    (I didn’t take the time to read all the other comments so this may be a duplicate thought)

  168. “You get what you pay for” would be the most fitting comment for this post. That being said, there are a lot of ways to compensate a person for a job and thus very difficult to have an industry standard.
    However, don’t be so quick to dismiss a person just because they are willing to volunteer their time instead of being paid. The rate of compensation does not guarantee a job well done!

  169. I KNEW I wasn’t finished…one more point…it is up to the person taking the job to decide if the payment merits the job…
    As a grey hair who needed a job…any job…several years ago and having people say that they wouldn’t hire me because they couldn’t pay me what I was worth…I resent that…let me decide if I am willing to do the job for the money you are offering…not the other way around…

  170. In my humble opinion getting to use (test knit) a pattern before everyone else is sort of like getting paid to knit especially if the pattern will be for sale at a later date and time. Heck I didn’t realize that some designers actually pay people to test knit. To think I could have been making a little cash around the house for the last 8 years of being a stay at home Mom.

  171. I agree with you. I only knit for love, not money, but that’s my choice. I like to do it on my own time restrictions.
    I love trees too.

  172. Interesting topic. It seems a lot of lace KAL’s are ultimately “test knitting” as the patterns go through several corrections as the knitters discover errors. I guess the (unspoken) ‘fee’ is the free pattern.
    I totally agree about the attempt at maintaining a professional level, and your plumbing example. Unfortunately, most people do not put a value on the time they spend on a hobby – and many (most?) of us consider knitting to be a hobby. I *do* apply a value to my knitted product, however — if someone doesn’t appreciate it, they don’t ever get another. And the size of the project (hours to knit), and the value of the yarn definitely play into the “value” of the recipient! 🙂
    Good luck in keeping with the integrity of “professional” work!

  173. I remember reading another one of your posts (http://www.yarnharlot.ca/blog/archives/2004/06/18/attention_gloria_steinem.html) years ago about how knitting magazines accept and expect there to be errors, while the woodworking magazines Joe subscribed to had one in its entire history.
    It really is a case of “who’s time is worth money?” I currently rely primarily on free patterns, but the best patterns out there cost money, and are well worth it.

  174. This is probably echoed somewhere in the hundreds of comments above… in short, I agree with you. I was similarly astonished to find out that test knitters did it for free.
    There are, as always, two sides to the coin though.
    I think it’s an illustration of our economic values really. If someone was fairly compensated for knitting, it would become a luxury commodity on the scale of designer fashion. But who is willing to pay hundreds for a beautifully hand-made jumper when you can buy one for a fraction of the price in a store? And how much are people willing to pay for patterns, when the current price of a pattern is already quite high. The result: Knitting has been reduced to a labour of love. A hobby that can provide pocket money, but not a decent wage. For most, except the lucky ones.
    I also agree with other knitters who say it’s fine to test knit for free. As a budding designer, I cannot afford to pay someone to test knit for me. I’m not professional yet. And I do need test knitters, because after a while, I can’t see what I’m doing any more, and I hate putting out a pattern that I’m not sure is ok. The majority of my patterns are free, and I see them as a gift to the knitting community. I still want them to be error-free.
    I truly appreciate all the work my test knitters put into testing my patterns. They are my saviours, and many have gone on to become good friends. To thank them, I give them yarn when I can (and a copy of the published pattern, of course), which is all I can do at the moment. I’d love to do more, and plan to when I am able to.
    I agree that a big designer/company should pay their test knitters. It only makes sense. However, the smaller ones really do need and appreciate the loving help that a voluntary test knitter provides. I think the voluntary thing often helps too – knitters are busy people. They have lives to run, and often they volunteer, but then they can’t fulfil for various reasons. It being a voluntary thing, no one minds if you don’t get a test knit back. Nor does the other party feel bad at not being able to fulfil the promise.
    Comments about how much you get paid are also true – could you truly offer to pay an honest salary to a group of people to test knit for you? But if you offer only an honorarium, it gets offensive. I’d rather work for free in that circumstance, and just get a nice present to thank me for my time. People in NZ can get paid to knit for others, but it still is an act of love. At $8 – $10 a ball, it only works out at pocket money. In the end, you feel taken advantage of, not to mention what it does to lower your self-esteem. Knitting well requires so much skill and experience though – it should be highly valued.
    The reality boils down to this: What would a knitter rather feel? To be a valued contributor (that’s the voluntary thing), or a low-paid sweat-shop worker? I know which one I choose! (I’m not thinking you won’t pay well, I’m just saying how it works with most people).
    There is so much more I could add – like test knitting being a great way for others to develop experience and skill and knit a great pattern that they might not otherwise want to buy. Like how test knitting for free can eventually (in some cases) go towards a real job in knitting. There are some great advantages. If you had to be paid to do this work, I think it would cut out a lot of offers, because people would feel their knitting skills are not up to scratch to feel worthy of payment. And maybe the designer would be a lot more picky about who they use too! And then, you might get a lot more patterns with errors, because no one can afford to pay!
    Good topic!

  175. I would be happy to test knit patterns for you for a reasonable fee. Let me know if you need help.

  176. Well said! I appreciate the discussion. It’s a topic I’ve never really thought about but I have to agree with you.

  177. There are so many professions for which this post is true (almost all of them I can think of involve The Arts in some way, though teaching (free tutoring) is in there too. No bankers or lawyers, though. Huh.), and at the end of the day it comes down to the individual practitioner’s intention, skill level and tenacity. If you look back at the early labour movements, these arguments were all there (along with standard of living and health and safety stuff), and are still being played out today (strikes across Britain are proof of that) and it amazes me that a frequent argument when someone wants pay or benefits or whatever is “Well, I don’t get that. Why should you?”
    Rather than belittling those who want to elevate the position of crafters (or writers, designers, public sector workers, etc), I would challenge those dissidents to allow themselves to be elevated by demands for pay worth product.
    Plus which, if someone hires you to do something, you should get paid for it. You don’t have to hate doing something for it to be your job.

  178. “Comment: You’re a commie-pinko-tree-hugging-hippie.” Bologna! That would be one of my fellow countrymen who feels that health care isn’t a right, birth control shouldn’t be allowed except through abstinence and that twice divorced/thrice wed Newt GinGRINCH is a pillar of morality.

  179. WOW!!! Who’d a thought that such a small, and seemingly uncontroversial point would blow up to be so big!!!
    I have stronger feelings about heatlh care, equal rights, etc. than this.
    It is great to promote knitting as a respected and professional undertaking. Most knitters don’t consider being paid for it because it is not really common to do so. Your comment sounded like enlightened an d more a source for thought than a major controversy. I had never given too much thought about paying test knitters before. I am surprised that so many people were taken off balance by that.
    Incidently-the tree-hugging hippie comment is just plain backwards. That group lived for free EVERYTHING, and I know because I am a baby boomer. I was there.

  180. Since Payment = Accountability and Professionalism, I’m inclined to agree with you that test knitters should be paid a fair fee.
    Still, it has always seemed too bad that so many of our worthwhile jobs/accomplishments such as child raising, dedicated volunteer work, crafts, etc. don’t get much respect just because they are unpaid.

  181. Thank you for expanding on the meaning of professional. Much of my adult life I was self-employed and remembering to pay myself for doing what I loved tended to be tricky. To quote Nellie McClung, Canadian Suffragette: “Women who set a low value on themselves make life hard for all women.” Maybe not the exact representation, but the essence is there.

  182. I love your Bob and Marco example and that was my first reaction.
    My husband is a professional musician; that is, he belongs to the union, and his income comes from playing music. He is constantly (once, maybe twice a month, maybe more often at this time of year) losing work because when he quotes standard union rates, clients respond that that’s too much because they know someone who will play for free, or for drinks.
    People should be paid for their work.

  183. I am WITH you 100%, dear Yarn Harlot!!! You rock, and your attitudes about treating other people equally and fairly shows that you are a really evolved human being!!

  184. I agree completely with your point of view. 25-30 years ago when I was in a graphic arts class the professor told us not to do work for free or enter ‘contests’. She told us to expect to be paid and to be treated professionally. Some are tempted to do free work to build their portfolio. I have always been paid for my art work. And use contracts regardless of how close the friend is.
    Knitters should be paid for their work in the development of a pattern. Your reputation is too important for the potential of slovenly free work. And the pay really needs to be monetary and not in yarn or that the tester gets a free pattern from an illustrious designer.
    Work should always be respected.

  185. THANK YOU! One of the biggest problems as a designer is I get a lot of offers for test knitting for free, but then they either never come through or are late. I’m still an amateur, but I do offer my test knitters patterns and yarn for test knitting, as I’m not in a place I can pay (yet).
    Test knitting sometimes can be stressful and you should get something out of it besides a new knitted item that you MIGHT be able to use.
    As a knitter for hire myself I believe that I should get paid for my work to knit something, so why don’t our test knitters feel the same?

  186. I’m a hobby knitter who does occasional commission jobs. Even then, I rarely do a commission for someone who isn’t a friend and then only small items. I always make sure they know that they’re getting the item for the price they are because I like them :). There are very few things I knit that a stranger would be willing to pay me fair wages for. (That said, the one reason I would support pay in yarn and patterns is because I believe in a barter economy over a cash one)

  187. I do model stitching sometimes (cross stitch) and get paid two cents a stitch. While, yes, stitching is fun, it can also be a lot of work. Especially if your not stitching (or knitting) it for yourself. I definitely think test knitters should get paid. How much? I have no idea!

  188. I love the way you keep a level head and logical thought process through a situation that other people are trying to heat up.
    And I agree with you about the dr’s and formula.

  189. Stephanie I completely agree with you, and I simply do not understand why someone would undercut that way. NICE people do not do things for free that others are trying to make a living at. That is not NICE. It is damaging, disrespectful, and quite denigrating to a profession that has nearly a millennium of PAID PROFESSIONAL knitters behind it. Just because it’s *mostly* a hobby NOW, doesn’t mean that some people don’t want to still get paid a decent wage for what they work so hard at creating.
    I really don’t understand, in the absence of an apprentice/journeyman type relationship, why people would be so eager to knit for another professional for free. That says to me that they drastically undervalue their time and skill as well as everyone else’s.
    I have a powerpoint presentation on my website that goes into a little detail about why a hand made sweater costs so much. I put it together for my guild because people occasionally gripe about the cost of hand made items at our shows. I put it on a trifold poster board and we display it at our shows. It’s not much but it gives a little bit of an idea of how much time and work goes into a sweater.
    Thanks for blogging about this. It’s a topic that needs to be discussed and people need to understand. In another life I was a belly dancer; it was hard enough dealing with restaurant owners regarding pay let alone when there were those who were so desperate to dance that they would do it for free. It hurts the entire profession and lowers the standards of acceptable skill when that happens.

  190. What a great conversation to have! I agree that people should be paid for their work. I agree that knitting is fun. I agree that you can work and have fun. I agree that paying for work will provide better work, patterns… etc… Me? I knit because I love it. For me, for family and for friends. But I also knit to earn some extra cash. Not enough to earn a living but enough to buy a winter coat or a nice anniversary present. I have given knitwear to friends for free as a gift of love and I have knit items for sale for those same friends. (of course not making money off of copyrighted patterns…) Keep the conversation going. It makes us all think.

  191. I spent seven years of my professional life as a seamstress and craft artisan working for various regional theaters, and I think it’s vitally important to advocate for monetary compensation ESPECIALLY if you’re an independent artisan. When you work for free, you cheat the whole community of artisans by setting a precedent of cheap or free labor.

  192. I totally agree with you. I’ve only test knit a few times and once was for free, which I was ok with. Second I received the e-book as a thank you. I was also ok with that too. But will think harder next time about compensation.
    Slighty related: it drives me nuts when people get mad that there are errors in free patterns. If I don’t pay for it, how can I expect the designer to be as invested in it if they aren’t getting paid for their work? On the other hand, if I pay for a pattern, I expect it to be well done, and error free. Which means the test knitters need to have been invested in the product as well.

  193. Bravo!!!! This is from someone who gets really, really tired of buying a pattern that has a gazillion mistakes in it. Yes, I know. Mistakes happen. But when the designer in question says, hey, I can’t afford test knitters, I say, I can’t afford your patterns because I don’t want to spend my time correcting them.
    Be professional. Pay yourself and your employees.

  194. A comment about not being a “professional” if you’re not paid. (Haven’t read what’s above, sorry!)
    I am a lawyer in the U.S. I don’t know how this works in Canada, but in the U.S. lawyers hold the keys to the courthouse (figuratively if not literally). We are expected, as part of our professionalism, to donate time to assist people needing CIVIL legal assistance – it’s called pro bono publico – for the public good (if you’re a poor person accused of a crime for which you could go to jail you get a state or federally-paid lawyer to defend you).
    The clients I assist receive the same professional advice and assistance as those who hire me. Let’s not say the work people decide to donate to a person, a cause, or a knitting designer makes their service less than professional. Okay?
    Thanks. 🙂

  195. What an interesting discussion! I love to knit and my carefully fitted, well crafted socks are a sight for sore eyes. So much so that a lot of people ask me to knit them socks… they want to pay… how about $20? They are incredulous when they find out the yarn cost is about $30 and it will take me a week of evenings (about 30 hours) to knit them. At the Australian award wage, that makes the “cost” of a pair of socks about $450. Yes, they will fit like a dream and not compress your ankles or toes, yes they will last for several years but at $450 no one will buy them so only friends and family get socks from me.
    I would love to be a test knitter for selected designers. I was so smitten by your “Pretty Thing”, I would have been honoured to be a free test knitter for it and there’s the rub… I just want to knit what I want to knit! Professional test knitters must have a different mind set.
    On free patterns, yes I love a freebie but many are offered as encouragement by designers so we will check out their for sale designs. The free patterns are a legitimate marketing tool.
    Many of us are getting our first chance at being designers via Ravelry. I don’t expect to be paid until I have quite a few designs under my belt so to speak and my test knitters will likely be my friends. It would be excellent if there were a place on Ravelry for test knitting requests and offers. While I agree that test knitters should be paid, how does a new test knitter get a start in the industry? Do we need a graduated scale from beginner to expert? Could the novice be paid in yarn/pattern/product until they have a few commissions? I feel for the new designers, too.

  196. You are correct that professional knitters should be paid for their time. I have test knit for several people on Ravelry and have yet to have anyone offer to pay me in yarn or money. there should be an agreed price or a industry standard. Unfortunately lots of people (including those who know) that seem to think “hobby” work should be free. I crocheted a full size afghan for a church sale and couldn’t believe the people who objected to the cost. The church was selling it at twice the cost of the yarn (no labor of course) and some still thought it was too much! i have been crocheting for 51 years and knitting for 42 years. what I make is worth the price. Even if no one whats to pay it.

  197. (disclaimer: I haven’t read all the comments yet so sorry if I’m repeating)
    As someone who has been trying for several years to make a living off the art of seamstressing and knitting, I agree wholly that you need to pay your testers. Not only pay, but pay well. I get a lot of people who think that I should just hem the pants for free, or the custom designed prom dress I make should cost less than the one they saw in the store.
    Making these items takes a lot more time than you would think, and having tested knitting patterns, that’s kind of really hard. It’s hard if the pattern is poorly written because you basically have to rewrite the entire pattern, and it’s hard if it’s well written because, if you’re me, you spend a lot of the time questioning if you’re reading the pattern right.
    I think if you don’t care enough to pay what is fair for the labor, then just do it yourself. I don’t want to spend forty hours making your daughters prom dress for fifty cents an hour (less since you didn’t provide the materials or care about all the dang maths involved to get it to sit right on her hips.)

  198. I’m with Steph too. I am good at my job and I expect to be paid for it. (I’m a technical writer.) Frequently I run into management types who say “Anyone can write. We don’t need to pay a professional.” Until said management type tries to produce a clear set of instructions. I will donate writing services to the charity of my choice, but that’s a choice.
    So yes, test knitters should be paid a fair wage. Respect the work, the time, and the skill.

  199. I agree with everything you said, especially since I am working with a pattern now that could have used a good test knitter. There is eyelet work in this sweater. I believe that a really good, well-compensated test knitter would have thought to add a key point on how to do yarn-overs on the purl side. My first attempt left me with something that was a little strange. And this for-sale pattern was missing a photograph of the back with the beautiful stitch pattern. So I applaud your efforts to develop patterns that are written well!

  200. Test knitters are valuable. I have been asked to test knit. The yarn company was a decent sized one but they balked when I told them what I wanted to knit the pattern in question. I knit for other people. Most of the time when I tell some one what it would cost they tell me they can buy the same type of sweater at Macys for half the cost. I tell them that,” You can do that but if I take the time to use the best quality materials, plus time to do the knitting and custom fit the pattern they will have something that will last long past when the Macys sweater has fallen apart.” Most people don’t really understand the effort it takes to create a sweater or even a pair of socks because we have been reduced to the big box store mentality, which is: get it cheap as you can as fast as you can. We have learned that cheapest is best…except when a month later it falls apart or it fits poorly. Professionalism counts. Test knitting should be paid. Every one does a better job when paid because it raises the bar for what the product should look like. The fact that you are taking this seriously makes a difference. If we under value our skills and sell our selves cheap we as artisans will not be taken seriously, which is a huge frustration for me at times. The reason I have a hard time getting what my skill is worth is because of attitudes, lack of awareness or respect for the skill, time and dedication it takes to produce a knitted item on time the way it should look. Test knitters let designers know where issues may lay in a pattern. Who wants to pay five to fifteen dollars for a pattern that is unreadable and confusing? Sweater Wizard as well as other design soft ware is great but who wants to trust a computer with how something will turn out? Testing is a must just like yes, I am going to say it…swatching. Sorry Steph I know you don’t always swatch but we all me included don’t always do what we should. Test knitting as a paid job, yes, you are absolutely right.

  201. I would LOVE to be a paid test knitter! Who is it that said, “If you work at something you love, you’ll never work another day in your life?” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told at craft shows that my time is worth nothing and why are you charging so much for this?!!

  202. Ah yes, those darn commies, always wanting to exchange money for stuff. I miss pure capitalism where everyone does everything for free.

  203. I was an RN for many years. Enjoyed it immensely, but I expected a wage from it.
    Now I’m a Farmer along with my Husband. Love love love it!! We need to make a living from it.
    I knit for the joy of it, the challenge of it. I like not being paid to do it. I can set it down when I want, or switch to another project if the whim hits me. If I HAD to do it, then critique it all by a dead line…. it would become a job, a profession. Even though I knit for fun.
    I get it.. I hear what you’re saying
    I wish you success in hiring the knitter that you need.

  204. “Light blue touchpaper and stand well back” – I am enjoying the fireworks.
    I have a knitwear designer/acquaintance who has made a well-loved pattern available for free, with more than a thousand being uploaded to Ravelry (not to mention those that aren’t acknowledged); the designer feels ‘it is only a hat pattern – and couldn’t charge for it’ and has spent many hours helping and re-writing the pattern to help as many people as possible.
    I couldn’t knit myself a hat inside or outside a paperbag!(well not without a lot of trial and error) – I would prefer to ‘pay’ for the pattern – though it surprises me how little patterns on Ravelry, for the most part, cost.
    I’ll blame it on my mother – she felt that ‘work’ should be recompensed, and after ‘winning’ a raffle would make-up the difference between what the raffle had raised in money terms, and what a similar project would be to buy the product professionally, which in personal terms she felt ‘paid’ the volunteer for the effort that they had put in. However she was a home science graduate and one of her ‘brain acrobatic exercises’ was to work out the costing of baked goods.
    I still can’t figure this scenario, but I am a bit of a pinko-tree hugging sort of person.

  205. Please let me add my voice to those who agree with you, particularly your comment “Contracts, standards and fair wages for fair work would go a long way towards making the industry stronger, not weaker.” And I applaud you for embracing that.
    What I think would also make for a great discussion (certainly another time) is your comment “although it would help if knitters didn’t balk at paying for patterns”. I agree with that too. There are a lot of well priced patterns out there and I have happily purchased several, but, how is that price determined? I recently walked away from a pretty scarf pattern (on Rav) because it was $12. Could I afford the $12? Yep, and I love supporting independents, but knowing I can purchase a whole magazine of patterns for that (and possibly 2) made me sadly turn and run. What am I missing?

  206. I think you are right on the money. I am a professional musician (singer and organist/pianist) and it is frustrating when people expect me to work for free. I could rant and rant about that. The various musician groups (American Guild of Organists, for example) set industry standards with very excellent guidelines and reasons for the various rates. It has been very helpful when working with churches to help them understand what is appropriate pay for a professional. So, an industry standard in the knitting world would also help to explain these sorts of things and protect those who’s livelihood depends on it.

  207. I understand that some people feel that female dominated postions/industries are not valued. Therefore people balk at paying for them. I think that our real problem, as women, is that we are shy/resistant/weak (I’m not sure of the right word here) to charge properly for our work/services/products. My mechanic has absolutely no problem looking me straight in the eye & saying “That will be $80/hr for service time”. No problem at all. Why? Why? are all of you respondants offering to do work for free? Why? There are very few men in our society that would do any type of work or service for free so why should we. Stand up. Be a real woman and value yourself. You are not worth “$0”. I agree with the lady who said “Be Professional. Pay yourself & Pay your employees”. Right On. The women’s lib movement was to gain equal pay for equal work for women that were working. That has not happened. Still $0.75 on the $1. How can we expect more for ourselves when we won’t demand more for ourselves?
    Wow, that kind of made me tired. Good thing I didn’t continue on with the working woman thing. I could have used up all my knitting energy. Rant over.

  208. Steph, I think you are 100% rock-sold in your reasoning. Bravo for putting it out there!

  209. When I design a knitting pattern that I am going to sell, then I pay my test knitter. Her time has value as does her input. I’m going to make money from the pattern, so it only right (read ethical) that my test knitter be paid fairly.

  210. I have to tackle the issue of professionalism in my own field (historic preservation) and face many of the same questions and comments that you have listed here. I love what I do, because helping people identify and protect their history is important to me. But that doesn’t meant I don’t deserve to be paid. I have a Master’s degree, and am very skilled at what I do. But because what I do does not fit into a neat little box with other types of consulting professions, like lawyers or engineers or whatever, I often finding myself having to defend my profession. But instead of free test knitting, I have to battle unpaid internships. An unpaid internship or volunteer position is fine and dandy, as long as you are actually learning skills along the way. But often what internships means these days is unpaid job, i.e. “we think what you do isn’t that important, and we are too cheap to pay a professional to do it, and you love this stuff anyway, so you should do it for free!”
    Anyway, that seems like a really long tangent, but my point is that I totally get where you are coming from about skilled test knitters. Just like text editors, or consultants like me, testing a pattern is hard work that requires a lot of time and energy. I’m glad that you agree that it is, too!

  211. Also, all of this crap is why my mother stopped making custom quilts on commission. People don’t appreciate the hard work that goes into a well crafted item, and when she told them their commission would be, say $600, they would get angry at her when they could buy a “quilt” at Walmart for $30. She told them to go buy their crap and leave her alone, lol.

  212. The pay, not pay, pay in materials issue isn’t just a problem in the knitting industry. It’s unfortunately a problem throughout the entire craft industry. It’s shocking to me that some people don’t feel they should not be paid an actual wage for their work… but then again there are lots of other points of view that shock me so I guess this is just another one for the list.
    Sorry you were blindsided by it!

  213. I like to pay for patterns that have been test knitted and tech edited. Life is too short, I have too many things I want to knit to waste time trying to figure out something someone missed. And, the mittens are lovely and I cannot wait to pay for the pattern (at a fair price that will compensate you, your test knitter and tech editor.
    It is always something isnt it?

  214. What cracks me up is that for all of the talk about how “nice” knitters are, they are completely missing the fact that it is not just professional, but a VERY NICE THING that you want to pay a test knitter.
    I mean, totally apart from a discussion of the distinction between hobby and professional knitting, wouldn’t people generally think that your desire to pay someone to knit for you even nicer than doing it for free?
    Seriously, if people desperately want to test knit for you, and go through whatever hiring process you go through, and if at the end, they really really don’t want to get paid, then they can work with you and figure that out….but yeesh. I’m with you – why the controversy??

  215. I totally agree with you! Test knitters should be paid. As a comparison, look at the book industry. You can bet proofreaders are well paid by publishers, no questions asked. And those folks probably really enjoy reading and do it for a hobby as well! The thing is, they probably proofread books they wouldn’t necessarily read on their own and have to note mistakes just like a test knitter would have to knit things not of their choosing and make notes of mistakes too. While I’m sure there’re some “free” test knitters out there with great work ethics who would do a good job, you’d probably end up with more who thought it was fun when they cast on that lace shawl but got bored with it pretty quick and would leave you in a bind cuz they aren’t getting paid so, so what?!

  216. IOU
    -for 632 hours of enjoyment $ 20 per hour
    -paid so far-$ 64.00 (for your books)
    -amount in arrears – $ 12,576
    It looks like I owe you a considerable number of hours of test knitting.

  217. Stephanie,
    I agree that test knitters should be paid for their time and skills to knit up a pattern. Afterall, the test knitter is being hired to “test” a pattern before it is published. Stick to your principles!

  218. “I find a certain irony in the fact that you’re being called a pinko-commie-tree hugger by suggesting that you pay someone to do something for you. Isn’t pay for work the nature of capitalism?”–Adie, love it!

  219. Oh God I think I love you! I’m in the craft industry and it’s so hard to get through to the non-professional that the artisan/craft industry is a billion dollar earner and we must behave like professionals to be treated like professionals.
    It is so hard to get past the perception that everybody in this type of industry is friendly and honest and helpful. You would swear that it is one big love-in when in actuality it is big business and it is very easy to be chewed up and spat out :0>
    Stick to your guns and hire a professional, trustworthy tester and get them to sign a contract stating that they won’t give-away/sell/copy your design. It will be worth the money. I’ve spent five years clawing my business back from the brink because my tester thought that her job was done if she ran ‘spellchecker’ through the pattern :0/

  220. Completely agree. One person’s recreational hobby is another’s livelihood…and it’s only thanks to those who are willing to do it as their job that those of us on the rec side have yarns, patterns, local/online stores, etc. with which to feed our habits!
    It’s the old adage: you get what you pay for.

  221. I’m surprised this was such a hot issue as well. I haven’t test knitted before, but if you need knitters I’m available. I linked my Rav page so you can see my work (though I need to add recent pictures).

  222. Great post!
    This is a huge problem in the arts industry. People don’t believe they should pay to be entertained, be it music, books, movies, patterns to support their personal play.
    I get the impression that it stems from people thinking that anything they consider fun should be free. It is not like their “crappy” job and if people want money they to should go get a “job.”
    signed a Knitter who truly appreciates a well written pattern and will gladly pay for it!

  223. I agree with you. A professional designer should pay to have a garment test knitted. There should be industry standards for both the knitee and the knitter (garter vs. lace – big difference in time and skill requirements). A professional designer should provide the yarn required to compete the project. The designer has the right to a specific outcome and the knitter has the right to be compensated for meeting that expectation. An ethical designer would also acknowledge his/her test knitter on the pattern; you didn’t do it alone.
    Knitting is my hobby. I do it to relax and to be engaged in something very different from my day job. I enjoy all aspects of knitting (well, not the seaming): choosing the pattern, mentally knitting the pattern, choosing the yarn, some of the patterns I actually knit, and some of them I completely finish (yea me!). I don’t have a deadline and I don’t have to be meticulous about following the directions.
    It would ruin knitting for me if I had to treat it like a job, much less a job I wasn’t being paid to do. I’d end up being a little resentful, because (insert whine here) I want to follow my bliss too… but I still have to feed the parrots and the cats and the grocery store won’t take payment of a fabulous pair of socks.
    About giving formula to new moms… I think it’s partly the litigious nature of our society (in the US).

  224. What I don’t get is why you think healthcare for all should be free, but you’re willing to pay a test knitter. Don’t doctors deserve to make a good living???

  225. Thank you so much for opening this dialogue.
    Perhaps you could start a trend by putting somewhere on your pattern- this pattern test knit by a professional who was compensated for their time. Then others who pay test knitters could copy you and buying independent patterns on Ravelry wouldn’t be such a shot in the dark around instruction clarity. Because if a pattern was professionally test knit, that shows the designer is paying attention to quality.

  226. Wow, what a lot of responses, and virtually all of them super supportive. personally I feel that without quid pro quo, people feel ripped off. And feeling ripped off is not a good thing, especially in such an important community.

  227. Right on, Harlot! I get a lot of this as a Jewish studies teacher — synagogues invite me to speak and then when I politely ask about the fee, they are flabbergasted — money for something that could be religious in nature?
    This evening, for instance, I have returned from giving a very successful hour-long lecture, which took me about 6 hours to prepare; I travelled for 3/4 hour there and 3/4 hour back; they had agreed to pay me £100 (luckily I have an email recording this). At the end of the lecture the organizer thrust a plastic bag with a large box into my arms with a smile. I assumed it was the fee plus a thoughtful extra something and returned home to find it was a bottle of whisky with the security tag still on and no fee. I am pretty sure people would not try this with their lawyers, plumbers, builders, cleaners and so on!! Professionalism is the word!!

  228. Excellent post. Knitting can only stay a gazillion-dollar industry (with the consumer choice and product quality that goes with it) if we develop and hold to standards such as the ones you suggest.

  229. I agree, professionals get the respect (with one glaring exception, of course). Mostly I give people my afghans, because even when I only buy cheaper yarn, I can’t price them in such a way to pay for my time. One person did insist on paying me (and it was difficult for me to set a price, since I wasn’t absolutely sure how much actual time I’d taken). At the very least, I think “craftwork” ought to be compensated as well as “artwork,” since many times the distinction is just “that isn’t really art, is it?” Because most people would balk at paying me enough to really cover my time (you want HOW MUCH?), if a friend asks me to make something for him or her, I have him or her pay for the yarn. But the only deadline is something like “the baby is due March 1” or “the wedding is June 14,” because working full-time at something else, I can’t make short deadlines. It’s that simple. We all gotta eat, dress, and have a roof over our heads first, folks, and if we can’t earn it with our craftwork, it’s a spare time deal.

  230. I absolutely agree with you about paying your test knitters money! I struggle with this constantly in my craft business (making soaps,pottery) and trying to value my products properly. There are some people who think my time does not have any value, and how can I justify those sorts of prices? Look, here’s the lady selling dishclothes for less than I can buy the yarn for! Well, I don’t believe that my time is worthless. I’d love to be a test knitter for you! What would be better than getting paid for something I love to do?!!! Go Harlot!

  231. Great post. Makes me wonder, how does one become a test knitter? This sounds like an excellent alternative/addition to my rewarding but very stressful job. Would love to see a post on breaking into the test-knitting profession….

  232. Actually, by insisting on paying people you might be a Distributist! They want to make sure everyone owns the ability to make a living – and your test knitters deserve that right too!

  233. If the job comes with expectations and parameters it’s a job, and people should expect to pay for it. I’m a cook in one of my present (several) professional lives. I get paid by the hour to do a particular job. When my boyfriend’s grandmother died, I catered the lunch following the funeral because no-one else in the family had the will to cope with it, and it was “family” so I didn’t expect to be paid, though they did supply the ingredients I requested. When my friend’s grandson died, neither she nor the baby’s mother could afford to feed the crowd of mourners so again, I catered that and did so for free because that was all I could do to help in the face of overwhelming tragedy. If I cater someone’s wedding reception, dinner party, graduation party – whatever – and they hire me to do it, I don’t expect to be fobbed off with thanks and a bottle of wine. I expect to be paid for my professional services and so ought anyone who is trying to make a living in that sphere of expertise, whether or not they have fun doing it. If they’re not having fun, they might want to look for a different line of work.

  234. Excellent post! You make some very valid points and I agree with you. At some point, we have to move from hobby to profession — and that will take some formalization and standardization of the process. Certainly a paradigm shift for many of us.

  235. Breastfeeding always ends up being controversial because no one wants to offend a mother who chooses not to or is unable to breastfeed. Yes, there are viable reasons to not breastfeed. Yes, formula companies are trying to convince us that that any reason at all is enough to give it up.
    Offering formula samples to breastfeeding families is damaging to infants. The samples exist to sell more formula. Breastfeeding families are the target market.
    The language of “breastfeeding is beneficial” is misleading because it implies that the standard of feeding human infants is formula, and breastmilk is an extra bonus. In fact, a mother’s milk is the standard way to feed a human (or other mammalian) youngster and formula is an inferior imitation. Many mothers and babies face challenges in learning the process of breastfeeding, and dangling “easy solutions” in the form of samples undermines the good work they are doing to give the best possible nutrition to their child. It is unfair to take advantage of mothers who are negotiating the challenges of raising a child, working, and other parts of life. They should be supported in their breastfeeding efforts instead of being offered samples of formula.

  236. My profession is something most people consider amongst their hobbies. Since it’s their hobby, they tend to think it should be my hobby, too. Because they don’t get paid for their hobby, they have trouble believing I should be paid. I agree with you; professionals should be paid for professional work. Fair payment continues the accountability of professionalism. Thanks for sharing this.

  237. just adding to what must be a large collection of data by now. I knit a sample sweater for a designer, and as payment recceived a gift certificate for 172 USD for what took no more than 900 yards. I wish I had kept track of the hours, but I think it was in the neighborhood of 30.
    on a more personal note, knitting that sample altered how I perceive the worth of my knitting, and of my worth as a knitter. The product of my hands has been determined by an independent and discriminating party to be worthy of public display, and is now a part of that designer’s livelihood. This thing that I do now has an external value. That sort of recognition makes me a professional, and it’s a grand thing to receive for something that brings me so much satisfaction. So, that’s a long way of saying that, yeah, we should take this seriosuly.

  238. Not sure about the pinko-commie part. I think of you more as a social liberal, tree-hugging hippie which is one of things make me appreciate you.

  239. Come to think of it, it’s just like adjunct teaching at a university. Being willing to teach classes for no benefits, no job security, and next to no pay just undermines the respect that the university has for teaching and the academic vocation.

  240. i worried about commenting on this one. i think you are completely spot on, but so many people test knit for designers for the shear pleasure of getting to do the pattern first.
    i think this might be a moment where you’re changing the industry standard, and while that might be a bummer for a lot of test knitters out there, i think it’s a worthy cause.
    viva la revolution!

  241. Huh. Another thing I learned from Stephanie Pearl-McPhee whether I wanted to or not.
    (See what I did there?)

  242. I really want patterns to be test knit by someone. I run across lots of patterns, even professional ones in books and magazines, with errors, and the earlier in my knitting experience, the more difficult it was to figure out how to fix those errors. But I also know that when people are first writing patterns, the only way to get them error free is to knit them oneself, and of course, that doesn’t guarentee that the pattern will be error free or clear, since we all know what we meant to do, even if someone reading the pattern doesn’t get it from what we wrote for them. So we have to have someone else knit it. If we aren’t professional designers, it is likely to be a friend that we bake browies for… Writing patterns well is hard work, and I value it highly. I would love for all patterns to be test knit by a professionally paid test knitter. I just know that this is hard to have happen, since the only way to be able to pay an appropriate wage to a test knitter is by being a decently paid designer, and how the heck does one get to be that without test knitters, etc, etc? A little of the vicious circle here. I am absolutely with Steph on this, but I also think she is in a fairly small circle of people who can manage to pay a test knitter what test knitters are worth. Sad, but true.

  243. I agree with the pay the for their work. I am a physical therapist and I often just tell people that people do not value the free advice that they are requesting. It cost them nothing so it has no value. Bartering with people who understand the value of their work and of yours can work. I have a friend that decorates cakes “on the side.” She makes great cakes and does beautiful work and no one (her friends)wants to give her more than $10, which barely covers her costs much less her time investment. She does it for love, but still…
    I also agree that when I pay for a pattern, I really do expect for it to be error-free.
    My only request for paid patterns is most likely impossible. Most experienced and/or professional knitters are no longer qualified to rate the difficulty of a pattern or how long it will take for some(average) one to make it. Before a pattern is rated beginner (which does not have to be synonymous with boring)a beginner should actually have a go at it.

  244. Huh. Another thing I learned from Stephanie Pearl-McPhee whether I wanted to or not.
    (See what I did there?)

  245. So what’s the answer to your original question? Were you able to come up with a fairly standard pay rate for test knitters?

  246. Dee, my new-nurse daughter makes more money per hour than my husband and I do, put together! But generally, of course, you are right that women make less money than men. For a dozen or more reasons …

  247. I’ve been paid fairly for sample knitting (which sort of ended up like test knitting, as I pointed out errors and suggested clarifications) and test knitted for free. When I started out test knitting, I was told my pay would be that I could keep the item I’d knitted. That item I knitted with my own stash yarn and using hours of my free time. That designer and I remain on good terms, but I stopped knitting for her and eventually gave up on test knitting completely. There are enough people who seem to want to do it for free that I can’t stick my cranky nose in and say I’d really prefer to be paid for my time. (Well, I could. But I’d be passed over in favour of someone who will cheerfully knit for free.)
    Interestingly enough, tech editors are generally paid to look over patterns and find errors yet are not expected to spend hours knitting them.
    I hope your fantastic attitude changes all this. 🙂

  248. Hear, hear! I agree with you wholeheartedly. I am guessing that the disagreements came from those who are hobby knitters and would be honored to test-knit something for you, so much so that they would do it for free.
    As hobby knitters, we need very much to think about these things and other “fairness” issues in our hobby. Be willing to pay a fair price for a pattern. Don’t copy. Even bite the bullet and buy the book/magazine instead of borrowing a copy from friend or library. (Well, OK, borrow to decide if you really want to knit something from the book/magazine, then buy if you do.) Then designers will have the means to pay their test knitters.

  249. Oh,and one other comment (I always have one other comment)–I like my job and have lots of fun doing it. But I sure as heck want payment for it, too!

  250. I’ve enjoyed this whole thread. It’s been interesting to see all sides of the discussion. Even as a hobby knitter, I’ve often felt my time and skill was undervalued. Last year a relative of an in-law asked me to make her something and even offered to pay. Because she’s elderly and on a fixed income, I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the time and materials for the item she wanted me to make would cost quite a bit more than she probably thought they would. May be I should have, but I was trying to be nice. Perhaps, we knitters are sometimes our own worst enemies.
    However, Stephanie, I would consider a trip to your stash room with free choice a fair exchange for any services!!! I have a feeling that I’m not alone in this.

  251. To those who ask “why should I pay $12 for one pattern when I get get a whole magazine for that amount:”
    A magazine isn’t only $12. It is also supported by TONS of advertising, and many of the pieces inside were commissioned not by the magazine, but by the advertisers. You may or may not actually even like all the patterns. You then have to have the visual clutter of ads and so on to deal with. Not only that, but the designers are NOT paid well at all for those patterns, nor do they always have control over the editing and mistakes can creep in that are not theirs.
    When you purchase a pattern directly, you get a pattern that’s ad-free, uncluttered, and produced with complete control by the designer. Usually you also get personal support from the designer – answers to questions on stitches you don’t understand, help with sizing, etc. AND you know that the designer has been paid fairly for his or her work.
    I think both have their place.

  252. You have a valid point, as usual. But think of it this way. Wouldn’t you volunteer to test-knit a new Elizabeth Zimmerman pattern, given the chance? That’s how most of us feel about you.

  253. I have had this same discussion with many groups of people related to another profession. It is valuable to raise awareness, whether it’s about knitting, weaving, music & other arts, or fair trade growers.

  254. It’s pretty clear what you are required to pay. In Ontaria see http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/es/pubs/factsheets/fs_homeworkers.php For the USA see http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs24.htm
    If someone wishes to legally pay less they must use workers from oversees from places without such laws. That said I am sure enforcement is lax and many get away with breaking the law and underpaying. As an aside barter is legal but you still can’t pay less than the minimum wage’s worth of goods. So if something takes 20 hours to knit, a pattern worth say $10 is not going to meet the requirements by law.

  255. Excellent post! It’s just like getting session musicians to play on a music demo. It’s not the final product but it gets the other musician/singer the opportunity to get the deal/producer, etc. Musicians are artists (like many knitters) love what they do and do it even when they aren’t getting paid and just for fun, but if they play on a demo the expectation is that they are paid.
    While I would do the task for free if you asked me, if I was being paid I would definitely provide more quality feedback, and would be cognizant of meeting deadlines.

  256. This may have been said — but actors/singers also run into this a LOT. The head of a 45 year old light opera company that PAID its orchestra in order to have a professional sound, absolutely refused to pay his singers. “I will never pay singers.” I, personally, heard him say at a party, “Why should I when they will work for free?” This is why it is so incredibly hard to get work as an actor/singer unless you’ve already achieved a large measure of success.

  257. Stephanie, in your sweet, kind, modest, Canadian way, you’ve left out an important aspect of this whole scenario. They’re begging to test knit for YOU. I would hazard to guess that many of these “test knitters” have never done so before, have never signed up for the test knitters thread on Ravelry, have never even contemplated knitting something that was not of yarn they liked in a pattern they liked and an item that they may not, after hours of work, be allowed to keep. I would imagine that this gaggle of “test knitters” want only the opportunity to tell their friends and knitting groupmates, “I’m test knitting for the YARN HARLOT.” How many of them wouldn’t tell you of a perceived pattern error because, “Surely Stephanie knows better than me. I must be doing it wrong.” How many would share with “just a few trusted friends” the pattern and/or photographs of the item because it’s just so exciting to be test knitting for the YARN HARLOT. Squeal!
    I have test knitted before – for free – and every suggestion, difficulty and error I contributed was ignored in the final pattern release. The other time, the designer never sent the promised yarn – which wasn’t really a payment since I was to send the finished item back. I’ll never do it again because I felt it was a waste of my talent and time. It’s WORK and most certainly should be paid for.
    I support your decision completely to expect and encourage and settle for no less than professionalism.
    Maybe bringing up the attraction of your knitting stardom isn’t that classy, but unprofessionalism irks me, and I’m not as classy as you are.

  258. “Most can, actually – although it would help if knitters didn’t balk at paying for patterns. ”
    Honestly, I think this is the crux of it. If we’re not earning any money, we can’t pay someone else money. I am not actually sure the most can afford it, if we’re counting those relying on knitting as a primary source of income. It’s a lot easier to afford it if you’re being paid full-time, and for most people, knitting ain’t a full time income.

  259. Stephanie…
    I AM WITH YOU. I have in my life (GHASP) knit for money!! I think test knitters should be compensated. It is a lot of work!! Just as those who knit for profit should be paid, so should those, who, take time out of their day to do this for someone who will, also get paid when the pattern is sold.
    THERE…I SAID IT!! Test knitters should be paid!
    Knitting at one time was indeed a profession and a very well respected one that that. There were guilds all over europe at one time. To become a member was hard and much was expected of you as a member. Why is it now passe to have expectations and be compensated accordingly. You had to take time, effort AND MONEY to get the skills you have as a knitter.
    Everyone else has professionals who are compensated for their skills. Knitters should be no different…especially test knitting!

  260. For these arguments and for so much more that you give to the world of knitters (and breastfeeders, I’m with you sister), I just want to say… Thank You.
    Hugs (don’t know yo, but would give you a great hug at any appropriate moment).

  261. Thanks for bringing up this important subject. I agree with Dee and Deb Kellen about knitting being women’s work and women not being valued by our society. When men did the knitting, I believe they were working class and organized into guilds to produce garments and be paid for them. Wish I could site a historical document to make my argument more clearly.
    A potential customer once asked my favorite potter how long it took to make a pot. She answered 20 minutes and 20 years. To make her beautiful pot in 20 minutes took 20 years of experience/learning/trying and failing/trying and succeeding. The professional knitter/test knitter/teach I know has a lifetime of experience to draw on and know whether a pattern will work, whether a better stitch is needed, etc. She is paid for her work and needs to earn the money. She is worth every dollar paid.
    When I was first making socks, they took me three months a pair on long double pointed needles. Yes, I was a beginner, but they were good, sturdy socks. I made a pair for a friend’s 40th birthday, and she showed them to everyone she met, including her friend who was a lawyer. He said I could “get rich” making and selling socks. I asked how many $300 pairs of socks he was willing to commit to and would take cash or check.
    I love to eat, but no one lets me eat for free. When I go to the local supermarket or farmers market, no one gives me free food because I would enjoy consuming it.
    Thanks for letting me ramble. I don’t knit for money now, but would like to make some money from my lifetime of knitting when I retire. Thanks for standing up for those who are professional knitters.

  262. Bravo. Well said.
    I would like to suggest that for those individuals who don’t think they should be paid, they need to be shown the value of the work they do. I think all these comments will help.
    And if they really don’t want the money, they can always accept it (acknowledging that this work has value) turn around and donate it a charitable organization, say Doctors Without Borders.

  263. I get where you’re going Stephanie. I run a dog boarding service. We have our own set of protocol for running it and haven’t had any complaints. I’m starting to run into “problems” with neighbours thinking that “Oh hey Monique loves dogs and has that fenced off area for dogs to play. Maybe we can just drop our dog(s) off to play there for a while?”
    Ummm yeah…I do love dogs but I’m not running a drop off play area for friends just because their friends. I do give them a discount but I’m still doing the same thing with their dogs as I do with other guest dogs. My time is still worth something right? They’re actually shocked when I ask them to fill in the waiver and if I refuse because they don’t meet our protocol.
    Even if you love to do something, your time should be worth something. It’s very kind of people to offer to do it for free and maybe they feel uncomfortable taking money. You can’t run any business like that.
    BTW COUNT ME IN for a test knitter!!!

  264. I totally agree with you! Knitting should have a market value, but so many people are willing to do it for free that it’s near impossible to a.)Use knitting to earn money, or b.)Not be thought as a selfish yarnmonger for refusing to knit for pennies.
    Knitting is a skill. Because so many KNITTERS have placed too little value on their skill and their time, the average person (muggle/non-muggle) thinks that hand knitting is a worthless skill, when we can pretty much all agree that is most decidedly IS NOT.
    I can’t fathom approaching a painter of portraits and asking for a commission in which I would “pay for the paint.” Yet that happens to knitters all the time and so many knitters accept those terms! It’s mind-boggling how little value so many knitters place upon their time. Please STOP IT! Ugh!
    (And I’m looking forward to whether or not Free Pattern Testers get slapped with the nickname of “Marcoes.”)

  265. Ohh I am so tickled pink by your post!! There was a darling lady (Craft Test Dummy was her handle) who felt that crafters should be paid for their skills and should not give away their valuable ideas to publishing houses, etc. The backlash was enormously negative, much like this one.
    One thing I have ran into, that you are experiencing now, is that no one ever values or says thank you for the kind things that you do unasked. I have never understood, for I am one that will (I am an athiest) go to a conservative church for 6 months to keep a friend company (she was and is thankful fortunately); or clean, organize, inventory and run a shop for a friend for free (she was backstabbingly ungrateful for this). You are such a kind heart to really look out for other peoples interests. Please pay me! I will do it, and love it and value the kindness you will extend by paying me and I will thank you!

  266. regarding: “…larger amateur group as well in the test knitting phase, hopefully people with different skill and experience levels. If you insisted on paying, some less experienced knitters might not want to test your pattern. And I’m not sure how cost effective it would be for you to pay someone to tell you that they can’t knot your pattern because it’s too hard. Let’s face it, professional test knitters are usually more experienced than your average knitter and I’d think that you’d want to know how your pattern works for the average knitter … “. (sorry to copy the whole thing!): We did test-knitting for a designer, (for her book) – we had a blast, and had to be reminded to let her know when instructions were vague – once we got to that, things went swimmingly – and for the first book, we kept the yarn we worked with, she listed us in the dedications, and we got a copy of her book, autographed – the next book, she wanted to pay us – we were still happy to do the knitting, and, now that we know to critique, to give that feedback – ’tis unfortunate that the publisher suddenly decided (um, no, not at this time), very unsettling for her, but we are prepared to do it again for her, at whatever terms. Having done it for her, we know now how to present to anyone else asking for test-knitters, and realize that the standard is there to be kept up – as someone else said earlier – it was originally a “Guild” (i.e. – profession, and men got paid for it) – Thank you for starting the discussion!!!!

  267. Of course, a test knitter should do the work as a job and be paid appropriately for it. There are so many reasons. I think you covered most of them – professionalism, contraact obligations, etc.. You were kind enough to leave out the one about hero-worshipping fan knitters are not likely to bring a critical perspective to the task and provide useful feedback about any problems with the early version of the pattern.
    and what’s wrong with being a pinko commie tree hugging hippie?

  268. I used to be an actor, constantly working for hours in tough conditions only for the producer to ask me if it would be ok to waive my fee and instead pay me in wardrobe, or having friends and family demand that I “perform” for them for free in their projects or for their amusement at parties. I was an educated professional with student loans and rent to pay. There was always someone behind me willing to do the job incredibly poorly, but for free.
    Now I work at a hedge fund, where I get a good middle-class salary and health insurance, but my industry is vilified as somehow morally different than a job in the arts. You know what? No one has ever asked me to do this job for free, and that says something about what we really value. Plus, my student loans are getting paid.
    What I’m saying is, I agree with you. Very much.

  269. You are so right on! When knitting was primarily a male profession, it was held in higher esteem than it is now – like nursing, teaching and other “female” pursuits. Professional knitters and those associated with the industry need to hold high expectations for how they will be treated and insist on being treated as the professionals they are.

  270. I think women in particular have a hard time putting a value on what we do and asking for what we are worth. Heck, many of us would rather discuss our sex lives than our finances (just my humble opinion, of course!).
    Thank you for bringing the discussion about money and compensation out in the open, especially as it relates to the crafts we love!

  271. “You’re a commie-pinko-tree-hugging-hippie”
    Are you? I’m pretty sure expecting to get paid is the heartless capitalist line. In fact when I consider that you make money at all from knitting and you sell books about knitting and I think you even charge people to attend Sock Camps… why you’re practically a gun-toting imperialist Nazi sympathizer! LOL!
    [shrug] That’s life on the Interwebs. Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t.

  272. Thank you, Stephanie. I am a contract knitter, working for several yarn companies and designers. I am professional and very serious about the work I do. There are contracts, deadlines, schedules, meetings and tons of emails. Test knitting requires time management, clear communication, and extreme patience on top of excellent knitting/problem solving skills. I provide an invaluable (but often uncredited) service for an industry that I love. But I still would never do this work for free! It is my job and should be compensated fairly.
    Thank you for respecting our work and speaking up about this issue. You’ve no idea how much it means to me!

  273. Personally, I don’t find ‘commie-pinko-tree-hugging-hippie’ an insult. I knit for pleasure and I work for pay. If I was knitting for work, I would expect to be paid. Stick to your guns, Ms Pearl-McPhee. For any of us to have hobbies there have to be professionals to make it possible. Millions of men (and some women) all over the world play golf as a hobby, but professional golfers (a term I find somewhat oxymoronic) get paid (and paid heaps!). Frankly I don’t see the difference!

  274. I just finished a highly stressful, extremely difficult editing job under very tight time pressures that I couldn’t have done without the many years of experience I have under my belt. I did it for a friend who desperately needed the job done, and I did in fact get paid, although I didn’t know at the beginning how much I would make. But I wouldn’t do it like that – as a loose arrangement – ever again.
    OK, it’s not knitting, but the situation is similar: I love what I do and now that I’m technically retired I only take free lance jobs if they sound like fun. This could have been, but under the circumstances it wasn’t.
    Having rules and expectations on both sides makes everything so much simpler. You get to state what you need and they get to state what they need, so you’re both aware going in what the rules are. It makes it SO much easier if both sides know what’s expected.

  275. You’re a commie pinko hugging hippie. Which are just a few of the reasons why I like you so much.

  276. Just to focus on the wrong point for a second. I support you completely in your stance about formula and breast feeding moms. As far as I am concerned formula is evil and tangible proof that the devil exists and wants us to be unhealthy. (can you tell I am a Lactation Consultant?, even though I am retired.)
    Also, i so agree with what you have to say about professionalism in all its forms.

  277. I just wanted to say here that your best posts and your finest writing happens when you stop trying to be neutral or nice and you just be yourself.
    So many times I feel like you are holding back or editing what you want to say. Its nice when you take a strong stance and let the cards fall.
    Also, volunteers are largely a pain in the ass to manage. Your point about this is dead-on. A dear friend once said to me, “Never do for free what you can get paid for.”

  278. My initial reaction was that pattern testers should get paid of course if the pattern was going to be sold in some form, but free pattern testing was okay if the pattern were to be given away for free: the rationale being that if someone wants to test a free pattern for free, getting it earlier than anyone else sounds like adequate motivation for some avid knitters, and with an apparent surplus of available volunteers, a designer who will not make an income off of a free pattern shouldn’t have to pay for it to be tested.
    However, your argument and more thinking on the subject has changed my mind.
    I still think pattern testers ought to be paid something for testing patterns that are going to be sold or part of something sold (or free but attached to something sold, or free in order to promote something sold) not just to promote taking of accurate notes and corrections and meeting of deadlines, but more just because it is the right thing to do.
    I now think that pattern testers testing patterns that are intended to be distributed absolutely for free (a gift from the designer) should also be paid — not only to acknowledge that it is skilled *work* but also because it is the right thing to do.
    The economic argument is easily made, pure capitalism, nothing pinko-hippie about it. Even if I have a half dozen friends volunteer to help me move in exchange for free pizza and beer, excess availability of “nice” and helpful friends might not deter me from hiring a bonded mover with the right equipment and experience to make sure my belongings make it to their destination without dings or cracked dinnerware.
    It all depends on the value you place on the finished product.
    A designer’s patterns contribute to their reputation, and even if the designer wishes to make a gift of her pattern, a good reputation may lead to future sales of other patterns. So a designer that wishes to gain and keep a professional reputation should engage professional testers.
    All the comments relating to undervaluing of work that is traditionally seen as work done by women — good points, but the idea of free testers doesn’t exist only within this realm. Aren’t software “beta testers” often given free or discounted and early access to probably buggy software with the understanding that problems will be reported to the software designers? I’m not sure this is too different a situation except in scale. A software designer might determine it needs hundreds or thousands of beta testers using its beta version to increase the chances of someone doing that one strange thing that will prompt a bug. A knit designer will not need to enlist thousands to test her design, so it is much more reasonable that the few professional testers be paid.

  279. Just to add my two tiny cents into the conversation, I have done some test-knitting in the past, and am more than willing to continue to do it in the future. For me, the payment is in the experience, and in getting to have the pattern. I volunteered to test-knit a pattern that came out as a pay-pattern, but I got to get a copy of the finalized pattern, and some store credit for the designers other patterns. I think being paid in knitting (essentially) rather than money was more fulfilling to me as a knitter.
    I know the issue goes deeper than that, but this is sort of an alternative to the idea of getting paid because it didn’t feel like I was getting paid; I got free stuff, was all.

  280. hmmmm…. just trying to think of any other task/job that people would object to being paid to do. Really drawing a blank here. Any art or craft out there involves work people expect to be paid for.. painting, woodworking, sculpting, quilting… So then, why so different for knitting? hmmm

  281. Wow. I’m kind of surprised, too. And yet, I’m not. I think you are swell and this is further proof of that. You don’t take the fact that you *could* get someone to do it for free as an excuse to do it for free.

  282. Comment: You’re a commie-pinko-tree-hugging-hippie. So that was suppose to be an insult? I’ve test knitted for yarn or money and either option is fine. You are absolutely correct, if you want a job done and done well, you must value your worker, and your worker must value their time and skill in order to do the job, or it just becomes a half-assed piece of junk. sometimes.

  283. Well, although I agree with you, I don’t think you’re probably going to stop people from test knitting for free, but I’m glad to think you will take the high road and pay people. My husband is a musician in a town where many bands are perfectly willing to play for free or just a small bar tab, and it makes it hard for his bands to get paid gigs. Music is fun, but it is a skill, and putting an a 3 hour show plus hauling all the gear in and out should be compensated. His belief that he should be paid isn’t going to change everyone else’s mind, or cut down on the number of folks who will volunteer, but he sure appreciates it when people don’t balk at paying! Knitting is fun, but taking notes, sending feedback and being on time are work, and should be compensated. I like the paid by the yard thing as it would apply to both experienced and beginner knitters if you want feedback from both ends of the spectrum, which does sound helpful. Pay, because you know it’s right (and as someone pointed out , probably illegal not to really) and try not to let it bother you that others don’t.
    Keep smiling, it makes people wonder what you’ve been up to!

  284. I whole-heartedly agree with you about needing to improve the appearance of professionalism in yarn crafts. So many of our skills are undervalued and we are not seen as an industry, only a hobby. I enjoy my hobby, but I realize that I am supporting a vital industry with my purchases and that the professionals in this industry can and should be considered an economic force to be reckoned with.

  285. Man, this is like my third comment this week. Feeling chatty, I guess.
    Anyway, excellent points you’ve made, all of them. I’m feeling a little bad now that I have volunteered to test knit 2 patterns this year (one I got a bunch of patterns in return from the designer in question, so I guess that was a barter agreement…)
    However, I am a musician by professional training (though my main occupation is taking care of my kids right now) and I run into this attitude ALL THE TIME of people not understanding why I should charge what I do for my expertise, either as a teacher or as a performer. Just because I can’t do it full-time out of an office while wearing a suit doesn’t mean I’m not a professional. Just because I love it doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t get paid for it.

  286. Men would not test knit without remuneration. Women must understand their worth. It’s almost 2012 and time to give away the archaic view that if we enjoy a task we don’t deserve to be paid for it. I love my job and am gratified that others appreciate what I do enough to pay me for doing it.

  287. Excellent post! You are right on. It’s a professional service that should not go unpaid. And the feedback you get from a paid contractor would be more constructive…at least I hope that would be the case! (I’ve been thinking recently about getting into test knitting. Feel free to contact me if you’re still looking. I’m experienced in lace, cables, colorwork, you name it, and have no problems with deadlines. I tend to be a pretty quick knitter.)

  288. Professional sports looks like fun and look what they make per game. We should view test knitting as “Knitting for Fun AND Profit”. If Knitting was a sport we could create professional team events and tons more lucrative affiliate jobs in marketing, legal, play by play knitcasting. Coaches would be interviewed on the 6 o’clock news. We could have world cup playoffs, or challenge Steph in the speed events. We could have amateur and semi-pro teams too, people who just enjoy the sport and know they need to keep their day job.
    More seriously – I was asked recently whether I was interested in test knitting and declined. I viewed it as a serious commitment and I have other priorities now. I had no idea if it would pay, or how much, but I am not a speed knitter any more than I am a speed skater. I know my limitations and respect the work others do far too much to toss my ready-to-be-frogged hat into the ring.
    Testing in any profession is undervalued and underpaid IMHO. Large department stores pay knitters to hand knit and the knitters specialize, in sleeves for example. I wonder what they pay.

  289. I agree test knitters should be paid. But what about all the people who write on the Internet for free? Should you be mad at them? I’m racking my brain to figure out why the analogy doesn’t hold (or maybe you think it does?) and I can’t figure it out. Help!

  290. I agree with you completely. Knitting is a leisure activity for me, but people make a living from providing me with all that I need to pursue that hobby. And also being “nice” doesn’t mean being a doormat.

  291. “… it is not easy to convince any man or any woman on a point of politics …” – “Phineas Finn” by Anthony Trollope, the last sentence of Chapter XXXV.

  292. I was a cross stitch tester and got screwed over by the main designer, who was also a publisher, I was working for. In the end, when it should have been a profit for me, it cost me hundreds of dollars in my pay, in supplies I had to replace and more. I won’t go into details, but they made a tidy profit on my work and I have never seen a red cent, or more specifically, a red pence. I was not the only one they screwed over as well as I tried to work damage control and keep the rest of her testers happy. In the end, I got the shaft and lost.
    By all means, pay me to attempt to knit for you. Provide me the yarn and pattern and I will knit it and you can keep the finished product for a fair price, but I will never “test knit” for a designer for free again even if I get to keep the piece.
    Test knitting for free – isn’t that what mystery knits are for?

  293. “You’re a commie-pinko-tree-hugging-hippie”
    Am I alone in hearing the Bob Dylan chorus of “and if you don’t get out the door in two seconds flat, you unpatriotic rotten doctor commie rat”. well I am old.
    What would this discussion be if the guild of knitters were entirely of men, as of old?
    I have not read all the comments. But as a lawyer and a knitter, I am tired of being asked to give my advice for free. I learned to knit at age 7. I became a lawyer at age 27, after 7 years at university and a year at articles. They seem to be telling me that all that time was frivolous. NOT.
    Go Stephanie go. And, I will not be your test knitter, as I cannot commit to your timetable. (Fifty-three years as a knitter, thirty-two years as a lawyer: I know something about scheduling.)
    Love as ever,

  294. Hi Stephanie, you are entitled to your opinion. Some people however have way too much time on their hands to find an argument in everything anyone says.

  295. This is EXACTLY why women don’t get the same pay for the same work as men…we think that we don’t deserve to be paid if the work is enjoyable. Women have got to wake up to the fact that our contribution to society and commerce matters and matters a lot. I dream of a day when I hire a babysitter who doesn’t say to me when the time comes to negotiate ‘oh, I don’t know, just pay me whatever’…Somebody has got to start teaching girls and women that our time is hugely valuable and we shouldn’t apologize for taking what’s rightfully ours…there, I said it. Stephanie, you hit a nerve of mine and I join you in this battle to get people to wake up to this big, commercial world we live in. Yes, we can still volunteer our time, but do it for people who really need the help. Don’t give your time to the commercial world…that’s being taken advantage of and it’s just plain icky.

  296. This is EXACTLY why women don’t get the same pay for the same work as men…we think that we don’t need to be paid if the work is enjoyable. Women have got to wake up to the fact that our contribution to society and commerce matters and matters a lot. I dream of a day when I hire a babysitter who doesn’t say to me when the time comes to negotiate ‘oh, I don’t know, just pay me whatever’…Somebody has got to start teaching girls and women that our time is hugely valuable and we shouldn’t apologize for taking what’s rightfully ours…there, I said it. Stephanie, you hit a nerve of mine and I join you in this battle to get people to wake up to this big, commercial world we live in. Yes, we can still volunteer our time, but do it for people who really need the help. Don’t give your time to the commercial world…that’s being taken advantage of and it’s just plain icky.

  297. Agree that knitters should be paid.
    Find it ironic to read your statement that health care should be free. (I assume that is your opinion, although you said “if I say something like”)
    And later the statement about Bob the plumber. Totally agree. Now how about this?
    “Let’s say that Bob has spent a lot of time and money learning how to be a doctor. He’s good at it. He opens a little business and starts providing health care for a living. Then this guy, lets call him Marco, decides that he loves providing health care for free, since he’s a retired doctor. He starts taking care of people all over town, for free. Pretty soon, everybody knows this, and Bob can’t get any patients, because who would pay someone to do it when someone else will do it for free? Pretty soon, this is a town where nobody thinks you should ever pay to have health care, and those jobs disappear, along with Bob’s business. By the way, the other thing that disappears is excellence in the field of health care – because you can’t demand excellence from a free doctor. They’re just doing you a favour.”
    American point of view, I know. Just stirring the pot. Money motivates us to provide better service, but that doesn’t apply to health care?
    Agree, test knitters should be paid, just as anyone who provides a professional service, and those who do the best work should be paid accordingly.

  298. Thankyou for this.
    As a test knitter for many professional knitters, I often have family and friends ask me if I get paid. They are always surprised when I tell them no. At first I enjoyed knitting a pattern that was new, helping the designer get her pattern to market.
    I often put my own knitting aside to meet a designers deadline and have a few wip’s waiting for me.
    I have just started to resent the time I am spending on their work, with little renumeration. Your post today seems very timely for me.
    signed, a professional knitter

  299. You know, a professional gets paid. No matter how fun or enjoyable the job, a professional’s employer has expectations and the professional gets compensation. That’s controversial? It’s great to love your job, do it well and get paid. Everybody’s happy.
    By the way, Annie Modesitt has been writing about fair pay for knitting teachers and designers for quite a while. She supports an industry standard, as well.

  300. All labour must be paid in my view. If I’m knitting for a friend for free it seems to take forever to finish a project. If I’m paid and on a deadline, magically it gets done. So I’m available any time…ciao

  301. I was going to respond to your tweet but I don’t really know how to do that so, I was going to say that I think that your pay scale certainly should reflect both the complicated-ness of the work and the skill of the tester. Some of the patterns you come up with are pretty challenging and, if I were a designer, I would want a tester who was skilled enough not only to knit the pattern as written but be a sufficiently fluent knitter to tell you (the designer) where you’ve gone wrong, if you have. I agree with all the posters above who say, essentially, you get what you pay for. The quality of the knitter as a person, who would knit for the love of knitting, is not affected by pay, but certainly the quality of the testing work increases as it is treated more professionally.
    I also wish medical professionals had not bottle fed my breast fed baby behind my back, but that is a discussion for another time, too. 🙂

  302. I think this attitude is rife and particularly (but not limited to) professions in which women dominate the field. I fix computers for a living and I am constantly finding that my skills and services are devalued when compared to that of my business partner (who is a man). Last week a client – a physiotherapist- brought in her computer which had been ‘fixed’ for free by her nephew – who had thoroughly screwed it up. I pointed out the insanity of getting an amateur to repair a business critical machine and she told me she felt she had nothing to lose by letting him have a go at it first even though he had made the problem much worse and it now took longer (and was more expensive) to fix. She told me he was planning to do this ‘professionally’ once he leaves school next year as he likes messing around with computers. I told her that my daughter was going to be a physiotherapist when she finished school next year as she likes messing around with bones.
    It is commonplace for others to devalue (or not value at all!) the skills of others that they don’t understand. Whether it is knitting or plumbing or brain surgery, it takes time and hard work to become expert and we should expect those who wish to profit from our skills to profit us by paying for them.

  303. very interesting post – I strongly agree with all of your points – very well said. I am always amazed at the knitters in a group I used to knit with (note the “used to knit with…) who always wanted to copy my patterns – I wouldn’t do it – gotta pay for it, how else would the designer and/or company make money and stay in business to keep providing us with good patterns?? I have even purchased a 2nd copy of a sock pattern I was using to teach someone to knit socks.
    re: test knitting – hmmm, I’m having more and more days at work where I’m trying to figure out how I can make knitting my source of income…. or have a sheep farm 🙂

  304. When my kids were small, I did freelance copy editing, proofreading, and a bit of educational writing at home part time. Someone once told me I was so lucky that I had something “quasi-professional” to do as a stay-at-home mom. Excuse me, but who was she calling a “quasi”?!?!?!? I was so offended and so surprised to hear that from a woman! I think I was only “quasi” because I was a woman/mother, and I’m equally sure that if the field of knitters was predominantly male, test knitters would be required to have no less than a master’s degree. Right on, Stephanie. So jealous, btw, of you and your country’s evolved sense of justice when it comes to health care. Say a little prayer now and again for us down here in the Slower Lower.

  305. Thank you for stating that it would help if knitters didn’t balk at paying for patterns. It irritates me, no — it pisses me off — when knitters ask their friends to make copies of purchased patterns. It demeans the whole industry. Designers should be compensated.
    I think your reasoning on the test knitting is perfect and I agree with all of your points.
    Thanks for writing about this topic — it all needed to be stated.
    And what’s wrong with being a commie pinko tree hugging hippie anyway?

  306. Wow, I read you tweet today, the – Thank you but test knitters should be paid, and my first thought was that you were being very respectful to the craft and to the practitioners of the craft. Now I get home and am reading about all the hoopla and I, like you, just don’t get it.
    Re: Giving formula to breastfeeding moms when they leave the hospital: I’ve been a Labor Support and Postpartum Doula for ten years and where I come from we call that sabotage.

  307. Clearly there is no standard pricing for test knitters. They undervalue their time and effort and they’re fearful of charging too much or too little.
    I think it would be fair to negotiate with the test knitter because the designer needs to be billed fairly as well.

  308. I think professional test knitters should get paid, although I have no idea how much, I know I have turned down a chance to knit some garments for a play in town because I am only a moderately fast knitter, and very fickle, so I felt I wouldn’t be able to do it on a deadline.
    Test knitting needs to be done exactly to the pattern, or proofing as you go, no random changes to suit yourself.
    anyone who does a job for someone else should get something, its only fair.

  309. Have you ever noticed that no one expects professional golfers to play for free? Maybe that is why they have a radio show?

  310. I’m a relatively new designer, and an employee at an LYS. I’ve seen all the things that you mention, and I was counseled by the owners not to do commissioned work for clients for pennies. While I didn’t understand at the time (but do now), that charging little to nothing for my work makes it harder on the person who is supporting their family on work done in this industry, I certainly learned that if I ask for little in terms of payment, I also get little in terms of respect for my time and my skill. I’ve spent years knitting, reading, and learning the specialized skill set that I have now. If knitting was a degree program, I’d be darn close to a Ph.D by now. Ph.D’s get paid well, because of all the effort and the specialized skill set. Now that I charge what I’m worth, I only deal with serious clients who understand what I do and respect the work I turn over. It’s worth it for me, and it helps others to be able to ask for fair payment in the future.

  311. I used to knit store samples for my LYS before I moved too far away. And there was compensation involved. The owner and I agreeded upon a fixed amount of compensation based on the size and complexity of the pattern. Since I knit many samples for them it is safe to say that we were both happy with the arrangement. Gosh, I miss that shop!

  312. Amen!
    And Knitting is exactly that! Back during the all-male knitters guilds, they would charge the people through the nose for handknits. And often ‘dispose’ of anyone who didn’t charge/buy the guild price.
    And whoever said, ‘You’re a commie-pinko-tree-hugging-hippie.’ should soak her/his head in water for a few minutes. *hmph*

  313. I usually do not post comment on your blog but I just can’t resist this time. I TOTALLY AGREE with you. I do test knitting as well as have test knitters knit my patterns & so have experience on both sides. Test knitting is real work & has to be done right & working with the designer is very important.

  314. I and two friends have owned a murder mystery entertainment business for over twenty-five years. We write mysteries and take them to hotels that pay us to put them on. We hire people to act in them. Those people are a rare breed – they have to be able to act – it ain’t Shakespeare but still – they have to be able to get along with all of us for the weekend in tight corners with lots of snacks and drinks and insane conversation and they have to be able to take orders from time to time. Because we say so and because it is our business and because that is how it goes. We get lots and lots of people who want to do this FOR FREE. We don’t pay a lot but we pay. Why? We have to tell you what to do. That’s way easier when we pay you. And that is all she wrote.
    And from a union commie pinko shit disturber point of view – a company that does the whole thing for free is working at a hotel we left. We don’t want to go back cuz they treated us shite but now they have people riding our long history and they are doing it for free. That sucks. Really.

  315. I absolutely respect where you are coming from with professionalism and accountability. That said, most of the research on motivation actually disproves your argument that “people do better work when they’re paid.” It’s one of those bits of “common knowledge” that turns out to be wrong.
    Here’s a good video on the research: http://www.fastcompany.com/1646337/science-shows-that-bigger-bonuses-create-worse-performance
    If you’re disinclined to watch, here’s the short version: research shows that paying people more actually dampens their motivation to do great work. Motivation is linked to 3 things (all not money!): people’s desire to master a skill, a sense of autonomy in pursuing an interest/passion, and sense of greater purpose to the work they are performing. Test knitting potentially provides all three motivators: the test knitter enjoys further mastery of her craft, the autonomy to work on her own schedule (within deadlines!), and possibly a sense of purpose if she sees her testing as contributing to the success of a person or business she appreciates (I’d guess most of us feel this way about you).
    I certainly don’t think it’s a bad thing to pay a test knitter, but I thought I’d put a different spin on free test knitting that isn’t “because knitters are nice.” Clearly, based on the responses, we’re not all super-nice! 😉

  316. You go girl. Women need to quit under valuing the work they do. BTW I think that maid service is a great present for a knitter, frees the time up for what they enjoy doing (and maybe get paid to do…).

  317. Steph, you have thought this one through. I am in complete agreement with your points. There are designers who can afford to pay cash for test knitting and hire staff (hats off to them!), and others who have to make other arrangements. As you point out, the central point is the agreement.
    I love your determination not to exploit your fellow humans. You do your best to walk your talk.

  318. I agree that test knitters should be paid for their work in some way or another. I love to read and often pay good money to read a book, but I sure as hell wouldn’t proof-read books for free.
    As a payroll clerk, I believe that a person’s time and skills have value and that value should not be undercut because someone loves their job. If they wish to do something in exchange for products or other non-monetary compensation, that’s fine as long as the value of the compensation is equal to the work that is being undertaken. As for industry standards, I would check out the Employment Standards Act. Find the industry that most closely relates to your needs and pay at least the minimum wage for that job. In Ontario, regular general minimum wage for a person over 18 and not a student, is $10.25/hour + 4% vacation pay and if a statutory holiday falls within that time frame, you must pay 20% of their earnings for the four weeks prior to the stat day. If you wish to know more about that, message me and I will email you the spreadsheet stat pay calculator that I use for my payroll.
    As for providing formula to a happily breastfeeding mother, not only would I be highly insulted, I would also be informing that medical professional that they were undermining my free choice and questioning their ethics. I went through the worst breastfeeding experience that a woman can have short of developing Thrush too and thank God for the nurses who spent time with me helping me get my son latched on properly and encouraging me in MY choice. I wanted to breastfeed and I’m so glad I stuck with it. My son is a happy, healthy active little man and all the pain and distress was worth every second. I think if he had been my first child and I had been undermined with medical professionals insisting on their “just in case” crap, I might have caved and felt awful for a long time.
    Whoa! What a speech! Off soapbox for me!

  319. Oh, this hits close to home… I think there are certain professions that some perceive as fun or easy and that the people working in these professions are doing it for the public good. But, hey, we all have to earn money to buy food (and yarn). I am a librarian and have worked at two different libraries in two different states during times of drastic financial hardship. In both instances representatives in the affiliated government have suggested volunteers should take the place of librarians, which implies a librarian’s job is so easy a volunteer with no professional training could do it, among other things. I’ve also been a professional editor and have had it suggested that I offer my services for free to researchers for the greater good/development of a specific body of research. So I completely relate to this issue in my own professions, and I find it particularly bothersome that no one would ever suggest doctors or scientists or lawyers should work for free, and they shouldn’t, but that certain professions are not taken as seriously — especially professions where women are in the majority.

  320. I teach high school and this comes up at least once a week. We have, as a society, reduced the value of skilled labor to almost nothing. We are one of the few schools where shop is taught at multiple levels. Our students can leave high school with a diploma and a training certificate in carpentry. I intend on supporting our skilled workers any time I can and will continue to remind those students that I teach that ability to take a test is not the only measure of intelligence.
    I hope this makes sense- it is so hard to type on this iPad with so much to say! 🙂

  321. I just read all the comments above this one; the topic is dear to me, and thank you very much for what you said.
    When I was writing my book, I knit 28 different projects for the publisher to choose from.
    No way did I have the money to pay for all that test knitting. I dearly wanted to and felt paying would be the only right thing to do. If only. I did have pounds and pounds of then-still-fairly-rare baby alpaca yarn to offer to anyone who test knitted, bought from a wholesaler going out of business, in addition to the yarn which I gave them for the project they wanted to make (their choice) and for them to keep.
    I had a fierce fear of some less experienced knitter tearing their hair out over a mistake that was mine only and not theirs; I felt this was basically my responsibility. I knit and reknit and reknit every single pattern myself, some of the shawls five times to make sure I hadn’t missed a thing, going back months later with fresh eyes to check again.
    My tech editor later told me my written-outs had zero errors. I will forever be grateful for her compliment. (I don’t do nor proof charts due to a brain injury, but that also makes me aware of how careful I need to be.)
    One knitter less experienced with lace took on a challenge for her because she really did like that pattern. She did have a difficult time with it, though, and eventually gave up a few inches into it; I finished it and gave it to her. I owed her. She’d earned that.
    Then her shawl was later stolen from her hotel room at Sock Summit. I gave her its twin, the one I’d made that had gone into the book. Again: she’d earned it and I was grateful for the opportunity to give back at least in that way.
    The yarn and patterns and, later, inscribed copies of the book I gave out in thanks had never been and would never be enough. I am indebted forever for what those women gave me so far beyond what I deserved.

  322. Great post! This controversy is good sign that the knitting industry is in the midst of serious change. It used to be that only a handful of people wrote knitting books, and that because of the structure of book deals with the publishing companies, authors/pattern designers got only pennies per book. Now, there are pattern designers EVERYWHERE, thanks to the Internet. And they are getting paid directly for their work, and it’s a lot more than pennies.
    If you sell a pattern, on the Internet or elsewhere, it should be tested by someone else first. How the tester is compensated is understandably controversial; with time, appropriate industry standards should emerge.

  323. Maybe you should have tweeted the original question to your professional friends and see what they charge. Keep the rest of us rapscallions out of it.

  324. I totally agree with you, and yes I am a pinko, greenie, tree-hugger, also a professional.

  325. I totally wish I could get PAID for knitting!
    But you’re right. If you want a professional job done – someone who will do a very competent job, follow the pattern to the letter and make notations when they think there might be an error – you need to pay them. Everyone is happy to test knit for free (I would be). But free labor implies (at least for me) that care to following the pattern isn’t a priority and deadlines….well deadlines are – shall we say…..NON-EXISTENT. A professional test knitter (even if they aren’t getting paid) needs to adhere to a pattern as written, and respect the deadline the designer sets. And that my dears is a tough row to hoe.

  326. I am sorry people are giving you grief about this. Your answers were terrific. I wish I could be a test knitter for you or anyone but I have only been knitting a year and am still not very good. I am struggling to do ribbing on a hat. Yeah….

  327. I am so sorry that people are giving you grief over this, but I wholeheartedly agree with you on every point you made in your post. If you are still seeking a test knitter that wants to be paid for the work that they do, I would be more then happy to help you in that area. Please email me if interested 🙂

  328. I have spent five years as a church musician. It is not just in ‘female’ industries where this dilemma comes up. I have waved my fee occasionally. I am awfully glad I didn’t for the wedding that started over an hour late. What I try to remember is there might be a musician following after me who needs the money for his/her services and if I convince people I’m not worth the money, then my protege might go hungry. If I feel qualms about the money, I give it to charity.

  329. I can understand why someone might want to test knit for free, but if a pattern has mistakes (understandable, because if every pattern was error free without test knitting then no one would need them), but I want to know how to get into test knitting. I’d happily do test knitting, because the process of knitting is more important than what specific object I’m knitting.
    Long story short, any ideas how someone breaks into test knitting?

  330. One of the things I love about you is how you pick patterns to knit that are NOT being given away free. (Fernfrost for instance) I admire how you know you influence hundreds of knitters a day who will follow your lead and buy a pattern from a designer, or at least I like to think that is what you do.
    I think offering to pay test knitters is no different than charging money for a pattern you’ve worked hard to write. Getting panties up in a bunch because someone wants to pay for a service (in this case, test knitting) is kind of insane in my opinion.
    Hear, hear about the formula samples… but as you say, this is a conversation for another time.
    Rock on Harlot… Rock on…

  331. What an interesting topic. I wasn’t even sure how I felt about it as I read your article. Then after I read the comments I crystallised my views. I think the reason many knitters don’t want to be paid is that they can’t really be paid what they are worth. Nobody is going to pay them $20 or $30 per hour for knitting a jumper which might take – who knows – 40 plus hours, 60 plus hours? So rather than accept a pittance e.g $5 per hour or less which says that what they do isn’t valuable, they decide that it’s better to do it because they enjoy it and not take payment at all. That way they have taken a noble position and have their dignity intact rather than prostituting themselves for a pittance. I can understand that.
    It’s why I don’t – at the moment – sell my hand-sewn quilts. Because no-one would be willing to pay what they’re really worth. So I might I give one away but I don’t want to sell it for less than it’s worth. Same principle.

  332. I’ve never commented twice, but here goes. After I wrote my comment above, I thought secretly to myself that of course you are right, and who would even want to take on that kind of responsibility for free?? Then I remembered that several years ago, a scarf I designed for my niece was chosen to be included in Debbie Stoller’s Stitch ‘n Bitch Nation, and I was thrilled! I did it all for free, although Debbie paid for yarn that I used to knit a sample — but she kept the sample. You could argue that designing and knitting a pattern used in a book for zero compensation must undermine knitters who design for a living. OOPS! It’s not a simple issue, to say the least. I’m still glad I got to write a pattern for that book, and I’d do it again. Maybe the answer to your issue lies in the difference between a professional and an amateur.

  333. YEAH! Thanks for standing up for the professionalism of test knitters. I have test knit new yarns for dyers and patterns for designers. I have always been paid. The terms were discussed and documented in advance and I commit that my work will be perfect (even if no one would have seen the little mistake), documented and on time.

  334. As a professional (as in, has experience, skills, and does it for pay!) test and sample knitter, thank you! Many designers can’t pay for test knitters when they’re starting out, but still want to put out quality patterns, so will give the pattern plus typically another pattern, or maybe the pattern plus yarn to knit it because they can’t pay cash. If/when they start making money, paying test knitters is definitely one of the first things to do! I’ve generally seen the sample knitting standard rounded and halved, which if I recall correctly is about US$0.11/yard, so $20 for a sock pattern assuming roughly 375 yards for a pair of socks.
    Basically, if you just want someone to read through your pattern or increase your Ravelry project number so more people will see actual examples and be more likely to knit it up, yes, post on The Testing Pool group and get some free test knitters on board. If you want someone who will go over every stitch count, knit pattern repeats from both the chart and the written directions checking every line even when it’s a pattern that is easy to memorize, and let you know every last thing that jumped out at them while they knit (the cast-on is atypical, this technique might need more explanation, you can say this better that way), then pay for a test knitter. Preferably an experienced test knitter who has done this a few times over for various designers.
    You get what you pay for, and test knitting is no different!

  335. Women are, at times, their own worst enemies. It is amazing what we are asked to do for free and then we feel guilty if we say no. Twenty years ago I had a booth at a festival selling my textile stuff.
    A man told me I was charging too much for my crafts. When I asked his profession, he replied he was a doctor. I asked him if he would let his wife work for $2 an hour and he said “Of course not.”I replied that’s all I’m asking for my labor.
    I continue to do my craft I just quit selling it. Either I gift it or donate it to a charity as a fundraiser which I can’t even declare full value on my income tax.
    Recognition for professional standards for “women’s work is going to be a hard won fight.

  336. Well, I think there is a difference in attitude b/w people who do knitting as work, and who do it as hobby. I have test-knit before – only for free, because this was a part of something I do to relax from work and have fun. If I start charging for my knitting, that means this becomes work, and has to be paid at the same rate as my real job, and then I don’t think anyone will be able to afford me as a test knitter.

  337. I wanted to respond to Betsy’s comment made on December 6, 2011 4:47 PM.
    Doctors volunteering their time at free clinics isn’t an analogy to people volunteering to test-knit patters for designers, who then get paid for their patterns. A knitting equivalent to doctors volunteering their time would be knitters knitting items to donate to a charity.
    Also, these doctors presumably also get paid for some of their work–they don’t volunteer full time or they wouldn’t be able to eat or have a place to live and neither would their families if they have them.
    There are a lot of charities that are very happy to receive knitted and crocheted items that generous knitters and crocheters make for them. However, people who are doing test knitting for designers (who are getting paid for their work) should be getting paid.
    Stephanie is perfectly willing to pay people to do her test knitting and she should be able to do that without feeling that she’s somehow going against her own beliefs (i.e., her support for Doctors without Borders), because they’re not the same thing!

  338. As a tapestry weaver and artist, your comments today hit close to home. Fiber art is a field not taken seriously by the larger art industry in great part in my opinion due to non-professionalism among fiber artists. Professionalism is important, and yes, so is paying someone in the field who is doing a job for you. The entire field of fiber art is considered “hobby” by much of the world to the serious detriment of people like me who are artists trying to make a living. I could go on forever… but must just say THANK YOU for taking what you do seriously and promoting your profession so strongly. Fiber artists UNITE!!!

  339. I would do a test knit for you as a favor for a friend… I have read your blog for years… And I owe you for your stories… I would have to pay you to test knit my pattern…. You don’t know me.

  340. I’m totally with you on paying for quality work.
    I really don’t get the commie-pinko-hippie-tree-hugger inference. If you insist on paying for work, doesn’t that make you a capitalist?
    I would offer to be your test knitter (I do quality work, I knit quickly and accurately, and I know how to meet a deadline), but I have too many Xmas/birthday/baby gift self-imposed deadlines coming up to help you near term.
    Contact me after December 25th if you still need a knitter. I can give references. (I live in California which might slow you down too much.)

  341. Thank you for a wonderful post. I have test knit for free, for yarn and for money. And prefer the latter. My time and expertise is worth money and I am so lucky to have that recognized. Thank you for recognizing that too.

  342. Not knowing what to expect brought back memories of my early years of marriage. I wanted so much to not offend my new mother-in-law. However, things that I thought were of no consequence turned out to be a big deal with her; and things that I thought would be very important turned out not to matter at all!
    Finally, I gave up trying, and took a mental attitude of “this is me – this is what you get”. All was well, and she was a wonderful mother-in-law all her life. She died 3 years ago Thanksgiving, and I miss her terribly.

  343. I guess I’m backwards? I collect patterns then decide what yarn I want for the project. The exception would be the occasional forage into a clearance bin. I can design, but writing a pattern makes me break out in hives! Money well spent.

  344. Your post could be applied to so many professions. This is a product of our “dollar store” society.

  345. It seems pretty clear to me. When we want a job done, we pay for it. My washing machine broke (on a Friday afternoon… with a load in, sopping wet… I flipped out!). I called an appliance repair man and he came and he fixed it and I paid him. Why is a test knitter any different? A designer has a design. Before offering it for money, to make sure that it’s a decent product to offer, and to maintain his/her own reputation as a designer by offering the best product possible, the designer tests it. Why should the test knitter, who is performing an essential and skilled service, not be paid?
    Thanks for sharing your views on this! I admire how clear and well stated they are.

  346. Seriously…do you really think that we all believe you can knit THAT much and have a life too? I KNEW IT!!!

  347. Thanks, as always, for this. I’ve been fighting for the rights of artists and craftspeople in all media to be paid fairly for their work and to have that work respected for over 2 decades. It’s exhausting, but necessary.

  348. This is really interesting. I actually test knit (second round of testing, actually) for a very well known designer publishing their second book. We didn’t get paid, but we did get $10 off the book if we published it from them. Had to use my own yarn and needles, and only had about a week to do it. At the time, I was so excited that I got in (we had to fill out applications!) that I didn’t realize that hey, I should be paid for this. But that was just a one time deal and I get to see I test knitted for that designer…but now that I think of it, I haven’t knit anything from the book even though I really, really like it. If I had been compensated more than $10 off a full-price book, I would have probably knit everything in there.

  349. Valid points, all! And thank you for standing up for those values.
    On a side note, I’ve been considering apprenticing myself, at no or reduced pay, to a designer in order to learn the profession of test knitting, but have no idea how to go about asking, or suggesting a pay rate. When you find that pay scale, please publish it on your blog so we’ll all have a standard to reach for. Thanks!

  350. My choice of yarn, pattern and timing = leisure
    Someone else’s choice of the factors above = job

  351. Let me see if I understand this. Someone wants me to test-knit, say, a pullover for them…a project that will take at least a week of full-time work to complete. And that someone thinks that getting a free copy of a pattern that will sell for, let’s say, six dollars, is supposed to be adequate compensation?
    It would be funny, if it weren’t so sad.

  352. This is the first time I’ve ever commented. This subject is so compelling to me that I couldn’t resist. I lost two careers to volunteers. I was a wilderness ranger for the US Forest Service, & it was during the Clinton administration that we were all told that since we cared so much about public land and the wilderness, they were sure we would be willing to volunteer from now on, and forego the whole salary thing. Not being a trust fund baby, I left with a broken heart, and took all of my knowledge of the place and its history and management needs with me. My most recent job, as a library assistant in my rural town, ended two years ago, when every assistant was laid off to save money, and volunteers were called in to replace us, with no understanding by the county administrators of the specialized knowledge librarians bring to the job. I would like to thank you, Stephanie, for bringing up the issue of the nature of work, and I would like to ask all the wonderful commenters (I think I read them all) to consider the line between volunteering and scabbing. Sometimes we think we are helping by volunteering, when it’s possible we are just taking a paycheck away from someone, and from the community where the skilled, paid worker would have spent that income. Too much of the world seems locked in this downward spiral of undercutting the workers. Then we scratch our heads and wonder why standards of living are in free fall.

  353. I agree, Stephanie. Many years ago (I should probably revise this) I arrived at $20 US per hour for making anything with my hands to sell. It certainly eliminated the people who wanted me to knit them a sweater for the price of the yarn (a lot of them backed out when they found out how much yarn costs.) I found I could make costume jewelry at that rate and it worked out well: $10/pin, $20/earrings. Knitting, no.
    I’ve tried many times to explain to the people who charge $0.50 per hour that they are undercutting the rest of us, but it falls on deaf ears. They seem to think if they are reimbursed for their materials, it’s good enough — their time has no value.
    I’d apply for your job, if you didn’t think $20 is too steep.

  354. We’d all probably intern for Brad Pitt for free but that wouldn’t be a job either. I get that everybody loves you and I get your point. Historically, knitters have been paid to knit. Samari knit to earn money. Rant on, sister!

  355. I think that it’s perfectly reasonable to want to pay a test knitter, and I think that a test knitter should want to be paid. If it’s a friend-to-friend favor, then sure, I could see doing it for free, but if you’re actually hiring someone then they need to be paid. I completely agree with you.
    Just in case, I will totally apply to be your test knitter. 🙂

  356. Suggestions for gifts for knitters:
    -Chocolate to munch while knitting. More chocolate, different chocolate…You can see where this is going.
    -Sock yarn of the highest caliber. I broke a circular wooden needle at my daughter’s by slamming it in the car door (now, that takes talent)so I stopped by my daughter;s LYS and bought a needle and (ahem) some Marks & Kattens Fame Trend (fingering weight socks) and Big Trend (boot socks). The are coming out so awesomely soft and pretty that this yarn is going on my Christmas list.
    -Personally, I would like a little lace weight, too. Maybe some alpaca?
    -How about a dozen red roses so I can smell them while I knit and remember I’m loved every time I get a whiff.
    -If you bake and love a knitter, an assortment of cookies is always welcome. chocolate dipped gingerbread with almonds is my fav right now. As is the Balbriggan heel.. I’m like that. I go on jags. I’m sure you understand after your mitten fest. Fudge is good, too.
    -Mistletoe to hang over my favorite knitting chair
    -Some size 6 glass beads – perfect for stringing on yarn.
    -I love the knitting bag riff you did, that’s usually a hit with my knitting friends and family. My sister sent me one made in the PI from recycled silvery candy wrappers. Looks good, wipes clean, big enough for a sweater. I usually sew sock-sized ones.
    -Gift certificate at LYS.
    -Shawl pins, as I love to knit shawls.
    -Favorite music to listen to while knitting, or audible books.
    Hope this helps,
    Julie in San Diego

  357. Excellent concept. My life used to brush up again that concept quite a bit: ‘since it is so much fun and you enjoy it – why should you be paid’. I played violin professionally for years. People thought we were having such a fun, great time (we were) that we should not be paid. They weren’t just paying for the few hours of quartet at their wedding, they were paying for years of practice/lessons/workshops, instrument upkeep etc., Test knitters work their brains out and fingers too – they should be paid. Of course.

  358. I’m a writer and, as I’m sure Stephanie knows, this conversation happens a lot in writing circles too. The concept of paying people for their time and skills (or asking to be fairly compensated) shouldn’t be a radical idea!

  359. I have tested for free, but I am not as motivated…I agree, Stephanie. You state your point well. Amd we would be taken more seriously id we we’re more professional.

  360. I totally agree with you, Stephanie. For some of us, this is a hobby. For others of us, it’s a business. If it’s a business, we need to be professional.

  361. Well HELL! I guess I’m awful, but I wouldn’t test knit for free………same reason I don’t knit socks for every person that has told me they’d LOVE a pair of handknit socks
    Knitting takes time, and time is valuable!
    And if you ARE a commie-pinko-tree hugging-hippie, at least you’re in good company!!! LOL!

  362. I wonder if the initial “I’ll knit for you for free” comments come about from people who admire you and for them the opportunity to work with you is payment enough? You do have a certain celebrity status that draws certain types of people.
    I’m not saying it’s right for them to test knit for you on that basis, just an observation.
    My thoughts? if it’s casual test knitting, in someones own time, they wanted the item, they keep the item and provide basic feed back, if they don’t want to be paid. Its Up to them.
    BUT professional test knitting, with a timescale, requiring constructive and professional analysis of the pattern, changes noted etc, then it’s only fair on everyone for them to be fairly paid for that. It goes back to the definition of Professional. If you want a job doing properly you have to be willing to pay for it.

  363. THANK YOU for this post Steph. My first professional knitting gig was just over 50 years ago when I was paid to knit 3 angora sweaters for the most spoiled [I thought] girl in my high school. Even at age 14 I wasn’t willing to do it “for the yarn.”
    Disparaging, frequently sexist, attitudes toward the “homely crafts” abound in this culture and I applaud your pursuit of knitting as a profession. Your courage, coupled with Tina’s, to pull off the first Sock Summit was a huge contribution.
    Let me see . . . the guys and gals who are bankers or brokers on Wall Street gambling and making millions of dollars and producing, literally, nothing in the real world VS the knitter creating things that keep people warm and fulfill the human need to caress ourselves with beauty . . . let me see . . . which is the greater value?
    It may be time to return to the days of the Guilds . . . when real skills that supported human life and communities were respected and paid equitably.

  364. Thank you for this post Stephanie! As a knitter who sells her knitwork through dawanda (a german equivalent to etsy) I am always amazed by people who sell items for just lets say 5 EUR.. I think I am to cheap too but at least I factor in the cost of yarn and other expenses. The same goes for your example. When everyone does it for free why should someone pay? I think it should be the other way round. Why do it for free?? Someone has to start the change. Thanks for releasing these thoughts and fueling the diskussion!
    Katja from Germany

  365. Dear Steph, I’m on your side – the knitting industry will not thrife if everythings free! I’m slightly remembered of Mr. Scrootch….hope you get my point. I’d would love to test-knit for a fee for you but unfortunately I’m in Germany and the big whole cold Atlantic (and some) are inbetween 😉 Keep on going. You are on the right track!

  366. Wow, I am stunned that people would take you to task for wanting to do something that you have every right to do. It’s your pattern. You get to decide how things go down with it. Why do people not get this?

  367. The commie-pinko-tree-hugging-hippie is arguing the virtues of capitalism. You are cracking me up, Harlot. ROFLMAO LOL!!!

  368. Oh, how I know that problem. And I totally agree – offering things done for free “because it’s fun” is not a good thing in every case, and not in professional life.
    But pricing for handmade, and pricing for textile crafts especially, is a beast. I’ve done a whole series of blog posts about this topic last year, because it’s one that comes up repeatedly in my life as well (you find the first post of the series here: http://togs-from-bogs.blogspot.com/2011/04/crafting-and-fair-prices-again-part-i.html)
    So – thank you very much for seeing test knitting as a job, and offering to pay for that!

  369. Great piece. I agree with you, particularly on the respect and value fronts. One of the reasons (only one), that jobs mostly associated with women (knitting, childcare) are undervalued and underpaid is because *we* undervalue them. Do people really think that an electrician would do most of his/her work for free? No, they value their skills – and their kids would mostly starve with that attitude.
    “The labourer is worthy of his hire”
    Marx, I believe – then again I am European so obviously a commie-pinko tree-hugging hippie. (Aside:Why do some people think that is an insult?)

  370. Great piece. I agree with you, particularly on the respect and value fronts. One of the reasons (only one), that jobs mostly associated with women (knitting, childcare) are undervalued and underpaid is because *we* undervalue them. Do people really think that an electrician would do most of his/her work for free? No, they value their skills – and their kids would mostly starve with that attitude.
    “The labourer is worthy of his hire”
    – then again I am European so obviously a commie-pinko tree-hugging hippie. (Aside:Why do some people think that is an insult?)

  371. I agree with you completely about test knitters being paid. Someone’s job is to make patterns, I believe they should pay for someone to test knit their pattern. Not only is it important for all the reasons you raised, but also it stops sweatshops. A fair days pay for a fair days work. On a less serious note…..My son calls my partner and I commie-pinko-tree hugging-hippy lesbians. That last comnment had me laughing out loud.

  372. No one else seems to have mentioned this, so I wondered:
    If a person doesn’t want to be paid because they enjoy the work/don’t want it sullied with base commercialism, would it be acceptable for the designer to make a donation to charity in the amount the test knitter would have been paid? Then the work would be properly valued, the test knitter wouldn’t have to take unwanted pay, and the charity would be that much further ahead. Win-win-win.

  373. as a medical professional I DO think it’s abhorent to send a breastfeeding mom home with formula “just in case” and I will happily test knit for you for a fee 🙂

  374. I agree with you Stephanie, especially as I have just discovered a glaring error in a new pattern by a famous designer. I am mid-way through the project, which I am making as a Christmas present, and the error in question is going to cost me precious time and money. It seems to be par for the course these days for knitting patterns/books to be riddled with errors and it is infuriating! Maybe if designers paid for professional test-knitters /proof-readers (assuming that many of them don’t) then there would be a higher degree of accuracy in patterns. I think some of the famous designers who have become global brands and churn out a multitude of books every year are greedy and concerned with quantity over quality, but that’s another argument.

  375. I manage an amateur orchestra and the same issues arise there. People in the orchestra are there because they love music, and they pay a fee to join the orchestra. When we need extra musicians for a concert, do we pay them? It’s not about professionalism — everyone who joins must behave professionally, show up for rehearsal, practice their part, etc. The best solution we could come up with is that we pay only the people who are making their living in music.
    Conductors have it even worse. At least musicians have a union. When I phoned Orchestras Canada to ask how much an amateur orchestra should pay a conductor, I was told that I should find a conductor who would do it for free. That’s really outrageous! (And, by the way, not a women’s issue, since most conductors are male.)

  376. well, one does the work and should get paid. No matter whether it is testknitting or anything else. That guarantees a quality standard. But, I would happily take the mitten pattern scribbled on a piece of wastepaper without any testknitting or proofreading 🙂

  377. I like the 18-20 cents a yard idea. It’s clear and easy to calculate…..just count the yardage left over, do a little grade school math and there you go. I do a wide variety of fiber related work and the issue of price (or doing it for free) often comes up. I set what I call my “happy price” where I’m happy if they take it, and I’m happy if they don’t. For a hand stitched original quilt that can be $24,000. For a pair of hand knit boot socks it’s $45-60. For a hand made doll it’s $95. For a hand made sweater it’s $200 or so. I have certainly had people ask about the quilts and then balk at the price by saying “But I can get a quilt from COMPANY STORE for $300!” And I sweetly reply, “Well that might be the way you want to go.” I refer to myself on my website and my business cards as a Fiber Artist which seems pretentious to some I am sure. On the other hand it is an indication that I consider what I do to be significant, and I expect other people to treat me with respect. I would be very pleased to test knit for you because I love your writing and I admire your style (lifestyle and design style). But I would certainly expect to be paid….that’s just respectful.

  378. 2 points to make here: 1) Cleaning houses and knitting are the 2 things I would NEVER do for money, only for love. 2) Dee, way back at the beginning of this thread commented on women undervaluing their professions…..although there are male knitters and male nurses. I think male nurses and male knitters are over-valued automatically, just because they are male they stand out from the crowd. I say this as someone who worked in a hospital for years, and observed that the best way for a nurse to be promoted was to be born a man. (They may have been skilled, but they were always noticed before the female nurses of equal skill levels.)
    Just sayin’…… I tend to ignore male knitting designers based on this observation, until they have been around for a while and established their bonafides as real knitters, and not just “new male knit designers.
    Barbara M. in NH

  379. I agree with you 100%. I wish you could run for president down here. (Not that I don’t like the current president.)

  380. Very interesting discussion. I worked in a yarn shop many years ago and did do custom knitting for customers. It is difficult to put a value on your time. We had to price the work in a range that people would be willing to pay for a garment.
    Recently at yoga class, one of the class noticed my husband’s, my daughter’s and my handknit socks and remarked that I should make “a basket” of socks and sell them there. I smiled and nodded but knew not many people would pay the $24.00 for the yarn much less the hourly rate for making a pair of socks.
    I stick to my resolve to knit for love not money.

  381. Holy Freakin’ Cow! Thanks for addressing this and the whole professionalism of the industry. Yes it is a hobby to some, to others it is a life. Amazed at the different responses you received. Have a glass of wine and breathe. Wow!

  382. Breastfeeding IS more likely to fail if mom is given free formula sample packs….there is information compiled by UNICEF, World Health Organization, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (among others) to that effect, which is why some states in the US have made laws saying that hospitals can’t give BF moms the packs unless they request them.
    The reason formula companies hand out these packs, to begin with, is because, they, too, know that that increases the likelihood of failure, and the moms think that the brand was *specifically* recommended by the hospital (a logical and reasonable, yet false assumption), so they switch to formula and use that brand. It’s a good marketing tool….just bad for mom’s and babies’ health.
    Handing out these packs is against the World Health Organization’s Breastfeeding CODE and the Healthy Baby Initiative. But, since the US barely acknowledges the CODE, (Canada does more with it than the US, I think), I shouldn’t be surprised. Just angry.

  383. While I agree with you about test knitting, in theory, I can’t manage it in practice. So I will continue with my “rule” about knitting (learned on Ravelry, of course). About my handwork: It’s like sex, if I like you, it’s free. If I don’t like you, you can’t pay me enough!
    But, of course, this rule only works for amateurs! And that really is the problem…..most knitters are hobbyists, not professionals, although many do professional quality work. When you have such a large community of amateurs, with pros mixed in, there is bound to be confusion!

  384. Speaking as a professional test knitter, one who gets paid for her work (usually around 15 cents per yard of yarn, varying with the complication of the pattern), may I say…

  385. Just wanted to say that, while I do think test knitting should be compensated, I don’t necessarily agree that the knitter has to receive money.
    I am test knitting a pattern right now (you can see it on my blog – it’s the Wrought Iron Cardigan by Stephannie Tallent). I am not getting money in exchange for the test. What I am getting is free access to a gorgeous pattern that I was dying to knit, and I’m knitting it before it is published in a book by Cooperative Press. I would have had to spend at least $17 to buy the electronic book (more if I bought the hard copy book)…and I would have gladly paid that to knit this sweater.
    I guess I’m saying that I am being compensated, in intangibles (and with a free pattern). Getting the pattern early and for free is more than adequate compensation for me because I was going to knit the sweater regardless. I think that people who volunteer to test knit “for free” feel that getting early access and a free pattern is more than adequate compensation for something they would pay to knit later. So, in reality, everyone who test knits is getting compensation, just not in the way that you suggest it should be (money).
    I worry that shaming the industry into putting a dollar amount on test knitting might make the cost of designing patterns too high. I also think that it takes away the right of knitters and designers to barter for the compensation they want, be it free patterns, yarn, a discount on patterns/product, etc. Anyway, that’s my two cents. I think you should let your many volunteer knitters set their compensation at what they want it to be.
    Interesting post!

  386. We are our worse ennemies…why are we NOT worth our salt? Why should we not be paid for work done?… Why is it that when a field of work or a profession becomes dominated by female workers, the pay scale slides? Test knitting, like testing recipes for a cookbook, is valid employment!!!!!

  387. I think it’s appropriate to pay for someone to do a job for you. Then you set the rate, standard of production, and expectation of outcome along with the timeline. It’s the professional thing to do.
    It’s the same for any hobby that is also an industry. Some people do it for love and others do it for the money. There’s room in the world for those who do it for love and those who do it for money.
    One time at a professional development workshop, the facilitator asked, ‘what would you do if you got a job doing your favorite hobby.’ I raised my hand and said, “get a new hobby.” Apparently that was the wrong answer, but I still believe it is still correct. When you do something for a living, then the release/joy/personal standard need to come from somewhere else. When your hobby is done for someone else’s money, the power dynamic changes, the attitude changes, and the necessity of doing it changes.
    I think what the comments indicate is that there’s a fear that what is beloved about knitting will be taken away if there’s a standard of pay, deadlines etc. That is true, it probably would, but it doesn’t make the necessity of paid work any less.

  388. I think (or do I hope?) it’s basically a misunderstanding – a number of designers set up their testknitting as a form of ‘early-onset-subscription-only-KAL’, where the pattern is basically written already, you are supposed to use your own yarn and have no obligation except written feedback. And if you don’t give any, well, …. Huge number of so-called testknitters, half of whom never even start.
    What you were looking for was skilled work, on a deadline, maybe even with the obligation to hand in the product. And you’d probably only have one to three testknitters, relying on them to actually perform on time. Different things, those.

  389. This struck a chord with me, because of what previous comments say about perceived “women’s work” and “professionalism” and what they mean today. As a librarian who spend several thousand pounds (I’m British) doing a master’s degree in librarianship in order to be qualified, I find it really offensive that today in Britain local government is closing down public libraries only to reopen them entirely staffed by volunteers. This is due to a total misunderstanding and devaluing of the skills, knowledge and training required to be a professional librarian.
    I see a similar argument going on here, but I think there has to be some balance – some people who ask for free test knitters do it because they are starting out as designers, and genuinely can’t afford to immediately pay a professional. So free test knitters can be really important. Test knitters in these circumstances get a free pattern and get the pattern in advance of its general release. But if you’re a professional designer, I’d have thought that a professional test knitter might be a better fit for you anyway, as they may have more experience and be more readily able to work to your timescales.
    This is in no way meant to offend people who volunteer either in a library or for test knitting – it’s great that you do it! But I think there is value in professionalism and it needs to be recognised.

  390. Since knitting is just a fun hobby for me, I don’t think of it as something that money comes into much (except of course for the aforementioned ungodly amounts of yarn…) If a friend wanted a test knit, I’d undertake it for free. However, if I, like you, made a living with my knitting, then I would certainly take test knitting more seriously (doing or receiving). I highly doubt that I’ll ever be a good enough knitter to actually do test knitting and I can’t even follow a pattern, let alone write one, but if someone were to pay me for my work, I would approach it that way–as work. And yes, the results would probably be much better and certainly more fit for publishing.

  391. Hmmmmm. Ya know, Steph, Organizing (big “O”) is also a respectable and necessary profession. Knitting could use an organizer. You are the pied piper of knitting. Seems quite a natural progression. How about it? Organize us and we will not only pay you for your efforts, but we will also knit for fair wages.

  392. You’ve been called out on this blog post on Ravelry. Your name wasn’t mentioned but your entire post was cut, pasted and weirdly criticized.

  393. You are so right, Stephanie! Knitting is STILL viewed by much of our society as a female hobby, or something their granny does. It’s past time to get rid of this attitude, and by offering fair pay to true professionals for their work, this is validating their skills. I work in a yarn shop, and I get this attitude sometimes; isn’t it cute that she gets to play with yarn for a living? It’s not really like that, it’s hard work some days! Yes, it has it’s really great benefits, being surrounded by beautiful fibres and like-minded knitters every day, but it’s also a business. People need to recognize this, and treat it as such.

  394. The european in me feels the need to explain that free health care does NOT mean that health care workers are expected to work for free (people, use common sense. Our doctors and nurses want to eat,too!). It means that helth care is provided for by means of taxes or an insurance, so that there is no direct cost per visit.

  395. Good points, but I think people test knit for free for the best reward of all – FREE MUST HAVE PATTERN! 🙂

  396. I agree with you Stephanie, test knitters should be paid. They are professionals, just like designers are. As a knitter, when I purchase a pattern I expect it to be error free; that’s what I’m paying for.
    The problem, as many comments point out, is that knitting is very labor intensive, and if a knitter is to be paid a living wage then the cost of knitting up a pattern will be very high. So be it. We pay mechanics and plumbers and electricians and lawyers and accountants and on and on and on, because we value the professional expertise they hold in their chosen field. The same with test knitters. Just because I can knit from a pattern does not mean that I can knit from the pattern, correct the errors, and produce a well-knit sample piece under a tight deadline. That’s what a professional does, and he or she should be compensated appropriately.

  397. A wee bit late on this discussion, but I’m going to weigh in firmly on the side that someone who is knitting as a job deserves to get paid fairly for that job. While I’m at it, so do all the other people out there whose “hobbies” are saleable, everything from metals, to glass, to wood, to fiber and everything in between. We all strive, every day, to make the best possible product for our customers.

  398. Thank you for this post. I appreciate how clearly you show how these qualities need to be included in everyone’s work and personal lives: respect, value, accountability. And we can do those things and be kind to each other at the same time.

  399. You’ve made some great points! It wasn’t until recently that I could call myself a professional knitter, but to be paid to knit something totally changes 1) the way I view the project I’m knitting and 2) how I approach it from a financial stand point. While most of my customers are friends (and it can feel awkward at first to charge friends to knit something for them), the more I do it the clearer it is that this is business. My time and skills are valuable, and I’m being payed to performa a service that this person either can’t or doesn’t have time to do on their own.
    I’ve looked into test knitting before, and I firmly believe that the test knitter should be compensated in a way that both the designer and knitter feel comfortable with. It’s a business. The test knitter is providing a service, taking time and their skills (learned over an extended period of time) to assist the designer in making a better product.
    Thanks for raising some significant points and keeping the industry professional.

    Seriously, in Europe we are having huge problems with Youth Unemployment and one of the main issues that is facing us (youths) is that we are expected to go from one internship to another unpaid and just be happy that we are getting the experience. Experiential opportunities are great! But not at the cost of reducing working standards! Bravo Stephanie I say!
    Oh and come and do some book tours at this side of the pond soon please!

  401. Someday I’d love to be able to pay test knitters! I’m working on it! So far, my pattern sales haven’t even reimbursed me for the yarn I used to knit the original, but I think they’re pretty good designs and I’m optimistic! Hopefully, as I write more, I’ll get more traffic to my pattern pages. I’m so grateful for my friends who volunteered (without being asked) to test knit as I was finishing writing up each pattern.

  402. Great insightful thoughts! I have learned to prefer better written patterns, which you generally get from paid patterns. I also wish their was an industry standard because the issue works both ways. I agreed to test knit for a sock book coming out. The directions were practically non-existent. She wanted us to figure out how much to increase and when, what looked best, etc. Basically take the stitch pattern she found and make a sock out of it. This was back in May and I have yet to see payment for the ‘test knitting’. So I am all in favor of a standard. I have stayed away from test knitting since this experience. 🙁

  403. you’re paying people to provide you a skilled service – I think it’s odd that anyone would find this worng

  404. Stephanie, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your perspective on this. My best friend–a professional musician–has been dealing with this for the last three years. Certain people want her-a PhD musician with 3 college degrees– to come to their venue and play for free, or for very low pay. “Most musicians play for free, so you should, too.”
    Quality workers keep their profession’s standards high by being appropriately paid for their work. Sure, it’s fine if hobbyists want to be involved, but the best work is done by people who take the quality of their work extremely seriously, fit the rest of their lives around their work schedule, meet deadlines, and actually have to live off the proceeds of their work output.

  405. Well said! People should be paid for what is, indeed, work.
    You run into this a lot in the performing arts business. “Oh, you can sing at this *insert event here* for free, the exposure will be great for you!” um, no, I don’t need exposure, I need to be paid, thanks. And then if one person does it for free, the next person will be expected to do it for free, and so on . . . and it can be difficult to tell what one should charge . . .
    Anyway, go you for researching the proper compensation. (And yes, I would totally do a test knit for money.)

  406. I totally agree with you. It’s the same in dancing (I’m a dancer), music or any other kind of art. If you want a professional, you have to pay a professional. Artists give a peace of themselves in any kind of art, be it a design, a performance or just plain, had work, and they all deserve to get something back for their efford. Feedback, applause and encouragement are wonderful, but as you say: Someone has to pay the rend.
    And despite all happy hippie tree-huging I usually prefer, paying money is a way to show respect for other peoples work. And it’s typical for women to “help, be nice and do it for free”, isn’t it?

  407. Well said! I am a “professional” knitter who is proud to work in the industry. I did change my cards to read “custom knitter” to not scare off clients in my small town. I do samples for stores and their windows and have been able to maintain a standard by refusing to produce for people who only want to pay what the yarn costs.

  408. I may have missed someone else mentioning this, but when I’ve test knit, I’ve not only looked at it as helping another knitter and a chance to get first crack at a pattern, but I’ve also seen it as an opportunity to learn from another knitter. In that way, being a test knitter is sort of like an apprenticeship. You may be a talented knitter with the skills to knit and to understand directions (and find errors) but you may never have tried designing something on your own. It helps to learn from someone who has. To me, at this time, there is a benefit to test knitting even if I’m not paid. This might change with time and experience.
    I also think we need to recognize the difference between the hobbyist and the professional. There are so many hobbyists who are making money with their hobby, thanks to the internet, that they might not have realized that they are professionals and need to act accordingly.

  409. Inquiring minds want to know (since I’m trying to figure out a rate to pay test knitters/sample knitters), did you figure out a standard/going rate?

  410. I can prove your point from the other side. On a certain website, there was a call put out for test knitters, and clearly this designer was expecting 5-6 people to test knit this pattern, in return for receiving the pattern free and before everyone else.
    I thought it would be a fun lark, and agreed to be one of the test knitters. Unfortunately, my life got crazy about that same time, and it was a horrid pattern–way too fiddly and I simply did not enjoy it.
    I felt no obligation under the circumstances, since it was a very casual arrangement, and so, after finishing less than half the pattern, I wrote to the designer and said, “Sorry,this isn’t working out for me.” I imagine she got someone else or felt she had enough other knitters, and there was no problem or criticism on her part.
    But my attitude would have been quite different if we had contracted for pay. Sad to admit on my part, since I’m all about commitment and so forth, but that instance proved the point that you get what you pay for.

  411. I’m not sure I understand the question. Of course you pay test knitters. I don’t make a living writing patterns, but I have written some patterns… and the people who’ve tested them for me were “paid” even if it was more barter.
    They knit my pattern, I gave them yarn (and the finished object after it had been photographed).
    I figure if you have money to pay, then pay money, but if you don’t, barter can be a professional agreement. (Consider that I’ve paid in “hand knit wool socks” to have my driveway plowed, and have been paid in “ham” and “bakery” and “plants” for fixing computers… times are hard, and we all do what we can.)

  412. I think this has something to do with our attitude towards knitting. In the past, if I were complimented on something I had knit, I would shrug it off and say it was nothing. Now, I’m more conscious of the effort and the skill it takes to knit well and I’m more willing to accept praise or to let others know that I am proud of my work. I think you are right that if you are interested in putting forth a quality product (ie pattern), then you have to enlist quality support.
    The only problem with this is that I am now considering a change in career to professional pattern tester.

  413. wow -nothing like an innocent remark to start a controversy. But that’s how we advance as a society – the free exchange of ideas. For what it’s worth, I’m with you: there’s professional and there’s favor – let’s not mix up the two.

  414. Steph, as a former HR Manager turned LYS owner, I completely agree with you from both sides of this arguement. People need to be paid accordingly for their skills and experience. It’s a wonderful idea to compensate an individual for their work. As most LYS’s are a comfy place to hang out with other knitters/crocheters alike, people need to remember that this is a business like any other. Sally Forth girlfriend! I’m behind you.

  415. If we are all proud enough to be seen (in fact, make a point of being seen) knitting in public, why are we not proud enough to take pride in and be paid for a specialized skill set that we have taken time to develop? I wish knitters would quit downplaying what they do by saying “Oh, I’m JUST knitting” and start being proud of what they dy by saying “Yes, I am knitting. Can anyone do it? Sure, but it DOES take time, patience and practice to develop this skill.”

  416. And this professional aspect of the knitting industry clearly makes the case for NOT copying and sharing patterns. BUY them so we can continue to have well designed, written and tested patterns created by people who are well compensated for their professional work.

  417. If I were to do test knitting, I think I would ask for some % of the profits from the sell of the pattern. The pattern author doesn’t have to shell out money before income and the knitter has a chance of getting a fair return on their time.

  418. Stephanie,
    I have knitted for over 50 years. I found your comments about test knitters very upsetting and disappointing. What happened to the fun and friendship in knitting?
    Many designers struggle with many challenges in getting out their designs. Your comments are far too general. I have seen many designs with no personal touches – too professional.
    You have done well by knitting – why would slam those of us who enjoy knitting and the wonderful people we have met?
    Your comments were far too negative. I will not be reading any more of your publications 🙁

  419. Amen sister! I couldn’t agree more with every word you typed. I’ve felt this way for a long time about test knitting and all other knitting services. I have knit items for money for people before, and it ends up being way, way, way below minimum wage when all is said and done, and I’m supposed to be ok with that because I enjoyed the process? I don’t think so. There are a lot of times when I enjoy my day job, but if my employer told me they were going to pay me minimum wage or less because I was having a good time, I’d be out of there before you could say “cheap”. Just because it’s knitting and not plumbing, teaching, selling, etc. does not make it ok.

  420. Everyone who is disagreeing or who is hurt by Stephanie’s comments PLEASE go back and read the entire post again. She is trying to maintain respect for knitting, not the other way around!

  421. Holy Cow. In this economy who would have thought that so many people would object to a little pocket money doing what they love? Wow. Stephanie, I understand where you were coming from just trying to be fair and have someone earn a little cash for their efforts as a lot of businesses do.

  422. I have nothing against paying a test knitter. I feel if you are spending your time doing it you should get a little something. Now as for me I love the barter system. Getting paid with yarn is my favorite. I have and still do get paid for things I knit and I do find when you are getting paid for it you care more about it and spend more time working on it. So you can always pay me. 🙂

  423. Stephanie, you are more than fair. I’m surprised at all the folks out there who aren’t looking at their handicraft with as high a value as you are. This same scenario occurred around a number of now well-respected professions, including mine: writing.
    I can understand that many knitters see their hobby as a non work-related effort, and that’s their right, but have a little respect for those who do see it as a business.

  424. This just boggles my mind. If my supervisor came up to me and said, “hey, do you want to do -insert infrequent but really enjoyable task-?”, I’d probably say yes. If they also said, “Oh by the way, you also get overtime pay to do -really enjoyable task-“, I would not say “OH but -task- is SO ENJOYABLE I should do it for free!”

  425. I don’t read your blog, usually, but my wife does, and she sent me the link to this post as a happy diversion from my work day.
    I think you make some excellent points about the nature of professionalism and the appropriateness of adopting standards for the profession of knitting. What’s interesting to me, though, is the continued response from your faithful readers. It demonstrates how locked-in we are into our current way of thinking about “work.” Work is to be evaluated hourly, it is not to be fun, and it is to be part of the whole, as in, it is to be a minor contribution to an industry rather than a major contribution to an act of creation. It does not, of course, have to be that way.

  426. This is a wonderful post. I wholeheartedly agree that test knitters should be paid, because there are expectations and a dedicated level of professionalism that should take place. It’s a definite need for knitters that are doing this for money to be taken seriously because it IS A JOB for some people. For many people this may be their only source of income.
    The LYS that I work at barters yarn for sample knitting for the store. No one does it for free, except the owner, who has to dedicate a lot of time to producing great and inspiring samples. It’s wonderful that there are people out there that are just “nice” about knitting. I guess I’m not that nice because I usually have at least 5 other projects going, plus grad school, plus work, so if it wasn’t something I was being paid for, it wouldn’t be worth my time.
    As for paying for patterns…a lot of patterns aren’t much more than the price of a fancy cup of coffee. Free patterns are great too, but paying people for patterns also allows them the means to continue to focus on putting more great patterns out there.

  427. What a timely read. Just yesterday at work (I’m a librarian) I was having a discussion with a colleague about how much I dislike having volunteers doing work in our library. Now, we have plenty of actual volunteer work that people can do through our Friends of the Library group, but I don’t like having volunteers doing work that library employees are paid to do. Libraries are easy targets for town governments when it comes to cutting budgets – so why are we adding more fuel to the fire? Budget time will roll around, and the finance board will say, “well, why are we PAYING people to shelve books? Volunteers can do that!” And maybe shelving books is a small thing, but where does it end? Processing new books? Repairing books? Heck, why do we pay people to work in the library AT ALL? Surely volunteers can check things in and out.
    It’s a slippery slope I’d like to stay off of, personally.

  428. Why not just give a standard X% of your profits to the test knitter(s) – kind of like how a song writer gets a percentage of what the record company makes from a professionally recorded version of their song? That seems the easiest way to account for the various levels of “professional pattern maker” out there.

  429. I know I’m about the 500th commenter, but I totally agree with what you’re saying, and it’s true for all the arts. The lay (non-artist) public has NO IDEA what goes in to create whatever it is that the artist is attempting to sell. Artists MUST begin to price their work to cover all costs (including, in this instance, test knitting), then top that with whatever profit the artist thinks is fair. Shoddy, incomplete, or incompetent work is not tolerated in any other field, yet knitting patterns are notoriously rife with errors. How can we not believe this is because the test knitting done to proof the patterns results in the publication of incorrect instructions? Pattern designers should hire, and pay for, professional test knitters. Professional test knitters, like all professionals, should be held to rigorous standards. The publishers of pattern books should REQUIRE the patterns to be professionally test-knitted. The frustration level of all knitters world-wide would certainly diminish if this were so.

  430. This is the exact argument I’ve heard over and over in relation to writing and whether people should get paid for it. Here as there, it’s really up to the individual involved if she’s willing to exchange her creativity and labor (words or knitting) for good feelings and an entertaining evening or whether she’d like something more tangible.
    And as with writing there will probably always be people who don’t want to pay, and always people who are willing to.

  431. I want the patterns I select to be easy to follow and error-free. Having a professional test knitter who has developed skills in pattern evaluation will cut down on errata. The time to knit a garment expands when a test knitter critiques the pattern and notes issues and errors and should be appropriately compensated.

  432. I’ve actually felt the same way as you for a long while. I’m looking towards working in the knitting/yarn/craft industry one day (as soon as I can figure out how to mix my tech-savvy nature with my love of knitting), and on several occasions I have knit items for coworkers/friends/family for a price. I labored hard to find a reasonable wage to make up for both the time I put into it and the cost of materials (because even superwash merino baby blankets can get pretty expensive when using indie dyed yarn).
    I think it’s great to be kind and want to gift items to those that warm your heart, but if you are offering your skills as a service you should take that seriously. I understand not all designers can afford to pay for test knitters, but it’s not always about money. If you can’t pay, a barter system is more than OK for some knitters. Similarly, if the test knitter doesn’t demand to get treated like a professional (no matter how nice/loving/caring/warm/fuzzy/sweet….etc. that person is), then the worth of the skill really goes down.
    When is the last time you gave a gift to someone that you lovingly spent hours on knitting just to get the look of “Oh, this is nice. Where did you buy it?”. That’s a compliment to your skill, and lets you know that the person would willingly PAY for that object. We should be willing to SELL our skills for a reasonable price.

  433. I think you are right about payment giving rise to a certain obligation for timeliness and good work. When something is just a favor work gets slack and self expectations are lowered. I do think there is something to be said for doing a service, normally paid for, for someone who simply can’t afford it. Even there though, sometimes one has to fight the urge to do less because the service is free.

  434. it never ceases to amaze me the things that people choose to get cranked up about. it seems they’re pissed about being offered money to do their craft. you’re being a business owner by offering to pay someone to do work for you. I don’t see a problem here at all. ridiculous to get nuts about. personally, I am offered money to knit for people quite often and I refuse. I want to knit for pleasure, and being a process knitter vs. a product knitter, who knows how long it would take me to produce what the person wants (I also suffer from knitter’s ADD, so being confined to a project until it’s done is like jail to me). plus, I like keeping my knitting in the hobby category, rather than a work category. but that’s just me. stick to your guns, Steph. you’re not wrong.

  435. I believe you have the right idea. I want to pay for a pattern without errors. I know where human beings are involved there are always going to be errors but when someone has done their utmost to not have those errors occur – I appreciate the effort. For those of us who are knitting for the joy and as a hobby, I know that the money aspect (except for spending so much on our hobby) might seem to muddy the waters. Those whose income is dependent upon the income of knitting whether it be designers, test knitters or tech writers etc. should be given fair value for their endeavors. Good job!

  436. Speaking about women knitters specifically – I think as women, we often undervalue the work we do. Because knitting is somewhat domestic (keeping you and yours warm), we don’t consider it “real” work. It’s unfortunate, really.

  437. Commie no –
    but pinko (not sure what that is)- maybe
    tree hugging hippie – I absolutely am!!!
    I agree with you whole heartedly. Someone said – lucky is the man or woman who truely loves what they do for a living!!! Why shouldn’t people make a living in the fiber industry? I wish I had found my calling much earlier in life and could now be counted among the lucky few to do so!!!!
    Keep on Keeping on Stephanie. You Rock!!!

  438. Man, you always get me thinking. There is clearly distaste in the idea of being paid to do something you love, as though payment is a compensation only for boring, 9-5 jobs. Frankly, I would never want to mix the things I do as a hobby with business. I’d hate to be a film reviewer, I’d hate to open a bookstore and never have time or joy in reading again, and I’ve been an editor/proofreader and guess what, sure you get paid, but I don’t want to “work” that book, you’d rather read another. And the same for knitting .. it would be a hard slog being a test knitter and I can see it would require submitting your skills in your beloved hobby to the demands of a pattern you haven’t chosen, being the ‘hands’ of a different knitter, making notes everywhere, and in the end being a further 3 weeks away from your own beloved knitting. If I did this, I’d want to be paid fairly but .. because it’s my beloved hobby, I’d never want to do it. I’ll bet a lot of craftspeople GET this, especially those who are in, or rub shoulders, with the business side of things.

  439. I believe that test knitting is a job and should come with a pay cheque. I admire you for wanting to pay someone to do this important job.

  440. Fortunate is the person who is paid to do what they love.
    I have published a few (three) patterns on ravelry, and I even have one of them for sale! I know how much I agonized over the details to be certain they were easy to read and had no errors.
    One day, when I grow up and become a full-time knitter/designer, I will glady pay someone to test-knit my ideas and help me get it right.

  441. Oh, I am SO with you on this! I make a living doing commission work, test knitting, working at a yarn shop, and doing all kinds of random knitting jobs. I don’t get paid nearly what I’m worth, but at least I get paid. (Actually, I’m really happy with my commission rate – 20 cents a yard plus the cost of yarn – it works out to a very reasonable price, I feel.) It makes it damn near impossible for me to support myself when everyone wants me to do my work for free, or refuses to pay my very reasonable rates!

  442. Nothing frustrates me more than seeing handknit items selling for amounts that equal pennies an hour for the labor to create them. And these people will go on the defense “But I like to knit, and I’m going to knit anyway, so if I can make enough to buy more yarn…” They are undervaluing their time and talents. And the problem with this is that the general public learns to EXPECT that from all of us. Test knitters working for free? Again, then the general public will expect that, and that is, as you wonderfully covered in this entry, not treating our skills with respect.
    Well said!

  443. Stephanie,
    Amen!! In this day and time, the “starving artist” should be a thing of the past, and knitting (and other fiber arts) should provide more than just a pittance for those participants to “get by”. Nothing wrong with volunteering if the artist cannot pay, but as you pointed out…most can. Thanks for stepping up and making a statement!

  444. I hate to sound like a ditto head, but your are right about paying people for the work that they do. People out there have an idea that because it is a hobby for most, anything that is associated with the hobby should be cheap or free. Somer Sherwood wrote a great blog about it http://www.somersherwood.com/?p=126
    I have a hard time getting my mother to charge a fair price for the work she does quilting, and it is her main income now. She started it as a hobby and decided to put lots of money into buying expensive equipment so she could do it for a living after she retired from teaching and now has a hard time asking people to pay what her time is really worth. It is not like we have a union for crafting that can help with setting standards for pay or working conditions. Maybe it is time for the crafting industry to set up a union like the screen actors guild that will help with this?

  445. I loved your comment about some knitters spending so much on yarn & not wanting to pay for patterns. I can’t get that logic. I love buying patterns direct from the designer–it’s a talent that I admire. I believe I’ve bought a couple of yours too 🙂

  446. I agree that it is a job. You are preforming work on a project assigned to you to the specifications of the designer.
    That being said. I have answered many calls for test knitters and taken on over 10 projects or which only one even provided me yarn for the project I was knitting.
    I think there is nothing wrong with acknowledging these people are preforming services and therefore being compensated.
    It has quickly become the norm that test knitters should accept the project for free without even compensation of yarn because they have been selected by a “knowledgeable” and designer.
    If anyone feels this is not what has been going on of late fill out for test knitting with many designers under 2 names. In one just ask for the test knit, in the other ask how much the project pays and what is required, with that.. see which email receives a response. 🙂
    Thanks for bringing this forth for discussion. I am not sure how many actually realize by being ask to test knit for free they are being taken advantage of for the possibility that a designer may mention their name.

  447. Am I the only one feeling bad for people who feel that getting paid for something will ruin the fun. I guess that I should be feeling more thankful that I have been able to have jobs that I looked forward to going to everyday. I’m glad that didn’t exempt me from being paid.
    The thing I love about you is that you aren’t afraid to express your thoughts and then you have the willingness to let everyone dialogue about it thus getting us all to think about things in different ways. Thank you for being open-minded, thoughtful and so wonderfully expressive.

  448. But there *is* an industry standard for paying test knitters. I test knit for a couple LYSs, and it’s 15-35 cents per yard of yarn. The range depends on the complexity of the knit. Every LYSO and pattern designer I’ve talked to (admittedly, my sample is limited both in size and geography – mostly the greater Detroit area) has been within this range.

  449. I know you didn’t mean to make people laugh, but I did have to giggle at the “you’re not a professional knitter if you don’t get paid” remark . . . these folks need to look up what professional means – in any resource! And as a professional educator, when everyone thinks they can teach and why should we pay someone to teach (?!?!) I think the skill of knitting (or teaching) is valued more when it is paid for.

  450. You’re right. I’ve done sample knitting, but it was to showcase a yarn and not to test a pattern. I did get paid, and I requested it be in yarn because, dude, I love yarn. We’ve never agreed to the payment terms up front, and I’ve always done it because I love yarn and want to contribute to the business side of knitting in my own tiny way (and from my couch). The terms probably should have been agreed to before I started knitting.
    And you are very right about paying for patterns, and I admit that I am guilty of trying to find free patterns and scoffing at the (very reasonable ) price of patterns. Thanks for bringing this up. I will try to be more reasonable and just–for the love of wool–pay the $5 for the awesome pattern. Intellectual property matters.
    Thanks again for starting this conversation!

  451. Reading this today re-affirmed why I love to read your blog! I’m just an uninsured (liberal who’d love help), former nursing Mom offended by formula from (not my) pediatriacian, and I would expect payment for anything knit with a deadline. My time is valuable. Would, of course, barter for copies of your books. 😉

  452. This is directed to the commenter WAY above who tried to compare Bob the plumber’s situation to a doctor offering free health care.
    In the UK, we have free health care but, believe me, the doctors don’t do it for free. 🙂 No idea what the differences are between private and NHS (state funded) doctors’ salaries but I doubt either group struggles to make a living (rightly so – valuable work, lengthy training and all that).
    Private health care is available for those who can (and want) to pay for it so the “competition” and “motivation” is still there.
    Sure, our local hospital looks nothing like House’s hospital (man, those lovely green walls and works of art…) but I would sacrifice interior decor for the fact that a long-term illness (without insurance) is unlikely to bankrupt me.
    Karen (Scotland)

  453. I figure it’s like baby sitting. I love kids- esp. babies. I’m glad to watch my friends’ little ones whenever it works in my schedule. However, if you want me to reserve a time in my busy life to watch your kids, then you should expect to pay me a decent wage.
    If you don’t want the money, give it to the local food pantry or somewhere that can really use it.

  454. Loads of people don’t seem to be able to understand that yarn and fiber is a legitimate industry and not just a hobby. Most of us “professionals” started out as a hobby and just grew from there. Indeed testing knitting is a job. I have been a test knitter for a few designers and I must say it is more difficult than one thinks. When we knit for ourselves if we come up a few stitches off count we just fix it. That is not the case in test knitting. you must knit the item exactly as the pattern says word for word, count for count or line by line in charts. The desginer needs to know if it works out right as written or what needs to be fixed.
    I have been paid in yarn and in cash and fully appreciate both methods.

  455. I’m in the same camp as you are, despite my dislike (for whatever reason) for the word professional.
    If, because knitting is fun, you should not expect remuneration, does that mean that anyone who is lucky enough to have a paying job doing something that’s fun for them shouldn’t be taking money for it?
    Hardly. They should just count themselves blessed to get paid for doing something they’d do for free.
    Kinda the best way to decide what you want to do in life.
    My dear b-in-law is a professional illustrator; he gets paid to draw. What does he do for fun? He draws.
    He’s blessed.
    Most of the code nerds I know code all day at work for pay and then go home and code for free. The whole open source movement is based upon the fact that this is FUN for them.’

  456. While it may seem that knitting and middle eastern dance aren’t related, I can tell you the same argument has been re-hashed in that community for the past 40 years that I know of, and the same kinds of comments get made.
    “But I just love to dance (knit) and why shouldn’t I perform in this restaurant for free?” Because you are taking a job from someone who does this professionally, who has trained and worked and spent heaps of money on classes and costumes and music, and who supports her family this way.
    It’s always the professionals with ethics and standards who try to elevate the profession by using contracts, setting up pay scales, and working out the details that make it economically viable. And it’s the amateurs who “just want to do what they love” that, knowingly or not, make it harder and harder for pros to make a living.
    So dance (or knit) for your friends and families, but please have respect for those who have taken it to the next level of commitment. Surviving in a non-traditional business environment is tough enough in good times, and in hard times is even more challenging.
    “Amateur” is someone who loves what they are doing, but doesn’t support themselves with it – it’s an avocation. Doesn’t mean the quality of the product is inferior, but the commitment is different if it’s your livelihood.

  457. I never thought about payment for knitting per yard. Makes a great deal of sense, when you consider trying to keep track of time, or choosing a flat fee. Though I’m sure what I would set for my per yard charge for angora or mohair would take me out of the pool.
    As for the whole “do it for free” thing – well, if the end result were fundraising for a charity, or a charity-knit pattern someone wanted to post, that might be reasonable. But if the end result is for whoever (designer, store owner, publisher, etc.) to make money, then the test knitter should be in on it as well.
    Bravo to you Stephanie. We’re talking about a professional endeavor here, not a kids’ summer camp craft project.

  458. What an excellent post! And, eye opening for this hobby knitter. I have no issue paying for yarn and have myself disappointed when a pattern wasn’t free, but no longer! I, a passionate knitter, forgot the professional side of all this. Shame on me!
    My girlfriend and I had a similar conversation to this, although a different topic, the point is the same. I take care of her daughter a few times a month to break up the grandmother routine and she was discussing payment for my services. I told her not to worry, we’re friends and I’m happy to help. She countered that when I’m taking care of her baby, I’m more than her friend, I’m her child’s caregiver. It was a job now. Your test knitters are crossing that line as well and are doing a job for you. Payment is reasonable.
    Now, I’m off to pay for tho patterns I’ve been pining for and won’t balk at the price a bit. Thank you for the kick to the pants! 🙂

  459. Dearest, most amazing woman, I don’t add to your comments usually because there are already so many for you to wade through, but today I am because this one little voice from the eastern seaboard of the US faithfully follows your life’s adventures and always admires your passionate, logical, and unselfish point of view. And on this topic, as on all others you’ve expressed your opinion, you are see the big picture and patiently explain to your readers how the real world works. THANK YOU!! I pray you continue to find time to share yourself in this format for many many more years…let’s grow old together, shall we?
    Your loving admirerer,
    Linda B

  460. I had heard podcasters who were “test knitting” state that the project got no attention that week because they were too busy or not interested. That is a hobby, not a job. A professional test knitter would complete the job – because it is a job, not a hobby. And you get paid for jobs!

  461. A feast for thought here. How about test knitters who want to do it to learn something? Isn’t test-knitting a designer’s pattern in order to see how her design-mind works, and perhaps learn a new technique, a little like taking a class from said designer? In a very small way? That’s not to say it shouldn’t be paid work, I’m just throwing the question into the mix. Also, remember how much fun it is to be the first to do or see something.
    Thank you for bringing all this to our attention for discussion.

  462. Really good essay Stephanie. I think it’s part of being an artist-getting other people, and yourself, to take what you do seriously. Being paid a decent wage is part of that. Ask me how I know! (Whole family is professional musicians!)

  463. Dearest, most amazing woman, I don’t add to your comments usually because there are already so many for you to wade through, but today I am because this one little voice from the eastern seaboard of the US faithfully follows your life’s adventures and always admires your passionate, logical, and unselfish point of view. And on this topic, as on all others you’ve expressed your opinion, you see the big picture and patiently explain to your readers how the real world works. THANK YOU!! I pray you continue to find time to share yourself in this format for many many more years…let’s grow old together, shall we?
    Your loving admirerer,
    Linda B

  464. I was a test knitter and designer for yarn manufacturers for over 10 years and you bet I got paid and paid well or I didn’t accept the job. I had a business to run and expected fair compensation for my 40 years of daily knitting experience. I am dedicated, pay attention and never missed a due date. Having said that, it is not a high paying job and is very inconsistent due to everyone needing their items at the same time for trade shows. Most of the well paying consistent work, which was mass producing one garment for many yarn shops, has been sent overseas so those options are no longer available and my fiber business is reduced to one manufacturer who pays an actual fair wage for my services. Sometimes I get 5 projects a year, sometimes 8, sometimes none. You have to be willing to drop whatever it is you are doing and jump on the project because it’s needed back within a matter of weeks for a show or photo shoot and it has to be perfect. People who offer to do this job for free give their talent no value, which is just sad. It’s kind of like selling baskets I make. I go to local craft shows and see a $125.00 basket for sale for $45.00. I know it took the person 2-3 days to make each one plus had the cost of supplies. When asked how they keep their prices so low, every single person has said “Oh I just do it to keep busy, if I make any money at it, it”s a bonus.” ………..
    It is true that there is no standard of payment set up for test knitters. It all depends on how big the manufacturer or design name is and what they can afford. Reputation and references help with pricing but not a great deal due to those who are willing to do the work for free. If test knitting by hand is done correctly, it is a tedious job that requires focused attention to all aspects of the written pattern you are testing and it is very hard not to take for granted what you think will come next but to actually knit only from reading that pattern while keeping stitch and row gauge consistent to the pattern requirements.
    As I said, I don’t test knit anymore and will admit I have been enjoying getting things done for myself. I do sincerely thank you for bringing this issue to the masses. I don’t know of anyone who still test knits by hand but there used to be a good group of us that had a thriving business. It was amazing while it lasted and I will always have fond memories of my business knitting days. While I worked hard for the checks, it was a great home business. I hope you find someone in your own city to test knit for you so issues can be resolved right away and in person if need be. Thanks for listening and good luck!

  465. I’ve been mulling over this post all day, truth be told. I agree with what you have to say, completely and whole-heartedly.
    But then, I’ve done some test-knitting and was not paid for it. It was for a pattern that would eventually be released as part of a paid-for kit. The designer provided me with the yarn, as part of the point was testing it with the yarn that would go in the kit. I got to keep the mittens at the end of the process, but didn’t otherwise receive remuneration.
    The reason that this didn’t bother me (besides the fact that the designer is someone I consider a friend) is that this was the first time I’d ever done any test-knitting. I’m not a professional knitter and have no intention of ever being one. Despite that, I am a competent knitter and excellent proofreader (which is something I do as part of my job). I had no doubts that I’d be able to test-knit, troubleshoot and proofread. I knew that I’d be able to meet the designer’s deadline. But I didn’t feel that I had the right to charge for providing a professional service when I’m not a professional. It’d be like cleaning out a scraped knee and then charging a nurse’s fee. Sure, I can do that, but I don’t have the training and expertise to do anything beyond that. I couldn’t have put in stitches in the hypothetical knee any more than I could have done serious tech editing on the pattern.
    I suppose that my experience was rather like a test-knitting internship. The designer knew that there were limits to my competence. I knew that problems might arise that I didn’t know how to fix. I did the test-knitting that was in the agreed-upon framework. I got experience of test-knitting, she got her pattern proofed. I don’t think that the transaction was unprofessional in any way, despite the fact that no payment changed hands.

  466. If you are unsure that it is possible to make a living doing something you love, check out etsy’s Quit Your Day Job series. http://www.etsy.com/blog/en/tags/etsy-success-qydj/ (I hope it’s okay to put the link there. I’m not selling, I’m just saying).
    Love of my work is what I aspire to in my life and I expect to be paid even to do what I love. You don’t have to be paid to do anything, but we can create more sustainable, valuable, quality systems in the world if there is an expectation of reasonable monetary compensation for good work and time, no matter what the work is. We already see what happens when you devalue basic industries, i.e. agriculture and education.

  467. Brilliant, as usual.
    I, personally, don’t want to be a paid test knitter because if I accepted the pay then I would consider myself obligated to knit it the way the pattern is written. Which I never do.

  468. Hooray! Payment for fibre ( or other) artists. Good grief – we pay for machine knitting of awful yarns into awful garments – and usually the labor is out of the country. You pay for knit items at a craft fair. If you work for a professional, are working at the level the professional demands, then you too, as a test-knitter, editor, web designer, envelope stuffer, publisher, buyer, travel coordinator, hotel owner, bar server, etc. should be paid for your skill and knowledge. Yeah, baby!

  469. Unfortunately, I think this is true of any of the ‘arts.’ My husband is a professional musician. People expect him to play for free because it’s a ‘volunteer event’ or a senior citizens gathering. Or “it’s only for a hour.” You wouldn’t ask your dentist to come for an hour for free. His skill and education (a lifetime to learn and requires continued practice) should be valued. Knitters are no different.
    Knitters are artists/craftspeople too and should be respected as such. Just because we ‘love’ our jobs doesn’t mean we should do them for free.

  470. This same conversation takes place in the music world also! Like, what do you mean you will charge me to sing at my wedding? What do you mean you won’t just sit down and play a bunch of piano music at my party to which I invited you?
    Yea, I hear ya!

  471. I am convicted. I have used only free patterns on Ravelry until now. I have just bought my first pattern because of this entry and the comments.

  472. I am a newer knitter. I believe that test knitters should be paid a fair wage. I would never want to be a test knitter. Not even for an exceptional wage. This is my hobby and I want to continue to love it and to enjoy it. That said, if I pay $5-7, and I’ve even seen single patterns for $10.00 I want that pattern to be completely utterly foolproof. And, how many $7.00 patterns for sweaters does a knitter need? Libraries have knitting books that can be borrowed and knit from. Electronic patterns, have nothing at all like that that I’m aware of. The rates being asked for patterns and yarn may be making it unrealistic for ‘middle class’ people to continue knitting. I’m currently making a sweater that when complete will cost $175.00 . My choice, and I did purchase the pattern, and the yarn is beautiful. But not everyone can afford this luxury.
    I wonder how you feel about people sharing patterns. In the past if I’d bought a book, or a magazine, or even a paper pattern I wouldn’t hesitate to loan it to a friend, or even make a copy. I guess the difference now is that you could email a copy to ‘everyone’ and that wouldn’t be right. Now if you electronically purchase a pattern what happens when you no longer need or want that pattern? With yarn, or real books and paper patterns you no longer like or need you can sell, or donate. With electronic books and patterns – you can’t or shouldn’t because that’s ‘wrong’. I have no answers, just wondering from this side too.

  473. 508 Comments I don’t usually comment when there’s more than, say, 50, but I have to say….
    “a commie-pinko-tree-hugging-hippie?”
    You go, girl! I’ll bet you even ride a bike.

  474. After reading your post, I was prepared to write about how professional musicians (and others in the arts) have this same issue. Now I see that many others have beat me to it. As a professional classical musician myself, I wholeheartedly agree. Even though music is “fun”, and is just a hobby for most people, it is something that some of us have devoted our lives to, and we have sacrificed so much to become professionals. Payment is a way to show appreciation for what someone does, and how well (and professionally) they do it.
    Also, not to instigate controversy, but I am an American living in Norway, where health care is available to all, equally, at a practically-free rate. After experiencing these very, very different perspectives, I must say that I think the Norwegians are on to something.

  475. Well, Stefani, I have never commented on your blog before. But…. here’s my input on this very important topic:
    I pay by the job, just an agreed upon price with the knitter. Sometimes I pay in yarn and the knitter gets to keep the finished object and/or I send them a free copy of the finished pattern or book. I never have anyone knit for me without any kind of compensation. Although I can’t always pay as much as I’d like to, I am working increased compensation for the wonderful knitters who help me succeed into my budget moving forward. It’s so important to have good samples and to test the instructions adequately. While I think it’s wonderful that some knitters are willing to test knit as volunteers, I don’t think it’s really proper for someone in a for-profit business to get volunteers to do work for them. If you have a charity knitting business, then that’s a different story.
    Happy holidays!

  476. I’ve read most of the comments and a common point is missed. Payment for a job can be in the form of money or goods. Payment is the exchange of one item for another. It can be money, fiber, the pattern or patterns or any commodity agreed to by the designer and the knitter.
    So the knitter who says she test knit for the pattern or the yarn was a professional when she agreed to that payment for services rendered – the knitting of the item and the giving of the item &/or information back to the designer.
    I am not a professional knitter. I’m told I should design & sell knitwear. I respond that I can’t sell the items if I charge their actual cost + my time at fair value + overhead + a small profit margin. Some people will pay that price but not on a regular enough basis for me to pay my mortgage and other bills.
    I do pay for patterns – even for those I never make. It is to encourage the designer that their work has value to me.
    Good points have been made by most people. We do need to have more respect given to us as craftspeople – there also needs to be more respect for other professions. People need to determine what value something has to their life – and support it to the best of their ability.
    ‘Nuff said.

  477. I think the sort of funny thing about the global (!) crafting community is that so many of us are willing to give up our time and our yarn to help out someone we’ve never even met. There have been countless times that, through our blogs and our knitting, we’ve been able to raise funds or comfort for individuals in need.
    Now, I’m not comparing you needing a test knitter to being “in need”, but I think that the spirit of selfless giving can’t always get down with the idea that you want to be as professional as possible in order to get the results you’d like in the amount of time you’d like.
    And for the record, I think you’re right to be as professional as possible–especially when dealing with people online. You’re a businesswoman, this isn’t your first rodeo. You also happen to have a high profile in this community, so if you set a #professionalismFTW standard, others will follow.

  478. To one person, offering to be a test knitter for no pay is part of the dues to move a whole field forward–same as people offer to donate bits of themselves for medical research. It’s altruism–a way to pay it forward.
    To another person, offering to be a test knitter at no pay is like being a scab in a union plant. It’s undercutting a person who needs the job for pay.
    What you see depends on where you’re standing, which way you’re facing.
    If you are most comfortable paying for test knitting, go for it, but consider that this might not actually be any kind of a moral issue, because there’s morality on both sides of this one.

  479. I just want to say that as a knitter myself who regularly purchases pay for patterns, I appreciate designers who have their patterns professional tested. The patterns tend to have little to no errors this way.

  480. Was just discussing this the other day.
    Call me a feminist, but I think a lot of the controversy here has to do with “women’s work” not getting equal respect. Past times or hobbies that are traditionally thought of as male territory (woodworking, etc.) command much higher prices in most cases than things like knitting.
    And it might be a pain in the ass to move toward this level of appreciation for traditionally women’s hobbies, but it’s kind of like women’s jobs which have been undervalued (teachers, librarians, etc.). At some point, the decision was made to “professionalize” these jobs by requiring degrees, etc.
    But this is the way you go about creating respect and decent wages.

  481. I edit books and build websites for a living. And I charge a minimum of $75/hour. The online freelance marketplace sites such as elance.com are overrun with wannabes, hacks, and amateurs who think it might be fun to stay at home and write “articals” for a living – or edit books or build websites – for $3 an hour.
    It’s not just the “global marketplace,” either. Many of the lowball bidders are from the U.S. and it certainly devalues the professional skills, much as the “I’ll do it for free” test-knitters do with professional knitting designers and their need for professional test knitters.

  482. Excellent post. Thank you. I’ve always had the understanding that “professional” work of any kind involved an agreed-upon exhange of value (i.e. money for work) with specific requirements (i.e. deadlines/quality/working hours/etc.).
    My employer and I have a “professional” relationship, for example. I work in IT. And no, I don’t fix all my family and friends’ computers for free. IT is my “profession”, and I get paid for my work.
    I’m one of those who gladly (and deliberately) keeps my yarn-play out of the “professional” realm – it’s more therapy for me. I refuse requests to knit or crochet for pay as I don’t need any more deadlines than I already have – LOL. Having said that, I expect those who knit professionally to be paid fairly for their work in whatever form that agreed-upon payment may take. It’s no differnet than my profssion. You articulated it very well. Thanks.

  483. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea that people would be offended that you value their time enough to pay them for it.

  484. If good old fashioned exchange of goods for money makes you a pinko commie, I think we need to review the differences between communism and capitalism.
    Lovely essay.

  485. This issue isn’t just relegated to the knitting/crafts industry – look at the explosion in unpaid internships across all industries – pharma, financial services, consumer products companies, etc. Why are employers going to hire workers when there are people out there who will it for free? And we wonder why the unemployment rate is high. Unpaid internships devalue work. As you said, Stephanie, paying people keeps them accountable and their work product is better. ,

  486. If it helps any at this late date, I TOTALY agree with you! Knitting can be and is, a fantastic hobby, but for those of us trying desperately to make a living by doing something we love and that we are good at I think a bit of professionalism goes a long way. I test knit for two or three people and I am generally compensated in yarn, but that is the way I like it, but good designers expect to compensate test knitters and work it out in advance. I treat it as a job, and they should and do treat it the same, or we don’t work together long. Thanks for braving the storm about this. My work and my time is worth compensation and so is an error free pattern. You rock, as always, Ms. Harlot!

  487. If I came up with an ad campaign on my youtube channel for a product, and the company used my video and idea, then made alot of money off their new successful ad campaign that went viral, yeah, I would want/deserve a piece of that pie. Dancing is fun, but that doesn’t mean backup dancers on tour with bands should all work for free. Also, I’m tired of people saying things to me like, “wow, you’re such a good knitter, you should sell your stuff..each pair of socks could probably sell for at least $10!”
    I VALUE the skills, time, effort, and WORK that goes into a beautiful pattern, or something handmade, and I want to pay a fair price for it.
    I think that you should pay book editors who like to read, and test knitters who enjoy knitting, and daycare workers who love children. Sometimes cheaper isn’t always better. We are all going to feel sorry when skills are lost because they are outcompeted by ‘cheap’. I saw a report about the handmade lace industry and how the expertise of those craftspeople is going extinct and people are scrambling to record the knowledge of the techniqes, because of the low price of machine-made(and inferior) lace. Also, If I test knit a pattern for a beloved friend, and I missed an error, how bad would I feel when my friends name as a designer is maligned?

  488. I used to work for a cottage industry that hired women to embroider original designs on commercial sweater blanks. The work was priced at piecework rates structured to median times. Slow embroiders would take 20-30 minutes longer on sweaters, rapid workers could shave 20-30 minutes off set times and thus earn a bit higher per hour wage. We were allowed to take up to 40 hours of timed work a week. The sweaters were delivered to a central location on a weekly basis. The finished sweaters retailed for $150-$300 each, which was pricey back in the 70s. Most sweaters were timed at 2.25 to 3.5 hours of work each. All materials were provided to us other than needles and scissors. It was, if not a great job, at least a good job for mothers of young children, as you could arrange your work hours as needed, as long as the sweaters were ready the following week. As I recall, it worked out to slightly over minimum wage at the proscribed piecework rate. I occasionally went to the office and helped time out sweater rates.
    After a year or so there, a new manager arrived. We were given a dime an hour raise and issued the new sweater patterns. We were thrilled until we realized the time allotted for the work was severely underestimated. Slow workers needed 1 to 2 hours per sweater longer than estimated. I had been able to finish a 40 hour load in 32 to 35 hours. After the wage increase, it took me almost 60 hours to put out the same load of work. I spoke with the higher ups, and was told that was too bad. I told them that someone would turn them in to the labor board, though it wouldn’t be me, as I’d spent my last week working for them and had no desire to see or hear from them ever again.
    Sure enough, 6 months later I received a phone call from an investigator, who said they were in the process of shutting the business down.
    From time to time, we were able to purchase sweater blanks for our own use, which ran $15-$25 each. We earned about $15-$25 per sweater for our embroidery. The sweaters retailed for $150-$300. To this day, I believe those who ran this business were idiots.

  489. I have to say, you get the strangest angry comments. I agree we should get paid for our hard work. It’s a plus that we love it and it’s fun and interesting but we deserve to be paid. The hard part for me is what is a fair price for this service. The few times I did charge for something I was told I under priced myself and they doubled and tripled the price. Others take advantage and then have the nerve to complain that the item didn’t come out the way they had pictured even though they picked out the yarn and the pattern. Those are the people I stay away from.

  490. Just for the record I totally agree even if I did happily test knit for a friend and was happy to help her. I know that taking our craft and our time seriously is important . I viewed it as a gift I gave this one time with a open heart . That said I think it is as improtant as what we say about and to people and that changing the way society views something takes dilligence and patience and consistant work on our parts. Being the change I want to see in the world is a difficult but worthwhile goal. Thanks for standing up for us even when we forget to do it for ourselves.

  491. My husband the Shrink has learned that, even though he can charge whatever he wants for a therapy session (including free), people are more productive, take it more seriously, and skip appointments less often when they are asked to pay a certain amount. Also, the book “Cheap” is interesting, because it describes price as a state of mind more than a necessity – bringing money into it may feel vaguely dirty, but it’s proven that everybody is more respected (as is the service) when there is a reasonable sum of money exchanged.
    Lecture ended.
    cheers 🙂

  492. I’m a professional pianist and have been since 1977, since long before I opened my retail store. I played piano bar and hotel lobbies, toured with opera singers and as a soloist, played a billionty voice lessons and dance classes and private parties, played 60 musical theater productions (directed some, too!), countless church gigs, choral gigs, classical recitals….y’know, for money. Yet, oddly, it’s a struggle to convince some people that “dinner as payment” is not what you offer a professional. Some orgs don’t even offer that. My argument to them is that you wouldn’t ever consider asking an electrician to rewire a house for free, so you shouldn’t ever ask someone to play an event for free. Humble knitter though I am, I have SOMETHING in common with the problem of knitters being willing to do for free what should be paid.

  493. I can’t seem to find the post you did which commented on the offering of “free” formula to the breastfeeding mom but I am equally appalled. This kind of thing is all too common and REALLY undermines moms and sends a really strong message to say, you aren’t going to make it with the breastfeeding. It really makes me sick. ….but to be fair MDs aren’t trained in how those two things on our chests work so why would they trust it. Bravo Stephanie.

  494. Before retiring I was a professional software engineer. I was paid to play with logic and computers. It’s not a crime to enjoy your job.
    Too bad all those years of keyboard use (and knitting too) have left me with less than perfect wrists and hands. Otherwise, I’d start a second career as a test knitter. Two careers being paid to have fun? Can beat that with a stick!
    I agree that a clearly defined business transaction is *way* less stressful, and has a better chance of happy participants.

  495. I don’t think that most handcrafts are valued very much. It might be because they’re done by women, but I also think that, truly, most people equate a handknit sweater with a sweater you can buy at the mall — and there’s just no fundamental value to the fact that it was made by hand. That mall sweater would be (maybe!) the price of the handknit sweater’s yarn with zero labor. Which, if you’re most people, then makes the labor completely value-less. So, then it follows that test knitting/gift knitting, etc. should just be done for free because there’s simply no value placed on it by most people. (Though, personally, I totally go on Etsy and buy handknit stuff — and I think it’s a total bargain because I KNOW how long it takes to make xyz pattern — a CRAZY long time for a slow knitter like me with little kids!)

  496. I need help formulating a response to very intelligent young professional pregnant women who start talking about breastfeeding and about how they know so many of their friends who are unable to breastfeed because of some physical “problem”. I tell them that it is an extremely rare case that a woman cannot succsessfully breastfeed, and that it seems that the current trend is lurching towards making up excuses for women who don’t want to breastfeed. I tell them how easy and natural breastfeeding is, and even if you have to pump at work, it’s still easier than always dealing with bottles and formula all the time. AND – of course it’s the best for their baby, and the poop won’t be disgusting! It’s like they know/feel that breastfeeding is the best (yes) thing for their baby, but they want a “valid” “medical” excuse, so they want to believe/feel it’s out of their control & they are not responsible for not breast feeding. In the 70’s & 80’s & into the 90’s, women who felt that breastfeeding was extremely important would feed morning & evening, and pump at work to supply milk for daycare hours. When the babies were older, some would feed morning and evening, but then let formula, or milk from a cup, go for daycare. I just constantly seem to end up talking to young women with all these excuses. Think I need to go through some La Leche training to know how to respond in a way that may make them think. Worry from your comment that doctors may be signing in on this crazy thought? Love your blog, and love to knit . . . and weave!!

  497. Professional test knitters do need to be paid, I completely agree. I think the main issue here is that, because so many people read your blog and listen to you talk about your life, I feel like we are friends! I have a job, and my boss tried to pay me to make a cake for her. She is my boss, but also my friend, and as I know her and her husband, I wanted to do it for free. In the end, the agreement was for her paying ingredients and a very small price ($5)
    I test knit for my friends for free, but refuse payment because I’m not good enough to do that. If you want a really good test knit done properly, you should pay. Also, how is paying for something communist? I say that that particular writer needs to have another look at their political ideologies…

  498. I have wanted for years to be able to make enough money from knitting to support myself. I long ago came to the conclusion that there are not enough people who value the time and the skill to pay a reasonable price for it. Although I knit to a professional standard I do not knit quickly enough to justify charging an hourly rate. As an accountant I would recommend offering a fixed rate based on minimum wage for the number of hours you consider reasonable. As you have seen, you would have more offers than you could easily cope with. I think reliabilty with deadlines and error reporting is something you would have to take a risk with until you try out an individual.

  499. I am in the process of starting my own knitting blog. I feel reluctant to try to earn money on it, because knitting is mostly seen as a hobby, and not as a craft for a designer to express herself/himself in. (I might have to mention I live in Scandinavia, where knitting is-oddly enough-not as “big” as in Canada and America). My approach to knitting is exploring traditions, while at the same time finding my own and unique way of expressing myself as a designer. I think that the industrial revolution changed the way we look at different crafts, especially knitting. Women (and men) used to knit because it was needed, and probably socially expected. Then came the 70’s and 80’s , which changed us for real, with huge department stores full off mass produced garments of various quality. This has made people see knitting as something nostalgic that we can do whenever we have time and creativity for it. I don’t think that is wrong. But I think it is important that we don’t forget how wonderful and traditional this craft is, and we should acknowledge people who do a great job of keeping this craft not only alive, but also evolving. What would hobby knitters do if no-one took this craft seriously? I am so greatful that some people are so passionate about knitting, which inspires me to make it a part of my working life as well. Thank you for sharing with us, Stephanie! Wish me luck! 🙂

  500. I agree with you completely!
    I am a pastor, and so because I have a “call” to the job, people think that it isn’t a “job.” And therefore, I shouldn’t care what I get paid. Clearly, I’m doing it out of love and the kindness of my own heart. I think they think money just cheapens all that.
    The thing is, though, yes, I have a calling, but I also have a lot of training. (Which comes with a lot of student loan debt.) I have experience. Both of those things need to be rewarded.
    I am a fan of the Robert Frost poem, Good Fences Make Good Neighbors. We need boundaries and clear expectations, and fair pay for excellent work provides those. Boundaries are nice.
    Thanks for sticking up for a surprisingly unpopular decision!

  501. Hi Steph; thanks for this post. I am a relatively new designer, trying to “go pro” as it were, and i compensate all my test knitters (I try to have two for every pattern that I sell for money). I started out paying them, and providing them yarn, but lost so much $ that for now I pay them in patterns (a lot of patterns).
    I compensate for two reasons: (1) *my* time is valuable, and I charge an hourly rate for commissions and test knits (sometimes I even run into folks willing to pay it!), so I want to treat others’ time as valuable. (2) I have high expectations of my patterns. I have a reputation to build, after all! This means I have to have high expectations of my test knitters, and if they’re just doing it for free, I can’t ask them for that.
    The issue was brought up of professionalism when it feels like you are working with “friends;” You can still have expectations with friends, hopefully are willing to be honest, communicate well, and not take advantage of each other… and have lots of grace when things inevitably go wrong!
    I hope the big names out there, who can afford it, do employ test knitters and pay them reasonably. There are so many of us out there who love knitting so much that we want to do it as an actual job; wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a real need for a workforce that was just that?!

  502. Thank you for bringing this into perspective. I like being paid for my work because it is reimbursement for time I’m taking from other things I could be doing. If I’m working on a lace piece that is going to take me more than a month to execute, I expect to be paid for the time and skill required to make it work. Test knitting is a skill and should be paid accordingly if the designer can do it.

  503. Right on, Stephanie. Would it surprise you to know that if you were to substitute the words ‘independent music teacher’ for ‘knitter/designer’ etc, you could hear all the same arguments and rationalizations regarding our profession? Those of us with university degrees, certifications and decades of experience, trying to earn a living in cities large and small across the U.S. come up against unqualified teachers charging peanuts, or perfectly well-qualified people who are ‘retired’ or ‘don’t need the money’ teaching for free because they ‘enjoy’ it. ‘What’s wrong with that?’ they ask.
    And as you might imagine, none of the music teachers I know are commie, pinko hippies (though some are vegetarians and/or tree huggers).
    I appreciate your well-reasoned, thoughtful replies. Certainly the bulk of independent music teachers are women ….. is this sounding familiar? I probably wouldn’t have had the patience to address some of more confrontational comments as you have Brava. As a infrequent (and not-very-good) knitter, who has spent way more money on yarn than I’ve ever actually knitted up, I have to admit I hadn’t considered the knitting industry as, well, an actual industry. Bad on me. Great post!

  504. Oh, and I didn’t even mention all the times people ask us (musicians) to play for a wedding ….. or their kid’s high school choir concert ….. or other ‘fun’ event — for free. ditto the pastors’ remarks on that. And I didn’t mention that I am always a bit shocked by all the free knitting patterns available. I would have expected people to charge for many more than do. Perhaps they are caught up in the same question/mindset of hobby vs work-for-pay.

  505. I’m a professional copy editor. Do you know how many times I’ve been asked “can you just look this over? I don’t need you to EDIT it, I just need you to make sure it sounds ok.”
    Getting paid for services rendered is capitalism at its best and while that may be a “dirty” word in today’s polarized society, the reality is that the ability to pay someone gives you the ability to demand a certain standard, a deadline and a reasonable outcome.
    If someone ever offered me a test knitter job, I’d do it – for pay. Whether it’s pay in the form of knitting (teach me a technique, or barter with yarn…whatever we agree upon), or actual cash – agree to terms, and then get on with the job.

  506. Yes, there should be an industry standard–and the rate per yard is an interesting idea.
    But dear. Honey. Goddess of the Knit Blog.
    Do you think if Justin Bieber said “I’d like to hire a fan to carry my comb and paternity suit paperwork” he’d only get the professionals who can quote their day rates? There would be blockloads of nice, sweet volunteers to carry it all for free, and they’ll buy him lunch every day, too. (No I’m not equating you with the Bieber. Although I’m thinking it might be fun to get a group of us fans to jump up and down and scream and faint at the sight of you at your next lecture… )
    If you were, say, me, you’d probably have to offer something of value in exchange for the test knit. Money, yarn, the odd casserole or a night with your husband. But you are not. And your groupies will do it for free and feel they got the better end of the deal. Be grateful, and thankful there will be no plaster-casting involved.

  507. Oh, and I also do cakes. “On the side.” For a price $1/slice HIGHER than the supermarkets charge. And I have a good clientele. I look them in the eye and tell them: “It’s home-made frosting, it’s from-scratch filling, and it’s a cake that won’t taste like cardboard. This is what it’s worth.”
    How did I arrive at that price? I called around, boht supermarkets and bakeries, and averaged what THEY charge, and then I determined my own price.
    I deliver the cake, and get the check. It’s my time, ingredients, and design talents. Those are all worth something.

  508. Musicians deal with the similar. Some volunteer to play. The musicians “play” music, so then it is fun. And it is! But it is also a business and a job for so many, including me.

  509. Agreed a hundred times over, such interesting points!!! And the formula thing, that drives me bonkers too – just trying to line their pockets a bit more, if you want my opinion!

  510. Steph – I just read through that mess on Ravelry. More and more I’m becoming convinced that reading internet comments about anything is not good for the mental health. I used to think that at least comments about knitting were immune from such crazy toxicity, but apparently not. The anonymity or semi-anonymity of the internet allows people’s worst demons to rise to the surface and sing and dance. I can’t say absolutely that the US absolutely has more than its share of viciousness in that regard, but most days it seems like it.

  511. As a knitter and quilter, I often ponder the economic viability of using my skills to earn income. It’s very difficult to make a decent living that involves them. Part of the issue is my own self-esteem and ASKING for what I think my efforts are worth. I appreciate you honoring peoples’ knitting by compensating them for it.

  512. I am an amateur knitter and a professional attorney. For some years, I ran my own law office. Performing legal work for free is called “pro bono.” I perform it at the same level of expertise that I perform paid work, but I chose to donate that time. I was very clear that my landlord did not do pro bono; my internet provider did not do pro bono, etc. No one(other than me) gets upset if my knitting turns out crappy.
    I am happy when someone in my knitting group teaches me a technique “pro bono.” I do not expect my LYS owner to give me free knitting classes. On the other hand, I am not upset if it turns out that the technique that my buddy taught me does not really work. I can be pretty shirty if the pattern that my LYS sold me is peppered with errors.
    Much more is expected from a test knitter that is expected from a buddy trying out a pattern. Test knitters should be paid a reasonable wage for their time and skill.

  513. It’s interesting to read this, because it immediately made me think of the argument that I regularly hear (as a college professor) about how I shouldn’t want to get paid a wage which adequately represents my training and years of skilled labor because I love my job. Well, yes. I do love my job. And (and here’s the important bit), wanting to be recompensed reasonably for the work that I do does not in any way take away from or diminish the love I feel for my job. It is intriguing that there’s a baseline assumption that you must not really love your job if you want to get paid, and/or there’s something wrong with putting a price on something like teaching, because it means that you’re not doing it for the love of it, and that’s the reason why you should be doing it. I need to think more about this phenomenon, clearly – because I bet a skein of cashmere that those guys on Wall Street love making money, too, but that doesn’t stop them from demanding exorbitantly high pay for doing it, nor does it seem to stop the general public from thinking that’s a reasonable thing to do. Weird…

  514. What an interesting can of worm you’ve open. This is everyday dilemma/challenge we Fiber Artists face with. Everyone loves what we create but no one cares to pay the price. On top of that, we have hobbyists just say “I can make that!” You are a rare breed who respects test-knitters as a profession. Some of the well-known yarn shops I knit for pay the so-called standard rate per yard. It’s fine and good when the knit is basic/simple knits. But, most of the work I take on have a lot of finishing details that are important to me, personally. I spend a lot of time shaping, finishing the knit properly before turning them in. None of those times spent was ever rightfully compensated. So, the question is why? I am investing my time to build portfolio, to get my name out to a larger audience, bring me exposure…at the end, I get some yarn credit build up for my own play and designs in progress, play with fibers I otherwise would not have a chance or can afford myself. It’s how I justify for knitting for yarn shop, test knitting for designers who won’t invest in professional test knitters like myself. I’m sure you have a flood of applications for the testing job by now…I’d love to be considered for the job. I’d even fly in for an interview, take whatever test(s) you have for your applicant.

  515. Applause! Applause!
    I congratulate you for doing the right and honorable (honourable?) thing in stating you wish to pay test knitters, and pay them fairly.
    You are also Biblical, it says in the Bible that a workman is worthy of his hire, i.e.; a person who works should be paid.

  516. I’m with you on this as a point of principle and appreciate your stance…and yet am feeling very weird while reading, as I am married to a man who is currently working as a professional, in the field for which he went to graduate school for six years, for no pay. Why? Because the economy is crap and there were no paying jobs, and he decided it might be worth something (to himself, to those he serves, to potential paying employers someday) to do the work even sans salary. It makes no sense, especially when you’re living off savings to make this work–and yet I’m not sure withholding one’s work/services is better.
    In other words, thank you for your stance as the potential employer of test knitters here. From the potential employee’s seat, whether in knitting or a white-collar profession, the calculation can get more complicated.

  517. I haven’t self-published a design in a very long time, and this is one of the several reasons I haven’t. I have one design that has made me any real money, and that’s pretty much because you happened to knit it and blog about it. My other paid designs, well I’m lucky if I make the cost of the yarn back in a year, honestly. I do feel bad about the idea of using unpaid assistance, but I also feel that if I pay someone to test knit and provide yarn support to them, I am very unlikely to make any money on my pattern, and am likely to end up in the hole. I think that most people who want to self publish are in this position. There are some patterns/designers who surely make a lot through self publishing. But I am sure there are many more who don’t. (I don’t remember exactly, but I made either $3 or $6 last quarter off of my Twist Collective pattern. That means 1 or 2 people bought it, in a 3 month period…)
    That, and a lot of the nastiness around copyright issues, have kept me from spending my time designing. (Well, that and the baby. But I stopped pre-baby.) I’m not sure how to fix this, other than to swap test knitting with someone else, because if you’re swapping the same service then it is a fair trade.

  518. Oh, I wish I could edit. I want to add to my previous comment that money is not the only reason I publish. But especially now with a baby and so little free time, I need a lot of incentive to put the work in. And I feel like I see so much negativity on Ravelry about patterns, copyright issues, formatting issues, etc. I just don’t feel ready to jump back in. Even though I haven’t not felt personally attacked, I know the possibility is out there, and I just don’t have the spare time or emotional energy to deal with something like that. I hope I do again some day. Though these days I’d settle for 8 hours of sleep and a solid hour of knitting time every night. 😉

  519. I haven’t read the other comments, but here’s my thoughts.
    First, designers often want a particular yarn used in a test knit. If that yarn isn’t being provided by the designer (hey sign me up for that program!) then the compensation should at least cover the yarn.
    Second, there is more to test knitting than knitting the item. First, there’s knitting without making changes as you go. I did a free test knit where now that its done, I’m ripping out the neck part of (a 4/5 circle shawl) to redo it the way I want it. Second, there’s note keeping- what did you have to reread, what do you think doesn’t work/isn’t clear. Does the pattern print okay in black and white? Is it readable printed? Does the layout work well (I personally dislike chart keys on a different page than the chart) You have to use the recommended CO/BO and increases/decreases if they’re given. Plus there’s the deadline. The shawl I knit I mentioned above had me push a lot of other knitting out of the way because it took much longer than I anticipated. There’s also correcting errors. Things I leave in a personal project I’d rip back to in a display or test knit.
    Yes its a job 🙂 The test knits I’ve done have been free ones, didn’t have a particular yarn- and were for friends. I think test knitters deserve to be compesated, but that designers should also hold them to a high standard.

  520. I think knitting is like anything else in Canada–freedom of choice to decide rules. If I decide that I want to test-knit for free, that’s my decision. I do it plenty. I don’t feel it devalues other knitters or makes us more insignificant. I just like the ability to chose for myself what I feel is right for me. I put as much, or more, of myself into a free test as I do for a compensated one, by the way.

  521. Thank you, thank you, thank you, and amen.
    I’m a book editor, and you’d think that publishing would be enough of an established industry not to suffer from this, wouldn’t you?
    So much of women’s work – and of course it’s not only women that knit, or edit, but they’re seen as ‘women’s industries’ – is poorly paid or not paid at all, because we do it ‘for the love of it’. I was told by an editorial manager once that because editors were mostly women, they generally brought in the second income and so it was acceptable that the pay was poor. (The single parents in the room were impressed by that!)
    People who love numbers are paid well for working in finance; people who love practicing medicine are paid properly for working as doctors. After all, they’re professional, no? Yet somehow that doesn’t seem to extend to ‘women’s work’, and there’s always an excuse as to why not.
    Good on you for treating your test knitters (and the customers who buy your patterns) with respect!

  522. Pattern testing is expensive, or it should be. Often it does not require the actual completion of a object to find errors in the process. I can’t tell you the number of times I have had to rewrite the instructions on a pattern (not knitting) to clarify a technique before even beginning gathering material for construction. Testing should be paid for on an hourly rate otherwise it is piece work.
    Also being paid implies responsibility. It is not just finishing the test on time and providing appropriate feedback. It is maintaining the confidentiality of the designer and respecting the copyright. This may be mean destroying the object and/or the pattern after it is completed. It may mean returning the completed object and the pattern to the designer. The restrictions placed on the finished test object are up to the designer.

  523. I think test knitting is a lot like other areas of service, there are people who can and do offer their services for free as a way to give back or because they feel like donating their talent or because they just like to do their job so much that they are willing to do it for free. But there are other people who like to be fairly compensated, and need to be. I don’t think there is anything wrong with either types. And I agree, if you are using a non-professional test knitter, then you cannot expect to get professional results. That’s not to say that the person isn’t a good knitter or even that they aren’t professional level but you can’t get mad at them for doing something for free and then forgetting to tell you they modified the sleeve or didn’t check for gauge or forgot to mention the typo on row 75. If I’m paying then I can certainly expect people to meet deadlines, knit exactly as I have instructed, and I would be very disappointed if they weren’t worth their salt. I also agree that people won’t take knitting seriously as a profession (which for some people it definitely is whether that is as a designer, dyer, shop owner, or writer) if we all just give away our talents on a whim. Even my family has found this to be true when I refuse to knit for people who won’t wear my knitted items. I don’t care if they do it just once for show, if I never see you (or your kids) in that sweater I slaved for three weeks on then you better believe I’m not making you anything else. You may see it as a “hobby” but I actually take my knitting seriously and so should you.

  524. Well dissent is always enlightening isn’t it? Personally, if I could get gigs test knitting, I would totally do it for pay. I’m curious about designers who use “free” test knitters. Does that mean a certain percentage just never gets done? I’m not saying people who volunteer wouldn’t be serious, but it just seems like I prioritize a paid job way over something I do because it’s fun.
    Either way good luck! Can’t wait to see the pattern.

  525. An intriguing speech is couturier report. I judge that you should make author on this substance, it mightiness not be a prejudice issue but generally group are not sufficiency to verbalise on specified topics. To the succeeding. Cheers like your Yarn Harlot: Unexpectedly Controversial.

  526. An absorbing treatment is designer report. I imagine that you should correspond solon on this content, it mightiness not be a prejudice subordinate but mostly people are not sufficiency to utter on such topics. To the next. Cheers like your Yarn Harlot: Unexpectedly Controversial.

  527. I’m late reading this post, but I want to thank you for what you said. Knitting et al could benefit from professional standards and pay. If you are helping a friend that’s fine, but it’s also between the two of you. Also I know I’m more willing to pay for a pattern that has been “professionally” test knit. (Once burned, twice shy and all.)

  528. I find it sad that so many knitters show so little respect for the professionals who make their lives fuller by producing designs for their enjoyment. They are probably also the same folks who see nothing wrong with making illegal photocopies.

  529. Politically, I must disagree with some of the posters above. What makes you a pinko-commie-hippie knitter is that you expect a knitter who is statistically likely to be female to be paid a fair wage. Capitalists want women to work for little or nothing – just look at the wage gap for comparable work in the US.
    Further comment by email. This is the comments section, not the essay section.

  530. Thank You, for sticking up for those of us trying to make a living through production knitting and designing. It is very difficult to earn a living when people give their patterns for free or sell their knitted goods for the cost or below the cost of the yarn. Just for the fun of it I did a little time study at .15 cents per yard. In order to be paid current US minimum wage you would need to knit 48.3 yards per hour. This works out to 26.45 stitches per minute. I timed myself both knitting and purling, both in the round and on straight needles. I average 41.7 sts/min. This does not include the down time required to read the pattern. At this average rate I would earn up to $11.43/hour. Of course test knitting would slow the knitting process as you would lose actual knitting time while reading and testing the technical accuracy of the pattern. But it seems a fair wage can be earned.

  531. All I can say is THANK YOU! I am someone who gets paid good money for my time doing other things, yet I am aquainted with several people who think that I should be spending my free time making items of their liking for them, for free. If someone else dictates what I do with my time then they will pay me what I am worth, otherwise my free time is free to me, not to them.

  532. Late to the party, but there’s another little wrinkle here that I find disturbing: that most often, since knitters and knit designers are women, the person who expects the woman to work for nothing is another woman. We screw one another over terribly sometimes.
    I do web sites. As a small part of my job, but I do web site as well as dozens of other things. I’ve had women — specifically women — expect me to design things for free for them, that they would then turn around and pay a man to implement. One flat-out said, “Can I get that for free? *simpering grin* I know this nice man who is a professional.” I almost dropped a car on her. I should have told her what I make a year doing this. She’d have swallowed her tongue.
    Sadly, it’s not just capitalists that think women should work for nothing. It’s women. Well, they think that selfish b*tch over there should work for nothing. I should get paid, though! *sigh*

  533. If I may add one more profession to the list of ones people often expect for free… translation. Just try asking Google to “translate” a website from another language and see if what it spits out is at all intelligible… then decide if it would be worth paying someone who has studied the nuances of different languages and has experience, rather than a one word-to-one word computerized data bank.
    You’ve obviously struck a nerve and expressed the issue very well. Bravo!

  534. Take pleasure in the item approving towards pretty good facts. Basically unprejudiced wen upward! When i continually complete definitely definitely not mushrooming/groving/escalating with these yet desponding people performed some almost briskly buddy-buddy depredate in addition to I’m indubitable a number of individuals suavity this fewer regardless.

  535. I haven’t read all the comments but just as an aside, there’s free and equal healthcare in France and they all seem pretty happy!

  536. Comment: You’re a commie-pinko-tree-hugging-hippie.
    This just breaks my brain. I am not an economist, but isn’t paying people for the work they do the whole POINT of capitalism, and the opposite of pinko commie-ness???

  537. I wish I were good enough to test knit for you. I could certainly use the money! That said, I’m still pretty much a beginner.
    And I think you’re awesome, not only for you’re blog, but that you insist on being a professional and treating knitting like an industry as you are.

  538. Also late to the party – courtesy of Knnitfinder on Facebook!
    Wow, how things have changed !!! My mother had her own business in the ’80’s exporting ‘hand-knitted’ sweaters, she started off with ‘Fisherman Knits’ and sold to the American market – Nordstrom, Nieman Marcus, Saks 5th Ave, I Magnum, Yonkers, Bergdof Goodman.
    Back then it was called ‘cottage industy’, my dad would put ‘Wanted’ cards up in newsagents, local papers etc for ‘Experienced Handknitters’, they would get paid by the garment level, difficulty, yarn etc and generally had a 3 week turnaround.
    Knitting IS an industry, and becoming a big one at that, and needs to be taken a lot more seriously than just a ‘hobby’, there are a lot of stay at home mums out there who could make a bit of ‘pin’ money for that hobby, or people who are out of work and struggling financially. And unless it is taken seriously, it will never get the proper recognition it deserves!

  539. Hi Stephanie, Sorry to comment so late – just catching up with your blog. I TOTALLY AGREE with you on this issue. My mom is a professional finisher (beautiful work, BTW) and sometimes knits model items for a yarn rep/salesperson, and she is always compensated for her work, albeit not enough to live on, but enough to keep her in yarn money or to buy gifts for her children or even pay a dental bill. If you still need a professional test knitter, email me, I’d be happy to connect you with my mom. She doesn’t have a PC or MAC and doesn’t email, but we could handle communication through me.
    I have a friend who test knits for free, and I think she is nuts – why knit something for someone else for free when you could spend that time knitting for yourself or even knitting gifts? I don’t get it. Some knitters might just like the thrill of knitting for a knitting celebrity such as yourself, but I agree that they should be compensated so the knitting isn’t total crap. Thansk for bringing up this issue!

  540. Hmm, very interesting article. Years ago I started a group on Ravelry for free test knitting with the idea that it would allow newbie designers and newbie testers to give each other a leg up in the industry. I had to pass the torch when I decided to go back to college while still working full time, but the group is still going strong. The group still demands professionalism, but the rules are very clear that the client/worker relationship is based on a barter system.
    I think that there is something to be said for supporting a barter system and it doesn’t cheapen the effort involved on either part. If what I have to give is a pattern and what they have to offer in return is time and everyone feels this is a fair exchange I don’t see it as being a less valid economic system than one that involves the exchange of money for services rather than goods for services.
    As someone who has never been well to do, I love that I can trade my skills for things I could never afford to buy, or can’t justify purchasing with my current budget. It allows me to have a richer life without having to spend time at work that I exchange for money that I exchange for goods. It cuts out that middle man so I’m exchanging work for goods and skipping doing a job that frankly isn’t as enjoyable as knitting.
    There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a paid professional test knitter, there’s just also nothing wrong with wanting to be paid in goods rather than cash.

  541. Great article! I read your blog because I find you really funny, although I am not a knitter. I am a scrapbooker, and I found this article really interesting related to the scrapbooking industry. I also think that scrapbookers, especially designers of scrapbooking products, and those who teach classes, etc., should be valued and paid for their artistic talent and time. In scrapbooking, there are people called design team members or creative team members who create samples for designers. These people are not paid, as a rule, but are given free product in return for their work as sample-producers. In digital scrapbooking, there are LOTS of these people, and they post their layouts all over the internet trying to attract attention to the designer who produced the product showcased. I’ve been on a couple of these teams, and stepped down, because the amount of work required was becoming onerous. The expectation to be on Twitter, Facebook, in forums, etc, participating in challenges, would have easily equated to 20 hours+ per month, in exchange for a couple of digital kits worth $5 each. I decided that I could buy the kits I wanted and save my time for scrapbooking, rather than in all this social media trying to pimp the designers. I just found your article an interesting comparison to the scrapbooking industry. Thanks for sharing!

  542. I agree with you wholeheartedly! I am in the service industry in my “real life” (I do nails) I am asked to give discounts and freebies all the time. After all.. “it’s just nails” or “I have no idea why you charge so much, polish is cheap” The fact of the matter is that I spend my time and expertise on your nails and a manicure is more than polish.
    Knitting is the same. The yarn, pattern and time spent knitting has VALUE. Every stitch you make is the culmination of YEARS learning and honing your craft. If you want to give away the items created with your craft to people you love and care for, wonderful! But to give it away just to give it away is foolish.
    A designer will hire a test knitter to find the flaws in the design, so she can MAKE MONEY on the pattern. Paying the test knitter is part of the cost of designing. These costs can be taken off on the designers income tax in the U.S. If the test knitter knits for free, there is NO compensation, no tax write off.. nothing. There are people who will whine with the “its the pleasure of knitting” garbage. It doesn’t fly.
    I pay for my patterns, and am happy to do so. I appreciate the time, effort and talent that goes into these delightful pieces of paper that allow me to make wonderful items to delight my family. I love the freebies too, but I have found that paying for a pattern helps keep more choices for me to knit available, and help designers offer the occasional freebie to make everyone happy.

  543. “Nice work if you can get it and if you get it, won’t you tell me how?”
    Working out stitch patterns and finding ways to improve the pattern are largely what draws me to a project, most often once the puzzle has been solved, I lose interest and move on to another challenge, I’m definitely a process knitter. I do this for a hobby to entertain myself, were I to do it for professional designer I would indeed expect to get paid for my time and effort, especially if they stand to profit from the work.
    Stephanie, being a professional in the knitting business with as many professional knitting contacts that you have, why would you you seek advice about pay scale on a tweet?

Comments are closed.