It makes sense for designers to sell their patterns on multiple platforms. Designer Edie Eckman has explored all the best options.
Photo courtesy of Edie Eckman
When Ravelry.com launched in 2007, it revolutionized pattern selling for knitting and crochet designers. No longer did independent designers have to print and distribute paper patterns or hope that their designs would be picked up for one of the several slots available in a magazine.
Instead, anyone with a computer could upload a pdf pattern and sell it directly to the consumer. Consumers could search for patterns by type of item, yarn weight, designer, technique, hook/needle size, and more. And they did. Ravelry grew by leaps and bounds and quickly became the place for designers to see and be seen. As a popular social space for crafters, patterns could go viral through word of mouth. Thus, a handful of designers might become instant celebrities.
Over the years, Ravelry has dominated the independent sellers market for its ease of use and large database. However, a combination of factors—the growth in popularity of Instagram, the creation of new platforms for digital sales, and controversies surrounding Ravelry—has seen designers turn to additional sales outlets.
There are good reasons for selling patterns on more than one platform. Not all potential customers use Ravelry. As platforms come and go, spreading your reach to multiple platforms will help you weather the ups and downs of the popularity of any one platform.
When deciding to sell digital patterns, consider these questions:
- What are the fees involved?
Each platform has its own fee structure, usually based on a percentage of the sale. Sales platform fees combined with payment processing fees—from PayPal, Stripe or others—can quickly affect profits, so keeping fees as low as possible is crucial.
- How are taxes collected?
In many parts of the world, including the European Union and the United Kingdom, a Value Added Tax (VAT) must be collected from the consumer at the time of sale and paid to the taxing authority on a regular basis. In Australia, this tax is called the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Collecting and remitting this tax can be onerous to a small business, so choosing a platform that handles VAT and GST is important if you are selling to those countries.
- How will customers find you?
The more users a site has, the more potential customers there are, but numbers don’t tell the whole story. Are those customers specifically looking for patterns or are they just general customers? Ravelry users can be assumed to be looking for knitting or crochet patterns, while the total number of Etsy customers is less important than the subset of those customers who would be looking for knitting or crochet patterns.
- How much control do you have over your content?
Read all the terms and conditions to see how easy it is to discontinue a pattern, or close your store entirely, as this is forbidden in some venues. You may be required to make a pattern exclusive to that platform, but think carefully before you agree to such a restriction. If you want to migrate or download your content, is that an option?
- Are other features available?
Can you offer coupon codes or other types of sales? Perhaps the platform offers site-wide sales or does advertising on your behalf. You may or may not want this! Are filters and search features available to help customers hone in on your products? Can users leave a review? How friendly is the user experience for both buyers and sellers?
Always make sure you understand the current terms and conditions before signing up for a new sales platform.
Selling patterns on your own website gives you the most control of the content. Shopify, Wix, Squarespace and other eCommerce builders make it easy for you to sell patterns directly to consumers while maintaining full control. These types of platforms require a monthly fee, based on your traffic and the number of features you require. There may also be a transaction fee for each sale, depending on the plan purchased. You may need additional apps or extensions to sell digital products.
WooCommerce works with WordPress sites to place items directly on your site. While there is no charge for the WooCommerce plug-in, a number of related extensions make WooCommerce more useful; these plug-ins may incur a small annual charge. WooCommerce allows you to take payment through direct bank transfer, check, cash, or PayPal.
Payhip is a popular platform for many designers. It is a stand-alone platform but I have included it in the “designer-owned” category because it is fully within your control. It is basically a storefront that is optimized for sales of digital downloads. You can sell directly from a website or social media. With the Free Forever plan, there is no monthly charge; you simply pay a transaction fee with each pattern sold. Many designers like Payhip because it collects and remits VAT for a number of countries, making it an excellent choice for designers who sell globally.
Pattern Sales Platforms
LoveCrafts is an easy option for many designers, as you can upload patterns directly or import from Ravelry. There is a transaction fee for each pattern, with an additional selling fee charged for stores that sell between $40/month and $1,300/month. LoveCrafts is a well-designed site with a global reach. Because it also sells yarn, LoveCrafts is a destination site for the yarn-curious. If offers a number of filtering options to make it easy for customers to find their perfect project (and discover new-to-them designers). LoveCrafts handles VAT and sales tax.
Etsy seems to be a love-it or hate-it platform for designers. There are designers who swear by Etsy sales as their main income source, but lately there have been grumblings about Etsy fees, policies, and the lack of seller-side customer service. It can be difficult for a designer to be discovered on Etsy, given the numbers of sellers and the ever-changing algorithms and terms set by Etsy.
Etsy charges a listing fee, a transaction fee, and a payment processing fee. Etsy’s Offsite Ads Fee charges 15% when you make a sale from one of their off-site ads. Several designers I spoke to said they had discontinued their Etsy stores or didn’t maintain them, because it wasn’t worth the hassle.
KnitPicks/WeCrochet is another yarn and pattern destination site unique to the KnitPicks yarn brand. Independent designers can submit their patterns to the site as long as the project uses KnitPicks yarn. Patterns have to be quality-approved by the KnitPicks team. There are several ways to work as a designer with KnitPicks. For their Independent Designer Partnership (IDP), designers make 85% of the pattern selling price. KnitPicks collects VAT and GST from the customers and remits them to each country’s revenue department quarterly on sellers’ behalf.
Makerist offers patterns and online classes. It is a lesser-known platform for knitters and crocheters in the United States, but it may be worth exploring. Makerist.com is the English-language site, but Makerist.fr and Makerist.de are available for those whose patterns are in French or German.
French Canadian crochet designer Julie Desjardins says that, after Ravelry, Makerist.fr is her most lucrative platform, as her French-language crochet patterns are in demand.
Ribblr is an ePattern-only site that requires designers to upload their patterns into their proprietary app, rather than the more common method of simply uploading a pdf. This requires additional work on the part of the designer, but offers a different consumer experience. Its Ribbuild pattern editing tool allows you to input the pattern in your native language, and it then translates it to other languages and converts measuring units. Purchased patterns are stored in a customer’s digital library and are not downloadable. Ribblr Payments Policy states that it collects and remits VAT and GST as applicable.
KnitCompanion is more app than pattern sales platform but is it worth noting that there is an option for designers called kCDesigns. With this program, KnitCompanion sets up your pdf patterns for optimal viewing in the KnitCompanion app. It allows you to keep all of your pattern sales (through Ravelry), and opens up a new potential audience.
Ravelry remains the top-selling pattern selling platform for most independent designers. Its huge database and reach make it the go-to for many consumers. But as designer and publisher Shannon Okey says, “You shouldn’t have all your eggs in one digital basket.” Keep Ravelry in mind as an option, certainly, but explore additional platforms for reaching additional customers. It can only mean more money in your pocket.
Edie Eckman is a knit and crochet author, designer, teacher, blogger and technical editor. Since Covid-19 has kept us home, she has successfully made the transition to online teaching. Find her at edieeckman.com.