October 3, 2010. I published my very first pattern to Ravelry, for free. That seems so terribly long ago when in truth, it was just barely more than four years ago - half the lifetime of my youngest daughter. It's actually really difficult for me to see that - right there on Ravelry in black and white - and acknowledge how far I've come as a designer, but also as a knitter in that blip. I was feeling pretty nostalgic as I reworked this pattern. I can remember it all very clearly from the yarn shop I bought the squishy, soft Malabrigo worsted from to how I came to "design" this simple cowl and it's super thick fabric. At the time I had just learned of Ravelry and barely knew how to navigate it. I think I owned one knitting book (a stitchionary) and I thought I was so clever for coming up with this slip stitch pattern all on my own. HA!! If I only knew.
Needless to say, I was appalled when I got an email from a Raveler asking how my cowl was different from the Honey Cowl. I had no answer and knew nothing of this "honey cowl" she was referring to. After maybe three seconds of research, I found it. I had to download the pattern and read it very carefully to unravel the differences so that I could reply to the email and not sound like a complete idiot. In the end it was as simple as one being worked flat and one in the round, both using a slip stitch pattern, but not the same slip stitch pattern. I felt like a nerd nonetheless.
So, for the resurrection I changed very little; I simply injected some experience and used a great new yarn.
This is the Plymouth Yarn, Worsted Merino Superwash in one of their new speckled colors - #109 Autumn. It's a neat little hank and extremely affordable. I love all of the Tosh speckled yarns that are coming out this season, but for a free pattern resurrection I wasn't willing to dig quite that deeply into my pockets.
The changes I made to the pattern were minor - I updated the sizes available, added a narrow ribbing to the cast-on and bind-off ends, and adjusted the needles used accordingly. Also, since I've released this as it's own pattern rather than simply replacing the original, I have updated the yarn to the Plymouth from the Malabrigo worked up the new sample in the medium size which has about a 32" circumference.
I have decided to post this pattern for free as the original, but I may eventually put a price tag on it - this is one of those designer dilemmas. I love that so many patterns are free to those just starting out and hesitant about investing more than they already have in yarn and tools. In fact, I used to be that person. I knit up those free patterns as lessons - self-guided courses - and if I didn't know a term/technique I would scour the internet for a video or tutorial that would walk me through it. On the flip-side, many of those free patterns are released by yarn companies or, like Purl Soho, shops that will sell product to support their own investment in the free patterns they provide. As an independent designer, publishing work for free is merely a stepping stone. It's a way to develop a writing style, test the waters, and get feedback from the knitting pool. As time goes on, it's no longer viable.
I'd like to know your thoughts... This is one of those topics that people on both sides of the fence feel passionately about - especially on the design side. I know many designers get a pit in their stomach at the thought of others releasing their patterns openly to the masses even for a short time. Others view it simply as a way to thank their knitting community for supporting them. And so, I'm very curious about how the consumers feel!