I’m in the process of revamping my knitting design business for about the third or fourth time. Unless you get a full-time job at a big yarn company or publisher, making a living with knitting is
not a simple job. It’s a complex freelance career that requires wearing a lot of different hats (which is a good thing, if you like knitting hats).
Many people might think that having a book published, being a teacher on Craftsy or at big events like Vogue Knitting Live or Stitches, or having your designs in a lot of magazines means that you’re getting rich from your knitting. Far from it! Even the most successful knitting designers have to juggle a lot of different projects to pay the bills. Over the years I’ve done all of the following:
- Written books and ebooks (with publishers and self-published)
- Submitted designs and patterns to magazines
- Designed garments and accessories for yarn companies
- Taught at local yarn shops, guilds, fiber festivals, and national events
- Created video classes on Craftsy, Skillshare, and YouTube
- Done tech editing and copy editing for publishers, yarn companies, and independent designers
- Translated knitting books from German to English for several publishers
- Self published patterns on Ravelry and other websites
- Hosted Knitalongs
- Had a vendor booth at small fiber shows
- Sold kits and yarn on my website
- Mentored other designers and authors
- Taught writing and publishing classes online
- Held my own knitting retreats in Vermont
Now don’t get me wrong: I don’t do all of these things every year. There have been some years when I focused on teaching, some when I’ve focused on editing, some when I’ve focused on writing books, and others when I’ve focused on self publishing. But with each focus, I kept the door open for accepting work in other areas to keep the cash flow coming in.
I had my first pattern published in Family Circle Easy Knitting in 2002. I kept working as a contractor and employee for tech companies until 2010. My husband also had a full time job until 2013. That’s when I finally had found a focus for my business that could support us. That’s also after we had moved from California to Colorado to Vermont, and lowered our expenses enough to be able to live off of the income from our business without doing outside work. I make an annual plan with a spreadsheet that shows our projected income and expense for each month. And we plan a full year in advance for figuring out where our money will be coming from.
Next year, we’ll be officially opening a yarn shop here in Vermont. We live in a 19th-century farm house that has a back section that probably used to be a summer kitchen that is 400 square feet, with another room of equal size above it. This is the business portion of our house. We’re remodeling this winter in preparation to have a small shop to support the needs of the local community here and to offer more kits and yarn packs to go with my patterns on our website. It’s a risk and an adventure.
We’ll also be continuing to host several knitting and writing retreats every year here in Vermont (check out our retreat website at NEKretreats.com) because with a yarn shop, we won’t be able to travel very much. So we’ll be bringing people to us.
Making a living through creative work is always an adventure. I personally find boredom intolerable and I am happy to be able to have so many different kinds of work to do. (I didn’t even mention the back-end parts of running a business like doing bookkeeping, answering customer emails, posting on social media, blogging, and so forth).
I hope this gives you an interesting peek into the life of a designer and author. If you like consistency and security, this life probably isn’t for you. If you like constant adventure, variety, and you can handle taking risks, then you might enjoy it as much as I do.