Free patterns and mixed blessings

One thing which has been on my mind a lot recently is the issue of free patterns and I'm really keen to hear others' views on them too. I have always offered a few free patterns - a few basic sock patterns (one cuff down and one toe up) as well as a baby cardigan pattern and a baby blanket.

Most of these were created and published towards the beginning of my career as an indie designer and I am very pleased and proud that they have been so well received. The Fuss Free baby cardigan for example has well over 400 completed projects on Ravelry now and has also raised a considerable amount for Bliss - a charity very close to my heart.

The Fuss Free Baby Cardigan by Louise Tilbrook Designs

The Fuss Free Baby Cardigan by Louise Tilbrook Designs

One thing which is unavoidable due to the nature of social media today is the extent to which free patterns are used, downloaded and shared. Looking back at all the requests for pattern support I have received over the past year, the vast majority arise from free patterns. In addition the tone of these requests can vary from the usual, very polite to the really, if I'm honest, quite rude and self-entitled. It is one thing to think to yourself that a pattern design is easy and something you could have done yourself. It is quite another to email the designer of said pattern to tell them that, particularly, as that pattern is indeed free.


In one particularly memorable example I was asked for pattern support on the FFBC and in the course of the query it became apparent that the knitter hadn't downloaded the pattern from my Ravelry page but instead had been given the pattern on a CD of free patterns - from a source she was unwilling to disclose - not surprisingly.

The often quoted advice given to new designers is that free patterns help knitters to understand your style and to decide whether to purchase patterns from you in the future. This may be true and there are certainly some well known designers who make a brilliant range of free patterns available - TinCan Knits are one example that spring instantly to mind. 

I do wonder however, to what extent that still applies in an era where online digital patterns can be so easily downloaded and distributed. 

I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback on this and whether you think designers should offer a number of their patterns for free. Have you ever found that you are more likely to purchase a pattern if you are able to 'try out' a free pattern first from a new-to-you designer. Do leave a comment and let me know or drop me a line on my Facebook page.