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View Full Version : Should I start a pattern selling business?


Olha
09-03-2011, 03:56 PM
As per Jan in CA permission, I would like to run an idea of a pattern generating website by this wonderful and helpful community.

In a nutshell, the idea is to create a website for selling children sweater patterns with the option of creating a unique pattern from existing elements. It all started with this sweater which I called Canadian Wilderness http://www.knittinghelp.com/forum/showthread.php?t=105541

So it got me thinking -- what if I make more animal silhouettes against the background that resembles their habitat? It's simple in terms of colour work and yet visually rich because of the variegated yarn. And what if I make a number of sweater designs (raglan, bottom up, cardigan, or vest) to choose from? What if I make a series of those 'habitats' like Farm, Pets, Africa, Polar region, etc? What if I give customer a choice to choose the finishing elements (cuffs, neck) for a chosen sweater?

I believe, knitters are creative human beings by nature. We have this need to make something unique and beautiful, something that didn't exist before. And it's true even when people use patterns as guiding instructions -- their creations reflect their own style and preferences and still are one of a kind.

So I wonder if I could take it one step further and give customers an opportunity to create a pattern that will reflect those preferences?

For example, if you prefer top down sweaters, you could choose a raglan with on option of 3-5 different neck lines, in a different colour, with a different animal (or without). If you don't like sleeves, it could be a vest with the same colour/animal choices.

So instead of making THE sweater that I hope people would like, I would give them a choice to create a number of variations.

I looked up the Sweater wheel and some other pattern resources and mostly all patterns come as a single file, no options. Maybe there is a reason for it? Maybe choices is not such a good idea?


ETA: I would also like to create videos how to make said sweaters (especially details like neck lines) and maybe one beginning-to-end sweater making video that would touch upon all processes.

And the patterns would have a brief process description before the row by row instructions.


What do you guys think? It would be really helpful to know before diving into the technical/business aspects of it.

p.s. If you don't feel like killing this idea publicly but have a strong opinion about it :), please, PLEASE don't hesitate to PM me, I am looking for all kinds of feedback.

Thank you!

blueygh2
09-03-2011, 05:02 PM
First of all you'd need to know the generic patterns, aka how is a sweater in a given size knit, with or without sleeves (those are extra patterns), before tackling the variable motives.

I think it's totally doable and would be nice, though I think I've heard of a place that does something like that as well, though I can't remember.

Anyway, I could write you a program to output the knitting instructions based on different things (size of the output, patterns, yarn, needles used...) but for that I'd need a very detailed description of generic patterns.

Olha
09-03-2011, 07:55 PM
Thank you for offering help! I would like to bounce ideas around with someone who knows both programming and knitting :)

Generic patterns are easy -- I don't even write them down, mostly just remember. So I don't think it will be hard to put it in writing... well, I would have to make different sizes too (say 2 to 6), didn't look into it yet.

The website structure should be something like a tree -- for generic raglan, you could choose a v-neck or a round neck or placket. So it will change the part of the pattern from casting on till the bottom of the armhole. Assuming all animal pattern are the same size and located in the same place, there is another part that will change. The sleeves will be the same.

Basically, if we are only talking about 5-8 different sweater types with 3-4 variations, it is still possible to make separate pdf files and not bother with the database. That would make using the shopping cart software easy... On the other hand, if it's better to give variations within details (ribbing vs garter st cuff) then the database is needed.

But since I need to knit first before writing anything down, unlimited number of variations is also not an option.

And I think it should be somewhat uniform as far as yarn and needles are... I really like 5 mm needles and medium size yarn, makes it fast :)

fatoldladyinpjs
09-03-2011, 09:24 PM
I've been telling you to sell your own patterns for a while now. You're very talented and you'd do well with it. I think the designing your own pattern would be a good idea. I know I'm always finding patterns that are somewhat close to what I want, but not totally. Something like that would appeal to knitters of all skill levels.

As for the sweater pattern wheel, remember that this was from a set of disks from like the 1960's or 70's. That site probably has a lot to do with how much the website owner had to spend on it, and the ability of the webmaster himself. If you can find somebody with the technical skills, maybe you could be partners. Hey, ask Sheldon (the KH webmaster). lol He's very good at what he does and we love him a lot. Especially when he fixes boo boo's and makes the lives of those of us who are technically challenged easier.

Antares
09-03-2011, 10:53 PM
I also think this could be very appealing to knitters. My recommendation is to start small (even smaller than what you've described thus far), put up a few patterns with variations for sale on Ravelry and see how many people bite. From there, you might be able to gauge how successful your own Web site might be--WITHOUT doing tons of preliminary work.

By the way, this reminds me (in some respects) of the knitting software that helps you design clothes. I don't remember the names of any of them, but you might look them up online and see how similar they are to your idea.

Best of luck with your idea and let us know if you need additional feedback.

Jan in CA
09-03-2011, 11:02 PM
First of all I think it's a great idea. You are very talented and I think you can make be successful. :thumbsup:

My first thoughts are that you might consider paring it down to start with though. For instance have a few different animals and sweater choices. For instance you choose a bear then you choose which sweater style and it all goes into a cart where the customer pays. Make it simple.. like make the price of the sweater also include an animal of their choice. Then you can add animals and sweater choices as you create them rather than have it all show up at once. :think:

This seems logical to me, but I tend to shy away from websites where it's complicated to even make a decision or try to figure out how to purchase something.

I'll keep thinking...

fatoldladyinpjs
09-04-2011, 08:47 AM
Another thing I would suggest is to make the patterns available as a download. I hate paper patterns where you have to pay shipping and handling charges and wait to get it in the snail mail. We've grown so accustomed in our society to buying it with a credit card and having instant everything.

I'm still waiting for my Wonderful Wallaby pattern. The company that supplies it is still doing it the old fashioned paper way. They don't offer instant downloads. It gets very frustrating for us knitters. They're missing a golden opportunity. I'm in the sales field. Seventy-five percent of my direct sales is from impulse buying. Your sales increase if you've got the product available for customers to grab and go.

I would also suggest attractive packaging or visual presentation to enhance sales. Medium blue, red, and rainbow colors immediately attract the eye and encourage buying. Remember that when you're designing your web page. Use variegated or hand dyed yarns in your finished model sweaters or eye catching colors. Do make the models and website look professional. Black type, preferably larger like a 12 or 14 font for the 40 and up consumer who's beginning to need reading glasses. A clear font like Verdana or Times New Roman.

Edit: There are three main reasons why people buy: To save money, to save time and make life easier (convenience), and just because they like it. If one or more of these points click with the customer, you've got a sale. Your website should reflect that.

Olha
09-04-2011, 09:27 AM
My first thoughts are that you might consider paring it down to start with though. For instance have a few different animals and sweater choices. For instance you choose a bear then you choose which sweater style and it all goes into a cart where the customer pays.


This is so funny! :) That's exactly what I was going to do!!!

I like Ravelry and might start there... however, I would like to use Big Commerce for a shopping cart. I used it about 2 years ago when it was called Interspire (with my previous business) and really liked the experience. They have an option to present choices as swatches (good for animal patterns or neck finishing). There is an option for customers to add reviews and tons of other useful stuff. Best thing -- no programming, just fill it with information.

Also, what do you think about payment options? My experience with the merchant account for accepting credit cards taught me some lessons (basically, not to do it till you are big) and I would prefer to start with PayPal. Or you would prefer a credit card option?

Olha
09-04-2011, 10:00 AM
Another thing I would suggest is to make the patterns available as a download.

This shopping cart has an option of downloading. That's what I would start with.

I would also suggest attractive packaging or visual presentation to enhance sales.


On the front page, there will be different sweaters that can be picked from all products. They can be changed to highlight new designs or sales. If you click on it, it opens the product page with description, options and such. So basically you just see what you want right away.

Edit: There are three main reasons why people buy: To save money, ... and just because they like it.

Well, about that. I use simple yarns, the one for Wilderness Sweater was Bernat Wool Blend 75% acryllic, 25 % wool.

Should I provide links to online yarn shops, preferably to those pages that list variegated yarns that I will use for my sweaters? The idea is to give less informed customers a choice to buy yarn that fit their budget or preferences. Basically, save some time for yarn shopping IF they don't know what they need or have a favourite LYS.

For example, one skein (240 g) of Bernat Wool Blend (which is pleasant to work with) and Easy knit 100% Georgia wool (100 g) used for the beaver cost me about $11. It was enough to make a sweater and two pairs of socks http://www.knittinghelp.com/forum/showthread.php?t=105543

Would that be considered savings? It's really hard to judge anything hand made because so much work goes into it that materials don't matter that much.

Also, while I understand that working with natural fibers is preferable, I just don't see the point to make a $70 sweater for my preschooler who would slide on her belly on the playground, on my beloved beaver!!! :)

What is your yarn preferences when it comes to knitting for young children?

Jan in CA
09-04-2011, 10:57 AM
My preference in yarn for young children is sturdy and washable. I often use Plymouth Encore or Jeannee.

As for your other question to me... I much prefer Paypal as an option. It's so much easier than digging out your credit card! Most of the patterns I buy online use Paypal.

Olha
09-16-2011, 10:59 AM
Hello again,

I have done some preliminary yarn research and found out two things:

most popular yarns on Ravelry are 100% wool

the idea of variegated yarns probably looks better in my head than in real life. I picked some variegated blends 25% wool 75% acrylic and looked at them and touched them at the store. They were OK. BUt then I looked up projects made with them on Ravelry. Well, not so impressive... basically, they don't create this effect of depth and perspective as I would like. And some look very 'busy' and don't show the design. So I am thinking maybe plain colours would work better...

Still have to research the animal pattern appeal, maybe it's also something that is not worth concentrating on... maybe just plain sweaters with variations would speak to a broader audience...

wellslipmystitches
09-16-2011, 04:08 PM
Hello again,

Still have to research the animal pattern appeal, maybe it's also something that is not worth concentrating on... maybe just plain sweaters with variations would speak to a broader audience...

Oh, I think animal patterns are a sure thing with most. I've knitted bibs and blankets with animals using simple knitted squares(just one color). If it looks good on a washcloth it looks even better to combine and adapt them into a pattern for a baby blanket and more.

Perhaps you might like to start out smaller with your lovely designs on items and then broaden your offerings to sweaters, etc. Maybe a more prudent investment of time and materials before hitting the "big time". Just a thought. Jean

Olha
09-16-2011, 10:56 PM
Thanks! I doubt there will be any 'big time'.

Although, lurking on storekeepers forums brings some hope :) I used to think that the number of projects reflects the number of pattern downloads. But it turns out that the number of sales is much higher... so we will see. I will keep you posted.

ETA: It is a good idea to offer animal patterns separately. Maybe someone would want to use it on something other than a sweater.

Jan in CA
09-17-2011, 12:27 AM
Many people prefer not to use a hand wash yarn on children's clothing. Something that I think a lot of people would like is to have not only the yarn you used, but the yarn weight. I was at our social knitting group tonight and someone who is less experienced mentioned they would like that so they know what to look for if they can't afford or don't want to use the yarn used in the pattern.

Olha
09-17-2011, 09:21 AM
Absolutely! It has to be based on weight, of course. And yes, there is an issue with kids, wool and washing :) I guess, if patterns are based on popular types of yarn, people would have easier time findind them or getting the right gauge without problems, you know?

Case in point: Our LYS owner posted photos of two cardigans made with different yarns. One is twice as long, I swear. Moral of the story -- it could only work in that particular yarn and that is what I would like to avoid -- frustration on customers part.

Personally, I am also getting frustrated when I see something very specific, I feel that it limits my possibilities. So, just to make it clear, instead of dictating what yarn should be used, I am looking for options that could be easily substituted with many yarns. The same goes for needles and supplies -- some patterns list a half of the craft department inventory to make something :) I also find it a bit off putting.