Free For All

On January 1, 2015, the EU in its infinite wisdom enacted the VATMOSS ruling which is intended to force companies such as Amazon and Apple to pay taxes on sales of electronically downloaded products.  Unfortunately, this far reaching tax law also affects individuals selling knitting patterns online.  Even more crazy, this law affects sales to individuals living in the EU, even if said knitting pattern designer lives and works in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world.  If you thought the U.S. was an overbearing bully of a country, well, the EU as a group of countries has just joined that club.

Over on Ravelry, Casey and team have been working around the clock to come up with a solution for all the thousands of pattern sales that take place via their site.  No, Ravelry is not selling the patterns.  They are only the vehicle which allows hundreds of independent people to sell their work.  If you want all the details about how Ravelry has come up with a (hopefully temporary) solution, please go here.

What is completely insane about this situation is that there is no threshold for small independent sellers, like me.  I read a lot about the situation in the UK, mainly because it’s so much easier to read about this subject in English, but also because there seems to be much more of an uproar in the UK about this.  The Dutch press, and people, seem much quieter about it.  But anyway, in the UK there is talk of convincing the government that there should be a threshold under which you are exempt form this nonsense.  Currently, in the Netherlands, the threshold is zero.  ZERO.  Sell a digital pattern for 1 euro and you are subject to this tax burden.  And it’s not so much the burden of paying the taxes – I’m fine to pay tax on what is owed – but the administrative burden is just awesome.

We are now required to 1) charge VAT according to the tax rate in the country of the buyer of our patterns; 2) provide at least TWO forms of proof of the residence of said buyer!; 3) file tax returns in those EU countries.  And this is true even if you live in Australia or Canada or Botswana and sell digital products to people in all 28 member countries for 1 euro a pop.

Some designers on Ravelry have gone with the solution to sell via LoveKnitting, a site in the UK that will handle this VAT mess for you.  But after a 6 month grace period, this will cost you .20p per item plus 20% of the sales price.  Plus you have to pay PayPal fees.  Plus take the VAT of an average of 20% off the top.  Pattern sales are hard enough to come by and this will mean that the price of a $5 pattern bought from an American designer jumps to $6.05 for me, and said designer will get $5 less 20% less 20p less PayPal fees.

Some designers have decided to stop selling to customers in Europe.  This makes me incredibly sad.  In the happy knitting world we have been open to everyone everywhere and via Ravelry we shared our craft and our lives (via images and forums) across all borders.  Now, thanks to the EU bureaucrats, we are separated, segregated, different.  Not to mention how angry I will be when I see a lovely pattern on Ravelry and try to buy it, only to find myself locked out because of this ruling.

Some designers have decided to set all their patterns to FREE on Ravelry.  The gorgeous patterns of Julia Mueller are now all free.

I decided to do the same.  After all, my pattern sales have been almost nothing the past years.  I sell, on average, a pattern a month.  That’s it.  So, on January 1, I set them all to FREE.  And as of this morning, 2 January, 2015, over 2,000 copies of my patterns have been downloaded.  This morning I have 3 patterns on the Hot Right Now page in the pattern search on Ravelry.

While I love the fact that people are discovering my patterns, I have real mixed feelings about how this has happened.  This tells me a few things, that frankly, I think Ysolda has already known and talked about on her blog before.  First, most people think that knitting patterns should be free and aren’t willing to pay for them.  Most people think that your time, as a designer, is worth nothing.  And that they deserve to get stuff for free.

Second, people will download free patterns just to have them.  They will most likely never use them or knit them.  But since they are free, they will download them and store them on their hard drive with no intention of ever bringing them to life, which, frankly, I don’t like at all.  If you are going to the trouble of downloading them, then make them.  I spent hours working on these patterns because I wanted to see them made and enjoyed and USED!  This irks me more than point one about expecting to get them for free!

Anyway, the world has changed and we have to adapt and change with it.  Even Trent Reznor puts music online for free.  Some authors have offered their books for free.  And by “free” I mean given away, not pirated or stolen.  So, my patterns are free, but I’m going to try something different too, that I’ve seen on other sites such as podcast sites and others offering information and entertainment on a small scale.  I’m putting up a DONATE button.  I’m also going to add all my patterns to the blog so that you don’t have to be a member of Ravelry to see them or download them.  This might take a few days so bear with me.  I have no idea if anyone will donate a penny because they have downloaded a pattern or knitted one of my free patterns.  But I have to believe that most people play fair, even if “fair” means different things to different people.

Please continue to support small, micro businesses in this new economic world.  Whether from an Etsy shop, or Ravelry, or from their own web sites, the micro economy should not be ignored by us consumers, nor by the big heads in government who set policy we all need to follow.  Since the 1970’s I’ve seen bumper stickers and posters reading “Buy Local, Think Global”, encouraging consumers to support local businesses without forgetting that we are part of one world environmentally and economically.  This needs to be changed to “Buy Small, Think Big”.  Support the individuals who make your world more interesting and rich.  And don’t forget that rules and regulations affect us in ways that might not be obvious at first.  Think bigger than your own self interest.

Mad May Indeed

 

Over on the Ravelry group Madelinetosh Lovers, Mad May is in full swing.  Lots of people are knitting with Madelinetosh yarn with the aim of finishing a project within the month of May.  I started a project but I clearly won’t make the deadline.

Above is one finished sleeve.  I knit nearly all of it on my trip from Amsterdam to Bangkok.  I’ve also started the body, knit in the round, but I’m only about 3 inches (7.5cm) along.  I’m here in Thailand, on business (photos taken in my hotel room), and have been working a lot and not having a lot of knitting time.  I only have one day off while I’m here (today) and I’m going to spend 4 hours in a spa getting rubbed, scrubbed and pampered.

Anyway, back to the sweater.  This is a mashup of 2 sweater patterns.  I liked parts of each so put them together in my own kind of concoction.  I’ll detail all that out when the sweater is finished and I know which of my modifications really work.

Here are some closeup photos so you can see what the lace really looks like.  The yarn is Tosh Sock in color Lettuce Leaf which I’ve been hording for quite a long time, waiting for the perfect pattern to come along.  I guess I had to make up my own.

And, yes, you read correctly, Thailand.  The place that has just been taken over by a military coup d’etat.  Luckily I’m not in Bangkok, but in Chiang Mai, up north where life is still peaceful and people just go to work and go shopping and carry on with their lives.  As long as the airports stay open…..

More Mandy’s Heart Sweaters

This past Monday night at de Jaren, C. and C. brought/wore their Mandy’s Heart sweaters.  The red one was made for C.’s daughter.  Aren’t they lovely?

The light in de Jaren is just AWFUL for photos (and for knitting too).  I did my best with photoshop to improve the light and color.  They both seem very happy with their new sweaters, and you can’t ask for more than that!

I’m busy working on the next sweater design, which will be perfect for a beginning sweater knitter.  Andy is also knitting a sample sweater for me.  I’m about half finished with mine so I hope to get test knitters started in another month.  There’s also another new project that is 2/3 finished which I NEED to finish in the next 3 weeks.  That’s a lot of knitting to get done soon!

But at the same time I’m itching to start something small and new.  I really want to make another pair of Mandy’s Heart socks in a bright shocking pink and it’s taking all my willpower to hold back and finish these other 2 projects first.  I used to be such a monogamous knitter too!  Looks what’s happened to me!

Oh, one other bit of knitting news – I’ve started using my new HiyaHiya sharps, interchangeables, 5″, and I LOVE them!  I swear I’m knitting faster with them.  They feel great in my hands, nice and light and the finish on the metal has just the perfect amount of slip.  I think I’ll post a more extensive review of them in a few weeks when I’ve had a chance to work with them some more.

Happy Knitting everyone!

Sweater ONE

Today, the last day of January and the last day of this “blog post a day” schedule, I’m announcing a new sweater design – Sweater ONE.  Sweater ONE is a very easy, basic, perfect first sweater for a new knitter.  It is knit in worsted weight, in pieces and is sewn together.  There is almost no shaping which makes the knitting even easier.  There are ribbing patterns in strategic places to make the sweater less boxy and more modern.

The above is a part of the sleeve I’m knitting.  The yarn is Lorna’s Laces Worsted.  Andy is going to make a sample sweater in Cascade 220 Superwash in a size to fit himself.  The pattern is written for 8 sizes from blocked sweater size 35, 38, 41, 44, 48, 52, 56, 60 inches (89, 97, 104, 112, 122, 132, 142, 152 cm).

As soon as the 2 sample sweaters are finished I will be searching for test knitters.  I hope that I can find as many and as wonderful test knitters as I have for Mandy’s Heart.  They have been so helpful!  Since this sweater is designed for the first time sweater knitter, I’d love to find test knitters who have never knit a sweater before or only 1 sweater before.  It’s not so easy for me to judge the difficulty of patterns since I’ve been knitting so long and have managed to knit from any kind of pattern you want to throw at me.

So, stay tuned for more information about Sweater ONE.  I’m hoping to get test knitters working before April.

Almost Ready

This is the first page of my new sweater pattern, Mandy’s Heart.  Just a few final reviews and it will be ready to lease into the wild.  Pretty exciting!

Unfortunately, I had to be my own model.  I’m not happy about that.  It’s not ideal.  But I’m cheap and I was available.  For now I will have to do.

My test knitters are in the final push to finishing their sweaters.  I have 8 test knitters working diligently and I will be eternally grateful to them for their willingness to take on this task.

Launch date is set for 14 February.  The sweater is named Mandy’s Heart for my niece Mandy and Valentine’s Day seemed the perfect date to release a pattern with cabled hearts running down the front and sleeve.  The pattern will be available on Ravelry, and if I can get things set up in time, here on this blog.

Flight Delay Knitting

This is how much knitting I got done during the EasyJet flight delay Monday, flying from Berlin to Amsterdam.  Not bad, right!

This is the second sock of my Mandy’s Heart Sock design.  I’m almost finished!  Writing up the pattern is almost finished too.  The charts are done, the text directions are done.  I just have to lay in out in a nice format and do a photo shoot.  Taking photos of socks is so much easier than photographing sweaters.  I hope to have this pattern ready to launch into the world on the same day that I launch the sweater pattern – 14 February.