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Submitting knitting designs to magazines

Today I've got a spicy rant about why I don't submit projects to some magazines (and many yarn companies anymore), and why you should care.

Obviously, I don't have experience with every magazine. The experiences I've had and witnessed are mostly with the big ones. So don't go canceling all magazines unilaterally, but instead use the following to turn a critical eye on the publications you're knitting from - and let them know if you expect more.

Publications make knitters a promise

“In exchange for your money, I have your interests at heart, and I will give you something high quality in exchange.”

With magazines, like free social media platforms, you’re the product. Your eyes, and your attention. Magazines make the lion’s share of their money with advertising. Sure, if the readership drops, they’ll have a less compelling offer for their advertiser, so there’s an incentive to keep readers happy. But they are in business to serve advertisers, not to make sure you’re creating well-fitting, heirloom pieces.

And yet. They make their money by thrilling advertisers, not by delighting knitters. And to me, it shows.

Most knitting magazines don't have consistent standards

Designers writing for magazines are not given a standard size chart. That means zero size consistency across the patterns - even within the same issue.

It also means that the editors can’t review the schematic against a standard size chart, to make sure that the grading is both good and consistent within the pattern. There’s no way to know that the size 5 you want to knit will look anything like the size 2 they’ve modeled.

Many publications are not size-inclusive

Some sizes are just flat-out excluded

I’m looking at a recent publication that includes garments and accessories. With the recommended ease, the smallest chest these sweaters will fit are 33.5,” 33.25,” 28.25,” 30,” 32.” The largest chest sizes that could wear these sweaters are 60,” 57,” 63,” 66.5, 58.”

Another publication is for busts no smaller than 38.5,” 35,” and 29*,” and no larger than 63.2,” 62,” and 67.75*.”

*Yes - one of those patterns appears to be doing great - 29 - 67.75? Sounds wonderful! Only, it appears to be a drop shoulder tee with a sleeve length that gets longer as the sizes get bigger. Can’t get a schematic to confirm (another huge beef of mine - you deserve to see the schematic before you buy) - but hold your applause.

While there’s no standard line at which we draw the line, I think we can agree that 30 - 60” is a reasonable minimum.

Size-Inclusive Patterns need more space

You can't write size-inclusive patterns with good shaping and cram it into two pages.

Until magazines are willing to allocate adequate pages in the magazine to include the instructions required for excellent size-inclusive grading, it all sounds like lip service to me.

The sample you see in the photos? That whole situation is a mess.

It seems like knitting the sample should be the most straight-forward part of the process, right? Here's a handful of things I think are problems:

  • Writing a pattern and knitting the sample is flat fee work - designers are paid the same no matter what size sweater they are asked to knit.

  • The publication timeline rarely allows enough time to knit a mid-sized garment, let alone a plus-sized garment.

  • We rarely, if ever, see a model larger than mid-size.

  • When we ARE shown a model larger than a size 3, very little effort is made to ensure that the sample FITS the wearer.

Patterns are typically not tested, and if they are, your designer is being exploited

Finally, most publications do not facilitate testing or beta knitting, if they even give enough time or give designers permission to run a test. If designers do run a test, that work is unpaid.

Publications have to make compromises when they recommend a yarn

Magazines work with advertisers to choose the yarn for the samples. That means that designers might be knitting with superwash when they’re making that all-over colorwork sweater, or working a cashmere blend at a loose gauge, or otherwise be forced to work with a yarn that’s a technically inferior choice for the project.

You're also mostly going to be shown mass-produced yarn, further concentrating industry power in the hands of those already at the top of the ladder.

Note: While we're talking about yarn, I'm showing you the delicious yarn I used for Maker's Tunic. This is Elder, a squishy, wooly, SOFT and NOT SCRATCHY, 100% Rambouillet from Ritual Dyes. It's a 2-ply worsted. yum!

Yarns like these, made in small batches and often pre-order, are just not yarns that are practical for magazines to promote. When you support Indie designers, you're supporting indie dyers, and all of the other solopreneurs that make it possible for you to have something truly bespoke and unique.

Flimsy commitment to fit or quality design

Magazines are not vetting designers to see if they have the knowledge to deliver on their pitch

Often, this is spun as ‘we welcome new designers and want to lift up new designers in the industry.’ This is bullshit, because I have seen how this plays out - the new designer is terrified to ask questions or push back. They don’t want to be seen as an amateur. No one is checking on them or offering them any kind of support.

I’ve also seen designers ask for help and get utterly left out to dry.

PS - If you're a Ko-fi supporter, you're helping! When I get emails or DMs from new designers working for magazines that need some quick guidance, instead of directing them toward a consulting call, I can take some time and answer them. I always think of you in these moments, and I'm grateful that I can spend part of my working day serving the broader community because of your support!

The designs are often ill-fitting

With all the resources available to magazines, including top-of-the-line tech editors, issues that are going to make sweaters unwearable for humans should be flagged and sent back. Schematics should be reviewed early in the process, and fit issues identified. There’s no reason you shouldn’t have an amazing fit.

And yet, magazines are rife with designs full of fit issues. Sweaters without front neck shaping. Sleeves so tight they look painted on. Necklines barely perched on the corner of the model’s shoulders, waiting to spend the whole day making trips over their shoulders.

The pay reinforces inequity in the industry

The pay is low. For an experienced designer who can write a pattern quickly and outsource the knitting to a sample knitter, writing for magazines can be a reasonable part of a portfolio of work. Often though, this means paying your sample knitter a by-the-yard rate, which is below minimum wage.

But in general, designers want to work for magazines for the prestige and perceived value of the exposure. But designers and sample knitters don't have to CHOOSE to work at poverty rates, right?

Prestige and opportunity should belong to everyone based on merit, and not be limited to those who can afford to work 'for exposure' or for free. If we're serious about solving the racial diversity issues in this industry, we need transparent, fair pay.

Note - I don't fault designers or sample knitters who work within these systems. This is a low-pay industry, and every designer I know is doing the best they can to create a values-based business in a weird capitalist society. The responsibility for this lies with the party with power - the publishing entity.


Not all third parties, but many, have at least one of the business practices listed above. Am I hard and fast that I'd never knit for a magazine? No. But do I think it's worth shining some light on these practices, and pulling back the curtain some? Absolutely.

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