Make way for Making Things

NOTE: 03.19.19 — Due to a range of concerns raised about fairness toward designers — both in the business model and their response to calls for more inclusivity and transparency that had fallen on deaf ears — I asked yesterday that the three patterns I had listed on Making Things be removed from the service. I’ve also removed the link to my profile/patterns that was originally at the end of this post. (Commissions I received will be donated to SPLC.) The Sloper and Log Cabin Mitts patterns are both available for free here on the blog, and the Anna Vest is available on Ravelry. If you’re a Making Things member with the Anna Vest already in your library, it will remain available for 12 weeks. Please email me if you have any trouble accessing it.

Make way for Making Things

I had this funny idea five years ago, it seems, to do a series of interviews called the 1-Q Interview, and then I apparently only did it once — one question to Julie Hoover about the value of seams. (An excellent and life-changing interview, I must add!) I was reminded of it the other day when I began to interview Megan Elizabeth, formerly of Wool Days yarn and now with a shiny new web app to talk about, called Making Things. I’d sent her an opening question and was planning to follow up with the rest, but in her infectious enthusiasm for what she’s doing she sent back a whole interview’s worth of an answer! So today I present you my second (unintentional) 1-Q Interview.

To find out more about Making Things, check the website and their Instagram feed @themakingthingsapp.

. . .

When you first got in touch with me … how long ago was that? … you were working on an online tool for reading patterns and tracking your progress. An upgrade to existing pattern readers, basically. But in the meantime, the idea has really morphed and grown. Can you share a short history of the app?

I’d been running Wool days (a boutique Australian yarn company) for 3 years, and the same conversation kept coming up with our community: I want my making world to fit snugly into my fast and crazy world, so I don’t have to leave it behind. So I can still be me.

And while I loved what I got to do every day (visiting local sheep farms, creating yarn, talking with our community) I sometimes struggled to see how Wool days was going to keep up with the rest of my world. There are too many of us who are passionate about knitting and crochet for us not to have the support, infrastructure and opportunities we take for granted in the rest of our lives. (Netflix anyone?) So being a typical “too much to do, not enough time” person, I started thinking about what it would look like.

I shared my ideas with others, because I know how I make, and what I need. But I can’t speak for everyone. Turns out others had been thinking this way too! I had some of the most wonderful, in-depth conversations with people I knew, and more importantly, people I didn’t.

It became a thing. So at the start of this year we built a thing.

It was simple and awkward. And people were obsessed. The first week, makers spent an average of 10 hours in using the platform.

Working with designers, we took a small selection of patterns and reformatted them so they were interactive. Which basically means knitting and crochet patterns were now truly digital. They adapted to your screen size, there was a sticky highlighter to keep track on the page, row counters, dual axle chart reader, you could make notes directly in the pattern, and there was a scrapbook page to document your project.

It was all just as seamless as using a pen and post-its. At least it was supposed to be.

Every day we’d get feedback on improvements, changes and things that just didn’t work. And every night we’d make it better. Some things were massive changes, and some things were quick tweeks. We were all learning how we make things, and what was frustrating about it. Wanting to knit on the train and not need to mark a dog-eared chart with multiple coloured markers. Wanting to keep making with friends, even when they go home. Or they live on the other side of the world. Wanting to support others who find deep satisfaction in their creativity. We were co-creating our dream tool for making.

We were also working really closely with designers (they create the patterns at the centre of our making world!), and it didn’t take long for conversations around recognition, pay, support and safety to come up. Designers build communities, brands, stories. They dream up, design, test, do maths, redesign, tech edit, photograph, format, market, sell, teach and tech support each pattern they create. So we started rethinking how we access patterns, in a way that celebrates all the work of designers, and creates a predictable and sustainable income — one of the most powerful drivers of creativity.

Yarn stores, dyers, podcasters, teachers, tech editors have joined in the conversation too, and they have some epic ideas. We are a creative people, not only with our hands but our minds. We’ve all thought “what if …” Now we’re building it. Together.

So that’s where we’re at! We officially launched yesterday, which means you can become a member of Making Things to access all the patterns (1000+ tech edited, tested and beautifully photographed patterns), and all the tools. Our library of patterns is now your library of patterns. Our community is now your community. Our platform is now your platform as we build this together.

. . .

Thanks, Megan — I can’t wait to see how it goes and grows!

And for anyone wondering, yes, you can find a few of my patterns there (which automatically makes that link an affiliate link, fyi). [No longer available; see note above.] Let me know if you try it out!


PREVIOUSLY in 1-Q Interview: Julie Hoover in defense of seams

23 thoughts on “Make way for Making Things

  1. Very curious to see how/whether this will interrelate, technologically or practically or communitarian-ly or, uh, spiritually? with Ravelry.

    Wow, that was a lot of “ly”s.

    • Yeah, me too. When I first heard about it, it was more of just a pdf reader with fancy features for tracking your place in a pattern. It’s evolved a lot (apparently — I confess I haven’t actually created an account and tried it out!) and I’m not sure what direction it will continue to evolve, but at the moment I don’t think there’s a lot of overlap in functionalities, plus totally different access structure.

    • If there was a making link through Ravelry so you can buy the pattern through Ravelry and then access it through the app … that would be AWESOME. The app looks amazing.

  2. I’m sure people will love the app and I hope Megan has great success. I’m old school in that I like printed patterns. I’m also too busy to truly take advantage of a subscription service (this is why I don’t have Netflix either). Ravelry, on the other hand, was life changing for me.

    Never say never, though, so I will be following!

    • True, I only use a handful of patterns per year (if that), but it might make sense for people who consume a lot more patterns than I do. It will be interesting to see how the model plays out. I feel like there’s some of the same reaction that happened in the music industry when subscription models first came along. Hopefully it’ll prove to be another good way for independent designers to get paid for their hard work.

  3. One thing I noticed was that you have to have internet available at all times, that could be a deal breaker if I’m out in the woods communing.

      • There isn’t yet, but in their pricing FAQ they mention they’re working on a native app (vs. a website app), and apparently that will have an offline mode. But that still doesn’t help with dead batteries…

  4. Wow! What a chunk of knitting crowd and more to pull together on a project. Sounds fun but I am happily cell phoneless. Yes, Deepa, never say never.

  5. Wow, it’s a blog blast for Making Things, the third blog post I’m reading today talking about it. So I took a look.
    For the same reason I do not subscribe to music platforms, I will probably not subscribe to this, but I can see that it might be a good deal for people who love to buy indie patterns from Ravelry on a regular basis, especially when you see some individual patterns selling for 14$ or more sometimes.
    I prefer to spend my money on knitting magazines that sit on my shelves and that I can easily reference when I want. I don’t like following a pattern on a small screen, and I prefer to take notes on paper. But a younger generation totally comfortable with everything digital might no doubt love it.

  6. I tried Craftsy 5 years ago when I got back into knitting. I was not comfortable knitting in front of my computer and I also like printed pages so I can write on them. As miss agnes above noted many people are great with digital reading, my eyes are just not too good for that.
    I will continue to buy patterns from many of these designers (which I already have) in hopes of support. I gotta say I LOVE RAVELRY! What a lovely free gift to fiber folks.

  7. I have been using an app called KnitCompanion for some time now and find that it is a life saver. I don’t think it is for making your own patterns, but for reading patterns and keeping track of things…it’s the best thing I’ve found. I use it on my iPad.

  8. I love the idea of being able to use a digital pattern for colourwork and complicated lace, but I really can’t see how the subscription model will work – at least, it wouldn’t work for me. I would definitely be up for buying specific patterns (in fact, I instantly went to see if one that’s in my queue was in the database) but I really can’t justify the expense of signing up for 12 months. One other point is that while I understand that the creators don’t want to offer a free trial I can’t imagine signing up without any idea of if it would work for me or not. Perhaps they could offer a couple of patterns to download so potential users could at least see how it works? Maybe a colourwork pattern and a lacework one or something, just so we can get a feel for it? Otherwise it’s just too much of a leap of faith!

  9. While the idea seems like it absolutely fits with the times…now that everything is on a phone or other digital device…the fact that you can’t print anything out AND you are tied to a device would be a deal breaker for me. Also, you would have to consume a LOT of patterns each month in order to justify the cost. One of the great things about Ravelry is you can think about that $14.00 pattern for years until you actually have the right yarn and the time to justify the purchase. Thinking time on Ravelry costs you nothing…putting things in/out of your queue costs you nothing; but once you do plunk down your dollars for a pattern, it’s there in your library for you to print out and use. I like that. As an aside, as an older maker-person, I think of “making” as something that gets me off the grid (except when I’m also watching something on Netflix while I knit); it is an essentially low tech process…that doesn’t require a whole lot of digital tech in order to master or execute. Yes, YouTube videos are a great help to us all, and many of us (myself included) participate online in the knitting/making world…but the actual core act of knitting is a quiet space and/or a personal social space that does not have to be mediated by technology. I kind of like that…but I can see the other perspective…that for some this would be an avenue into the pattern world.

    • Thinking time costs you nothing – SO TRUE! So much gorgeous thinking available on Ravelry!

  10. I’ve signed on for the monthly subscription so that, should this not be the thing for me, I can cancel when I want to. So far, it looks to be very functional, but I do agree with others that too much screen time can be such a strain on the eyes. Being able to print out a pattern is a big plus, and I think that really does need to be an option for makers.

    I do appreciate the thoughtfulness that’s gone into the app, and I especially appreciate that designers are being fairly compensated for their work. So far, I’ve found some new-to-me designers, and for those who do rely more on their screen devices than they do paper patterns, the functions are great: tracking progress, row and stitch counters, the ability to move a chart right up next to the written portion of a pattern, etc.

    Lots to explore.

    • As a designer I have yet to be convinced that designers will truly be fairly compensated for their work. The potential compensation for signing people up via your designer page is much greater than the potential compensation from customers accessing your patterns, based on the model the app’s team showed me. That balance seems out of whack to me. I’m hoping to be proven wrong over time, but for now I don’t see how the subscription share model pencils out in the long run.

      • Hey Dianna,
        I can explain how the compensation works if you’d like to chat over email or video chat.
        It’s understandable that you want to see how all this plays out. I can definitely give you some info though. Of course I’m biased because I am working with Making Things but I also care a LOT about the industry and so highly value the work of designers so I wouldn’t be part of this if I didn’t believe in it. Its 100% OK that you don’t think Making Things is for you but if you do want to chat I am available. Also I know that Making Things is open to feedback and every conversation is valuable because the goal of all this is to make something good for the community. Anyone else reading this please feel free to email me too. It’s
        I want to help however I can. I’m a keen supporter of Making Things and I just put my own business on pause to help Megan and the team make something amazing so I’m going to be doing everything I can to do that.

    • Printing can’t be an option in this – because that would mean you will have the pattern forever, and in this model you don’t buy the patterns, you buy the service.

  11. I really don’t understand the logic behind the app designer’s quote: I want my making world to fit snugly into my fast and crazy world, so I don’t have to leave it behind. So I can still be me.

    When I make, I want to be able to get away from technology and leave the crazy world behind. Making allows me to feel in touch with myself and if I want to I can connect with people via different platforms. The fact that you cannot print patterns is really a big no from me, for these reasons and also laptops/phones sometimes fail and I would hate to not have access to my WIP patterns. The cost isn’t prohibitive, however I probably don’t finish a project per month so it’s not financially smart for me.

  12. I have had a tendency to sign up for memberships (hello, Creativebug!) and then not used them. While I’m a relatively active member of Ravelry, I’ve also had the moment recently of “Holy cow (not really the word I used)! I have a lot of patterns! Yikes!” That’s not to say it’s not a worthy idea, but I’m curious how it will play out.
    Nonetheless, the skirt she’s wearing in the first picture is pretty damn awesome. Has a Missoni look although it looks like it might be a print.

  13. Thank you for at least mentioning your ar being compensated for linking the app through your blog, not many designers promoting the app are doing that, which could be a real legal and ethical problem for a business.
    I am afraid I am not impressed by the way the creator of this app used a test group on Ravelry, who gave it their all, and deleted all her comments and herself from Ravelry,without warning, when she launched her product. Where would the knitting world be without Ravelry, Casey and Jess’s wonderful creation?
    I see this product as just a rehash of many products already on the internet, most of which are low cost apps or free videos. I would rather most of my money went directly to the designer. And the designer/ the Ravelry community/ internet answer my technique questions without a monthly/yearly fee. Ysolda’s current newsletter is a good resource to start a conversation about this product. Also Hanna Lisa – hlh.designs on Insta stories has an interesting discussion on whether the pay structure on this app is even sustainable or fair to the designers.

  14. This whole thing looks incredible, especially the chart reading and counter features (which is where I always get tripped up on in patterns). I’ve been following the progress on Instagram for a while now, but this interview answered a ton of the questions I had and now I’m even more in love. I’m sad I don’t have the budget for it now, being a college student and all, but have big plans for a subscription once I get a job/my first paycheck :)

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