Can I hear a ‘Heck Yes!” to free yarn?
Wait…that’s what yarn support is, isn’t it?
Sorta. It’s actually a bit more complicated than that, but it’s a deal that can be really good for both the designer and dyer. Curious? Read on.
Have you heard a fellow designer talk about “yarn support” or seen a successful collab between a dyer and a designer on Instagram? What does that truly mean?
When you are working on a design, you can ask a yarn company for “yarn support” (or sometimes they will approach you!) as a form of collaboration. Typically, you will receive yarn for free, you’ll design with the yarn, and both you AND the dyer will work together to promote BOTH the pattern and the yarn when the design launches.
I’ve worked on several collaborations where the dyer requests a certain number of free copies of your pattern (or Ravelry codes) so the dyer can also create yarn+pattern kits for knitters.
Yarn support is great for designers, because it helps you save money (yay!) and you get to expand your network with another maker in the industry (it turns out the fiber world is ALL about relationships!).
But — you might ask yourself, what if the dyer doesn’t like my patterns? What if my patterns aren’t good enough?
I hear ya’ — confidence has never been my strong suite, and I’m an extreme introvert to boot! But, I’m hear to tell you “Get over it!”. Your art deserves to be in this world!
It can be a little intimidating to just “cold call” a dyer. Remember, they’re people too! So, my advice would be to hop on social media, make sure you are following the dyer on Instagram and possibly Facebook, and start liking/commenting on their feed. Next, get familiar with designers they’ve collaborated with in the past, what feel do the patterns typically have?
You could even purchase the yarn company’s yarn and create a design, market it yourself, tag the yarn company in the promotion, and tell the world how beautiful the dyer’s yarn is! This is the approach I typically go for — I like to show the dyer what I can do with his/her yarn, and let them know I’m ready for a long term connection, not just “free yarn” (think Match.com and not. Tinder!).
Okay, I’ve got sweaty palms and I’m ready to ask for support — now what?
Here is how I would got about asking for support:
Do your research. Some yarn company’s have yarn support information on their website (these are usually the bigger names in the yarn industry). Read through their requirements, and go ahead and PITCH! If the dyer/yarn company you’ve got your eye on doesn’t have yarn support info on their website, then send them a friendly e-mail.
ASK for support, but be okay with rejection (it hurts, but you’re strong!).. Approach the dyer respectfully and ask if he/she would be willing to work on a collaboration. Remember, they’re running a company too — sometimes they have a backlog they are trying to fulfill, or they already have their collections set in stone for the next few months — sometimes the timing isn’t right, or they just don’t feel inspired by your designs (tough love time: Not everyone will love your patterns! That’s okay — there is a whole world of knitters and dyers out there that do!).
What’s in it for them? Initially the dyer is taking a bigger risk than you are — they are sending you free yarn (part of their inventory that they could sell and make real $$$ from), while you are just pitching an idea that may/may not work out. Let the dyer know how much exposure they could get from collaborating with you (how many followers on social media you have, how many patterns you have available on Ravelry, if you’ve hosted a KAL before, etc.). Make the deal sound irresistible! Think about this part as a mini-resume — you wouldn’t apply to a job without a resume, it’s the same in a business collaboration!
Note: If you don’t have a big following, or if you are still a new designer, that is perfectly fine! Many dyers love to work with up-and-coming designers, you might surprise yourself! One approach I like to take is to reaching out to a dyer that has a similar (or slightly bigger) following/presence as you!
The deal. Briefly answer the following questions: What are you pitching? What kind of timeline are you thinking? What yarn/colorway are you interested in? What is the approximate yardage of your design? Include a sketch if you have one — this makes the idea feel more “real”. Let the dyer know that you are FLEXIBLE. Remember, this is higher risk for the dyer than it is for you at this point, so be open to small suggestions as long as they don’t squash your creative juices.
That’s it — it’s pretty simple. Type up the above details in an e-mail (be brief! No one reads long e-mails nowadays), and click SEND.
Wait for a response — if you don’t get a response — move on and look for a new connection (I’ve found some businesses are more comfortable with not responding than just saying no… it’s a pain, but that’s human nature!).
If you get a response, have yourself a little dance party, and then CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION. Communication is key in a collaboration. Get those creative juices rolling and get working!! You are now committed to creating a pattern according to the timeline you gave the dyer/yarn company.
Along the way, send the dyer a picture or two, and give status updates (confirm you receive the yarn, let the company know how the design process is going, and promotional information when the time arrives).
Congratulations! Now the fun part begins!