Which Knitting Side Hustle is Right For You?
There’s a term I’ve been seeing on social media a lot lately: SIDE HUSTLE. I find it rather annoying, with its vapidly hip informality. The phrase is always accompanied by a photo of a 20-something with cute hair smiling at her laptop in a coffee shop. What is a side hustle? Why do young women want such a thing? Entrepreneur.com defines the term thusly: “A side hustle is a way to make some extra cash that allows you flexibility to pursue what you’re most interested in. It can also be your true passion—a chance to delve into fashion, travel or whatever it is you care about the most without quitting your day job.”
As I dug into the Google results for “side hustle,” I was struck by a thought: many women who have seen income from the yarn industry have done so by turning their craft into a side hustle. Making a full-time salary through knitting or crochet is difficult, but there are real opportunities for supplemental income in this industry. Whether you’re looking to develop your yarn career or just make some extra cash, here are legit knitting side hustles you should check out.
3 Legit Knitting Side Hustles
1. TECHNICAL EDITING
This is not a glamorous role, but an ESSENTIAL ONE that publishers, yarn companies, and designers will pay for. I’ll be honest, as editorial director for a company that publishes knitting patterns, good designers are plentiful. But good tech editors? EXCEEDINGLY RARE. Even not-great tech editors are rare, because tech editors are just straight-up rare. AND WE NEED THEM SO MUCH.
What does a tech editor do?
A tech editor makes sure that the final pattern will be easy to follow and will create a knit that looks like the original sample. A tech editor checks all math, all yarn and material info; adds sizes; and reworks structure and wording of a pattern to follow house style and to make the best knitting experience for the consumer. At Interweave, our tech editors receive the knitted sample, so they can take all measurements and incorporate those into the pattern.
What you need to get started:
Serious knitting expertise. A keen editorial eye and skill with numbers—you need to be able to focus on the minutiae of a pattern, as well as the big picture. Ideally, you can look at a knitted project and figure out how it was made—because a lot of times, the pattern you’re editing will be missing info. Skill with Adobe Illustrator is preferred, so that you can create graphics such as schematics and charts that are ready to publish. You should have chunks of time to devote to this work without distraction; you need a computer and internet connection; and you need an unwavering obsession with precision and accuracy.
How to get started:
I would recommend checking out the Indy Pattern Designers’ Resources group on Ravelry, and perhaps swapping work with an independent designer. See how you like the work and how the client feels about your work. Invest in Illustrator and learn how to use it—being able to create graphics will open you up to many more opportunities as you build your resume in tech editing. Gain a few regular designer clients; build your skills and your network; and begin sending your resume to publishers and yarn companies. Eventually, you can apply for membership in TNNA and their Business and Creative Services group, which includes designers and tech editors.
Myths of tech editing:
Publishers do not have patterns test-knit. There’s not enough time for this, nor enough sample knitters, and besides—with shifts in gauge due to personal knitting style, test-knitting is not necessarily a good way to tech edit a pattern. As a tech editor, you might swatch sections or stitches to understand them better, but mostly you are working on a computer, with math and concepts.
How do tech editors get paid?
Mainstream publishers and yarn companies pay either by the hour or a flat rate per project. Ideally, a pattern takes ~2 hours to tech edit, but I’ve seen some that take 30 minutes and some that take 24 hours (with very experienced tech editors working on them). Because of that variation, we’ve chosen to pay our tech editors by the hour at Interweave. Our tech editors commit to a certain number of projects over monthly timeframes, then bill us for their hours after completing a set of projects. Rates vary, but if you can dedicate a set number of hours a week to tech editing, you can make a nice side income.
Want to work for Interweave? We’re always looking for experienced tech editors; please send an inquiry to KNITS at INTERWEAVE.COM.
2. DESIGNING KNITWEAR
Designers are the creative heartbeat of the yarn industry. Fun new patterns excite knitters, drive yarn and needle sales, create trends, and keep the craft vibrant. Successful designers are celebrities in their own right, and some have been able to make full-time, lucrative work out of designing knits. That’s the goal for most designers. But it’s not easy, and there are a lot of designers competing for the coveted spots at the top. I’ve reviewed thousands of submissions from designers. NOT EVERYONE IS CUT OUT FOR THIS. Loving to knit does not make one a designer.
What does a designer do?
A designer comes up with an original concept for a knitted project and produces both the knitted sample garment and the written pattern, which can/will be edited by a tech editor before publication. Self-published designers are also their own creative directors, directing sample photography, pattern layout, and managing their businesses overall. Designers who contract with publishers have to follow deadlines and pattern guidelines strictly, or risk being black-listed.
What you need to get started:
Solid knitting expertise. You should know how to construct garments and projects before trying to design your own interpretations of the basic types. I.e., knit a lot of socks and experiment with construction styles before designing your own sock. Knit a lot of sleeve caps before designing your own sweater. You might be capable of imagining an awesome design without this depth of knowledge, but your ability to accomplish your idea in real life and to write a pattern that makes sense are rooted in actual knitting knowledge. On top of knowledge, you need a creative sensibility and to be tapped into the knitting market and what people are making and favoriting and following.
How to get started:
Design a few projects, knit them, and work on pattern-writing. Did you enjoy that process? Or find it painfully slow and frustrating? If you enjoyed it, have the samples photographed, find someone to tech edit/review your patterns, and post them to Ravelry. I would recommend a low price to start—put it out there that you’re just starting and you want feedback. You could make them free, which is a good way to gain projects, but a tough way to assert yourself as a professional in this space. A lot of designers have come to regret the consequences of free patterns in the wider yarn industry.
Once you’re ready to branch out, submit your ideas to publishers. The feedback of an editor can be invaluable to a designer who spends all her time in her own head. Also, a publisher does the hard stuff for you—photography, tech editing, customer service. Check out Interweave’s submission process here.
Common misconceptions about designing:
The point is not to make up the most original concept ever. If you want to be published, or to have lots of knitters buy your pattern on Ravelry, your concept needs to be KNITTABLE. Good design is simple; has been edited and refined down to its most essential elements. A good design makes a yarn shine and uses yarn efficiently. Look at what’s popular—hand-dyed sock yarn? Gradients? Short-rows? Leverage those factors in your design; refine the idea; make sure you can communicate the concept effectively if you’re submitting it. Don’t over-design. Over-the-top designs are not usually very popular, and the patterns can be long and complicated. Who’s your customer? What does she want?
Something to remember:
Patterns fall under the umbrella of intellectual property. Once you start selling your work to companies, you’ll have a lot of options in terms of rights, exclusivity, payment, and re-use to consider. It helps to have a lawyer who can review contracts with you.
How do designers get paid?
Designers can self-publish through a number of online platforms, as well as printed formats that are sold directly to consumers at events, or wholesaled to yarn shops. Income from self-publishing will vary wildly—it all depends on how many units you can sell. If you sell patterns on Ravelry, the platform will track your sales and disburse your earnings back to you (Ravelry does take a 3.5% commission, which isn’t much). The potential for high revenue is there, but success hinges on your designs, your presentation, your brand, and your reputation within the community. And remember, knitting is a slow activity. You can only crank out so many designs per month, and they won’t all sell well. A publisher will pay between $150 and $1000 for your design and do the production work, but they’ll also take home more of the revenue. Some companies offer a royalty on pattern sales, either in lieu of or in addition to the initial flat rate.
A mix of self-publishing and freelance is the way to go. Also keep in mind, freelance pay is not instant—you might wait 6 months to get paid for a project from some publishers (not so with Interweave, but we did work that way at one point). So, mix up your channels, keep your day job, and grow that following.
3. TEACHING KNITTING CLASSES
Even with the rise in online education, in-person knitting classes are still very popular. There are two main venues for knitting classes: local shops and regional events. There are teachers who travel throughout the year, patching together shop classes and weekend-long workshops at fiber festivals and other events.
What does a knitting teacher do?
The teacher designs a class concept, including an outline of the class content, needed supplies and homework for the students, and they compile any handouts, patterns, or kits needed to accompany the class. And then, of course, they teach the class to a group of students! They need to be good public speakers; to be good at communicating concepts and technical directions; and to manage time and personalities effectively.
What you need to get started:
Strong people skills and teaching acumen. Knitting expertise—but you don’t have to be a Jedi master. You just need to know more than your students do on the topic you’re teaching. Understand the market for knitting classes. Does your LYS offer classes? How long are they? What kinds of topics and skill levels do they cover?
How to get started:
Pitch a class idea to your LYS, library, public school, or retirement community. Try out your teaching skills and refine your class idea. Pitch it to more venues. Develop more classes. Take classes yourself, in knitting and other hobbies. Observe the teachers and learn from them. Submit class proposals to events such as fiber festivals and corporate retreats—Interweave Yarn Fest, Stitches, and Vogue Knitting Live are big ones to consider.
Things to remember:
Venues that host classes want to fill those classes. They make money on each student who registers, so they want to offer bigger classes (6-person max is not gunna cut it), and they need classes that are highly marketable. Know what’s popular in knitting at the moment; follow what topics popular events are covering; and work on strong class descriptions and supporting visuals. Also, events and shop classes usually fall on weekends, sometimes evenings. Once you get into the teaching circuit, you will have to travel frequently and work weekends.
How do knitting teachers get paid?
Local shops often pay a flat rate per class, and it can be low (you might have to negotiate; determine what’s the lowest rate you would take for the work and stick to that). Teaching at schools and nonprofits is usually done for free, but can offer good experience and resume material (and goodwill in the community). Larger events vary in compensation, but it’s normal to receive a travel stipend/reimbursement, as well as a rate per class OR per student. Getting paid per student can be more lucrative than a flat rate, but your final paycheck is less predictable. It isn’t typical for all classes to fill. Most events will cancel a class if it fails to meet a minimum. Events operate differently, but it isn’t uncommon for teachers to front the travel costs and then get reimbursed and paid for the teaching at the event or even after it. So, you need to be able to float yourself to that point. But, for any teaching gig, you should walk away making a profit.
Profit is, after all, the point of a side hustle. I’ve known many avid knitters who transformed their hobbies into careers—I am one of them, myself. But I also know that hobbyists think like hobbyists first, and not often enough like businesswomen. Value your own time; know your worth; and pursue projects that are going to maximize your returns. I.e., sometimes you design the baby blanket with cat ears because it will sell, not because it’s the most inspiring thing you’ve ever done. And that’s okay. Cuz it’s still knitting. And it will help you take the next step with your business, whatever that might be.
If you want to hone your knitting knowledge to better prepare you for a side gig, check out our online courses here. There are more opportunities for income in knitting, especially if you get into wholesale, retail, marketing, or manufacturing. But I’ll leave this side-hustle list to professional services for now! Chime in in the comments with your yarn hustle successes and inspire us all.
BACK TO MY DAY JOB,
Get Your Business Off the Ground!