Since I have put up a couple of free patterns recently, I wanted to address where I stand on the subject of when, if at all, the practice of offering free knitting patterns is appropriate.
Firstly, let me be clear: I believe that designers should be compensated for their patterns. Pattern design involves hours of work - and not just creative work and experimental knitting. There are tedious mathematical calculations involved, copywriting, photography, proofreading, layout, research into pricepoint, and so on and so forth. Put simply, a knitting pattern is a product. Offering it for free undermines the designer's work as well as the work of other designers.
That said, I see a few logical exceptions to this, and personally I find it acceptable to offer free patterns in the following instances:
1. Where the pattern serves as supporting material for a paid product or service - for example, the designer's own yarn range, or a class the designer is teaching. In this scenario, the pattern is not so much free, as included in the cost of the product/service.
2. Where the pattern is sufficiently basic, so that the information it provides can be considered 'common knowledge' to experienced knitters. The many free patterns floating around for 'vanilla' socks, garter stitch scarves, ribbed beanies, easy top-down raglan sweaters, and the like, are examples of this. In this scenario, the pattern serves as a good-will gesture for beginner knitters who can benefit from accessible patterns, as well as those knitters simply looking for an easy project and don't like to improv-knit. But it does not de-value the designer's (or other designers') skills.
So that's my take on the matter, and the patterns I offer for free fit into one of these categories.
I am not critical of designers who do things differently. I am only explaining the logic behind what I might offer for free, and why, while recognising that others have their own reasons for adapting a different approach.
I hope that answers the question for anyone who was wondering.
At the moment I have two free patterns online, and you can download them here:
Dotty! (cuff-down socks with short row heels and toes and a subtle polka-dot motif)
Over the Dunes (a top down raglan-sleeve pullover, knitted in the round)