This is my third time participating in the GAL as both knitter and designer. Let me tell you why in this list of my Top Five Reasons Why I Take Part In The Gift-A-Long.
1. The camaraderie.
This is the big one. Even though knitting pattern design isn't my main job, it's one I really enjoy but it can be quite a solitary occupation. That doesn't bother me. I'm really quite introverted and find large groups exhausting, but the great thing about the internet is that one can enjoy the fun and friendship of a large group but without the noise and the overwhelming physical presence of all those people. I really enjoy all the chat and the excitement of thousands of knitters and crocheters all working together, sharing photos of their projects, admiring one another's yarns and then their finished work, sharing ideas and just having so much enjoyment in a shared passion for yarn and what can be done with it.
2. Taking a break
I agree, it does sound mad to claim that frantic last-minute gift knitting is taking a break, but I like to take the opportunity of the GAL to knit patterns by other designers. I love designing my own patterns but it's really nice to take a break now and again and knit something where I can just sit back and follow the instructions because someone else has already done all the hard work, the maths, the charting, the testing. I can browse through all the thousands (and yes, it is thousands!) of eligible patterns, choose something that inspires me and then just jump straight into it!
3. Finding new friends and mentors
As a designer, the GAL is also a great online networking opportunity. I still consider myself a newbie - I've only been designing for 2.5 years - and while the Ravelry forums are great places for asking questions (even the silly ones) and getting hints and tips, it can still feel very intimidating when you're posting alongside Big Names in the knitting world. The GAL is a great leveller in that, aside from having a smaller catalogue available, the newer designers can get just as much exposure and promotion as the well-established ones, and with so many participants there's bound to be other designers, knitters and crocheters who you can "click" with who you might not have found on a site as huge as Ravelry. In fact, the 2015 GAL even spawned its own spin-off group, the GAL After Party group, where designers and non-designers who met through the GAL that year decided to continue after the GAL itself was over.
4. The Sale
Let's face it, we all love a bargain, and the GAL gives crafters the chance to get a generous 25% off thousands of patterns from their favourite designers as well as encouraging people to try out a pattern or two from less-familiar designers. There are designers I have made repeated purchases from having tried out their patterns in the GAL, and projects I love that I would probably never have made if I hadn't been tempted by the bargain pattern. I doubt if my Paypal account is quite so keen on this one, but I have a bunch of patterns in my Ravelry cart already just waiting for the discount coupon code to go live at the start of the Gift-A-Long so I can grab the patterns I've spotted and save some money at the same time.
5. The sales
No, I'm not repeating myself. I mean, sales of my own patterns. Whether you sell your patterns or offer them free, there is no greater compliment to a designer when someone chooses to invest time, yarn and money into something you've designed. I design things I want to make myself (many of my pattern samples end up either in my own wardrobe or get gifted to people I love) and it's always lovely when someone I don't know (or even someone I do) appreciates my work enough to want to buy it. Also, without getting into a debate about free vs paid patterns, designing has a cost to it and expenses need to be recouped or covered from elsewhere, and if people buy patterns it encourages and enables the designer to design some more. So a big thank you to you if you have bought a pattern from me or from any of the other independent designers taking part in the GAL.
Now, come along 8pm US-EST on Tuesday, we all want to cast on!!!