Jobs in the Yarn Industry

The number one inquiry I get via email is a seemingly simple one—fiber enthusiasts I meet at book signings or knitting groups, through mutual friends or on Instagram, often reach out to me to ask how I began to do the work that I do for yarn companies. Usually, it comes out in discussion that they also have a fiber dream, and want to pursue work in this industry, but have a very narrow idea of what kind of work is available. I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some fiber jobs, give an outline of what type of person is best suited to them, and help guide some of these hopefuls on their route to becoming a ‘yarn industry professional’. If you’re already a professional in the industry, please feel free to share any additions or notes you have in the comments below.

Oh, and one more thing. I didn’t include standard office jobs (like customer service roles, warehouse roles, etc.) I think that most of you know that these exist and you can apply for those on the company’s websites. I mainly focused on jobs you could do from where you live now, potentially as remote employment, since that’s the kind of position I get most asked about.

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Yarn Shop Owner

I challenge you to find someone you know in the yarn industry who hasn’t dreamed of opening their own yarn shop. Who wouldn’t want to curate shelves full of beautiful, inspirational yarns, work directly with designers and dyers to showcase their products, and encourage along new knitters in their community?

Highlights:

As a yarn shop owner, you’re responsible for sharing your taste and the things you love with your customers, and building a community within and around your brick and mortar or digital store. This position is ideal for a people-person who loves interacting with others and is good at turning frustrated crafters into happy ones. You should have a really strong base knowledge of your craft and at least passing knowledge of most other yarn-related pursuits (for instance, if you’re a knitter, it’s helpful to know at least basic crochet, or have someone on staff who does). If you spend a lot of time on Ravelry, that’s an added plus, as you’ll be up-to-date on trends and popular patterns and can introduce them to your shop’s community.

Challenges:

While being a shop owner can be a joyful experience, it’s not without challenges. The National Needlework Association’s annual research has found that a good percentage of shop owners don’t take home a salary or don’t support themselves and the business on the income it provides. You’ll need to either have a good nest egg, supplemental income, or take out business loans to get started buying inventory. Organized minds are helpful when it comes to managing all of the ins and outs of what you’ll be carrying, when your orders come in, and how to manage the bills. Social media knowledge is a plus, since you’ll need to navigate the internet to help bring business into your store (and often, a shop with an online presence has more business than one without).

Pay:

Variable. Many retail projections don’t have new business owners taking any salaries home for an average of 5 years; some long-term shop owners have also reported making minimum wage, if they take a salary at all. Other shops boom and do very well—your mileage may vary!

Starting resources:

There are two great Ravelry communities for shop owners just starting out that can lead you to other, private Facebook groups. LYSOs and LYS Owners. Each of these have ‘beginner’ threads that can be handy when you’re doing initial research. Don’t expect someone to just answer your questions—go in prepared to read. You can also join TNNA, the industry’s trade organization, and attend trade shows that provide educational assistance for new and starting shops.

Yarn Shop Employee

Do you already find yourself spending all of your free time at the yarn store? Do you love helping would-be crafters discover the perfect project, match their yarn to the perfect pattern, or feel welcome in your community? A job at a local yarn store might be for you.

Highlights:

While a yarn shop’s owner makes the big decisions that set the shop’s look and feel, it is the yarn store’s employees who really work to create a community and environment that people find encouraging and welcoming. If you have some retail experience as well as a passion for crafting, this could be a great job for you!

Challenges:

Many shops now are seeking employees who can fill in the gaps for roles the shop owner doesn’t feel comfortable taking on. In addition to meeting and greeting new customers, you may be asked to teach classes, manage social media presences, answer customer service emails, mail out web orders, or any number of additional tasks. If you have extra skills, this can be a great boon to your shop owner! If you’re dreaming of sitting and knitting for hours on end, maybe reconsider this as a career path. Additionally, knitting shop employees very rarely have the opportunity to work full time with benefits, although this may vary from shop to shop.

Pay:

Minimum wage and up. This is a great ‘get out of the house’ or ‘retirement’ job, or for someone who needs part time in most areas. Some shops are exceptions to this rule and are able to provide great salaries and benefits for their employees, but these tend to be few and far between.

Starting Resources:

The best place to get your foot in the door is at your local shop. Spend time getting to know the owner and clientele and make it clear you have skills and the time available to help them out. Show that you’re a useful, positive, and eager influence in the shop during your visits and it’s likely that the shop owner will notice (and remember when you mention you’re looking for work)! Most shops don’t put postings in the windows for help needed, simply because of how specialized that help is, so often these positions are filled by people who spend time at the yarn shop. You can also place an ‘ad’ on the Ravelry Help Wanted forum.

Yarn Dyer

Are you artistically inclined, with an eye for color that seems different or unique to others around you? Do you dream about capturing the perfect red, yellow, or blue on a skein of yarn and knitting it up into the perfect accessory?

Highlights:

This is the #1 thing that most people want to be when they’re thinking of a job in the yarn industry. Spending your mornings and evenings capturing your love for color on fiber you adore might seem like the ideal job, but it’s actually a lot of work! From the chemistry and experimentation to develop your own dye colors, to developing consistency in your practices and processes, there are a lot of tiny bits and pieces for indie dyers to balance. You’ll need to have a good head for running and marketing your business, or at least have funds to hire someone to manage a website, social media presence, and newsletter list for you. Be prepared to spend your weekends attending craft shows and events to gain and maintain your following, and prepare for lots of heavy lifting—wet wool is heavy!

Challenges:

Many indie dyer’s margins are quite tight, especially when starting out, unless you begin with a small business loan or savings to purchase deep into your yarn bases. You need to know your numbers inside and out so you can make sure you’re set up for the type of business you want to run (direct to consumer, or wholesale to shops and stores?) There is a LOT of competition in this area, so you’ll need to consider everything carefully, from your branding and website build to what will set you apart artistically from the competition. If you don’t feel that you already have a clear vision and voice as an artist, I don’t recommend going into this field.

Pay:

Your pay is entirely dependent on your margins, marketing, and business’ success and efficiency. This is a make it or break it kind of job and never moves beyond a hobby for many dyers.

Starting Resources:

While there aren’t many resources out there for starting dyers due to the high amount of competition, I can recommend a few. You’ll find tutorials on Youtube for beginning dye techniques, and you can buy both acid dyes and natural dyes through a variety of sites, including Amazon. For your bases, I have to recommend the site I co-own through Knitcrate, Dyer Supplier. I personally seek to find fibers that are interesting and affordable for our indie dyer clients, from ethical sources with good environmental, human and animal rights practices.

Yarn Dyer’s Support Team

While you might not be the head honcho, sometimes it’s enough to be part of something bigger than yourself. Working for an established business that already makes its customer base happy and excited can be a fun and rewarding job, and can take on many forms designed for your particular skill set.

Highlights:

This is an oft-overlooked support position in the yarn industry, but many yarn dyers are actually looking for help in the dye house and beyond. The larger an independent business grows, the more assistants are needed to manage everything from dyeing to processing wholesale orders, tagging and bagging skeins to be shipped off around the world, managing customer service emails, attending shows and craft fairs, organizing designer relationships and yarn support features, and marketing the brand online. This can be an exciting way to be involved without needing to be the expert or obsess over all the little details.

Challenges:

Depending on the size of the business you work for, your work might be seasonal, part time, or different all year long. Be prepared to wear different hats and show your usefulness to the company in different situations. The ability to travel is often a must, as many dyers need the most help at craft shows and events.

Pay:

This is typically hourly work, but sometimes can be salaried depending on the business. $12/hour and up seems to be standard (with exceptions for different skill sets), and long-term workers often see pay increases over time.

Starting Resources:

Begin looking for these types of jobs on the company’s websites. Another place to look is among the listings of these Ravelry groups, which sometimes feature ads from dyers seeking support staff: Crafters Searching for Work, Hire a Knitter or Crocheter, The Job Market, Ravelry Classifieds

Yarn Mill or Dye House Employee

Some of you might wonder why I don’t have ‘yarn manufacturer’ on this list, and that’s because producing commercial yarns—from fiber selection to end spinning information, milling qualities, etc., is really beyond an entry level position. If you dream of starting your own yarn company someday, beginning as a yarn mill or dye house employee can be a great way to learn all the ins and outs of this highly complex business.

Highlights:

Many of these positions can go unfilled for years, waiting for just the right person with the amount of passion and drive for a career in the yarn industry to come in and begin working. Although some of these positions require technical skills, many will train on the job and most do not require a relevant degree, just a desire to learn. Mill and dye house employees who stay might find themselves rising up the ranks and learning different facets of the business that can make them invaluable members of their teams. Additionally, some (but not all) of these positions will have benefits and a more ‘traditional’ work environment. Jobs can range from equipment maintenance and usage to yarn design, colorway design, bookkeeping, account management and even creative direction. You may also find yourself traveling to other countries or dealing with wool brokers for some clients.

Challenges:

Often, this work is location-dependent and will require people to go into an office each day in a very specific location. These mills and dye houses are few and far between in North America, and some positions will require on the job training and may pay based on seniority.

Pay:

Salaried or hourly, this work has a wide range of benefits and pay scales. It will largely depend on what you are doing, and who you are doing it for.

Starting Resources:

It’s surprising how many of these places are always looking for new workers, since this is likely a dream job for many knitters and crocheters. Many of the employees I’ve spoken to at textile mills have said they simply answered an online job posting on sites like Monster or Indeed. Mills will often also post open positions to their websites: scroll to the bottom of the page and look for a ‘Jobs’ or ‘Careers’ link if you’re seeking.

Pattern Designer

Often seen as the most up-front-and-center folks in the yarn industry, pattern design isn’t all about free yarn and recognition. This is a position that requires precision, constant education, and lots of trial and error.

Highlights:

If you like to solve puzzles, create new things, and have a strong vision for items your customers will want to wear, pattern design might be for you. This job combines the technical side of knitting and crochet with the more creative, fashion design elements of making your own garments. You’ll constantly be learning new things and sharing your perspective with your customers, and, if you become good at what you do, you’ll be able to pursue opportunities in other ares of the knitting industry—some designers even go on to become magazine editors, creative directors, and yarn company owners.

Challenges:

There are a lot of people competing in this area, and nothing is ‘new’ under the sun. Think long and hard about how you’ll set yourself apart in this space and what your brand’s voice will be (and how this ties into who you are, because often, you’re selling yourself as much as your design work)! Technical knitting or crochet proficiency is a major plus, since it will save you some of the entry-level costs of technical editing and writing your patterns. Be prepared to learn how to use a variety of different software programs for writing, layout, charts, schematics, and grading scales, marketing, and social media. Expect to collect books like crazy on stitch patterns, design and construction methods, and more. This is a constantly evolving field and getting recognized can be hard—many designers never ‘make it big’. Knowing what your goals are when you start, and having a plan to reach them, can be helpful.

Pay:

This varies massively from designer to designer, but according to Ravelry statistics this is often more of a side gig than a day job for most designers.

Starting Resources:

There are numerous resources for becoming a pattern designer! First and foremost, I recommend checking out the Indie Designers forum on Ravelry for lots of good posts to read. Additionally, books have been written by some of the industry’s leaders, and one of my favorites is Kate Atherley’s Beginner’s Guide to Writing Knitting Patterns. Kate is the Lead Technical Editor for Knitty, a digital magazine that has been going strong since 2002.

Technical Editor

If you have a head for numbers and accurate grammar, this might be the perfect work within the yarn industry for you. Technical editing is the practice of ‘proofing’ a pattern for accuracy. Your job is to double-check numbers, terminology, make grammatical error and layout error notes, and suggest changes for designers.

Highlights:

This is truly a behind the scenes position and many people are able to get consistent work from home. You’ll get to make your own hours in most cases, and all you really need to be a good technical editor is an understanding of the craft you’re working within and the ability to double-check someone else’s work. The best technical editors are able not only to make small changes for accuracy, but also suggest alternative ways to lay out and communicate information to the customer within the designers’ style guide or company’s design template.

Challenges:

Nobody is infallible, but technical editors are supposed to be accurate and correct when they suggest changes or alterations to any pattern. If you find that you’re a ‘guesswork’ knitter or you tend to overlook small issues because you understand them, technical editing might not be for you. It can also be hard to break into this behind the scenes business, and you’ll need to market yourself to potential clients and companies.

Pay:

Typically technical editing is contract work and pays between $15-$35 an hour or per pattern, depending on the arrangement you have with your client. Some experienced technical editors may get more, or be offered retainer positions with companies or designers that enjoy working with them.

Starting Resources:

There are several technical editing classes floating around online, but before checking those out, it can be beneficial to begin as a test knitter or proof reader for a designer you admire. Begin small by working on their patterns and seeing how you like the work (and how well you adapt to it) before you begin charging people to edit their patterns. This is one of the most expensive aspects for a knitwear designer to hire out, and you don’t want someone to feel you overcharged them if you missed some errors!

Copy Writer

If you’ve always been good with using words to paint a picture, or enjoy helping businesses phrase and frame their products in new ways, writing copy (the words that make up written material on websites, and sometimes in social media and press releases), can be a great way to translate your love of yarn into paid work.

Highlights:

Writers with good time management skills and the ability to come up with creative, engaging copy will have no trouble finding freelance work. Most copy writing is continually variable, keeping things interesting and challenging your writing chops every day you’re working. This is a great career path for someone who wants to work from home when they have time.

Challenges:

You’ll need to carefully build a brand guide for each company you write for, and pay careful attention to cater each ‘voice’ you write to match the brand you’re serving. Often, companies haven’t given much thought to the style of writing they’re promoting, so be prepared to help guide people along as you go and adapt to each situation individually. It’s also important to have a meticulous attention to detail: if you’re being hired for writing, you also need to have a comprehensive understanding of grammar and be able to proof-read and double-check your work. Don’t be afraid to have companies review what you’re writing for accuracy, but try to take the extra labor hours out of it by making it as perfect as possible when you first turn work in.

Pay:

$15/hr and up with experience and writing samples.

Starting Resources:

There really aren’t ‘starting resources’ besides having a good sample of work ready to show. Usually, it’s best if you can begin in a small social media position, helping a local shop or business write newsletters or acting as a double-up content creator (blogging, social media writing for Instagram or Facebook, or building out press releases are good ways to showcase your writing skills). You could also add copy writing into a body of services related to web building if you have coding skills. Once you establish yourself as capable, you’ll have no shortage of companies reaching out, looking to lift some of the burden of brand maintenance off their shoulders. If you identify a brand that could use a verbal facelift, consider sending your resume, portfolio (with writing samples), and suggestions via email and offering your services. (Make sure you approach them in a way that doesn’t disparage their current work; you never know who is answering those emails and who is writing currently copy!)

Layout Designer

If you are handy with Adobe InDesign and have a good eye for publishing, typography and print placement, this is a great way to break into the industry and provide yourself with consistent work. Knitting pattern layout is a specialized sub-set of publishing and it can be quite difficult to find help in this field (in fact, I’m always looking)!

Highlights:

If you enjoy work with lots of repetition and consistency, this is a great position to cultivate. Companies often use templates and have specific ideas about how their finished products should look, so you’ll just need to adapt and fill in the blanks. A good work flow and great time management are both essential. As you develop more skills and clients have confidence, be prepared to have opportunities for layout design and artistic options open up for you.

Challenges:

Accuracy and attention to detail are an absolute must: every mistake that has to be fixed is a time-costs-money comparison that could make or break your continued employment. If you’re good the type of person that says things are ‘close enough’, this type of work might not be for you. You’ll also need to be set up already with sometimes-expensive software: make sure you have Adobe InDesign and even StitchMastery ready to work with for knitting and crochet industry clients.

Pay:

$20/hr and up. This job sometimes will have requirements like a graphic design degree (but not always, especially if you’re able to send in samples).

Starting Resources:

You will sometimes find work for graphic or layout designers listed on yarn company career pages, or you can solicit your work directly to designers through groups on Ravelry geared towards support roles. List your services in Designers or the Ravelry Classifieds, or seek out small marketing groups/firms that are geared towards providing designer services. (I am currently seeking a great layout designer so you could even message me directly if this seems like a great fit for you).

Video Editor

While a picture is worth a thousand words, video appears to be worth even more for companies these days. Video is by far one of the fastest-growing areas in all social media marketing, with Youtube, Vimeo, Instagram, Facebook and more jumping into the fray.

Highlights:

If you’re a skilled video editor who already understands how to use programs like iMovie and Adobe Premiere Pro, it could be worth it to extend your services to the many video bloggers and podcasters out there, or to companies looking to get into video (but unsure of how to navigate making professional videos over quick ones). Often, video editors don’t also know the ins and outs of knitting or crochet, so someone with a knowledge of both plus the ability to cut and create beautiful videos? A guarantee for success.

Challenges:

This is a fairly new space, so you’ll need to have some good examples of work you’ve done or work you can do to help get your business going. It’s likely that when starting out, you’ll be reaching out to potential clients. Accuracy in editing, an attention to detail with elements like sound and what’s happening on screen, and speediness can all be assets for video editors seeking yarn related employment. Creativity is valuable—but flexibility (for your client’s vision) is a must.

Pay:

Again, this is a pretty new area to get into! I have seen video editors paid as much as $60/hr and up, but would estimate that most companies will be more comfortable paying in the $25/hr range for repeat services.

Starting Resources:

Start out with existing video platforms, like Instagram Live, Youtube, and Facebook, and look for podcasters or video bloggers who are really taking off. Often, they’ll have the skills needed to do this work themselves, but might be willing to give you a try so they can focus on new areas of their business. Additionally, seek out potential clients that are looking to develop video content (I know a few if you’ve got the skills in this area—reach out)! It’s so hot right now, once people learn you’re doing it, you shouldn’t be at a loss for clients.

Marketing Coordinator

Do you love the ins and outs of complex calendar planning? Love setting up a list of to-dos and checking each item off, coming closer and closer to your goal? Do you like to study how different people react and behave towards images, text and advertisements? Advertising and Marketing might be for you, and in this industry, they’re always in demand.

Highlights:

This is a hugely sought after position for companies of all sizes. Chances are, if a brand doesn’t already have a marketing coordinator, they’re seeking one to manage all of the social media presences they’re involved with, from Instagram to Facebook. Knowing your way around social media platforms is a boon to getting a job here, but know the back end is even better. If you can talk analytics, insights, and add in some Ravelry engagement? It’s all gravy, baby. This is also a job that usually allows you to work from home (although that may depend on the client).

Challenges:

This is a job for highly organized and efficient people. Social media marketing is day in and day out, and will probably require you to be on your phone, have access to internet, and be ready to respond 24/7. If you’re at a place in your life where work-life balance is crucial to you, this might not be the best position to take on. While most of the work in this category is part-time, social media can pay for itself by illustrating it’s value to potential clients. Often, this position is lumped in with that of a content creator (see further down the list), so if you just want to be a plug-and-play-by-the-numbers person, you need to make the goals—and your abilities—clear when you coordinate with potential clients. You’ll also need to familiarize yourself with social media scheduling programs like Later and Hootsuite if you want to pre-schedule content (efficiency is key)!

Pay:

$15/hr and up, usually billed as itemized contract work.

Starting Resources:

You’ll have good luck searching on sites like Indeed and Monster for these listings, but you can also find them in some of the Ravelry groups I’ve listed further up for other job postings. Often, companies will put out calls or list the need for this position on their websites.

Social Media Influencer

Calling this a job might be a stretch, although many successful Instagrammers, bloggers and video bloggers have turned it into steady income with enough drive and ambition. A social media influencer is someone who uses their existing audience to help bring sales and recognition to companies that barter or pay for that attention.

Highlights:

This is an entirely make-your-own-hours kind of job, and you’ll be fully responsible and in control of your own content, platforms, and execution. If you already have a sizeable Instagram following and have companies reaching out to you, consider monetizing your platform by asking for a small fee in exchange for your promotion. You will have full control over what companies you work with and what you promote to your audience.

Challenges:

If you don’t already have a pretty good following on a social media platform (more than 10k on a specific platform), chances are that you’ll start out doing more collaborations than paid promos. Be prepared to barter for services, goods and products that are in-line with your brand until you can begin to charge for them. Once you hit that sweet spot of 10k+, it’s more reasonable to charge for your posts—but you need to know what you’re giving to the companies that work for you. Keep close tabs on your audience engagement and be prepared to prove that it’s not just a number at face value.

Pay:

Varies widely, but influencers with high engagement in the yarn industry can get around $100 per 10k followers. If you have lower engagement per post, expect companies to want to see higher numbers so they will still be reaching large audiences.

Starting Resources:

There are SO many places you can go to learn how to be a better influencer. Read online information with a grain of salt, since what works for one industry (fashion or beauty, for instance) may not resonate with your knitting and crochet audience. The most important thing is to be authentic—nobody believes someone who is always shilling products or is obviously geared towards having a big account.

Content Creator

Are you creatively minded? Always thinking of things to write about, inspiration to share, and new topics to discuss? The position of content creator often goes hand in hand with a marketing position, but is slightly different—instead of following an existing outline, you’ll be coming up with the details yourself.

Highlights:

If you’re thinking about moving into an eventual creative director or editorial role, this is a great place to start building your resume. Are you a blog writer, a social media influencer, or do you write a newsletter with high readership? Likely, you’re creating some fabulous content all your own. You can do this either for a company (within the bounds of their marketing department) or in an influencer role, where you’ll dictate your own style and audience.

Challenges:

All too often, this is lumped in with other positions and requires you to be savvy in multiple arenas. If you feel restricted by other’s visions, this might not be the position for you—it’s better if you can be flexible while still maintaining your creativity. Be prepared to prove yourself, as sometimes it’s hard to convince people who don’t ‘get it’ how much work—and how valuable—creativity really is.

Pay:

This varies, and goes up as you gain notoriety and experience. I think it’s reasonable to begin with $15/hr if you don’t already have a big following, and $25 or up if you do. These positions often become ‘creative directors’ as companies get used to the idea of them, and can pay upwards of $35 an hour over time. Be prepared to negotiate!

Starting Resources:

This is a self starter role, so you’ll want to showcase your creative voice and vision on multiple platforms while you get started. Sharing your own projects, patterns, and building and pitching micro-campaigns to brands you admire and want to work with is a good start. As you grow, apply to marketing positions and creative positions open at different companies you’d want to work for.

Knitting Photographer / Stylist

People don’t realize that shooting yarn and projects takes a different skill set than other types of photography—you’re part product photographer, part portrait photographer, and part fashion photographer. Being able to tell the difference between the right and wrong sides of the fabric, for instance, sets you apart from other ‘standard’ photographers.

Highlights:

You can spend every day photographing what you love (yarn! patterns! projects!), bringing your creative vision in line with others who are looking to launch their brands and businesses, and making yarn look drool-worthy.

Challenges:

It’s possible you’ll be working with some very small clients at first, and this might need to start as a side job or hobby job until you can build up steady clientele.

Pay:

I have paid photographers anywhere from $30-$250 an hour. Depending on the equipment, scale of the shoot and goal of the project, you’ll need to negotiate each job on the ground. This may or may not include editing, so remember to always ask if they need photos edited (and include that in your estimates)!

Starting Resources:

Get your photos out there! Instagram is the best place to launch yourself as a great yarn photographer. Tag the brands you photograph and take stunning shots of the yarns in your stash. Reach out to local designers and see if they’ll let you do some portfolio building or if they need help photographing their work (and if they’d be able to pay for it). Loyalty to a good photographer is pretty common, so once you’re in, you’re in!