The ACM Debacle

So … this post has been brewing for a bit.  I don’t know quite where to begin.  Let’s try this:

My name is Rachel, and I was fooled by Kerrie Allman.  

Not once, but twice.

I’m a bit ashamed to admit it, but I gave her TWO of my designs, both of which she published in her magazine.  She never paid me for the first one, but I gave her the second one anyway.  She never paid me for that one either, and it seems unlikely I ever will get paid.

My only consolation is that I have plenty of company: she stiffed many people, including employees, landladies, other designers and crafters, even just regular people who subscribed to her various schemes and got only some (or none) of what they paid for. You can read the full litany of her deviousness on the Ravelry group which “exists to support customers and contributors of ACM (also and previously KAL Media Ltd, Hipknits, Magknits) as they seek resolution of problems such as unpaid designers, missing designer samples, goods not as described, and unsuitable yarn club substitutions.”

You needn’t feel compelled to read through all the details.  However I do wish to say that I lay blame for everything that happened to me personally and to many other designers and crafters squarely at the feet of Kerrie Allman.  By all accounts she is a persuasive and charismatic person who is able to convince people that she is not at fault, and that others are unfairly targeting her.  I leave that judgment up to each individual.

However, if you are considering ANY BUSINESS of any kind with this woman, I urge you to reconsider, research, and reconsider again.  She has conned so many people out of so much money, and has gotten away with it again and again.  Don’t be a fool like me.

My own personal story (dates are approximate):

Fall 2010: I had an idea for a baby dress, and started a prototype. I submitted the design idea to Yarn Forward (now defunct/transformed), and was accepted.  I was still relatively new to designing, so I was very excited!  I discussed yarn types and colors with the editor, and soon enough yarn was winging it’s way to me from the U.K.

Oct 19, 2010: I received the yarn for the sample, and cast on right away for the sample baby dress. I finished as quickly as I could manage, and ran a quick test knit in Free Pattern Testers. Once I was satisfied the pattern was as close to perfect as I could make it, I sent off the sample and the pattern — all in good faith. My contract specified that I would be paid (£80) within 30 days of publication. Then began the waiting. I worked on multiple other design projects, and had zero communication from anyone at the magazine.

July, 2011: Oh look, a pattern page for my baby dress popped up on Ravelry! Sure enough, the pattern had finally been published, but in #38 of “KNIT Magazine” — not the magazine I had originally contracted with.  I waited patiently to get paid …. It was a long wait. Starting in late August, I began sending polite emails, asking if they needed any additional information, and so on.  I never got any kind of satisfactory response — regardless of who I spoke to, I was variously told “soon” or “we need your paypal info” (again) or “we need a new invoice” or other such things.

November 2011: I received a “call for submissions” from the editor of KNIT Magazine.  I understood there had been a transition of some kind from Yarn Forward to KNIT — and I felt more than a little miffed that they would have the gall to ask for MORE designs from me, given they had failed thus far to pay me for my already-published design.  I said as much in an email to the editor … who forwarded me to “Mandy Pigeon” who asked me for a new invoice, with this explanation:

Naomi has brought to my attention your outstanding invoice which unfortunately I do not have a copy of. When KAL Media Limited went into liquidation, I took over all of the outstanding payments. I do not have an invoice for you, would you please kindly send it to me by return and I will add it to the KAL Media outstanding list which All Craft Media are considering paying in order that the designers do not miss out, but payment will not be immediate.
I sent in my invoice for the baby dress (again), asked her to update my email address, and also asked for the PDF of the pattern (another thing that was supposed to be given to me).  I got this note from Naomi (the editor):

Thank you for getting this across to us and for your understanding in the matter.

Mandy has come back from the Christmas break to a sea of emails, so if you could you let me know the issue number that your design was featured in (this pre-dates me as Editor!) and I’ll arrange for the PDF to be sent across to you – Mandy will be in touch shortly regarding your payment.

If you have any more design submissions then please do send them across, I’d love to see them.

and also from Mandy:
Thank you for sending me your invoice. Unfortunately this invoice is for KAL Media Limited the previous owners of Knit magazine and went into liquidation.
We are unable to pay invoices for KAL Media Limited, however, if you are looking to design for us at All Craft Media Limited, we may be in a position to add the amount owed to you by KAL Media Limited to any future commissions.
Now that I understand more about what was going on, I’m especially frustrated with myself for failing to be more pushy.  Although my “contract” was with KAL, issue #38 (with my design in it) was put out by ACM — even the photos on Ravelry still have “© All Craft Media” below them. But, at the time, I wanted to be polite and cool — the knitwear design world is TINY and I did not want to get a reputation for being difficult to work with.  Also, I wanted the PDF for my baby dress — I thought at the very least, I could self-publish on Ravelry.

January 2012: As it happened, I had a design that was “all but done” — I had intended to submit it to a local yarn company, but missed the deadline due to email issues (damn Comcast! but that is another whole story). I thought long and hard, and decided to give it to KNIT, if they liked it. My rational was that the company was “new” and I should give them a chance — plus the design was more or less done, so it wasn’t much work on my part.  I talked myself into it.  They said yes:

Firstly, thank you for your understanding in the matter – it’s so
refreshing to receive emails like yours!I would love to commission the Lacy Cardi off of you.As you know, we are working from a low budget at the moment, so, I can
offer you payment of £120.00, which would cover the £80 you are owed
from KAL Media and then £40 for the already designed cardigan.Let me know if this is acceptable and I’ll draw up some paperwork for
you and get an up to date pattern template over for completion.

Have a lovely weekend Rachel and speak soon.

Warm regards,

(PS – will get PDF to you Monday when I’m back in the office)

To be perfectly honest, I was flattered that they wanted the cardi. I was happy that I’d be getting paid for the baby dress. And, I was able to congratulate myself on being reasonable and professional.  Oh, how I wish I hadn’t been!
I had some pleasant back-and-forth conversations with Naomi about deadlines and yarn.  We settled on a brand, and on end-of-March as a deadline.

February 2012: Yarn arrived, I knit. I finished on the 17th, and let her know:

The lacy cardi is knit up, washed, and is blocking (may take a few days, cotton being cotton).  If I mail early next week, what address should I use?
Going back to the berrie pie baby dress, I think you said you might be able to get the PDF to me … any progress on that?
Feb 26th, 2012:

Sorry I haven’t got back to you – this message made it to my spam folder!

If you’ve posted already, it will make it to us in the re-directed post and if not, please address to:

Naomi Leeds
Knit Magazine
Bullocks Lane
Bullocks Farm
CM22 6TA

If you’d be so kind as to remind me of the issue number again, I’ll get this sorted tomorrow for you, too. 

I replied that I had been waiting for the correct address, so I would send to the new one. I also re-iterated the issue number for the baby dress.  I received a PDF for the baby dress pattern, which was broken (didn’t open).  After some back-and-forth, I got a good copy and was able to put it up for sale on Ravelry.  There was a period of no communication, which by now I’d come to expect.

April 4th, 2012: My last communication from Naomi (before she was fired):

Hey Rachel,

I have your Berry Pie dress here.

I wondered if it would be ok to return this, along with the Elderberry Cardigan (I know how much you liked it!) three months from publication?

If you’d like it back sooner, I’m happy to return it. 

May 11th, 2012: Around about this time, I began to hear rumblings that there were more designers going unpaid by KNIT and other ACM magazines.  I fired off one last desperate attempt:

Just checking in – have you sent the samples back yet? I’m always anxious about the mail.

I was happy to see my cardigan on the cover! Very cool.  My local bookstore stocks KNIT so I’m looking forward to picking up a copy.

The internet is rumbling again about some designers not getting paid … can you confirm that I’m on the “will be paid” list? Sorry to have to ask, but I hope you understand, since the payment for Elderberry is supposed to cover the non-payment for Berries Pie as well.

I never heard from Naomi again. Of course I now know that ACM “went into administration” (which is, I think, UK for “foreclosure”) on May 4th, 2012.

I did receive an edited version of my cardi pattern from a freelance tech editor (who was also not being paid).  She let me know what was going on, and pointed me at the Ravelry group  Friends of the group once known as, which has been a great resource and source of consolation in this whole thing.

I haven’t been totally on top of all developments, but I did hear about an opportunity to get back sample knits … during a two-hour window, in the UK, at the offices that were being shut down.  I managed to get in touch with another designer who was able to get to office during the open window, and she claimed my cardi for me.  She looked for the baby dress, but only found a letter (from Naomi, ironically) indicating that it was being returned to me along with the cardi.  The cardi has since been mailed back to me — a real testament to the GOOD that can be found in groups of knitters! — and my baby dress sample has been located and is on it’s way back.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, the cardi was published in KNIT #49 — salt in the wound, if you ask me.  The pictures weren’t very good, so I took some new ones this past weekend — I strong-armed a tiny friend into modeling for me at a wedding we were both at. I despair of ever getting a formatted PDF of this pattern from KNIT, so I formatted and published my own version, on Ravelry.

A couple things … I don’t blame any of the other people who were also fooled by Kerrie Allman, and who helped her steal and cheat.  From what I understand, they are just as much victims of her as the rest of us.

I also want to say that this experience has been a glaring exception to my general experience with magazines and yarn companies.  I am pleased to report that every other magazine, web publisher, and yarn company I’ve dealt with has been wonderful and timely — and they have all paid me, on time or sooner.