Tuesday, February 21, 2012

All Craft Media, and Why You Should Run the Other Way

I hope you guys won't mind if I get up on a soapbox for just a few minutes. Y'see, there's this company, and, well, they are doing not-so-nice things, and I think the knitting public should be aware of it. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start at the beginning.

Several years ago I first encountered Kerrie Allman when I ordered ~$100 worth of cashmere from her company, Hipknits. Actually, my mother ordered it- it was to be a Christmas present. We ordered at the beginning of December. The yarn never came. Eventually I contacted the company, and after several messages, was told it had gotten lost in transit and they promised that another replacement shipment was on the way. I replied back- "Will it be the same yarn I ordered? Because it looks like it's sold out on your site..." but never got a reply. A few months after that, there was still no yarn, and I began asking for a refund. No reply. I tried every email address I could find, and since Kerrie had claimed in several venues to have an "overactive spam filter", I also sent Ravelry messages (during this time Kerrie was posting on Ravelry so there's no reason to think she wasn't getting them.) Eventually, frustrated, I started a thread on Ravelry asking if anyone else had had problems, and what they did to solve them. (The first post has been edited pretty significantly from it's original form, hence all the links and such.)

Posts POURED in. So many orders "lost in the mail." So many replacements promised. So many emails "lost in the spam filter." Since Kerrie was shipping from the UK, and kept making promises to replace orders, most people missed the window of time where they could contest payment with Paypal. And once that window was gone, the communication stopped. (Meanwhile, Kerrie kept posting fluffy little bits of nonsense on her blog and otherwise interacting online as if nothing was wrong- as if she didn't have hundreds of emails in her inbox representing thousands of dollars owed.

Soon, other complaints emerged. Designers had not been paid for their patterns in Kerrie's online knit 'zine, Magknits. One designer hadn't even been notified that her design was accepted, until she saw it on the front cover of the next issue. A yarn store reported placing a HUGE order of Hipknits yarn- half of it never showed, and the rest was so tangled and fragile that it all had to be rewound by hand and sold at a deep discount (in fact, I visited this yarn store over two years later, and she STILL had some. It was that unsellable.) One person informed me that Hipknits used factory seconds as its base yarns- inferior quality, obtainable cheap. I don't know if this is true, but it would certainly explain the quality of the yarn I saw.

By the end, I had finally received a refund from Kerrie's then business partner (she never bothered to email me back herself), Magknits had been closed down with no warning (in what appeared to be an act of spite, though who knows), and I think about that time, Ravelry instituted the "don't use Ravelry for customer service" rule :-P (Sorry Casey and Jess!!) I actually consider this experience lucky- it happened when I was a fledgling designer and prevented me from ever submitting to one of Kerrie's publications. As an interesting sidenote- my refund was Paypalled directly to me, even though the order had been placed with my mother's credit card, which is insanely unprofessional. It was also for $100 even, even though the order was something like $95.85. As far as I could tell, they didn't even have any of the original order information anymore, and were just taking my word for it that they owed me :-P

Moving along....
Kerrie founded (I think? She ran it, in any case) KAL Media, which produced such magazines as Yarn Forward (now "Knit" and soon to change again), Inside Crochet, and quite a few more.

Again, designers reported not getting paid for their work, or receiving their samples back in the mail, and, as is par for the course, not getting any sort of communicative response from the company. Finally, last summer/fall, designers began speaking out- on Ravelry, on Twitter, and on their own blogs. Some have been paid, albeit many months late. Some have not. Not just designers, either- tech editors, too. Many designers never got their sample back, despite promises to the contrary.

Owing a great deal of money, KAL Media went into liquidation. I don't know *exactly* what that term means legally in the UK, but what I do know is that the company was "bought" by All Craft Media, which is owned by Kerrie's husband, and apparently absolved of all debts. There were claims that ACM would honor the contracts and debts that KAL had racked up... but, as they are quick to point out, they aren't *obligated* to.

That's right- Kerrie and her husband are still profiting from magazines filled with designs from designers who were never paid, and telling the designers that they don't HAVE to pay them. Neener neener, suck it, designers.

And the latest drama to unfold- the Knit Magazine Sock Club has been riddled with many of the same problems that Ms Allman is known for- "lost" shipments (man, she really needs a new mailman!), a complete lack of useful communication, marked by unanswered emails, deleted Ravelry posts, unkept promises, and the occasional poor-me post or email that only serves to make everyone angrier. Apparently the last shipment, rather than being a hand-dyed yarn as promised, will be a cheap commercial yarn worth far less than what sock club members paid.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I am so, so tired of a new thread cropping up every few months with a new batch of upset, ripped off knitters and designers. It makes me sick that this person is still in business, and that people are still defending her and giving her second chances.

Designers- I don't care if you are newbies, you deserve to be treated with respect, and there are a lot of companies out there who will do just that. KAL/ACM feeds off of new, inexperienced designers who are desperate to get published or who don't know their history. Don't submit. Your talent is worth more than that. Before submitting to a new publication, do a little research :-)

Knitters- please, please don't support this company. Not only will you get ripped off (sock club failures, subscriptions delayed or lost in the mail...and let's face it, the quality is going to go down when designers stop wanting to submit!) but you'd be enabling KAL/ACM to profit off designers that they apparently have no intention of compensating.

Anyone owed money by this company: Don't give up. Unfortunately, public shaming seems to be the only way to get them to listen. If you've purchased something and you're within the 45-day-Paypal-window, CONTEST that shit ASAP. You can also contest through your credit card company, and I've heard-tell that contacting something called Trading Standards (the UK's BBB, I believe) couldn't hurt, though if they haven't shut her down yet, I don't know what it'll take. If you are currently working on a design for one of their magazines, I highly recommend calling off that contract or getting payment before you send it. Designers- don't worry about looking "unprofessional"... every other editor worth their salt knows exactly what's going on and isn't going to fault you for being open about this. They're the ones being unprofessional. Don't let them get away with it.

And finally, Kerrie- get the fuck out of this business. Seriously. What are you doing?? Running a business isn't for everyone, you know. There's no shame in data entry or grocery-store-cashiering.


A few References and Resources:

A list of current ACM publications:
- Knit Magazine (soon to be renamed, again. Perhaps because of all the unfortunate hashtags?)
- Inside Crochet
- Simply Beautiful
- Sew Hip
- Handmade Living
- Handmade Fashion
- Modern Quilting

Associated businesses:
- Hipknits (I believe currently run by a relative)

(Am I missing any?)

And here are some other posts about this company, in case you are curious:

Joyarna (some good links in that one.)

Here's Trading Standards:
http://www.tradingstandards.gov.uk/

~~~~~~


Anyway. Enough boring old serious photoless drama text for one day. Back soon with something cheerier and woolier :-)

51 comments:

  1. Thank you Alex. Thank you so much for speaking out so loudly!

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  2. I am a newbie designer and because I'd seen it on newstands I naively assumed it was a reasonable company. All the discussions on Rav about reprinting and non payment came up afterwards.
    I have 4 designs coming up in one ACMs titles: two shipped but not yet due for payment and two I'm working on. I don't feel I can cancel the contracts I'm working on as I have yarn support from the yarn company so would be letting them down too.

    This is a very worrying time for me.

    Sorry for not being brave enough to put my name but I don't want to prejudice getting paid especially as I'm not actually owed yet.

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  3. To Anonymous:
    There is very little doubt in my mind that if you explain to the yarn company who you are working with and even direct them to here or Anni or RockandPurls' blogs then they will understand - particularly if they're an indie.
    Get the heck outta there!

    Alex:
    ACM are also still selling themselves at UK trade shows - I saw them at 'stitches' on Monday, with quite a few shop owners enquiring. I don't stock any of the ACM titles since I learnt about their horrid ways, but I know I'd presume they were okay if I saw them in an indie yarn store. I'm repeatedly astounded at her awfulness. :~(

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  4. I am surprised to see your post. I read about this issue about 4 years ago, and I seriously thought that it was resolved or at least she's not doing business anymore. It baffled me that no one takes legal actions against them. I am grateful that you speak up, and hopefully more people read this and avoid this company at all cost.

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  5. Thanks SO MUCH for this thorough post, Alex. There's plenty of whispers and allusions to all these separate incidents throughout Ravelry and it's good to have one place with a straight story showing how it all fits together. I'll be spreading this link around.

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  6. Thanks Alix Fortunately I am not one of the ones getting ripped off, but I do unknowingly support these people by buying their magazines. As of now that will stop and I hope others will follow suit. I am sorry if this means innocent people lose their jobs but these crooks need to be stopped! I have retweeted your link.

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  7. I'm in a similar position to 'annonymous' though all my designs have been submitted there are a few still to be published. I realised a couple of months ago I had made a mistake, when there were problems with contract wording and questions about when money was actually owed, I did a little research and soon discovered so much I wish I had known earlier. I'm a newbie currently these are the only guys to publish my patterns and although I've been paid some money owed I am understandably anxious about the rest. The more research I do the more I wonder how this has been going on for so long.

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  8. I didn't know this. Thanks for blogging about this.

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  9. thanks for posting this! i've linked to you from my twitter feed as well - the more crafters that are made aware of this, the better. i've not personally been stung but i run a UK-based yarn business & don't want myself & other UK crafty businesses to be tarred with the same brush as ACM.

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  10. I've subscribed to Yarn Forward, now Knit, since it began and have loved the magazines. I didn't know ANY of this so joined up to the Sock and Lace Clubs, and have been very satisfied apart from the last shipment of the Sock Club which should be sent out this week.

    Maybe I've just been lucky, but no way will I resubscribe to anything run by ACM!!

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  11. I am shocked by this I have a LYS that advertises in the mags am I being tarred with same brush by my previous ignorance .... what to do now??

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  12. Wow. Thank you so much for writing about this - I'm in the UK and have, in the past, bought some of these magazines, and I had no idea that this was going on. Rest assured I'll never be buying any of those titles again. It's such a shame that so many people have gone through this crap and she's still operating.

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  13. That's terrible! I'm so glad you posted, I had no idea! I'm planning to pick knitting back up with rigor this summer when I'm done with school-- rest assured I will not be purchasing ANYTHING affiliated with Kerrie Allman.

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  14. I really can't believe this is still going on and this woman hasn't been barred from being a Director. Or prosecuted by Trading Standards. Problems go back to at least 2006 that I'm aware of (certainly before Rav). Magknits/Hipknits/Yarn magazine. Every venture crumples in a huge mess with debts, unfulfilled orders and it's all explained as "postal problems", "personal problems", "email problems" etc. Her staff don't last 5 minutes if they've got any ethics at all (which most of them appear to have had). Thanks for writing about this.

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  15. My yarn never arrived either and after being ignored for many monhs I just gave up. I am SO glad that you are saying something and hope peoplestop buying from them and supporting them.

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  16. Thanks for the heads up. It's always nice to know who/what to avoid. It's just a shame that you had to learn the hard way.

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  17. Thanks for the warning. It's a shame that they're completely unwilling to be unaccountable for their awful business practices. I count myself lucky that I haven't had any dealings with them, and I definitely won't in the future.

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  18. Thank you! I'm not currently a designer, but I do buy online. I will avoid anything she publishes also. I am disappointed that Ravelry hasn't taken a stand. I would think they would want to take a stand on this. I'm very glad you did!

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  19. I've finally been paid, thank goodness, but feel terribly about everyone else.

    And you forgot to mention that some of the designers whose work was then sold to Love of Crochet and reprinted still haven't been paid from the original design in Inside Crochet....
    http://www.ravelry.com/discuss/crochet-designers/1972432/

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  20. Hi Alex, as everyone has done here, I need to thank you for the advice. I will show the link to my knitting friends. Everyone needs to know this. I've never encouraged ACM in any way but will never as I read this post. I am so sad for everyone who got caught up with them. These people need to stop the business quickly. Good luck to you all, I'm supporting you!

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  21. As a new designer I really appreciate you sharing yours and others experiences! I promise to always do a bit of research before submitting!

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  22. Might be worth directing people who have been scammed - and possibly submitting details yourself - to http://www.bbc.co.uk/watchdog/gotastory/ as that's pretty much the single best way to get word out about such a dodgy sort. They also do a lot of investigating themselves and frequently get some form of action taken by the relevant bodies when at all possible.

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  23. Thanks for letting us know about this! I don't know why people like this continue to try to run a business. And I don't understand how they can get away with repeatedly doing this. I've just wrote to Yudu asking them to cancel my Inside Crochet digital subscription.

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  24. Also, I didn't realize that the "new" company was actually not new at all. Thanks for pointing that out!

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  25. Have you all seen this http://knitmagazine.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/new-publisher-appointed-at-all-craft-media/?

    New publisher, does she really think she's fooling anyone? We all know who will still be running the company.

    Wonder if they will suddenly pay some of the outstanding invoices to try and convince people that it's all going to change for the better now someone else is supposedly in charge?

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  26. Amen to keeping integrity - on your end - and encouraging a wonderful community to hold people accountable.

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  27. Having actually worked for KAL in the past and having sued them I totally agree that this is something that needs to come out. Nothing changes with Kerrie.

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  28. I too have had similar diffulties, from about 2004. I always had to chase payment and I only chased for ones published.I also had post not arriving, once was told it was because a baby ha just been diagnosed with a fatal illness so unable to complete their commitment to me. I was told that I would not see details of this on her or shop's blog (odd and could be really sick if it turns out that is not true). Then gave a 2nd chance but next time RM lost it and I get emails telling me how they can't wait for me to open the parcel, it should be arriving soon...sent by RM special next day delivery again, but when I asked for the tracking details and paperwork....there was none. There were promises to pick stuff up from here with lots of hassle and no shows, as well as no phone calls.

    There was also a published pattern with odd layout errors and very rough diagrams and I find out that the whole issue was published without a tech editor, and there was no overall ed that month either. I am still apologising to pattern users years later. It seems to me, the show should NOT go on if there is no guarantee of quality but it does, it is brazen to just be worried about getting the price on the cover

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  29. Anonymous continued.....I had so much experience, not enough room in one post to explain it all.

    Since publishing of patterns without pattern checkers,I have treated all patterns as if they are never going to be checked again and paid for a tech editor to check them before they get submitted to any other publisher even if they tell me not to bother as their in house team will be editing and checking.

    What amazes me is that these people go to church and are Christians, what about 'Thou Shalt Not Steal'? I think starting businesses, then running them into the ground has become so frequent it starts to look like a way life and revenue in itself and that failure looks like it is plotted in advance rather than people having a genuine difficulties.

    This way of running business does support families,properties and premises, so perhaps people are dependent on cash injections? I know that had there been no Ravelry it may have never some to light that it was such a common experience. What about WatchdogName and Shame on national TV might work.

    The problem is, not a lot evidence in writing so difficult to prove if it is genuine difficulty or deliberate. Taking orders, and deliberately not fulfilling them would be stealing. But its not entirely certain why there are so many mishaps and lapses, so my tactic has been to just avoid until I know more.

    When one mag changed its nameI did write to say ''Wow what happened'' just being friendly but got a rather odd correspondence saying they were not at liberty to discuss the name change, and should I want to know why, I must write to the MD directly and let her explain as staff wish to stick to their jobs and not discuss it. Obviously, they thought that I knew something (which I didn't) and thought my general inquiry was digging for dirt, (which I was not).
    Although I always managed to get paid in the end for projects which were published, it did make me feel crappy, petty and it was demeaning having to beg for it. It made me feel really unimportant and took away the excitement of being published.

    I am a lttle shocked to find that what I experienced was quite commonplace even though it came across as a most bizarre and unlucky mishap. I had my suspcisions, but thought I might be the only one.

    I am not a newbie designerand have found that actually ANY publication that values innovation and customers is open to new designs from a well practiced pro designer or a newbie. In general, if you can prove you have a unique idea and that you can knit it competently a mag might show interest in it.

    I also wondered, about some of the 'one off' mags that KAL/ACM used to have with the 'best of' their patterns because they took patterns from previous issues, republished them, but did not pay designers again..

    I love the mags, and love the fact an indie person can get it distributed in WH Smiths, you have to have a high circ and standing to get that shelf space...and I love the designs in them, some of them are the best, but what a shame about behind the scenes.

    I am not ashamed to say who I am as far as ACM is concerned, or the public, but sadly any of my potential clients on seeing this postout of context could decide not to work with me, even if I am telling the truth, it is seen as unprofessional to 'shout out'...and that is why people like Kal/Acm are so well protected.

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  30. Great post! Thanks for all of the information. I'd heard bits and pieces of it on Twitter but I really wanted to get the whole story. I hope this resolves itself but I certainly would never support these mags again.

    I know that we designers and knitters aren't the grannies we're often stereotyped to be but when I hear that someone's trying to rip people off over knitting, it feels as if they're some bad kids trying to steal a wheelchair out there. It's business so it's going to get messy but it makes me sick to think that some people have forgotten what knitting is about! Deep respect for hard work and community is what makes us all do what we do, I think!

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  31. Sounds like another funkycarolina!

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  32. Really interesting post! I've seen a few things on forums in the UK recently about problems with subscriptions, clubs etc but didnt know the issues were so long running or widespread. I certainly didnt know ACM was owned by her husband!!! That alone is seriously wrong after liquidation!

    I have bought Inside Crochet as it is one of few crochet magazines we have in the UK but the content is very very poor so I no longer do. Actually its not just poor, it's cr*p!

    My run in with them was when they picked up some images of one of the patterns from the magazine that I made on my flickr account and asked if they could use them in 'readers makes' I agreed but they they credited them to someone else entirely. Several apology emails later they said they would send me some lovely yarn as an apology but they never did. A few months later then then printed the image again and spelled my name wrong!!

    Very dodgy organisation!!

    Thanks for sharing Alex

    Fiona x

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  33. A bit late leaving this, but I'm not sure how useful Trading Standards will be. I contacted them several years ago after the Hipknits Project Club debacle when I had suspicions about their 100% silk. I had it tested - as TS suggested - and, unsurprisingly, it was rayon. My complaint was filed but as far as I know nothing ever came of it.

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  34. I understand that you were trying to be funny at the end but the comment regarding data entry/cashiers is very insulting to those workers, most of whom I'm sure do not choose to do that work but must do so to survive.

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  35. No, actually I meant it sincerely. There's no shame in working for someone else. Not everyone is cut out to run a business. I've done a lot of data entry in my life :-)

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  36. I used to work for Kerrie and she is the tightest person I know. But she is a family women and I think having 4 kids and running a business just isn't for her. I used to sell the advertising in the Sew Hip magazine and always looked after my customers. If you want to submit any designs I would recommend Aceville. What a fantastic company! Anyway Kerrie owes me 300 quid which I never got from advertising commission, luckily for her my computer broke!

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  37. A little update:
    ACM is trying to fix their image with a new front woman and a soon to be announced new name for Knit Magazine. There was a long post in their Ravelry group 3 days ago trying to address all of the assorted problems. I won't include the whole post here but the part the was relevant to me is:
    "Late payment of designers:
    All Craft Media is committed to paying all of our designers and everyone with a contract with ACM will be paid for their work. We rely on our incoming cash-flow to be able to meet our obligations and when advertisers are late paying us we can, occasionally, be late paying designers. We are aware that this is not a good situation to be in and are resolving to improve our payment times and as mentioned above, anyone with a contract with ACM will be paid.

    Any designer with a query on payment should email mandy@allcraftmedia.co.uk

    Some designers not being paid:
    When ACM took over from KAL Media last May we agreed that we would make goodwill gestures to those owed money by KAL Media. To date, ACM has paid out approx £80,000 in respect of goodwill payments and foregone sales, and has continued to honour all of the subscriptions that were made prior to May 2011. Regretfully there have been a small percentage of designers who have not been paid for their work under KAL Media. ACM are in the middle of reviewing our goodwill budget to see if we can make any more these payments but we are not able to confirm either way at this time."

    So I sent the following email:

    Hi Mandy,
    I saw this post from a couple of days ago on Ravelry. I honestly do not know which group I fall into since my contract was with KAL but the pattern was actually published by ACM. Attached is yet another copy of the invoice. I am cautiously optimistic that this means I will actually get paid and I can put this whole thing behind me.

    Sincerely,
    Theressa"

    And got the following reply from Kerrie:

    "Hi Theressa

    Thanks for taking the time to email Mandy about this. I can confirm that your design was published by KAL Media and as such we are not able to pay you for this at this moment. We are revisiting our goodwill budget over the next couple of months and if there is any chance that we will be able to pay you for this we will get in touch straight away.

    Kind Regards
    Kerrie"

    So in other words its all the same crap; nothing is changing. In the meanwhile they continue to distribute (make money from) my pattern and have not returned the sample I knit for them.

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  38. Just to add my 2 cents, I am a designer who is still trying to get paid for patterns submitted to and published by them. Very upsetting indeed!

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  39. yep, I'm another designer who trusted this company. Have been paid for some articles but have 6 months plus outstanding invoices, unfortunately you have to work 3 months in advance of publication so this can build up before you become aware you aren't going to get paid, and believing them to be ethical, you give them a little grace. Unless you're desperate to get your name in print - and I think this is what the company rely on - don't go there! Your correspondence is ignored and in many cases your lost earning's aren't high enough for you to justify paying for legal advice so you just lose out.

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  40. Hi, I'm not a designer but a freelance writer who has submitted a number of historical articles to Handmade Living over the past year or so. Having read some of these posts I'm grateful to have been paid for five article so far but I'm losing the will to chase for the two outstanding and overdue ones. Constantly fobbed off. Fortunately I have a full-time job otherwise relying on payments from ACM would mean my children would go hungry. Have also supplied images for these articles from the image library I work for but not one single invoice has been paid, dating back to about June last year. My heart is sinking reading all of this.

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  41. Heads up everyone, I've just been informed ACM have gone into liquidation - be careful out there

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  42. You'll be lucky. As a subscriber to two of their titles, I've just received an email to say All Craft Media have gone into administration. I've received exactly one copy of each magazine, so I'm out practically a full year's worth on two magazine. Not happy.

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  43. IF YOU ARE OWED MONEY BY ACM:

    They have gone into liquidation and you'll need to get your paperwork together to send once we know where. For more information and updates, go here

    http://www.ravelry.com/discuss/friends-of-the-group-once-known-as/2132232/1-25

    The group itself also has information on the history of KAL/ACM and other useful things.

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  44. Not good for the magazine industry at all, just when it needs support..

    The good news, is that if you bought your subscriptions from Newsstand.co.uk you will get a full refund on outstanding copies.

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  45. I'm not a designer but I ordered downloads of KNIT magazines and received nothing!!! This has never happened before and I filed a PayPal claim, but their email seems to be closed. I didn't read all of the posts so apologize if this has been addressed previously. I'm pissed, needless to say.

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  46. I'm glad I found this blog post. I've been wondering why the quality of both of these mags has gone down considerably over the last year or so, and this explains it. Can't run a knit/crochet magazine with no designers submitting patterns! Thankfully I only subbed for 6 months, as I really wasn't hopeful it would last. Looks like the administration/liquidation email that came through proved my point. Sad. Lets see if she starts another (failed) business.

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  47. Last month I came into a little extra money and was planning on using some of this for a subscription to Sew Hip! I live on another continent from the UK, and have been buying this at a book seller for several years and thought I may as well just up and order it to be sent to my home.

    I am glad I didn't actually get around to it.

    I have to say though, for the most part I have enjoyed this magazine and have made lots of different items. I have also been a contributor (though I was not offered nor did I solicit any payment for the one short article I wrote). I will miss this publication if it indeed goes away.

    I had no idea that there was any kind of controversy going on till today when I happened to catch a thread on Ravelry. So sorry to hear about all the people who have been left hanging out to dry.

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  48. Thanks for posting this, I'm just looking for their telephone number and happened upon this. I am a small retailer in the Uk and keep getting statements from a third party finance company, claiming I owe them money for adverts I have not placed and have not had invoices for. Not sure how I am to get out of this mess, but cannot get in touch with All craft media on the phone number I have!

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  49. Hi - I'm glad I found this post! I'm writing well over a year later as I too am owed money by Kal Media which went into liquidation last year. I wrote a series of articles for a craft mag they had taken over and despite getting a solicitor onto it have never been paid - they owe me approx £1000. So I too would highly recommend not getting involved with Kerry Allman or any of her business ventures. I would love to get the money back but as the solicitor said she is not obligated to pay me because they've been liquidated. All I can say is I am seriously p****d off!!

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    Replies
    1. Ugh that's awful! If you haven't already, you can probably re-publish those articles, either through someone else or just on a blog or some such. No payment means your contract is void (I mean, double check with a lawyer, which I'm not, but... that seems like a pretty basic requirement for a contract to be binding!)

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