Archive for the ‘Design’ Category

Cheaper than therapy

March 18, 2010

When I realized that Sunniva was going to need to be reknit, I was being really, really good.  I had only two projects on the needles: Sunniva, and Veyla.  And I was determined to keep it that way.  A little fidelity never hurt anyone.

But when it hit me that I was going to have to rip my lovely sweater, that the time of release would be delayed, that everything was not right, I broke down.  Veyla’s awesome, and I’ve kept at it, but it’s in the same yarn, in the same color, as Sunniva.  Ouch.  Too many memories.  It’s like dating the twin brother of the guy who just broke your heart.

So, in a fit of self pity, I wound my Becoming Art Cielo Fingering and cast on for a Milkweed Shawl.  Wound, I see a lot more of the blacks in the yarn than I saw when it was in skein form.  And knit up, I see something different altogether.  Fascinating yarn.

This is a fun, fast, easy pattern with just enough of interest to keep you engaged.  I personally have liked the Milkweeds knit in variegated yarns a whole heck of a lot, so I wanted to go that route myself.  The color changes also keep it interesting.

This picture is more accurate as to shawl color, but less accurate as to rug color.  My camera really wants to emphasize the reds in the yarn, but there’s a lot of greys and blacks as well, and the combination is very interesting.  It has an orangey autumn leaf look at a distance, but up close you see the pinks and blacks as well.  I love it.

It’s working, too, because I’m ready to get back to Sunniva.  Yesterday and the day before I spent some time swatching and made this peculiar little tube.

It doesn’t look like much, but it’s a sort of knitting Rosetta Stone for me.  I knit it in the round, as I’ve discovered that the problem I was having only shows up when I knit in the round.  My twisted stitches want to lean left when knit in the round, even, I discovered, when I twist them in mirror directions.  They just want to go in the direction the knitting goes.  Although it’s not obvious, I think I solved the problem with one of the experiments on the tube (divided by purl ridges) in a sort of modified heel stitch.  Hooray!  I’ve adjusted all the math to the smaller gauge and I think I’m ready to cast on number two today.

No new pictures of Veyla, although it’s coming along, as I’ve only finished the cuffs, and they look almost identical and do not make for interesting pictures just yet.

Facing facts

March 16, 2010

This is the post in which you really get to see inside this particular sausage factory.  Because this is the post in which I explain that things have gone wrong.

My gut should have been a good guide on this one.  The false button band on Sunniva showed signs of rebellion from the start.  But I thought I fixed it and much of what looked off seemed like it would probably block out.  Blocking is awesome!  Blocking will save us all!  And after all, there were a lot of little wonky looking stitches that really did block out.  So blocking was going to solve all my problems, end war around the world, and usher in a new age of peace and prosperity.

Except that it didn’t.  The sweater was hitting around my hips last night and I decided to take it off the needles to try it on and see how far it had to go.  And while I was at it, it was as good a time as any to block it out and see if the stitches decided to fall into place like good, compliant little minions.

My stitches are not good little minions.  No sir.  They are wild, free, and crazy little subjects who have no respect for me at all.  They did not lie down quietly when I came in with the blocking riot police.  Let’s take a closer look at that middle panel, shall we?

The stitches on the right side of the panel look great.  They are obedient.  The leftist stitches are not made in the same mold.  They have to be able to spread themselves out and express themselves.  Unfortunately, what they are expressing is, “I’m a sloppy mess and I make everyone else look bad.”  Look at the rest of those stitches!  The uneven parts evened themselves out and submitted to the blocking, knowing that resistance would only lead to trouble.  But the bad stitches on the left of my false button band ruined it for everyone else.  I see no choice but to rip and start over, rethinking the best way to manage a false button band.

That’s all the bad stuff.  Well, that, and the fact that I’m not sure the false button band really calls to mind a button band, though it does look rather like my drawing, and I think that I may need to add a little structure by going down a needle size.  There is good stuff to counter some of the bad.  The first good thing is that math fu is on.  I’m so happy with the shaping and sizing on this sweater.  Although there is positive ease throughout the sweater, it looks really fitted.  It feels comfortable, but wears to show off the curves, which is great.  I modeled the shaping after a favorite shirt, and I think that was the way to go, because I adore the basic look and fit of this sweater, even as I’m realizing that the feature that made it special doesn’t really work.  (Bah.)

My camera was really not cool with me trying to get pictures in the bathroom mirror, but here’s a very blurry modeled shot, so you can see that, even unfinished with curly edges, this sucker fits, and fits well.

That’s pretty rad.  It really does look how I wanted it to, other than that pesky band.  I love the color, I love the yarn, I love the way both knit up.  I love the way it feels when worn.  There’s a lot of good here, and a lot to make it clear that it wasn’t all a big waste of time.  But there is a lot of time devoted to this sweater that will have to be ripped.

And I guess that’s another advantage to having planned two versions.  Because I’m not going to rip this one right away.  I’m going to let it sit for a while in time out while I mourn it and plan for the corrections that will turn it into The Most Awesome Sweater Of All Time And Space.  And I’m going to start over with version two, the three quarter length sleeve version in magnificent red violet, after fiddling about with gauge and new button band ideas.  I definitely want this to be simple to make, so I am trying to ignore my idea about picking up stitches after the fact and making this weird rolling sort of band.  Swatching time.  This thing isn’t over yet.

The next step

March 9, 2010

This is the second part of my documentation of the process of my new design in progress, Sunniva.

As you may know, I have a bit of an obsessive thing about color.  I loved color theory in art school, and rich color is very often what draws me to yarns.  Lately, with my self publishing, I’ve had some ideas about color and about photography, and also about what I want to do and one thing that’s come up for me is that I like making two versions of my patterns, in two different yarns and colors.

In the first place, two versions means, very simply, that I get two chances to become familiar with my pattern and to smooth out problems I’m having.  The first time through, I may find that my ideas are not quite what I’d hoped, that something that looked good on paper doesn’t work out quite as well in practice, or that a transition I thought would be easy is actually rather complicated.  With real problems, I have to rip and rewrite, of course, but there’s something else, where maybe it all works just fine, but I come up with something else I’d like to try next time, I get to do that with version two.

Secondly, I’ve got this idea about what I want to be as a designer, and that has two sides to it.  I like the idea of being able to highlight smaller dyers and unusual yarns, but I also think it’s nice for people to see a version of the project in yarn that is easy to acquire and might already be in their stash.  Two versions means that I get to have it both ways.

And thirdly, two versions means that I can show you what the same pattern looks like in two very different colors.  I am always amazed at how much the look of a pattern can be changed by just a switch in color, and I love the different moods that color can evoke.

I labored a lot over the colors for Sunniva.  When I envisioned the sweater, it was yellow, but not just any yellow.  It was neither a bright yellow, nor a pastel.  It had some gold tones, but was more opaque and greyed out than a true gold.  Finding this color was actually more challenging that one might think!  I went to various yarn stores, looking at heavy lace weights and light fingering weights, and if I found a color that looked right, often it was on a yarn that was the wrong weight.  I love Dream in Color, and their Baby was the right weight, but none of the colors were quite right.  Finally, I found Malabrigo Sock in Ochre.  It’s almost the exact yellow I’d pictured: perhaps a little deeper, but no worse for that.  A nice, sunshiney, but not overwhelming yellow.

So I had my yellow and I swatched it up and all was right with the world.  But when I decided I’d be self publishing, that was when things got complicated again.  I wanted a second color.  It had to be very different in mood and tone from the Ochre, and it had to still have some sort of spring-y, sunny-ish qualities to it.  And most importantly, it had to photograph well with the yellow. Oh, and I wanted to get it from a small dyer.

I actually knew who I wanted to get it from right away.  I’d been admiring Orangeflower‘s yarns for quite a while, and one of the things I really liked was the way the color looked so rich, but also sort of like it was drawn on, rather than dyed.  Maybe it’s just me, but I saw it as looking a little like the yarn had been colored by hand with pens or watercolors.  And I loved that.  So I knew I wanted yarn from Orangeflower, and I contacted Karin, the dyer.

I hadn’t thought in advance just how much goes into yarn choice!  I mean, I’d be laboring over yarns and yarn colors for months, but I hadn’t really considered how much work there really is until Karin got back to me with some questions about what yarn I wanted, and what gauge, and what fiber, and what color.  Well, I knew the gauge and weight, but of course, even light fingering weight yarns can differ from one another quite a bit.  And then there was fiber.  Well, I wanted a wool, that was for sure, but I didn’t want merino.  For one thing, I already had a merino yarn, and for another, I’d been reading about a lack of diversity in sheep breeds and the trouble that’s causing, and for a third thing, there are some fibers I’ve been wanting to try for a while!  Oh, and of course, it had to be comfortable worn against the skin.  Whoa.  OK, deep breath.  Bluefaced Leister?  And luckily, Karin had some amazing Bluefaced Leister in the right weight.  Gorgeous stuff, and smooth and lovely against the skin to boot.

OK, so we’ve got the base picked out.  Color.  Color’s the next step.  This is the idea board I sent Karin.

Oh my goodness, you cannot imagine how ridiculously long I spent making this thing.  Most of these photos are of fabrics, but I also searched Etsy, using the color selector, and Google and Colourlovers, and goodness knows where else.  (The beautiful felt balls featured so prominently are from Smika.)  The idea was to find colors that were paired with the same sort of yellow I’d used, and looked good with it.  Each row represents a different color.  And each color represented was one I thought might look good with the yellow and yet show something very different about the pattern.

All very well and good, but there are five separate colors represented on the mood board, and only one was actually going to be used.  I pored over the mood board again and again, trying to narrow the field, and finding good reasons to use any of the colors.  In the end, the top row and the bottom row were drawing me the most, and finally I picked the top row.  I’ve shown this before, but the color is so gorgeous, I have no problem showing it again.  This is what she did with that top row.

In real life, the color is even more rich and gorgeous.  It shifts ever so slightly depending on the light, so sometimes you see more of the blues in the yarn.  It is amazing.  The Orangeflower BFL is intended for a three quarter length sleeve version of Sunniva.  I’m trying to whip through the first version so that I can cast on the second, because I want to knit with this yarn so so badly. I love this yarn.

As of today, I am at the point on the first sample where I need to begin increasing for hip shaping.  I intend this to be a rather long, almost tunic length garment, to prevent any possibility of accidental tummy reveals.  I have a really long torso, personally, and most shirts bought off the rack leave some amount of risk that at some point during the day, there will be an unsightly gap between my pants and the bottom of my shirt.  People, I have had three kids.  My belly is so not the thing anyone wants to see, but shirt manufacturers seem to think that, “Hey, you know what’s awesome?  Showing people Kristen’s belly!”  No, no, shirt manufacturers.  You are so very wrong.  So I’m taking matters into my own hands, and this garment is going to be long enough, by the soles of my great aunt Stella’s shoes! With God as my witness, I will never reveal belly again!

Ahem.  Maybe that last is taking things a bit far.  But you see where I’m going with this.  I’m not going to make this into a dress or a night shirt, but it’s definitely going to be long enough!

Oh, and I’m still on the first skein of Malabrigo.  This stuff goes for miles.

In the beginning

March 8, 2010

In the beginning there was an idea.  I had this thought of a sweater for spring, one that was cute and somewhat formal, but comfortable and easy to wear, like a tee shirt.  It would be knit in heavy lace weight yarn or light fingering yarn on very slightly oversized needles, so that it would create a light, drapey fabric that would breathe. It would look a bit like a blouse or a cardigan, but would actually be a pullover.  And there would be a little lace, but not much.

Then there was a sketch. And a hunt for yarn that was both the right weight and the right color.  And a swatch.  I found that it was not that hard to create a false placket with twisted stitches.  I played around with top down and bottom up construction.  I wrote up a proposal and submitted the idea to Knitscene for Spring 2010.  It came back.  I thought about it some more and decided that it was the idea of all my ideas that I was most excited about right now.  I ordered the yarn for the yellow version (I’d gotten enough for a swatch, previously, but hadn’t been committed to buying more till I knew what was happening with it) and decided that since I’d be self publishing, I wanted a second version with different sleeves knit in a yarn from a small dyer, and in a different color, to show how the pattern would be changed with a color difference.

There was also a lot of math.  I’d done the math early on, but I find that I often have to adjust a bit as I’m knitting.  I know there are designers who essentially write out the pattern, sit down and bang out the sample without having to change a thing, but I’m not one of them.  It’s a very arduous process for me, because I like to change things on the fly.

Take, for example, the twisted stitch placket.  Looked great in swatch form.  I was so pleased with my clever idea.  And then I started knitting the sample.  This is the crisis I met with:

For some reason, which, truthfully, I have not figured out even yet, one purl column became enormous and the other pretty much disappeared.   There was also some odd gapping between twisted stitches.  I tried taking the stitches off the needles and blocking it, to see if that would solve the problem, but nope.  It was like that.  Luckily, after a little cursing, a little begging for help from Ravelry buddies, and a few deep breaths, a solution presented itself.  The offending stitches were dropped back to the bottom and picked up again, only this time, I twisted the purls.  It’s made a big difference, and while a major blocking will still be needed (oversized needles make blocking extra extra doubleplus good), it no longer looks like the above mess.

This is what it looks like right now.  I don’t know how easy it is to see in this picture, but I can see a definite line between the blocked section and everything that follows.  Excuse the lumpy stitches – they should even out later!

I’m placing the shaping at the sides, not normally my preference, but I thought that darts would look awful at this gauge.  And I’m using a favorite shirt to help with the shaping.  I doubt I’m going to use the ribbon belt I’d imagined in the first place.  Those things can look nice, but they also can look over the top and can obscure detail and draping.  I’m feeling pretty optimistic thus far, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that something can always go wrong, so I’m not relaxing yet!

The above is all done with one skein of Malabrigo Sock.  I think I may well be able to get the entire sweater out of two skeins, though I have an extra for security.  (I’m not picturing the security skein as the one I carry about for comfort!)

So that’s where I’m at so far!  Most of this month will be dedicated to the two samples for what I’m planning on calling Sunniva.

Springing up

February 22, 2010

It’s not here yet, not quite, but spring is coming, and I can feel it!  Today is a rare sunny day in a long span of El Niño related bluster and rain.  Don’t get me wrong: I’m thrilled about the rain.   California’s been in drought long enough that rain is always welcome.  But long rainy days one on the other do make a person a little claustrophobic and gloomy, and that golden sun today is like a shot of adrenaline!

My argula knows that spring is coming.  It’s all bolted and sent out funny lopsided four petaled flowers.  The winter garden has been a bit of flop, with illness keeping me from tending it and the plants have not done all that well with the neglect, but I hope to get things back in order for spring.

Nora’s been on a sewing kick ever since our Valentine’s kitty project.  Of her own volition, she traced a magnet shaped like a raygun onto felt and asked for help in cutting it out.  Then she seamed the pieces together and stuffed it and sewed it up and tied it off.  The only thing I helped with was the cutting and threading the needle!  Unfortunately, the raygun, named Boa, was quickly misplaced, but today she made a heart shaped pillow for her mouse puppet, Anatole.

I’m working on some Emerald Fingerless Mitts from a black pepper for another Ravelympics project.  Mine aren’t Emerald, but are rather a lovely blue: Azul Profundo.  I frogged the March mitts I’d started in my Malabrigo Dos last year, and I’m making these instead.  I loved the yarn, but the stitch definition wasn’t right for the pattern as I was knitting it.  These seem like a much better match.  Whether I’ll give them away or keep them for myself isn’t yet clear to me.  I love the color and the yarn, but I already have a number of fingerless mitts, and yet more planned, so giving them away seems logical and kind, especially as the yarn was a free gift from Malabrigo.  Pass it on and all that!  But it’s hard to determine on good deeds when temptation in the form of soft, springy blue yarn is ever present.  We shall see.

The new sweater project is whipping right along.  I bought some buttons earlier in the month for the newbie, and that made me realize that I’ve never really taken pictures of my button collection.  Here are a few of my favorites, including the new buttons for the sweaters-in-waiting.  Most of my buttons are old (new to me, but old) and obtained through inheritance, garage sales, Ebay, Etsy, and thrifting.  I cut the buttons off old garments before I make rags, and I hoard them all in my little button drawer, which is a terrible mess.

I have strong opinions about buttons.  I’m not terribly sentimental, and while I enjoy history, I don’t have any nostalgia for bygone days of yore.  I’m very happy to have been born in 1979, thankyouverymuch, and I have no desire to time travel or to find myself back in Regency days being wooed by Mr. Darcy or some such nonsense.  However.  I do believe very strongly that the necessity of craft having declined, we’ve left some of our best techniques behind us.  Buttons are a prime example.  My vintage buttons are better made, more interesting, and longer lasting than the buttons I find even at specialty craft stores these days.  The cost of new buttons is horrifying to me, considering that they are usually mass produced, made of cheap plastic, and might not last all that long.  I do occasionally buy new buttons, but it’s not something I enjoy doing.  Old buttons, however, offer a world of excitement.  I have in the past often bought large mixed bags of buttons obtained at estate sales and then offered on Ebay.  For ten or fifteen dollars, I get a picture of someone else’s crafting life, along with buttons of character and interest.

There’s also something to be said for using buttons that have been worn and used before.  I don’t just mean in terms of recycling.  Of course, that’s an added bonus, but I think there’s a lot of scope for imagination in someone else’s clothes.  My new sweaters will be made by me.  I drew the sketch, I bought the (new) yarn, I’m knitting them up with my own two hands.  The buttons attached to them will be Victorian or Edwardian glass buttons, buttons that once adorned another woman in some other time and place on some very different garment.  Buttons were never cheap, even when people made most of their own clothes, and there was a fad in the mid to late 19th century, immortalized in Caddy Woodlawn, for clothing with as many buttons as possible, just to show off the wealth and skill of the seamstress.  I can’t sew buttonholes very well, and the thought of sewing forty tiny buttonholes by hand down a long fitted dress gives me shivers.  Perhaps my lovely little buttons were once the pride of someone else’s wardrobe.

Yes, buttons are a joy forever.

Other news: I’m going to Stitches West this weekend, thanks largely to the generosity of others (there are some lovely, lovely people out there in the online knitting world, let me tell you!) and I’d love to see any of you who plan on being there!  I’m going only to the market, and I’ll have the day settled later today when I hear from my husband about his weekend plans.  I’ll post again shortly with a more specific date, but in the meantime, let me know if you’re going to be there!  My apologies if I don’t email back right away.  I’m still working out the kinks here so that my emails don’t post to the blog automatically, and it’s making me gunshy of sending off a reply.

About Arabella

February 15, 2010

There’s always a story.  Arabella’s story began when I was reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (again) and began daydreaming about playing with the idea of fantasy and fashion.  The world of the novel is set during the Regency, but with an alternate history of Britain that allows for magic and fairies and other things that sound very silly when I write about them here, but are very well set in the novel.  Although she’s not as fleshed out as some of the other characters, I really like the character of Arabella Strange.  I began thinking about making a shawl for Arabella, something related to Regency fashion, but not really of it.  It’s far more likely a Regency woman would wear a shawl made of fabric than a knitted lace shawl – perhaps an Indian silk or or a cashmere print.  A lace shawl like this one wouldn’t really fulfill the purpose of keeping the wearer warm.  But it does make me think of the brugh – the mound of earth the fairies live in, dancing away beautifully, but without purpose.

When I pictured the shawl I wanted to make, it was pink.  I don’t wear pink, and don’t often like pink, but this shawl was definitely pink.  It was also a Faroese style shawl, which, as you can see, is not where I ended, but the color never changed.  The particular shade of pink was vividly in my head.  It was a soft, old fashioned pink, not a baby pink or a vivid pink, but a faded rose.  A Verb for Keeping Warm had just the right shade, Elephanta, a soft pink shot through with greys.  The second, lace weight shawl I wanted to make in a sharply different and more modern shade, but one that went with the lovely pink.  The right shade showed up when I was looking at madelinetosh yarns: Norway Spruce tosh lace.

So the colors were taken care of, but the lace kept evolving.  I started with a traditional Shetland fern lace and started playing with it, but while I came up with some interesting laces, none of them were quite what I’d had in mind.  The Turkish Rug lace over the body of the shawl is a far departure from the original fern lace, but it did come out of my experiments with the ferns.  (And I still want to use some of my more fern like laces for a stole or something.  Some were quite pretty, but not really right for this project.)

When the time finally came to cast on, I was reading a different book, Anthony Trollope’s The American Senator, which coincidentally also has an Arabella as a main character, this one an anti heroine with single minded determination to marry well, even if it means betraying her current fiancee.  I liked the bad Arabella – she’s sort of a Victorian Becky Sharp, but with more shades to her character than I think Becky got.  (I like Becky, too, though.  She puts that milksop Amelia all to shame.)  Trollope’s a lot of fun.  He might have personally felt ambivalent about women (and Americans, it might be added), but he has more full and interesting female characters than almost any other writer of the period.  (Interestingly, when he wrote an angel in the house character in Lily Dale, his readers adored her, but Trollope called her “somewhat of a female prig.”  I have to agree with him, and I like that he still allowed her character to grow in a later novel.) His Arabella is meant to be shown as a moral lesson, but it’s admitted throughout the book that she’s a smart, talented, capable woman who is driven to her moral deficiency by the circumstance of being a woman in a society that allows no outlet for her talents other than in marriage.  Most of the English characters in the book are indolent to the point of immobility, but nearly everything Arabella does is described in terms of work or exertion.  Basically, this was another fictional woman who deserved a really cool shawl, in my opinion.

Anyway, that’s where this shawl came from.  I kept making little connections over and over again, that may or may not have felt relevant to another mind, and somehow it all came together in a pink shawl and a green shawl, meant to be worn by modern women but inspired by fictional women of the past.

Entrechat shoot

October 13, 2009

I’m very far behind schedule on the Entrechat pattern, but we’re getting close to the finish line now.  Mr. Kninja and the kids and I went down to the beach this morning to shoot pictures for the pattern.  I felt pretty silly wandering around Albany beach in a flowing white dress, but I wanted something that would contrast with the teal nicely.  Here are some of the pictures.  You can click through to see the rest!

Lesson of the day: hair that stays relatively flat at home is not necessarily going to lie flat on a windy beach!


June 3, 2009

New pattern, available at PopknitsVerde is a green string bag knit out of recycled cotton.  This was my secret project for April, and it was a pretty relaxing knit, for the most part, save for the handle, which was reknit several times over.  I had a hard time settling on the perfect stitch pattern and needle size to create a really firm handle that wouldn’t stretch downward too much when worn and wouldn’t dig into the shoulder.  Many thanks to the Lady, who, during this period, looked at a proto-handle and suggested going down in needle size and using some kind of woven stitch.

When it came time to take the pictures for this project, I thought we might as well take them on an actual family outing, when we were putting the bag to use.  The photos were taken on our trip to Ardenwood Farm, which I mentioned previously.  Our picnic blanket and Nora’s Fleesa are shoved in there.  We’ve since used the bag for groceries and discovered that we can fit a whole heck of a lot of them in there!  The butterfly lace is super stretchy.

My husband has asked me to make a few more of these, so it’s a hit at our house!  I hope you can use it, too!

More soon, as I’m finally recovering!

I love my math class

April 27, 2009

I don’t think I’ve ever thought those words to myself before Saturday.  But I do.  I love my math class.

Math is one of those subjects that is clearly important and yet has, until recently, seemed really endlessly boring to me.  It’s not that I was awful at it, though some days I certainly feel that way.  I’ve actually always tested well in math, but I’ve rarely intuitively understood why the more complex processes work, and if you’re like me, you want to know why.  My current math class comes at a point in my life when I’m older, more serious, and more determined to understand than ever before, and I’m really getting it.  I keep seeing all these connections and patterns and I can feel my brain expanding.

My class is on Saturdays, and it lasts for close to five hours.  Around 10:30, when we usually have our break, I’m downright peckish, but also hyped up and thrilled with the sudden influx of knowledge.  Yesterday, as I went to buy a slice of pumpkin bread and a green tea, I had this momentous feeling of connection.  I couldn’t stop thinking, and, sitting down in my desk again to nosh, I unwrapped the pumpkin bread and inhaled the spicy smell.  I’m currently reading a book about spices, and the smell made me think of just how far those spices traveled to end up in my bread, how expensive they would have been a mere few generations prior.  They would have evoked lands unknown, having traveled from one merchant to another until the point of origin was mere legend.  Today, most of those spices still come from India and surrounding islands.  The pumpkin, like so many gourds and squashes, is a North American native, but has flourished well in Europe.  We must have common pollinators – so many Spanish treasures lost their value when they proved easy to grow in the Old World.  The green tea, like the spices, comes from Asia.  And the sugar for my tea and bread was cane sugar, which likely came from the Southern U.S., but in the past would have come from the Caribbean.   My inexpensive breakfast was a miniature history of imperialism.  I was gulping down what once would have been seen as treasure as though it was what it was – a cheap mid morning snack to get me through the remaining hours of math class.  Imagine.

I like that about my math class.  So much of math is about connections and pattern recognition, and once I’m in that mindset, it takes a little while to turn it off.  I keep seeing new ways of looking at my life, and I like it.

After class, I took BART to my stop, about a mile from home, and since it was a gorgeous day, I walked.  My brain was still humming, and I decided to apply it to knitting for a while.  I’m still thinking a lot about the subject of knitting classes and design, and the relation between the two.  The comments on my post were really interesting, and I’ve been reading some of the many other blog posts on the subject.  I think, like so many subjects, there’s not really so much disagreement as there are shades of opinion that amount to approximately the same thing.  I think we can all agree that licenses should be honored and that designers and shops need to be aware of licensing rules, and that designers should be credited for their work.

Anyway, the conclusion I’ve been led to is in some ways a little depressing, but it’s that to avoid abuse, the best thing to do is to charge for patterns in the first place.  I’m not sure where the rule originates, but I remember, even from childhood on, hearing that one should never offer kittens or puppies for free, even if you want to be rid of them, because putting even a miniscule price on them tends to weed out the cranks and villains.  People who want to misuse something also don’t want to pay for it.  Of course there are people who will misuse paid material as well, but even a token price tag will help deter the folks who really are unscrupulous.  This doesn’t solve the whole problem, but until unscrupulous behavior ceases entirely, there will be problems that will arise.

I’m sorry for the lack of pictures in this entry.  It’s not for lack of projects, but the only one I’ve actually photographed recently is one of those secret projects, which is a shame, as it’s also the only work I’ve done for Project Spectrum.  You’ll see it soon, though!

What think you?

April 15, 2009

Having gotten good feedback on one complex set of opinions, I have another set of complicated opinions to put out there.  Please comment, argue, let me know what you think.  My opinion seems to be at a slightly different angle than most of the knitting world so far, so it’s certainly possible that I’m wrong or that I’m out of step.

The lovely Pam at Flint Knits recently posted about yarn stores using free patterns to teach classes.  I dig Pam’s blog and patterns and photos, so I’m always interested in what she has to say.  She was responding to an earlier post by Kate at Zeitgeist Yarns about her own patterns and their use.  Both of these ladies have generously offered some truly beautiful patterns for free, and if you’re not familiar with their work, I encourage you to check them out.  (There are a bunch of other blog posts on this – these are just the two I read.)

Kate and Pam had slightly different points, but I wanted to address the parts I agree with before I get to the parts where my opinions differ.  First of all, even the simplest pattern takes a good deal of work to write up so that other knitters can replicate your original.  Sizing patterns takes a good deal more work.  When designers offer their patterns for free, the very least that you can give them is credit.  Free means that you don’t have to pay for it, but it does not mean that the work is without worth, and credit is most of what designers have.  If you love a pattern enough to knit it, you love it enough to credit the person who took the time to think it up and put it down for you to knit.

Apparently, some local yarn stores have been offering classes in popular free patterns without crediting the designers or sources, and I think this is plain wrong.  I also think it’s wrong if the use violates the license on the pattern, as in the case of Kate’s free patterns.  However, I think there are some points being made about free patterns and the law that miss the mark.

First off, is it wrong for a yarn store to offer a class using a free pattern?  My answer would be, “Sometimes.”

In the case of a pattern with an explicit license forbidding use in a commercial venture, then yes.  In the case of a pattern that a store prints out and distributes without crediting the source, then yes.

However, if the store offers a class in a for-sale pattern, it’s usually a requirement that class participants purchase a copy of the book or pattern ahead of time.  If stores are directing class participants to obtain their own copies of the free pattern from the original source, then I don’t really see the problem, unless the pattern is, of course, licensed specifically against commercial use.

A momentary digression about licenses.  Licenses are contracts.  When you download any pattern, free or paid, you are, in essence, signing a contract to abide by the rules imposed by the license.  Not all patterns have a license attached.  Most of mine don’t.  Those that do, though, should inform you of the terms before you download the pattern.  Even if they don’t, your use of the pattern constitutes agreement.

What licenses are not is the law.  You cannot be dragged into criminal court over a license.  You can be sued, though, for violating a contract or for violating copyright law.  This is unlikely in the case of individuals, but could be justified if, say, a major manufacturer was violating copyright on a pattern.

Back to the subject of classes.  This is where I start to diverge from the opinions I’ve read thus.  I certainly do not think that knitting classes are making money unfairly in teaching from free patterns.  What is being sold, provided the patterns are obtained fairly, is instruction.  Knitting teachers who are not violating copyright have to create their own class materials, have to come up with methods of instruction, have to create a whole class schedule around their chosen project.  Looking at classes offered in the area, the focus is on skills obtained with an attractive finished object as a motivator.  You want to learn cables?  Great, we’ll make a cabled hat.  It’s more fun than a big old swatch.

Knitting teachers are sometimes designers, but not always.  And that is because these are separate skills.  If I want to take a class in modern American literature, I am not going to start ringing up authors on the New York Times Bestseller list.  If I sign up to take a class about themes of loneliness in American literature from 1955 to the present then I’m going to look at classes offered at local schools, and I’m going to have to purchase the class materials, which are certainly going to include books that are under copyright.  If the teacher wanted to refer to materials freely available on the internet, but still under copyright (this is increasingly common) then the teacher needs to refer the students to the source.

What he or she doesn’t need to do is ask permission of the authors to teach their work.  Though the teacher’s salary comes from teaching the words of other people, the skill of teaching is separate from the skill of writing.  There are many great writers who are not good teachers, and many great teachers who are not good writers.

Knitting classes are not simply a matter of printing out a pattern and handing it to people in the class.  The reason people take a class in the first place is because they want to get instruction, not because they want the pattern.  I’m not referring to knitting stores that are outright deceptive, passing a pattern off as their own or otherwise preventing the knitter from finding the pattern at its source.  That’s a different and clearly shady problem.  I just object to the characterization of knitting classes as being a way of making money off of someone else’s work.  It would be just as easy to apply that to any endeavor, including pattern writing.  I am working on a pattern currently that uses elements I learned from many sources, including Barbara Walker, Elizabeth Zimmermann, and whatever pattern first taught me seed stitch.  I got opinions on how to change parts of the pattern from the Lady.  The idea for the pattern, though, and the construction, the writing – putting it all together – this comes from my own work.  Teaching is not dissimilar.  The pattern is only one component in instruction.

Pattern writers are free to put a license on their patterns that forbids their use in classes, or that requires that a store ask permission before using the pattern for a class, and that’s fine.  We, as knitters, need to be aware of these licenses and avoid violating them.  I think, though, that the attitude that a teacher is somehow stealing money from a designer in using their free (or not free) patterns in order to teach a class is wrong, and should be considered by those of us who design.  If we want respect for our own intellectual property and skills, then we need to extend respect to other fields and understand the different skills involved in teaching.  My personal opinion is that a class that credits the designer fairly is likely to be a boost to that designer, not a leech on their material.

Thoughts?  I would love to hear from you on this.