dusktreader knits

January 6, 2012

Bitten by the Design Bug Again

Filed under: Designing, Projects — Tags: , , , , , , — dusktreader @ 7:33 pm

Maybe you remember that when I started this blog, I was excited about designing my own knitting patterns. That was about two years ago, and I spent a few months reading about designing, sketching out ideas, playing with stitch combinations, and learning as much as I could. Then summer came and I let my designs-in-progress lapse. Last year at this time, I started having ideas again, but the urge wasn’t as strong, and then my knitting life got taken over by a mammoth project which I can now reveal was an afghan for my mom’s wedding present. Since I couldn’t blog about it (secrets!), and I was enthralled with the project (I have always wanted to make afghans), I stopped blogging and let my design ideas stew for awhile in the back of my head.

I finished the project in December, and  it was followed by a wave of enthusiasm for smaller projects. I finished the mittens I’d been working on for three years (on and off), made a hat in two days, and started a scarf. And then the ideas started flooding in again.

I have all sorts of ideas, and my main problem last time was picking one and focusing on it. Most of them don’t make it to the detailed sketch phase, where I plan every section. Sometimes I’d get stuck on one detail that wasn’t working right, or sometimes I’d try to swatch and find I’d made things too complicated for myself. I’d have multiple ideas for different things I could do within a project, and be unable to settle on one. This time, I am picking the most straightforward and developed idea that I have, and seeing it through from start (idea, sketch, swatch) to finish (pattern write-up, getting test-knitters, publication). I am going to tweak it until it is just the way I want it, I am going to make sure that other people can understand the pattern I’ve written, and then I am going to publish it as a free download.

And last night, after a few sketches, I managed to make a swatch that I’m pretty happy with:

A swatch of knitted fabric showing a cabled arrow pointing upwards.

It’s a cabled arrow pattern that I want to use as the main design element for a pair of wristwarmers. Fairly straightforward to do, but I searched the Ravelry pattern database and didn’t see anything like it. There’s still a few tweaks I’d like to make. For instance, at the points where three columns of knit stitches converge, I’d like to use a centred double decrease instead of the k3tog that I used here, so it looks more polished. I think I will make the shaft of the arrow a little bit longer by adding more rows. But it’s enough to get me started on knitting the first wristwarmer, which I was up late last night doing. I forced myself to stop so that I could try to get some sleep, but I was too buzzed to fall asleep right away. (What was that I said about knitting before bed again?) I was so happy that it came out the way I wanted I pictured it in my head. This feels like something that I can actually finish.
And when I finish, I have another idea all lined up that I’ve worked up a detailed sketch for. I am excited for that one too, but it’s a little more complicated.
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February 18, 2010

Thoughts on copyright

Knitting is way older than the concept of copyright. Long before you could own the expression of an idea, knitters were sharing their patterns with each other to survive in cold weather.

Believe it or not, copyright was created as an incentive for creators to share their work, because it gave them the opportunity to make money from it for a fixed period of time. It was meant to balance the rights of users and creators. Today, that fixed period of time has steadily increased, and updates to copyright laws have failed when it comes to including users’ rights. (For more information, see the works of Lawrence Lessig and Cory Doctorow.)

Nothing in this world is new: everything is inspired by or built upon something else. It’s how creativity works. People mash up existing songs to create new ones: they juxtapose music and images to make cultural criticism. Knitters take stitch patterns which have existed for centuries, combine them with different ways of constructing garments, borrow a thumb gusset from one mitten and a braid from another. It’s something I’m fascinated by, and I believe strongly in a culture of sharing that also supports creators who in turn share their innovations.

In fact, if you’ll direct your eyes to the righthand* sidebar of my blog, you will see that I have licensed the contents under a Non-Commercial Attribution Share-Alike license. This means you can copy any of my work here for non-commercial purposes, as long as you attribute it to me. If you are going to modify it in any way, you must make it available for copying under the same license. When I get to the point where I’m making my knitting patterns available (the Crazy Cat Cave is coming!), I’ll use the same license for them.

This doesn’t mean I don’t believe in selling or paying for patterns. I often use free patterns, either from sites like Knitty where the bills are paid by advertisers, or from patterns that other knitters make available on the internet. Part of my reason for starting this blog was to give back to that community of people who have shared their work with me over the years. But I also buy patterns, particularly when they are unique, or when the designer has done something that will make the knitting easier: charts that simplify a written-out design, explanations of difficult techniques or recipes which allow for endless modifications.

I actually think the knitting world does a pretty good job of of balancing the rights of users and creators. Free patterns and patterns you pay for coexist in the knitting world, and most designers offer both. You can make as many copies of a knitted object from someone else’s pattern for personal use (for yourself or as a gift), but you can’t sell these objects without the designer’s permission.** Knitters can choose to share their work with others via sites like Ravelry or their personal blogs, and they can choose to sell them through the same means, or by publishing them in print and online magazines. Knitters share. They also support each other. It’s a community I’m proud to be a part of.

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*pause while I make the little backwards L with my hand (“righthand? yes righthand”) because I don’t think I’ll be able to confidently tell left from right on the first try

**At least, that’s the license that most designers print on their pattern. I am not actually sure whether this holds up in court (if anyone knows of any case law regarding personal use of knitting patterns, please direct me to it. I except most indie designers don’t have the resources to take legal action, so there probably isn’t a lot). Copyright law doesn’t cover the items you make from someone else’s pattern, only the pattern itself. Regardless, it seems to be the accepted norm in the knitting community.

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