You’re probably right

We need to talk about something…

When I post a picture of a swatch or a project on instagram, the second most common comment I get (right after ‘what’s that yarn?’) is some version of ‘I could never do that, that’s way too hard for me!’  And it sort of breaks my heart.  Because if that’s what you’re telling yourself, you’re probably right…you probably can’t.

But I have some news!  You’re not right because the thing itself is particularly hard.  You’re right because if you go into it thinking ‘I could never…’ then you’re not ever going to try, and as trite as it sounds, you aren’t going to learn anything new if you don’t try.  So I’m going to ask you to make the tiniest little shift in what you’re telling yourself.  Instead of saying ‘I could never do that,’ say ‘I haven’t done that yet.’  I promise it makes all the difference in the world.

I had my own little ‘I haven’t done that yet’ moment earlier this year.  We had folks here working on the house (burst pipe…water everywhere…ongoing nightmare of plaster dust, paint cans, phone calls, and despair…we’ll talk about it later).  And while they are all lovely and are working hard to fix everything, it is disruptive.  And disruptive means I can’t write.  So I decide I’d learn something new.

The next thing on my list of stuff to learn is brioche.  So I grabbed a few bits of scrap yarn, poked around on google for five minutes, and started trying.  A few minutes later I had this:

Stunningly beautiful? Nope.  Full of mistakes? Yup.  Instructive? Oh very much so.

So…with the stuff I’d learned , I grabbed some other yarn and started trying more things.  Five more minutes of searching and reading and I was ready to try again:

Is it going to stop anyone in their tracks? Nope. Did it make me feel a whole heck of a lot more confident? Once again, very much so.

At this point I was ready to just play around for the afternoon.  If I got stuck I could always either rip it out or go read something and see if I could find help.  This was just a swatch, not anything precious…plus it kept me distracted while the nice people tore my house apart.  After an hour or two, I had this:

Again, not especially amazing.  But in a few hours of practice, I’d gotten comfortable enough to go from ‘brioche…oh yeah I don’t know how to do that’ to being able to cast on, work flat or in the round, increase, decrease, cable, and cast off.  And I was ready to cast on for my first actual project.

And I’m not special.  You can absolutely do this too…if you’ll let yourself.

In fact, if you knit at all, you have done this. You’ve gone from ‘I don’t know how to knit’ (because none of us are born knowing how to knit) to whatever level of proficiency you have now.  And there’s no reason at all that you can’t learn more.  So if you look at cables or lace or colorwork or brioche or steeking or whatever else is freaking you out and think ‘I could never,’ stop that.  ‘I don’t want to’ is fine…that’s totally valid and there are all sorts of things I don’t want to do right now (sweaters, I’m looking at you…you too blankets).  But if you want to but just haven’t yet, try switching from ‘I could never’ to ‘I haven’t yet.’  Leave yourself room to learn something…and be smarter than me and don’t wait for a burst pipe and a house full of contractors to make you do it.

Nope Nope Nope

Every once in a  while I get a string of comments in quick succession, and the cumulative effect of them leaves me feeling a bit cranky.  I’m sure this makes me a big meany pants.  But I am a big meany pants with my very own handy dandy website, so I can actually take a moment and write about two of these kinds of comments all at once and then point people here if they come up again.  So without further ado, two things I will not do for you (even if you call me names).

Put the pattern out before I’m ready:  If I post a picture of something I’m working on, and you like it, that’s fantastic.  I totally want you to like what I make and be excited to make it for yourself.  That is absolutely lovely, and I very much appreciate it.

I do not feel quite so thrilled when someone sends me some variation of “you posted a picture a week ago, where is the pattern?  How dare you take so long?  Don’t you realize you have an obligation to put it out?  Hurry up you jerk!”  Slightly more subtle but no less disenchanting are the messages that read something like “I’d really like to make this for Christmas/my niece’s birthday/my ailing mother.  Can’t you write up a quick version of the pattern just for me and send it now?  I’m sure it won’t be any trouble!”

The truth is I have my releases planned out about a year in advance.  In order to keep up the pace I’ve set, I have to have a schedule.  That means the thing I’m knitting now generally won’t be out for quite some time (and there’s a heck of a lot of behind-the-scenes work that has to happen between ‘knitted thing’ and ‘finished pattern,’ the knitting is only about 10% of the process).

So absolutely tell me you like what I’m making.  Tell me you’re looking forward to knitting it yourself.  I love that, and it’s fantastic to know you’re excited.  But please don’t tell me that if I don’t have it out next week I’m ruining your life and am some sort of monster.  That won’t make it come out any faster, and it makes me feel lousy.

Keep everything the same forever and ever and ever: You know how sometimes your favorite shampoo or jeans or ice cream topping disappears from the shelf?  Or that book you’ve been meaning to buy goes out of print?  Or that show you like goes off netflix?  I know it’s no fun, but it happens.  And sometimes it happens to knitting books and patterns.

Several of my books are out of print, and a few years ago, I took all my earliest patterns down.  With the paper books, when they’re gone, they’re gone.  With the early patterns, I took them down because I didn’t think they were as polished as what I’m doing now, and I didn’t want folks buying something that wasn’t representative of my current work.  Many have come back out, and more are on the calendar, but there are some you just can’t get right now.

Most people are great about this.  They are excited to see the old patterns in their shiny new versions, and they know they can always track down a used copy of the books if they really want to.  But occasionally, someone says “I saw a copy of the book on your shelf, you have to sell me that one, and you have to sell it cheap because it’s used.”  And it’s true, I do have a copy or two of my books in my office (both for reference and because I want to have a record of what I’ve made), but I’m really not going to sell them to you.  I get to keep a copy of my own books.  And every now and then, someone sends me a blog post from five years ago in which I announced a new pattern and tells me that I simply must let them buy it now because it was available at some point in the past (sometimes they even suggest it’s illegal of me not to and threaten to sue if I don’t, which is always fun).  That’s not how it works.

So yes, sometimes things  become unavailable (or change format, or change price).  Sometimes things come back better than ever, and sometimes they’re gone forever.  If you think you’ll kick yourself in a year if you don’t have something, the safest bet is to get it when you see it.  But pretty please don’t demand that things stay the same forever or suggest I’m breaking the law if I change how I offer my work.  That’s no fun for anyone.

So that’s it, that’s the end of my rant.  You totally deserve a cookie if you made it this far!

And again, I want to emphasize that it is absolutely marvelous if you see something I’ve dreamt up and want to make it for yourself.  I love that.  I don’t get to do this job if you don’t want to make what I come up with!

And I try tremendously hard to hear requests to put something out soon or to bring an old pattern back out in that light.  I pretty much always think of them as folks being excited and enthusiastic about my work, which is grand.  But there’s a line between being enthusiastic and being unreasonable.  Name calling or threatening to sue are firmly on the unreasonable side, and I promise they won’t have the desired effect.  Let’s stick to enthusiasm and we’ll all have a much better time!

Keep It Up

Last week was a bit of a rollercoaster.  It started when I learned that someone was selling scans of one of my books on Etsy.  I asked Etsy to take the listing down, and they did.  Then I asked them to take down the seller’s shop (everything in it was clearly stolen).  They didn’t, despite fervent claims that they take copyright issues seriously.

So I told you about it and asked you to help me persuade Etsy to fix it.  And you did!  The seller’s shop was empty come morning.

Alas, the story doesn’t end there.  The very next day I learned of another seller offering illegal copies of my book.  I did the same dance again, if with rather less enthusiasm.  But this time, rather than asking you guys for help with a specific problem, I thought I’d see if I could do something a bit more general.  I thought I’d put together a little guide for what to do if you find stolen work (either your own or that of a creator you like).  I suspect it may come in handy far more often than I’d like.


If your work is stolen:

1. Give yourself a minute to freak out.  Someone is misusing your work, you’re allowed to be upset.  Throw a little tantrum before you set to work fixing it, I won’t tell.

2. Make a record of the problem.  Note what’s being sold or given away, where, and by whom.  Remember that things on a website can change quickly, so don’t just bookmark the troublesome page, grab a screenshot of it.

3. Get in touch with someone.  Sites will often encourage you to contact the seller or member directly and ask them to take down the offending material.  I strongly prefer to get in touch with the site itself.  They have greater authority to resolve the issue (and I don’t think you should have to ask someone who has stolen your work to pretty please stop committing a crime).

Most big sites have a process for reporting copyright shenanigans. Here are links for Etsy, eBay, Facebook, and Amazon.  If you’re having a problem with another site, look for a contact or about page.  Be sure to keep copies of any messages you send to them.  You’ll usually need to fill out a form or send an email saying your copyright is being violated and giving the details.  Be sure to provide all the information they ask for.  With big sites, someone almost always responds within 24 hours and takes down the offending material quickly.

It’s a bit trickier for smaller (or less scrupulous) sites, but there are things you can do.  The idea is that if the website itself won’t help, their hosting company (those are the folks who make it possible for us to see someone’s website) is supposed to step in.  Here is an awesome guide for finding and contacting hosting companies (you want steps 3 and 4).  I’ve done this before, and it’s generally pretty easy (including those screenshots you took earlier and the correspondence you sent to the website to back up your request is helpful).

Chances are excellent that your work will be taken down within a day or two.  It doesn’t hurt to ask the site to sanction the person who put up the material in the first place.  Most sites say they’ll do something about repeat offenders, but it seems to take a bit of prodding to get them to actually do it.

4. Talk about it! This bit is optional, but I think it’s really helpful.  It lets you vent your own frustration, educate others, and encourage big websites to take intellectual property rights seriously.  Trying to deal with things like this all on your own can feel very isolating, and it’s amazingly reassuring to tell your community about it and let them support you.  I know it helped me.

If you find someone else’s stolen work:

1. Tell the creator or publisher of the work.  See if the author has a webpage or is on Twitter or Facebook and reach out.  If you can’t reach the author, try the publisher.  Most publishers have legal departments and will be happy to handle this stuff.  You are absolutely doing the creator a favor by informing someone of the problem, and I can pretty much promise they appreciate it.

2. Speak up. Consider letting the website know how you feel about them allowing unscrupulous content.  Unfortunately, you can’t officially file a report unless you have some ownership over the intellectual property that is being misused.  But you can absolutely tell tell websites that you don’t like it when they allow blatant theft and prefer to spend your time and money on sites that respect creators’ rights.  That’s especially powerful if you do it in a public forum (think Twitter or Facebook).  Your voice counts, and it’s easier than ever for individuals to speak up and be heard.  When enough people do, even the biggest companies listen.


Is this going to totally solve the problem?  Nope.  The internet makes it alarmingly easy for folks to steal, and someone is always going to misbehave.  But it also makes it easy for you to help if you find someone’s work being misused.  Even better, it makes it possible for you to tell companies that you don’t like it when they allow that sort of behavior.  Along the way, we can maybe sneak in a message or two about valuing creators’ work and choosing not to take advantage of pirated material.  If enough of us pay attention and speak out, it does make a difference.


Update: Holy Wowza we did it! When I got up this morning, I saw that the site had zero listings.  Thank you all!

Update, Part Two: Sigh, I found another scummy seller listing my book. This time, I figured I’d write a little guide on what to do if it happens to you or a creator you care about.

Are you up for a little rant about intellectual property rights?  Because I have a tale to tell, and I could use a little help.

On Monday evening, the lovely Julie very kindly sent me  a tweet telling me someone on Etsy was selling scanned copies of my book.

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 3.28.04 PMI checked, and indeed that seller was selling a scan of one of my books.  On Tuesday, I reported the issue to Etsy.  They took the book down later that day.

While I was looking for my book it became clear that the seller’s whole store was nothing but scanned images of other people’s books.  How clear?  Well here’s a screenshot of part of one page of the shop.

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 3.31.58 PMAs of July 8, there were 150 things for sale, each one a scan of a book.  The seller had made 261 sales to date.  That seemed pretty outrageous to me.

Luckily, Etsy proclaims that they “take intellectual property concerns very seriously” and their Copyright and Intellectual Property Policy says that “Etsy may act expeditiously to respond to a proper notice by (1) removing or disabling access to material claimed to be subject of infringing activity; and (2) removing and discontinuing service to repeat offenders.”  So great, all I need to do is show them this is a repeat offender, and they’re sure to take the seller down, right?

Apparently not so much.

You may have seen in that original tweet, Julie was nice enough to let Wendy Johnson know about a stolen book as well (and it looks like her book has since been removed from the seller’s shop, too), so I thought I’d pass along the favor.  I noticed Andrea Jurgrau’s awesome book, New Vintage Lace in the seller’s shop, so I got in touch with Andrea.  She contacted Etsy and asked them to take her book down.  Both Andrea and I also asked Etsy to take down the seller’s page, as it’s clearly full of nothing but scanned books.

Etsy’s response to my request?

As a venue, Etsy can not make determinations about whether a member is violating the intellectual property rights of another. We respond to proper notice from intellectual property owners or their agents, so if you believe another’s work is being violated, you may wish to reach out to them.

Now that’s all well and good.  I understand it is impractical for Etsy to check every item as it is uploaded.  But their own policy says that they can discontinue service to repeat offenders.  I know that both Andrea and I wrote to Etsy on Tuesday telling them about our stolen property and asking them to take it down (and Wendy’s book has been taken down, too).  A cursory glance at the seller’s shop makes it clear everything on there is a blatant copyright violation.  What more does it take for someone to be seen as a repeat offender?

This really isn’t what I expected from a company that proclaims that “creative entrepreneurs” are “the heart and soul of Etsy.”

So since Etsy won’t listen to me or to Andrea, I was wondering if they might listen to all of us.  Any chance a few of you might be willing to tweet them or send them a message on facebook asking why they won’t protect creators’ intellectual property?  I have a feeling if enough of us ask, they might have to answer.


Every now and then, someone writes to me and says something along the lines of “why don’t you use the standard chart symbols?”  More often, I’ll see someone say on ravelry some variation of “gee, I like her patterns, but I wish she’d use standard chart symbols.”  The only thing I can think in response is what standard chart symbols?

There is really no such thing.  Not even a little.

In fact, chart symbols (and charts in general) are staggeringly different from one book to the next.  I pulled a handful of books off my shelf, they all use different conventions.  The differences are a bit amazing.  They don’t agree on what symbols to use for various stitches.  They don’t agree on whether to show wrong side rows.  If they do show wrong side rows, they don’t agree on how to depict them (as they’re seen from the right side of the fabric, or as you’d work them when the wrong side of the fabric is facing you).  They don’t agree on how to depict maneuvers that involve more than one stitch.  There’s really not much they do agree on.

They’re different enough that I want to actually show you a few examples, just to demonstrate how dramatically things change from one book to the next.  We’ll start with the basics, plain old knits and purls.

DSC_0141That’s a knit/purl only pattern from Big Book of Knitting Stitch Patterns.  Knit is a vertical line, purl is a horizontal line, the dots are ‘garter’, and the blank squares are ‘work as set.’  So there you’ve got four symbols to represent two stitches.

DSC_0144This is from The Knit Stitch Pattern Handbook.  Here, knits are blank squares and purls are dots.

DSC_0149One more, this time from 1000 Knitting Patterns Book.  Here we’ve got the knits as blank squares and the purls as horizontal lines.

So, not a lot of similarities, even in the most basic stitch patterns.  What happens if we look at decreases?

DSC_0152This shows basic decreases in The Haapaslu Shawl.  Solid triangles lean whichever way your decrease goes (also for those keeping track at home we’ve got yet another way to represent knit stitches now, solid squares).

DSC_0155This book, Beautiful Knitting Patterns, uses a totally different method.  Here the number 2 is used (either the expected way or reversed) to represent basic decreases.  On other charts in this book, 3 is used the same way to represent double decreases.

DSC_0160This chart, from Knitting Patterns Book 300, may look a little more familiar.

DSC_0163But let’s not forget Omas Strickgeheimnisse.  Deep breath.  Knits are circles (a whole new way to represent knits). Purls are horizontal lines. Yarn overs are (somewhat surprisingly) slashes. Right-leaning decreases are Xs.

Ok, so there doesn’t seem to be a unified way to show decreases either.  What about something a bit more specialized, how do one over one twisted cables look in different places?

DSC_0165This is again from Beautiful Knitting Patterns.  The diamonds are twisted stitches and the long diagonal lines show how the cables cross.

DSC_0170Twisted-Stitch Knitting follows a totally different convention.  Twisted stitches are shown as 8s and the arrows tell you how to move stitches from one row to the next.

DSC_0176There’s yet another method used in Aran Knit Patterns 100.  Here the twist stitch symbol and the cable direction indicator combine into one symbol.  Oh and note the little symbol at the bottom saying that in this chart, blank squares are purls.

I know that was a giant wall of pictures (and thank you for sticking with me if you’ve made it this far).  But I hope it shows that there really isn’t any such thing as standard anything.  Pretty much everything varies tremendously from book to book (and even sometimes within books).

What people often mean when they ask for some non-existent set of standard symbols is “the symbols I’m used to.”  If a knitter has primarily used only one designer or one company’s patterns, it’s really easy for them to assume that the symbols they’ve seen there are the right ones and anything else is wrong (or at least non-standard).  But if you work from a wide variety of patterns, you’ll see that there really is more than one way to present the same set of information.

This becomes even more important when patterns use a wide variety of stitches (which mine tend to do) or unusual stitches (I like to do that too).  I don’t think there is any symbol I could use that would instantly convey to everyone ‘right-leaning, twisted double decrease.’  But sometimes, that’s really the stitch you need!  That’s why there is a key (and instructions) right there telling you exactly what the symbol means and how to do the stitch.  I promise everything you need is there!

And I do try very hard to keep my symbols and explanations consistent across my own books and patterns (one of the many advantages of publishing my own work).  But I fear there is never going to be any such thing as a set of standard chart conventions, no matter how convenient such a thing would be.


A note about the images: I used photos of small portions of the charts from a variety of the stitch dictionaries I own (and listed where each one came from).  None of the pictures show the whole chart, and none of them show the what sort of fabric these stitches would make.  Given the very small part of the original works shown (portions of single charts from books that contain hundreds of charts) and the nature of the post (hopefully educational!), I feel like this qualifies as fair use.  Of course if you are or represent the copyright holder of any of these works and you want me to take it down, just get in touch and I will.