Friday, February 12, 2010


Tonight the Olympics begin.

I love the Olympics.  They even top the Stanley Cup final in the race for favourite sporting event to watch.

What is it about the Olympics that is so inspiring?  Watching these athletes give their all, I am inspired, energised. As a child, I remember setting cross country ski courses across our yard and drawing up swimming schedules for "training," briefly adhered to but created out of a determination to be part of the action someday.

In fact, I was a small part of the 1988 Calgary Olympic Games. Small part in that I was only 8 years old, and I carried the actual Olympic torch as the relay made its way through New Brunswick. My memory of the event is fuzzy, though I do recall the torch was extremely heavy and that it is hard to run on a snowy highway with snowboots whilst carrying something that is on fire.

However, this time around, I've chosen to participate in a different way. I'm an actual competitor this time in the Ravelympics. The Short Track Shawl event, to be precise, for Team Stitch and Bitch London.

Ravelympics, you ask? Why, you must not be a knitter.  The online knitting community Ravelry hosts their very own stitching Olympics concurrent to the sporting event.

What does this mean? Knitters, crocheters, and spinners choose a project, choose a wittily named event, and cast on during the opening ceremonies.  The goal is to complete the project by the close of the Olympics.

Not that I'll be staying up until 2 am to cast on my Travelling Woman shawl, mind you, but I'll be doing so first thing tomorrow morning.

So I'm doubly excited to begin my first shawl (which I hope to wear to my wedding next summer) and watch Canada go for gold. The cursing level may reach an all time high, particularly if I'm knitting during the hockey games.

Let the Games begin!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Listening to the little guy

It was approximately noon today I first received wind of the Paperchase plagarism allegations via Twitter.  It went something like this:

"Handmade heroes, get behind a good cause. Paperchase rips off @HiddenEloise design? Email them #paperchase"

Always one to trot after a distraction, I clicked through and read the artist's blog complaint. An interesting, yet unfortunately not unique tale of an independent artist alleging a version of his/her work was duplicated by a larger company for a mass market. In this case, the British giant Paperchase was the recipient of the criticism.

It's now close to 4pm, and a Twitterstorm has emerged. Outraged Tweeple have made #paperchase a global trending topic, and the story is hitting the blogs (ahem) as we speak.

This post isn't about the injustice done when an artist work is not compensated, though I would feel much sympathy as a musician, songwriter, and artist myself. Nor is it about the unscrupulous theft of design components amongst designers and companies.

It's about common sense and the serious way our society undervalues creative copyright.

I do not know @HiddenEloise. I do not know Paperchase.  I don't even know a tenth of this story. 

What I do know is this.  Paperchase was contacted by an independent artist claiming that their design was wrongfully being used on merchandise. Paperchase did not handle this complaint properly. Even if they did investigate, they did not communicate any results back to @HiddenEloise.

This is rude. This is the outrage.  Had it been a huge design firm making this claim, would Paperchase have taken notice? Perhaps looked into the matter further? Removed the merchandise in question until the situation was resolved?

Independent designers, musicians, and artists have no real tools to fight the theft of their hard work other than through word of mouth and social media. Society demands art and entertainment, but is determined to pay less (or nothing) for it. Meanwhile, the cost of educating those artists, and the cost of the tools required to create their art, continues to rise. Most artists, faced with the theft of their work, can't afford lawsuits, even if the laws exist to support them.

Someone download your music illegally?  Lift one of your photographs off your website and print it on canvas to sell to the masses? Shrug.  Sucks to be you, not much you can do about it, most people would say.  Your own fault for posting your work where it could be stolen. (How else are could it be sold legally if it isn't visible to the public, I wonder?)

So if @HiddenEloise was left with no alternative but to vent her frustrations online, I completely understand.  However, I wouldn't haul Paperchase to the fire until the true story about the art is out in the open.  Feel free, though, to burn them because of their customer service. This is certainly something interesting to watch over the next few days.

What it amounts to is a serious public relations debacle for a company with little to no social networking presence. No matter who is at fault (if @HiddenEloise's designs were copied by an external design firm or not, then used by Paperchase) the real story is Paperchase's inability to handle the situation in a prompt and appropriate manner.

The moral of the story? It doesn't matter who you are, or how big you are. If you treat a person unfairly these days, you might just end up in a Twitter tornado, watching your reputation twist into pieces.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fear of the FO

In knitting speak, the ultimate goal is a perfect FO, or "finished object."  It's an ideal day if one can knit up an article that is on gauge, neatly done, and is ready to wear or use.  Sometimes a project is finished straight off the needles; others require a bit of work.

As a fairly new knitter, I tend to pick projects that teach me a new skill.  When I look at a pattern, I don't think, "ooh, I don't know how to do that," I think, "ooh, I want that. I'll just figure it out as I go along." So far I've managed to muddle my way through several projects quite successfully, though I've learned that I have difficulty staying true to a pattern.

Are all knitters like this? Do they wander astray? Look, I started a post about finishing projects and ended up talking about wandering away from patterns.  The two subjects do come to a head in my current UFO (unfinished object) and are now driving me crazy.

Over the past few months, I've been knitting Sylvi by Mari Miunonen. If you haven't seen this pattern, it is an absolutely gorgeous cabled sweater jacket featured in Twist Collective. It's become one of the most popular patterns on Ravelry, and was nominated for Best Use of Texture in this year's Bobby Awards.

I started stalking the pattern.  I poured over other people's project posts, scoured forum threads for different colour and yarn ideas, and generally convinced myself that I could in fact knit it for myself. Being a rather unselfish knitter, I'd not yet completed a nice piece of knitting that was all my own.  About damn time, I thought.

So I jumped in.  I bought the pattern (ahem, along with several others, Twist is addictive) and started looking for yarn.  Before I began I decided to turn the sweater into a winter jacket of sorts. With the right wool and a lining, I reckoned, it would keep me cozy during the windy London winter (first pattern deviation.)

A little self conscious about the sheer volume of yarn I needed to buy, I decided to go the more economical route of doubling up Cascade Yarns Heathers 220 (second deviation from the pattern.) I got gauge and headed off into the unknown.

Now, four months later, I'm staring at the top of a massive yarn mountain, scared to scale those last few metres to the top. I've knit all the pieces and seamed them together. While the pieces aren't quite to size, the jacket is more than roomy enough and will block out easy enough.  I've knit all the petals for the flowers (in a contrasting colour, 500th deviation from the pattern) and sewn half of them on.

Really, all I need to do is sew on the two smaller flowers, the beautiful buttons I found at Loop, and block it.  Since I've been warned the pattern stretches, I wanted to wear it a few times before I line it, just to make sure I need to. The lining fabric is cut and pieced.

It's been sitting on the couch, staring me in the face, since Sunday.  I can't finish it.

Once I finish it, I will wear it.  Then my knitting skills will be on display for the entire world to see.  Will they see the multiple mistakes in the back seed stitch? Will they notice the large panel I had to add to get row gauge? My inability to pay attention across more than two rows of the pattern, which results in wonky leaves and questionable crossovers?

Probably not.  But I'm afraid to journey into the world of "real" knitters, in case I find I'm not worthy.  Knowing that knitters are a quirky and accepting bunch, this is a completely unfounded fear, but I have it all the same.

Tonight I will steel myself for the task. I will sew on those petals and buttons, and journey forth into the land of the FO.  What awaits me there, I do not know.  I'm hoping it's as satisfying as this chocolate cupcake I'm about to eat.