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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Drama on the Farm

Just got a letter from Caroline Owens with some interesting news -- turns out King is not living up to his name!  She explained how a breeding harness is put on the rams and different colored crayons are fastened on the harnesses to monitor breeding activity.  A ewe will not return to heat once she is pregnant, so as Caroline says "the worst thing you can observe in the breeding pasture is double colors on your ewes."  So, King was installed with a red crayon and sent out to work with a select group of ewes.  Every ewe had a red mark within 16 days.  Great!  So, they changed King's crayon to green.  Well, one ewe marked green the very next day, and over the next two weeks, all the ewes had marked green :-(  Thankfully, an unrelated ram named Baritone came to the rescue as did a ram lamb who was saved from market day.  Caroline was also able to purchase a new white Coopworth ram named Zeus, and he was turned loose on the three remaining un-bred ewes.

I also got word that "Roly-Poly Princess" is up to her old tricks again -- she has been stuck upside down several times in the last week.  When the Owens check the flock, she is one of the three "repeat offenders" they are looking for.  Oh, I hope she makes it ok and we hear some good news soon (and I get another box of fleece -- actually, I think I'm going to let someone else process it this time!) 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Design or Deception?

Some of my crochet designer friends have been going through a rough patch lately because their patterns have been stolen and sold by others.  Obviously, taking someone else's pattern, changing the name on it, and putting out there for sale is morally and legally wrong.  But, where is the line drawn?  The other end involves the stitches and techniques themselves -- no one can copyright the single crochet stitch or the front post double crochet.  But that leaves a very large murky middle.  And where's the line between drawing inspiration from other designers' creations and copying them?  I know I struggle with that -- it feels like it's very hard to come up with new and different things to crochet.  Often, the only real difference between certain designs is the color combinations used -- is that enough to not be treading on someone else's pattern?

I certainly don't have any definitive answers to these questions, but I'd like to suggest some ideas for the designers out there who are trying to do the right thing (and hopefully give those who are trying to make a quick buck something to think about!)

1)  Creating and designing crochet items is such a fun and satisfying endeavor.  That good feeling comes from the creation process, and you've got it in you!  It's ok to look at pictures of other designers' work to learn about color theory and combinations, about different looks and to identify the different techniques used, but stop there.  Don't look at the actual pattern!  You're much less likely to "copy" anything, whether on purpose or by accident, if you minimize your exposure other people's patterns.  Focus on buying or finding books and magazines that teach you all the different crochet stitches and techniques, but not actual patterns.

2)  Once you've gotten inspiration from other designs out there, then it's got to come from you, in your own voice.  Identify the item you want to make, the color(s) you want to use, and the stitches/technique that will provide the structure.  Then, once you actually start making the item and writing down the instructions, don't worry yet about standardization of the language, just get your thoughts down, as though you were trying to explain to a friend how she/he could also make the item.

3)  If you decide that you do want to sell your pattern, then you do need to go back and standardize the stitch and technique abbreviations, but keep some of your own uniqueness in there.  If you've got a better way to explain how to make a crocheted cable for example, then use that as a way to set yourself apart and to ensure that you are bringing something new and different to the world of crochet.  Now, isn't that better than worrying about treading on someone else's turf?!  (Though it seems only the people who are trying to do the right thing are the worriers :-)

I've been thinking a lot about the design process lately, not just because of the recent events, but because I think that's where we really get to experience the beautiful side of being human.  Designing and creating are in each of us -- bringing it out in ways that make us and others happy is what it's all about.  On the eve of Thanksgiving, it's what I'm grateful for, and no pattern stealer can take that away!!  Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


I went to a birthday party last weekend for a very special little one-year old.  It was so much fun to watch him eating his cake and playing with his friends.  The ways that children entertain themselves and each other is so fascinating.  What was also very interesting was the birthday boy's reaction to his gifts and the other children's reactions.  A number of the gifts were quite high-tech -- lots of flashing lights, buttons to push, sounds and songs warbling out of the speakers.  He played with them briefly, showed them to his friends, who poked at them as well, but then attention was drawn to other things or the boxes in which the gifts came!  One of the gifts that seemed to have the most impact was a simple set of building blocks.  They were made of a special hard foam that's environmentally friendly and non-hazardous, which made them prime for the chewing and drooling that was going on. 

It got me thinking about the expression "going back to basics" or "going back to one's roots."  I always then think of a tree, with its roots digging deep into the ground, unseen but oh so important in terms of the health and stability of the tree! 

So, what's this got to do with anything?!  I'm still working on my new website, probably because I've been letting myself get caught up in some bells and whistles that I thought would be cool to have on there.  But, attending the birthday party has reminded me how important it is to keep it simple.  Simplicity doesn't mean amateurish, not elegant, or without functionality; it just means that there's a good reason for each element being adopted, that it is centered around the mission and purpose of the site and that it imparts information in a clear and communicative way.  So, back to the drawing board to pare things down and to keep it simple.  Ah, I feel better already and hope to launch very soon!