Fair trade knitting teachers, part 2

I am more than a little sad to find that after writing Free range, eco-friendly, fair trade knitting teachers this February, it’s time for another followup. Annie Modesitt has just posted about the new digital pattern contract information sent out by Soho (aka Vogue Knitting, knit.1, Knit Simple etc). Her title says it all: here we go again.

I really do recommend you read Annie’s post in full, because she’s pretty much one of the only people talking about this out loud. (Behind closed doors is another thing altogether — you should hear designers at TNNA or anywhere else we congregate in large numbers).

And I’ll repeat what I said in the comments there. As you all know, I recently took the editor job at UK-based print knitmag Yarn Forward. We are planning digital pattern sales, and we will be paying designers a full 50% when we do, not 10%.

In addition, ANY time Yarn Forward asks a designer’s permission to reuse their pattern (in a collection, book, whatever), he or she gets paid again. A percentage (50%), but it’s something. And on top of that, 6 months after the pattern appears in the magazine, you can start to sell it on your own site, on Ravelry, or whatever. We’re up to 10 issues per year now (from 4), so clearly it’s working as a business model. Any adjustments in terms we may make in future, though, will always be designer-friendly. As a result, magazines such as Yarn Forward who do offer designer-friendly terms will benefit in better designs, better readership, and more. I don’t know if I could live with myself otherwise.

This isn’t 1980 anymore. There’s more than one way to get patterns, and I know many of you are concerned about fair compensation…hence my February post’s title “Free range, eco-friendly, fair trade knitting teachers,” and the comparisons made there. Teaching conditions at the bigger shows continue to deteriorate, yet it’s easier than ever to coordinate a teaching engagement with a “name” designer. You know. The ones who are shying away from those shows because — go figure — it’s hard to pay the mortgage when you aren’t getting compensated fairly.

When I found out Annie was coming to town, we put together class offerings, did a little online publicity and pow! filled her classes rather nicely…all in about 2 weeks’ time, so you can imagine what more lead time would have given us. And yes, it’s true I have access to my own venue, but even if not, there’s any number of places we could have done it for cheap or free.

I don’t know what else I can say. It’s Thanksgiving tomorrow. I am thankful I have a job I love, working with wonderful, creative people all the time. Any amount of frustration is almost immediately fixed by other good stuff happening. But forgetting that designers are the cornerstone of this business seems at best counterproductive, and at worst, a severe lack of respect for what they do. This translates, in my opinion, to a lack of respect for the end user, too. It benefits everyone to have skilled designers submitting to the magazines.

Of course, everyone needs to start somewhere, and I have nothing but respect for the people who have the ideas, but maybe not the technical know-how (that’s where editors come in). If you’re willing to learn, fantastic. But if you want to see more complex knitting and interesting pieces on a regular basis — you’re going to have to have designers with existing skills on board. You can’t hand-hold an entire magazine’s worth of designs, not on these kinds of timetables.

Daily dose of dachshund cute + NaKniSweMo

Attention NaKniSweMo knitters! November is nearly here, and it is time to start narrowing down your sweater choices! One of my sweater design class students is coming to model her finished sweater tomorrow with her two basset hounds. I will be writing a full pattern based on her design and we will be selling it as the Official NaKniSweMo Sweater, with proceeds going to our favorite local no-kill shelter. So if you still can’t decide, that’ll be available for sale soon. Hurrah!

Take action today!

Ok, I realize I just wrote about a week’s worth of posts into one post just now, but this is too important to put off. If you believe in the right of a knit designer or any other visual artist to preserve their copyright, please contact your congressional representatives today about the currently-fast-tracked Orphan Works legislation.

It’s easy to do — go to this site. There are many options to choose from, but a good generic one to use is here. Here’s a portion of a letter written by a paper arts studio that should give you an idea of what’s at stake:

This bill will basically allow anyone to use a design after a ‘reasonable search’— without the copyright holder’s permission. Even if the copyright holder objects, he has no recourse because the bill eliminates the statutory damages that prevent rampant infringement. The bill further requires copyright holders to register their work on a digital database system that does not exist, and might never exist. Yet the bill will be enacted whether or not these data bases— and the technology needed to effectively search them— ever come into existence.

See what I’m saying? Not good stuff. So please do contact your congressional reps about this — it does not bode well for the knit designers and visual artists of the world if it gets put into law. Come on. Look at what the Congress has done over the past seven years to individual liberty in this country — do you really think they give a damn about how this horrible legislation will affect knit designers? I doubt it. So let’s raise a fuss, shall we?

Be the Nina to my Heidi

I’m teaching this summer for ArtWorks in University Circle (Cleveland), doing a fashion/fiber-related program. It’ll be up to the apprentices whether things are more Project Runway or summer theatre-y, although I have a strong suspicion they’ll veer towards the former, but no matter what, it should be fun.

If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by the tents and see what we’re doing! And if I know you, don’t be surprised if I pull you in and make you pretend to be Tim Gunn or [cue Heidi Klum accent] top American designer Michael Kors. Anyone want to be the Nina to my Heidi?

Stitch Cleveland in YMN + Interweave toys

The August issue of Yarn Market News just arrived, with a really nice writeup about Stitch Cleveland. (I love the model on the cover, she’s got roving woven into her hair. Don’t think I wouldn’t do that if I had longer hair! It’s very Frida Kahlo, I like it).

Interesting news from Interweave:

Crafty parents concerned about the safety and quality of their children’s toys have an alternative: do-it-yourself. KnittingDaily.com, Interweave Press’ new online knitting community and pattern library, is offering knitters nine free handmade toy patterns—from a knitted horse to fairy-tale hats and a charming tea set, a great alternative to plastics for imaginative playtime. Three of the patterns call for organic yarns, which is another option for parents looking for affordable eco-conscious, or ‘green’ toys.

The free toy patterns are available online at: www.knittingdaily.com/toys

If you’ve got children of your own or children to knit for, these patterns should come in handy with the holidays coming sooner than we’d like to believe…

And speaking of tiny fuzzy things — many kisses to little Ms Isobel Cash, aka the tiny baby kitty my friend Natasha rescued this week (story here). It was right around this time three years ago that our baby Spike and his brother Milkshake were rescued, and now they’re big, spoiled healthy boys. I’ve met Isobel’s feline siblings and know she’s in good hands (paws?). I just wish I could get out to Pittsburgh and squeeze her myself!

If little Isobel made you go “awww!”, might I recommend Crafters for Critters? They’ve raised thousands of dollars for animals in need.

Helping a fellow crafter

Alison of wonderland Q, a friend and fellow Bazaar Bizarre organizer, recently had a serious medical emergency. Like many, many artists and crafters, she’s without health insurance. Susie of boygirlparty has some details here. You can send her a donation directly via PayPal (info@auroraseven.com) or you can shop at wonderland retreat, an Etsy shop set up to benefit Alison.

She is truly lovely, creative, fun to work with — and without getting too angry about it, because it’s one of my hot buttons — she’s just had something happen that almost all independent artisans fear. I’m one of the lucky ones. My boyfriend’s job covers domestic partners, too. But for a good 5+ years, I was completely without health insurance.

When you’re getting paid a few hundred dollars until the table every week for more than 40 hours of irregularly-scheduled work, which makes taking on a second job impossible, in one of the most expensive metropolitan areas in the country (the one where Alison currently lives, I might add), and barely making rent…well, a week’s worth of pay for one month of health insurance is taking food directly out of your mouth. And I was in good health when I checked prices, too! It shouldn’t have to be this way.

So please, if you can, help a fellow crafter out.

Holiday Heifer International fundraising

Donate to Heifer International between now and 6 January 2007 (my birthday, *cough cough*) and win fabulous prizes. Send me your email receipt to be entered into the drawing.

If you prefer, you can join in on our pooled-donation Knitting Basket drive. Send contributions to admin@knitgrrl.com using PayPal, and be sure to specify in the comments field that you’re sending a contribution to our Knitting Basket. Thank you!