femkes_follies: (Because)
[personal profile] femkes_follies
Heavy stuff, wot?

These topics have been bouncing around in my brain, lately. Why? Well, a number of incidences.

#1. Searching Ravelry for something to knit for a new baby, I come upon an adorable cow hat that the new mother would adore. My technician also thought it was cute, but her initial response was, "Is that a free pattern?"

#2. FB'ing back and forth with a cousin who is new to knitting. She's taught herself, via books. And (much like I did) discovered a while into the procedure that she'd been twisting her stitches by knitting through the back loops all the while. She commented that she ought to have taken a class. Probably true. But, I also suggested that she open an account on Ravelry (I <3 Ravelry, BTW), and she commented that she hadn't yet, but she loves free patterns - so if there are free patterns, she will.

#3. I'm signed up for a Mystery Knit-Along that starts this summer. I like this designer's work, her stuff is usually pretty clear, and her aesthetic generally is something that appeals to me. And, while she's always suggested certain luxury yarns, this time both she and her group mods/test knitters nearly got out the iron maidens in an effort to discourage anyone from using anything BUT the suggested (and pricey) yarns and beads.

#4. Reading through a number of online sewing tutorials, and the comments included therein. The same for cooking blogs. My favorite are the comments to the effect of, "I made this just like the recipe, except I substituted X,Y, and Z and it didn't turn out. This recipe sucks!!"

#5. The recent cessation of publication for Australian Smocking and Embroidery vs the alterations in format for Sew Beautiful.

#6. E-mail contacts I sometimes get via my own web presence.

Where does this put my head?

Frankly, people who will only ever knit a free pattern annoy me. Which is not to say that I don't or won't knit a free pattern. I have, and I will. There is one OTN right now. I understand that certain fan-written patterns based on copyrighted or trademarked symbols often may NOT be sold without violating that trademark/copyright.

I've also had many the free pattern that is badly written. Outright mistakes, stitch counts that don't match, poorly designed charts, etc. This is beyond frustrating, especially when you can easily determine that if you take the cast-on row and then follow the instruction for the next row, the ending stitch count does not and cannot match what the author claims it will. Now, on Ravelry it's common for authors to have their own forum and support their work. They will often answer questions, post corrections, and generally update their .pdf's as needed. This is less common with the free patterns, which are often abandoned after writing, authors never to be heard from again.

It doesn't take many bad experiences with patterns - free or purchased - to begin to understand the value of a well written pattern that has been tech edited and test-knit or -sewn. To appreciate it when a designer updates patterns to remove errors. (ESPECIALLY on Ravelry, where your downloaded patterns are stored in your personal library and notifications are presented when any of them are updated by the author.) The work, time, love, and obsession that goes into creating that pattern are worth something. Some one's talent is worth something. Now, whether you like that pattern enough to pay what the author is asking is a personal decision. But to categorically decide only to ever knit free patterns both narrows your choices AND relegates you to a pool of work that is of lower quality and likely will give you less satisfactory results. Do so at your own risk.

There is another side of the coin, however. As a designer, once you create that pattern and publish it, it's no longer in YOUR hands what people do with it. Insisting that any change in yarn type or cast on method or insert attribute here will ruin the integrity of the pattern and the resulting work a lesser item that was "not what you designed" isn't really helpful, either. Granted, I've seen marvelously complexly designed pieces that somebody (proudly!) knitted in the Red Heart Super Saver Rainbow colorway. And yes, it makes me want to go wash my retinas, too. but that was the choice of the person who bought your pattern and put all that time into knitting it. Granted, going way outside the suggested range of yarns/gauge, and then complaining that the pattern "doesn't work" isn't kosher, either. But substituting a simple wool yarn for the luxury silk blend specified, in the same weight, shouldn't affect a shawl pattern ALL that much. Quit bitching at your customers for having budgets/yarn diets/different tastes.

Which circles us back to.... responsibilities of the pattern/recipe user. You cannot read a recipe, alter it mightily, and then complain to the author that it "doesn't work." Now, I have tried recipes from a lot of web sites, including Martha Stewart, that have flat out failed as written. This is a different issue. But, before you take the author to task, be certain that it wasn't your own execution at fault.

The same goes for online sewing tutorials. When a blogger posts a piece on a specific item they made, detailing how it was done this does NOT entitle you to demand all the details necessary to replicate said project but in a different size/fabric/style/etc. This person shared their craft with you. For free. You don't get a professionally graded/tech edited/measured and drafted pattern to your own specifications as a "thank you" for merely reading the post. Either you can make those mental leaps yourself, or you can't. Ask a question, certainly. But don't demand that the author spoonfeed you the mathematics to alter the project for yourself. They owe you nothing.

There seems to be a lack of appreciation for the design work and technical expertise required to draft a pattern, regardless of the medium. Australian Smocking and Embroidery was a favorite magazine of mine, largely because there was a multi-size pattern for each featured garment included in the center pull-out. Yep, it was expensive. But I often bought it anyway. It's been discontinued. I'm not sure if that's because interest in smocking is waning in general, the exchange rate with Australia has gotten steeper - or because too many people didn't see the value. Why pay $16 for AS&E when Sew Beautiful is only $6? Well, largely because SB might have ONE pattern. It's other features will tell you what commercial pattern to buy so that you can replicate the result. You're viewing someone's modification - not the from-scratch design work of AS&E. (I could have this wrong. It's possible that SB survives because it's new editor has also moved to include more modern "boutique" style children's clothing and away from solely smocking and heirloom work.)

And then again, there are the hobby pattern lines whose designers, when contacted about trouble with their patterns assume that the entire problem lies with the person using it. Maybe. Maybe not. I've come to understand that there is a wildly different approach between people who were formally taught to sew and people who "picked it up." The biggest bane of my existence, these days, is people who are "self taught" in an SCA context. Not because there is anything wrong with teaching yourself to sew, but because they have this attitude that modern sewing is for dummies and that they can forgo any of the basic books and lessons as being unnecessary. So they often have these "stealth holes" in their knowledge that don't crop up until they've already done something more-or-less unfixable. Now, modern sewing is not historical sewing. BUT - you either need to study historical sewing in detail and learn the whys and wherefores. And then stick TO historical technique.... Or learn modern sewing from the ground up, so that you understand the concepts and can decide what your options are should you decide NOT to flat fell the seams on your cotehardie. Don't try to cheat and put in a facing, if you don't know what a facing is!

Even with some of my own articles and blog posts, I will get comments/e-mail from people who want me to send them a pattern. Or tell them how to make a historical style I've discussed. Worse yet, want to know how to adapt a particular pattern to make an entirely different style. Can I? Probably. Will I, for the delight of Jolene Webbity? Hell, nos.

In short, I'm a little aggravated both with the grabby-hands attitude of people who think that since patterns aren't a "thing" and therefore should be free. And equally aggravated with people who create patterns and then believe they have some sort of control over what gets made with them and how.

Short version - buy patterns, don't photocopy or download, follow the directions. Or, if you choose to go off the reservation, don't insist anybody but you is responsible for your results. Appreciate the effort that went into the pattern. Appreciate the time and love that went into the resulting object.
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