May 272008

Summer wouldn’t be summer without a summer conference or two. There’s something about walking the streets or sitting in cafes, talking about technology, in balmy weather (well, when it doesn’t rain like it did at last year’s CSW XML Summer School in Oxford). This year I’m off to Montréal for Balisage in the middle of August. Even if the weather decides to be nasty, and the streets are too unpleasant to stroll, there will be lots of interesting people to talk technology with and cafes near the conference hotel to frequent. If you missed the deadline to speak, there’s no need to panic just yet. There is still room on the schedule for late-breaking talks as long as you get your proposal in by June 13. I was one of the reviewers of the main batch of talks so I got a sneak peek at some of the submissions. There is thought-provoking stuff on the program and I expect lots of hefty discussion, at the talks and in the cafes afterwards. Warm weather, interesting people, good food – I guess I should brush up on my French a little for those restaurants.

Feb 202008

I went to my first fibre retreat ever over the weekend (actually, a four-day weekend, including Valentine’s Day, which struck me as ironic). The organisers of the retreat did a great job, given that the hotel was being renovated, with some of the restaurants and public spaces closed, and workers crawling over much of the rest of the hotel’s public spaces. It was run just like a tutorial-style conference, with three-hour classes where the instructor talked a bit, showed a technique (for technique classes) or samples of end results (for the artistic ideas classes), and then got you to try it out while they came around and helped. There were lots of tables set up for informal get-togethers, outside the classrooms and the marketplace.

The differences to tech conferences were obvious – not a laptop to be seen, although I’m sure some people went back to their hotel rooms at the breaks to blog or check email, given that many people appeared to work at local technology companies, and the male/female ratio was even more skewed than for most tech conferences (I saw about five men at the retreat, out of about 200). The marketplace was busy selling as well as showing (unlike exhibit halls at most tech conferences), though the vendors looked just as exhausted by the end of the four days as I can remember being after long days on the booth at any other conference.

I learnt a lot (I’ll post more details of the knitting highlights on my crafting blog), saw a bit of Tacoma (where the retreat was held), met a few people, and hung out a lot with Eve and Yvonne. Culinary highlights included a yummy dinner at Wild Ginger where we downed a good bottle of champagne (Inflorescence Blanc de Noirs brut, 100% pinot noir, from Jean-Pierre Bouchard and Cédric Bouchard), Eve’s home-made borekas, and a good quick tagine, which I’ll be making again.

I’m slowly catching up on sleep; just like any conference it was pretty intense and was both invigorating and exhausting at the same time.

Oct 252007

I finally got my Ravelry invite today. I got on the waiting list about a month ago, so it didn’t take long. I spent a few minutes poking around, though I will have to be careful as it could prove to be an immense time-sink for me, with all the discussion about knitting and crochet. There’s even a group for KnitML there, which I hadn’t heard of before.

It’s interesting comparing Ravelry to Facebook, as well. Surface impressions: completely different crowd, they don’t ask for any information when you sign up except for an email address, username, and password. Of course, you can add info such as birthday or where you live to your profile, but it’s not needed. Lots of links to sites outside of Ravelry, thus the site feels much more open to the rest of the world than Facebook. And maybe because it’s more focussed, it will be more appealing long-term (there already seems to be quite a lot of Facebook ennui out there in the blogosphere).

If you’re a keen knitter or crocheter, don’t be put off by the fact you have to join a waiting list; it doesn’t take long to get the invite and it looks like a worthwhile resource. One neat item: the yarn listing includes people’s destash info.

Aug 272007

Eve’s XML and knitting analogy got me thinking.

You can think of a written knitting pattern as being the schema, with a set of instructions, just like the schema’s content model. Then each knitted item you make that conforms to that knitting pattern is like the document instance that conforms to the schema. Schemas can be restrictive or allow lots of instance structure variations, as can knitting patterns. And, to tie it into my previous post on knitting and copyright, a schema can be copyrighted (and often is). The analogy does have a few problems when you start trying to figure out the relationship of the set of tags in a document instance and the content within those tags; if you think of the knit and purl stitches as being the elements, then the yarn would be the content. Except for, yarn can’t really be original in the same way as the content in an XML document can be. Some people may disagree when it comes to hand-painted yarns, of course.

Aug 102007

There was quite a lot of discussion about copyright issues in the comments to my knitted cushion piece; this is an important enough subject that it deserves its own blog posting. Obligatory disclaimer here.

The issue was whether a knitting pattern can be copyrighted. I believe that the complete pattern with all the words can be copyrighted in the same way as all my other postings are copyrighted. If it’s original content that I created, and I haven’t assigned the copyright to anyone else, then I have the copyright. So the main question is, can the straightforward description of the stitches (i.e., the “k1, p1” bit) be copyrighted? Mark claims it can’t, because you can’t copyright the design and stitches. A related issue is whether you can impose licensing conditions on someone making the article described in the pattern (in the case of the cushion I designed, giving attribution).

Traditionally knitting has been about people making variations on known ideas. Elizabeth Zimmerman, one of the knitting gurus, used the word “unvented” to describe techniques that she discovered. She was convinced that someone else had probably discovered the technique long ago, but not written it down, so what she was doing was re-inventing, or “unventing”. She also encouraged people to make variations on patterns, to make things their own. However, there are the legal aspects of copyright to consider. In the US, a knitting pattern falls under the Visual Arts category for copyright as long as it follows the basic rules. Copyright protects “original works of authorship” that are fixed in a tangible form of expression. In the UK, I assume knitting patterns would fall under the written work category, as it includes instruction manuals (a knitting pattern is arguably an instruction manual). For Canadian law, it’s easier to refer to the web site written by an IPR lawyer. From there I read Section 5(1) of the Copyright Act specifies that copyright subsists in every “original” literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work. So my cushion pattern, since it is original in that sense, does have copyright protection. Including the arrangement of the stitches (or the basic “k1, p1” stuff). The stitch patterns on their own, the modules that I built the cushion pattern out of, which are traditional, aren’t copyrighted, of course. It’s my arrangement of them to form the cushion pattern that is.

The other question is what conditions I can impose on someone who wants to copy the pattern, or make articles from it. In my pattern, I specifically said people shouldn’t copy the pattern, but should link to it instead. And that they can use the pattern to make articles, even for sale, as long as they give me attribution for the pattern. Most free knitting patterns contain the condition that the person not make the article for sale, but I decided I didn’t object to that.

From all my reading, it’s perfectly allowable (note I’m not saying anything about the moral aspects here) to impose such conditions on anyone wishing to copy the pattern or use it to make a cushion. You should not simply assume that because you have permission to make a copy of the sweater or afghan by following the pattern, you also have permission to deal with that work in any way, for example by selling what you made. In the knitting industry, it’s very common for people to say that the resulting article may not be sold, and this is basically a contract that the knitter agrees to in using the pattern.

In fact, the industry norm is that items made from any pattern that the knitter buys or downloads (even free patterns) may only be made for the knitter or as gifts. So in the absence of a copyright notice on the pattern, it could be argued that those would be the implied conditions of use. This is not universally accepted; here’s the starting point to one long discussion I read where this point was argued back and forth. I note, however, that even the person arguing that the knitted articles should be able to be sold also argued that credit should be given to the designer.



I am not a lawyer, I don’t know any lawyers personally who deal with the issue of copyright in knitting, and thus although I have read quite a lot about the subject, any detailed questions you may have should be taken to someone who is properly qualified. And all of this legal stuff does vary with the country/state/province you live in. Most of my reading has been based on Canadian and US law; the laws in other countries may vary considerably. I do hope that people who know more about the subject than I do will comment.