Everything is a remix

Only those with no memory insist on their own originality.
— Coco Chanel

It always makes me cringe a little when I read about someone in the handmade community publicly accusing someone else of copying their work, especially if followed by disparaging personal comments about the other person (as such accusations often are). I know it's an emotional issue - we makers feel such a personal connection to our work that we think no one else in the world can do what we do. And of course they can't. We all put our own stamp - from our experiences, preferences, point of view, etc. - on whatever we make. In that sense it is unique to us. But does that mean no one else can ever make that thing? And was the idea really ours in the first place? Was it so truly new that no one else had ever made something like it before? 

I recently watched Kirby Ferguson‘s documentary Everything is a Remix, which illustrates these ideas so well. If you have about 40 minutes to spare, it‘s a worthy reminder that from pop music to software, everything builds upon something that came before it (if you don't, you can catch his TED talk here). It‘s the nature of creativity and innovation itself – taking an idea and improving it or making it your own in some way. Imagine if only one person or company could make a T-shirt, or a pair of jeans, or a car, or a computer? We all benefit from the innovation that comes from playing with existing ideas; no one benefits from hoarding those ideas. This is as true in the handmade world as anywhere else.

But then it happened to me. Or at least I felt like it was happening to me. I saw an Instagram post from someone I admired (and with many thousands of followers to boot) promoting a pattern that was strikingly similar to one I had posted here as a free "recipe" almost two years back and that had become quite popular on Pinterest. I was gutted. I had a visceral reaction, and in my mind (and out loud to my husband) I went to that place - that indignant, accusing, wounded place.

Of course it's very likely that this person didn't consciously "copy" anything at all, let alone my work specifically, but simply saw something somewhere that inspired her. Isn't that true for all of us? We consume mostly the same online media, read the same blogs, repin the same Pinterest pins, listen to the same podcasts - and we are consciously or subconsciously guided by the same trends and by what we think is beautiful, inspiring, interesting, or whatever it may be. After all, I was inspired by something I saw and wanted to make in my own way. Was that any different?

Even so, it stung. But why? I was happy to see people remixing, altering, sharing, and selling finished items before, so why not now? When I write patterns or “recipes” for the things I make, some basic guidelines help me decide what to share freely (with credit where due) vs. what I might produce as a paid pattern. So part of my indignation was that this person didn't play by my rules (which of course is a ridiculous thing to expect). But more than that, it was that she successfully staked a claim and capitalized on the idea where I did not. I felt slighted because I felt... envious. That is not something I'm proud to admit.

The whole experience made me think a little more deeply about why I do this, what I want from it, and what I value. It also reminded me that a) the idea was never "mine" to begin with and besides, ideas are not a finite resource - there are plenty to go around, b) comparing ourselves to others is futile, though competition can drive us to do better, and c) I'm human and sometimes emotion wins out over logic, but taking a step back and asking why helps to see things more clearly. 

At the end of the day (and this very long post - thank you if you're still reading!), this advice from the late Paul Arden, from his brilliant little book It‘s Not How Good You Are, It‘s How Good You Want To Be, is worth keeping in mind:

Do not covet your ideas. Give away everything you know and more will come back to you.

And:

Ideas are open knowledge. Don’t claim ownership. They’re not your ideas anyway, they’re someone else’s. They are out there floating by on the ether.

Words to live by.

New patterns on Ravelry

Two patterns that I had published in last year's Crochet Pattern a Day Calendar have recently become available as instant downloads! My Lava Wrist Warmers and Tricolor Felted Bowl patterns have been rewritten and formatted as individual PDF patterns, and can be purchased on Ravelry.

The Lava Wrist Warmers pattern is a great one-skein pattern that works up fast. Worked in granite stitch, they have a bit of stretch and fit most adult women. You'll need:

  • 1 skein Álafoss Létt Lopi (or similar worsted weight yarn)
  • 5 mm hook
  • yarn needle

The Tricolor Felted Bowl is a fun stash-busting project that you can felt in your washing machine. To make this, you'll need:

  • 3 colours of Álafoss Lopi (or similar bulky weight 100% wool yarn - make sure not to use super wash wool or a wool blend, as it will not felt) in the following amounts:
    • Approx 18 g of colour A
    • Approx 12 g of colour B
    • Approx 8 g of colour C
  • 6.5 mm hook
  • yarn needle
  • wash bag or zippered pillowcase
  • pair of old jeans (optional)
  • small amount of wool soap

Enjoy!

Hello 2016

I'm starting the year a week late. After the holidays, travelling, and an annoyingly persistent cold, I spent the first week of 2016 in a sort of jet-lagged limbo, slowly easing back into my daily routines and trying to reclaim some semblance of a normal sleep schedule. It was quite nice in some ways, this easing in - no plans, no resolutions, just recovery. And now I'm ready.

Looking back on 2015, I'm pretty happy with how things evolved over the year. I made a lot, shared a lot, got a pattern published in a magazine for the very first time, and opened a little pattern shop on Ravelry. I set out to grow my skills and confidence without putting too much pressure on myself, and even though that meant letting a few things slide (like my Etsy shop and keeping a regular blog schedule, among other things), I feel OK about it all. 

This year I'd like to do a better job of bringing everything together in a way that makes sense and of being more consistent, and more consistently present, in my work. While I've not made any resolutions, I'll confess to making big lists (gotta love a list!) and I even ordered a fancy planner that I'm loathe to write in, it's so fresh and clean and pretty! At the same time, I hope I'll continue to cut myself (and others) some slack when things don't go exactly according to plan and just enjoy the ride. 

I hope you all enjoy your ride too in 2016. Cheers!

Weekend

Yesterday I spent most of the day cleaning. First H and I did our weekly ritual of cleaning the apartment - it's a small space so thankfully this only takes about an hour or so (that's tidying up, dusting, vacuuming, bathroom, floors, the lot…one of the things I love about living small). Then I decided to tackle the office. I honestly didn't think it was that bad - maybe a couple of hours of organizing and I'd be good to go. It's a pretty tiny room, after all. Four hours later I was still going through papers and sorting supplies. But it was worth it. Now the space feels calmer, brighter, even spacious despite its tiny dimensions. And it definitely puts me in a much better frame of mind to get things done.

For today, I'm going to start by stealing a quiet moment, pouring myself a cup of tea, and savouring this little treasure. 

It's Pom Pom Quarterly's Autumn 2015 issue (with my North Toque pattern in it! ). It arrived on Thursday, beautifully wrapped in pretty teal tissue like a lovely gift. What better way to spend a rainy Sunday morning?