Thursday, January 19, 2006

More spring previews: Bliss, Lavold & Noro, oh my

Great Yarn Info Resource

Before I plunge into the main event, I want to take a quick minute to call to your attention Wise Needle, a free, nonprofit website that provides yarn information and reviews. Yes, free and yes, nonprofit. It's a great idea and one that benefits us all: free, unbiased information about yarns. If you forget what weight a yarn is, or exactly what fibers it's made of, you can look it up. If you are mulling over a yarn purchase and you've never knit with the stuff before, you can read through reviews that other knitters and crocheters have submitted talking about gauge, quality, wear, and so on. Whenever I remember to, I submit yarn reviews and yarn information, and so I urge you to do so. The more information that is on there, the more we all benefit. No affiliation on my part; just a good on-line resource for us all.

Can Someone Own "Stitch And/&/N Bitch"?

In stark contrast to the community-based, noncommercial, we're-all-in-this-together attitude of Wise Needle stands a little New York sewing shop. This shop (I shan't name it so as not to give it a smidgen of publicity) has started a controversy roiling in the needle arts world concerning a trademark issue. For those of you who, like me, fell asleep when they went over trademark law (as well as social security law, wills, disability law and virtually any other topic that is likely to be even remotely useful to those long-lost relatives of mine who keep asking me for free legal advice. So quit calling already.), a trademark is

Any word, name, symbol, device or any combination thereof adopted and used by a manufacturer or merchant ("person") or any word, name, symbol, device or any combination thereof which the person has a bona fide intention to use in commerce to identify and to distinguish the person's goods from those goods manufactured or sold by others.

The gist of trademark, as it relates to what I'm going to talk about, is that the public knows that any use of a particular phrase is associated with one company. In other words, if you see a computer that is called an "Apple," you know that it comes from that one computer company, the one that invented the Mac and the I-Pod. It doesn't matter if you know the details about who that one computer company is, what they are called -- Apple Computers Inc? some guy named Joe Apple? -- but you have to associate the trademark (Apple) with one single source, and you have to view the trademark as a kind of guarantee of quality -- all Apples are made in a certain way, and any computer with an Apple name on it is made in this way. Other people aren't allowed to call their computers "Apples" because the consumer might confuse them with the original Apple computers.

There are lots of complicated exceptions and modifiers to these general rules, and it's that kind of arcane stuff that I'm not going into. I'll defer to people like The Girl From Auntie for all the gory details.

The controversy that's brewing in the knitting world has to do with whether someone can trademark the phrase "Stitch N Bitch," or "Stitch and Bitch" or "Stitch & Bitch" and in what context. Debbie Stoller's very popular Stitch N Bitch books weren't the first use of the phrase: there is anecdotal evidence that this phrase has been used for a long time to refer to gatherings of women to do needle arts (particularly knitting) while kvetching. (The excellent book "No Idle Hands," which is a history of knitting in America, apparently references this phrase; I can't find my copy so I can't confirm.) But a few years ago, some sewing shop in New York filed for trademark protection on the phrase "Stitch and Bitch Cafe" to refer to their on-line message board.

Since that time, a lot has happened in the knitting world. Debbie Stoller's books were huge. There are, and apparently have long been, groups all over the world who identify themselves as "Stitch N Bitch" clubs and use that phrase in their name, to identify themselves online as Yahoo Groups and in website domain names, on Cafe Press to raise money or market merchandise for their groups, and so on.

And there's the rub.

The NY sewing shop has notified Cafe Press, Yahoo and others that it has a claim for trademark protection and this has caused Cafe Press, Yahoo, etc. to remove any group with "Stitch N Bitch" in its name for fear of legal repercussions. (If you think this is unfair, consider Cafe Press's point of view: someone offers something for sale on the website. Another person complains "hey, their stuff infringes my intellectual property." Cafe Press's position is "Go and fight it out amongst yourselves and leave me out of it. I'm not going to spend time and money listening to your dispute and then make a decision as to who's right, especially when I could be sued if I'm wrong, so I'm taking you all off my site until you settle this yourselves." Sensible, really.)

The reaction of the knitting vox populi is pretty universal: you can't "own" a concept that's been around for years, especially not to refer to your half-ass on-line chat board, so fuck off. I can't imagine that most people in the country have ever heard of this sewing shop, and I certainly don't think consumers are likely to confuse a local S-n-B group with their on-line message board. Maybe my erudite husband will weigh in with a few words, since unlike me, he actually knows about this stuff.

I leave you to make up your own mind about it. If you'd like to read more, just Google "Stitch bitch trademark" or some similar group of phrases, or check out The Girl from Auntie -- she's written extensively and very thoroughly about these issues at various points over time. Do an archive search on her (excellent) website to find some of the older posts.

If you decide you want to contribute to the legal team that is opposing the sewing shop's attempt to fight the trademark, you can visit a Cafe Press store selling "Free to Stitch, Free to Bitch" merchandise here. This website has been publicized by the You Knit What gals; I don't have any specific information about who is running the Cafe Press shop so all the usual rules of caveat emptor apply.

And Now... More Spring Yarn Reviews

I've long been a fan of Debbie Bliss. In fact, one of the first pattern books I purchased when I came back to knitting was an early Debbie Bliss kid's pattern book. The desire to be able to make some of those cute little sweaters was a great motivator for me to keep improving my skills.

For spring 2006, Debbie Bliss is putting out an all-silk, DK-weight silk called "Pure Silk." This one sounds good.

Twelve colors, including a few neutrals, a few brights and a few muted shades. There's a book, Pure Silk 1, devoted to it, with lacy cardigans, the ubiquitous shrug, and other lightweight women's garments.

Debbie Bliss is also introducing a DK-weight version of her Cashmerino -- same composition of merino, microfiber and cashmere, just a DK weight, in 12 colors, mostly brights. She is releasing a second book, called Wish You Were Here, with patterns for men, women & kids in her cotton-containing yarns . Here's a design featuring a cabled back:

Isn't that gonna dig into her back once she sits down and leans against a chair back?

Another designer whose work I really like is Elsebeth Lavold. My research indicates she is introducing a hemp-based yarn called "Hempathy," and an accompanying book called "Enchanted Garden." Here're two designs from it:

They look kind of plain but it's hard to tell if it's the design or the photography. Hempathy is made of 41% cotton,34% hemp and 25% modal, and comes in about ten colors.

While we're previewing KFI-distributed yarns, let us make a brief stop for Araucania. In addition to last year's introduction, NatureCotton, Araucania is adding the unpronounceable Pehuen, an all-cotton nubbly-looking yarn, about 4.5 st to the inch, in 8 multicolors, and Quellon, 82% viscose/18% cotton, also an aran weight, also about 8 multicolors. I think they're releasing a new Araucania book called "Araucania Moments" (unless it's already out? Email me if you know) and here's a shot of a completely ridiculous top from it:

Once her boob implants right themselves, they're gonna zing right up and over the neckline (breastline?) and then we'll see if she's still got that sickly smile on her face.

Finally, let's hear what Eisaku Noro has planned for the spring: Silk Garden Lite -- same composition and self-striping colorways but in a DK-weight, which has me drooling; Tidiori, a 60% rayon/35% nylon/5% cashmere blend, at around worsted weight; and Sakura, 36% rayon/28% polyester/18% nylon/11% silk blend, also around worsted weight.

Quite honestly, I couldn't give a rat's ass what Sirdar, Katia, GGH or Gedifra are doing, and I have no idea WTF Ella Rae is, or why anybody with such a trailer park name has their own line of yarns, so I'm skipping her/it too.

You guys getting all eager to knit up a ... um, viscose tank top?
Yeah, me, too.


Valerie said...

Araucania Moments is out. (It's the Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton one, right?) I found it when I was on a search for one of her Noro books.

Thanks for the reviews! The new Debbie Bliss silk sounds intriguing, as does the new Silk Garden (of course). I never understood the fascination with Noro until I actually used it.

As for Ella Rae, well, the patterns I've seen seem okay, but nothing special.

Anonymous said...

You picked an unusual example to illustrate your point. Do you know Apple Records (the Beatles record label) have been suing and settling with Apple Computers since the mid 80s?

Carol said...

I may have heard that but forgotten it -- I guess I was thinking computers (and I have a Dell). Maybe I should have speculated about whether Dell Computers has the right to stop all square dancing and nursery school games involving the use of the song "Farmer in the Dell."

Do you think Apple Records is going to sue Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin?

Anonymous said...

Someone ought to.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't the LORD ALMIGHTY hold the trump card on the appple trademark?

Marcia said...

That cable on the purple looks like a huge alien spine.

I think that Araucana piece is a tunic for the breast feeding individual.

Anonymous said...

Carol, my sweet, please patrol your comments. I don't want to have to stop commenting here, because I love you and your blog is one of my most favorite.
But, I will be sorely disappointed it your commenters try to make this YouKnitWhat Lite.
I find it difficult to comment there anymore.
It's not that Punk Rock Knitter and Knitty Kitty are a disappointment.
Au contraire.
The insipid comments they receive by the carload make me tired and lose the will to say anything.
Don't let that happen here.

"Looks like a huge alien spine"?
Talk about killing Muppets and hurling in your mouth cannot be far behind.

Marcia said...

Well, isn't this awkward?

Carol said...

Play nice or I'll stop this blog, turn around and go straight home.

(Although I have to say if there is any talk of Muppet pelts or oral self-vomit I will draw the line.)