Friday, March 31, 2006

There are two kinds of people in the world....

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who love their pets like family, and those who view pets as disposable, a kind of possession that can be taken out when one is in the mood and the rest of the time, ignored. (Interestingly, the world can also be divided along similar lines based on the way people treat their kids...but that's another post.)

Needless to say, Tom and I are in the first category. We fall deeply in love with our pets and take the business of owning a pet very seriously. A living room covered in cat piss couldn't convince us to "get rid of" (as my mother-in-law -- herself a prime candidate for euthanasia -- callously put it) our beloved Beulah the cat, who had major health problems in her old age but was still a delightful and gorgeous diva right to the end of her sixteen years. I realize that not everyone is quite as fanatical as us, but hey, you wouldn't shove Uncle Charlie out on an ice floe because he's a little incontinent, would you? (Unless he's the kind of uncle who likes to snap ladies' bra straps ... but perhaps I'm projecting.)

The reason I bring this up is that yesterday I had an encounter with a neighbor's dog. This family obviously belongs to the second category, callous pet disposers; they adopt and discard pets with an insouciance that chills me. In the past two years, they've adopted a cat, then gave it away when it scratched their daughter (and believe me, I know the daughter, and I can guarantee you it was self-defense, a desperate attempt to stop its whiskers from being plucked with Mom's Epilady); a guinea pig (gave it away because it was "boring"); a little dog (brace yourselves: walked by a mall pet shop and thought it was cute, brought it home on the spur of the moment, then gave it absolutely no training whatsoever, ultimately giving it away because it nipped the unruly son, who, p.s. I've been tempted to bite); and the present dog, a gorgeous Golden Retriever that is the biggest Golden I've ever seen but is completely wild, rough and undisciplined (hey, kind of like their four kids!).

Yesterday, my oldest was riding bikes with their kids in their driveway. My kid's desire to play with their kids is a source of endless angst for me. Occasionally, I'll watch them running around the yard, playing hide-and-seek and giggling, and I'm happy my kid has friends in the 'hood to play with, something I never did (there didn't happen to be any kids around my age in the near vicinity of my parents' house, and since I took a school bus to school, my school friends lived far away). But because they're children who run wild, I am uneasy when they play out of my sight and I don't trust the neighbors to keep an eye on their kids, let alone mine. (Look out the window one day to see your neighbors' three-year-old riding his bike down their driveway at breakneck speed, out into the street and across to the neighbors' driveway, then turning around to do it again, and you'll get a feel for my lack of confidence in their supervisory skills.) They also have a penchant for that rough, stupid play that just baffles me. Let's bash toys with a rock to see how long it takes them to break, and let's pull all the petals off James' mother's daffodils for shits & giggles, that sort of thing. If I can't be out there with them, I hawk mercilessly out the window, shouting instructions ("Hey! No shoving!" "Don't throw rocks at the car windows!") as necessary. Satisfyingly, my instructions are generally met with stupefied amazement. ("Someone actually paid attention to us?")

Anyhoo, as I went to get my kid so he could start on his homework, I stopped to look at the dog, the Golden, who must weigh 150 pounds and is the size of a small pony. I love dogs, and so I approached the dog to let him sniff my hand, but the dog is so wild and needs exercise and doggie training so badly, that he was too jumpy and snappy and aggressive for me to want to pet. I threw the tennis ball, you know, one of those grimy, saliva-soaked deals all retrievers have, and the poor dog was so excited someone was paying even a little attention to it. ("Someone actually paid attention to me?")

This makes me sad. I thought about how this perfectly lovely dog was being ruined by the lack of attention and the lack of obedience training. I mean, this dog broke the one daughter's ankle -- literally broke it, the poor kid wore a cast for six weeks -- by jumping and treading on it. The dog is so big and so wild that even the father can't physically control it too well. It doesn't get much exercise, as no one walks it (maybe no one is physically able to walk it any more -- this is one big effing dog). I thought about what a handsome dog it was, what a good-natured breed Goldens often are, and how much different the dog would be if it had been adopted by another family. You know, a family that didn't have their heads up their asses.

And then I went inside and gave Charcoal some of the organic edible flowers we bought him from the local Whole Foods supermarket.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

This depresses me.

I've been thinking a lot about the case of Abdul Rahman, being tried in an Afghan court for the alleged crime of converting from Islam to Christianity. The penalty for this crime, under Islamic religious law (called sharia) is death. Today it was announced that Rahman has been granted asylum in Italy, but the Afghan parliament voted against allowing him to leave the country. [Update: since my original post, Rahman has arrived in Italy.] Rahman's case, in addition to presenting a grave issue of religious freedom, spotlights some of the difficulties presented by current U.S. policy in countries like Aghanistan and Iraq.

I have an uneasy relationship with religion. I want to believe in something, but I have a hard time knowing what. I also have a hard time reconciling faith with what I see in my everyday life: so much pain and suffering visited on the innocent. As the child of a lapsed Roman Catholic and a born-again Christian, moreover, my first-hand experiences with religion were, to put it mildly, unsatisfactory and perhaps a little bizarre.

Nevertheless, conflicted as I am about what -- and whether -- to believe, it seems crystal clear to me that in any decently enlightened society, each individual has the absolute right to believe, or not believe, whatever they want, without government repercussion or criminal penalty. (Let's leave out religions that require practices like human sacrifice or cannibalism; there aren't many, and I hope we can all agree that society has a right to restrict practices as extreme and harmful as cannibalism and human sacrifice.) Seeing a man tried for the crime of "apostasy", the abandonment of one's original faith, is therefore deeply repellent to me.

The U.S. government is working closely with the Afghani government (read: applying major pressure, since we basically prop up the tottering new government that we installed) to try to get Rahman released. International pressure is also being applied, pleas by the Pope (yeah, that'll carry a lot of weight in a Muslim country) and that sort of thing. Italy's offer of asylum is one possible way out; there's been talk about declaring Rahman mentally incompetent, absolving him on a sort of insanity defense, as another alternative to a trial and possible execution.

But there is much resistance to these alternatives. Certain religious and political blocs in the U.S. strongly oppose any "solution" to this dilemma that involves a person being declared insane for choosing to believe in Christianity. Some members of the Afghan parliament, as well as some religious leaders, have declared that offers of asylum amount to interference with the practice of their religion and should be rejected, or are affronts to the sovereignty of the Afghan government.

The individual plight of Rahman is profoundly disturbing; yet I find the bigger picture to be even more frightening and discouraging. It's been over four years since 9/11 and our troops have been fighting in Aghanistan for that long. American casualties in the Middle East (including Iraq) are over the 2000 mark and the cost to our government of the military action in Afghanistan, Iraq and associated places is what, a gazillion bazillion dollars and mounting? We hear our president say things like "The Afghan people are building a vibrant young democracy that is an ally in the war on terror" (speech dated March 13, 2006) and I shake my head in wonder and confusion.

After all this time, after all these lives, a man is still on trial for his life for believing in a religion other than Islam?

I think about the countless intractable problems that military interference in countries like Afghanistan, and Iraq, and Cuba, and Iran, and [fill in others of your choice here] has created.

I think about the belief underpinning the Bush administration's foreign policy, that if we can only bring freedom and democracy to other folks, everything will be peachy, and I just don't see how Bush and company can adopt such a rosy view. As Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek has written:

'Suppose elections are free and fair and those elected are racists, fascists, separatists,' said the American diplomat Richard Holbrooke about Yugoslavia in the 1990s. "That is the dilemma." Indeed it is, and not merely in Yugoslavia's past but in the world's present. Consider, for example, the challenge we face across the Islamic world. We recognize the need for democracy in those often-repressive countries. But what if democracy produces an Islamic theocracy or something like it? It is not an idle concern. Across the globe, democratically elected regimes, often ones that have been re-elected or reaffirmed through referenda, are routinely ignoring constitutional limits on their power and depriving their citizens of basic rights.

Fareed Zakaria, The Future of Freedom (2003) p. 17.

Here we are, meddling in Afghanistan and Iraq, attempting to create so-called democracies in countries that adhere to strict codes of religious law that are anathema to us. Here we are, touting the freedom we are bringing to these countries, when women still must wear veils in public and are murdered in so-called "honor killings" after they have been raped. Here we are, patting ourselves on the back for bringing liberty to the poor huddled Middle Eastern masses, when you can get your head chopped off for changing your mind about what you believe in.

What's wrong with this picture?

And why isn't George W. Bush worried about it?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Brace yourselves; 2036 isn't that far away

I try not to tell too many "aren't my kids adorable?" stories. I mean, I know they're adorable, and most of you probably don't give a rat's ass about their latest pwecious widdle wemarks. (That's what grandparents are for.) But every once in a while comes a story so amusing that I think it crosses familial lines.

A few days ago, my kid's teacher gave the kids a map of the United States with no state names in it. They were told to try to write in the names of all the states they could. My kid was very proud when he wrote them all in, and handed his paper back to the teacher. She praised him for a job well done, but pointed out that he had transposed the names of Colorado and Wyoming. James, being (ahem) both competitive and anal-retentive (can't imagine where he got those traits from...), was a little irritated, and he said, "Well, I did get them all." As he walked away, my kid muttered under his breath, "When I'm president, I'm gonna switch those two states."

Welcome to my world.

Franklin gives good pod.

I listened to my first podcast yesterday. I tried downloading the latest broadcast of Cast-On, in which our beloved raconteur and all-around good guy Franklin is the guest host. I'd never heard a podcast before, and I wasn't sure I could even get it to play; instead of loading onto an Ipod, I downloaded onto my computer, then burned a CD so I could listen to it in the car. Shockingly, it worked exactly as I had hoped, and I listened to the podcast on my way into and home from my Rosie's shift yesterday.

I give the podcast two vigorous thumbs-up (and not just because Franklin mentioned my name and blog in it). I loved the intimacy of it, the way it sounded like Franklin was sitting in the car next to me, telling charming knitting stories. I liked the way the podcast featured essays from other writers, and an eclectic mix of songs (like when a friend gives you a "mix tape"). I will definitely be listening more to Cast-On.

RDA of Fiber

I finished another quickie scarf for the kids' silent auction. I'm about to turn my attention back to a cropped cardigan that I was working on in Classic Elite Premiere. It's embarassing to admit, but I find that when I put something down and work intensely on something else, I am almost bewildered when I return to the original project. Tonight, when the urchins are in bed, I'm going to sit down with the pieces (I've finished the back and am halfway through one of the fronts) and my notes and figure out where I am and where I'm going.

I've added a few more things to the Etsy shop. I've got some roving (I really should call it top, because that's what it is, but whenever I write "top" it looks so weird to me) -- two different greens and a golden-y orange one (named "Guacamole," "Butternut," and "Basil Leaves," respectively).

I've got a batch of laceweight in a gorgeous blue, sort of periwinkle-ish, which is my absolute favorite color in the world. This is another 880-yard skein, and I've been thinking about trying to knit something up myself in one of these skeins.

The other is a skein of fingering-weight merino, about 440 yards, in shades of a red (tomato red, not cool red). I've priced it a little lower than usual since I'm not crazy about the particular yarn I used and won't be using any more of it. I'm going to play with some other fingering-weight wools until I find something I like better. Don't get me wrong; it's still a nice skein and would make killer socks or a scarf. (I call the colorway "Bloody Mary.") It's really a dyeing thing, so don't hold it against the yarn. Besides, at a lower price, it'd be a great way to try my stuff...

Yesterday, at Rosie's, I found a Fiber Trends pattern for a very, very easy shawl knit in the round with lace edging; the laceweight version calls for 900 yds., so I'm going to give it a go and try to swatch today. I have held back an interesting-looking ball to play with myself, so I'll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, I am working on bigger batches of laceweight, for those of you who need more than 880 yards, which isn't enough for a really complex or large shawl.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Copyright Chronicles Continue

A few posts ago, I alluded to the "not to be knitted for resale" language that appears at the bottom of many knitting patterns. I have to say that this language perplexes me, from a legal standpoint.

Wait: here's your disclaimer. I'm not giving you legal advice. I'm not your lawyer. I'm just shooting my mouth off on a blog, and if you need advice about your own situation, you must find your own lawyer with whom to discuss the specifics of your situation. Read no further unless you agree.

Okay, back to the Copyright Chronicles (thanks for the name, Liza).

Loyal reader The AmpuT (who likes to torture unwitting Home Depot clerks -- she's my kind of gal) asks how copyright law impacts "people selling knitted items derived from patterns they've purchased (or downloaded for "free" on the internet)? . . . When is that okay (if ever)?"

I knew someone was going to ask me this, and the reason I didn't bring it up myself was because I really don't know the answer to this one.

Let me start with the easy part. From a copyright perspective, there's no difference between a pattern that is printed on cardstock and covered with a plastic sleeve and sold in a yarn shop, and one that you can print out for free on the internet. A pattern is subject to the same protection under copyright law regardless of which form it's in. The fact that you don't pay for the pattern on the internet doesn't matter. Hear me? DOESN'T MATTER. You can give away a pattern and that doesn't mean your work isn't copyrighted. That is, as we nerdy lawyers say, "a distinction without a difference." So whatever the rule is about knitting for resale, it applies exactly the same no matter what the source of the pattern -- internet, yarn shop, book -- or whether you got it for free or paid for it.

So what is the rule about knitting for resale?

I just don't know.

Let's backtrack a little. Copyright protection applies to the written expression of the design, first and foremost. It's the written-out language of the pattern that is most clearly subject to legal protection. (This is why photocopying questions are a little bit easier to address, because you're talking about a verbatim copy of the copyrighted pattern, and the exact expression of the pattern is the part that has the highest and most clearly defined protection.)

But in the knitting-for-resale scenario, you aren't talking about copies of the pattern directions being made and sold (which is clearly illegal) but rather copies of the finished garment being made and sold. To win on this kind of claim, you may well have to show that your garment itself, not just the written directions for it, is protected by copyright. And it gets much murkier when you are claiming copyright protection extends to the whole sweater design, as opposed to just the written directions.

Here's a quote from the U.S. copyright office (emphasis added):

"Designs for useful articles, such as vehicular bodies, wearing apparel, household appliances and the like are not protected by copyright. However the design of the useful article is subject to copyright protection to the degree that its pictorial, graphic or sculptural features can be identified as existing independently of the utilitarian object in which they are embodied."

Clothing is utilitarian -- it's meant to cover the body, to provide warmth and protection. Think of a simple crewneck sweater with ribbing at cuffs and sleeves. If you write up a pattern for such a basic sweater, you can't claim that your sweater design itself is copyrightable. [Of course, you'd claim the written directions, i.e. the exact way you describe how to make the sweater, is copyrightable, but I'm not talking about the verbal instructions, I'm talking about the garment design itself.] Og the Caveman came up with the notion of a garment that covers your chest and has sleeves eons ago; people have been making and remaking that garment over the centuries, and they've been making and remaking crew-neck sweaters -- one incarnation of Og's chestcoverer -- for many, many years. There has to be something more, something distinctive enough that it can be separated from the generic idea of the sweater itself. Now think of Kaffe Fassett's Foolish Virgins jacket. There you have something copyrightable: pictorial patterns, colorwork, unusual and distinctive graphic design that make this more than just a piece of knitted cloth to cover your body.

What this means is that certain knitted garments -- probably most knitted garments -- aren't distinctive enough, don't have some "pictorial or graphic" feature that can be separated from the garment itself and therefore protected by copyright.

You, clever ones, can see how quickly this gets murky. No one can copyright the general idea of a crewneck sweater with ribbed neckband and cuffs. But how much more does it take to make your sweater distinctive enough to be copyright-able? Stripes? Probably not distinctive enough. Fair isle pattern by the Scottish designer who Shall Not Be Named? Kid's sweater with an intarsia kitty cat on it? Norwegian snowflake pattern? What if the snowflake pattern has been used by folk knitters for ten generations? Who knows? (And when you're talking about objects other than garments, it gets even more unclear. Is a stuffed toy bear a "sculpture," a piece of plush art?)

This is more than an esoteric exercise, though. If your sweater design isn't copyrightable, then you don't have a claim for copyright infringement. So if you're making a crewneck sweater with no unusual pictorial features, there's some reason to suggest that, heck, nothing about that is distinctive enough to merit protection under US copyright law, so make as many as you want and sell them to whoever'll buy them at the local flea market.

But wait. You know it's not quite that simple. Designers have a back-up argument, an argument that's based on contract law, instead of copyright law. Whenever you buy or sell something, it's technically a contract. I agree to give you $5 and you agree to give me a knitting pattern in return for the money. Contract. The parties are free to impose conditions on their contract. You can say "I will only sell to people who pay me in cash." If I don't have cash, you can say, "No sale." Payment in cash is a term of the contract.

Designers will argue that a term of their agreement to sell the pattern is your agreement that you will only use the pattern to make things for personal use, and that they won't sell it to you if you don't agree that you will refrain from making items for resale. They will say that the language at the bottom of the pattern sets out this condition and that you agree to it when you hand over your $5. If you then go and make 1,000 cucumber-shaped baby hats to sell at your church bizarre bazaar, you've violated that condition of the sale. This argument isn't without its own problems: you might say "Well, I never agreed to that" or "contract of adhesion!"* But who knows what the answer will be if you ever took it to court?

I have a lot of sympathy for the notion that a designer should have the legal right to control mass production of a garment she's created. But the law isn't based on sympathy, and I have a hard time finding a solid basis in copyright law for a claim that the "not to be knitted for resale" language bars you from doing so. It seems to me that the question has more to do with the licensing issue than copyright, and quite frankly, I just don't know what the answer is. Other people who've addressed this problem have come to different conclusions; for example, Jen Tocker's copyright discussion, linked somewhere in my comments, states that you can't sell items made from copyrighted patterns but her footnotes only attribute that to a person's name, not any legal case or statute. The Girl From Auntie is more convinced by the implied license argument than I am. My husband, on the other hand, notes that courts have expressed hostility to the "bootstrapping" of a licensing argument onto what is primarily a copyright dispute, reasoning that contract law shouldn't be used to create some kind of intellectual property protection that copyright law refuses to make, that it's kind of a cheat. (He started talking about belt buckle cases, in which belt buckle designs that looked like snakes were protected by copyright, being artistic or distinctive enough, but amorphous blobby ones were not. Love him as I do, I nevertheless chose not to go to Decorative Belt Buckle Land.)

Now, don't any of you go and say "I can make this and sell it because the Go-Knit-In-Your-Hat-Lady says it's okay." I'm not saying that. I'm saying that this is a murky area of the law and I don't know what the answer is. Pretty much every knitting designer would take the position that their designs are NOT to be knitted for resale, absent specific permission from them or the copyright holder (if it isn't them). Given the law's uncertainty, and given what seems to be the right thing to do, the safest way to deal with the situation is to ask the person or company who owns the copyright for permission. Govern yourselves accordingly.

Finally, Karlie asks whether patterns are, to borrow a contact lens phrase, "single use": in other words, can she keep making a garment over and over once she's purchased the pattern (for her own personal use)? I think that's a resounding yes. I can think of no legal basis for restricting the owner of a pattern from making as many versions of the garment as she wants, so long as the pattern was legally obtained in the first place.

*A contract that is so one-sided, it isn't enforceable.

Fiber Stuff

I did finish the Jamaica sweater. Here's a photo as I was sewing in the last few ends. I've been having trouble getting Blogger to load photos in last day or so; sometimes I can and sometimes I can't. I had to try about ten times over two days to get this to load:

And here's some new selections being listed on Etsy today: both are about 875 yds of laceweight merino, enough for, say, the Fiber Trends River Scarf, or Estonian Garden Wrap [you'll have to buy your own copies of them; they are not included as I am not an authorized Fiber Trends retailer, unlike, say, Rosie's Yarn Cellar, who will charge you only actual postage if you order patterns from them).

I'm going to be dyeing some more larger batches of laceweight yarn (like the blue one, which sold so fast!). I'll also do some heavier weights, like DK, but I'm still working out issues like finding good suppliers, so keep checking back. I'll put updates at the end of my blog posts, and that way, if you are sick of hearing about my dyeing escapades, you can just stop reading.


I want to say thank you to all of you (especially Mindy) who're being so supportive of my Black Bunny Fibers endeavor. I really value all the kind words you've sent my way about dyeing and the blog. I take a great deal of satisfaction in the blog, and it really touches me to know that there are other fanatical knitters out there who like to read it. I'm going to go dab my moist eyes with a tissue now and get back to the dyepot.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Today, I found a mysterious parcel in the screen door. When I opened it, inside was this:

And on the other side was this:

A belated birthday present from Franklin. God, I love him.

And Dolores.

Here's one of the new laceweight yarns listed on Etsy:

2400 yards that's just begging to be made into a shawl... More to be listed in the coming days.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Monday Miscellany

My kid started playing lacrosse this weekend. I wanted him to learn a really obscure sport, like curling (can you say college scholarship?), but lacrosse was as exotic as we could get. Imagine my horror and dismay when my husband came home from the sporting goods store with this:

As Tom says, complete protection for the as-yet-unused family jewels.

Jamaica Sweater

I'm hoping to update later with a photo of the Jamaica sweater, so if I finally, finally get to it (argh), I'll insert a photo here.

Black Bunny Fiber Update

Added a batch of wool top, a 100% merino fingering weight and a wool/nylon sock blend (good guy color) to the Etsy shop. Here's the wool/nylon sock yarn:

Even sweeter in person. More is in the pipeline. And thanks to those brave ones who've purchased and lent their support.

The Silver Lining

Andrea Yates goes back on trial this week. You remember Andrea Yates? the Texas woman who drowned all five of her children in the family bathtub? She was convicted of murder, but the sentence was thrown out when it was revealed that a key prosecution witness lied on the stand. It's hard for me to think about the Andrea Yates case without my stomach clenching. I love my three kids more than anything and the notion of a mother murdering her own children is pretty incomprehensible to me. Thinking about those five little kids, and how they met their end at the hands of their mother, is something I can't do for very long.

I know first-hand what it's like to feel a mother's love for her children. And even though I've encountered some horrible mothers in my life -- selfish, cruel, egotistical, self-absorbed, dysfunctional -- I've never met one who would be capable of killing their kids.

But I've also experienced post-partum depression. I know that it can change you, it can make you act weird and think weird shit. It can interfere with the way you see yourself and the way you view your husband and kids. So I don't find it hard to believe that Andrea Yates was suffering from a profound mental illness at the time she killed her children. A quick look at her biography convinces me beyond any doubt.

Andrea and Rusty Yates were married in 1993. They proceeded to have five children in eight years. Think about that, the physical impact that would have on a woman's body, the amount of work caring for five kids (and a husband?) on a day-to-day basis while spending nearly half of your total marriage (about 45 of 96 months) pregnant. (Actually, it's a little more than that; Andrea Yates miscarried once, too.) At one point, the family lived in a trailer; later, Rusty Yates bought a 350-foot renovated school bus for the family to live in. Around that time, the Yates came under the influence of a preacher who expressed the belief that women, being descended from Eve, were inherently evil and that bad mothers create bad children who will then go to hell. (Nice, eh?)

In June 1999, Andrea Yates tried to commit suicide and was diagnosed with major depression; although she wasn't exactly forthright in discussing her depression, the hospital released her anyway with a prescription for antidepressants. Andrea Yates discontinued the medication, began to mutilate herself, and didn't feed her kids properly, saying they were eating too much. She heard voices, experienced paranoia and hallucinations, and held a knife to her neck, begging to die. She was again admitted for psychiatric treatment and spent 10 days in a catatonic state. She improved after treatment with Haldol, an antipsychotic drug. Her doctor warned the couple that another pregnancy could bring on more psychotic behavior.

A few months later, at Rusty's urging, Andrea discontinued her Haldol and was pregnant again. She was homeschooling her kids (yeah, that's a great plan; let the overwhelmed, mentally ill mother of multiple children homeschool all of them). After her youngest child's birth, she again exhibited severe and troubling signs of mental illness: self-mutilitation, not feeding the baby, compulsive Bible reading, refusing to eat or talk, and so on. She ended up seeing some half-ass doctor who discontinued her meds and told her to "think positive thoughts." Two days later, she killed her kids.

It makes me frustrated that a jury couldn't look at this well-documented history of severe mental illness and see that this woman was not in her right mind. It makes me sad that the health care system failed Andrea Yates, that if she'd seen a different psychiatrist, one who kept her on her meds and took her symptoms and medical history seriously, her kids might be alive today. It makes me angry that misogyny masquerading as Christianity made Andrea Yates believe she was a bad mother, a bad person, one who was going to condemn her children to eternal damnation simply because her genes read XX instead of XY. It bothers me that Andrea Yates may well spend her remaining years in a prison, unable to get the kind of mental health treatment she so desperately needs.

But there is a silver lining: Rusty Yates. Rusty got married this past weekend to a 41-year old woman with two sons, described by one news report as a "willowy blonde." You see, Rusty harbors no ill will toward Andrea, the wife he kept knocking up and then divorced once she was in prison. He stood by Andrea (well, you know, except for the whole divorce thing, and falling in love with someone else and all); and he still visits her in prison (although apparently she heard about his new marriage from someone other than him, but hey, details, details). Rusty has fond memories of his crazy wife and dead kids, and now he'll be able to make new memories with his new wife and new kids (well, step-kids). So whenever I feel bad about Andrea Yates, whenever I feel my heart twinge at the thought of those dead children, and six wasted lives, I can always remember Rusty Yates and feel happy again. I just picture him climbing into his red Corvette with his new wife, driving away for their honeymoon, while Andrea Yates sits in jail, waiting to be tried again for the murder of their children.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

To those of you who are Irish, or who merely like potatoes, I wish you a Happy St. Patrick's Day! I have a teeny, tiny bit of Irish blood in me, but you've got to go way back to a guy named Daniel Kinney, a great, great (repeat about 5 more times) grandfather of mine.

I enjoyed a lovely birthday yesterday and received two wonderful cards that I must share with you. The first is from my in-laws, and it totally cracked me up that some enterprising card manufacturer got this one out so quickly.

The inside says, of course, "Hope your birthday's a blast!"

The other was handmade by my oldest son.

He told me very proudly that he learned how to make pop-up cards in art class as school, thus making me feel infinitely better about the school tax bill sitting on the kitchen table. At least he's learning useful things.

In the meantime, here are some of the items I'm about to list on Etsy (here's the link): another plum roving, and two balls of wool/nylon sock yarn, one in greens and one in charcoal (there are also bits of brown that you can't see in the photo). In the picture is "Rosemary," a sheep objet d'art that my husband gave me (along with a Borders giftcard) for my birthday.

You wanted purple roving? Vivid green sock yarn? Sock yarn in colors good for guys? You got it. Any other druthers, email me and I'll do my best to oblige.

I leave you with this Black Bunny Fibers poll (if you don't care, then don't vote):

What kind of sock yarn would you most like to see offered?
All wool, fingering weight
Wool/nylon blend, fingering weight
All wool, DK weight
Free polls from

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Happy birthday to moi!

[Don't tell anyone I showed you my titties.]

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Take It Ease-Y

I recently helped a customer who did not understand the concept of ease. "I used to knit a lot," she confided, "but I stopped because I didn't like the way my sweaters fit." I tried, readers, oh how hard I tried, to explain the concept of ease to her, but she persisted in her lack of understanding. I just couldn't convince her that a sweater which measured 38 inches around would not create a hugely oversized and boxy garment for a woman with a 36-inch chest. "But my bust size is 36," she insisted. "The pattern is 38. That's going to be huge on me. I just lost a lot of weight and I want something that isn't oversized." I explained ease and I explained it again, and I urged her to go home and measure some of her own sweaters, the ones that fit her well, to prove my point. She refused. "That's why none of your sweaters fit you right," I thought. "You don't understand ease."

So that I can spare you the shame and embarassment of her state of dis-ease, I will now tell you what I told her. However, I hope that you, unlike this poor knitter who clung to her lack of understanding like I clung to the four blue-toned miniskeins of Koigu I snatched out of the bottom of a stall at the last Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival, will heed my words.

There are two different measurements that are relevant when you are thinking about making a sweater. I will call them "body measurement" and "finished garment measurement." Keep these two separate in your mind at all times and you will always be the master of your fit.

Body measurement is the actual size of the physical body of the person who is to wear the garment. When talking about sweaters, body measurement tends be bust or chest size, and we're talking about the number you get when you wind the tape measure around the wearer's chest, right under the armpits. Say I am going to make Polly Purl a sweater and I measure her chest size at the widest part of her bust. The number I get is 36 inches. Patterns often indicate the body measurement with language like "To fit bust: 34 (36, 38, 40) inches."

Finished measurement is, as the name suggests, the measurement of the finished garment. The pattern may say "Finished size" or "Finished circumference" or you may just have to look at the schematic (remember those?) and see how wide the sweater is (remember that if the schematic shows only the front width, multiply by two to get the total circumference).

Warning: finished measurement is rarely the same as actual measurement. Did you hear me? Finished measurement is RARELY the same as body measurement. If Polly Purl is having me knit her a sweater that will fit her well, the size of the sweater, measured across the chest, will usually be LARGER than the body measurement size.

Why is this? A little thing called "ease." Ease is, as the name suggests, the amount of extra fabric that is built into a garment in order to give you freedom and comfort of movement (or "ease of movement" -- get it?). You know your chest size; now go and measure three or four of your favorite sweaters or shirts across the chest/bust. I guarantee that unless you are a ballet dancer who spends her entire life in leotards, or a Victoria's Secret model wearing lingerie two sizes too small, you are bound to find that most of these garments have circumferences that are at least a little larger than your body's chest or bust size. Go on; I'll wait.

[Hmm-hmm-hmm, la-di-da, hmm-hmm-hmm.]


Okay, now you believe me about ease. How much ease is typical? you ask. How do I know how much ease to build into a garment?

C'mon, you know my favorite answer: It depends. The most important thing it depends on is what kind of fit you want. For most people, ease of around four inches is considered classic, traditional fit, neither hugely baggy nor tight-fitting. Two inches is close-fitting. Zero ease (making the garment the same size as the body measurement) is possible for a body-hugging garment, and is seen more often now than it was in the past, since the current trend is to cut sweaters more snugly. Negative ease (the garment is smaller than the body measurement) is rare, but theoretically possible (I'm thinking tube top?). Where your ease is small or nonexistent, you have to make sure that the fabric is suitable (something with elastic or Lycra that will have some bounce would be good, and the yarn shouldn't be too bulky) and that the garment won't be so close-fitting that it chafes. For oversized, boxy fits, six or more inches is necessary, maybe even as much as ten or fifteen for something hugely baggy.

The amount of ease also depends on your size. The smaller the person, the less ease is required. A petite woman might need only two inches of ease for a traditional fit, while a taller or more curvy woman might want more, maybe five or six inches. They would end up with the same fit; but the amount of ease necessary to achieve that fit might differ.

And the weight of the fabric also plays a role. The thinner and lighter the fabric, the less ease you can get away with; conversely, thick and bulky yarns will require more extra room because the inside of the garment is noticeably smaller than the outside due to the thickness of the yarn. You have to build in extra space for the thicker yarns.

Ease is also used in other kinds of garments, like hats. Most of the time, you measure the circumference of your head, and you subtract an inch or two to get the finished size of your hat. Why? Because if you build in extra inches, the hat will be too loose and slide down your head, covering your eyes and making you look like that Fat Albert character. You want your hat to be snug so it stays put on top of your head. Subtracting an inch or two from your actual head size makes sure you get a snug and proper fit. Ditto for socks; make 'em the same size or little smaller than your foot for a snug fit. Otherwise, they may droop.

When you're looking at patterns, make sure you understand which measurement the pattern is talking about. A dear friend of mine made her first sweater from a book that didn't clearly delineate between body size and actual finished garment size. Laura did a phenomenal job on her sweater, in a gorgeous shade of Manos, only to find it was way too snug. She belatedly discovered that the measurements given were finished garment size rather than body measurement sizes. A 34-inch finished garment was just too snug for her 34-inch bust. A cruel lesson to learn indeed. (I am pleased to report, however, that it hasn't put her off knitting. She's come over to the dark side in a big way. Heh.)

Oh, Go-Knit-In-Your-Hat Lady, you sigh, all this talk of "it depends" gives me the vapors! Tell me exactly how to know how much ease I need in my sweaters! Okay, my personal experience is that the most reliable way to figure this out is to ask the intended wearer of what you're making to give you a sweater that fits the way they want the sweater you're making to fit. Then measure the sweater. This works particularly well with children, who can't always articulate what feels comfortable to them, but is an easy way to get right to the heart of the matter, finding a fit that looks and feels the way you want it to.

Two thumbs up for Curious George

Curious George did not go to a brothel, or a speakeasy, or even an Irish wake, but the movie was very charming. Although the animation was not done in the identical style of the book illustrations, which put me off when I first saw the ads, it won me over, as the movie managed to capture the spirit of the book perfectly. I appreciated that the movie did not try to create sly double-entendres to try to keep the adults in the audience amused. The "voice talent" was excellent and the movie integrated many scenes from the original books seamlessly. I think my favorite part was the explanation of the Man in the Yellow Hat's yellow attire: two disreputable clerks in a Banana Republic-like store (the 80s version, when they still sold safari gear) get a shipment in of yellow jungle duds and sucker the Man into buying them, telling him "Yellow is the new khaki!" It becomes a running joke with The Man as he undergoes his various adventures.

And Shameless Commerce

I was very excited yesterday when two customers walked out of Rosie's happily clutching two balls of my handpainted laceweight yarn. To make it even more serendipitous, the first woman to buy the first ball was named "Shirley" -- which is my dear mother's name. And so Carol's Kute N Kozy Kountry Kottage Full O' Yarny Goodness -- wait, that's not it -- I mean, Black Bunny Fibers is officially up and running. Feeding and clothing three young 'uns isn't cheap, and none of us want me to go back to practicing law, do we? (Let me appeal (no pun intended) to your self-interest: I will be so stressed out and time-crunched if I ever have to practice law again, that my posts here will become very rare...) Visit my Etsy shop ( and tell me what you think.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

This week: reader questions

If y'all are getting sick of talking about copyright and knitting, please let me know. However, my in-box suggests that you guys are not, because you are filling said in-box with your usual excellent comments and suggestions. This week I will traverse some of the topics raised by YOU.

Today's question -- forgive me, dear readers, we are slated to see the Curious George movie today so I can only answer one -- comes from loyal reader and fellow bunny-lover Mindy, who wants to know whether it violates copyright to knit a garment from a pattern for someone else for money. The scenario looks something like this: Jane buys a pattern and the appropriate yarn to make a sweater but she can't knit (poor soul), so she hires Mindy to do the knitting.

I think this would probably be considered acceptable and fair use by most courts. The pattern is being purchased by Jane, the ultimate owner of the sweater, for the knitting of one sweater. Mindy is being paid for the services of her knitting. The pattern has been validly purchased, once, and the sweater will be knit only once, for the purchaser's personal use. The designer is getting full compensation for the design. I don't see how a designer could object to this (or why they necessarily would): more to the point, even if a designer did object to this, I don't see how they could make a claim for damages because they haven't lost anything.

I believe Mindy's concern was triggered by the "not to be knit for resale" language that so many patterns have at the bottom, along with their copyright language. This is a whole 'nother topic for a whole 'nother day (and I will talk about it soon) but I think in this scenario, Mindy has not purchased the pattern and she is being paid only for her knitting. She is not mass-producing the sweater, and she's not creating some kind of cottage industry whereby she purchases all the supplies and sells the end product; she's only contracting to sell her services as a knitter. Once.

Now, of course, you all know that I am just opining in a very general way about these issues, and I am NOT giving any of you specific legal advice about your life (including Jane [not her real name] and Mindy [her real name]) and all of this stuff is very hazy, so if you have any questions about how to govern your own conduct, you've got to find your own lawyer to talk to. Right? Right.

By the way

Thank you for your input about hand-dyeing yarns. If you've got any more comments, please feel free to share them with me. So far, the comments I've been getting suggest that "a little bit of everything" is the way to go...

Friday, March 10, 2006

To the friends of the lady who sat next to me at Chili's yesterday

I have found the perfect shower gift for the yammering bride -- who said, and I quote, "So she only gave me one place setting, and I was, like, what am I going to do with, like, one place setting? I was like, take it back and buy me a damn vacuum cleaner!") at your table:

from the "Shut Up Bridezilla" shoppe.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Reader input

Okay, readers, since you are a very knowledgeable and august body of knitters (read: I'm sucking up), I would like to ask for your input on something. I am toying with the idea of selling some of my hand-dyed yarns and rovings, now that I'm getting a bit better at the process. Here are some examples of the most recent stuff I've done.

Lace-weight wool, in shades of sage with a little yellow and a little teal:

And some roving:

What I ask from you, dear readers, is for you to kindly tell me your druthers: what do you think? what weights of yarn do you think are most tempting: lace weight, sock yarn, DK, bulkier than that? What about roving: any specific breeds (Blue-faced Leicester? Corriedale? Targhee?)? What colors do you find most tempting? What colors do you like but are hardest to find? Any other suggestions you'd like to share? Feel free to use the comments section or you can email me privately via the link over to the right. I thank you for your help, and for your honesty.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

C'mon and Google Bomb with me

Let's leave aside for a minute the question of whether we think abortion is a good thing, and proceed solely on the assumption that right now, it's considered a constitutional right and the law of the land. You've probably heard that South Dakota recently passed a state statute making abortion virtually illegal. Even the right wing has experienced some queasiness at the prospect of outlawing abortion with pretty much no exceptions -- not even where the woman is a victim of rape or incest. Which leads me to Bill Napoli, South Dakota state legislator and fucktard extraordinaire.

Bill Napoli, when asked whether he could envision any possible exception for a ban on abortion, had this to say:

A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.

You can see here how twisted and misogynist Bill Napoli really is. And if you take a look at the actual clip, you can't help but wonder how much of this is a personal fantasy of his, rather than some staid legislative exception.

If you are as skeeved by Bill Napoli as I am, join Candy (whose blog I just stumbled across) in Google Bombing his name. Go to her blog for complete instructions.

And now, something a little different

Today is Blog Against Sexism Day. I'm not entirely sure who decided that (the blogger I just linked to?), nor do I particularly care, since I think it's a fine idea to turn some of the razor-sharp minds in the blogosphere to combat the issue of sexism.

As the cantankerous Twisty Faster has noted, it isn't that hard to find some sexism in your daily life:

All you have to do for inspiration is turn on any TV or open any magazine or go to any movie or walk through any department store or observe through narrowed eyes any boyfriend or read any Hemingway story, then count the ways in which your oppression is fetishized.

I'm not sure I understand the part about oppressing my fetishism (or is it fetishizing my oppression?), but yeah. What she said.

If you think it's that tough to find egregious examples of sexism in our supposedly more enlightened age (hah!), you'd better think again. There seems to be no shortage of ijits trying to fuck women over, literally, figuratively or both. Here, for your collective outrage, are a few examples I've stumbled across in the last month or so.

We begin with this legal decision from Italy. Reuters, as reported by the New York Times, brings us this lovely tidbit in which an Italian court held that whether an incest victim is a virgin or not is a mitigating factor in the trial of the accused.

ITALY: NONVIRGINITY LESSENS SEX ABUSE CHARGE, COURT SAYS Sexually abusing a teenager is a less serious crime if the girl is not a virgin, Italy's highest court said in a ruling. The court ruled in favor of a man who forced his 14-year-old stepdaughter to have oral sex with him and appealed a prison sentence of 40 months, arguing that the fact that the girl had had sex with other men should have been taken into consideration at his trial as a mitigating factor. The court agreed, saying that because of the victim's previous sexual experiences, her "personality, from a sexual point of view," was more developed and that therefore the damage to her was less than if she had been a virgin. The decision, which drew a barrage of criticism, opened the way for the stepfather to get a lighter sentence.

I hope I don't have to point out to you, dear readers, how absurd and how offensive this is. I suppose it would make a great pro-abstinence poster for anti-abortion groups to hand out (instead of condoms, which -- unlike abstinence posters -- would in fact be likely to make abortion less frequent): "Choose Abstinence. So when your mother's dirtbag husband sexually abuses you, he gets the maximum sentence possible." Because everyone knows that slutty little teenage girls who aren't virgins just aren't that traumatized when they're abused by their nasty-ass pedophile stepfathers.

Or about the hue and cry over a vaccine for cervical cancer recently released. Fifteen years of studies show the vaccine is "100 per cent effective in protecting women against infection with four strains of human papilloma virus that together cause 70 per cent of cervical cancers." Why should we balk at giving a vaccine to women that, essentially, reduce cervical cancer rates by 70 percent?

Because the vaccine is most effective when administered to preteen girls, and the mere fact of administering it might somehow (pay special attention to the dubious causality this embraces) encourage young girls to have sex, since they know that having post-vaccination sex will no longer expose them to the virus that causes cervical cancer. In other words, let's raise a girl/woman's risk of contracting cervical cancer in order to eliminate the mere possibility (based on no evidence and some pretty offensive assumptions about young women and sexuality) that some vaccine she gets when she's still playing with Barbie dolls might turn her into a slut.

How about the judge in Illinois who tried to force a woman, testifying at the trial of her (I suppose I have to say alleged?) gang rapists, to watch a twenty-minute videotape of the rape? The judge tried to hold her in contempt of court for refusing to watch it. Even though it would add nothing to her testimony since she was unconscious at the time the rape and therefore couldn't testify as to anything that happened during that twenty minute time period. And of course, the defendants were claiming it was consensual: what gal wouldn't want to bask in the pleasure of her unconsciousness while multiple assholes fuck her, another asshole write obscenities on her legs with marker, and kind-hearted observers spit on her?

And last but certainly not least, let's consider for a brief moment the nasty trend toward plastic surgery directed at women's genitalia. Yes, it is possible to spend several thousand dollars getting yourself a designer vaginer. Some goofy woman in Texas actually paid $5000 to a plastic surgeon to give her a new "hymen." That way her dorky husband could have the "thrill" of deflowering her all over again. Now don't get me wrong: if you live in an oppressive Islamist society and you're gonna get killed if your husband doesn't find a hymen on your wedding night, maybe a hymenoplasty is justified. (Query, however, why someone with $5000 wouldn't just move the hell out of there and skip the new hymen.) But just to give your husband the dubious thrill of pretending the woman he's been with for all these years is a virgin? (Not to mention giving yourself the pain of having your cherry popped again.) Don't stop there, though; I'm sure your porn-watching husband would want you to consult with Dr. Fuckwad [not his real name], a plastic surgeon specializing in "the aesthetic surgical enhancement of the vulvar structures, labia minora, labia majora, mons pubis, perineum, introitus, hymen." You can get "Augmentation Labioplasty," in which fat from other parts of your body is removed via liposuction and inserted into your labia, to make them look as plump as Lisa Rinna's lips. Or perenioplasty, to "provide a youthful and aesthetically appealing vulva" -- because everyone knows how nasty and ugly those vulva are.

All right, I'm starting to depress myself.

Don't be sexist. I mean it.

When you see someone else being sexist, kick ass and take names.

And for God's sake, don't waste $5000 on some dopey rehymenization process. Buy a lifetime supply (unless you're Kathy, in which case it's more like a year's supply but that's okay because she makes such beee-yoo-tiful things) of Koigu instead. Sheesh.

If you'd like to surf some of the other blogs who've pledged to post about sexism today, visit Vegan Kid's page.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Top 5 myths of copyright law

Knitters and copyright. Hardly a match on the order of, say, chocolate and hazlenuts, but for whatever reason, the former love to talk about the latter. Sadly, the former are often wrong or at least misguided about the latter. For your edification, then, I will debunk the following commonly-held myths about copyright law.

Disclaimer (hey, did you think I wasn't gonna issue one?): I am not giving you legal advice about your own particular situation. The law changes all the time, so by the time you read this, it may be out-of-date. If you have any questions about your own personal situation, contact a licensed attorney (but not me), preferably one with extensive experience in copyright law. And most important of all, if you get in trouble for copyright infringment, you can't sue me for malpractice because none of you are my clients. Continue reading only if you agree to all that.

Myth No. 1: Copyright questions have simple, black-and-white answers.

One of the quickest things you learn in law school is how few legal questions have direct, absolute yes-or-no answers. You really can't go wrong on a law school exam by answering "It depends." That's because legal issues tend to be complex, and because the real world tends to be complex.

I'm going to start by giving you a refresher course in Civics 101. What we think of as "The Law" is really a mishmash of things from different sources. The legislature (Congress or a state lawmaking body) passes a law (or statute) and the law sets out standards of conduct. To give a really elementary example, "Anyone who takes the life of another human being is guilty of murder." Sounds simple and clear.

But because life is complicated, all too soon a real-world example arises that doesn't fit neatly into the black-and-white letter of the law. What if you are being attacked by a gun-wielding assailant, there is a violent struggle, and just as your assailant is choking the life out of you, you manage to reach the gun and shoot him? Technically, you've taken the life of another, but everyone agrees that self-defense is different, and you shouldn't be punished under those circumstances.

Sometimes the legislature is very good at anticipating these scenarios, and there may be a second statutory provision that says "Notwithstanding anything else to the contrary, anyone who takes another human being's life in defense of their own shall not be found guilty of murder." But it's impossible for the legislature to think of every possible scenario, and when that happens, it is up the courts to interpret the law. A court will consider the facts before it, will look at the law on the books, and if the law doesn't cover the facts before it, it has to make a decision as to what should happen. And different courts may come to different conclusions about similar facts.

Translate this into copyright. Congress passed a set of written laws governing copyright, and they're long and not easy to read, but even as thorough as they were, they didn't -- they couldn't -- anticipate every scenario. So courts have to step in to fill in the blanks. What that means is that different courts in different jurisdictions may issue decisions that conflict; one judge thinks A is the right answer and another things B is the right answer. Or maybe no court in the U.S. has yet had a chance to opine about what the answer should be. Or maybe your facts are just a bit different from the closest court case, and that little bit of difference is significant. This is why you should be very skeptical when someone (especially an unknown someone on the internet) makes grand, definitive pronouncements about what is or isn't copyright infringment.

Which is all a very long-winded way of saying that while there are certain general principles that are clear (i.e. if you use your cellphone to photocopy a validly copyrighted pattern in a yarn shop expressly to avoid buying it, you are guilty of copyright infringement*), there are even more situations that aren't clear or definitively decided.

Or to put it even more simply, this shit is complicated.

*See how many qualifiers I had to put in that sentence? How narrowly I had to write it to feel comfortable it was a fair statement of the law?

Myth No. 2: Copyright law is all about preventing people from making photocopies.

While copyright law, when taken to its logical application, often does (or should) prevent people from making photocopies, it's important to keep in mind the real purpose. Copyright law is intended "[t]o promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts." U.S. Constitution. We are willing to give an author a temporary monopoly on their work in order to encourage authors to keep producing that work because of the benefits to society of continued innovation and creativity. There's nothing magical about the act of using a photocopier; it's that by copying the work, instead of buying it, you are essentially cheating the author out of a sale. And if authors can't make money off their creations, they won't keep creating.

When considering a copyright situation, it's helpful to think about that: ask yourself "Am I depriving the author out of a rightful sale by what I am doing?" If the answer is yes, if but for the conduct in question, you'd have to buy a copy of the work, then you're probably in violation.

Question 2(a): Can I make a photocopy of a pattern that I've purchased to be a working copy?

Probably. This is probably considered "fair use." You have purchased the pattern, so you aren't cheating the copyright holder out of a sale. Now keep in mind there are some designers who disagree with this; they believe that you can't make copies of their patterns under any circumstances. In fact, I've even read about one designer, sadly I forget who it is, who will supposedly mail you a virgin copy of their pattern by return mail if you send them your original marked up as a working copy, in order to try to avoid having knitters make any photocopies of their patterns. And there are also knitting designers who intentionally do things to their patterns -- like use darker-colored paper, or put some kind of watermark -- to make any photocopies illegible. Personally, though, I think given the nature of a knitting pattern and of knitting itself, making a working copy (one that you and only you use) is fair use, although this is one of those areas about which not everyone agrees.

Myth No. 3: You can copy anything from a library without worrying about copyright.

You aren't gonna like this, but copyright as it applies to libraries is one of those complicated, hazy areas. So can you photocopy anything you find in a library without worrying about copyright infringement? Repeat after me, everyone: It Depends.

There is a doctrine in copyright law called "fair use." It creates exceptions to copyright protection in order to serve broader purposes in our society. For example, one of the most commonly invoked "fair use" exceptions is for comment or criticism. You can quote part of a copyrighted work in order to comment upon it or critique it. That's why book reviewers can reproduce small portions of a book as part of a review; it's considered a "fair use" of the copyrighted material. Our country places a premium on allowing people to speak freely about ideas, to critique them or comment about them.

There's another "fair use" exception for "teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research." 17 U.S.C. section 107. This is where libraries and universities and other educational entities find comfort. But it's not enough to say "well, this is a library, so we're okay." If you're being sued for copyright infringement, and you try to defend your case by saying your use qualifies as "fair use," you have to prove it is, in fact, fair use. It's not fair use just because you sat it is. Courts will look at different things to evaluate whether your use is fair, including whether you're using the material to make a profit or for "nonprofit educational purposes"; how much of the work you are quoting (a few pages? a few chapters? the whole damn book?); and other things.

Is this getting too boring?

To make a long story short, libraries can't allow limitless copying of copyrighted works or they'll get into trouble. If you go to a library's public photocopiers, you'll even see legal language, disclaimers, that warn you that you are copying at your own peril. And there is no magical percentage (i.e. ten percent) that gives you safe haven, so don't believe anyone who tells you that if you copy ten percent or less of a work, it's okay because it's a small amount.

Question 3(a): Can I copy a pattern out of a library book for my own personal use?

Probably. It's probably okay to make one copy of a pattern from a library book for your own personal use -- meaning not to distribute to others, or to make money off somehow. Some knitting designers don't agree with this (see the Scottish Lady who Litigates) -- and you certainly can't copy the whole book or large portions thereof -- but I think most courts would consider this fair use. Be advised, however, that this is another one of those hazy areas.

Myth No. 4: If the book is out of print or really hard to find, you don't have to worry about copyright.

Nope. Too bad. The copyright holder still gets protection. Maybe the copyright holder purposely took the book off the market and doesn't want it widely available, but in any event, the usual rules apply. You have to try to contact the publishing company or the author to get permission to make copies. Or you can try to nab the book on Ebay, or some other used bookstore ( or start going to yard sales a lot.

Keep in mind, however, that if you check the book out of the library, the usual "you can probably copy one pattern for your own personal use" rule probably applies, too.

Myth No. 5: If you put it on the internet, it's not protected and I can copy and/or distribute it as I wish.

Wrong. Flat out wrong. Putting something on the internet has no affect on whether it's copyighted or not. If you're trying to rationalize violating someone's copyright by saying "But it's on the internet where anyone can access it for free!" too bad. The author still has the right to control how the copyrighted material is used. (By the same incorrect logic, any book placed in a library would not be protected under the theory that anybody can get a library card and access it for free. And we know that's not the case.)

Myth No. 6 (you see, I like you so much I'm giving you a whole extra one): Only people who are perfect in every other way of their own life should worry about copyright; otherwise, they need to get a life and stop acting so superior.

This is an argument I see repeated time and time again in internet discussions about copyright infringement. "Everyone does something illegal in their life. If you eat a grape at the supermarket, you're stealing. Who doesn't cheat a little on their income taxes? So unless you're perfect, quit acting superior and smug and don't worry about what other people do." I don't understand why this is so frequently brought up in copyright discussions. Of course, no one is perfect, but that doesn't eliminate our obligation to do our best to comply with the law. And remember, when you act in a certain way, you are subject to the consequences. If you eat stuff at the grocery store without paying for it, there's always a chance, however small, that you'll be arrested for shoplifting. [Laugh if you will, but I went to college with a woman who was arrested for eating a handful of something out of a bulk food container at the local grocery store.] Cheat on your taxes (which contrary to popular belief, not everyone does because some of us are terrified of the IRS) and you could get audited and then you're totally hosed. Likewise, if you flout copyright law, you are opening yourself up the possibility, no matter how remote, of civil and/or criminal liability. Informing yourself about what the law is, and what you're obliged to do under the law, is smart, not self-righteous.

And I'm going to go a bit further here and suggest that this is more than just a legal duty that could result (however unlikely) in your being arrested or sued. Pattern designing isn't easy and creating patterns that work, that allow you to make attractive and interesting garments, is something you, as a knitter, should want to encourage. Encourage designers to keep creating cool stuff by respecting their copyright protection -- and by respecting those who try to follow copyright law.

P.S. Happy birthday, Molly! Pisces power!

Friday, March 03, 2006

A Bookworm's Progress: February

The February reader's report:

1. The Historian (remaining two-thirds). Really could have used some vigorous editing, but I did enjoy it. Much more elegantly written than DaVinci Code and light-years ahead of The Rule of Four.

2. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote. Chilling story told in compelling prose; easy to see why this is considered such a groundbreaking book. My haphazard internet research found an interesting series of articles from a Kansas newspaper that looks at the legacy of the Clutter murders and the Capote book here. Nope, haven't seen "Capote" yet.

3. Confessions of a Teenage Sleuth, by Chelsea Cain. Okay, I'll admit it: I had every Nancy Drew book as a kid. Yep, all fifty of 'em, their bilious yellow spines lined up on top of my dresser. This is a breezy, snappy parody of them. Lightweight & enjoyable, but if you've never read Nancy Drew, don't bother.

4. The Lighthouse, by P.D. James. Latest in her Adam Dalgliesh mystery series; high quality, veddy British writing.

5. Manhunt, by James L. Swanson. Fascinating story of John Wilkes Booth's flight from Ford Theater to Virginia after assassinating Lincoln. My history education was woefully deficient so I didn't know much about this at all. I even discovered a piece of Philadelphia trivia: Asia Booth Clarke, the assassin's sister, lived in Philly at the time of Lincoln's shooting, and her husband was an actor and manager at the Walnut Street Theatre.

Coming next week: Blog against Sexism Day, Top 5 Copyright Myths, and more!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Only 14 shopping days left until my birthday

Forewarned is forearmed, right, Tom?

Self-Striping Sweater

In other news, progress proceeds apace on the Katia Jamaica kid's sweater. I finished the front and the back last night; knitting it in the round up to the armholes means no purl rows so it went fast.

I have a real fondness for self-striping and self-patterning yarns. Purists may say they're a cheat, but I don't care: I love the way you get multi-colored effects without having to weave in numerous ends. I also like how easy it is: you can knit in stockinette and still get an interesting effect. Remember, much of my knitting is done while waiting for little people to take their turn during endless games of Monopoly (with my oldest) or Candyland (with my twins), and so stockinette isn't a bad thing.

I also like the randomness of a self-striping yarn. It can be hard to make stripes or patterns that are truly random; my mind seems to want to impose upon the knitting some kind of order. Two stripes A, four stripes B, two stripes A, four stripes B. With self-striping yarns, there usually is a discernable progression in the order of the stripes, but it often happens so gradually you don't notice it as much. And you may find that the color changes in the middle of a row, or at the end; you may have a repeat that is a little off and not exactly the same as the others; or you may attach another ball that starts at a different place in the repeat, mixing up the color sequence entirely. This drives some people nuts, but for me, it's a kind of manageable chaos, if you see what I mean.

This particular self-striping yarn is interesting because it appears to use deliberate blotching effects, as well as striping. If you look closely, you can see -- especially in the chartreuse stripes -- how little splotches of other colors appear throughout. At first I wondered if this was a sloppy dyeing problem -- I've had self-striping sock yarns with some unattractive blobs of dye hitting the wrong place and it was clear that it wasn't intentional. But these speckles seem to occur throughout, and it looks too deliberate and consistent to be a mistake.

I'll throw out to you one observation I have about working with self-striping yarns. One aspect of using them that can irk knitters is the way in which the stripes change width, often dramatically, within the same garment. If you think about the way these yarns are dyed, it makes sense. Each stripe is a long, long stretch of yarn dyed the same color. Then the next length of yarn is dyed a different color, and so on. You have a finite length of each color. Translating that into knitting: the wider the row you are knitting (i.e. the more stitches in each row), the skinnier your stripes will be. Short little rows, with fewer stitches per row, will make thicker stripes. Think of a Twizzler; it's a finite piece of licorice, so if you stretch it out to make it wider, it's also going to get thinner.

You can see this in my sweater (although I tried to compensate for it a bit).

When you look at the part below the armholes (the armhole mark is indicated by purple lines), you can see that the stripes are generally thinner than they are at the upper half. I knit the bottom half in the round, so there were twice as many stitches in each round; this stre-e-e-tched the stripes out and made them thinner. Once I divided for front and back, the stripes got generally fatter, since I was working on half as many stitches. On the front, where I divided again for the placket, the stripes wanted to get even thicker (indicated by the blue lines). (Note the darker green shade in particular.) I compensated for this by deliberately working in a few rows of another color from the other end of the ball, to keep the random flavor of the stripes, but if you look at it analytically, you can see what I mean.

Just remember that when it comes to self-striping yarn, you are the master of the yarn, and not the reverse. You can choose to break the yarn at any time, and switch to another ball, or intersperse a few rows from a different ball to break up a long stretch of one color, if that will improve your satisfaction in the finished product.

You should also pay attention to stripe color when you finish a ball and switch to a new one. You'll get smoother transitions if you find a new ball, or a place in the new ball, where the color matches the color of the stripe you just finished. In other words, if your old ball runs out in the middle of a pink stripe, especially in the middle of a row, you should join a new ball near the end of a stretch of pink. Pick pink, to ease the transition of changing balls; near the end of the pink stretch, so you don't create a wonky pink stripe that is twice as long as the other pink stripes in the garment. (Unless big inconsistencies in stripes and colors don't bug you.)


My twins came home from nursery school the other day with a flyer about the school's Silent Auction fundraiser. Their school is wonderful, and I never mind supporting their fundraising efforts, since the lion's share of the money they raise goes to a scholarship fund to pay tuition for families who might not otherwise be able to send their kids to nursery school. I had to laugh, though, at this part of the text, asking for donations of items to auction off:

The sky is the limit as far as donations are concerned. i.e. - If knitting is your niche, consider donating a homespun scarf, mittens, etc.

Geez, they might as well have said "Carol S., get your sorry arse knitting and send us something nice to auction off, already!"

So I selected these:

a skein of Colinette Firecracker, the fluffy thing, in order to make a pinky/purple-y foofy scarf that either a mom or her daughter would want to wear (hence the Barbie colors). And a skein of Noro Big Kureyon, with which I will knit a watch-type ribbed cap.

If I finish these and feel particularly ambitious, I'll see what I can find in my stash to make something else, but I have the feeling this will be more than enough to keep me busy until the deadline for submitting items. (Which was, like, yesterday.)


I've been plugging away at my spinning, and here's the red Colonial, after plying and setting the twist:

Add tip number 4 to my newbie spinner's tips: once you're done plying (or spinning, if you are going to keep the yarn as "a single," meaning you're not going to ply it with anything but rather leave it as a single ply or strand), you need to "set the twist." You can steam the yarn, or as I do, put it in a sinkful of warm water and soak it, then carefully wring out the extra water, pull the hank from both ends with a little snap, and let it dry. If there's a lot of twist (you'll see the yarn kink up by itself), some people say you can hang a light weight, like a coffee mug strung on a piece of twine through the handle,

from one end as it hangs to dry; this is supposed to help work out some of the excess twist.

I'm now spinning some blue-grey wool, I think it's more of this Colonial,

and it's really easy and enjoyable for me to spin. I love the opal-ish color effects of this shade of blue.

Cool Spinning Book

I bought an interesting book on spinning about a year ago. I don't even remember how I stumbled across it; maybe just a domino effect from reading spinning-related blogs: one site linked to another which linked to another which eventually took me to Pluckyfluff. The book is small, and not cheap, but it's self-published (which makes me feel better about the price -- it's going to a real person and not some publishing conglomerate, not that I have anything against publishers, mind you, in case you are a book publishing rep and want to talk about a book deal with me, hint, hint) and has some wonderful photography. It gives you tips on how to create nontraditional effects in your spinning, some of which you can discern from the cover:

The book is sold on Amazon (although it lists a four to six week shipping time) at a lower price, and on Pluckyfluff's website(link is above), which presumably would have a faster shipping time in exchange for full retail price. This is a book designed to loosen your creativity and create artistic effects with your spinning; it's very perky and upbeat, listing techniques for many special effects, but ultimately urging the spinner to follow her own Muse, as it were. If you're looking for tips on really traditional methods, or a beginner's how-to, this isn't the book for you. If you want some ideas and general techniques for spinning funky novelty-ish yarns, take a look.

One reason why I can't get anything done

I leave you with a shot of what my laundry room looked like on Monday morning. Note that this does not include the load in the washer or the load in the dryer, or the random socks and Disney Princess underwear (mine, not Grace's*) strewn throughout the house.

*You know I'm kidding about that, right? Because I'm really more of a Dora the Explorer type.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I'm a runner-up!

Hurry on over to Manolo the Shoeblogger's Never Teh Bride website to read my heartfelt contribution to the Wacky Weddings Contest. Believe it or not, that isn't even the worst wedding story I have to tell: we also attended a wedding in which the bride's brother (who in a stroke of misguided optimism was best man) gave a rambling, twenty-minute toast in which he insulted the bride's housekeeping, accused her of bestiality with a monkey (and hinted that her groom ought therefore to get an AIDS test, thereby proving that he knows jack about medicine), called his own wife ugly ("I carry a photo of my wife with me wherever I go. When I'm out at a bar, I take a look at it, and I know it's time to go home when she starts to look good to me."), and so many more, I've blocked them out of my mind so I can sleep at night. It's the first time I ever saw the guests at a wedding boo a toast to the bride and groom.

But I don't want to be a show-off, or anything.