Monday, June 30, 2008

Is It Just My Imagination?

Or is an awful lot of the really creative design and knitting being done now in cyberspace, instead of in paper publications? Now, I'm a dedicated book person who is never going to give up books--I'm hooked on reading and looking at the pictures and using them for reference--but I'm amazed at how much creativity is available in new forms.

Right now, I subscribe to four knitting magazines (Knitter's, Vogue Knitting, Cast-On, Interweave Knits) and one spinning magazine (Spin-Off). (Okay, I know I don't technically know how to spin, but it's like reading Weight Watchers magazine...maybe if I read about it, I won't have to actually count points. Of course, let's look at the record...can't spin, not losing weight. The theory may have a few yarnovers.) I often read Knitting, and sometimes Simply Knitting, both British mags, and occasionally Creative Knitting. That's a lot of knitting magazines!

But ...

I can't tell you the last time I knit something from one of the first three mags. I'm actually embarrassed for the editors sometimes when I look at the patterns. What in the world were they thinking, I say to myself? You can't beat Cast-On for technical information, especially if you, like I, think longingly of completing the Master Knitter Program, but the magazine's patterns usually leave me cold. My current toe-up sock is a variation on Ann Budd's On Your Toes pattern from IK, and I'm actually thinking of making the Jackie Erickson-Schweitzer scarf on the cover of the most recent Spin-Off, so I won't say I don't get inspired reading them. But the reality is that most of the knitting that inspires me is from my computer.

Ravelry. OMG...there are a million young designers publishing on the net in one form or another and most of them are showing their patterns on Ravelry. Who didn't make Kiri, for instance? Or Jaywalker Socks? Romi's Muir? Clapotis? Or Monkey or Ponatomous Socks? (Well, actually I didn't make the last four, but I wanted to, and that should count for something. See note above about counting points.)

In fact, if there's a trend here, I think all those patterns came from Knitty, although I could be wrong about the Jaywalkers. But they're definitely net-based, and were a huge cult project a couple of years. But back to Knitty: Knitty is an incredible resource--I am notoriously NOT a baby stuff knitter but I've got yarn for a couple of recent projects in my stash for the lovely Ruby.

And all the really fun lace knitting right now is happening on the Yahoo knitalongs: Casablanca, Mystery Shawl, the Goddess shawls, the Bad Cat Designs sampler, the Mystic series shawls. All my friends are knitting lace and all those patterns are coming off the internet, most at no cost, but some with a nominal cost. The last two I actually completed were Mystery Stole 3 and Hanami--both from the same designer, Melanie Gibbons. And I have a number of lace patterns in my mental queue, meaning that I've bought or downloaded the patterns but haven't done anything with them yet (see note above about counting points), but in this case I might actually knit them one day. And they're all from the internet: Anne Hanson's Irtfa'a and The Veil of Isis, Luna Moth, Seascape.

So, what's the deal with the traditional publishers? I have the utmost respect for Knitter's because I've been a happy Stitches attendee in years past, but most of the designs in the recent issues seem to come from "the Knitter's Design Team." Where are the designers I want to see? Even the more traditional ones are MIA. VK has always been somewhat "out there," but we read it for the same reason we read Vogue--to see trends. Only IK has made a successful transition to cyberspace, publishing IK Daily and releasing some print patterns to download for a nominal fee. (Frankly, I'd rather pay $5 for a pattern I might actually use than the same $5 for a magazine of stuff that's just laughable.)

Well, here's my theory. First, I think the magazines are so tied to the yarn manufacturers who advertise that they're publishing what the manufacturers want, not what we want. And there's nothing wrong with keeping your advertisers happy--it's just that seeing a truly fugly piece of knitting doesn't make me want to rush out and buy the yarn. And most of the designers doing really innovative work aren't tied to specific yarns or manufacturers. Many of them are using indy yarn or spinning their own. (Hats off to Jackie E-S for that scarf in Spin-Off, called Morning Surf, and hats off to Spin-Off for demonstrating that it looks wonderful, and different, in many different yarns.)

Second, I think most of the magazines are like the monkeys with their hands hands firmly over their eyes, their ears, and their mouths, pretending that Ravelry and internet designs aren't happening. They're hoping that their "loyal" subscribers won't notice either. It all reminds me of the Vonage commercials--the phone company dude saying "the only thing we've changed is our prices," and the young, hip Vonage chick pushing him off the screen.

It reminds me of the other ugly secret: we're buying yarn from the internet, too, and from fiber shows. Now, no one loves her bricks-and-mortar stores better than I, and I am a big supporter of the LYS, but let's face it--we're buying independent yarns from folks who don't sell to the shops. I have a personal rule that says I don't buy something online I could get from a local shop--I'm not about to go online to buy Rowan Kidsilk Haze or Cascade 220--but I'm loving some of the yarns I can't get from them--Miss Babs and Tess, to name two.

I also think that many designers today aren't willing to sign away the rights to their designs--they can see the future and realize that they'll be able to make a lot more money, and get their patterns into the hands of a lot more knitters, by selling their patterns via download than they'll ever realize from the fee they got from the magazine.

We gotta find a happy medium. Because right now, I'm counting pennies and nickels and looking hard at money for magazine renewals. It's nice to have that old issue of Knitter's with the article on short-rowing, but is it worth $5 when I can go to the blogosphere or to YouTube to see 25 videos on short-rowing? I'm definitely considering all the alternatives.

Anyway, I know it's a whine, but just askin'. Ya know what I mean?

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