The Corbimite maneuver

Thanks to the two of you who tagged me as a thinking blogger.¬† The only problem is that I certainly don’t post enough, do I?¬† (That’d be for the same reasons resulting in a serious curtailment in knitting quality time.)¬†

I’m glad that some people like to think about knitting and intellectual property at the same time… well, at least once in a while.¬† I have to get other people to do it, because it’s not the sort of thing that can form the basis of a thriving legal practice.

Now, like Carol, I need to reserve the right to add to my list of bloggers who make me think:

  • Kim always writes analytically about knitting, and causes useful information about knitting to be preserved for posterity.
  • We made the decision to homeschool (this is probably the most personal thing I’ve ever posted in this blog; you can only infer that I have children based on my writing), but I’m not the one who’s doing the work or participating in homeschooling communities.¬† But I bookmark and think about Jo’s posts on education.

In the meantime, something to save brainpower, and something to ponder.

First, please play with this yarn count converter and tell me if I’ve messed up anything.¬† It’s a converter/calculator that translates your yarn count (such as 2/3.4 Nm) into a knitter-friendly put-up (metres/yards per 50g/1.75 oz), estimates the gauge, and computes the length of yarn from the mass.¬†

There’s already a handy conversion tool out there for switching between Tex, worsted count, and so forth, but it doesn’t have the most knitter-friendly output.¬† So, after I finished up my cashmere-mill-end-buying-binge, I realized I wanted to have a more convenient conversion tool.¬† And there you go. (The other function I wrote up is an adding machine, which adds up two or more yarn counts and estimates your gauge when you knit with them held together.¬† I need to finish that part and upload it.)

Secondly, something I discovered while I was searching about for DK yarn in just the right shade of red. 

You know this:

This is, of course, the online database run by Yarnmarket, a U.S. retailer.¬† They have a U.S. registered trademark for YARNDEX for use in association with “[p]romoting the goods and services of others by means of operating an on-line shopping mall with links to the retail services of others and providing an on-line computer database featuring trade information in the field of yarn, thread, and floss”.¬†

Now look at this:


The business behind this second link is, a Canadian-based retailer that ships to the U.S.  How long has this site actually been running?  The domain name was registered in August 2005, about six months after Yarndex was launched. 

(The and domains were registered through a provider called Corbimite Web Solutions, hence the title of this post.¬† It’s not because I don’t know how to spell the names of fictional materials in the Star Trek universe.)

In the end, I went with cheap.  KnitPicks Merino Style in Maple Leaf.

Posted in site updates | 9 Comments

Fair (trade) Isle

I missed the first press release (not that I would have gone shopping):

A luxury e-tailer of Scottish goods announced that it started selling Fair Isle sweaters from Shetland on a fair trade basis last month. The story only seems to have been picked up by the Herald today (that link will expire quickly).

Interestingly, it’s not a native who brought the fair trade concept to Scottish knitting:

Teresa Fritschi, the American-born managing director of Thistle and Broom, is promoting the work using a Fairtrade model in an effort to retain the integrity of the product.

“Today, what the consumer is generally buying is a Fair Isle style knock-off that’s machine knit.

“To the uneducated Fair Isle is simply a style of knitting, but this is one of Scotland’s most unique pieces of intellectual property.”

… Mrs Bowie, originally from Whalsay but now living in Lochinver, Sutherland, has been knitting since she was four and is about to turn 78. She said: “I’ve only made one jumper for the project so far so I am very much a beginner.

“I was more or less doing it for family and friends, but I did some for the Romanian children, through the charity shop, so there was something new for them to wear that wasn’t just cast-offs.

“However, it wasn’t really worthwhile knitting to sell because you didn’t get enough for it. The wool is so expensive to buy. I never dreamed it would ever be sold in America. It feels good, and both Rosabell and I are on the net.”(from the Herald, May 14 2007, “Knitters turn to Fairtrade in bid to save their tradition”)

The crime of it is that these talented women were still being paid about 50 pence an hour until we launched our Fair Isle Knitting Project. Now 2/3’s of our retail price and all shipping costs go directly into the knitters’ bank account when Thistle & Broom receives an order. (from the T&B website)

I suspect that “fair trade” is generally unstandardized with respect to apparel: it looks like most items that are fair trade certified are mostly food products and cotton. The UK labelling initiative does not list apparel, either. (There may be older efforts, but does “fair trade” as a concept today apply to co-operatives or other systems set up by the producers themselves to sell and distribute their work directly?) But it looks like the rates paid to knitters by T&B qualify as fair: you can see from shopping around on the site that a knitter would therefore make just over 230 GBP for knitting Mountains & Glens, or more than $450 US. It’s unclear who deducts the cost of materials from their share, or whether the knitter identified on the T&B site (in the case of this particular sweater, Agnes Bowie) is the one actually doing the knitting: at such improved compensation, perhaps one knitter could subcontract out the work if there was a lot to be done.

The newspaper reports says that to date, Mrs Bowie has filled one order. I wonder how popular it will be; the pricing results is a rather restricted market. I’d love to buy some of the jewelry, but I can’t afford it, not by a long shot (the knotwork bracelets are nice, but I’d far prefer the Scots pine cuff, a mere 625 GBP). And alas, I’m too short for the riding habit, just under 1000 GBP.

For the rest of us, though, there’s a benchmark. If someone wants you to knit a Fair Isle pullover, the going fair rate is upwards from $600.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

The legend of Morrigan

It’s time. Now that Amy’s baby, No Sheep for You has been published, and she has started the round of speaking engagements to promote the book (and, most coincidentally, I received my comp copy in the mail yesterday), it’s time to write about labour pains. Not Amy’s, but mine, in the creation of Morrigan.

Braxton-Hicks in knitting form.

Morrigan’s pictures are relatively elusive on the net. Here’s Wannietta’s first photograph of her.

The story is a bit long (the fact that I stop halfway through to rant about yarn doesn’t help), but if you take nothing else away from this post or its sequel, remember these things:

First, Jenna and meeting knitting deadlines are mutually exclusive.

Secondly, Wannietta is the most beautiful, talented, and wonderful knitter in this eight-planet solar system.

Thirdly, to date I have not actually seen this sweater in person.

Yes, you read that correctly: between the commencement of this project and the publication of the book, we lost a planet.*

Oh, and after Wannietta finished knitting Morrigan, it went straight to Interweave; I have handled the disembodied sleeves, but that’s all of the finished garment I’ve actually seen. I haven’t tried it on, so I don’t know how it fits me (it’s the smallest size in the book, and I may be too small to wear it). I know how it fits the model in the book — it doesn’t! She’s definitely too long in the waist and arms for the sample — possibly too skinny, as well.

Continue reading

Posted in design | 16 Comments

Do I hear an echo?


A few months ago, I said:

Remember that cancellation proceeding against the STITCH & BITCH CAFE mark? No? That’s all right, because not much has happened. Discovery was scheduled to close on November 6. The parties requested an extension of time from the TTAB (Trademark Trial and Appeal Board) to January 5. The reason given was that the parties were engaged in settlement discussions (which to my cynical self suggests that the parties probably had some form of settlement discussion, the lawyers were hoping that this would go away, but when it didn’t the parties had to actually had to examine each other’s representatives so they needed more time; so far, no notice of a settlement). The extension of time was granted, which was to be expected.

And then there was an amended answer filed, which resulted in a resetting of trial dates; discovery was set to close on March 17, after which it would be time for testimony. Now, I say:

Remember that cancellation proceeding against the STITCH & BITCH CAFE mark? No? That’s all right, because not much has happened. Discovery was scheduled to close on March 17. The parties requested an extension of time from the TTAB (Trademark Trial and Appeal Board) to June 15. The reason given was that the parties were engaged in settlement discussions (which to my cynical self suggests that the parties probably had some form of settlement discussion, the lawyers were hoping that this would go away, but when it didn’t the parties had to actually had to examine each other’s representatives so they needed more time; so far, no notice of a settlement). The extension of time was granted, which was to be expected.

Please resume your nap.

Posted in stitch v. bitch, themes | 7 Comments

Misery loves prior art

Last month, I had to make up an exercise for patent agent trainees (that’s the “misery” part — not making up exercises, but training for the patent agent exams). The exercise itself was the preparation of a response to a examiner’s report, in which a patent examiner raised a number of objections to a patent application. The exercise response required amendments to the patent application, and argument why the prior art located by the examiner did not render the claimed invention obvious.

Naturally it’s fictitious — that is, the examiner’s report is fictitious, and the patent application at issue is adapted from a real patent or application, usually tweaked a bit in order to introduce more errors or uncertainty. The subject matter is usually something simple and mechanical, because the patent agent exams deal with relatively simple mechanical inventions which, in theory, do not require specialized knowledge to understand. (In practice, everybody but the mechanical engineers seems to claim a disadvantage.) So of course, I decided to use a patent for a knitting-related device. The subject matter is simple and mechanical, knitting skill is not actually necessary to be able to understand the invention, and there are few other opportunities to introduce knitting into a patent practice.

The patent I picked on was the one for Knit Klips clips, which were designed for seaming knitted pieces. Unlike the knitting needles with measurement markings, the Knit Klips patent claims generally seem to be fairly true to the product that is actually on the market. (Technically, the patent wasn’t a patent yet when I used it for the exercise — as you can see from the first link, the issue date was in March. But it was on the verge of issuance.)

If you look at a diagram of the clip (especially the ones on the company’s website), it isn’t hard to figure out what how it works.

And, to amuse yourself, before you click the “more” link, ask yourself just what sets these clips apart from any other clips you might have seen in the past. What the inventor (through her agent) and the patent examiner thought were inventive is discussed below the jump.

Continue reading

Posted in themes, useful arts | 6 Comments

Behold insanity

Well, not really insanity, just mild stupidity.

Worsted weight silk-wool twisted single + 2.5 mm needles + lots of twisty little stitches, all alike = not very clever.

Since, of course, silk-wool singles like this — while they may not pill as soon as you look at them — do tend to at least fuzz up to some degree while they’re being manipulated on the needles, I planned to knit the yarn at a denser gauge than its weight ordinarily called for.

That was only half-clever, because the increased handling as a result of the denser gauge (and the texture design) seems to have negated that advantage.

And possibly adding to the problem is the fact that forming the traveling stitches can remove the twist from individual stitches, making it harder to catch every last fibre in the strand. Especially when you don’t use a cable needle.

Not to mention the twisting of the individual stitches themselves, since all the RS knit stitches are through the back loop. That undoes some of the twist, too.

Still, I love the feel of this yarn when knitted up. I just wish the texture didn’t remind me of the tasseled cords used to tie back my parents’ living room curtains, circa 1977 (mmm, rayon tassels!). At least the colour’s not the same.

[It's a cardigan. Never mind her working name, because she doesn't look like her name. Tubular cast-on to 1x1 rib, extends to small cables leading into ogee arches. I've been working at it on and off for a few months, and I'm not even done the short row shaping to bring the back and front to the same depth before reaching the shoulders. Because of the shaping, the repeats actually vary in size -- smallest in front, and larger in the back. They work up into having the same width (i.e. stitch count) by the end of the short rows, but have different heights. Estimated completion date: uh, whenever.

The yarn is eggplant over brown aran-weight (I call it worsted weight) silk-wool blend from Sundara. I have to sit on my hands when she updates her site. I go so far as to compose an e-mail listing everything I want to order, and then I tell myself sternly that I have plenty of yarn, and I usually listen and delete the message. I don't feel bad, though, because when I check back ten minutes later, the yarn is all gone.]

Posted in design | 6 Comments

Macrame PSA

For those of you who wrote and reminisced with me about macrame Santas and asked after patterns: this may very well have been it, so bid away. NAYY. (I only thought of looking for it because Threadbared is selling off their… well, what do you call them? Rejects?

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Site outage February 24-25

In celebration of February Is Really Cold month, this site is going to be down from approximately 11:30 pm, February 24, to sometime in the wee hours of February 25 because of a server move. I will not be able to receive e-mail at my usual addresses, but that’s okay because I will be asleep.

Webhost claims that this won’t last more than 6 hours. However, I’m not certain that will be true in view of what they wrote in their e-mail:

During the move our servers will be powered down, unhooked, packed, sent out, sent back, buried in soft peat for 3 years and then recycled as firelighters, then finally moved to the new location as quickly as possible. We will have someone physically on site for the move, making sure that everything is moved in a timely and proper manner and to assure that our servers are secure during this process.

Okay, no, they didn’t.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Case closed: sierra you later

I warned you about the puns.

Those of you — whoever you might be, and I doubt you exist — who were waiting on the edge of your seat waiting for the next move in the game of chess that is litigation over SIERRA as a yarn name, I’m happy to state that your days of balancing precariously on your beanbag are over.

Cascade voluntarily dismissed its action, with prejudice, against Crafts Americana on January 26. Yes, that’s all she wrote. There was no need for an explanation; Crafts Americana did not have to file an answer to the complaint. In fact, it’s looking like Crafts Americana may not have been served with the complaint to begin with (as far as the court knows). It was over that fast!

Now we will never know what transpired, or what really motivated the filing of this lawsuit to begin with. And now, I will not have the opportunity to point out that — understanding, of course, that the Internet is not determinative of anything — it was not until 2001 or 2002 that Cascade added the Sierra yarn to its website (with a “new”) icon, according to the WayBack Machine (Nov 30, 2001 vs Jan 18, 2002). If this addition represented a completely new addition to the Cascade line, as opposed to merely an addition to the website, then this might contradict the allegation in the complaint that the mark had been in use on yarn since at least as early as 1997. But, like I say, no opportunity to point this out.

2007 may be the year of resolution and settlement. There were, in fact, two other lawsuits I had wanted to post about last year that were still live, and now they’re either resolved or very nearly. One was between two Oregon yarn shops with similar names. (I’ll give you two guesses as to what words were in these names.) That one has been resolved with a consent judgment — someone’s giving up their previously asserted rights. The other involved KFI(!) and Coats — a brief mention here. That one should have settled by now, but there was a bit of a tiff about returning confidential documents as part of the settlement. Guess who’s being blamed for that hiccup.

Posted in knitdotbiz, themes | 2 Comments