Wednesday, October 1, 2003

The furnace came on for the first time last night, signaling the real beginning of fall. This morning I celebrated by donning my favorite brushed mohair cardigan (a Classic Elite pattern using Halcyon's "house" brand of brushed mohair) and venturing out into the world for a walk.

Everything inspires me creatively these days. I seem to notice potential pictures and color designs everywhere I look. My only wish is that I actually had the time to follow through on the inspiration with action. Instead, I feel like I'm surrounded by partially begun projects and great intentions.

On the other side of the scale, far from the land of la-dee-da creativity, I am struggling with the strange double-standard in the knitting "business."

You have many, many people who turn to it for personal and creative solace during a day occupied with other activities (including jobs that help support their passion for knitting). And then you have the few, enterprising, potentially crazy folks (I count myself in this category) for whom it is both a passion and a profession.

But the one-for-all spirit of knitting can seriously get in the way of anybody doing this as a business where bottom line is as important as generosity and kindness.

Here's an example: I was recently approached about writing a book. The topic was exceptional and I knew I could do a fantastic job with it. And yet when I calculated the time and travel required to write the book, I realized that not only would I not make money, I'd actually lose money if I took on the project.

The sheer joy of writing about knitting and seeing my name in print was supposed to be compensation enough. That's a noble idea if, say, you have another full-time job or trust fund to support you. But if this is your profession, it just doesn't float. The whole experience left me troubled and deeply discouraged.

Doing loads of work for free (or at a barely living wage) seems to be a common motivation in the knitting world. This generosity is part of what makes knitters so wonderful, but it also makes it really, really hard from a business perspective.

I'm constantly getting requests to donate patterns and pictures and articles and products to mostly worthy causes. Again and again, the argument is an enthusiastic, "We can't pay you for your work, but your name will be in print!"

I help when I can, but I'm increasingly forced to say no. How do we balance the generous community spirit of knitting with the business that supports knitters with patterns, projects, and instruction? Is it possible to engage in a bit of both without alienating any parties?

I don't know. But this is my struggle today.

So I shall escape into Kaffe Fassett's exquisite new pattern library, which I'm reviewing this week. My list of mentors and heroes is a short one, and he is at the top.

No comments: