Why Copying Sucks

There’s been a lot of talk about copying in the yarn world recently – although it’s a fairly constant conversation.

Ripping off someone else’s work is never clever. It seldom produces something better and that’s not surprising. If you lack the talent to produce original ideas then you’re likely to lack the skill to refine and improve ideas too.

Copying makes life poorer for everyone.

I’ve seen people I respect say that they won’t disclose what type of dye they use or where they source yarn from because of fear of being copied. It’s understandable, but I think you’d struggle to find anyone in this industry whose uniqueness comes from the type of dye they use.

The different colourways which have been produced for the #titsoutcollective highlight the differences that can occur when people start from the same place and with a similar (or indeed identical) colour palette. You can find the gallery here.

Refusing to talk about where your yarn comes from also seems sad.

If you get yarn custom spun (so you tell the mill what you want and they make a unique product for you) you’re looking at fairly large batches of yarn and a lot of money. What’s a lot of yarn to a dyer is a micro job to a mill, and that attracts a premium.

So if you know where we got our One Farm Yarn scoured, processed and spun – well that’s probably saved you half an hour on google to find that information. What it doesn’t give you is the relationship we’ve built with the mill over time and which allowed us to use their backing to get the scourer and carder to work on a job that’s well below the minimum they usually handle. It doesn’t give you access to the same fleece that we used. It doesn’t give you the money to pay for fleece, scouring, carding and spinning. It doesn’t give you the customer base who will buy the finished yarn or the community who will support you. I’m proud of the provenance of our yarns and part of that is the mills who spin for us. Both John Arbon and Laxtons are a key part of what we do, and without them we’d struggle maintain our focus on yarns that are grown, processed and spun in the UK. I’m proud to talk about where our yarns come from – and if that’s the only thing that’s holding someone back from copying us I’ll be amazed.

Buying British isn’t something that everyone cares about – but most yarn lovers I know want to know where their yarn came from. It matters. If dyers are too worried about being copied to talk about that then that takes away an important source of information.

Not everyone wants to have yarns custom spun. Not ever dyer has a big enough business to support that level of investment, nor the space to store the many boxes when they arrive back from the mill. Many of our yarns are standard lines for the mills we use – and that makes my life much simpler. I don’t need to plan months ahead to allow for a job being processed and spun. I can buy online and my yarn will be with me tomorrow. If someone needed to wait until I told them where we bought our yarns so they could copy us then it’s not that information that’s holding them back. It’s a lack of drive and determination and ability to find stuff out.

One of the things I love about being part of a creative community is that there’s a willingness to share knowledge. There’s usually someone who has worked out the thing you can’t get your head round, and being able to tap into that breadth and depth of knowledge is something I treasure. So when copycats make people think twice about sharing information that’s a loss. When people abuse that trust by taking someone’s work and claiming it as their own that’s despicable.

So here’s to originality. To taking an idea, playing with it, developing it, finding out how to do something different with it and turning it into something awesome.



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2 Responses to Why Copying Sucks

  1. Lynn Welborn says:

    Dear Knitting Goddess,

    I live in the US. I remember the first UK yarn I purchased in 2015. It was so different in every way than the yarn that arrives tomorrow. It changed my entire view of yarn to this day.

    At one point, I could talk sheep with the best of them. In fact I still don’t understand folks who don’t have the same depth of knowledge that I’ve acquired.

    I feel like I’m personal friends with Sue Blacker, Clara Parkes, the woman at The Border Mill Farm, Victoria at Eden Cottage, the Rosy Green Team and a whole host of other smaller Purveyors. For a while, I had to have *the* yarn from EYF. I can plow through a LYS in minutes looking for these jewels. But if not, see ya, bye.

    I went through an Iceland phase which still amazes me because it seems like forever since my State gets cold enough in the winter to warrant Icelandic yarn.

    In 2016 MadelineTosh offered one-offs from baby US farms they would happen upon. Turns out, we used to pick blueberries in the summer near there when the children were little. Special. 😍😍

    Thank you for allowing me to smile and to recognize the joy I find in the actual fiber.


    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Elena Costella says:

    I spent thirty years as a knitting editor. I was privileged to work with many highly regarded designers and all the major spinners. We all talked very freely about our projects and ideas. When I became freelance, I found I was naive beyond belief and had a plethora of hangers on who were using my knowledge to further their own ventures into knitting and designing.

    Now, I don’t discuss anything with anyone I don’t know. I’ve had so many ideas and thoughts used by others, i just find it easier to say nothing.

    Sourcing yarn is not difficult and as you say, it’s the rapport you develop with the supplier that is most important.

    Also, sourcing dyes is just a Google search away. It’s not the dyes, we all have our favourites, it’s how they are used. However, there are elements that I use that are not meant for dying, and I wouldn’t divulge these. That’s like having a secret ingredient in the recipe!

    I’m now organising a Scottish Wool Festival (EWEfest) and it’s my contacts gathered over many years who are supporting me fantastically well. However, one of the major spinners told me he had been inundated with calls when I released the information that they would be supporting me. One of them was someone who used to work for me!

    Copying will never go away. You are right in saying it’s only done by those who do not have the ability to produce their own designs therefore, do not have the knowledge to improve on what they are trying to achieve. Ultimately, it will just be a watered down version of the original.

    I raise a glass to originality as well.

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