Apparently I “denigrate” Olympic athletes now

UPDATE: The USOC has updated their apology with one that should have been there in the first place. Read the top part. Thank you. I still stand by what I said, and I’m still not sure what I’m going to do about the situation, as I don’t know if this would have come about had you not had to deal with a HUGE Twitter storm of PR Nightmare. But, actions will speak louder than words. Know that every action y’all take now is being watched to see if this is sincere or not.

Yeah, so news to me yesterday, apparently my participation for the last two cycles of the Ravelympics (as well as being a captain of a team this year) is denigrating to the Olympic Athletes. Wait, I’ll give you a minute to pick your jaw up off the floor before I continue.

Hang on, wait, no, read this first, then come back: Article at Gawker

How did I do this?

By crocheting.

While watching the Olympics.

For the first time since I was a child (watching the Olympics, not crocheting).

Because apparently I’m so daft I would consider for a moment that making a sweater (Summer ’08 games) and a beaded mohair shawl (Winter ’10 games) is on par with athletes who train all their lives to compete in the Olympics (here’s a hint, I don’t).

Summer ’08 Ravelympics entry

Winter ’10 Ravelympics entry

Oh, and I also apparently assume that these gold medals (you know, bits on a screen) are the same thing and on the same level as the serious hardware our athletes strive to receive.

My “gold medal” for my sweater that denigrates athletes

My “gold medal” for my shawl that denigrates athletes

I know it’s different. I have the utmost respect and admiration for our Olympic athletes. But honestly? Prior to the Ravelympics I rarely watched the games. I didn’t make it a habit. But when I was starting my project at the start of Opening Ceremonies? My butt was in a chair with the ceremonies going on full blast. I was cheering my country’s team. I was tearing up during it. I found the opening (and closing) ceremonies beautiful and a testament to what the Olympic spirit is all about.

Whenever I was working on my project for the games, I would watch the Olympics. I was actually paying attention the last two games, more than I ever had before. Even when I finished my projects before the close, I still watched the closing ceremonies, too.

So, imagine my surprise when I saw the cease and desist letter from USOC. Now, let me clear up a few thoughts:

1. I understand trademark law. I get that you have to protect it in order to keep it. I’m not faulting you for the initial part of the cease and desist letter.

2. HOWEVER, I wasn’t aware that the word was trademarked by the US Olympic Committee. Pretty sure the Olympics are a worldwide event. Or are we the only ones who are so money hungry we trademark anything that stands still long enough to slap a TM on it?

3. Really? -lympics infringes upon the trademark? Well, that’s for people way above my pay grade to sort out, so I’ll leave that one alone.

4. It is the tone of the letter, the ugly and denigrating terms used in the letter, that has not only me, but everyone else up in arms.

There’s been a response, finally, from the USOC. “Apology” from USOC. It’s a half-arsed apology, one that I wouldn’t accept from the boy if he tried to give it to me after saying the same things the USOC’s law clerk (yes, clerk) said in that letter. So, no, I’m not accepting the apology from the USOC. And no, I’m sure as heck not going to be making anything to send to them.

I’m not sure yet what I’m going to do about Ravelympics this year. I was really looking forward to participating, to sharing the excitement of the Olympics with the boy, to showing him how to take on a challenge of something you’re not sure you can do and pushing to do it (what the Ravelympics and the Olympics are about…last I checked).

Now? Now I’m not so sure. How do I explain to him that the USOC puts money (and their sponsors) above average citizens (and their sponsors customers…lest we forget that)? I will gladly and always support our athletes. I will not, however, continue to support an entity that has apparently forgotten its entire purpose.

So while the USOC would like to say shame on me, I’m saying “Shame on you.”

Now excuse me while I go back to my knitting (yes, a post on that forthcoming, this one caught me by surprise).

Got Gauge?

Gauge swatch

So, if you follow me on Twitter, you knew this one was coming. I tweeted last weekend that a rant was coming on gauge after doing some pattern searching. Well, here it is. Buckle up folks, this one is for everyone.

Gauge. That word that many hate. And I don’t understand why.

Well, okay, there’s the issue with doing swatches. For some reason, a lot of people would rather poke their eyes out with a rusty crochet hook than take the time to do a swatch. Now, I’ll admit, I was one of these people, too, back in the beginning. Know what cured me of that? Spending hours working on a project that I hated, but was too invested in to stop or rip out. Oh, that’s right, it wasn’t a garment (I was smart enough to know I needed to do swatches for those). It was an afghan.

What would I have learned by doing a swatch?

  • That while the pattern called for an I hook, I was still too tight of a crocheter and what should have been a twin sized blanket was coming out as a lapghan.
  • Because I was a tight crocheter, this was not going to be a wonderfully drapy blanket. It instead was going to mimic wet cardboard.
  • The colorway I was using made the nifty stitch pattern just disappear
  • The stitch pattern was really hard on my hands and wrist.

Yes, all those things I could have learned by taking an hour to make a simple swatch. Now I swatch. Maybe not always, especially in cases where I’m making something for a second or third time in the same yarn. But even if I just spend a few minutes doodling with the yarn and hook to see if I like the way the stitch pattern is working with the yarn and hook, it helps.

But honestly, that’s not what I was going to rant about. No, my rant goes much further.

Patterns. Patterns should (nearly) always have gauge listed. Look, I get it, some things gauge just isn’t vital. But you know what, gauge isn’t for making something fit. It’s for making sure that if I use the hook you tell me to use and the yarn weight you tell me to use, I’m going to get a finished object the right size. How does that happen? By checking gauge.

It’s okay to put “Gauge not critical to this project”. I do it in some of my designs. But gauge is a jumping off point. What if you, dear designer, crochet tighter than I do? What if you crochet looser? What if I want to use a slightly different yarn? I have no way to replicate the finished size if I don’t know the number of stitches and rows you got in that magic four inch measurement.

It’s even okay for some patterns to say, “Rows 1-5 = 4″, gauge not critical”. At least then I’m not completing the whole thing before finding out if it’s going to be the right finished size.

I saw (and passed on) at least five patterns in the course of an hour on Ravelry because they had some variation of the following listed in the pattern description: “I didn’t check gauge or mark it down. It’s not necessary.” Considering the items I was looking at were fingerless gloves, slippers and hats, they were very much necessary.

Look, I understand that not everyone who posts a pattern on Ravelry is or desires to be a professional designer. I’m not here rallying for charts and standards and pretty formatting (that’s another discussion for another day). But, take five minutes, slap down a ruler and count your stitches. Give us something to work with.

My fear is that there are new baby crocheters who will gravitate toward free patterns while they learn their skill, and then give up because things don’t work out. Maybe they crochet tightly and the fingerless gloves that should fit everyone end up fitting baby dolls only. Maybe they’re still pretty loose and that hat will fit two heads. And maybe they give up and walk away. That makes me sad.

So please, take a few minutes if you’re writing a pattern and mark what your gauge is. And if it’s a project that will need to be blocked, let us know if that’s blocked or unblocked gauge. You have a better chance of people being successful with your designs.

And if you’re a crocheter, trust me, take the time to check gauge. You’ll be happier with your final product.

Join the revolution!

I am sharing the manifesto from our great leader of the Crochet Liberation Front. If you crochet and if you are on Ravelry and are not a member of the CLF, then get there and join. We have some wild ideas of how we’re going to change the world. It’s exciting times, it is.

Laurie has granted me permission to link to the post and I wanted to get it out there for more review!

See your value, see your worth! Demand your worth, demand your time and skill be respected, respect your fellows, purchase their work, offer to support their work. As long as we are scrambling for crumbs, we shall be the last served at a glorious banquet. It is time we sat firmly at the table, and enjoyed the whole 10 course meal.

How we can change the fiber arts world!

Swatching rant

Okay, this isn’t directed at any one person or event. It’s just been an overwhelming amount of posts I’ve seen on various boards, email lists, communities, etc. And it’s finally hit the breaking point on me. So, to keep from saying something stupid on those boards and getting myself likely kicked off, I’m just going to post a blog about it. :)

I used to fear the swatch. I saw it as a waste of time, a waste of yarn, and a PIA. Granted, at the time, I was making afghans and swatches really aren’t important, right? Wrong. But I’ll get to that in a minute. I learned the hard way when I made a hat that would fit a baby doll that swatching might maybe be important.

Lately (in the past year) I’ve been a strong proponent of a swatch. Not just for checking gauge, although that’s the most important point of it. Anytime anyone in our crochet group would ask, “Will this yarn work for this project?” the first word out of my mouth was “Swatch”.

Almost a month ago I took a wonderful class with Lily Chin. Now, I had read her take on swatching in her book. And I agreed with it and was starting to go by it. So in her class she gave all the reasons for swatching. And the main mantra was:

DO UNTO THE SWATCH WHAT YOU WILL DO UNTO THE FINAL ITEM

What does this mean? Let me post some of the questions (paraphrased) and show what swatching will do to answer the question.

1. I washed this item and it fell apart/colors ran/it felted/etc! What do I do?

Well, nothing now. Had you made a swatch (not just a 1×1, I’m talking a nice 6×6 swatch) and washed it how you planned on washing the item, then you’d know that you can’t wash it on regular speed in hot water and dry it in the dryer.

2. I have this yarn and want to use it for this project but it’s not the yarn called for. Will it work?

SWATCH it! That’s how you determine if going up 3 hook sizes will make a difference. Sure, you can hit gauge that way, but is it now so open in the stitch pattern that your sweater is nearly see-through? Or did you have to go down 3 hook sizes and now it’s like wearing cardboard? Does the stitch pattern even show up in that yarn? Is it something you’d want to wear? SWATCH!!!!!!!!!

3. Will this yarn soften after I make a garment I want to wear next to my skin?

Make a swatch, wash it if you can, and spend the day with it pinned inside your shirt. You’ll know really quick if you can stand it or not.

4. Will this synthetic yarn block if I make a lacy design in it?

Swatch it and see. Spend the 15 minutes making a mini version and find out that no, it won’t block than spend 30 hours and find that out.

5. Do you think this stitch pattern will work with this yarn?

Swatch it and see. Some stitch patterns are what Lily called “trophy wives”: pretty to look at but a b*tch to live with. :) Find out in a 6×6 swatch that you hate that stitch pattern than 2 weeks later and half way through the project.

6. Do these colors work / will they run / etc / etc?

Can you all answer this now? Swatch it, wash it, and see.

7. Will this afghan I’m making out of acrylic soften up?

Actually, yes. I’ve softened up acrylic by washing on GENTLE cycle in cold water with a smidge of detergent and a full load’s worth of softener. Also….you can steam block acrylic and it will totally change. Seriously, try it. Take the ickiest yarn you’ve got, make 2 swatches. Take one swatch and steam the daylights out of it under your iron (don’t touch the iron to it, just hover). You will be amazed. I was.

8. Do I have enough yarn to make this?

Swatch. Seriously. Do a swatch (you can pull it back out if you have to if you need the yarn) and measure it. Measure the area of the item you’re making (if its a garment, then measure each piece and figure the area and then add that up). Weigh your swatch. Now you have to do math. Let’s use an example to make this make sense. Your swatch is 1/10th the area of your final piece. Your swatch weighs 3g. You will need about 30g to make your final piece. Make sense? If not, well, I’m not sure how much I can help you. :) It’s math and I’m still struggling with it.

9. How much will this piece felt?

For the love of all that’s yarny, SWATCH it and see! If it’s something that requires a specific amount of felting, you better be doing swatches and felting them. This is also where you can see if different colors felt at different rates or if the colors run. Better here than later when it’s done.

10. If I use this hook and this yarn can I size this project up or down?

SWATCH it. Again, this is how you can tell if it’ll be too open or too tight, if it will even work, and how difficult it’s going to be.

Now, I’m just as swamped on things as the next crocheter. But, I’d rather spend 20 minutes making a swatch to find out that my idea won’t work than to spend 3 weeks or more on a project and have it come out like crap. So please, help yourself and do a swatch. You’ll be amazed at how many questions you can answer yourself without having to frustrate others. :)

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