Today we sweep the deep dust off our blog stage (hey, we've been busy!) to introduce a wonderful new feature, which we call the Alsobot. 'Alsobot' is our shorthand for "People Who Bought This, Also Bought That". This feature is at the bottom of most detail pages-- just scroll down and you'll see it. Click here for an example.
At more than 12,250 patterns for sale, we have an enviable but increasingly huge design database. Recently we did a search for DK weight cardigans and there were more than 1000 of them. This is great if you're a fanatic with lots of browsing time-- we are legion-- but not everyone wants to plow through hundreds of possibilities all the time. Besides our Control Panel, on which you can enter your search criteria, how else to make new paths of discovery through all our valuable listings?
Enter Special Guest (coder) Star Greg. We explained that we needed a real program that would suggest new designs to customers based on actual purchasing history, free of any kind of bias or editorial interference. He swung into action, Minister of Technology Phil made sure it worked with our existing code, and now we have our shiny new bespoke Alsobot.
Alsobot information is updated weekly. This means (and this is very important!) that the newest patterns posted will have the fewest suggestions, because they won't have had time to accumulate much buying data.
When you find a pattern with no Alsobot suggestions, that could mean that a) it's really fresh and no one's had time to buy it yet, and/or have the Alsobot record its sales; b) that it has certainly sold, but only on its own (i.e., people sought it out and bought it by itself); or c) it just really needs more love. Some puppies don't make it out of the pound right away, no matter how adorable.
The Alsobot suggestions are ranked in terms of popularity. The first suggested pattern on the left side of the page will be the one most commonly bought together with the main one you're looking at; the second-from-left the next most commonly bought, and so on.
We think the Alsobot is a tremendous new way to explore our catalogue, and that it's major fun finding out what your fellow customers think, too. So have fun with it, and by all means leave your comments below!
Patternfish is against the American Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), and supports the blackout enacted by some sites today to protest them. We ourselves are not joining the blackout because we do not imagine that each one of our almost 400 publishers would happily forgo the revenue loss associated with such an act, and we cannot act without everyone's unanimous consent. Nevertheless, we are against these acts. This article does an excellent job of explaining why: http://c4sif.org/2011/12/great-overview-of-the-problems-with-sopa-by-cory-doctorow/
It may seem odd that we-- a site devoted to intellectual property rights, and a fairly simple one at that-- should be against something intended (at least nominally) to protect them. But careful reading of these acts reveals a far-too-broad distribution of immense powers which would brutally damage the Internet we know and love, and hobble or eliminate a lot of sites everyone knows and loves.
We are based in Toronto, Canada. We admire the United States and most particularly the principles on which it was founded. It ill befits such a great country to enact laws more suited to totalitarian dictatorships than its own fine traditions of freedom, diversity, and tolerance.
Very early this morning Gayle sent out the following message:
We are delighted to announce that our members have selected “Elizabeth”, designed by Cecily Glowik MacDonald for Classic Elite Yarns, as Patternfish’s 10,000th published design.
Honourable mentions are awarded to Jackie Erickson-Schweitzer for “Dragonfly Dreams”, Karen Noe for “Caroline”, Angela Juergens for “Magic Lace Cardigan”, Veronik Avery for “Blue Moon” and Joji Locatelli for “Girly”.
Many thanks to all participants, both designers and voters. It’s been fun!
It has indeed. But it was also surprising on a number of levels. First, out of our tens of thousands of members, under 2000 actually voted. We found this touching and tender-hearted, meaning (perhaps) that many of our members didn't want to select one favorite out of the many worthy. Second, the lovely Elizabeth won with 19% of the vote. The results were extremely close, and all contestants should feel proud-- everyone was honoured.
Most of all, us.
Thank you all again.
One of our wonderful hat designers, Carolyn Doe, submitted a design to our 10,000th pattern contest. It's a brilliant hat-- it landed (very honourably) up in our runners-up category.
Of course people noticed it and bought it in quantity, and then pointed out a problem or two with the instructions. Doe was horrified, but is not able to fix the problem right away, because, as she explains in an email:
"I'm at the South Pole, Antarctica (in case there was any confusion as to where the South Pole is-- Ed.) working, didn't bring my hard drive that has it on it, and so will rework it as soon as I can... within 2 days." She is reknitting the hat and rewriting the instructions from the ground up. At the South Pole.
She adds, "I cook in the kitchen. So I'm warm and near the food." This should comfort the tender-hearted.
At her request we have disabled the hat pattern, and will re-enable it when she has replaced the PDF. She could have decided to continue selling the flawed version, but elected not to until she could fix it. So we suggest having a look at the design of hers that started her Patternfish career, and then clicking on "show me more from this publisher".
Knitters! Designers! Love.
I took Anna Zilboorg's "Free Sole Socks (Cuff Down)" this afternoon, and it was a very relaxed and happy experience. After knitting down to where the heel would start, essentially you split the instep and sole into two pieces. You knit the instep (or sole) first, work the heel, then join the sole (or instep) to it as you go. This technique allows you to make the sole plain and replaceable while you may embellish the instep to your taste. While you are doing this the sock looks rather like the open mouth of (say) an Irish setter. My result was serviceable if not beautiful. At the very least I understand what the intention is, and have what engineers call 'proof of concept', and can do it again at will.
I'd only seen Anna once before, at a Stitches in the late nineties or early 00's, when she autographed Knitting for Anarchists for me. I don't know if this is still the case, but at the time she was an Anglican solitary (what used to be called a hermit) living in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Perhaps as a result of this, she has a singular self-possession, confidence, and a lovely sense of humour. Also perhaps as a result of this, it did not occur to me to ask who might play her in the movie. If I see her again this weekend I will ask. She may not be able to answer-- who knows?
I also may have helped my next-door neighbour with a lifelong inability to start Kitchener stitch, but that remains to be seen. I was a total idiot at it for 15 years until I figured out a way to remember, and now I could probably graft soggy cigarette butts together behind by back.
Then there was the Opening Gala thing, which turned out to be a seated wine-and-cheese celebration for those of the (by one estimate) 1,860 students who decided to attend. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (the Yarn Harlot) and Tina Newton (Blue Moon Fiber Arts) spoke about how the first Sock Summit had been arranged and turned out, and the differences between it and this one. It was hugely funny and moving, but that's Stephanie and Tina. By the end they were both (Stephanie certainly) in tears.
As everyone was settling for the Opening Gala, I was struck. EVERYONE had something to knit, of course. I had dashed back to the hotel to deal with emails and calls home posting patterns and then, class over, had dashed back out again with no knitting. Sitting in this monstrous hall full of purring knitters actually knitting, I felt like Jack the Ripper in Whoville. Nothing to knit. No project in action. Completely out of place. Then suddenly it dawned on me that I did have a wound skein of Shelridge Farms Soft Touch Ultra Fingering, and a long circular needle, and that was better. I waved the yarn about when required. That was close.
Tomorrow, Knitted Tessellations with THE Franklin Habit, whom I have never met.
Met the ebullient Kate Atherley in the check-in line for the Portland OR flight to Sock Summit yesterday and we talked most of the way onto the plane (getting through customs took an hour-- you clear US customs in Toronto before departure). When quizzed, Kate allowed as how Carey Mulligan might play her in the movie-- this is hugely appropriate. She's got a book coming out later this year and we'll keep you posted; it should be wonderfully timely and incredibly useful.
I'm staying right downtown, across the Willamette River and about 1.5 miles from the Oregon Convention Centre where SS 2011 is being held. This turns out to be an inspiring idea if you can manage it. Portland is an exceptional city in many ways, and one of them is to have their tram transit in the downtown core (plus the Convention Centre!) is within a free zone of travel: just hop on and hop off wherever and whenever you like, at your convenience: no tickets, no money, no worries. So if you don't want to hang around the Convention Centre area all the time-- though there's lots of cool places there, too-- you can also live in the city.
And downtown Portland is a marvel. I'm from Toronto. Skyscrapers, crowds, subways, the works. Portland has no skyscrapers as such, but many intriguing buildings 100+ years old, with marvellous cornices and windows and idiosyncrasies.
I'd packed yarn with which to do class homework, and was very much looking forward to cruising the SS marketplace. But the marketplace does not actually open until just before my first class lets out. What to do? Yarn brought from home didn't seem quite the thing after all, somehow. Off I sped to a store suggested by the terrifically discerning JC Briar as close to my location. There it was, three or four blocks away, Knit Purl. Wow. Everything the choicest of its kind. Bruised the credit card a little. Friendly staff, incredible selection, mostly arranged by weight. And they wound as many skeins as I wanted.
Dashed off to register at SS, discovered the tram incredibly easy to use, and bumped into the seriously wonderful SS staffer Rachel H., who was a great student of mine in a finishing class at Romni Wools long ages ago. We caught up on children and jobs. Brunette Rachel suggests Reese Witherspoon ("with dyed hair!") to play her in the film; her colleague Natalie Selles suggests Kate Winslet for herself.
Eventually lunch seemed like a good idea, so after homeworking back in the hotel room, I wended my way back towards Knit Purl because there'd been some fascinating street food booths on the way there. Landed up at the Savor Soup House. After getting excellent advice from the met-on-the-spot, delightful Jaala Spiro of KnitCircus and her mom, Susan, opted for the Susan-recommended grilled (local delicacy) Tillamook cheddar cheese with dijon mustard and tomatoes on a ciabatta, together with their Susan-is-delirious-about-this blueberry basil lemonade. I added a cup of their sweet pea soup with mint and croutons. "I'm so sorry, the mustard is finished," lamented Savor server #1, while lauding the sweet pea/mint soup as her own favorite of the day. "Would you allow me to substitute a little truffle oil?" Hilarity ensued for blocks around. Of course. (But apparently some people really don't like the idea.) I took it back to the hotel. They had thrown in some extra, fresh delicious rye bread and real creamery butter. It was all fantastic, truly, and just a bit over $8. Plus Savor server #2 told riveting stories about how she likes to put sweet tea and vodka in her boot flask when she goes to rodeos: "Boot vodka." This just doesn't happen back home.
Having finished homework for the first class (in Koigu) and feeling very holy, again set out to explore and landed up at Powell's City of Books, once more recommended by JC Briar, and self-proclaimed biggest bookstore in the world. There's a self-proclaimed World's Biggest Bookstore in Toronto, too. And the folks at Powell's allow as how they might have more books in Toronto and more floor space-- BUT! "They're largely a clearinghouse for publishers," say the Powell's people. And having been there often, I can say there's some truth to that-- it is part of a chain, where Powell's is independent. And Powell's does new and used books, which is extraordinary, so you get the best of the Hay-on-Wye experience and new things, too. So Powell's probably has the most variety. Which is really what you want if you like books. And there's a map to their bookstore. And a whole section for steampunk. Advantage: Powell's. I bought a mug, too.
After buying more than I should have at Powell's, I decided a restorative beverage and light dinner was in order, so popped off to a brasserie where they had many different kinds of frites: fried in duck fat with rosemary; with pork belly & tarragon; foie gras & Szechuan pepper; truffle & black truffle, etc. The server said that either the rosemary & duck fat or truffle kinds were the most popular. Which permitted me to reply: "Rosemary and duck fat, please-- I'm all truffled out today."
Tomorrow afternoon: Anna Zilboorg's Free Sole Socks (cuff down). Anna gets my vote for one of the best book titles ever: Knitting for Anarchists. And her epigraph for Magnificent Mittens is the only quotation I read at my mom's memorial. Respect? So much.
If Cat Bordhi asks you very kindly if you'll appear for a weekend at her annual Visionary Retreat, then it's a moral imperative to go. So it is that I find myself at Seattle's Boeing Field airport waiting for a island-hopping planelet to take me to San Juan Island for a couple of days, where her Retreat is taking place.
I have no idea what to expect or what will happen, but will report back as much as I can. I'm a little nervous (OK, a lot nervous) since Cat said I wouldn't have to bring a PowerPoint presentation or anything (after I confessed I didn't know how to make one); instead, she seems to think that it's enough that I can "think on my feet". Fingers crossed.
Tomorrow morning I'll be leaving Toronto and flying to LA (via Dallas/Fort Worth). From LA, it's about 45 minutes by car or van or taxi to Long Beach. In Long Beach, I'll attend TNNA-- The National Needle Arts Association trade show, where distributors (like Classic Elite Yarns, Trendsetter Yarns, Bryson Distributing, and hundreds of others) will exhibit their Spring 2011 offerings to an avid retailer audience.
I have the honour, too, of appearing as part of a panel discussion on Knitwear Design and the Digital Medium, given by the AKD (Association of Knitwear Designers) from 5:15 to 6:45 p.m. on Friday afternoon (7 January). My colleagues on the panel include Karin Skacel of Skacel Distributing; Patternfish publisher, celebrated designer, and new author Kim Dolce of Dolce Handknits; Kara Gott Warner, Executive Editor of Creative Knitting; and Hal Ozbelli of Universal Yarns. Our friendly skirmishes will be moderated by the very calm and capable Jill Wolcott of Y2Knit and the AKD. If you're there, come by and join the discussion!
As always, I'll hope to reinforce old friendships and begin new ones, and entice as many fine publishers as may be (reading too much Jane Austen lately) into offering their work through us. In the meantime, if there's anyone whose work you'd like to see on Patternfish, find out their email address, send a message, and tell them so.
In which we would like to remind all our good readers that on Monday, December 27th at 10:00 a.m. EST, Romni Wools in Toronto (658 Queen Street West, ph 416-703-0202) will be having its one-day-only Boxing Day Sale. At which Julia begged to serve before owner Marilyn Leonard kindly invited her to staff the library; a matter of record. Come down from 10:00 to 6:00 and say hi and score some deals!
We also hope that our good readers, customers, and publishers have had a marvellous holiday season so far, and that it continues to grow in fulfillment and enjoyment through the New Year.
In the last few weeks we have been swamped with fabulous new publishers and new customers-- all most welcome (and we'll elaborate on some of these things later). But in the meantime we are happy to share with you our 7000th pattern, this rare beautiful lace vest from Classic Elite Yarns, still our best-represented publisher at 485 (!) patterns and counting.
We are making an advance New Year's resolution to blog more often, because there's good news galore. November 2010 was far and away our best month ever for revenue and patterns sold; we've recently introduced the iPhone downloads, spearheaded and led (as you'd expect) by trailblazer Lucy Neatby; and more cool features are in the works. Thanks, as always, to our publishers and customers for their ongoing support and enthusiasm.
There's obviously a lot to cover-- among many other things, we were at the first ever KnitTrade exhibit a few days ago and it was smashing (reserve Sunday, September 18, 2011 next year for it). But for now, we're celebrating our annual co-sponsorship of Knitty.com's Fall issue (this year, Deep Fall).
If you go to our home page (click on it above), you'll see a link to all the ads we've prepared for our publishers so far-- scores of them. But because Knitty went live a few days before we expected it to, we're not done yet! If you're a publisher and have more than 5 designs with us, and have published new work within the last year, you should have one. If you don't see your ad in the list, don't panic-- we're adding more every day and should be done by Sunday, 3 October, at the outside. If you don't see yours by then, let us know. They appear on a random basis, so if you just refresh any Knitty screen constantly, eventually you'll see all of them-- though it may take hours (of pleasure, we're sure)!
We have hundreds of new patterns to post-- the recent new material delay (3 days!) is for many reasons (Patternfish staff vacations or sick leave, for example-- Chancellor Shannon has suffered through oral bone graft surgery), but on the 12th I'm off to gather a new flock of Naturally designs from The Old Mill Knitting Company, and then there's lots of good things awaiting approval from principals. The usual uploading rate should resume by the afternoon of the 12th and carry on from there. Thanks for your patience. More info/blogs/patterns very soon.
We are very proud to announce the arrival of Lucy Neatby's Baby Venus, our 6,000th published pattern. Just click on the Shop page, and there it is, top left, last one uploaded. (Obviously this ceased to be true a while ago, but now you have the direct link-- Ed., 8/9/10.)
Lucy (we're friendly, so I'm using her first name for once!) kindly arranged to send it over a few days ago, and if ever a pattern deserved celebrating, this is it. 17 pages of involving and amusing and instructive detail. If you've never knitted from a Neatby before, it's a great place to start. In the main there are a lot of comparisons to be made between money spent on patterns and money spent in restaurants. She is a gourmet designer, just as there are true master chefs. If you're of an inquiring, intelligent mind and wouldn't dream of spending more than $5 for a pattern, try it just this once and see what the extra spending does for you. You won't regret it. In fact, it will be a revelation.
Anyway, we're excited and relieved and happy, and want to thank everybody who's ever helped us (or thought of doing so) to get to this point.
We are thrilled to announce that Pattern 6,000* will be Lucy Neatby's Baby Venus design-- a wee version of her very popular Venus Rising cardi for adults. We're at 5963 now, so we should be there by or around Monday 2 August (a holiday here in Ontario, Canada) if not before. Watch this space! We're very excited and honoured.
*Of course, assigning a number is arbitrary; patterns get activated and deactivated and reactivated regularly, and a firm actual number is hard to establish. But if you don't celebrate an imperfect number, then you never celebrate. And that would be intolerable.
Effective 1 August 2010, all Prism leaflets (not booklets) currently priced at $5 each will increase to $6. Fair warning! Get in there and buy what you need before the price goes up!
Robin Melanson and I went to Stitch and Pitch tonight: Baltimore Orioles vs. the Toronto Blue Jays. Blue Jays won resoundingly (8 - 2, I think). It was a great game for all the good baseball reasons (Jeff proposed to Kim on the Jumbotron and she accepted-- congratulations, you two!-- and there were a couple of great Toronto dingers and some great plays-- and Rachel H was on the Jumbotron too-- and it was a lovely, clear, breezy, summer night-- and did I mention that we won?).
But mostly it was just nice to be out, to chat with local knitting friends whom I hardly ever get to see because I'm in front of a computer all the time. What a great city Toronto is, and how beautiful to walk around in downtown late at night. Took the subway there and back; easy and clean and safe. No G20 strife, no outrageous humidity, no miscreants. Just us millions of people on our own turf, out of an evening and civil and enjoying ourselves.
Oh, and for the record: Robin was working on a cool new hat out of Veronik Avery's Boreale, and I started some fingerless mitts (my own mindless ribby all-purpose pattern) out of an Aran-weight alpaca/silk blend from Lindenhof Wool Mill-- alas, no longer around. If current knitting time trends hold, they should be finished next year sometime.
Q: What happened to blogging?
A: Thought I could manage kids getting out of school late June, having them home for weeks, and going to cottage with family and guests, all the while maintaining a seamless Patternfish experience for our treasured members. This was foolhardy. Next week kids are in camp for quite a while and we should be able to get a lot of various things done.
Q: You're posting a lot of Chris Bylsma, Louet, Prism, Heritage Fiber Publications, Diamond Yarn... what's going on with these guys?
A: All of those excellent publishers and more want us to have their entire PDF catalogue on an exclusive basis. ([Sob] We'd like to thank the Academy... ) So we're trying to get each of them entirely posted and available as fast as possible, while still introducing other new publishers and carrying on with other existing freelancers and companies, too. We have to say, though, that when someone trusts you to take over an entire part of their business, you want to do it right, and quickly.
These companies and other like-minded ones in process do not want to be in the business of managing PDF sales, doing tech support, introducing new site abilities, and so on. They want to sell yarn and/or design patterns with their time, and maybe have a life outside of business hours. We essentially function as their sales arm and provide them with up-to-the-minute data about this aspect of their business. Since this is exactly what our business goals were in the beginning, this makes us very happy. And it means even more that some of them had tried it on their own and seem much happier with us!
One future side effect of this is that if someone's PDF is not exclusive to us, we're going to have to ask them to upload their own and do their own descriptions. Since this is already the case with every other PDF-selling website we know of, it shouldn't make much difference to the publisher. But insofar as it represents a departure from our full-service-for-everyone approach, we feel sad about it. We will advise as to timing.
Q: What's coming up next in terms of features?
A: Phil has promised something to a specific publisher that's really cool and should be available by early August, and there are other neat things in the pipe for everybody.
Have attempted a kind of family vacation at the cottage over the last few days. The astute among you will remember that the internet used to be delivered here twice daily by goat. Said goat broke all its legs earlier this week, and has just been replaced moments ago by a much less expensive and very cool thing called a Bell Turbo Stick, which actually appears to work. Will post and blog more in a day or two when other obligations recede.
Good to see that Kismet operates all over the internet. Another site that sells patterns announced a sale recently, and the site promptly went down for a while. Maybe it's one of the Unwritten Laws.
TNNA (www.tnna.org) is coming this weekend, and on Thursday Robin Melanson and Veronik Avery and I are driving from Toronto, Ontario to Columbus, Ohio for it. It'll take about eight hours, and since road trips with dear friends are one of my favorite things, the trip itself should be a joy, not just the show. We're hoping to meet a whole bunch of people for the first time-- like the wise and informed Therese Shere of Knitfinder, and the madly talented Janet Szabo of Big Sky Knitting Designs, to name just two-- and re-meet other old pals.
Since we have yet to figure out how to upload patterns reliably while hurtling along the Interstate, there may be a couple of sparse pattern-posting days. But have you noticed that after TNNA's, we tend to get some lovely new publishers? Fingers crossed.
Today is Patternfish's 2nd birthday.
We share it with Tony Curtis, Paulette Goddard, John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin bassist), Suzi Quatro, and our faves Josephine Baker and Anderson Cooper (if they had had children, they probably would have been the most beautiful kids in the world).
We have 231 publishers as I write. We have many many thousands of customers. We have sold tens of thousands of patterns. We have made splendid new friends and gotten reaquainted with wonderful old ones. We have encountered goodwill and kindness and support at just about every turn, which has enriched our work and private lives.
We have grown, and continue to grow, fast. We've been told over and over from many different sources that our timing was perfect-- that print distribution is giving way somewhat to PDF delivery, that we are the best at it, and that we make pattern shopping superlatively pleasurable. We are too immodest not to repeat this. We're also grateful for luck and timing. And for having had motive, means, and opportunity to bring about the opposite (we hope) of a crime.
Patternfish is Julia Grunau full-time, with masterful part-time assistance from Phil Lysons (Minister of Technology), Shannon Shields (Chancellor), Special Guest Star Greg Smith, and newest Patternfisher Gayle Clow (Ambassador, the moderator of our Ravelry group, and our overall internet monitor). I think it's safe to say that we all really like our jobs at almost every moment. We got together for a happy birthday lunch yesterday to celebrate.
Thanks to every publisher, especially the original ones who went live with us two years ago. Thanks to all our customers, past and future. And to everyone else in the industry and out who has smoothed our paths, encouraged us, and done us huge favour after huge favour-- muchas smooches.
There's something about major media types signing up as members that makes our 3rd-party PDF delivery service go crackerdog. It was down for a little while today for only the second time in two whole years. The first time it went down (about four months after we went live) a Major Media Type had just signed up and ordered four patterns. Today, another Major Media type signed up and it cacked again.
Not only that, but the first copies of Vogue Knitting's Early Fall 2010 issue are reaching subscribers, and we are thrilled to be listed in Classic Elite's back cover ad (they say Cover Four in the industry) as the source for the gorgeous Princess Mitts and Princess Muff pictured there. They had let us know months ago that the ad was booked, but they wouldn't have had time to photograph and print and distribute hard copies to all the LYS's for the official magazine launch of 8 June-- would we mind if they used us to deliver the patterns? Mind? It took some arm-wrestling, but they talked us into it eventually. In fact we were gibbering with excitement.
All is now resolved and back to normal, but the timing! The circumstances around getting what you wish for can occasionally be prickly.
We will write a big long post on Thursday, 3 June, for reasons which will become happily apparent very soon.
We never felt we had any particular good editorial judgment, which is one of the reasons Patternfish is set up the way it is. The idea of picking only certain designs and presenting them to an audience is too scary for us. What do we know? You folks should do the picking for yourselves, right? Who says we know everything?
Now we find ourselves in a situation where we actively need help.
We're looking for new places to advertise (primarily online) and want suggestions from customers and publishers on where to do it. There are so many possible places-- hundreds of knitting/crocheting user groups on Yahoo alone, some of which apparently take advertising, and some not; online venues of all kinds. More Google ads? Where do people go again and again? Where should we spend our money? And what kind of ads do you like to see? Informative? Pretty? Mood-creating? To the point? Little suggestions? Big commands? A few venues in depth, or many covered more lightly?
Some things we've always done and will continue to do (co-sponsoring Knitty's fall issue, various flavours of ads in Ravelry), but we want to branch out more.
Big thanks to J.C. Briar, who after patiently answering loads of our ad-related questions, suggested that we ask the only people who count. You. This was her idea, and we think it's an excellent one.
Today we were endowed with four new Lucy Neatby patterns appearing in PDF format for the first time, all vintage pieces: the Camelot Socks, the Zig Zag Socks, the Ophelia sweater, and the Carnival Cap. We're awfully excited, and while we usually try to space things out a bit, we'll be trying to get these up faster than usual. Any suggestions on how to prioritize them? And for those who like stats, Lucy's Sea Lettuce Scarf is her all-time best-seller with us, and her Paradoxical Mittens is our best-selling pattern in very knowledgeable Norway.
We've been trying to catch up with the slew of independents who bless us with their work. If you still haven't heard back after submitting something, by all means email us at infoATpatternfishDOTcom and remind us of our commitments (sometimes emails get lost).
Also, we're holding our breaths for a couple of lovely new bigger publishers about whom, naturally, we can't say much yet. Except that they have both sworn to list with us, are new to PDF downloads, and are very different stylistically-- but each is very accomplished and beautiful in designs and approach. A few days to a couple of weeks, we think. You'll be happy.
Many years ago, non-knitter Chancellor Shannon was making a trip to the Canadian Maritimes (which includes Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland/Labrador, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia). She asked what I would want brought back as a present. I said I had no clue, please don't bother thinking about me while on your trip, and to wing it.
On Shannon's return, to quote Lucy Maud Montgomery (author of Anne of Green Gables, among many other Canadian treasures), she hit the middle wicket with her first ball. She had visited the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and came back with six artisanal buttons.
Buttons are a perfect present for a knitter or crocheter. They're typically very small, don't usually cost a vast deal,weigh almost nothing, and pack almost invisibly. And if you get them from a local artist, you're supporting them and providing the knitter/crocheter with something utterly exotic, unique, and useful.
I have bought at least three lots of yarn to match Shannon's buttons. I have a tremendous time planning projects around them. As we enter the vacation season, I just wanted to remind everyone that locally-produced buttons are a terrific souvenir.
Overcast Cologne was terrific, and the trip back happily uneventful. It was hard explaining to kids why I had to get up at 11:45 p.m. Toronto time to get return home at 6:00 p.m. the next day, but their imaginations are stretchy, so I think they got it. Feeling guilty about not posting nearly enough patterns while away (2 over 4 days hardly creates excitement), so really concentrating on that over the next while.
The Handarbeit & Hobby show is the equivalent of North America's TNNA. European distributors exhibit to European retailers, and it only happens once a year to TNNA's twice. Yes, this means we got a heads-up on new designs for fall 2010 from lots of great companies-- don't hate us attendees! Cologne seems reasonably central for Europe (some British exhibitors drive there) and has a terrific convention complex. I'm reluctant, as always, to talk about specific new contacts that might result in new publishers. Let's just say I'm very pleased and pumped, and you should see some results of this trip over the next couple of weeks, which is actually not a big lag at all.
A huge heartfelt apology is due to many independents who have submitted work in the last few weeks which has not yet been put up. It's entirely my fault, a time management problem, and in no way a reflection of the quality of the work. Rest assured that everyone should be represented in the next ten days. If you're not seeing yourself by then, by all means email and ask why.
Oh, and a cultural tip. Apparently all over Germany if you are travelling in a taxi by yourself, the done thing is to sit beside the driver in the passenger seat. This is not the case in Canada, and I was very politely but firmly corrected by a cab driver at the beginning of the trip. Just so you know if you ever go there.
No upgrades at all, after all. Must contact Air Canada and see how they want to handle this.
People have been so kind, but no need to worry! Got here safe and am off to the show in a few minutes. No upgrades so far but remain hopeful for Monday's return.
Air Canada flight 848 took off from Toronto as usual last night at 9:15 for London, England; I was to change planes there this morning for Cologne, Germany, to go to the Handarbeit show. About half an hour into the flight there was a fuse problem which resulted in some electrical irregularities, as well as a faint odd smell, and eventually all available AC serving staff were summoned to the aft galley. At least one fire extinguisher was involved. We turned round smartly and landed back in Toronto, where we were immediately surrounded by emergency vehicles and escorted back to a gate. Every moment, the crew and passengers were calm and quiet and professional. I was proud of my country, its citizens, and its airline.
So we landed back home about 10:15 p.m. and disembarked after not too long a wait. For the next few hours the ground personnel tried to fix and test various problems-- the original fuse, a subsequent relay. Apparently another plane was being readied so that we could change to it, but then I heard a rumour saying that they couldn't get the original plane's cargo doors open to get the luggage out. During almost all of this time, the passengers were good-humoured and patient (if hungry, tired, and ill-informed).
Long story short: at about 2:30 a.m. Air Canada made some soft drinks and bar snacks available to the passengers from two galley trolleys. At about 3:40 a.m. they announced that the flight was cancelled, rescheduled for 22.75 hours after the original departure time, and they were handing out taxi vouchers and volunteering hotel room arrangements. The passengers had become audibly unhappy over the last hour before this announcement.
I got my taxi chits and reclaimed my luggage and phoned Air Canada Reservations while still at the airport (there was a hefty wait to talk to a human), explaining that I didn't give a darn how I got to Cologne, that London needn't figure into it at all, and what could we do? The best they could do was to put me in Cologne via Munich at 12:30 p.m. on Friday (missing more than half a Handarbeit show day). I suggested that an upgrade to business class for the Munich flight might be an appropriate 'sorry' gesture on their part. "Never gonna happen," said the Reservations person crustily at 4:25 a.m. or so. "We save those seats for paying customers."
Got home at 5:00 and slept until 10:00, when I had to explain unexpected return to incredulous children, who immediately demanded celebratory Mom-made pancakes as a kind of offering to the Mom-Is-Invulnerable gods, I guess.
The purpose of this post is not to chastise Air Canada (stuff happens when you travel, though I still believe an upgrade would be fair), but to let you know that new pattern posting will be somewhat limited for a bit, since if all goes as planned I should be in Cologne for most of the rest of this weekend. After which I should have much more interesting things to write about.
It's a cloudless and unseasonably warm bright Saturday, and we just posted our 5,000th pattern-- a stunner courtesy of Classic Elite Yarns.
We are still reeling from all this. 5,000? Doesn't that make us just about the largest all-access, pay-only knitting/crochet pattern store on the entire Internet? What happened?
Thanks, everybody. Thanks to all our publishers (207 as I write this); all our customers; all our friends and well-wishers, and in fact all knitters and crocheters in general, everywhere. And thanks to Minister of Technology Phil, and Chancellor Shannon, and Special Guest Star Greg, for all their unsung (and hey, some sung too) contributions. And we're looking forward to publishing many, many more of the best knitting patterns you can buy online.
1. A major yarn company recently instituted a program whereby fledgling designers gain practice, recognition, and some compensation whenever their patterns (always in the corporate yarn, natch) are sold by this company. When the metaphorical Young and Ambitious in our fields are encouraged, we're all for it.
But we have recently been deluged by so many designers sending patterns our way in this company's yarn, and at such a low price point, that we're concerned about being perceived as a house organ for this company. Someone once exclaimed of us: "You're like Switzerland!" in terms of not favouring one yarn's or designer's or publisher's cause over another. (Not taking advertising helps, too.)
So, here's our thinking: since this company makes it possible for designers to earn a couple of bucks or something from every pattern they sell, then the introductory market levels are getting covered. Meanwhile, there are other market segments needing reinforcement, and we'd like to continue to do that.
THEREFORE be it known to all (wo)men, that effective midnight UTC (the old Greenwich Mean Time) at the beginning of 1 February, 2010, our minimum pattern price will go to $3.00 US from $2.00. Those publisher/designers who wish to increase their prices are welcome to do so (across the board, please, not just with us). We hope this doesn't cause any undue inconvenience. This will be the last minimum increase for a while, but almost certainly not the last one forever. Be prepared.
2. We are extremely pleased and proud to release the Haiti-benefiting Sprout Center Detail Tank pattern from Classic Elite Yarns, which greeted most of us first thing this Tuesday morning through CEY's weekly Web Letter.
Classic Elite Yarns is giving 100% of their revenues from this pattern in this medium to Haiti charities. We wanted to make a similar contribution. But we can't donate 100% of our portion, because we always pay the initial PayPal transaction costs for every sale: so the more and better the pattern sold, the quicker we would have gone into a deathly financial spiral, losing more and more money at a faster and faster clip. So we simply bumped the commission rate on this pattern to that of our other charitable patterns (like the Arizona Llama Rescue ones). We don't make any money, but we don't lose any, either. Classic Elite will distribute all the proceeds, their contribution and ours, so there are no extra administration costs. This is in addition to our 2%-of-the-gross-of-December 2009 contribution to the Canadian Red Cross (done last week).
We are so grateful to this pattern's buyers, those smart and generous knitters who love a good pattern and have very kind hearts, too.
On behalf of our customers and publishers, Patternfish is donating 2% of its gross sales (that means 2% of every dollar we took in) from December 2009 to the Canadian Red Cross for Haiti relief.
And since Julia has been falling tragically behind in uploading independent work, Phil has now implemented an "Add New Pattern" feature for publishers so that they can do their own, if so inclined. We hope to have a guide to this process finished quite soon to clarify the steps. Remember you cannot make a visible mistake. Click on "Show" at any time to see how it would look to a customer. Please take advantage of this if it appeals to you, and don't forget to click on "Submit for Sale" at the top when you're done (or have taken it as far as you can). That makes your pattern appear bright green in my list of things to post. I'll look it over, and enable it. This should be way faster.
Lots of people have asked about how to make a 'data page', with the materials and gauge requirements and whatnot from the pattern on it. It's simply a matter of making a jpg out of the relevant PDF page(s). I use GIMP, which is a free download. You drag the PDF on top of its toolbar and drop it and go on from there, uploading that jpg as a photo. Have fun!
Since more and more publishers are writing their own copy (at least parts of it), a 'style' issue has come up more than once, and we want your opinion on it.
Typically if I'm writing, I'll say of Winsome Jenkins: "Jenkins has a certain aggression in her work" or quote her like this: 'Jenkins: "What I was after was to take over the knitting world"' or something similar.
Which sometimes causes kind people to email and say, "Hey, call me Winsome". (Often they're British, but not always.)
Here's my reasoning. When men talk about other men professionally, they usually call one another Robertson, Patel, or Schwartz. "Jeez, Trudeau really dropped the ball on that deal." But amongst women-- and let's face it, most of our designers and publishers are female-- we are much more used to calling one another Fern, Sandy, or Monica: "Debbi really nailed that analysis."
Which is absolutely fine. But it's different. And if one of our stated goals is to eventually create the first download-knitting-pattern-designer millionaire (and it is) then I thought we had to man up, as it were, and talk traditional professional talk, or at least write that way.
But maybe that's not necessary. And if someone objects, and changes it themselves, I leave it alone after that; it's your show, after all, and if you want to be Winsome and not Jenkins, that's your call. But what do you folks think? What should we start with? Does it matter?
Of course all kinds of good things happened at (or as a result of) exhausting TNNA (of which more later), but one of the prime things benefits our designers/publishers the most.
I had the pleasure of meeting the lovely Shannon Dunbabin (and the good-looking Robert Dunbabin too!) of Cascade Yarns, and explained that we had a plethora of gorgeous patterns on our site using Cascade Yarns, and wouldn't it be useful for them to put a link from their site to ours highlighting them? Shannon's keen mind saw the possibilities right away. So with the joyous speed of Americans acting on a good idea, a couple of days later this happened:
-- and we are all thrilled. This means that any designer who lists their pattern (using any yarn at all made by Cascade Yarns) for sale with us is automatically included in this link, now and going forward. More exposure and potential sales for our talented independents, and more pattern support for Cascade: win, win, win.
Some other yarn manufacturers are already doing this with us, of course. The first was the perceptive and wonderful Fleece Artist and Handmaiden, and SWTC has blogged about their coverage in their July 20th post, but exactly the same thing is available for every single manufacturer whose yarns are represented-- even once-- on our site. So if yarn manufacturers aren't doing this yet, everyone can gently suggest they do. It costs nothing, takes seconds to implement, and we have yet to think of a downside.
Thursday, 7 January, I'm off to TNNA (www.tnna.org) for our semi-annual trade show. At an obscene hour of the morning (especially when I'm likely facing body cavity searches, trying to get from Canada into the US). Therefore pattern uploading will be a little slower over the next few days. Those who can upload their own patterns will be at a significant advantage-- it's much easier to enable things that people have already worked on. And Phil, sometime in the next few hours, should have made it possible for publishers to generate their own new templates on request. Any problems? Shoot us an email at the support email address.
I'll try to keep you posted of the goings-on, since they're usually engaging (at least to us fanatics).
And Happy New Year, everyone! 2009 was great for us. Hope 2010'll be great for all of you, too.
Tomorrow, 28 December 2009, I'm going to be working at Toronto's Romni Wools for their 1-day Boxing Day Sale from 10 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. I've probably forgotten how to helm the cash register, so likely I'll be on the floor reaching things down for customers and answering questions, or doing whatever else I'm assigned with the least damage possible. When I worked there regularly, I used to be the de facto librarian (yes, their book and pattern section is big enough to make it worthwhile).
Back in 1996 Romni's owner Marilyn Leonard generously agreed to talk to me about getting into the yarn business. First she hired me to work at her store ("anyone in the business would hire you with that on your resume," she observed truthfully). Then she introduced me to Darrell Hudspeth at Kertzer and made my hiring there possible, and kept me on as a part-time clerk on Sundays even after I had the full-time Kertzer job. I loved all of it, but never having worked retail before, Romni was a revelation. Perhaps as a steady diet it would be grinding. But I was lucky enough to have it as a kind of work condiment and never tired of it. The variety was astounding-- in product, customer base, co-workers, and the distinct tone and character of each day.
I'm looking forward to it as much as any vacation. And if you come in with a pattern purchased from Patternfish and buy yarn to go with it, and can find me on the floor (curly blonde hair, dark turtleneck, and probably a Guinness belt like a barmaid), I'll be thrilled to give you a very cool Patternfish button. Ask for Julia.
Yesterday Lynda Gemmell of Cabin Fever emailed us about Louet North America's latest newsletter. We hadn't seen it, but it was a revelation, literally. Like any company, we have things in development, often in tandem with other individuals or companies. We don't talk about them, though. Wise proverb: "there's many a slip 'twixt cup and lip." But here was Louet announcing to their readers that "we have been introduced to a brilliant online pattern store called Patternfish.com... we have begun to migrate patterns to Patternfish..." and announcing that their own pattern subscription service will be taken offline once their online pattern catalogue has been transferred completely over to us (estimated time, 2 - 3 months).
We figure this now gives us permission to talk about it, too. We're extremely pleased and honoured by this decision. Louet is a very forward-thinking company of great quality whose own online endeavours have been excellent; its Pattern Distribution Service was groundbreaking. We're very impressed by Louet's COO, Dave Van Stralen, and his concern for servicing his customer base, and excited about this opportunity. A special bonus for us is that Trudy Van Stralen is an outstanding designer, too.
The astute among you would already have noticed that we've been loading a fair number of LNA patterns-- about one in every five or six is a new Louet. This is so that we can get the subscription patterns up quickly to support Louet's existing subscriber base. The idea is that current Louet pattern customers will be set up with their own Patternfish accounts, with the Louet patterns they've paid for already in their stash. By the time we're finished, in a few weeks, the LNA pattern count should be about 250. So far Louet is supplying us with PDF's more or less alphabetically. If there's a new pattern of theirs you'd like to buy online, just email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask them to forward it to us; we'll put up all special requests as soon as we can.
Therefore, we're looking forward to the holidays and New Year with extra fervour. We hope all of you enjoy your family and friends and good health all through 2010.
In the last 12 or so hours, three of our cherished publishers-- Hooked for Life, Fiber Dreams and Katherine Vaughan Designs-- have each Tweeted about how neat it is to see which countries they're selling to with Patternfish. Thanks, Mary Beth and Laura and Katherine!
When we (Phil and I) started to set all this up, one of the most fun things was putting ourselves in everyone's places and conjuring up what everyone might possibly want. Phil is responsible for the whole Pattern Stash idea (as opposed to a one-time-download-and-if-your-hard-drive-crashes-tough-sh*t idea), since that data management style mimics that of one of his favorite, most-respected software support suppliers. Wearing Publisher clothes, I thought, "Well, I'd want to know exactly what I've sold every minute, everywhere in the world. And I should also know what countries I'm selling into, moment by moment. If I have a sudden following in Singapore, I'd want to know. If Brazilian sales are up suddenly, maybe I should check Brazilian blogs." So that's how Phil built it. Since then we've had a bunch of inquiries from puzzled publishers along the lines of: "Where's CH?" (Switzerland, for the English version of Confederation Helvetica, meaning Swiss Confederation); "What's AT?" (Austria), and so on.
We've heard of some other download sites paying publishers once a year with no real-time reporting on how much you're selling of what, wherever it is in the world. This idea fills us with horror. Intellectual property is precious. Our publishers are not infants, they're entrepreneurs. Patterns are terribly important: the foundation of a successful project to which you may devote 150 hours, or the foundation of a business. We're proud that our publishers are able to take the sales information they've earned and work with it immediately however they see fit.
The American Thanksgiving Day results were thin (I guess people have to stay away from online pattern shopping just to see and feast with loved ones a couple of days a year), but the rest of the weekend perked up nicely. In the end November was our best revenue month ever, trumping the previous best of October, which trumped September... and so on. We don't want to bore you with the same information all the time, but we're very happy about it.
Now, a request of all our good blog readers. It's for a good cause. (You and us and them, too. Who is 'them'? Read on.)
The semi-annual TNNA trade show is happening next month, and as usual we will get to see all kinds of pattern producers. We are scheduling appointments, but everyone's time is limited.
Whose patterns would you like to see listed on Patternfish that aren't already there? Which companies should be represented but aren't? Which of your favorite designers are missing? You can see our current publisher list by going to our Shop page and clicking on 'Publishers'; as I write there are 179 of them.
Write in suggestions as comments, and based on that, we'll try and chase those folks with extra vim. Also, if you wanted to write nice things about why you like Patternfish as a download source, then we could use those compliments as references, and it may help our mutual causes. (It makes us squirm to write that, but hey! This is business! Shameless time.)
For ourselves, difficulty using our own system usually originates when Julia scans a letter-size (i.e., North American, 8.5" x 11") pattern as an A4 size (ROW, or Rest of World; A4 is 8.3" x 11.7"), or vice versa. This used to happen a lot more frequently than it does now, but always results in colourful Elizabethan or Italian curses ("God's nightgown! Dio cane!" and so on). Inevitably it has to be re-done. Be assured that problems occur everywhere, with everybody, even us internally.
By far the single most common problem our users have is not being up-to-date with the latest Adobe releases, which interferes with their reading of the latest version of various PDF's. There's a link in your Pattern Stash (reached through Your Account, at the top of our page) to get the FREE updates. Use this regularly, especially if you have a Mac; some of the most recent Mac operating system releases have been clumsy with PDF treatment.
After that, one of the most common problems is that employers have blocked access to 'fun' sites, like ours, and users write to complain and see if we can fix it. We are greatly amused and touched by this, while being certain that employees are only trying to access Patternfish during legitimate breaks and lunches. Sometimes we can help, sometimes not.
While the last couple of weeks have not been Best Ever, they have been in the top 10 weeks ever, and we are interested to see if the American Thanksgiving weekend results in good or bad sales. Some days (like Christmas) are naturally slow. American Thanksgiving has always proved so. Somehow, inexplicably, people occasionally set time aside to make merry and eat heartily with loved ones rather than buy downloadable patterns in great numbers. What's up with that? But the whole Black Friday phenomenon-- Friday, 27 November this year-- where large numbers of Americans go out and start their holiday shopping, doesn't exist in Canada. We'll report the results; do you darling generous Yanks shop at malls, LYS's, or online?
Phil wrote the Patternfish site basically from the ground up. We've known each other more than 25 years.
1. When Phil and I first met, in 1984, I was working for a company that was renting space in his then-company's offices. I landed up playing Munchman (or something, a Pac-Man clone) on a PC with another friend from his then-company and could never beat that friend at it. Seeing my despair, Phil sacrificed all his principles and hacked into the Munchman programming and give me a higher score. The other friend was dumbfounded until I (inevitably) confessed that I had cheated. Naturally this still haunts me, but Phil was there to shore up my self-confidence when it was important.
2. Once (20 years ago?) Phil came over to my bachelor apartment and noticed that I hadn't made my bed that day. My mother was a neatnik, so I rebelled by never making my bed. I told him so. He reflected on this (Phil was orphaned by age 18). At last he remarked, "Yeah, I never used to make my bed either. Then it occurred to me one day that a person who makes their bed every day is a person to be reckoned with." Since he said that I make my bed every day whenever I can.
3. For many years Phil has been responsible for me seeing whatever glorious plays I can manage at Stratford, Ontario, home of the renowned Shakespeare Festival. He plans in advance the fall before the festival's summer, and organizes seats for a group of four or five of us months in advance. He also organizes the post-Saturday-or-Sunday matinee suppers at The Church, a very good Stratford restaurant. We went to The Old Prune once too-- also very good.
4. I had my first child in August 1998. It was a bit fraught with unproductive labour for a few hours, and then an epidural and an episiotomy and a vacuum extractor and whatnot. For the next few days I sat gingerly on a doughnut cushion trying to nurse an uncooperative infant. Phil had phoned immediately afterwards with congratulations, of course, and then there was a pause in communication. When my daughter was a few days old, and I was exhausted (as you inevitably are) and in various kinds of postpartum and breastfeeding pain, Phil phoned again.
"I had the most awful all-nighter," he complained, and went on to describe how rotten he felt not having gotten any sleep the night before, having had to figure out some important software thing that was absolutely essential for some unappreciative morons, and he hadn't been able to have his normal massages or workouts or sushi catering or whatever the heck he was used to having, for a whole few hours. I couldn't believe what I was hearing.
"Phil," I said, "shut up. You wanker. I can't believe I'm listening to this. I can't believe you're saying this to me. You're whining about an all-nighter? You know what I did last week? I HAD A BABY!"
There was a long pause.
Then in a soothing tone: "Julia."
"Julia." No psychiatric patient was ever handled more wisely, delicately, calmly. "Julia. I know... (long pause) that YOU think (longer pause, very gentle) that that's really hard. But this all-nighter-- I gotta tell you--"
Then I wanted to throw something at him over the phone, not because he was being a patronizing jerk, but because I was laughing so hard that everything hurt like crazy.
All of which goes to show that Phil is a fantastically intelligent rock-solid guy who plans in advance, values both instructive recreation and serious application, is there for you in the trenches AND has the kind of sense of humour, from time to time, that literally splits stitches. But that's not what you remember in the long run. What you remember in the long run is the character of the man. We're lucky to have him. And yes, he documents his code, too.
The family and I (and our ex-Washington, now Ottawa-based rellies; no more diplomatic license plates) went to Niagara Falls this past weekend and stayed at an indoor waterpark hotel complex thingy. The kids had a blast, it was a great deal of soggy fun, but the incredible thing was that I was deliberately without access to a computer for days. Well, two days, but still. No new patterns over a weekend, nor email, nor anything. Phil held the fort admirably, and so well had he built the fort in the first place that it needed scant holding. It may even have been boring.
So nothing fell apart, sales continued apace, we had scads of new users sign up, and we may be able to do this kind of thing again someday. It's a weird thought.
After a little bit this afternoon, full-bore uploading should resume tomorrow. Just wanted to bring you readers up to speed. Which means that it's the next post that will have the why-I-like-Phil-so-much stories, not this one.
Also over the weekend we had the first sale I can remember to tiny, wealthy, presumably conservative Liechtenstein. Said sale shattered 'spectations by being for this hot number: the Bootyful Skirt. You never know. You just never know.
Oh-- we are blessed with large numbers of hats again (isn't it great just having to make one of a something?), and they will feature prominently until we've culled their backlog a bit.
- last week was our best week ever again, beating the previous best week by almost 20%, again. But based on Monday November the 9th, this week will be slower. It's like watching the stock market in good times-- UPUPUPdown. Fair enough! It's not all autographs and sunglasses (Stephen Frears).
- our number of followers on @Patternfish (Twitter) has now exceeded our number of Tweets. Possibility of catching up: dubious. A kind of very 00's (oughties?) milestone.
- we've now had visits from 158 countries. Latest: the Falkland Islands (or, if you prefer, Islas Malvinas). Imagine! They have penguins there! Someone who lives where there are penguins knows about Patternfish!
- we saw someone lurking around from Irkutsk for the first time. Irkutsk is pretty much the easternmost point of Russia, across the Bering Strait from Alaska. For people who play Risk, this is unnecessary information. Anyway, smart Irkutsk resident was gazing at this design. We want to know: does Kollage Yarns ship there? Maybe Sarah Palin could deliver.
- Dave Van Stralen of Louet North America has promised lots and lots and lots more patterns. (Calm down with the applause, already.)
- Top ten countries for visits, as long as we've been measuring (14 months? 15 months?):
The 100th country (of 158) is Gibraltar. How many people can there BE there?
Next time: why I like Phil (our Web guy).
September 2009 used to be our previous best revenue month (taking over from August 2009), and then October beat it by 20%. 3 of our 4 best weeks ever were in October 2009. Also in October we exceeded 4,000 patterns on offer and got some lovely new publishers, with more entering into serious discussion stages. I know, it's seasonal, and interest is high, and blah blah. But still. Our growth curve over the last year and a half is somewhat impressive, and we're speaking as conservative Canadians, not exhuberant Americans (forgive me-- I just love 'exhuberant' with the archaic 'h').
Patternfish does not have a business plan, as such. Not like you would write in business school or university commerce classes. This probably explains why we have no bank financing (but then, we've never sought any, either). So other than bank service charges and shareholder advances, there's no debt servicing. Or any parent companies to support. For some daft reason, years ago I just wrote a many-page manifesto, and based on that, thought "well, ideally it should work this way," and that's how we set the company up: with a minimum commission of 60% of retail for the publishers. We knew it could only work on a large scale. So we crossed our fingers and prepared for a few lean years, hoping to get biggish.
One initial concern was that PayPal took 2.9% of the gross value of every sale going through them, plus $0.30 a transaction (which we pay). And if our minimum pattern price was $2.00, and 60% of that went to publishers, and innumerable customers bought only one pattern at $2.00 each (which would be their right), then after paying PayPal (which was absolutely the cheapest way to do this) we frankly didn't have much left with which to pay for our dedicated server and software and computer maintenance, let alone salaries or other expenses. You get the idea. We were, and are, careful.
One thing PayPal does do, though, is reduce their percentage take after a certain volume of transactions. We were counting on this (it's large-scale stuff that wouldn't normally be available to indie designers), and we've just hit the first reduction point. I think it's 2.5% now instead of 2.9% (Chancellor Shannon to confirm). And as it turns out, our data indicate that people buy a minimum of 2 patterns per transaction, which helps, and the average pattern price is considerably more than $2, which helps a lot.
So here we are. We still have lots of back salaries to repay, and ongoing advertising and travel expenses and whatnot, but we were prepared for that.
We remain intent on demonstrating goodwill and concrete support for designers and pattern publishers of all kinds. Especially those who trust and support us with all their download business, and there's quite a number of these. And we've had some pretty encouraging numbers over the last few months. So how do we say thanks, and keep it up, and tell everyone you know? Money's good, right?
Effective 1 November, 2009 (midnight at what used to be Greenwich Mean Time, GMT, but is now called UTC, Universal Time Coordinated) all our Web or World Exclusives are getting a raise from 60% or 62.5% of retail to a full 65% of retail, across the board. Indie or corporate. Together with everything else we offer, we think this is hard to beat.
Thanks again, everybody. Greg opined during a quick reading of this post that it was pretty detailed (and therefore undoubtedly boring). I'm not sure. We act as the download sales arm for a lot of individuals and organizations, which amounts to handling their money. Especially nowadays, we want to be open and honest. And all our providers of exclusive downloads deserve a raise. Well done. Here it is.
Off topic, but likewise great news: we had a brain-damaged cat who wandered off two months ago. Obviously we came to think she had landed up as coyote chow (there's a ravine with coyotes nearby; yes, we live in Toronto). We grieved a great deal. But then a shelter phoned and said that some saintly person had dropped off a head-tilty cat with a microchip leading them to us, and were we missing a calico female? So our dear half-starved Mysterio has been back for 28 hours and is eating and resting and reeling from all the love and cuddles being offered her. (The coyotes only ate her collar.) We're not allowed to find out who took her to the shelter, nor what area of town they're from. But we adore this unknown person. And we will pay this forward.
Last Friday (this is Monday) my daughter stayed home from school because of a sore throat. I watched her mope about, limp and rather ill. It occurred to me that usually I knit hats and mittens and socks for the kids every year, and that a new warm hat would be a good idea. I have tons of yarn; where to get a pattern she would like?
I actually wondered about this for a few minutes. Really. Since the time I used to devote to knitting is now devoted to Patternfish, I think I had come to think of it as something exclusively for other people. Astonishing. There was that much of a disconnect. The Martian Death Flu (which had already made me cancel two meetings and a dentist's appointment earlier in the week, and no, I don't think it's H1N1) must have made my brain extra-muzzy as well. Eventually, however, light dawned, and I got her over to the computer and chose "Children" and "Hats" from our Control Panel, and landed up with 149 possibilities. Since I have my page views set to 20 per screen, that was only 8 screens' worth of suggestions to go through. She chose this one easily, and we settled on a gorgeous Tanis Fiber Arts aran yarn that I had bought at the K-W Knitter's Fair in September (picture to follow) to make it with.
And then I took Saturday off and knit her the hat. I posted no new patterns that day (gritting teeth and worrying about it all the while). But the doing of it was fun and interesting, and knitting itself had become novel, since it was now so rare. Then I discovered that I had finished the hat wrong-side out, and that I had cast off the top and darned in all the ends on the public side. (The designer goes out of her way to make sure you don't do this, but I was impervious to good advice.) It just goes to show that you really do have to use it or lose it, and that immeasurable experience teaching and acquaintance with all manner of complicated techniques do not save you from carelessness and the MDF-related brain-muzz. I posted two patterns yesterday (Sunday) out of guilt and to postpone having to rework the hat.
Missing a day of posting (and an overall scantily-posted weekend) did not seem to affect the site at all. Three weeks ago we had our best sales week ever; the one I just blogged about a few days ago, immediately following that week, beat it by 10%; last week, the one ending midnight last night, trumped even that new best week by 20%. Every one of us is gobsmacked. By golly, it's working. Our system works. And it gets more and more popular, and people really like it, and they come back again and again, and we just have to figure out how to keep on doing more, and better.
Thanks, everybody. It was a good day off. And now back to work.
It's been an exhilarating few weeks.
We've added almost 20 new publishers since the end of August, gems every one. And along with smashing sales records, we've experienced our biggest viral pile-ons. One day we were astonished by a sudden increase in traffic: up about 500% from the norm. What the... ? Turned out that a Latvian website had seized on this Norah Gaughan marvel for Reynolds and masses of Latvians stampeded over to have a look, bless them. Too bad we couldn't read what they said.
Shortly afterwards some discerning souls Stumbled Upon these Beth Brown-Reinsel socks and these Lopi sweaters, and traffic ballooned. This is a fascinating thing to watch happen. Our favorite viral thing ever is the Chris Bliss juggling video. At 50 million views and counting (we are responsible for at least 50 of them), some of you must have seen it. The fascinating thing about it, though, is that apparently it sat on the Net for four years (four years!) before someone picked up on it and told two friends, who told two friends, and so on. You just never know. It inspires awe and wonder. It feels like something Richard Dawkins should write about-- a weird kind of social/web Darwinian process. Anything can get triggered at any time. Some things blow up like Vesuvius and then calm right down again; others, like the lava flows in Hawaii, just bubble along actively all the time.
Sally Melville continues to amaze. Some people would have put up a design and forgotten about it. At Patternfish's very beginning, she said, "I think I might have something for you," and sent us her Cross-Over-Rib Top, which hadn't made it into her The Knitting Experience: Color book for space reasons. Chancellor Shannon took photographs of the lovely Allie (a server at a local hangout, but we paid her a modelling fee) wearing it at Julia's house, Sally picked the ones she liked best, and that was that-- up it went. It sold, and continues to sell, very well. But Sally has insisted on revising it twice: the first time a year ago, to add two larger sizes, and the second time just this week to add some clarifications that knitters had suggested. The newest version is up and available, everyone who's ever bought it has access to the latest version in their pattern stash (as always), and Sally's responsiveness to her constituency is laudable.
We're mulling over some more features to add that might be fun and/or informative for our customers (as opposed to the oat bran web-maintenance stuff that Phil does all the time). Any suggestions?
Also, we need advice on something else. We have Google ads out there that we didn't write (thanks, Keith!) that say we offer 'new patterns every day'. I am very literal, and since our ads say this, I do my d*mndest to put up at least two patterns every day of the week. In practice this means I never have a day off. The scientists and programmers around here (i.e., Phil and Greg) say that it's the average that matters; I, the English major, am sticking to the letter of the law. Though a day off would be nice from time to time-- yea, even once a week. What say you? Maybe we should just change the wording? This is especially relevant right now as I have the Martian Death Flu.
And once again, we are enjoying a superabundance of hat submissions. So every second or third pattern until further notice will be a hat. Good holiday gifts; using up oddments; and you only have to make one (unless you know somebody who... never mind)-- what's not to like?
... and I KNOW I haven't blogged in ages, but that's a sign of success; September was our new best month ever and October is fair set to beat it already; last week (ending midnight Sunday) was our best week ever. It's staggering. There's rather a lot to do, all the time.
Because I am now an orphan (it stinks) (don't feel too sorry though, I'm 49 and not 19), I am the holiday anchor for our family, and have a stuffed turkey in the oven and am doing mashed potatoes (maybe with truffle paste) and have made dill bread and pumpkin pie and apple pie and chocolate oatmeal cookies and spicy molasses cookies. (Stepmother Anita is bringing another veggie dish and salad for more nutritional balance.) Everything's from scratch, including the pie crust. This is all by way of saying that you get a blog entry today, but no new patterns until tomorrow. Happy Thanksgiving!
Guest Post by Phil ...
It's fall and that means a new set of ads for the fall edition of knitty.com. :)
Chancellor Shannon did a snazzy job on a large selection of patterns for this issue. The full set can be viewed at ...
You can click on each ad to go directly to the detail page for the pattern shown.
I wouldn't feel so badly about posts slowing down this last week before school starts again-- I mean, kids have to swim, boat, skip stones, and flee fire ants a couple of times a summer, and we've got to figure out what the family (large family, he was one of eight siblings surviving to adulthood) is going to do with my Dad's ashes on Saturday three days from now, and my brother's going to visit the cottage from LA for the first time in 15 years, and there'll be nine wonderful people staying in this place, and there's the internet being delivered by goat and all. And we've got advertising and marketing for fall to plan and arrange and execute, with me (the Dominatrix) outside of Lakefield, Phil (the Implementor) in Brampton, and Shannon (the Graphics Person as well as the Chancellor managing all things financial) in Toronto.
But damn, we've had such an exciting bunch of indie and corporate publishers sign on recently that it's KILLING me not to spend 10 hours a day putting them up. As our commentators have said-- come, Tuesday the 8th! Big Rock Candy Mountain for working moms who enjoy what they do.
August 2009. Sock Summit in Portland, Oregon. Then kids in trampoline camp and soccer camp and ceramic camp. Family stuff-- two birthdays out of our immediate family's four-- me and the Daughter, who is officially eleven years old on August's last day. A magnificent collection of brand-new publishers for us (see www.twitter.com/patternfish for the announcements, or www.plurk.com/patternfish, or our Facebook group). Now most of us (Greg has to do his official job in Toronto for a few days) are at our family cottage north of Peterborough, Ontario, where the internet is delivered twice daily by goat. That is to say, online service is slow and awkward. Even though everything's been madly, joyously busy for weeks. And Dad's ashes will have some placement here on Saturday.
Warren Beatty once said that heaven was where there was work and there was play and you couldn't tell which was which. This is exactly what he meant: you could be in an assortment of different places, mostly working, but at non-standard hours, and spoiled for choosing amongst things you love to do, with people you love. Reality will re-intrude next Tuesday when the doodlers are back in school. Am I supported by many parents in saying that, in spite of special trips and vacations and events and bustle, this cannot happen fast enough?
Class with Nancy Bush (Traditional Estonian Socks) was excellent. Thorough, grounded, lots of historical background, and rich technique and excellent coaching throughout.
Portland is a remarkable city-- I've been 'out' once-- with three different kinds of elegantly modern public transit all free in the downtown core. There are lots of trees and bridges everywhere, and terrific brewpubs, and special toilets that you can flush differently depending on how much water you might need to deal with your friendly deposit (how to properly phrase this?)-- even in the Convention Center, as well as the hotels. Portlanders (Portlandians?) admire their overcastness and rejoice in it, are friendly and helpful. As are all the staff and students and teachers here. Had dinner with Lynda Gemmell of Cabin Fever, and Don and Buffy Taylor of Shelridge Farm, and Judy and Ron Fawcett of Lloyds Travel & Cruises Ltd., teacher and designer JC Briar, and Lucy Neatby. All thrilled with how they were being treated by the organizers here, and marvelling at the focus and commitment of the studentry. "The energy!" Lucy kept exclaiming. "There's such an energy here!"
Tomorrow morning is "Toe-Up Socks for the Stubborn" (I'm not stubborn because I'm not prejudiced enough, just fairly ignorant. Except about Judy's Magic Cast-On, which is indeed magic). THEN the Luminary Panel, which should be illuminating. Then on some kind of 11:30 p.m. flight probably run by Fisher-Price Airlines to Chicago, then Toronto at 9:00 a.m. Monday morning or thereabouts.
Hard to keep everything straight. But by God, I'm on my home planet, amongst my own people. And will take up knitting again regularly when I get home. Have to.
Very quickly: Creative Mosaic Knitting was solid, and even aside from BGW (Barbara G. Walker, a being from another planet-- more later)-- there was some cooler stuff than usual today.
While winding yarn at one of the very wonderful places to wind yarn that Paradise Fibres had set up-- they have some impressive flat swifts that don't have to be clamped to a tabletop-- I overheard some actual colourway names.
Colourway one, a childish mix of popsicle orange, blue, pink, green, and purple: "This is Clown Barf."
Colourway two, I can only presume was a muddy brownish greenish mixture: "Bongwater."
(To which someone added, "No! Muddy brownish greenish with some Cheetos in it!")
As "People are Strange" (The Doors' original version) wafted over the loudspeakers, I heard a vendor say about a particularly coloured skein: "From our Tragic Ladies series; this one is Lady Macbeth." Our own Kate Atherley was compelled to buy a violently black, pink, and white skein of yarn called "Cake or Death".
A rose by any other name just wouldn't get bought.
Long class with N. Bush tomorrow. Vibrating with more excitement.
"What do you want for your birthday?" asked Greg a couple of weeks ago.
"I'm going there," I said.
The birthday's today (I'm now 49, if anyone wants to know. Don't know how old Neil Armstrong is or Andy Warhol would have been). Tomorrow I leave for Portland, Oregon, for the first ever Sock Summit, and classes with renowned teachers and one legend (Barbara Walker). Will blog, and report. I don't think I'll know many people there-- Cherry Tree Hill and Cabin Fever, of course, and Clara Parkes of Knitter's Review-- but otherwise I'll kind of be drifting about, especially Friday afternoon at the marketplace. I gather everyone will be wearing name tags. Do come up and say hi. Especially if you've heard of Patternfish. Especially if you have comments about it, good or constructive. Especially if you want to be a publisher.
New postings may be sparser than usual between now and Monday, but we have 3,479 of the finest patterns in the world for sale as I write. You may have to content yourselves with those (and a few more) for a few days while I do something I really haven't done much of in almost two years-- knit.
Special Guest Star Greg is a great fan of Patternfish.
You know how sometimes, when you're watching a movie or TV show, you see the stripes in someone's outfit vibrating? Or the edges of some distinctive thing look all choppy? In the real world Greg works for a company that makes ASIC's (Application-Specific Integrated Circuits) to take that stuff out. He thinks up how to do it, and they put those solutions in a computer chip (which is soldered onto the boards inside your TV or monitor), and then if you buy a really high-end monitor or TV, you have those issues largely or completely eliminated. Of course, he says he does it with a very talented team, and he does. But the fact is that he knows a great deal about very sophisticated ways to deal with strange video issues. And by extension, he's very good at dealing with silly little things like video download times, for instance. It's he who's responsible for the individual custom watermarking, and subsequent encryption, and many other features of ours (and many of those still to come).
So often he decides to help Patternfish, as a pro bono kind of thing, and because he loves the idea of knitting (and knitted products) in general. On one of our first dates he happily went with me to a very large yarn store in Toronto and stood patiently by while I selected various colours of mohair for a sweater I wanted to knit for myself (this took quite some time, but he was not disturbed in the least). He then paid for it. He then installed shelving for that yarn store as a display (still in use). Inevitably we ended up living together, and having two beautiful children. He greatly enjoys the knitting world, and comes up with terms like "self-Kaffeing" to describe variegated yarns.
He has been busy recently-- intermittently-- helping to make the JPG uploads faster. For people who work with computers all the time (us), it's easy to assume that everyone has high-speed internet access. But he knows that's not true, and he's been streamlining JPG downloading recently. And it will continue to improve.
Just so you know all his credentials are sound, he once read the pattern and saw a schematic for Elizabeth Zimmermann's Baby Surprise jacket, and said, "That's crazy." So he made one, all striped in purples, just to prove it would work. Here's where real life comes in: once he'd almost finished it and had what engineers call 'proof of concept', it was abandoned. He's never put buttons on it. He just wanted to make sure the design would work. So there it is. Our kids have had plenty of other handknitted things to wear, and eventually I will button the EZ project, and our grandchildren will wear it.
Oh-- the mohair he bought is still in my stash. He's fine with that. I'm all sentimental about it now.
Done. Phil pushed his change just after midnight. Look for the new slider on the control panel, check it out, and let us know what you think!
It's imminent. In response to a customer request months ago, we're introducing Searching by Chest Size. Likely Phil will 'push the change' (as he says) tonight when most people in Eastern Canada and the US are asleep. So we'll wake up to it tomorrow.
It's a slider, like the way you search by gauge right now. You'll choose a minimum and maximum chest size by moving the slider things around; then you'll enter any other criteria you care to; then click 'Search' at the bottom of the control panel, and you're away. The smallest is 9", the largest 70"+. That should cover everything, we think, from preemies to Very Impressive Physiques (VIPs).
This feature does not apply to things like shawls that don't actually have to fit the upper body, or hats or mitts. It applies to sweaters, jackets, and the like, when there actually is a chest to enclose with a garment.
We have not quite finished coding every single garment for this-- that'll be done in another few days-- but by far the majority of them are. So, since one of our mottoes is "Perfection is the Enemy of Good", we're going ahead anyway.
We've had requests from adults who are smaller as well as larger for this feature, and are looking forward to your response.
Laura Patterson of Fiber Dreams and her lovely new print distributor have reached an agreement which will enable her patterns to continue to be listed on Patternfish. Yay! We have invited her to blog about it herself, and will post her guest blog when and if she sends it. The format will change slightly from the print copies, in that she won't have to worry about keeping page numbers even (important for print but irrelevant to downloads); and slightly fewer photos may be included, so as to improve printing time. But we've seen an example of the new version style and it's lovely.
Searching by chest size is imminent. 48 hours to three days, we hope. We just have a few left to code by hand, but may make the ability available before we've quite finished, just because.
Laura Patterson of Fiber Dreams has good news and bad news.
A distributor has picked up her patterns for print distribution to LYS's in the United States. This can be worth a great deal to a designer, since stores buy in multiples of 6 or more at a time. This is the good news.
The bad news is that, as a condition of this deal, she may not distribute her patterns online in the US or Canada. Which means delisting all 24 Fiber Dreams patterns from Patternfish by 22 July, since-- at the moment-- we don't distinguish from whence our customers come. So if you have these on your wish list, or were longing for them, buy them before then.
Both Laura and we are extremely sorry about this. Her patterns have been popular. But of course Patternfish recognizes that a big print opportunity is a lot of moolah ($$$) and it would be foolish to refuse. However, in our experience there's not as much cannibalization between online and LYS sales as everyone seems to think; most buyers we know swing both ways, as suits their mood and needs at any given time; one type of buy doesn't mean abandoning the LYS forever. Especially since by buying from us, they still need everything else for the project and have to go back to the LYS for high-ticket items.
Anyway, we're interested in comments. Please don't contact Laura or her intended about this; it's a done deal, for a while anyway. Is this a curious condition to impose? Why or why not? Just write any pertinent observations or questions below.
Last night I had the pleasure of a supper with Adina Klein and Margery Winter, both ex-editors of Vogue Knitting. (Adina specified that she wanted to be played by Janeane Garofalo in the movie. So it shall be written, so it shall be done. And when I told her Cate Blanchett would be playing me, she didn't immediately burst out with: "but she's too skinny!" or worse, "You're too fat!", but instead seemed to think it very natural and reasonable. What a bighearted woman.)
Conversation was largely about how bloody difficult it can be for even masters of their game (Deborah Newton, Mari Lynn Patrick, Kristin Nicholas come to mind) to be properly compensated for the amazing work they do. In most other disciplines their skills and self-discipline would have made them millionaires, and justifiably so. The general question: how can this be made to happen in our industry? Our knitting and crochet press is undergoing the same kind of crunch common to the rest of the publishing world; things are clearly in a state of flux.
We realized that the future would be quite different from the present and the past. We also decided that it would be better. We will all make it so.
On a different note, Patternfish has recently taunted our publishers and customers with various and sundry improvements. The first of these has just arrived.
As you are all aware, we watermark every page of every PDF personally for every purchase and every user. We are now also encrypting, post-watermark, the customer's PDF so that digital copying is compromised or impossible. For honest customers (all of you!) there will be no change in performance or service. But our publishers will benefit from the increased security.
And in response to several requests: "Show me more by this designer" and "Show me more from this publisher" are imminent. If you don't see them first on your own, we'll keep you up to date here. BREAKING NEWS: half an hour after I wrote that-- about 4:30 a.m. Toronto time-- Phil pushed the change. So you can do that now. Look at the headings under the secondary photograph on the lower right. Telepathy, man! Have fun, and don't forget to provide feedback!
Have posted two more patterns. Being able to do this is just beyond remarkable.
Sometimes I try and explain to the kids that when I was a kid and you wanted money, you had to physically go to your exact bank branch between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. to get it out. They laugh and laugh. And now I can upload in Toronto, and a few hours later in Amsterdam, a few hours later in Florence; do blog posts; and do the email thang all the time whenever I want. And everything is next, just everything.
-- to Florence. Two things of note so far. One is that I've gotten an Addi Lace (i.e., extra-pointy) 32" circular needle through two sets of security, international and E.U. (Past results are no guarantee of future performance.)
Second, I've just uploaded our first pattern remotely-- thanks Sue of Vermont Fiber Designs! On to Italy in less than three hours.
As new designers came along and offer their work for us to publish (THANK YOU!), they're increasingly interested in uploading their own patterns. And once they become a member, and we assign Publisher status to them, we can assign any number of templates for them to work with. We love doing this. Love it.
It's a teeny bit awkward taking a large number of listings (especially scanned ones) in pieces to publish while I'm away. BUT! Those designers who choose to upload their own work will be very easy to enable for sale, since that's essentially all done over the net. This is a hint.
People who want to get started, or those who already have, are invited to ask for (more) blank templates, in order to upload their own stuff. Send requests to patternsATpatternfishDOTcom (replacing the AT and DOT with their proper symbols) and Julia will fill them as soon as she can. It will make posting new patterns while in Florence much, much easier.
You can't make a visible mistake doing this. Julia has to approve everything before it goes live, and she's not going to let anyone make an ass of themselves (or Patternfish, come to think of it). You can press the "Show" button at any time while filling out the template to see how the listing will look to the customer, but no outsider will be able to see it any any point until Julia enables it. Don't worry. It's easy!
And Phil is in the middle of testing a couple of things that he won't let me talk about yet. Greg had some input into one of them, which makes it extra interesting, because Greg doesn't think like most humans. There might be dancing in our streets. Sophistication far beyond what we already know in Pattern Downloadworld. In fact, one of these features might be unique on the internet, period. You'll let me know, right? The testing period will take a few more days. I'll keep you posted.
Happy Canada Day, everybody! The True North, Strong and Free, since 1 July 1867. "Every country is like a particular type of person. America is like a belligerent, adolescent boy; Canada is like an intelligent, 35 year old woman." (Douglas Adams in The Salmon of Doubt.)
July is going to be a fantastically eventful month for Patternfish. May was our best month ever, then June eclipsed it; July should be a knockout. (All this, off-season, in an Economic Situation.) We've got some new features to add this month, some of which were suggested by customers, that might stun you (in a good way).
Julia's going to Pitti Filati in Florence on the 4th, for a week (pattern uploading may possibly slow but shouldn't halt altogether). Chancellor Shannon and Minister of Technology Phil will hold the fort here. Some improvements might be visible before then. We'll let you know. You know, we can't wait either.
We've been presented with an unusual request.
Kira Dulaney of Kira K Designs is an accomplished designer in both knitting and crochet who has already listed almost 30 patterns for sale with us. She has also (naturally) been published elsewhere, notably on our friend Amy Singer's outstanding site Knitty.com.
All patterns available on Knitty are available for free.
Kira asked us recently if we would agree to list a couple of her patterns that are already available on Knitty, free of charge, on Patternfish, for money.
"I just went through a long process of deciding to self-publish the Bell Curve Skirt and Couvercle Cap, my two patterns that were in Knitty. At the same time there was a lively discussion on Ravelry that helped me make my decision. Basically, Knitty buys rights for the time that the issue will be on the homepage of its website and encourages designers to publish their patterns afterwards, since the Knitty honorarium is admittedly low. Part of my decision to self-publish them is the hope to make a bit more profit from my hard work, and also I would like to see these patterns included as part of my collection. Also, both were published before Knitty's redesign, which means that printing them takes up lots of pages since they need to be printed in landscape format to avoid losing the ends of sentences. I know many knitters who are happy to pay a few dollars for a well laid-out pattern, especially if it's available in a place they like to shop (local yarn stores, Ravelry, Patternfish, etc.), and especially if it's professionally printed (local shops only, of course). I did make a point of mentioning on each pattern that they were originally published on Knitty, so if anyone prefers to go there to print it out they can, and it's clear that I'm not deceiving anyone."
This made sense to us. Lord knows, it's hard for freelance designers to make a decent living.
We made a couple of points. First, that we absolutely disclose that these patterns are available for free through another online source which we would name; Kira had of course already agreed before we confirmed this with her. Second, that since uploading patterns is a bit time-consuming and we might sell fewer of these patterns because of their original provenance, and since we should spend our time on perhaps more lucrative work, that she do the actual uploading and listing herself. She has happily done this.
In addition, she already has a substantial body of work for sale with us, and the proportion of these special patterns versus the ones she offers for sale only is very small.
So we are going to list these two patterns of hers and charge the full retail price she has set for them. People will be able to obtain them free from Knitty, or buy them from us. Kira herself will get the usual 60% of her retail price every time one sells (and since Patternfish pays the selling costs, she gets 100% of her 60%). More potential money for designers, and more options for the (perhaps very kind-hearted and generous?) consumer: works for us.
This sets a precedent, of course, that others are free to benefit from at our discretion, in the same way and in the same proportion. We don't want to be flooded with patterns that are available free elsewhere, but the Knitty stamp means a lot to us, and we esteem Kira, her abilities and opinion, and her early faith in Patternfish. We'll see how it goes. Any reaction?
People ask all the time, so here's what happened.
In the late 90's I was a rep for Kertzer, a Canadian yarn distributor, and sold the lines they carried (Austermann, Lopi, Naturally, and others) to yarn stores. As a knitter, I became more and more enchanted with the independent likes of Fleece Artist (and later Handmaiden), hempforknitting, Brown Sheep, Sweaterkits, and so on. I asked permission of Kertzer to rep those as well and they said yes. Eventually I converted over entirely to independent lines. But this meant I was now a one-person company and needed a name.
One day I overheard someone talking about 'mystery fibre'. Except that I misheard it. I heard 'Ministry of Fibre', and it struck me that that was a darned good name for my company. Canada has a Ministry of the Environment, a Heritage Minister, a Ministry of Health-- why not a Ministry of Fibre? It was both religious and secular. I was very pleased with this name, but needed a title to go with it. 'President' seemed inappropriate, somehow.
Soon after, I told Glasgow-born John Wiltshire (husband of my dear friend Shannon) of my great company name and bemoaned the lack of cool title. He did not lose a second.
"You're the Prime Minister, of course," he said.
I was struck. Why on earth not? It was certainly different, but not something no one had ever heard of. People would be startled, but also amused and able to spell it. So I had cards printed up and set off.
Reaction was almost universally positive (although I heard fourth-hand that there was an occasional snark: "Who says SHE gets to be the Prime Minister?" I do. Try it yourself!) People who had met me once would remember the title the next time we met, months later, if not my name: "Look! It's the Prime Minister!" It stuck like a burr.
This was highly satisfactory and of course when Patternfish started, I kept the title. Explaining why I was no longer the Prime Minister would have been needlessly embarrassing, since I was dealing with the same people. Phil inevitably became the Minister of Technology; he says this is a great hit at Ruby conferences.
Shannon and I then went to the bank to make her a signing officer on the Patternfish accounts. The bank needed a title, not her name, for her office. I suggested Minister of Finance. After some consideration, she said she would rather be Chancellor of the Exchequer. "Fine, as long as Chancellor doesn't mean Boss of the Prime Minister," I said like an eight-year-old. Patient bank officer Fernanda looked up Chancellor in the official Bank Dictionary and it said something like this: "Advisor to a nobleman, prince, or king, especially on financial matters." Nothing could have been better. Shannon eventually decided to keep it short on her business cards; they read Chancellor only, without the Exchequer part.
That's how it happened. It just goes to show that there are definitely happy accidents (mystery fibre/ Ministry of Fibre), and that you should listen to your friends.
About three or four weeks ago Chancellor Shannon suggested a blog for Father's Day about Our Support System: how the men in our lives help us do what we do, or have enabled us to do what we do. She was very anxious to see it done. This post is really her original idea.
My own Dad died almost exactly six months ago. Shannon's de facto Dad (her mother's husband of more than 30 years) just died on the morning of 19 June 2009, as a result of a heart attack on 13 June and immediate, subsequent brain-injuring fall. Mine died of melanoma on New Year's Eve 2008, less than three weeks after diagnosis. So this is our first Father's Day without our biological or effective fathers. We would never have dreamt of this a short while ago.
Both of our Dads were fantastic support systems. Shannon's, because he was so madly in love with her mother, whose children were therefore to be celebrated in every way. My own Dad was a lifelong, serial entrepreneur and Aquarian risk-taker who adored Patternfish because it was a fresh take, with great tech, on an odd kind of idea.
Phil (our software guy) lost his father, in a tragic traffic accident, as a teenager. But strangely enough, his Dad and Julia's had met independently decades ago when Phil's Dad was at the NRC (Canada's National Research Council), and Julia's Dad had gone to him, cap in hand, to get some government funding for what later became a multi-million dollar company. How amazing is that?
So we love and long for and desperately miss our own fathers. But we know they love and are proud of us, too. Still. Happy Father's Day, Ted (Julia's Dad), Danny (Shannon's), and Russ (Phil's).
We also deeply cherish and celebrate the men in our lives now who have made, and continue to make, all our work possible. First and foremost, Special Guest Star Greg (Julia's partner), who has another job but for whom Patternfish is a wish-come-true hobby: here he can exercise all his Python language genius and write unprecedented specialized watermarking and you-just-wait-to-see-what's-next code. Oh, and he's a loving and instructive father to our two children (when our daughter was 9: "Daddy, let's play Linux!").
Shannon's husband John Wiltshire functions as Dad to her 24-year-old son, and was the chief would-be code-breaker before Patternfish went live ("I tried to hack it, but there's nothing to hack that's actually on your site!"), and who continues to give excellent, trenchant advice. And it was John who suggested that Julia be Prime Minister instead of President.
Without the patience, encouragement, intense support, and unreserved enthusiasm of these men (and many others), Patternfish could not have existed. Thank you all, gentlemen. We love you.
And in response to Akabini's question about who would play THEM in the movie:
Greg Smith: "Whoever you say. Oh-- who's that guy in that thing? You know. Jane Austen. Colin Firth." (And there is a certain resemblance. But he acts more like Tom Hanks in Big.)
Phil Lysons: "Simon Pegg-- I'm down with that. He's a cool guy. And kind of a hunk?"
John Wiltshire: "I'm going to have big brass ones and say Sean Connery." (Wiltshire was born in Glasgow.) But Julia thinks Commander Whitehead in the old Schweppes ads is a good visual match, except John's beard and 'stache are much wooflier.
We asked a number of people at TNNA over the weekend: when they make the movie of all this, which movie star do you want to play you? In no particular order (see end of post for those I accidentally left out in the first edition):
Norah Gaughan, Berroco: "Rachel Weisz. When I'm older, Judi Dench."
Cirilia Rose, Berroco: "Audrey Hepburn-- in Funny Face. I'm picky about my Audrey."
Betsy Perry, Classic Elite Yarns: "Julia Roberts-- she'd do me well."
Sandi Prosser, designer: "Jamie Lee Curtis."
Mary Beth Temple, designer: "Stockard Channing. But it must be a musical."
Veronik Avery, St-Denis Yarns: "Jennifer Jason Leigh. She can be both tough and vulnerable." (Avery's husband, Marcel Jeannin, would play himself-- he actually is an actor. Update: he reports that the director would probably think he was not Marcel Jeannin-y enough and cast somebody else!)
Lisa Shroyer, Knitscene: "Kate Winslet for me."
Eunny Jang, Interweave Knits: "Julia Stiles."
Clara Parkes, Knitter's Review: "Drew Barrymore."
JoLene Treace, designer: "Sandra Bullock. She's smart, funny, pretty, and never plays roles where she's too full of herself."
Jared Flood, designer: "How about Edward Norton? He seems both cool and nerdy."
Candi Jensen, designer and executive producer of PBS's Knit and Crochet Today: "I would love for Drew Barrymore to play me as a young woman."
Phil Codman, The Ramsden Group: "Clint could do the job. Schwarzenegger." (Item: Codman is about 5'5" and could be described as impish.)
Kim Dolce, Dolce Handknits: "Whoever looks good opposite George Clooney. Because it would be a love story."
Robin Melanson, designer: "Rose McGowan. But only with the machine gun for a leg." (See Grindhouse for the reference.)
Alan Getz, JCA Crafts: "I hate to say it, but Wallace Shawn." (Getz insists he was misquoted: "I could swear I said Brad Pitt!")
Linda Pratt, Westminster Fibers: "Jessica Lange."
Cal Cockburn, Kertzer: "Joe Pesci."
Eileen Koop, Bijou Basin Ranch: "I'm a Rosalind Russell type."
Nicky Epstein, designer: "Well, Liz Taylor's gone..." (Not really gone, of course. Just not acting any more.)
Shannon Shields, Patternfish: "Frances McDormand. She's a great actress, and can be both practical and wacky."
Kristen Rengren, designer: "Emma Thompson."
Val Love, Dovetail Designs, and
Bev Galeskas, Fiber Trends
-- as themselves! (They wanted no one else to play them.)
People still stumped:
Kristin Nicholas, designer
Austin Wilde, Alchemy Yarns
I asked Melanson on the drive home: what would they call this movie?
"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," said Robin.
An explanation: I asked many more people and took copious notes, but Chancellor Shannon (my right arm) had a family emergency and had to fly back to Toronto unexpectedly early Sunday morning. In the confusion pages of notes were lost. It's terrible-- there were many more great suggestions. If I left you out, or you're not included in this list, or want to be, please do email me at infoATpatternfish.com and we'll publish an update.
Special Guest Stars (these are those I accidentally left out, and myself):
Margery Winter, Filatura di Crosa: "I want Anjelica Huston to play me."
Annie Modesitt, designer: "I want Renee Zellweger to play me - she can gain the correct amount of weight..."
A. Karen Alfke, designer: "Tell Clara she should take Parker Posey... 'Cause I got dibs on Drew."
Julia Grunau, Patternfish: "I decided to abandon the write-in campaign for the underknown Virna Lisi and pump for Cate Blanchett instead. Which is somewhat problematic because both Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton and I are kind of keen on Blanchett in the abstract. I think the young Vanessa Redgrave would also be a splendid Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton (I would definitely be overserved here), so now what? Cornelia?"
Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton, designer: "No Drew Barrymore here! Vanessa Redgrave would be fine. Wouldn't mind the 'old' version either! She is keeping rather well!"
Robyn Gallimore, Red Bird Knits: "I would like to have Sigourney Weaver play me, because she's tough, and resilient and loyal and smart and far more gorgeous than I am. And she has good hair. And she beat the pants off those aliens over and over again."
Adina Klein, Creative Director, Tahki Stacy Charles: "Janeane Garofalo."
Gayle Bunn, Spinrite: "Isabella Rossellini. Or Audrey Taotou. Or Juliette Binoche."
Without Phil, we were able to fill the air with estrogen on the 7-hour car trip down to Columbus, and listen to Fiona Apple and Kate Bush and classic pop songs. We were free of Great White and AC/DC and any of David Lee Roth’s incarnations. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were as raucous as we got. Robin brought her “Maximum Cowbell” CD, which is an absolute must-have; it’s amazing how many great songs have cowbells. (For DIY cowbell fun, check out www.morecowbell.dj.)
Had dinner with Marlaina (Marly) Bird, and Eileen and Carl Koop of Bijou Basin Ranch, and Susan Madison of Denver LYS I Love Knitting, all of whom were joyful and intelligent and informative and funny. And Eileen turns out to have been the chief chemist/R&D guru for Oxy Clean, which is a product of which we are all extremely fond: very shiny bonus points.
Friday we helped set up booths on the exhibition floor and attended the AKD (Association of Knitwear Designers) Meet & Greet, saw the excellent fashion show, and went to dinner with JoLene Treace, Carol Sulcoski, and Laura Grutzeck (co-author with Carol and Lisa Myers of Knit So Fine). You can’t imagine better company. JoLene suggested the Schmidt House in German Town. It looked dodgy at first because of the extreme volume of the live accordion/tuba combo, which we were sitting next to. But these musicians had a gift. After many flavours of polkas, Carol (the happy opposite of “a flower born to blush unseen and waste its sweetness on the desert air”) demanded “Freebird”. It was not two seconds later that the duo swung perfectly into it. They then eventually segued into Stairway to Heaven... as a polka... which they did superbly. We were in tears and patient Veronik Avery, waiting for us to deliver her room key, had to spend an extra few minutes on the hotel patio because we couldn’t tear ourselves away.
Properly met Jackie Erickson-Schweitzer (90 patterns later?) for the first time and am so happy.
Chancellor Shannon, Robin Melanson, and I are going on a road trip on Thursday the 11th, driving the eight hours or so to Columbus, Ohio. The biggest TNNA (The National NeedleArts Association) show of the year is this coming weekend. To recap: it's a show where retailers are the attendees; where distributors and designers exhibit their Fall 2009 collections to their customers. Literally scores of our publishers will be there, and we want to re-meet or properly meet them all. Of course, scores of potential new publishers will be there too. My intention is to convert the second category into the first. I imagine Chancellor Shannon's intention is to keep me grounded and sane, organized and eating regularly. My part in looking after her will be to limit her coffee intake to about 8 cups a day. That's really hard, so we'll be even.
Minister of Technology Phil's not going this time. He has gone the last two years. The first time, he went to talk intelligent tech to potential publishers when we were still in the planning stages. Last June he went when we were just a few days old, to reassure everyone that everything worked. But now everyone knows that: we're a proven service with an excellent track record, a delighted customer base, and unique marketing and performance advantages. And there's a Ruby on Rails thing that he wants to go to in Toronto this weekend. And much as he loves and supports knitters and knitting and wearing handknit goods, you can see his eyes start to film over when devotees start to bang on about full fashioning and Japanese short rows vs. regular ol' vanilla wrap-and-turn ones. So those of you who were hoping to meet him this time, sadly you won't.
Digression: when they make the movie of The Patternfish Story, Simon Pegg will play Phil. Now you have an idea what he looks like. Shannon would have wanted to be played by Janis Joplin, I think; I don't really know who she'd pick now. I hope vainly for a write-in campaign suggesting 60's beauty Virna Lisi to play me. It will not happen because I really look like a female version of Albrecht Durer. (Don't believe me? I asked Greg how I didn't resemble him. After a pause, he said: "Well, you don't wear low-cut tops like that, much.") Robin Melanson could be played by Zooey Deschanel. End of digression.
Anyway... that's the plan. Drive down on Thursday, return Monday afternoon. We'll see. I'm trying to load a lot of patterns before we go in case my abilities to do so when there are limited. Bear with us. The blog entries should be fun, anyway.
Patternfish.com went live one year ago today.
We share a birthday with poet Allen Ginsberg, artist Raoul Dufy, performer Josephine Baker, actor Paulette Goddard, actor Tony Curtis, actor Colleen Dewhurst, CNN's Anderson Cooper, and writer Larry McMurtry. It seems fitting that we're a Gemini, representing so many different projects from so many diverse minds.
It's been an unbelievable first year. At over 11,000 individual patterns sold to just over 4500 members, we believe we have an unbeatable record for the highest-quality delivery of outstanding patterns at fair-trade prices to a very happy customer base. (About a third of the emails that come into our Support or Info addresses are compliments. We really must set up an official way to say "I Like It!".)
Thank you to all our 127 publishers, customers, and well-wishers all over the world. We've had visits from 141 countries (it's getting easier to name those who haven't come, like Paraguay and North Korea) and literally millions of page views.
In my mind Patternfish is tied up with my mother. We were incorporated in October 2006, a year and a week after her death, and this June 6 she would have been 76 years old. It's because of her that I knit. It's because of her that I taught finishing for years; she set the teaching example. It's because of her that I was able to do this. Thank you, Mom.
Last Tuesday morning I was all ready to sign up for the Sock Summit. Since I have been knitting very little over the last 18 months, I thought taking classes for a weekend's vacation would be excellent, and their instructor list was eyepopping. I wanted to take class with Barbara Walker while the chance existed. I am not obsessed with socks, being pretty much an equal-opportunity project chooser; but I have made more than 70 pairs and was looking to unrut my fixed habits.
So I had my target class list, and credit card, and everything all together, and warned the visiting Chancellor Shannon that I would be incommunicado from about 12:50 p.m. EST on. And I would have been, had my graphics card not crashed for the first time ever at 12:40 p.m., making my trusty Patternfish computer with its high speed internet completely worthless.
The Chancellor showed her mettle immediately (there is nothing so challengingly chewy for our Shannon as solving an emergency before a tight deadline), and she rapidly set up her own Vista laptop for me to use before she flew at my hardware problem. I meanwhile rushed at Greg's Ubuntu machine* (1 terabyte hard drive) and logged in there. At 1:00 p.m. exactly we experienced on our two working computers what the other 30,000+ people did: silence, error screens, personal dismay, and eventually very long pauses in data transmission.
After about 20 - 40 minutes I successfully wrangled a registration slot (Ubuntu machine, if it matters). Because of server traffic, it took so long to register for 5 events that just as I was hitting the PayPal button, my 15-minute session timed out and I lost everything I had signed up for in one moment. That was bad. A few minutes later I got back in and everything I had originally picked was sold out, and most other things besides.
I sat for some time wondering at how sad I felt, and whether crying would help me feel better (I didn't so I don't know), and deciding after some time that I felt pithed. You know how they used to gouge part of the brain or spine out of experimental frogs, so that you could operate on them live but they wouldn't feel it or care about anything? That's being pithed.
After about 20 minutes of pithdom I remembered what Churchill said: "Never give up, never give up, never give up, never give up." It also occurred to me that if my session had timed out, so must have a lot of other people's. While Shannon completed successful restoration of my own computer, I got back on the Ubuntu machine and tried again. Magic. Everything was back, there were spaces, and I got what I wanted and even received a confirmation later. I was hugely relieved, but also felt very thoughtful.
When Patternfish went live last year we tested as much as we could, of course, for weeks and months. Phil (not a cowboy, but a very methodical site-builder) was adamant that we have accurate email addresses for everyone, since our clientele would depend on them for constant access to patterns. He had implemented a reciprocal email validation system where we would send an email confirming membership to those who had signed up. These, of course, got caught in everyone's spam filters, and there was confusion and frustration for some days until we got rid of that, and just crossed our fingers that people signed up correctly the first time. And of course our performance and ease-of-use was reviewed instantly in knitting-related forums, and in some cases criticized, and in some cases harshly criticized. Not just because of the email procedures, but because of other things too, most of which were quick fixes once practicalities were brought to our attention. It was certainly fair that people described their experience. But it's a terrible pity that you can't have out-of-town tryouts and polish your act for a few days or weeks before you actually open on Broadway.
It's very, very hard to attempt something new, much less dramatically big and new, flawlessly, first time, on the Internet. There will always be problems of some kind. And I spent a long time thinking about just how much time and energy and effort and hope and love that Stephanie (whom I've met) and Tina (whom I don't know) had put into this thing, and how frustrated and disappointed they must have been knowing that many good people would be frustrated and disappointed by the server and the signup process.
Stephanie's roundup of the whole thing in her blog is really wonderful. Yes, I'm speaking now from the perspective of someone who's going to be lucky enough to go to Portland in August (thank you, Winston Churchill). But mostly I'm happy that smart people take big bold chances, and try to create something that's never existed before. And I think I'd still feel that way if I hadn't gotten in at all. I hope that the success and sold-outness of the project means that it will become a regular event. Maybe other people will think up other events (or websites!) as a result. I don't know. I'm just glad I live in a world where this is happening. And if I didn't get to see it up close this time, then I would sometime in the future, without a doubt.
* Patternfish is run out of a large room at the back of our house. Since Greg's day job is designing ASICs (Application-Specific Integrated Circuits, or custom computer chips), and daughter has handwriting issues, we have a selection of computers-- but no Macs, unfortunately. Phil has one and tests on it, though. Dotes on it, in fact. Some families have a lot of musical instruments, or lots of pets. We have computers (and two cats).
Those of you who are members of our Facebook group or follow us on Twitter or Ravelry (search for Patternfish-- I am tragically not a member and Chancellor Shannon is likely asleep and cannot help) will already know that we have listed our 3,000th pattern and are bursting with pride.
We have lots of other wonderful things to blog about, but to do it all at once would be pages and pages. I hope to do it in steps over the next day or two. Patience. I understand that professional LYS bloggers are taught to keep their blogs at five paragraphs or fewer. This will be hard.
Bad news first. On Tuesday night, 19 May, I was interviewed by the ebullient and encouraging Marlaina (Marly) Bird on her podcast Yarn Thing. During the course of the hour we happily encouraged designers of every stripe to send their patterns to email@example.com, so we could set about listing them. This morning I discovered that emails have been bouncing back to people since that mailbox was (or very soon became) FULL. So embarrassing. It has since been cleaned out and polished and made all shiny. Would all those who were disappointed or discouraged please try again?
Good news now. Last night I went to the Toronto Downtown Knit Collective meeting to hear Sandi Wiseheart of Knitting Daily speak. She was wonderful and unexpectedly moving. Her topic was (ostensibly) losing (and, one hopes) re-finding your knitting mojo-- burning out and rekindling. I was sitting next to designer Robin Melanson who sympathized with the burning out side; I was glumly hoping to get back to a point where I might someday have the opportunity of burning out. It would be a glorious process, I think. Anyway I got a bit of a sock cuff knitted-- first knitting in weeks.
Danny Ouellette pulled a new hat design out of his secret bag-- a wonder. I cannot wait to list it; but he will offer no patterns before the items are perfectly executed, the patterns perfectly written, and the photos perfectly taken. Patience is required.
To my delight, Cat Bordhi was in the audience. Faithful readers will remember how kind she was at January's TNNA, inviting me to address a class of hers about selling their work on Patternfish. After Sandi's talk I scampered up to Cat (who remembered my name!) and admired what she was wearing-- this beautiful Sivia Harding piece.
"You have it on Patternfish, of course?" smiled Cat.
"Oh, yes. In fact, it's our best-selling pattern in Germany."
"That's because they can spell Moebius," she replied instantly.
We are faint. We want to shout and dance and lob love bombs!
And the most extraordinary thing is that we did this with only 4,188 members-- some of the smartest people in the world. Patternfish is still a too-well-kept-secret. Let people know! Spread the word!
A terrific milestone. How should we celebrate?
We'll email this to publishers personally in a while, but can't keep our mouth shut.
First, 'Publishers' are defined as the copyright holders-- the people who have the right to realize revenue on the own work published under their names. If you buy from the publisher Robin Melanson, then Robin Melanson gets the money.
All publishers can now use vanity links in their own blogs or websites or whatever without further assistance from us. If you type in the URL:
-- you get only the patterns published by Classic Elite. (The '/pub/' means publisher, get it? Of course you do.) Similarly:
-- takes you to only Denise Powell's imaginative Interpretations patterns. Likewise:
-- will take you to only Val Love's great work (we know, not enough, but we're working on it!). As a publisher, you just plug in your own name, and if it's multiple words, just put an underscore between them. All new additions are automatically included. Any questions or problems? Forward to 'info' or 'support' at patternfish.com. Phil or I-- or both, most likely-- will get it. I tell you, empowering the people is mighty satisfying. Thanks, Phil. Go forth and linkify.
More than two thousand seven hundred and fifty times I have uploaded patterns. Individually. One by one. It began last February (2008) and there has rarely been a day off. My back hurts. I would like to get out and publicize Patternfish more, but I have to Feed the Beast too. And sometimes people want things changed that have already been posted (fair enough-- no problem there), and then there's more editing.
But the two exceptionally intelligent designers I blogged about after the Frolic (Laura Chau of cosmicpluto knits [the one I chased a bit] and Kate Atherley of Wise Hilda Knits [the one I knelt before]) have decided that This Won't Do, and They Want To Upload Their Own, Thank You Very Much, Get Out Of Our Way Please. They plunged in not even knowing that they are our first beta testers. B-Girls.
They can't yet create their own fresh records (this will come). But I can create templates assigning a publisher and a design name-- even if it's just ***, and make them available in their Publisher/Patterns area. I've done this, and they are busily uploading their own work in great numbers. Then all I have to do is decide what order they'll go up in (so as not to have four green things in a row, or three pairs of cabled socks in a row, and like that).
It's fantastic. I am in HEAVEN. It is a new world. Thank God for innovators, especially these Beta Girls. Anyone who wants to try this should a) become a member if you aren't already, and b) shoot me an email at the patternsATpatternfish.com address replacing the AT with @.
I was already a fan of TED.com, but a friend just forwarded this:
Briefly, because I'm pooped:
- Chancellor Shannon saved the day. I am disorganized and peripatetic. SHE is focused, tech-savvy, extremely competent, and able to get the Internet going with unfamiliar supplies when there are hundreds of competing signals and interference of all kinds in a strange venue. We lost only 45 minutes at the beginning (likely because I was late), and after that, it was fine.
- Minister of Technology Phil made the day-saving special because he got the control panel changes implemented before the Frolic, so we didn't have to teach people how to use a system that was going to be changed 48 hours later. In fact, his new system didn't really require teaching at all, just exposure.
- Things were good and interesting before the day was saved. Afterwards, they were great. Interest was high, delight was unbounded, new Patternfishers were spawned by the score, unexpected compliments were paid (my favorite: "For five years my husband couldn't find a sweater pattern he liked that I could knit for him until we found one on your site").
- We discovered all kinds of new stores and fibre farms with cool patterns of their own, and invited them to list.
- One designer we have tried to woo without response in the past (OK, we sent her one email when she was off-continent, but this is as much as we can usually do because we are chronically short of time) came up and said she was in face very interested in publishing with us; that was thrilling and touching and greatly welcome. Another designer came up and offered her work unsought (I would have avidly sought but didn't for some stupid reason). She is so highly-regarded in our world that I actually went down on one knee when I found out her name because I felt I should be proposing to HER; it was late in the day and I hadn't had much besides coffee and was very wired. Not that she doesn't deserve it. Fortunately she didn't blog about it or anything (though she blogged about other Frolic-related things-- I checked). I will tell who they are when they list. If they list. Unless they don't want me to.
Will try and get some more patterns up tomorrow. You've been waiting a while. A day or two.
In the next 12 to 72 hours you will see a major change to Patternfish's control panel.
Sometimes people would write and say, "I love your site, it's great, but if only you could search by designer" (or pattern publisher, or yarn manufacturer, or garment style, or something)-- when, of course, you could already. We just hadn't made it clear enough.
Phil is implementing a big change. Rather than have a lot of our critical search criteria under an "Advanced Search" button, he's putting it all out there up front in writing. He's tested and tested it in all kinds of different browsers and operating systems. It will be operational soon, and we hope that's the version we'll be showing people how to use at the Knitter's Frolic on Saturday. That version will continue to be refined and honed as we go on over the next few weeks.
If you notice anything odd, or off, or weird, or misbehaving, or anything strange at all, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure you specify which browser (like Internet Explorer or Firefox or Safari or Opera) you're using, and which operating system your computer uses (most basically, are you on a PC or a Mac? Or, suggests Greg hopefully, Linux? Phil has each in lots of flavours).
Similarly, if the improvements (which should be self-explanatory at last!) inspire you to new ideas, write us at the same address with suggestions. Don't be afraid to dream.
And wish us luck.
A month and a day ago I blogged about something neat. Just posted the first pattern related to that (click right here). Go look! We hope to offer quite a few more soon.
And one of our finest designers and publishers-- Robin Melanson-- spoke tonight at the Downtown Knit Collective in Toronto, and she was outstanding. It was such fun to hear her and see her talk about things she's normally shy about-- her design process and mood boards-- and I can't begin to do everything she said justice. Such a treat.
Wow. Mary Beth Temple, who publishes here under Hooked for Life (but the podcast was on gettingloopy.com) must be one of the most patient, good-natured, and generous people in the United States. I probably talked too fast (MBT clearly has English as her first language, and I had a hard time remembering Cornelia's excellent advice), but the whole thing went by so quickly, and she was so accommodating and kind, that I really enjoyed it. I wish I could have talked more knowledgeably about crochet. And I wish I had said less (and that more slowly!) so she could have finished on time-- it went over. I don't even remember half of what I said. Is this normal?
I also made the mistake of looking up her area code (646) before I went on, and it turns out to be Manhattan (along with 212, I know). Was extra nervous because of this, and that's stupid, because who knows where the majority of her listeners are? It's a big wonderful techworld. Still, note to others in the same boat: don't do this.
Nevertheless the call-- the challenge!-- has gone out to crochet designers: send us your work. The reason we only have 100 or so crochet patterns is that that's what has been supplied to us. Bring them on! It doesn't hurt; and we'll treat your work tenderly. Though it might be best if you wrote your own descriptions. As I've said before, I'm unable to do crochet justice. If you're too modest to blow your own horn loudly, get a crocheting friend to write it for you. We will believe every word. We might ALSO point out that your work will REALLY STAND OUT!
Thanks again, Mary Beth, and good luck with your brand-new book!
And our first podcast is happening too, on Monday April 13th at 9: p.m. EST (GMT less four hours right now), with the witty and crochet-centric Mary Beth Temple of Getting Loopy. I've never done a podcast before, though Lord knows I've had a lot of experience talking. I worry about talking too fast-- a very bad longstanding habit-- and Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton gave some excellent advice. She said to pretend I was talking to someone for whom English was a second language. I have been practicing this in the car while driving around and it seems to work, while unnerving other drivers.
We've had visits from 138 countries now, and are starting to collect amusing statistics. For example, this pattern is our best seller in Germany. Which just goes to show that Germans appreciate good architecture, sound instructions, and beauty in function.
We are about to post our very first pattern in French. Mary Beth Temple has been paying elaborate compliments by supplying same to the Montreal-born (that is to say, me), though I would certainly have appeared on her podcast Getting Loopy without it. This will encourage us to figure out how to handle and make available other languages. Any suggestions?
Did I mention MBT's podcast, at http://www.gettingloopy.com? 9:00 p.m. EST Monday, 13 April?
Oh, and Patternfish has a Facebook page too, where we have a forum and over 100 members. I'm the administrator for a change; Chancellor Shannon has her duties at Ravelry's group.
Great excitement! Patternfish is entering its first show, doing its first live demos all day. We are starting out with a one-day effort... Chancellor Shannon is unused to trade shows and we want to break her in gently (Julia's been giving good booth all over North America since she was 20)... it's the Knitter's Frolic, put on by Toronto's Downtown Knit Collective on Saturday the 25th of April. Click here for detailed information about it. The Chancellor (who is everyone's best friend since she pays people) and I will be on hand from 9 to 4 showing people how to perform searches, answering questions, handing out bits of swag, and meeting Toronto's avid knitting constituency. Booth #4, Kobayashi Hall. Come introduce yourselves!
Way back at the beginning we promised some 'digital treats' to our dear customers, and while we are readying some ideas of our own, we're also looking for suggestions. Is there anything in particular that you'd like to see? Our small (but very very smart) team of techsperts (texperts?) is at the ready. What might we be able to offer digitally that would improve your knitting and crocheting lives? Don't say 'an online needle gauge'; we won't be liable for people poking holes in their screens.
We've also been working on various site improvements, some of which will be visible in the next few days. About half of our patterns are ready to be searched by chest size; as soon as we've gone back and coded the other archival half for it, we'll offer that ability as well. This was based on several customer suggestions, and it just goes to show that squeaky wheels get greased.
Veronik Avery once mentioned that it might be nice to search by year or decade too. That feature will be added as soon as we can; again, a sizeable percentage of our patterns are already coded for it, but it's not fair unless everything is.
The moral of this post: don't be afraid to ask for something. Almost all of our programming is custom (thanks again, Phil!), and if we can do something special for one person, likely everyone else will benefit too.
Sharon Dreifuss of She-Knits wants to help everyone feeling financial pinches these days, and has reduced the prices on her wonderful felted bags from $7 to $6. It figures that someone with seven children would have more heart than usual!
Went to Madame Tussaud's in D.C. Wednesday morning. Streets were blocked off everywhere in downtown Washington, so just drove past the White House and missed the Lincoln Memorial altogether. Kids swam for hours in the late afternoon and fell like trees early evening.
Arrived home safely around 8:30 p.m. Thursday, started laundry, and checked email for the first time in a week. All I can say (short-term) is that Patternfish.com fans are in for big treats over the next few days as I get everything over the last week sorted and posted.
One of the delights of driving over long distances is the unexpected finds. As we were motoring through Pennsylvania, we drove past the federal Allenwood penitentiary, which I believe is where John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas did his time for selling drugs. The grounds look extremely nice, even in a light drizzle in March. And I recall that (in his outstanding autobiography co-authored with Jim Jerome), Phillips said that his lawyer described it to him more or less as "a lot like Aspen, except milder at this time of year".
In New York State, we also drove past a baby-related outlet called The New York Stork Exchange. I LOVE this kind of thing. There's a store in Toronto called The Merchant of Tennis, and I always laugh when I go past it.
Kids were angelic but there's still a few days to go before they're back at school. Life will be back to more-or-less-normal soon.
Yesterday was the fantastic National Zoo in Washington, with its Giant Pandas and Great Ape House, Reptile Discovery Center (anacondas and cobras and pythons and copperheads et al.) and cheetahs and lions and tigers and Tamarins (look those up-- why haven't they caught on as chic little monkey pets? SO beautiful) and I don't remember what else-- glorious. Also an exhausting day's long walk up and down hill. Today we didn't even make it to the renowned Baltimore Aquarium, just spent all day at Port Discovery, where the kids were able to be delirious in their kidly way and climb and slide and clamber and splash and puzzle and decipher, but mostly climb. The only rotten part was not being able to drink coffee while watching them; but the splendid staff agreed to host my coffee in their Lost and Found until we left, and taped foolscap all over it to keep it as warm as possible and anyone else from drinking it.
That means tomorrow (Wednesday) will be in Washington at Madame Tussaud's and the Lincoln Memorial and the White House. If all goes as planned (as if), we will come back for a swim at a local recreational centre and pack to ready ourselves for the 9+ hour drive back to Toronto all day Thursday. Late Thursday or Friday night I personally plan to reinvigorate Toronto's red wine sales sans family. Friday will be all Patternfish and laundry and email, as will the rest of the weekend at home.
What an outstanding selection of different kinds of days in a row.
Arrived safely late Friday night and spent Saturday afternoon in Baltimore (who knew the rellies-- relatives-- were 20 minutes from Baltimore and 40 from Washington? Bonus!) seeing the USS Constellation (the last sail-festooned warship built in the US, in 1845 or thereabouts) and pedalling around the bay with two happy children in a boat shaped like a dragon. We just barely managed to avoid T-boning a submarine with a shark face painted on its front. At about one tenth of one kilometre an hour.
Today we went to the Washington Mall and saw Congress at one end, and the Washington and Lincoln Memorials in the far distance at the other; extraordinarily moving, even for the 10-year-old (the younger ones were too busy running and climbing to take special notice of their exact location in the world). In between we walked through two sculpture gardens and visited two Smithsonian branches: the National Air and Space Museum and the Museum of Natural History. I am not a particular aeronautics fan, but seeing the actual Glamorous Glennis (the tiny orange plane in which Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier for the first time in human history) brought me to unexpected tears. Yeager's autobiography is very good if you can find a copy, even if you're not terribly aerocentric. The latter museum was terrific too, but due to tired minors, we whisked through only three bits of it-- dinosaurs (zoom!), mammals (whoosh!), and the Hope Diamond room. The Hope Diamond is somewhat bigger than an American or Canadian quarter (25 cent piece) and quite fearfully wonderful to look at if you know anything about its dramatic history.
Tomorrow Washington again, either the Zoo or further Mall explorations. Tuesday, the renowned Baltimore Aquarium and a kind of kids' resort (Port Discovery?). Wednesday is up for grabs (whatever we didn't do on Monday) and Thursday we drive back to Toronto. Whoosh. Zoom.
Internet access turns out to be dodgier than I had thought, and it's making me anxious, but will try and get a bit more done tomorrow afternoon if I can send everyone else out for a swim. But what a fantastic trip! Highly recommended. Rellies with diplomatic license plates are likewise highly recommended if you can arrange it.
Patterns have appeared on Patternfish in greater or lesser profusion almost every day since we went live on 4 June 2008. Naturally someone has to do this, and so far it's been me. It's even been done at the expense of knitting itself, if you can imagine. I love doing it but it's been pretty relentless.
Starting tomorrow, the family and I will be driving to and around Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington D.C. visiting darling relatives and seeing sights. It's our first real road trip (and our eldest child is 10; waiting this long constitutes a sin in Canada). While you Patternfish fans won't be able to count on many new patterns a day, there might be some, and certainly more frequent (and likely more interesting) blogging-- almost daily, I should think. I have to say I'm looking forward to knitting time as a passenger; our resident tech expert Greg has yet to figure out how to actually upload patterns securely and flawlessly via wi-fi while hurtling along the Interstate. Next year, no doubt.
I will be able to get email, so if you're tempted to submit new patterns or designs for the first time, this is an ideal moment in which to do it. It makes my life much easier than lots of scanning. C'mon!
For some years America's JCA Crafts (parent company of Reynolds, Artful Yarns, Unger, and others) represented a designer line of yarns which is no longer available (I believe it ended in 2006 or shortly after). The name under which it was produced is a marketable commodity, and licensed in many ways to many companies even now.
The yarns were terrific, very high quality, and more costly than many. We mourn their loss.
But... the designs were likewise terrific, very high quality, and looked fantastically expensive-- partly because of the yarns they were made in, but also partly because they were so very well thought out and timelessly striking.
We think it would be an awful shame if access to these designs were lost to knitters forever, just because the yarns were discontinued. So we have asked JCA Crafts repeatedly (they would likely say we badgered them to death) if they saw any fair and legal way to publish these designs online for knitters who would cherish them.
After years of deliberation and thought, they have finally agreed to make them available to fans so long as the name of the designer is not used or mentioned in any of the marketing materials. That is, we can't promote these designs in any way using the designer's name (for which people usually pay large licensing fees). If you know the name involved, keep it quiet! If not, no matter; you may shortly be exposed to designs of such classical loveliness that you won't care where they came from.
We are preparing the first releases of these designs, and are looking for feedback from you as to how to prioritize them-- if it matters (there are spring and fall seasons for many years). We're looking for comments. If we see any comment mentioning the name of the designer involved, we will be forced to delete that comment, so as to strictly comply with any applicable American laws. Be warned. But otherwise, does anyone have anything to say on this matter, pro or con, before we test any waters?
Once I said I blogged with the frequency of Halley's Comet, and this last month I really made that come true. But unique circumstances dictated it-- my Dad's memorial and the people who came to it from all over, and since they've come from all over you really want to see them offline, too.
"You don't blog enough," people say, and I suppose technically that's true. But in a way (and I write most of them) every pattern's description is a little blog. A bloglet. Italians might say (I like this) a bloghettino. We post new patterns almost every day. By the time I should write an Official Blog Entry (perhaps a blogone, pr. blow-GOH-nay), I'm often feeling quite wrung out, like all the words and wit have been through the juicer already. Then I don't want to disappoint people, so I don't Blog.
Someone once asked Margot Fonteyn what she had meant when she had performed a certain gesture or step. "I explained it while I was doing it," she replied. I think a lot of designers talk to us like this. In the descriptions, I sort of hold up signs pointing to certain elements of what they explain by doing-- or what you're prevented from seeing, since you can't read the whole pattern before you buy it. Patternfish's whole existence is rather like that too; we explain it by its being, its very presence. I love my job.
As I write we are two patterns away from having 2500 listings. It's quite unbelievable.
We received this email yesterday from a potential publisher:
"Good Morning Madam Prime Minister (unless there has been an election or No Confidence vote since the TNNA blogs); our best to the Chancellor, as well (We were impressed that Americans would know about non-confidence votes, but at the first hint of one, Patternfish will have a Prime-Minister-For-Life: hello, benevolent dictatorship!-- Ed.)
"Ron and I - the grunt and janitor at Buffalo Gold respectively - would love to participate in Patternfish ...but we have, so far, bought patterns or licenses for patterns and then allowed our dealers to give the patterns away with bison yarn purchases. We would like our designers to be able to get additional money selling these same patterns, if possible. So how might we add our meager (but rapidly growing) pattern book and designers to Patternfish? If it's worth a talk, call Ron - 817-xxx-xxxx as he is the idea guy (and skein winder).
"Keep up the great work."
Of course we called them right away, and they are going to encourage their design flock to list with us, then everybody will be happy. How great a management team is that? They have good ideas AND wind skeins! And they look after their designers! Awwww.
Item: Cecil (the author of the Buffalo Gold communication) has just emailed that, on any new business card, Prime Minister for Life would likely be abbreviated thus: PMs for Life-- "probably not how you want to be remembered," he says airily. What I want to know is, how did he know we all have such well-developed senses of humour? Because in some counties, them's fightin' woids. We are secure enough to find it hilarious, although Greg's probably off somewhere rolling his eyes and nodding.
News flash: price increases are on their way for Stylecraft and all Wendy, Twilleys, Robin, and Peter Pan patterns. We do not like negative surprises for our customers, so we will give you a week to buy at the old price. Sometime on 18 February 2009, Stylecraft will go from $3.50 to $4.49 (they should have been at $3.99 before but weren't-- oops); the rest will go from $3.50 to $3.99. We will Twitter and Plurk this, too. This is an across-the-board increase from the distributor. It applies to all retailers. We did not make it up. Go crazy.
And we are reverting back to normal sock postings-- as a condiment, not as a vegetable.
We are happily doing the Patternfish Watusi over here, because of all the great publishers who've come on in the last while since TNNA. EIGHT of them. Not all because of TNNA, of course; a couple of intrepid independents (Hooked for Life, Flirtations Knitwear) strolled over and introduced themselves without the prompting of a trade show. But Gardiner Yarn Works, Cherry Tree Hill, Trendsetter Yarns, Bergere de France, Fiesta Yarns, and (imminently) Ironstone Yarns have all joined us in the last two weeks largely because of TNNA.
We are perhaps especially surprised and impressed with Bergere de France for the following reason. They are by far the largest and oldest of the companies mentioned, with offices in at least three countries (Canada, England, France), and its own substantial mill(s) in France (of course). With all this comes a certain inevitable amount of bureaucracy.* And yet, they made a decision to list with us very quickly, considering their size; they acted like a small, bright, zippy startup, and seized the day, coordinating PDF posting amongst their three countries (really), and doing it fast. Wow.
The mix of all these companies is terrific.
Gardiner Yarn Works is an independent pattern company. When we classify someone as 'independent', it means they have no corporate yarny axe to grind. GYW is not associated with any one line of yarn. The good people there pick the yarns they want to use from all the world's available sources, and design wonderful things with whatever especially pleases them. Very cool.
Similarly, indies Hooked for Life and Flirtations Knitwear, while dipping their fingers in the knitting pool occasionally, are expanding our crochet horizons in the best possible ways; we are anxious to see more of their work.
The rest? Cherry (we keep wanting to type "Cheery", which would work too) Tree Hill does a vast array of high-fibre-quality handdyes; Trendsetter has been a North American leader in novelties and unusual yarns for decades, with Barry Klein working within mills to actually help invent their yarns; Bergere de France makes their own fashion yarns and offers stunning European patterns to set them off; Fiesta and Ironstone have very high end, unusual fibre mixes, which they handdye as well.
All this means an unusual breadth of choice for our Patternfishers. We could not have planned it better if we'd tried.
So now... this is perhaps (as Churchill said) the end of the beginning of our San Diego TNNA publishers. We will keep you posted about the next act.
Aside: Chancellor Shannon is insisting that I read David Foster Wallace. No doubt our readership is in for a lot more footnotes.
* Anyone who has ever worked for a large company has experienced at least that kind of bureaucracy. Anyone who has ever lived in Europe has experienced yet another kind. We imagine that working for a large company while living in Europe would be... quite a character-building experience. It would probably not make you nimbler or quicker. We are not criticizing: we've done these things. It's just... different.
In university, largely penniless and full of save-the-world, I decided to start giving blood as my first charitable endeavour. Mom had been a nurse at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and I knew it was important. I had no money to give, and not a vast deal of time. But I had blood, and I had an hour. So I started to donate.
Since then access to clinics has not always been consistent. But yesterday morning I traipsed off (if you can traipse in a car through a snowstorm) to give my 33rd pint.
After the donation, one of the kind volunteers asked if I'd like any of their goodies with my peach juice.
"Would you mind if I took a couple of those little Oreo packs for my kids' lunches?" I said.
"You just saved three lives," she said. "You can have whatever you want."
I can't tell you how this made me feel. If you have blood, and an hour, you can feel this way too. I highly recommend it.
Oh, and remember the Mad Hattery late last year? We are now in the same delightful position with socks. Every third pattern until further notice will be a sock pattern. For non-sock fans, we thank you for your patience in advance; if, on the other hand, you like socks (and a few knitters do), this is your moment.
Post-TNNA life settles down and publishers we met with there are starting to make good on their promises to list their work with us (welcome, Gardiner Yarn Works and Cherry Tree Hill!). Other publishers are also popping up with splendid work (hello, imminent Hooked for Life and Flirtations Knitwear!). But these new arrivals continue to throw one of my fatal flaws into sharp relief.
I can't crochet. I mean, I can make a chain, but beyond that I fall down with a thump. Not even Crab Stitch (or Backwards Single Crochet). I'm an accomplished knitter and I've taught finishing and I'm generally pretty competent with a needle or two, but crochet is just like one of those Indo- or Base 10 languages I know I'll never speak. I've always wanted to crochet edgings and inserts for pillowcases. So to start, my mother taught me to make granny squares on at least five different occasions, and I could do it in front of her, but landed up with soggy sorry messes on my lap out of her presence. She died three years ago, so since I'll never be in her physical presence again, I guess that's it. (I know this will bring out the generosity in all of you, and I appreciate it in advance; but I won't have time to learn any crochet for at least three years. Really. It will just have to be in abeyance for a while. I won't have time to learn much knitting-wise, either. I will have to learn to find my rut comfortable.)
Years ago, my main impression of crochet was this kind of thing. We strive not to display any editorial bias, but I confess that this would not be at the top of my to-crochet list. Chancellor Shannon does not feel terribly constricted by diplomacy in this case, and, inspired by that piece, has taken to describing random things in general as "swan-ugly". Nonetheless, I am Voltairian in our mandate to publish it ("I disagree with every word you've said, but I will defend to my death your right to say it"). Some people will find it compelling and beautiful and will want to make it, and we live to serve that, and respect their opinions.
But in the last few months, I've seen some breathtaking crochet from companies and individuals. I love this Wendy jacket, and this amazing Epicurus shawl, and this wonderful beaded Swallow Hill Creations piece, and this lovely Gayle Bunn cardi for Artful Yarns, and this chic little cloche/toque, and I could go on and on. We have more great ones coming up, too.
Fresh young minds, man. There's nothing like them. Just be sure that if you submit a crochet piece for sale, that you write the description. Because I would automatically rate it as intermediate (not being able to tell easy from hard), and would not be able to say much else beyond: "hey, this thing is really good, and you should make a bunch of 'em."
Digression: I like statistics. The US is our most frequent visitor (though we just sold our first pattern to Singapore the other day, and our excitement was unbounded). The state visiting the most is California. For fun, here are its top ten cities in terms of visits from 1 August 2008 until now:
1. San Francisco
2. West Hollywood
4. Los Angeles
6. San Diego
7. Huntington Park
8. Santa Clara
10. Thousand Oaks
I'm sure all these cities are renowned for their groundbreaking good taste (I know San Francisco is), so woot, California!
We were well-nigh bursting at the end, Chancellor Shannon and I.
Karen and Julia Dinner of Village Yarns in Toronto were going round to all their favoured distributors suggesting they list their patterns with us-- much good will come of their endorsements. But it did make for interesting conversations if distributors asked, "... and what do the retailers think about this?" Village Yarns is aiming to go paperless as soon as it's practical, and they see us as an enormous help in this regard. We of course are very happy to be as green as we can be.
The Kertzer booth had a huge poster for this design, proving once again how current and clever Stylecraft is in making their freshest styles available to everyone on the internet.
We also had the great pleasure of meeting Elise Duvekot, who has just published a beautiful book with XRX called Knit One Below, and has patterns on Patternfish published through Knitting Traditions (Beth Brown-Reinsel's imprint).
Talked with Chrissy Gardiner and Donna Arney at Gardiner Yarn Works and it turns out that Chrissy is friends with our beloved designer Karen Alfke (publisher of Unpatterns and 2nd Nature Design), so that was great. Talked with Tahki/Stacy Charles, Dale of Norway, PolarKnit (they're Canadian too!), Fairmount Fibers (Manos!), Mission Falls, the US distributor for Fiesta and Ironstone yarns (7 Dimes Distributing), Berroco, and other iconic folk. Ah, people! This is just talking. And nothing will happen instantly. But the stars appear to be aligning in a most promising way.
Yesterday was perfectly topped off by a good long visit with Clara Parkes of Knitter's Review. She probably doesn't remember, but last June at the Columbus TNNA (Patternfish had been live for about 72 hours), she had been so encouraging and kind that Phil and Shannon and I have talked about it ever since. Clara has a singular kind of wit that is both very dry and very sharp. I wish she would let it off its leash more, and be a regular on some chat show, so everyone could laugh as much as Shannon and I did.
Regular uploading (with some new publishers, too!) will resume very soon.
Finally, I'm happy to report that sleeping with Veronik Avery is fantastic. She's very clean, doesn't kick or snore, and in all ways has excellent bed manners.
So far we've had talks of various lengths with, among others: The Sassy Skein, Style Hounds, Cherry Tree Hill, Knitter's Magazine, Yarn Market News/SOHO Publishing, Bergere de France, Brown Sheep Company, Koigu, Jane Ellison/KFI, Knitwhits, Trendsetter, Prism, and Patons/Spinrite. More meetings scheduled tomorrow with others. We are very very pleased, and excited, at the possibilities. Many people went out of their way to compliment Phil (back home) on designing such a site as this, and acknowledged its hidden complications and challenges; despite appearances, it's not easy, and Phil has done a tremendous job.
Went for supper at The Linkery (thanks for the recommendation, Tony!). Wonderful. If you're ever in San Diego, take a cab and go.
Shannon found a baby onesie in a shop that bore this legend:
In short, it's been one delightful thing after another, and we're not done yet. But it's time to pack before checkout tomorrow. If there's no other blog before our red-eye tomorrow night back to Toronto, there'll be one on Tuesday after our return. Lengthier. It's late (4:20 a.m. Toronto time), and we all (Shannon and Veronik and I) have to admire one another's sleepwear for the last time. Sob.
Slunk into the back of Cat Bordhi's class this morning around 8:30, armed with lots of bookmarks and too few buttons for the attendees. I had been expecting 20 students-- there were more like 55. That was wonderful, to see so many talents serious about writing patterns professionally.
I tried to take as little time away from the official curriculum as possible: a little overview of what we do, and some question-answering. I mentioned that you had to be a member of Patternfish before we could make you a publisher (this is not clear enough in our blurbage; we will change it). Whereupon some earnest soul asked, "Does it cost money to join?" This was such a foreign thought that I just blurted out, "Golly, no! That would be evil," and everyone laughed, and the Patternfish portion of the program wrapped up to applause. Thank you, good Cat and bright students.
So then it was on to stalking the show with the indefatigable Chancellor Shannon, who took it upon herself to be my Sherpa ("your purse," she would correct me). Tenzing Norgay is not given enough credit. Shannon had the laptop in the wheely bag and insisted on toting my briefcase, too, and buying the coffee (she drinks more than I do, which is saying a lot), and taking notes, and writing down all the appointments I blithely make, ensuring that they don't conflict, reminding me of other commitments, suggesting food when I forget to eat, and generally making herself more invaluable by the minute.
People here seem more aware of Patternfish than I thought they would be, and very positively so. It's a welcome shock, but a shock. Probably all bloggers and web-business folk feel like this. You spend such tremendous amounts of time in isolation (in front of your computer) working on something you feel is important that you get too caught up in your own view of it. Then, out in the world, if people like what you do, it's like they're complimenting you on a picture you thought you drew in private.
There were productive meetings galore, and more new ones and follow-ups to come. It was especially nice to talk with designer Sharon Dreifuss (She-Knits), who was exhibiting her beautiful felted bags in the Brown Sheep Company booth, and explaining Patternfish to her. Her eyes grew wider and wider until finally she exclaimed, "There's no downside!" That was a marvellous thing to hear.
"Oh, are you Patternfish?" people ask. Yes I am, I say proudly, and so is Shannon here. But I should have named the site Unbearably Lovely or something: "Yes, of course we're Unbearably Lovely! Can't you tell?"
Yesterday (Thursday) was a travel day, in which Shannon and I made our way from Toronto to San Diego via Newark. The Newark - San Diego flight was delayed by several hours, which was not a problem as we had access to red wine during the delay. Which also led to sleeping during the flight: perfect.
We arrived to find messages from loved ones at home anxious to make sure we had not landed in the Hudson River, as had one of our colleagues from a publisher. She is apparently fine, thank God.
Today (setup day for the trade show) almost half of Toronto was without power during -20C temperatures. We worried about this as we sat outside in balmy weather eating seafood for lunch, and being inconvenienced occasionally by the spray from a nearby fountain.
We saw lots of wonderful people during setup (we are not exhibiting, but help some publishers out). Most startling was Cat Bordhi, who very kindly invited me to speak to her class of budding designers tomorrow morning about marketing your work. Greatly excited about this.
Roommate Veronik Avery was a tremendous good sport when I announced I was going to report on her pyjamas (or similar). "I like to dress well to sleep," says she, with the effortless chic of a true Quebecoise. "I am wearing my cyclamen lace-trimmed V-neck top and yoga pants." She also says she left her sock monkey pyjama bottoms at home. In the spirit of full disclosure, Shannon remarked about her own sleepwear, "large T-shirts are your friend." Hers is tobacco-coloured. My own night costume on this trip, worn leggings and a long thin grey jersey top, might best be described as Amish in spirit. More, as I said before, later.
Chancellor Shannon and I are off to TNNA in San Diego, California later today. TNNA stands for 'The National Needle Arts Association'. It's a trade show where North American needle arts distributors exhibit what's new (in the January case, for spring and summer 2009) to North American retailers. A trip to California is especially welcome right now, since it's about -20 degrees Celsius in Toronto at the moment. The Fahrenheit and Celsius scales meet at around -30 or -33. Special Guest Star Greg calls this kind of temperature 'AFC', for 'Arse-Freezing Cold'. Minister of Technology Phil has been known to say that Canada (at least where we are) has two seasons, "winter and July". This is not strictly true, but it's easy to believe when the weather's like this.
Anyway, lots of our existing publishers (like JCA Crafts, with Reynolds and Artful Yarns; hempforknitting, with Lanaknits Designs; Classic Elite Yarns; Naturally; SWTC, and many others) will be there, along with many other companies who have sworn up and down that they will list their patterns with Patternfish as soon as possible. A lot of independent designers go too, to sign their books or meet the folks for whom they freelance.
In short, just about everyone involved in knitting or crocheting who attends is either a potential publisher or a potential customer, or (in the case of the courageous retailers), a conduit to a LOT of end users. So we are armed with Patternfish.com bookmarks and new Patternfish.com buttons, and intend to strew them liberally about.
Paradoxically, we always run into a lot of wonderful Canadians at these American shows that we don't normally see, like Lucy Neatby and Sally Melville and Mags Kandis and Veronik Avery-- even darling Amy Singer (who LIVES in Toronto and publishes Knitty.com from here) and I don't get together much except for occasions like this.
So the pace of uploading new patterns may slow while we're busy catching up with North American knitterati. But I will try to blog more often to make up for it. Veronik is actually sharing a room with us from Friday on (how did we get so lucky?), so if it's OK with her, I might blog about what kind of pyjamas she wears. Or if she wears pyjamas at all. "Of this," as my friend Alex says, "more later."
Patternfish's formal year end is the calendar year, Dec. 31st. And while we went live June 4, 2008 (also Anderson Cooper of CNN's birthday), for some reason it only occurred to us to start keep official stats as of 1 August. Fatigue and overwork, probably.
So from 1 August through 31 December 2008, here are our stats. Keep in mind we are just a baby-- seven months old, out of nowhere, and these stats represent just five of those months.
We had well over 1,050,000 page views from 126 countries. The top 20 countries for visits are:
1. United States
15. New Zealand
We pause here to admire tiny Luxembourg, who scraped together 18 visits but averaged a whopping 44+ pages for each (this takes almost half an hour at a time, we discovered). Iraq, surely with other things to think about, somehow managed 2 visits; we are touched and moved.
Overall-- this is from 4 June now-- we have sold thousands and thousands of patterns in thousands of successfully-filled orders.
There was the odd glitch. We have a slight tendency to assume that people know more about tech than they do (Phil, Greg, Shannon, and I have all been involved in it as a business for more than two decades each), so sometimes people have to drag us back to reality-- good for everyone who's done it. Once, PayPal had a migraine that affected every one of their merchants; and another time, our patterns got stuck in their delivery system and couldn't get out (but we could take orders!). Those things got fixed quickly.
Other than that, we've had a remarkably good uptime record-- thanks to Minister of Technology Phil, who built a wonderfully sturdy site mostly from scratch, and only occasionally told Julia how things were going to be instead of the other way around. In those case his ideas were always an improvement over whatever she had wanted.
We received wonderful attention from Vogue Knitting (in print) and Knitter's Review (online), and various cutting-edge blogs, podcasts, local newsletters, and LYS's. Toronto's Romni Wools even let us have a whole storefront window on extended loan. Profound thanks to everyone who helped us in every way.
Our first year end. It's been fabulous. We'll check back with more stats by our first birthday. Infinite thanks to our members and publishers in equal measure; they make one another's presence possible, and our business a joy.
We hope everyone had a healthy, happy, safe holiday season, and is welcoming 2009 with an open heart.
Blogging has been nonexistent over the last few weeks. I apologize. My father died after a brief acute illness (at age 75) on New Year's Eve. He led a rich full life and left precious little undone that he wanted to do; and he lived in his own home on his own until 18 days before he died. Few are so lucky. We will all miss him dreadfully. He was an avid cheerleader for Patternfish (having been a lifelong entrepreneur himself) and would have been delighted that December 2008 was in all ways, and despite current economic conditions, our best month ever.
Soon-- more cheerful topics, and there's a lot to be cheerful about... so get ready.
First: the new version of Sally Melville's best-selling Cross-over-rib Top is now available, in 5 sizes instead of the previous 3. Check it out here. All who have bought it in the past will have automatic access to the new version through their Pattern Stash; all brand new buyers will get the upgrade automatically. It was very generous of Sally to spontaneously do the work to include two larger sizes; thank you! Sally has her own dedicated website, with a fascinating blog and wonderful tips: http://sallymelvilleknits.com/. Hurry over and have a look.
And-- as many of you have kindly noted with emails and blog comments-- we have now exceeded 2000 patterns available for download in our database. Posting our 2000th was an exciting moment. I can be very literal, and even at 1995 listings, when asked if we had thousands of patterns, I would not round up but would grit my teeth and say, "Not quite. One thousand nine hundred and ninety-five." But now we can airily talk about our thousands of patterns (and thousands of discerning members too, of course!) and tell nothing but the strict truth. It's both exhilarating and a big relief.
Patternfish/PayPal Gift Certificates are now ready for purchase. Check out the bottom of any of our web pages, and you can click on "Gift Certificates" to get a full explanation of how to buy and redeem them.
If the hitherto frantic pace of adding new patterns slows somewhat over the next couple of weeks (though we absolutely intend to continue to add new ones virtually every day), it's not just because of the holiday season. There's an illness in my family (not the kids or Special Guest Star Greg) which is demanding some time and care. Paradoxically, this is speeding up our implementation of a faster, more democratic upload process. It just goes to show that some good can come out of anything.
We are happily talking with a number of new publishers about listing their patterns with Patternfish. Some approach us, a few we approach (though our time for this is much more limited than we would like).
Independent designers would be doing us a huge favour if they would just assume we love their work (even in the abstract! Even if it's the first thing you've ever designed!) and want to see it. For one thing, it's true. For another thing, if we were to devote a reasonable amount of time to courting a fraction of the available talent, we could do it for weeks and never post another pattern during that time; at which point our thousands of members might get bored and take up fletching (making arrows) or something. Fletching is fine; we just have a mandate to keep our constituency happy.
You do not have to be invited to submit to Patternfish. Invite yourselves. Assume you're welcome (you are). We're rather nice, and Julia knits (or used to before Patternfish happened), and Chancellor Shannon and Minister of Technology Phil and Special Guest Star Greg (a sometime knitter) are all big fans and beneficiaries of knitting, too. Shannon even crochets, which sort of makes up for Julia's enormous deficiencies in that area.
So consider yourselves invited. Tell people. Read "About Selling", and send your work, or PDF's or JPEGs of it, to email@example.com. We can't wait to see it.
We still have a few hats left to list, but they'll fit into the Grand Scheme of Things. We now resume our normal eclecticism. Thank you for your patience during the Mad Hattery.
Ladies and Gentlemen: we are blessed at the moment with an inordinate number of hats to post.
Normally we try to mix things up, and post all manner of garments in no special order, so as to treat everything (and everyone's tastes) fairly. But this is a special situation.
Therefore, in order to accommodate this onrush of a particular type of garment, every other pattern for the next day or two is going to be a hat, until the surplus is disseminated. This may also help those looking for quick gifts to make for the holiday season.
So: welcome to 48 hours or so of Extreme Hats. We will return to our regularly scheduled programming shortly.
When we were designing Patternfish, we needed to practice handling patterns: uploading, downloading, editing them. Being (more or less) moral mammals, we didn't want to horse around with anyone's copyrighted material. But we needed something to work with that was like the real thing.
So Special Guest Star Greg, who has been watching Julia knit for some years, wrote one. Here it is in its entirety: the only pattern we offer that you don't have to pay for.
THE PATTERN THAT GOES LIKE THIS
This is the pattern that goes like this. It will knit up in a certain way, and, when complete, may be worn in some manner according to its shape and structure. It will be constructed of some type of yarn.
You will need, therefore, some type of yarn, and, almost certainly, some knitting needles.
Cast some stitches onto the needles in a suitable manner, until width is sufficient. Knit further stitches into these. Knit to and fro. If bored, stare at the following:
k2, p3, w/1, but no; k1 with a/3 and sk/p to the lou. U cn't; hry luv. No, u j/st have 2 wt. Row yr bt, gntly dwn strm. Repeat ad tedium. When yarn over, begin new yarn.
Shape the piece as appropriate, according to desired shape. Knit all pieces needed for the finished garment.
When pieces are complete, finish the garment. This will require joining some peices (sic), normally at the edges, and may involve buttons, buttonholes, or similar. If the yarn has one end, it must have another; sew them in.
I shrieked when I read it. Greg said huffily, "well, I've watched you, and that's how you do it."
Anyone who can submit a picture of what this... item might look like is welcome to send it. We will publish it instantly.
Sally Melville wrote us to say: "I have done some math to make the Cross-Over-Rib Top work for larger sizes... I am doing this because I wore it myself with a top underneath and then discovered it had more versatility and so would work (that way)-- something I didn't know until I played with my closet!" She expects to post a revised, expanded version of her pattern sometime in the next couple of weeks. We asked if we could blog about this. "Blog away," she replied cheerfully. "That will force me to get to it more quickly." All in favour of this enhancement to one of our most popular patterns, please post encouraging comments below.
After a period of testing the waters, today England's Stylecraft gave us permission to post just about every pattern of theirs we can find. We are beyond thrilled. Look for much more of their fine work, both vintage and current, over the next few weeks.
Patternfish page views since 1 August are over 770,000, and we're up to visits from 115 countries-- now including Macau, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Georgia, and Sudan. Also that hotbed of knitting enthusiasm: Fiji. To say we are gobsmacked would be criminal understatement.
Patternfish Gift Certificates are on their way in time for the holiday season-- we will blog and Twitter and Plurk as soon as it happens.
We are now taking questions from the floor...
Minister of Technology Phil climbed Kilimanjaro last year (we wouldn't let him go now: Patternfish is too important). We had watched him train, have all the shots for Africa, and heard his plans. On his return he showed us pictures. Here's one:
-- in which he's wearing a hat (THE hat, he would say) that I made for him (Wellington Fibres mohair/wool, pattern a kluge of my own)-- at the top of the tallest vertical climb in the world. Not that I am boasting, but clearly the hat was an indispensable part of his success.
Anyway, then I imagined I knew everything about mountain climbing, because I had read Into Thin Air and heard Phil talk about his experience. How much more complicated could it be? So I wrote the following lines for this pattern, wanting to show off a bit:
"You have the skills, and if you're patient and methodical and committed, you can do it. No Everest pyrotechnics with Sherpas and oxygen; Kilimanjaro." Pushed the button: uploaded, for all the world to see.
I was proud, and after an indefinite period of time (hours? days? weeks?) phoned Phil up and read it to him.
"Actually," said Phil calmly, "we had Sherpas. Well, they called them Porters. They were amazing."
"Oh, no! It's out there! What do I do?"
"Say ice ladders. We didn't need those."
I scurried back and changed it. Now I try to be very careful about research. I certainly don't pretend I know what you need to climb mountains any more.
People ask how they can see the most recent patterns.
Our patterns are all displayed in the order of entry. It's like a telephone keypad. On Shop Page 1 (where you land up if you click Shop at the top of the page), the most-recently-entered pattern is in the 1 position; second-most-recent in the 2 position; and so on. As patterns get entered, they push the other ones to the right and down, and ultimately onto page 2 and 3 and so on.
Sometimes people have trouble trying to sign in.
This is almost always because people have forgotten or misremembered their login (in which case, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll remind you); or, in some cases, their OS or browser needs to be jolted, reloaded, restarted, or to be turned off and on again. If anything else ever happens, take notes and write to us in detail about it.
There are helpful instructions (really worth reading!) for downloading your patterns in your Pattern Stash.
In most cases, downloaded patterns are processed within a minute. But sometimes it can take longer-- just like it sometimes takes an unexpected while to get ordinarily emails. Don't forget to refresh your browser to make sure you're looking at the latest information. If your patterns haven't arrived safely within half an hour, then contact us.
"So, how's it going?" everyone asks, meaning nothing but Patternfish. Short answer: we're very happy with our performance in the first five months (we're five months old today)-- but we have no idea exactly HOW we're doing, if you know what we mean. Because there's nothing we can measure ourselves against. We don't know anything else like us. And if there were something else exactly the same, they might not share their figures. So we'll just tell you some statistics. All figures given are from 1 August through 2 November 2008.
During that time, we've had over 591,000 page views from 102 countries (who knew Azerbaijan would come on so early?). The average person spends 6 minutes and 39 seconds looking at 14.95 pages per visit (though some countries like Mexico, Iran, Chile, Romania, and Thailand average over 30 pages each-- wow!).
The top fifteen countries for visiting us are, in order: the United States, Canada, the UK, Australia, Sweden, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, Norway, New Zealand, Italy, Turkey, and Finland. The United States represent 3 times as many visits as those from Canada (we're #2-- again), but then they have 300 million people versus our 30 million-- pretty good, really!
Fun stuff we track for absolutely no reason: there have been hundreds of visits from West Hollywood and Beverly Hills combined. Does this mean film industry people are Patternfishing? We hope so. Get out there and knit and crochet in public, you actors and film folk! Come out! We don't care who you're sleeping with-- we want to see your fibre and design choices!
This morning we read a support email from a lovely person (you know who you are, Sue) who said that a pattern she had bought from our early posting days was apparently missing pages. Our immediate reaction was that it was another browser issue, though we didn't say this. We have sold thousands of patterns with no issues of that kind. Nevertheless, we said we would look into it and did. It was MY mistake; somehow I (Julia) had posted a scan of what was supposed to be a 4-pager, which I had clumsily rendered into 2. Gentle Sue, who thought she was buying a complete PDF of a classic British girl's cardigan, had to wait for me to finish writhing in embarrassment (and delist the bad PDF) before I could get back to her and say we'd fix it.
Patternfish is basically three people: me, Minister of Technology Phil (web guy), and Chancellor of the Exchequer Shannon (finances). Occasional guest appearances are made by Minister Without Portfolio Greg, a kind of deus ex machina who thinks up good things (custom watermarking software, for example), and monitors our progress from a fond close distance.
I recovered and emailed Sue that we'd make it better. Fortunately we have virtually all of the many hundreds of patterns we've scanned to hand. I found the original directly, rescanned it properly, contacted Greg at his real other job so that he could run the pattern cleanup software on the new scan remotely (he interrupted a meeting to take this support call; it was also his birthday), checked it, and reposted and reactivated it so that everyone-- including Sue from her Pattern Stash-- could have immediate access to the corrected version. We then refunded Sue her original purchase price while of course maintaining her updated copy in her Stash.
One of the great benefits of having a small company is that, if you are lucky enough have colleagues as smart and enthusiastic as ours are, everyone can make a good decision quickly. Had I been incommunicado in Vallambroso (which I hope someday to be), Phil or Shannon would have done exactly the same thing. Except that finding the original pattern to rescan would have taken a little longer.
The whole thing reminded me of that famous wonderful 'Lemon' headline that Doyle Dane Bernbach ran for Volkswagen in the early 60's. Under a photo of the apparently pristine new Beetle, the body type claimed there was a faulty windshield wiper, so they pulled that car from sale. We had the same kind of experience but were able to turn the issue around in less than six hours. But a customer had to tell us about it. If this happens to you-- and odds are it won't again, but who's perfect?-- let us know. We'll try to be fast and do the right thing.
First thing. Our Chancellor of the Exchequer Shannon (who naturally looks after all our financial affairs) was on the hunt recently for a bank that has associations with US banks. This would make certain aspects of PayPal-ing easier. We like our current bank, but were just casting around for extra features that they don't offer. Anyway, she had a meeting Thursday morning with a strong prospective candidate, during which she explained that we didn't want to borrow money from them, just manage our PayPal stuff better and have access to their American connections.
They called back subsequently to ask: what's PayPal? and also told us later that they didn't want to deal with Internet businesses.
Second thing. For all our wonderful members who ask good questions and might not have read all our bumpf: you each have a Pattern Stash, in which every copy of every pattern you've ever bought is happily waiting for you whenever you need it. It is under Your Account at the top of the page when you've logged in. This is also how we deliver errata. Occasionally we get a new version of a PDF from an anxious publisher, containing corrections. As soon as we upload it, everyone who's ever bought that pattern will see a notice next to that pattern in their Stash, saying that there's a new version available, and would you like to download it (the new version) again?
So we just want to make sure that BEFORE you start that project, you just go back and check to make sure that you have the most recent version. It doesn't happen very often. But it's worthwhile checking, just in case. Because you can.
Some of you may be interested to know that we have started to Twitter and Plurk. For both those sites, we are "Patternfish", and we send out occasional very short updates. Not 7 a day, just when we have especially good news. Now we always Twurk (we were going to write T/P but that sounds terrible) when we get a new publisher, to welcome them. And we Plitter when we receive the beginnings of new collections, or something dormant comes back to life, or we have news in general. Anyway, if you want to, you can get updates from us that way. And we're looking for suggestions-- what should we Twitter and Plurk?
I have been marking uploading progress by following certain interesting historical dates. The 1500's were particularly enjoyable, as they would be for any Tudor history buff: "Hey! Pattern 1533! Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn were married that year, and Elizabeth I born." 1547: Henry dies, corpulent and corrupt. Then 1553, the year of poor deluded (bloody) Mary Tudor's accession; in 1558, Elizabeth herself came to the throne. 1587: Elizabeth signs the death warrant of Mary, Queen of Scots, who is of course duly beheaded. The next year, 1588, Philip of Spain sent his Armada to invade England partly in response to this crime against a fellow Catholic monarch. The outcome was not happy from his point of view.
We are now at the end of the Elizabethan age, pattern-wise. Pattern 1603 is uploaded, and it was in that year that Elizabeth died and her great-nephew (I think-- Mary was her first cousin once removed) James, the son of Mary Queen of Scots, united England and Scotland's rule for the first time.
I must be very shallow. My intense interest in history largely stops after 1603, and one day I realized why: after that I don't much care for Western art and clothes and architecture. There is mannerism and exaggeration in art after the perfection of the Renaissance, and the clothes get too silly and overblown and floofy, and the wigs get completely out of hand, and there are putti and swags of fruit and baroque elaboration all over the buildings. I sort of understand it; I just don't like it. There must be different ways to chart one's advancement. Perhaps math friends can come up with certain fondnesses for special numbers between 1603 and 2000.
Toronto's Downtown Knit Collective had its second meeting of the season night before last. It was the episode where distributors exhibit the new Fall goods to an avid audience, and to our delight, SWTC (South West Trading Company) was there for the first time. We have admired their yarns and patterns for years.
I misheard something that SWTC's Joe Raffino said, and after introducing myself, I added, "too bad you give your patterns away; we would have loved to sell them."
"But we do sell them," he replied, puzzled.
I pounced in my heart. "When are you back in Arizona?"
"Not good enough! How can we list them before then?"
Normal people might have been surprised by such aggression in a Canadian, but he laughed. "Call Jonelle in Arizona tomorrow," he said. "Talk to her."
So I did call Jonelle, and (this is one of the greatest things about Americans) she made a very fast decision. I like to think she did it because she's funny and smart and knows a good thing when she sees it. She signed up for our site and I made her a publisher; I signed up to her site and she made us a merchant; she sent patterns; I posted one for approval; she approved it. All in a little more than 24 hours. So you will see many more SWTC patterns over the next few weeks, and we're proud as punch (and listening more carefully when distributors speak).
The next blog entry will be no more than 60 hours from now. Promise.
In the summer we committed to an ad in Knitty.com. We couldn't think of a better place to start to advertise online for a whole bunch of reasons. First, well, it's KNITTY.COM! Second, we know and admire and adore Amy Singer. Third, we thought maybe people who were interested in terrific free patterns downloadable online might be interested in terrific buyable ones.
Since we wanted to honour our publishers (and make a splash-- who's kidding whom?) the ad was a co-sponsorship in the Fall issue. Put one way, this is the splashiest, most expensive thing we could do. Put another way, it allowed us to reward all our publishers up to that time for their bravery and conviction. Knitty.com permits different versions of ads in co-sponsorships. Classic Elite Yarns really got into the groove and sent us their digitized logo, which we have since incorporated.
We decided to have 56 different ads, one per publisher (to start). Since Patternfish is all about its diversity, that seemed logical. Our computer graphics skills are nil, so we were dependent on the kindness of non-strangers (in the mature, intelligent, good-looking person of Glenn R. of Ongrid.com) to do the graphics. Glenn responded with his usual vigour and stick-to-itiveness and had them all wrapped up in one all-nighter. The next day, they were live.
Alas, the whole system doesn't allow the ad to be directly clickable through to the pattern listed. If you have any problems finding the one you want, just make a note of the publisher name (the credit at the bottom of the ad), email us at email@example.com, and we'll send you the URL.
If you're curious to see all 56 at once (it's fun!) you can go here.
Three weeks ago we received a 26 pound (about 11 kilos) box from Classic Elite Yarns, full of vintage patterns to scan and upload. In my happy delirium I recognized many old friends from the days when I repped Classic Elite-- splendid work from splendid designers (Kristin Nicholas and Norah Gaughan were just the beginning) in splendid yarns. Some of these yarns are still going strong (La Gran Mohair and Montera, for example). Much of the best of American knitting pattern history was about to be made available on a larger scale than ever before. I danced about. This was history-making.
Something else soon became apparent. Classic Elite has had a history of choosing remarkably good, and sometimes very notable, models (Jill Goodacre, Yasmin Le Bon, Calvin Klein muse Josie Borain among others). But... who was this?
In 1987, the year before Dangerous Liaisons came out, Uma Thurman was modelling in New York. And here she was, 17 years old, tremblingly beautiful, in 5 Classic Elite patterns. The first is already up here. The rest will follow shortly.
I understand that Ms. Thurman herself has since become a knitter. How perfect.
Patternfishers! One of the great things about being in beta is that things often change for the better. Witness today's achievement.
Many of you have observed that you can spend hours making a selection from our extensive inventory, but... when confronted with checkout, you had to buy everything in your Cart or nothing at all. Certainly Cart items can be carried from session to session, but there was no way to say, "I want this now, but save these other ones for later."
Now there is.
We now have a Wish List attached to the Shopping Cart. If you intend to buy a pattern (now or later), click on "Add To Cart" on the Detail page. (The Detail page is the one that has only one pattern on it.)
Once it's in the Cart, if you want it for a later purchase, you can move it to the Wish List. The Wish List is just underneath the Shopping Cart, and your pattern choices are stored there as thumbnail images. When you want to buy it, just move it back to the Shopping Cart. Easy. Clicking on images in the Wish List will take you back to the Detail page for it, so you can refresh your memory about requirements and whatnot.
If you want to remove something completely, put it back in the Cart from the Wish List, then delete it from there by clicking on the red minus sign ("-").
The wisdom of our customers knows no bounds... like the cleverness of Minister of Technology Phil. Thanks, Phil!
Friends-of-Patternfish Dennis, Norma, Robin M. and I got to participate in our very first Knitty.com Yarn Tasting last Friday night, which was a blast. Do you know, people drive for hours to do that. I can see why. It was extremely well organized, well attended, and well hosted (and provisioned, urp) by The Purple Purl's Jennifer and Miko.
We here at Patternfish.com are starting to get some good press, which is fantastic (more about the Fall 2008 Vogue Knitting later). But I did want to clarify something about our patterns. We don't have as many out-of-print (OOP-- thanks, Meg Swansen) patterns as people think. This would certainly qualify, and this. But otherwise? Patterns like this, for example? In print and available, as far as we know. If you're a retailer and carry Candide, you can phone up JCA Crafts and order a bunch this afternoon.
Here's the story. Yarn manufacturers or importers must provide patterns to retailers in order to sell their yarns. Retailers order their yarns and patterns from the manufacturer's representatives (salespeople). I was a rep in Canada for ten years. Here and in most other countries I know, reps tend to work for a single yarn distributor and sell that's distributor's products to retailers. So if you work for Canada's S.R. Kertzer, you sell Rowan and Stylecraft and Lopi and Nashua Handknits and so on, because that's what Kertzer has. But that's usually all the yarn you sell: what Kertzer's got. In the US, reps are more lone-wolfy and perhaps more epic in the geographical area they cover. A single rep may represent Classic Elite (and therefore Twinkle) and Trendsetter and Alchemy and all kinds of other companies over many states, and it's much more independent and fluid than the model elsewhere. (Digression: if you're a rep for a mill who sells yarn to the Plymouths or Diamonds of the world, you're not a rep but an agent.)
Some reps may only see their customer two or three times a year, for maybe half or most of a day. We all know that everyone makes the most money selling yarn; patterns can be almost an afterthought. Also, everyone wants to see the New Things, what's Hot, and what's Right Now. If you're dealing with a yarn that's been around for awhile, even decades-- say Montera from Classic Elite-- usually that means keeping interest fresh by producing new shades and new patterns once a year.
But what about the patterns that have been around for decades to support that yarn? Maybe the retailer had a Montera pattern that sold like crazy for two or three years, but figures that vogue is over. Maybe some people in that area never got to see that pattern at all, because the retailer was ill when the rep was in town, and it was never ordered.
The point is that good patterns don't actually go OOP often, unless the yarn's discontinued. They're still in print and available, but people mostly forget to show or order them because of the glare of the Latest and Hippest. Therefore the older patterns tend to become like those amazing out-of-the-way restaurants that some people always know about: wonderful, enduring, but eclipsed.
That's what we have a lot of. Not castoffs from Fly By Night Yarns, but classics. We love them.
BTW-- we need to start a grassroots movement to rescue patterns that ARE for discontinued yarns. A lot of them are fabulous, but here it's really not in the manufacturer's best interests to keep producing them. Understandably. But we-- all of us Patternfishers, you and us together-- are all about every pattern. The world is our pattern oyster, and we'll publish them forever. Email or phone yarn companies and ask if they'll list their patterns for discontinued yarns here. It costs them nothing more than sending them to us, and could yield them an unexpected revenue stream. And we'll all know what to do with them: drink deep.
We had an adventure in tech yesterday.
For a variety of reasons (security and reliability first among equals), we do not store patterns or photographs on our own actual site. Instead we pay to store them at a very Large, very Reputable, very Well-Known and Security-Conscious Famous Name storage place (anyone who has ever downloaded a pattern from us has only to look at the site destination when they do to make a very good guess as to their identity). And yesterday at around 12:00 noon EST they fell down. And then around seven hours later they got back up again. Apparently it was the first time anything like this had happened since March of this year.
Yay! Good to get that over with when we're only six weeks old. And when our first little ad (in Vogue Knitting) was in the magazine sent out to subscribers all over the world two days ago. We were anxious for a while there. (And remain masters of understatement.)
Can we rhapsodize again about how excited we are about our business? How thrilled we are to be doing this? How delighted we are by the reaction? Because it's amazing.
Jo Anne's comment for the last blog entry was lovely: "I'm very impressed by the diversity of patterns you offer and the ease with which one can choose and checkout"-- so sweet. All we can say is this is a site we wanted for ourselves for many years. And do we buy from ourselves? Heck, yeah. Fair's fair. When our first intrepid and trusting publishers started lining up and submitting PDF's, I (Julia) started knitting Cabin Fever's Woven Squares Pullover for my spouse, just off of their PDF, because spouse Greg needed a new winter sweater. When we went live on 3 June 2008, that was the first thing ever officially bought from Patternfish, to make it legitimate. It's not yet finished, of course, because we've been websiting and all, and loading patterns takes time... but in time for fall this year, absolutely. Anything we actually start making, we buy.
Diversity of patterns? Huge. Though, most curiously, we do not have a single tea cozy, despite having a whole search criterion for it, and well over a thousand patterns now. Anyone? Anyone? Also-- just before we went live-- one of my ex-colleagues from Romni Wools here in Toronto phoned to see if we had any tea cozies, because a customer was looking for one. How embarrassing to say no, we can't help you! Where are the tea cozies?
Don't ask about what we knit for ourselves for a while. Our own knitting is temporarily in abeyance. I feel almost like Frodo saving the Shire for all the other hobbits, while not able to remain there himself in the long term. But by the fall, I hope our regular knitting schedule (that is to say, all knitting, most of the time) will be resumed somewhat.
You're a remarkable bunch, you early adopters, with a truly wide-ranging appreciation of what constitutes good design and worthwhile knitting. Here's to you! And in the spirit of the last post, we'll be posting again sooner rather than later.
So far I'm a bad blogger. I seem to blog with the frequency of Halley's Comet and the fawning vervelessness of Bravo's James Lipton. Also I expect people to understand, without being told, why I'm not blogging more often, when for all they know I'm just in the third week of an Aqua Velva binge.
So: time to turn over a new leaf. At the end of June I went to Florence, Italy, for Pitti Filati. You know that yarn stores get their yarn from reps for companies like JCA Crafts, Trendsetter, Berroco, and so on. Well, where do those companies get their yarn from? They go to Pitti Filati for starters, where textile mills exhibit what they've come up with yarn-wise for-- in this case-- Fall/Winter 2009/2010. (Since you ask, it's generally more eco-friendly fibre, natural dyes, subtler hand-dyed-ish colourways, soft heathers... nothing radical like another interrupted railroad ribbon or anything. Oh, and big FAT FAT roving-y yarns are coming back-- the better to contrast with the thin, thin lacy mohair and silk blends that also abound.)
I went for two reasons: to encourage European designers and foreigners in general to publish with us, and to encourage everybody there to use us as a resource. In other words, to drum up more varied content and customers.
The trip was a success in a frustrating kind of way because I can't talk about some of the results yet. You know how awful it would be to announce something that never happens; we have every reason to be powerfully (nay, rabidly) optimistic, but you never want to be premature.
I got a new wee 'eee' computer for the trip, but was unable to upload anything while away (my fault, not that of the equipment), so that accounted for the lack of new patterns for a week or so at the beginning of July. We've been trying to make up for it since.
At any given time we've got about 150 - 200 patterns in digital form ready to load, with about 200 more standing by for scanning. Those numbers remain pretty constant. As we add them to the site, more arrive on doorsteps and in digital mailboxes. There's a reassuring kind of continuity to it; it's like hearing the dishwasher running when you're in bed, all soothing and extra-normal.
The independent designers who've joined us since we went live are top notch. We have just been blown away by the talent and creativity out there. Incidentally, everyone who has approached us with their work has been accepted-- no one has had to be turned away from Patternfish for any reason. I think once we asked if there might have been a sharper photo; there wasn't, and we went with what there was. But what a joy this has been, to see all this start to bubble up.
More sooner than usual, honest.
Exciting times! Patternfish is 24 days old today. We thought you'd be interested in finding out what's happened so far.
We already have hundreds of buying members from both hemispheres, and have sold hundreds of patterns not only to Canada and the United States but to Great Britain, Switzerland, Portugal, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Australia, Germany, and Ireland as well. We have sold more individual patterns than we have members-- well done, everybody!
This delights us beyond measure. But all you dear faraway customers-- encourage your own designers to list with us too, so that North Americans can buy patterns from YOUR countries. Fair's fair. Who are you most proud of? We want to see their work and express our reciprocal appreciation.
Suggestions from customers have been invaluable, and sometimes embarrassing. It was a week before we actually thought to put "Contact Us" at the bottom of the screen; 'firstname.lastname@example.org' had always been present and worked, but we were wrong to assume everyone would know that. Ahem. Fixed.
Based on customer suggestions, we have added extra search criteria in the 'Advanced Search' function. You can now search by technique (intarsia, lace, fair isle, felted, modular, and so on) in addition to other new other categories.
Another customer worried that the original 5 minutes we had allotted for the initial download link was too short. Again, we had wrongly assumed that people would know that you could have as many tries at that as you need, and that the pattern lands up permanently in your pattern stash anyway... so we increased the download time from 5 to 30 minutes, and added extra information about the size of the file (so you might be able to guess how long downloading could take, based on your internet speed) and instructions on what to do if the link did run out (just click to get a new one). Thank you, concerned customer. You made the site better for everyone.
Actually we have added new clarifying text all over the site, and will continue to do so. Tell us what would help.
We have also changed to a new, better mail provider, since some of our initial membership signup emails were not being delivered. Signup should be much smoother now. But the possibility of our confirmation emails being held up in spam filters is always present; make sure you check them.
It's really important that we be able to email you, primarily because of letting you know about any errata that might be issued. Notifications of errata appear automatically if you go to your pattern stash-- you'll see if a new version of whatever PDF's you've already got is available to download-- but we'd also like to be able to email you personally if it happens. So try and make sure mail from patternfish.com is not held up in spam filters if you can.
The biggest single order we've had so far is 17 patterns at once. It was epic, we were thrilled, and we tell everybody we know. That's really something.
Heartfelt thanks to all of you who've bought, made suggestions, and told others about us. One darling customer even emailed to say "I've fallen in love with Patternfish" and enclosed a press release SHE had written to put in her guild's newsletter, so that we could make it available to others wanting to do the same thing! How humbling! So we'll have to post something like that soon.
But the very best thing of all is that so many of our customers are repeat customers. They buy once, then come back and buy again and again, secure and happy. Cheers. Thanks. Forward.
TNNA. Clara, Pam, Betsy, JoLene, Amy P., Edie, Tracy, Stacy, Jill, Susan, Kate, Courtney, Lisa, Robin, Veronik, Karma, Carol, Amy S., Jillian, Lucy, Diane, Joy, and on and on, I know I'm leaving out hundreds... new friends, old friends, overwhelming.
Then our blog commentors-- so kind, and encouraging, and I don't even know most of them; just strangers being wonderful.
Every single one of all these people said things like "you give me hope"; "wow"; "fantastic"; "it's about time"; "have you got..." (which sometimes we did, sometimes we didn't); and "this is so exciting!".
Which it is. And yet the curious thing is that none of it has happened in isolation. Had Amy Singer not founded knitty.com more than five years ago I don't know if we would exist. The Yarn Harlot fuels all of us, and has for a long time. The Twist Collective promises to be a smashing new addition to our intellectual internet arsenal (Yarn Arsenal-- why is this not yet a store?), guided by the unique and discerning eye of Kate Gilbert. Somehow there's a splendid atmosphere here in Canada, in whose climate all things knitting spring to life. See the Fall 2008 Vogue Knitting if you don't believe us.
Clara Parkes wrote a happy piece about us in Knitter's Review, which came out late Wednesday night. Thanks, Clara!
Some lovely people wrote in and requested patterns like "Cables From Hell" which was advertised in the 90's and came from Kapp Kitts of Sanborn, N.Y.
Now, can we not try and find out if outfits like Kapp Kitts are still around, and if they'd be willing to list their patterns with us? I'm sure the person who requested this really represents thousands of others in the same boat. Patternfishers (your staff) won't be able to devote all their time to it, but if there's something special you want, then let that company know that you want to buy their product in this venue.
The patterns that have started arriving from independent designers are a treat; well-photographed and imaginative beyond words. You'll see them all over the next few days.
Some improvements requested by avid blogmentors (commenters?) have already been implemented. This means you, Norsknitter. How about that! Keep 'em coming.
Welcome to Patternfish.
Our intention is to be the best site for selling pattern downloads in the world. Old, new, vintage, modern, independent, corporate, everything. All in one place, all as secure and beautiful and appealing as we can make it.
Please read the "About Buying and Selling" and FAQ pages to find out precise details about how we work. Apparently not everyone knows about Lightboxes; see "About Buying".
If freelancers are really good at designing, and love it, and want to do it full or part time, we think they should be able to make a fine (eventually, we hope, a wonderful) living at it. We want to see designers release whatever they want to make in their preferred yarn, at whatever point in whatever season or year. To publish their work in a beautiful, strong, effective venue that's advertised and promoted on their behalf, and treat them like movie stars— that's largely what Patternfish is for.
Happily, we can accomplish a lot of other things at the same time. We can make patterns from companies available all the time, anywhere, so that no store model is ever without the tool you need to sell that yarn (of this, more in a later post). We can show any company's designs around the world and include the unexpected in your search for— for example— DK children's things. We also want to honour the patterns of the past, to make them available to scholars or the just plain curious. These may often look dated or silly (not that we will ever have an editorial opinion about specifics). But somewhere, there's someone who was dreaming of just that very thing, and they'll make it and cherish it.
We are a civil site. For the nonce you can only comment on a pattern if you've bought it. Comment-wise, we encourage constructive ones. Meanspirited or nasty observations will likely be removed. Every pattern will be somebody's favourite and we know you'll respect their choices... and the right of every pattern to simply exist.
However, we love to laugh. Helen Gurley Brown said that you can say anything you want as long as you say it like a lady. We tend to agree. And we adore the kind of wit Spinal Tap's manager displayed when someone remarked that the band's sales were tanking; he said something haughty like, "our appeal is becoming more selective". If you can criticize in this velvety way, we are in awe. Teach us how by example once in a while.
We bow to our early adopters and first publishers, who trusted us with their precious intellectual property and believed in what we do. If you like this site, seek them out, thank them, and buy their patterns. They are Veronik Avery, Linda Benne-Finnie, Body-Grafix, Cabin Fever, Classic Elite Yarns, Elizabeth Fallone (Elizaknits), Barbara Gregory, Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton (Hamilton Design), Robin Hunter, Interpretations (Denise Powell), JCA Crafts (Reynolds, Artful Yarns, and Unger), Mags Kandis, Lanaknits Designs (hempforknitting), Ilga Leja, Maureen Mason-Jamieson (Kinver Beach Knit Design), Robin Melanson, Sally Melville, Naturally, Danny Ouellette, Perl Grey, the Thomas Ramsden Group (Robin, Wendy, Twilleys, Peter Pan, Waterwheel), Red Bird Knits (Robyn Gallimore), and Jane Thornley.
It's been a long wonderful slog these last few months putting all this together. We're going to take it a bit easier over the next few days and see what the response is, and fine-tune things. Then we (there are three Patternfishers) go to Columbus, Ohio for the TNNA trade show, where we look forward to meeting as many of you as we can. This is by way of saying that over the next week you shouldn't expect to see too many new patterns. We might need a bit of sleep first.
Next time we want to respond to comments and questions. Anyone?