Monday, April 2, 2018

Who Owns Inspiration?

I know I said that I was only going to publish posts on Wednesdays this year, but I decided to swap days this week. Over the weekend, while most folks were celebrating April Fool's Day, Easter, Passover, or something sports ball related, a bit of yarn drama was unfolding on Instagram:

Whoa, Those are some heavy accusations (you can read the full post here). Since the above post, there have been a few instagram comments on this post from the Madelinetosh feed that make similar accusations by other users - who knows how big the brouhaha will get by the time this blog goes live?!

However, who said what an who did what first really isn't my concern here (that's for the named parties above to sort out); what I really want to ask the public at large is this: who owns inspiration, especially when it's sourced from pop culture?

Whether people are inspired by a true love for the movie/comic book/what have you or just want to cash in on a trend is not mine to say, but it seems like there's been no shortage of yarns inspired by the onslaught of comic book movies that have been coming out. For example, my LYS Firefly Fiber Arts is debuting an entire series of yarn colors and patterns based on these fandoms at C2E2 this coming weekend which looks pretty cool. Another indie dyer, Nerd Girl Yarns, has a "Heroes" collection of colorways. Specific to Black Panther, if you type "Black Panther Yarn" into Etsy right now there are approximately 8 other dyers offering colorways inspired by the movie.

I do, however, understand how it feels when you have an idea that is near and dear to your heart and you feel like someone has ripped it off. Several years ago, I had a whale colorwork chart on my business cards that I was handing out at TNNA (the yarn industry trade show). Not long after that show, a yarn company I'd talked to at the show (and had given my card to) came out with a pattern that featured colorwork whales on it. I felt totally ripped off and was pretty annoyed that they didn't at least mention me as their source of their inspiration. But then I was talking to a friend who very kindly pointed out that, while they were indeed similar ideas, it's not like they had taken an exact design of mine and replicated it. I'd put a colorwork chart on my card, did I really expect people not to use it?!? Furthermore, it's not like I owned the patent on whale motifs for all of knitting - let's be real.

Sometimes, when you are very close to something, it's hard to see the bigger picture....and that picture is sometimes that your great idea isn't as original as you thought (see: all of those "Fade" patterns that knitters can't get enough of, myself included).

Lastly, I don't think I can say it better than Seth Godin did:

Sure, it can be a bitter pill to swallow, but sometimes the alternative is even more so.


  1. I was expecting a debate in the comments section. Here’s what I think, I don’t think these two collections look all that similar and I don’t think person A has anything to be huffy about. Company B didn’t buy their yarn and reverse engineer it. Person a didn’t develop a collection around some obscure reference. It’s the biggest movie in the country.
    Person who want to support small indie dyers will. People who want to support company B will.

    1. I was, too - almost didn't post this! I think your assessment was pretty right on.

  2. It's difficult not to get upset when your idea gets stolen, but I like the optimistic aspect of assuming you'll generate more ideas and that this may even inspire you. This is definitely true in the tech industry, the FXO guide didn't just miraculously exist, it had to come from generations of ideas. I like the altruistic idea that we're all contributing to change. Thanks for sharing, you blew my mind.

    1. Thanks, I was hoping I could keep this conversation positive - happy to hear you found this inspiring. :-)