Warm Woollen Mittens

“Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens,
Brown paper packages tied up with string…”

I’ve just finished watching the ‘Musicals’ episode of Strictly Come Dancing and the lyrics to one of the songs prompted this post. (Yes, it was the one from The Sound of Music but that’s probably because I’ve still got a bit of a crush on Brendan Cole so it was a multifaceted guilty pleasure.)

Somewhat surprisingly, this is a post about knitting, specifically about knitting mittens (and fingerless mitts). Though I haven’t posted much recently, I have been knitting a lot. I’ve really enjoyed smaller projects like hats and mittens – partly because they’re quick to complete and partly because they’re technically quite challenging. Here are a couple of my latest efforts:

IMG_1925 IMG_1984

The pink ones are for me and were made with the beautiful yarn Dad bought for me in Canada. It’s probably a little too soft for mitts but even if the palms end up a little threadbare from bags and the pushchair handle, they’ve lovely to wear. The purple ones were requested by a friend of SiLs who offered to pay for the wool plus a little for my time. I briefly wondered if that was allowed as it’s not my own design but I don’t think it even counts as selling. (It’s certainly no Etsy shop and as I knit in short bursts in front of the TV, the hourly rate works out well below minimum wage so I’m not making enough of a profit to bother anyone!)

The issue did get me thinking about the rules for selling hand-knitted items based on somebody else’s designs. I imagine the basic pattern for a shawl, scarf, hat or mitten doesn’t belong to anyone and many of the fancier designs (even ones that you have to buy) are simply a generic cable or lace pattern added to the basic shape. There must be a point at which a pattern becomes specific enough for someone to be able to copyright it, but does that mean they have a claim on items made using the pattern or just the instructions themselves? A quick Google search suggests the law is different in the US and the UK, but what does that mean for a English knitter using an American pattern, or vice-versa? If anyone has a clear set of rules I’d be interested to know…

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