A Big Company And My Big Idea (Crackerjack)

I have closed comments on this thread because I don’t have the time or energy to respond to the negativity that this post has begun to generate (I’m leaving the comments there, though). It’s fairly predictable pushback, a cycle I’ve seen many times online before, and I don’t want to contribute to it. While I have been assured that my original post was not inflammatory or unfair, I am altering some of the language in it. I can’t prove that my concept was copied – is there such a thing as coincidence? sure! is there such a thing as parallel thought? sure! do I think that’s what happened with this concept? not really! But I also don’t know the individual designer and I don’t want to be unfair to her. My issue was with a big company more than an individual. 

To the question of why I didn’t try harder to reach out to the company or designer, and why I waited three months to write this post – my regular readers know that I’ve had a lot of trauma and grief in my life in these last few months. I don’t think I need to justify myself any further about that.

Last year, I was so excited to release my free conceptual knitting idea into the world. Crackerjack was initially created as a baseball-themed infinity scarf, a way of charting one team’s progress over a single season. It was inspired by other conceptual  knitting ideas, and I freely gave credit and linked to those. In my release of the customizable download, I encouraged people to interpret it however they would like – not only with baseball, but with hockey or football, or whatever sport they liked.

At the end of the 2014 baseball season, I finished my Detroit Tigers version:

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I was so happy with how it turned out. But more than that, I was so pleased with the response. I loved watching people interpret the concept for themselves, and I loved hearing from people about their own enthusiasm for baseball and for this project. High-profile knitters and designers tweeted their nice comments and sometimes their own works-in-progress. Someone even sent me this article from their local newspaper, about my design. And then, even Knit Picks posted a picture on Instagram of a Crackerjack-in-progress – what a thrill! I felt I’d come up with a genuinely unique idea, and that people liked it.

Then late this summer, 18 months after I published the concept, someone alerted me to the fact that a large yarn company was promoting a concept with a striking resemblance to what I thought was a unique and pretty specific idea.

I’ve seen this happen plenty of times before, where a large company takes an idea or an inspiration from an independent designer, profiting from their work on a much larger scale than the independent designer. We like to think the knitting community is kind and mutually supportive, but I have seen this happen many times and heard sad tales of it from others. In my case, I wasn’t making a profit from my idea – I was giving it away, encouraging people to interpret it however they would like (including using it for hockey or football). It was a concept, not a pure pattern, but with some pattern and calculation support. I did it because of my love of knitting, my love of baseball, and my love of the knitting community. However, as an independent designer, even my free designs can indirectly contribute to my livelihood, because sometimes, when a person knits one of my free designs, they then check out and purchase one of my paid patterns. Or they visit my blog, which in the past (but not currently) has had some advertising revenue linked to it.

But mostly, for me, the issue is not lost revenue but an issue of integrity. Given that the company and designer are also giving the design away for free (but presumably profiting from yarn sales, as the pattern is designed for one of their yarns), why couldn’t they give credit to the source of their inspiration, just as I gave credit to the sources of my inspiration? What would that have cost them?

edited to add: It’s entirely possible that I am wrong about all of this, and that, as suggested by some in the comments section, this is a matter of coincidence or “parallel thought.” It’s a pretty specific idea, and executed precisely like mine, and well after mine was published, so I’m not inclined to see it as a coincidence. But if it were a case of coincidence, it would have been very easy for the company or designer to say that to me when I contacted them in August.

I will say that, as a designer, I do a thorough search of Ravelry before I publish anything (and, in contrast to what a commenter says below, there was nothing I could find on Ravelry before I published Crackerjack that was a sport-themed conceptual knitting pattern – I do wonder if some of the commenters know what I’m talking about when I talk about conceptual knitting). When I search Ravelry to make sure what I’ve come up with doesn’t too closely resemble someone else’s design, I clarify for myself how my design is different, and from where my sources of inspiration came. If I were ever to be contacted by someone who thought one of my designs too closely resembled theirs, I would be very ready to make a response.

Crackerjack was an idea that was so close to my heart, my little brainchild, a genuinely fun and creative idea, and something I felt very proud of. I’m flattered that a company of some size and influence thought the idea was worthy of imitating. I’m less flattered at the lack of communication regarding the inspiration.

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22 thoughts on “A Big Company And My Big Idea (Crackerjack)

  1. Sigh, this bums me out. It doesn’t surprise me, but it bums me out.
    I loved this idea so much when you first did it! And in my head, it’ll always be attached to your crackerjack. I think about it/you literally every time I watch a sports!

  2. Couldn’t it have been a coincidence? Not trying to take away from what you’re saying but perhaps the designer had no idea of your project? It was a great project but I would hate to accuse someone of something without proof.

    • It’s a pretty specific idea, and executed precisely like mine, and well after mine was published, so I’m not inclined to see it as a coincidence. If it were coincidence, they could have claimed that when I contacted them in August.

      • I understand your hurt. I am just wondering did the designer and company receive your communication? I work for a large company and many times those things fall through the cracks/are spammed. Perhaps it is a great minds think alike thing? I would just question blatantly stealing an idea in such a loving, small community such as knitters. We are a great group.

  3. You know, I knew when I saw that Scoreboard pattern that it was originally your idea. I am knitting it because I watch football, not baseball, but I do wish they had given you the credit for it as they should have. If it makes you feel any better I didn’t buy their yarn for mine!

  4. The minute I saw this design being knit by a blogger I thought of you and Crackerjack. Which I have to say is a fun, innovative design (with a much better name!). Theft (or agressive borrowing) of intellectual property makes me angry. Sometimes it is laziness, sometimes lack of a better idea, but always a bad idea.

  5. I’m sorry 😦 I hate that this happened and the fact they didn’t respond just convinces me that they were fully aware of the theft 😦

    I don’t know if this is any comfort but this is the first I’ve heard of the idea and I think it’s brilliant! I’m so doing this for the A’s next season and I’ll be sure to never buy from this company – ever.

  6. This does happen quite a lot. I am sorry it happened to you. Someone who tested a pattern for me wrote up a pattern that was extremely similar and had it published in a book, I assume there was payment, I have no idea. It was on the cover of a craft book and my first thought when I saw it in a store was, “hey, that’s my pattern!” The incident has kinda put me off crafting and sharing creative ideas in general for a while now.

  7. Aw, that’s rotten. So sorry. For what it’s worth, yours is much nicer with the 4 colors — the copycat versions are simpler and, at least to me, less pleasing to the eye.

  8. I understand your feelings are hurt, but this is anything but an original idea. I could name 20 patterns that look just like yours, both free and paid. Why aren’t you going after them, too?

    Additionally, if you didn’t get a reply from skacel, why didn’t you email again, or call, or anything until right now when I think their thing has been going on for like 3 months?

    • Hi Daisy. I am by no means suggesting that a striped infinity cowl is original to me. It’s the conceptual knitting element – the charting of a design based on an external factor, in this case a sports team – that I believe was my original idea.

      Why didn’t I contact them again in the last three months? In the last three months, my dad almost died, then my husband had cancer, then my mom died unexpectedly. It’s been a bit much. This month, I’ve been trying to resurface, and that has included blogging about a lot of the things going on in my life, including this.

      • What I’m saying is this is all pretty accusatory without any proof on your end. Michelle Hunter is genuine and honest. Many knitters have had a chance to meet her, maybe you have, too. Do you really think a person who has based their entire career around teaching people, especially through free patterns, would purposefully knock you off?

  9. As an artist myself, I think you’re missing the bigger picture here. There’s a thing called parallel thought, and your idea, although cute and I love, is simple- totally capable of being thought of simultanously by two independent parties. I think that if you’re going to go that route, and throw out ideas like intellectual property- then you should understand the legal definition of intellectual property. You my dear don’t have a leg to stand on. Once again, cute idea, but please, get off your soap box.

    • If I get off mine, will you get off yours? You may be right that I shouldn’t have used the term “intellectual property,” but I’m not trying to pursue a legal claim against anyone. I’m also not claiming to have invented a striped infinity cowl. I was referring to the conceptual aspect, which I came up with and freely shared. And yes, I understand what parallel thought is – though is it still “parallel” when there’s an 18-month time difference?

      • I do not mean this as harshly as it will read but why would you assume a large company would seek out a blog on WordPress? I get that it would seem like that since your post was first and as a result you believed you influenced their work. However assuming they saw your work is too Frank Capra for real life. A simple Google search shows dozens of sports scoring knitting patterns dated before yours. I am sure you didn’t know those existed before you made yours.

      • I don’t assume they would seek out a blog on WordPress. I do assume any designer searches Ravelry before publishing, as I do, to make sure his/her design isn’t too similar to someone else’s. And no, my search revealed no sports-themed conceptual knitting ideas before I published.

  10. I’m with you on this, Stacey. How disappointing that a large company would rip off your idea and not even give you credit for it. I’m sorry, too, that you’re getting so much pushback from commenters here. You are clearly an honest, generous, creative person and you deserve better!

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