What is the difference between inspiration and imitation?

What is the difference between imitation and inspiration? I wonder this as I am currently working on a scarf that I have "designed" in that I took a stitch found in Nicky Epstein’s Knitting on the Edge and put it in a scarf. It is hardly a leap of imagination. Regardless, when I wear this scarf into my LYS and the nice ladies there ask me where I got the pattern, can I say I designed it, or should I say I got it from a Nicky Epstein book?

On a broader level, I have--as I’m sure many of us have--altered a design to better suit my tastes. At what point an altered design become its own design? If I knit a Kathy Zimmerman sweater in green Cascade 220 instead of Classic Elite, have I "designed" a sweater? What if I add an embellishment, or maybe do a garter rib in K4, P2 instead of K2, P2? When does the sweater stop being Kathy Zimmerman’s design?

Just something to think about.


Bill's picture

if you take a basic sweater pattern...change the guage, stitch, neckline, sleeve length...whatever... you are essentually designing a new garment 

I'm afraid it's  a chicken & egg situation.
Billbear's picture

I think too, if you are concerned about being called out on something give a little credit as well.  "Well the stitch I found in Knitting on the Edge but the layout of the scarf is mine.".  Likewise for the EZ sweater, "I started with an EZ design but modified it by......".   Good question though.

If you give credit for other people's work, you will get credit for your own work. Even Elizabeth Zimmerman, Kathy Epstein, Cat Brody, et al, give scrupulous credit to their teachers, sources, and inspirations. In fact, to me, that is a lot of the charm of knitting. You get to give ideas to others and to draw from the pool of common knowledge. That makes the whole process mutually rewarding to me. A lot of fun, in fact.

Knipper's picture

I think we all get inspired by what we see and often use that as the springboard and add our own touch.  Once you know the knit and purl stitch the possibilities are endless.  I also believe in giving credit where due.  A sweater I made a few years ago was inspired by one made by Magrit (the owner of Morehouse Farms).  I saw it in Interweave - it is called the Madagascar Sweater.  I made changes to fit my sense but the construction and start of it was definitely inspired by her creation. 

I have not read it yet, but in The Knitting Answer Book by Margaret Radcliffe she clarifies the sharing versus stealing regarding copyrights.  Perhaps that will give some insight.


ulf's picture

Personally I think it´s up to every Knitter to deside whether it´s a original design by the knitter or a inspiration or imitation by others. If I call it an original design but obvious been imitated an other designer, people will know. However what is the orignal design? I myself knit in an old scandinavian tradition and if I would give credit to all the earlier designers, I would give credit to poeple in the 17th century. As said before, maybe it´s an egg and chicken situation.

ChazH's picture

I would add that, although I believe it important to weigh and consider similarities vs. unique qualities, in the end it is more imporant to focus on the unique qualities of a design.  Knitting has intrinsic limitations that guide a final product's orientation as functional, practical, objet d'art, whimsical, etc. (In fact, some might say that these types of limits are what make knitting a craft, weak though that argument may be.)  So, when we speak of originality, we're talking about a context where originality is only possible as variation, no? 

Surely if you take an original idea & change it then you are adapting. If you took a published story & made a few changes & had your version published you might be in trouble for plagerism(sp). All you have to say is, "Well, I got the idea from X and changed it a bit."

"They say best men are moulded out of faults; and, for the most, become much more the better for being a little bad." William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

trucker945's picture

Can Ford sue Honda for making cars?

I have yet to follow a pattern through, because I'm always adding-changing-taking away something to make it mine... a personal thing. But if somebody asks me, I tell them where I got the original idea, and how I changed it to make it mine. I get some great feed-back from other knitters about their ideas for the same basic starting point. It gets the brain percolating, and that's not a bad thing. However, if you start selling your 'creations' without mentioning any credit where it is surely at least morally due... you may be opening yourself up to some trouble, if not bad karma.

did I mention I'm a cheap S.O.B.