Something I often see lamented among pattern designers is the lack of time for any fun knitting--all knitting time is devoted to knitting the swatches and samples for their designs, with no time or energy left for selfish knitting. Understandable, especially for those who make a living from knitwear design, which is next to impossible if you're not a design machine. Many designers also have families who still expect to be fed and clothed and driven to soccer games, so they're left trying to cobble together a career from the few hours of peace each night after the kids go to bed. For everyone, time is at a premium.
That said, I believe there are very good reasons to make time to knit other designers' patterns--ultimately, it's good for you, good for your creative process, and good for indie designers as a whole.
Everyone needs a break sometimes! Even people with traditional office jobs get at least 2 weeks of vacation a year (whether they use them is a different story, but I digress...). It's hard to take time off when you're under pressure to produce, but it's truly essential to reset from time to time--and sitting on the beach furiously trying to calculate a sleeve cap does not count. We all started knitting as a relaxing, enjoyable pastime, so connect with your inner hobby knitter and enjoy the peace and tranquility that come with mindlessly following a pattern someone else wrote.
I NEED to know how Bristol Ivy's Astragal is constructed. And just reading the pattern isn't going to do it. Even the most straightfoward-seeming pattern might have something to teach you--a new technique, a clever trick, a unique construction, a novel approach to a classic shape. If you never knit other designers' patterns, you miss an opportunity to learn and grow as a knitter and as a designer.
I'll happily admit that some of my design ideas are born from other people's patterns! I'll be working on something with an interesting stitch pattern, and start thinking about how to adapt it to another garment. Then I start playing with the idea in a swatch, add a cable, change the gauge, swap the knits for purls, and before I know it, it's turned into something completely different. Sometimes sitting down with a stitch dictionary doesn't give you that spark--you need to see the stitches in action.
As a product knitter at heart, I simply cannot turn my back on all the beautiful knits out there. I'm pretty sure my life will not be complete until I own Ysolda's Pumpkin Ale cardigan. I cannot face another winter without Hanna Maciejewska's Cabeladabra in my closet. JJ would be far too adorable in Tanis Lavallee's Schoolboy Vest not to have one. Unless I become a recluse and never look at another designer's work, I will never be satisfied only knitting my own stuff. I'm not that good.
On the one hand, there's an element of competition in knitwear design--there's a limited market and a lot of patterns vying for attention. On the other, a knitting pattern isn't a car--a knitter can buy multiple knitting patterns without going bankrupt, and likely buys patterns from multiple designers over the course of the year. I believe there's room for designers to support each other, so if you like someone else's pattern, go ahead and buy it. Knit it, show it off, blog about its awesomeness. No doubt someone else will do the same for you.
If you're a designer, do you knit others' patterns? Why or why not?