Category Archives: Uncategorized

In which tax is definitely taxing

I was skimming Twitter yesterday when I saw a link to an article entitled The horrible implications of the EU VAT “Place of Supply” change. Obviously, that’s just the kind of catchy title that gets me clicking through, so I read the article, which is written from the perspective of freelance web designers and software developers who also make supplies of “digital services” (ebooks, software licenses) to EU countries other than the one they reside in. And I thought, hmmm, where else do you find a lot of freelancers making supplies of digital services? Why, in the knitting world of course! My Ravelry library and Paypal transaction log are testament to just how many independent designers there are out there selling pdf knitting patterns, and those sales count as supplies of digital services.

Without getting too technical, the change basically means that from 1 January 2015 digital services will be considered as being supplied in the country where the purchaser resides, rather than where the seller is based as at present. Because VAT is charged in the country where a supply of VATable goods or services is made, that means that patterns sold to customers in the UK will be subject to UK VAT, patterns sold to customers in Germany will be subject to German VAT, and so on. And that means that sellers face having to register for VAT and complete VAT returns in all 28 member states of the EU. (HMRC are running a “mini one-stop shop” which will simplify the process for VAT registered businesses by allowing them to submit a single return and payment to HMRC, who will then deal with making the payments to the VAT authorities in other countries, but that isn’t available to business which aren’t VAT registered.) And, as far as I can tell, at present the supply of digital services doesn’t count as “distance selling”, for which there are VAT registration thresholds in each country which most freelancers would fall well below, but as supplies made by a non-resident business, for which the threshold is 0 in almost all countries.

(There is a point to this change, which is to stop big businesses like Amazon making all their digital sales from Luxembourg where the VAT on ebooks and music downloads is 3% and thereby avoiding an awful lot of tax on sales made to customers in other EU countries, but the unintended consequences for small businesses are fairly horrible.)

The issue is now being discussed in the Shopkeepers group on Ravelry, and people are talking to contacts and trying to find a solution. I have also sent the following email to my MEPs and MP:

I am writing to you to express my concerns regarding the new EU rules regarding the place of supply for digital services for VAT purposes. While I support the legislation’s intended purpose of curbing tax avoidance by large corporations supplying digital services, I fear that it will have a devastating effect on small businesses and particularly sole traders who also supply digital services on a worldwide basis. The example I am thinking of in particular is designers of knitting and sewing patterns which are sold as pdf downloads. Thanks to websites such as Etsy.com and Ravelry.com, there is a substantial and growing market for these downloads, which have the advantage for producers of significantly lowering production costs over printed patterns and eliminating delivery charges, while consumers benefit from receiving their purchases immediately and not having to pay shipping costs. Many of the producers in this market are sole traders or hobby producers with only a handful of patterns available. Even among the professional designers it is rare for turnover from pattern sales to reach the VAT registration threshold, which means that they cannot take advantage of the mini one-stop shop for EU VAT and would instead face the prospect of registering for VAT and making returns in all 28 EU member states. This would make continuing to sell patterns uneconomic for most designers and would almost certainly force a great many out of business.

I am sure that the purpose of this legislation was never to force small entrepreneurs of this kind out of business, and I am writing to ask you to lobby for a change in the regulations to implement a de minimis level of digital sales to EU member states other than the one the seller is resident in before VAT registration is required.

Thank you in advance for your assistance with this matter.

I don’t suppose it’ll do any good, as they’ll probably just wonder why this madwoman is writing to them about knitting patterns, but you never know. I would be very sad if this means that I have to live in a world where I can’t access a huge range of knitting patterns at the click of a button or two!

Not knitting

When I finished casting off my Neverendng Nuvem I noticed that my right elbow ached a bit, but I didn’t think too much of it; everyone gets random aches and pains occasionally. And then I went on holiday and dragged my wheelie suitcase around behind me, which my elbow didn’t seem to like at all, and then I got back to work where my desk was not set up particularly ergonomically (I think I’ve improved it now), and spent last Friday evening and most of last Saturday knitting away, lengthening the arms on my Lush because it was clear to me that it was going to be much more wearable with long sleeves. And when I tried to pick up my Brickless and knit during last week’s Doctor Who, I realised that my elbow hurt quite a lot and that I needed to stop doing the things that make it hurt until it’s better. And sadly, the things that make it hurt appear to include knitting and crochet.

So ever since Sunday I’ve been trying to find things to do that keep my hands busy and satisfy my need to do something creative but that aren’t knitting and crochet.

I tried spinning first of all, and finally finished the rainbow gradient yarn I started for the Tour de Fleece (and hadn’t touched since it finished):

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I’ve got just over 300m, I think, which really is enough to do something useful with. When I can knit again, anyway.

After that, I started a new spinning project, some BFL/Ramie from Hilltop Cloud:

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Spinning isn’t really the kind of thing I can just pick up and put down the way I do with knitting, though. The wheel takes up too much space to keep beside my chair at the kitchen table, so I need to move it there when I want to spin and back when I’ve finished, and it just somehow doesn’t seem like something that can be multitasked with chatting online, having a conversation with T, listening to the radio and cooking in the way knitting can. (I also can’t spin comfortably sitting on our sofa, which means it’s not really something I want to do watching TV.)

So I bought an origami kit, and made several penguins and something that was supposed to be a swan but looks more like the Loch Ness Monster.

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It was quite good fun, but there are only so many slightly lopsided origami penguins any house needs, and it didn’t quite feel creative in the right way, so I decided to have a go at patchwork.

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So far, basting fabric hexagons to backing papers seems to be the best thing I’ve found to fill the gap left by knitting (though I suspect it wouldn’t really be feasible on the bus and have been reading instead). I do miss knitting, though, and I really hope my elbow is better soon!

Lush

I finished my Lush Cardigan (which I was knitting as part of Purlescence‘s knitalong), and even though it’s really not the weather for nice woolly cardis I did put it on for a few minutes yesterday so that T could take some photos (I was jolly glad to take it off again afterwards, though!).

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The yarn is Sweet Georgia merino superwash DK, in “Jade” (though it looks more like teal to me). It’s not a really soft merino, which I think is a good thing as in my experience really soft yarns tend to pill very quickly; it’s not scratchy but it feels quite durable and I’m hoping it will wear well, because I love the cardigan and want to wear it lots!

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I knitted the 39″ bust size, which is 3″ smaller than my full bust measurement but matches my high bust, as I thought that would give me the best fit in the shoulders. I added 2″ of short row bust darts to give a better fit over the bust and worked more increases below the waist to end up with the stitch count for the 46″ size to allow for the fact that my hips are wider than my bust and although I will probably only wear ever do up the top buttons I wanted it to look as though I might conceivably be able to button it all the way up if I chose.

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I’m not sure that was the best idea, because the paired increases have created a little bulge at the sides, though I don’t know if that’s because I did more or just because the pattern didn’t specify the increases to use and I went for M1R and M1L but might well have got them the wrong way round. It doesn’t really show, though, and generally I’m really pleased with the fit.

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After agonising over what kind of buttons to use I finally ordered several sets from Textile Garden and chose a set which proved to be a perfect colour match for the yarn (I had thought that contrasting buttons might be a better choice and ordered a couple of yellow sets to try out).

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Of course, it’ll probably be at least three months before I actually get to wear it, but it’ll be something to look forward to when summer starts turning to autumn!

The Great Scottish Tapestry

While I was in Glasgow last month I took a trip over to Paisley to see the Great Tapestry of Scotland at Paisley Thread Mill. (I have delayed writing this post for so long that the Paisley exhibition has now finished, but the tapestry will be at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh over the summer and at New Lanark in October and November, and if you have a chance to see it you really should go.)

The tapestry (which isn’t actually a tapestry, because tapestries are woven and this is embroidered, but then again so is the Bayueux Tapestry) consists of 160 panels which were embroidered by groups of volunteers around Scotland, depicting scenes from the history of the country from the Ice Age to the present day. I couldn’t hope to photograph half of it, but I did take pictures of some of my favourite details.

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I love this squirrel’s bright eye and bushy tail!

This panel celebrates Scotland’s involvement with India (although not the delight that is the haggis pakora) and I loved the colours.

The peacock represents the peacock-tail of Paisley designs, on a panel commemorating the mills of Paisley (including the one where I saw the tapestry).

I can’t resist a puffin! This one was on the Shetland panel.

And penguins are almost as good. Not a native Scottish bird, but this panel is about Shackleton.

And finally, I was just amazed at the detail of the embroidered sock on the Fair Isle panel – the way the outside looks like knitting and the inside looks like the inside of stranded colourwork is just incredible.

Weekend crafting

I don’t like New Year’s Resolutions (there’s way too much potential for recrimination and self-loathing in setting ambitious goals for myself at a low time of year), but I do know that if I actually ever want to be good at sewing and spinning what I need is regular practice; the reason I am a good knitter these days is not because I’m a natural knitting genius (I wish!) but because I have been knitting pretty much every day for over seven years now, building up muscle memory, learning tricks and techniques and finding better ways of doing things. So, seduced by the completely artificial significance of the calendar change, I have decided to set myself a goal of spending an hour every weekend (unless I’m away from home) spinning and an hour sewing. I’m hoping this will help to make both of them become more of a habit, and that the regular practice will help me to make gradual but steady improvement, though it’s also about giving myself permission to stop after an hour, knowing that I can always pick it up again next weekend, rather than pushing on to complete a project when I’m getting tired and fed up and ending up not enjoying it and convincing myself that I’ll never be any good and not even trying again for ages.

Anyway, I got off to a good start by managing to find time to spin and sew today. Unfortunately, the sewing is a Sekrit Project so I can’t show you any pictures of that, but an hour with my wheel got the second half of a braid of New Zealand Polwarth I bought from Easyknits in the summer spun up.

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I was trying to concentrate on drafting a finer yarn than I’ve managed before, which was successful in parts although bits of it are thicker than I’d like, and also on drafting more slowly to get more twist in the yarn, which I definitely managed. It may be overtwisted, but I’ll see how it turns out when I’ve plied it. It’s pretty, anyway, and if it turns out bulky again I have a kind of a Plan involving 10 balls of chunky purple Jaeger yarn I bought years ago without considering that 10 balls of chunky isn’t quite enough for a jumper for me, and a nice simple pattern like Vivido which might look quite nice with a bit of toning/contrasting handspun thrown in…

Introducing Ngaio

Meet Ngaio, my new wheel.

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She’s an Ashford Kiwi 2, so I’ve named her after another Kiwi who could spin a fine yarn. I bought her from the lovely Antje at The Yarn Cake, who arranged to have her shipped directly to me, and she arrived very quickly. I’ve spent most of the last couple of days beeswaxing all the wood, painting the drive-wheel (which took one and a bit tester pots of purple multi-surface emulsion from Homebase) and assembling her.

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I’ve had a little play, resulting in the complete destruction of the second ball of North Ronaldsay roving from my Hilltop Cloud learn to spin kit, and a more successful try at “spinning” some leftover sock yarn to learn the motions. I’m sure we’ll get there!

A little more conversation

Part of the CBT programme I’m currently undertaking involves making a note of how I spend my time and how my mood fluctuates depending on what I’m doing. Some of it was obvious – work is stressful and makes my mood worse, spending time with T or friends and doing fun things makes me feel better. There were a few surprises, though. I’d always suspected that noodling around aimlessly on the internet wasn’t a particularly positive activity, but I was surprised that blogging also seemed to be something that gives rise to more negative feelings than positive ones.

Thinking about it, though, it makes sense. For me, the main benefits of the internet are finding information (honestly, how did I ever manage before Google?) and talking to my friends. And blogging doesn’t actually let me do either of those things; I’m not learning anything new by writing here, and it’s a really unsatisfactory way of communicating because it doesn’t really seem to lend itself to conversations. I love Twitter, for all its flaws, because at its heart it’s a huge, sprawling, diverse global conversation that I can dip in and out of and that covers all subjects from the serious to the ridiculous, often moving from one to the other in the space of mere minutes. Ravelry’s forums are another kind of conversation; slower-moving, more detailed and also more restricted as to topic (though my favourite groups are the ones which tend to ramble off topic before the discussion gets on to a second page), but it’s still definitely conversation. Livejournal in its heyday was something like a seminar or a discussion group; you wrote a post as an invitation to the people reading your journal to pitch in and discuss the topic, and because there were threaded comments and email notifications of comments conversations did develop where people talked to each other and didn’t just respond to the OP. (I miss that, but somehow I no longer seem to have interesting opinions to post as starting-points for discussion, or even mostly to contribute to other people’s discussion. I have become very dull, I fear.) While blogging doesn’t feel very different from writing posts on LJ, the interaction is totally different. People don’t start conversations in the comments here, and I can’t recall ever getting into a real conversation by commenting on someone else’s blog. A blog is a lecture, with a few audience questions to follow, and I’m not really enjoying holding forth at the moment. It feels too much as if I’m saying ‘Look at me! Don’t I make lovely things? Aren’t I clever at dressing myself?’ and fishing for other people’s compliments. (Also, when it comes to the outfit blogging, I’m working on attaching less relative importance to work and more to non-work things, and writing a blog about what I wear to work doesn’t quite seem to fit with that.)

So I don’t know if this is goodbye, or au revoir, or if my blogging mojo will return tomorrow and I’ll be back with daily outfit posts or irregular craft posts. Meanwhile, I’ll still be on Ravelry and Twitter whatever happens (I’m whitehart on Ravelry and white_hart on Twitter), so if you don’t already do come and chat to me there.