Shades of Gray

Thanks for all of your comments on this post. It is clear that many of you feel passionate about the challenging issues surrounding copyright. During this time of fluent information sharing and the collaborative nature of the online craft community, it is only natural that these issues surface. I respect your opinions about my HandMAYde is Better series this week and while I welcome the debate, I hope that all of you know that as a maker and designer myself, these issues are important to me also. Each of the posts from this week has been updated in response to your concerns.

If you would like to read the full post along with the comments, feel free to read on. I am going to get on with sewing and making things, because I don’t think we are going to find any answers today. What I hope to provide here is a supportive place for inspiration, instruction and resources. Thanks.

I’ve inadvertently started a controversy. Thanks, twitter. First, let me talk about my thoughts for doing this week of DIY knock-offs, and then let’s draw the line between art and craft. And we can open up that copyright can of worms too. Let’s lay it all out here. And let me also say that I almost never see things in black and white, so I’d love to hear your opinions and I’ll probably agree with all of you.

Really, I am truly a person who likes to make things myself and I don’t have the money to spend on expensive things (like $120 pillows). When I see things in a catalog, I do often think “I can make that”, but I usually choose to spend my own time trying to make things I’ve never seen before. For me it’s about creativity, it’s a personal challenge, and it’s my work. I still don’t consider myself an artist and I’m guessing that many of you don’t either.

I know that many of you who read this blog just really love to make things, but are looking for inspiration and ideas and may not even consider yourself to be creative. That’s what I aim to provide here  — inspiration — so you can get the fulfillment of making something — whether it’s your design or not. So there’s an important distinction between art and craft. Is it your own, original idea? Then it’s art. Did you follow a pattern? Craft. I respect people for making things and don’t want anyone to feel like they need an M.F.A. to make a handbag.

So yes, you are welcome to find inspiration for your personal projects from stores, catalogs, art, etc. Does this de-value the work of the artist? I don’t think so. I think it moves it along, spreads it around and keeps it evolving. Does sharing a how-to for making a copy cross the line? Again, I don’t think so as long as people aren’t selling the knock-off.

Someone on twitter mentioned that it’s not fair because my site sells ads. If you want to see my income spreadsheets, you’ll see that I don’t earn a living from these ads, but can’t justify all the time I spend on this blog without them. I struggled with this ad issue for years, but finally chose to have ads for independent businesses. This is my personal choice and I respect those who choose to have more or less advertising on their site. I really don’t want to judge anyone’s personal choices and I thank you for not judging mine.

If you can’t afford an $88 necklace, but you can make things, why not do it? But I’d love to hear your opinion. And art is not created in a vacuum. We are influenced by a myriad of sources, both consciously and subconsciously.

Now, another thought about this week of knock-offs is that I have become too familiar with the story of companies knocking off the work of indie designers. Do I think it’s malicious? Yes – but maybe no? My guess is that there is an over-worked, underpaid designer somewhere trying to make a deadline who just takes the wrong shortcut. Now, I do think some companies may incorporate this “borrowing” into their design practices on a regular basis and honestly, no one can stop them unless it’s a flagrant and complete case of plagiarism. And that stinks all around.

Update: read this to further confuse you about the ideas of ownership and copyright in this case. And here‘s the response from Urban Outfitters.

Then there’s the Etsy seller who is just ignorant about copyright issues, but may respond politely when you ask them to please stop selling your designs. I speak from experience. People have used my patterns and my designs in both small and large-scale situations. I see it differently depending on the case and I’m always willing to give people the benefit of the doubt. Does someone selling my superhero capes at their church bazaar warrant the same disdain as someone selling my design on fabric being sold on a large scale to major fabric retailers? I don’t think so. There’s just a lot of gray here, in my opinion. Gray, gray, gray.

What do you think?

Update to this post: I just wanted to make it clear that I support handmade and have promoted handmade artists on this blog for four years now. I think copying someone’s work to sell is wrong, whether you are copying from an independent designer or a large company. These projects were meant to be inspirational and for personal use only. I’d hoped to encourage people to make things — to look around in stores and realize that they can do it — more about empowerment and less about copying. And honestly, none of the (really nice) guest bloggers intended to use designs that were created by independent designers. You should check out the sites of the designers and buy something directly from them: designer of the Primal Cuts dish towels, Girls Can Tell, and the designer of the Merit Badge Necklace, Fort Standard.

I agree that there are some valid points in the comments below. I apologize for offending anyone — I can assure you that was not our intention. I hate controversy here and I just want everyone to be inspired to make stuff, which is what I think the handmade community is all about, right?

Obviously we won’t be doing this series again. So, enough of that. Have a great weekend and go make something!

75 comments to Shades of Gray

  • I definitely had to think about this one for awhile before I had some sense of what I might say. I guess what it comes down to is this: the independent creative community of artists, designers, makers etc. certainly doesn’t want the Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie-type businesses of the world copying their work and sharing it. We should probably hold ourselves to the same standard that we ask others to meet. I think that making one’s own version of a piece that you see somewhere for purely personal use is probably just fine. I think that teaching others how to do it probably does cross a line.

    That being said, I absolutely appreciate you, Ellen, for having the courage to open up this conversation. I believe that it is an important one to have, and an uncomfortable one as well. I applaud you for being forthright and honest about your own feelings and for creating a respectful forum for others to share their own. Thank you for that. Oh, and you shouldn’t feel any hesitation about having sponsors for your site. I can’t imagine why others take issue with that.

    As a pattern designer (albeit a really, really lazy one who produces new patterns once in a blue moon), I definitely take exception to the idea that some people have presented here that they have every right to sell items created from my pattern. I’m not really sure how anyone can think that is okay, unless I give them permission to do that. Yikes. I can’t speak to specific copyright laws regarding this issue, so copyright issues aside, I think that it is simply an issue of common respect.

  • thelongthread

    Quickly wanted to address the art v. craft comment. Yes, that was a simplistic definition and I could expand and talk about it for days. But it doesn’t even really matter to me. I just think people should make stuff. That’s the whole point of this blog. Call it whatever you want. And mostly I was thinking of what makes something original in the sewing world — and in that case, if you came up with the pattern yourself then it should be copyright protected (the pattern, at the very least). But there’s more gray area there too.

  • I hear what you are saying. My husband and I both design items for the home as part of our living. People buy our products because they know the quality and perfection we strive for. In the same light, I only but designer furniture for myself and our “adult” home but often do buy ikea and other lesser quality pieces for my children’s use. I buy designer items for myself when I want the best quality. On the other hand, I make things all the time and love learning new techniques and reading blogs that teach how to make it yourself, just like the one in the magazine. I think we should be used to living in a state of grey areas because that’s life. You will get what you pay for. Maybe spending 15 hours recreating a necklace you saw is in your budget, go right ahead! At least we would be spending time creating new ideas will come of it 🙂

  • I have a problem with people who think they can copyright everything and you shouldn’t be able to make anything like it. Oh you made a circle skirt with blue flowers? well, I made it first so you copied mine. Even though it is different flowers and you never saw their’s first. What about items that are so basic like that where you could sort of free hand create it without ever seeing items B,C, or D and suddenly their “inventors” are screaming copyright infringement? I make squared off shopping totes for personal use, just because the first one I made that happened to be the type of fabric scraps I had. You see them in every grocery store and market. Now, online I have seen several blogs with instructions for how to make them claiming that they are the exclusive property of the blog owner and are not to be copied in any way or sold. Well… it’s a basic squared off box-bag… I mean they have been around for decades, how can they claim that as their own and bar anyone else from making them?

    @paddlemama VB sounds like whomever it is that makes the Dick & Jane fabrics. I always see special notices that you are only permitted to use that fabric in the privacy of your own home, even their polkadot and stripe patterns. LOL I’ve refused to buy it because of that. I feel like, I’ve paid for that, it’s mine now. They aren’t selling items made from it that I can go buy, so why should I not be able to make whatever I want to out of it, whether it’s used in my home or not?

    @Jen That is very good to know about the legality of making something from a pattern! Thank you for posting that.

    I just wanted to add that not everything Anthro is bad. I noticed a couple of months ago everyone had this wonderful paper wysteria tree that was in an Anthro store posted on their blogs. The woman who made it wouldn’t put up a tutorial and tons of people seemed interested in how to recreate it. I looked at the images, figured out how SHE made it and then I figured out a DIFFERENT way to achieve a very similar effect. I made a tutorial and put it on my blog. The original creator was credited and approved the backlink on her own blog where the original is displayed. She could have been a jerk about it I suppose, because for a price you can fly her to you and pay her to make one, but she didn’t seem to take any offense to it at all and I assume I’m not cutting into her business. Anyone who would ever even contemplate spending what must be a VERY large amount of money to have one made (with bringing her to you and putting her up for the hours it takes to make the tree) wouldn’t be on my cheesey blog anyway!

  • Ok … I have so much I want to say … but I think I will sum it up simply (and piss people off in the process) … to hell with those who take issue with what you have done in this series. I see no issue in copying “made in China” crap that sells for far more than it is worth. If you like it, and want to recreate it … at a fraction of the cost … go for it. You werent going to buy the “inspiring” piece anyway. You are not taking $ away from anyone. Big business has done similar … in that every time I shop at Target, I find items that were last year’s acclaimed handmade Etsy items, remade in mass quanity (in CHina) to sell to the population of people who dont “get” handmade and who don’t shop at Etsy … or anything other than a box store. EVERYONE does this. And frankly, I dont care if it is “wrong” or “right”. THERE IS NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN!

    Anyway … I was quite impressed with this series … and thankful for it. Rock on. And anyone who doesn’t like it can move on to another blog.

  • I had an interesting experience with copying. I found a greeting card company had copied one of my fabric prints, and were selling it on a card. They had copied even down to the imperfections of my block print, although theirs was silkscreened. And they were selling it, successfully, as their own design, in the same venues I’d struggled to sell my fabric prints of the same design. (I contacted them, they agreed to pay me a licensing fee – they were very apologetic.) Two things struck me about this: it was a local company, so they could have hired me in the first place to design cards for them; and, more importantly, their cards were successful. So I started printing cards (with different designs, the ‘stolen’ one now having been licensed).

    But when I see other people selling block printed fabric or ribbon in floral designs, made up into bags or pillows, I don’t ask them to stop. Sure, I feel a bit anxious; they’re competition. But usually they become an ally, we share information about suppliers etc. And I become even clearer about designing things that bear the stamp of my personal taste. Without that competition, I might not have become so clear about that.

    And that said, I can design a card with a key, or a bicycle, or an owl, on it, just like everybody else, because they’re popular and will sell. But I will make sure that it looks unmistakeably like my design. With access to so many other peoples’ designs online, I’m more able to refine my own, and make sure that they are exactly what I want them to be.

    I would not have learned half of what I know without all the tutorials and patterns online. That’s what patterns are for: learning techniques. Since the advent of Etsy, the open book of the internet has closed a bit. People have become jealous of their knowledge, perhaps forgetting that they themselves also learned from others.

    As for the art vs craft debate… there are levels of craftsmanship. Not good and bad, just levels. Knowing how to sew a square cushion cover doesn’t make you a seamstress, just someone who can sew. Making a pretty cushion doesn’t make you an artist, just a cushion-maker. Making a cushion that causes someone else to think, question, cry, have a spiritual experience – that would make you an artist.

    And finally, people who make things are not usually people who buy things. If I couldn’t cook, I would eat out more. If I couldn’t knit and sew, I would buy clothes. I can’t make jeans or shoes, so I buy those. I’m useless at carpentry, so I buy furniture. I really do doubt that showing people how to make things takes any money away from people selling those same things.

  • Danae

    First I want to thank you for opening up this can of worms as there are not many people who would even dare to dive in. Secondly, I agree that this is certainly an area of many shades of gray. Because who really can claim anything in the artworld, original. We all get our inspiration from something.

    I agree that credit should definitely be given for your inspiration, but I by no means think that your version should be muffled or criticized as it was your interpretation. I think all anyone is really looking for is some credit. Stores like PB and Anthro are more than happy that you try and replicate their items, as long as you give credit, since it is free advertising for them. I never heard of Anthro before I came across someone knocking-off one of their items, then I was curious to venture into their store. Making something inspired by something else I feel is all part of creating art, whether it be in home decor, clothing or other medium. However, if you are knowingly and literally copying something (ie you took something apart and traced the pattern pieces) then yes, this is an infringment. Otherwise, craft away and as your English teacher would say, cite your sources!

  • Carol

    Interesting debate. My input: 1. 30 or so years ago, the term “knock off” was used only on items that were “exact duplicates” of larger, more expensive items. Louis Vitton bags were one of the best examples….copies made to look exactly the same at first glance of lesser quality materials. 2. In college, MANY years ago, my design prof had us buy a dress pattern which she immediately taped shut. We then had to come up with the tissue pattern and directions and order and method of construction. Imagine all of our surprise when not one of us did it like the purchased pattern! 3. Some time ago, Kay Whitt of Seredipity Studio ran into a problem and shared on her blog what she learned. Essentially, a gathered skirt is a gathered skirt is a gathered skirt. What is copyrighted is your directions, wording, method of making, etc. The written part. ***** I do not blog nor sell things. I believe their is nothing new under the sun. And just to illuminate a little on the “idea” bit, I”d like to share a funny that happened to me……… I was crocheting these flowers that were all the rage over the net, and decided to make a top from them (everyone else was doing blankets or shawls). Less than a month later, one of the blogs I follow had made hers into a top and she is French! Very often in the sewing/crochet world, what makes something truly yours is your very individual use of materials, colors. Ours looked nothing the same. Looking at Flickr pools, you see the same pattern over and over, but your eye stops on those who used colors (or whatever) that grab you. Very often the things that I make from someone else’s “idea” I do because the originals are not my colors or are in fabric choices I do not care for. The lines of supposed copying, I believe, are becoming more and more blurred with the easy access of the internet. We have an idea, and before we know it, someone around the world has had the same idea and posted it! Shades of grey………..

  • Elizabethdx

    Thank you for having this conversation. I don’t necessarily agree with everything you are saying, but do I ever respect you for bringing your ideas and concerns into discussion!

  • I agree about it being a gray matter. I respect you for writing about this when I might have ignored it (being a big chicken) and gone on with my blog.

    I think the word “Knock-off” is what got everyone riled up. Plus, even though you say these tutorials are for personal use only, you know a lot of of these items will be popping up for sale in Etsy shops. It’s too bad there are people out there who really do copy each detail and sell items as their own creation.

    This isn’t only you. I’ve seen this for years in the home decor blogging community. It’s everywhere.

    I respect all artists who work for both large and small companies. When I was an art director for Fossil, I would have been upset seeing my designs shown on a blog as how to knock it off. Just as I would as a small business owner now. Hopefully original art is being used as inspiration for new, original designs and the knock-offs being made are for personal use only.

    Unfortunately I feel this is getting out of control. I’ve sent over 15 cease and desist letters in the past week to protect my designs. I’ve had major magazines steal my ideas and only one has ever contacted me about using one and their offer to “Buy my idea” was so cheap, it was insulting.

    As bloggers we HAVE to stress the copyright rules and always remind our readers about ONLY using these ideas for personal use. It’s up to us to educate our readers and other bloggers in this area. So big kudos to you for bringing this up so we can discuss it as a community.

  • S. Kaefer

    I hardly ever take time to write a comment in postings I read, but found this subject to be invigorating. It is a subject that I have also thought a lot about. I have a website that I do not wish to mention because I just want to be able to freely write my thoughts without it influencing my website in a positive or a negative way. Please forgive me if I ramble too much along the line but there is so much I would like to write and do not know if I have a word limit.

    Having written that, I feel that black and white is too harsh. I think there is enough room for grey without crossing any damaging lines. Think about it… we are being bombarded daily with colors, patterns, designs, images and such. Whether in books, tv, internet, stores or whatever… all of these things inspire us in one way or another. What we create is the result and combination of all of these influences. Who can really say that an idea is totally original? Already making something that is trendy means that we noticed the trend and are following it. Take „prim“ for example. For a while there, everyone was making prim items. They were being inspired and influenced by this trend. The next month „indie“ might be in and everyone are making „indie“ items.

    I think the difference between copying and inspiration is this: If you see something (let us use a felt owl, as an example) and create it to look like the original, that is definately copying. I also don’t think there is something wrong with that if you make it for your own personal use. But if you post it on your blog, then I do believe you should always give credit for it, where you saw it. And I don’t think it would be fair to the original designer if you sold your copy of her owl. She should be the only one who is allowed to do that.

    Maybe you had not thought of creating owls out of felt before. But now you are thinking about that owl and also want to make felt owls, because you like how they look. Then you go home and make an owl that is totally your own pattern and design, with your own special style. Now you have created something original and were just inspired to create an owl out of felt. You did not create her owl, you created your owl. For me, that is your own project.

    But hardly anything is really new out there in the craft and fabric world. It is all recycled variations of previous ideas and old techniques. That is what I think. It is refreshing for me to see that old techniques are not getting lost in time. I remember a time when everyone was macremaeing flower pot holders and such. Was that back in the 70‘s? Am I actually dating myself? No one makes those anymore. But if a woman would now create a flower pot holder using the macrame technique and she creates a pattern herself on how to do her flower pot holder, this would be her original design. She cannot copyright macrame because the technique has been out there for a while but she could copyright the pattern to her own design.

    Publications such as books, magazines and the internet, publish instructions on how to make things. So I make them if I like them. For me it would be wrong to sell anything I made using someone elses pattern but I think it is ok to use the pattern to make a gift for someone or to make for myself. Also if I were to show the finished craft on my website, I would also give credit to where I got the idea from.

    Ok for me is if a website owner likes a project and links to it. I think using screenshots of the linked website is also ok. The website owner could even ask the other website owner if she could use a picture of that project so that it would be more noticed.

    What I also think is wrong, though, is if someone uses the content from another website and publishes the pictures and text as if it were their own. For example, I have often seen Martha Stewart pictures and instructions on other sites and I knew these projects did not belong to the website. And the worse of it all is that they did not even give the Martha Stewart website credit, either.

    As for „The Long Thread“… I really enjoy browsing around your blog. Love the inspiration. Ads? I also cannot believe that anyone would complain about that. They don’t bother me the least. Most websites have ads… some more, some less. Don’t let those comments bother you. You have to do it the way you feel it is best for your website. Keep up the good work!

  • So Annie,
    Could you explain your objection to people selling items they made from your pattern as this is an area where I (respectfully) disagree with you. If I’ve bought a pattern and the materials and I spend time putting that together, it is my work, albeit from your pattern. I don’t understand why it’s wrong for me to sell it. Particularly if it’s at a local craft fair which is probably on the other side of the world from you. I don’t wish to have an argument about this and I don’t wish to cause offence, I’m really just interested to hear what your take on the subject is – and maybe I’ll realise my opinion is wrong.

  • anna

    I enjoy your blog and look forward to your posts. I am just discovering all the wonderful craft blogs and videos on you tube since I decided to consider developing a career in handmade goods. I have been afraid to try some crafts for fear of infinging on a copyright, while at the same time wondering why was the artist teaching me how to make the craft if they didn’t want me to reproduce it? The comments on this week’s postings have been very enlightening for me. I have always been a crafter who needed an idea to start with, I envy the crafters who can create soley out of their imagination. And while I may need a starting point by borrowing from someone else’s creation, I find I always embellish it with my own ideas, techniques or materials. So am I a an idea thief? I confess I do feel that way sometimes, but I always try to give credit where credit is due, and lead my friends to craft blogs that inspire me when they comment on items I have made from blog inspiration. I have been surpised when I have found something I thought was truly unique only to find hundreds of crafters who have made versions of the same craft on you tube. I didn’t find this week’s knock off series offensive, but I did think it would have been better if the knock offs weren’t so obviously a duplication, I think I would have liked it better if each had a twist or suggestions on how to take the idea and make it more individualized. Re the ads, I actually enjoy the ads – how else would I learn about these specialized companies? And the artists who commented on the series, WOW, I have now found a bunch of new artists and bloggers to follow. So while I am sure all the controversy was troubling to you personally, I think we all benefited from the discussion in so many different ways, well, like Martha says “it’s a good thing”.

  • thelongthread

    Hi Wendy,

    As a pattern maker, I can respond to this as well. Patterns are a very gray area. I often add “for personal use only” on my patterns, but realistically I know people may sell them. Every time someone has e-mailed me and asked permission to use one of my patterns to make items for selling on a small scale, I have agreed. But here’s where it gets tricky.

    Sometimes when you’re selling superhero capes at the church bazaar, they get popular — then you’re selling them in stores around the city, then you expand. Where do we draw the line? Because if that’s my pattern, I should still retain the rights to sell it for manufacturing on a large-scale. That’s the key issue.

    And now that I’ve written a sewing book, I know that I won’t mind so much if people are selling things in their Etsy shop on a small scale, but if an exact duplication shows up at a major retailer, it becomes problematic. See, it’s just a gray issue, so I can see that some people want to hold on tightly to their copyright on the small issues to ultimately protect it from the larger copyright infringement. The copyright law is very narrow, so proving infringement is difficult and costly. In most instances, I just don’t care all that much because I know that it is a gray area and I’m always willing to consider someone’s intentions.

    Thanks so much for your questions. I hope this clarifies it from my perspective. I suspect that if you ask everyone on this thread, they will each have a different answer. The laws are not even black and white, so we are open to subjective reasoning.

  • Bookaholic

    I’m sure someone has said this, but has anyone noticed that when a nifty new craft idea pops up in a magazine like Martha Stewart Living, about three months later Pottery Barn will have a mass-produced version thereof? I remember the (formerly) ubiquitous “ribbon bulletin board” and the “hanging frames from a knob with a ribbon” being adopted by Pottery Barn or PB Kids. And there were a bunch of other ideas like this– instead of hand-making them, you could just buy them pre-made, if you wanted to do it the easy way (which I don’t.)

  • Carolyn

    I don’t want to say too much, except that I love this blog! (It’s in my bookmarks) I find it very inspiring. I don’t see anything wrong with posting tutorials on how to make something if you are making it for your self. Personally, I don’t have – and don’t want to spend $120 on a pillow, so I would find the time to make it for myself for less money.
    Anyway, keep up the great work on this blog. Please keep posting more great tutorials (especially easy/beginner projects for busy mums!)

  • Erica Ferguson

    I have been very blessed in my life with getting to know 3 of my Great-grandmothers who all lived well into their 90’s. They also all lived during the great depression. Every single one of them were amazing seamstresses. And every single one of them would tell me stories of how they would go look at the catalogs at the stores during these hard times and then go home and make their own patterns to sew up the garments that they saw in the catalogs. Most time the clothing would be made out of feed sacks because they were a very creative bunch and would make the best use of what they had. They then passed this same skill down to every single one of the daughters. I am very glad that my Grandmother then shared this with me. I think that in this new age of electronics that the perception on things somethimes get a wee bit skewed. For me I do not see any difference between sharing our skill on a blog and sharing with our readers how we “knock-off” something as any different than the skills that have been passed through the generations in my family. Just FYI I will be sharing these skills with my girls.

  • thelongthread

    Also, I wanted to point you to a post that I wrote three years ago regarding art v. craft. It’s an age-old debate and no one has any definitive answers. Wouldn’t life be boring if everything were black and white?

  • sara curtis

    I think you rock!! Your blog is awesome and you are very talented!! Not everyone is an artist or has the money to buy thing that they would like to have in their home. I am a spouse of a staff sergeant in the air force and i have chosen not to work so i can do my very best at taking care of my family and making sure they are happy and healthy. I don’t think people realize that the military makes no money! But I still would like to have nice things and i want my home to be a beautiful home. So what is someone like me to do??? I can honestly say from my heart that your site and many more like it, have given me so much by showing me how i can have the nice things in life.
    So I want to put a good comment on here in the middle of all these bad ones! Big stores make knock offs of the designer stuff all the time and no one says a word. Someone gets bored and wants to knit pick something and they picked you. And now too many people have gotten their panties in a twist.
    I don’t make money on anything i have ever made from one of these blog and i don’t think the majority of the people that do these projects do either. I appreciate you and your blog!! Thank you!!

  • Kathleen G.

    I just want to say that I’m thankful for knock offs. We’re a single income household. Living in Hawaii is already costly. I still want nice things. I might not have the money to spend, but I might have the time. I appreciate a little guidance and instruction. I won’t argue who’s right or wrong. Just thankful that there are talent people out there with fabulous ideas and thankful for wonderful people offering their ideas on how to make-it-yourself. Maybe you should have called it that instead… Mayke It Youself 😉

  • Well, bless your heart. Good gracious. I understand everyone wanting to respect artists rights – and they should be respected. but if I am copying an Anthro pillow, and teaching you how to do it, are we using the exact materials Anthro used? Will it ever be EXACTLY like the original. No. Because you are making it by hand. And I feel that if you want the pillow IN ANTHRO, you will go there and buy it, because whatever you make will never be that exact pillow. Even if it’s just a color change when you make it- it’s not the SAME product. I totally agree that you shouldn’t sell it, but using your skills to make something for yourself, and sharing those skills with others shouldn’t be a problem.

  • First i’ll comment as a Crafter. I like crafting. Not for profit, for my own sense of accomplishment. I want to broaden my crafty horizons and see what i’m capable of making. Also, I want things. Pretty things, fun things, old-timey looking things, fluffy things, metal things, etc., etc. These things cost $$$ and I certainly can’t be buying things willy-nilly at the moment, so if somebody can show me how to cut the cost, freakin’ great! Sure, i’d be pissed too if someone took my *exact* creation and mass marketed it, that’s why lawyers are so handy.
    Secondly i’m going to comment as an Early Childhood Educator. Whether someone likes it or not, somewhere in the world a child is copying something they designed. Early Childhood Education defines Art as: something with no set end product…paint what you feel, and, Craft as: something resulting from a set of instructions with an end product…origami. Children in the years of 5 and older are learning how things are created and put together and they need a pattern/picture/idea to do it from because it’s they’re way of being able to understand how to deconstruct and reconstruct the item in their brains. They then build off this influence by adding their own colour palette or graphic. I encourage freedom of imagination and creativity ALWAYS, but that’s not fully encouraged in many school systems/homes. If you want to see some interesting patterns and designs (many of us have probably created at some point), research Fredrik Frobel.
    I would never tell a child “you are infringing on copyright law, quick tear that up before someone sues you!” Would you sue a child? I have talked to older school-age children about basic copyrights, but it’s just going to go right over a younger ones head.
    So…..I just want to craft and I want to teach children to craft (we a currently learning about looming) and I would love to see another handMAYed feature and if someone doesn’t like it, “Suck It Up Muffin!”

  • I find this whole issue really fascinating. The more I learn, the more convoluted it becomes.
    First and foremost this is a matter of where you personally draw the line as (if you have been keeping up with the controversy surrounding the Uniform Project as discrussed here: you cannot copywrite clothing pattern and such. They come under the useful goods act and whereas the pattern itself is copywrited, ie. you cannot resell the pattern, any goods produced from it will not be. Jewellery would be a slightly different matter but I doubt it would hold much water either. Of course I think it’s messed up for people to think they can reproduce something from someone elses pattern and sell it.
    However when you attempt to reproduce another’s work by having a look at it, figuring it out and giving it a bash I think that’s fine and dandy IF it’s for your personal use and enjoyment.
    I have had ideas of mine blatantly used by other far more successful people in our small craft community and yes, it sucked but if you are creatively minded you are no one trick pony.
    I mean what the hell people! This blog and many others like are trying to give crafters some inspiration and a leg up on the many wealthy non-creatives who can splash the cash when ever they see a shiny thing.
    I think as long as people use these tutes for themselves or as gifts it’s totally fine.
    Keep ’em coming.
    The nay-sayers will find a new wagon to jump on any minute now!

  • Anna

    25 years ago…long before the internet, Etsy, blogs and twitter even existed…my mum and I used to make and sell unique little outfits at our local markets. People copied, the same outfits eventually ended up in the shops years later. In fact every time a gimmick or idea popped up at the markets that seemed to be doing well, other people would have a go at making some money from it. This is not a new thing, there is always going to be someone out there looking for an idea to make money from. The internet has certainly made it easier for people to share and to take ideas from others. But it is far too idealistic to think that if you put an idea out there people are going to abide by some personal honour code and not use it. I use ideas to inspire me to create things for my own personal use and I feel no qualms about doing it – I would never dream of profiting from it. That is my line, other people feel differently and there is nothing you can do to change or police that.

  • anya

    Don’t let the mental masturbaters get you down!Some people like to debate just to hear (or see!) themselves talk.
    You are not breaking any laws by copying designer products, nor is it morally wrong on any level.
    There’s a huge difference between a large company stealing and selling an idea that came from a small crafter, and a small crafter making something for personal use based on a designer item.

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