Posted on 28 Comments

Copyright Laws & Quilting

Lotus Amazon BlogQuilting and the copyright right laws which apply to the subject come up every now and then in magazines and online. Each attempts to summarize and explain the law often with different interpretations. If you are anything like me, it just takes a little bit of “legalize” for my eyes to glaze over. Protecting the rights of others is important but sometimes it is a little difficult to figure out what it all means. A recent post found on the internet brought this all to mind.

Ginger Davis Allman came up with this wonderful chart of copyright guidelines.

Copyright-Infographic-craftersJust as a lawyer would, I will start this with a brief disclaimer. I am not a lawyer, never dreamed of being one and know very little about the law. Nothing I am about to say should be construed as legal advice. I simply want to talk about what is fair and considerate to others.

A copyright is a form of legal protection granted by the legal system to protect the original work of individuals. According to the Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA), “Works eligible for protection under copyright include patterns, diagrams and instructions for making quilts, written materials that talk about quilts and the making of quilts, and quilt designs, regardless of whether those designs appear in a pattern or diagram for the quilt, in a software program that lets the user make the quilt, or in the quilt itself.”

Many of us design our own quilts whether we do it professionally or just for our own enjoyment. Let’s use my Lotus quilt as an example.

Lotus green center

The center of the quilt consists of a large Lone Star. This is a traditional design and I certainly can’t lay claim to that. I carefully chose each fabric making sure they shaded nicely to get the effect I wanted. Around the Lone Star is appliqué which I also designed. This is my own creation.

Lotus green applique1If you make my Lotus quilt, I would hope that you let people know it is my design. If your friends want to make one, you can let them know where they can obtain a pattern or a kit. It is not alright to take the pattern, make copies and distribute them whether for free or certainly not for money.

If you want to take parts of this design and incorporate it into a work of your own, give credit. If your work includes anything for profit, you should ask permission of the designer.

I would hope you would stop and think for a moment of all which goes into the creative work of others—endless hours of design, pattern writing, pattern testing and copying costs. There is an old saying about giving credit where credit is due. Let’s always try to remember this.

28 thoughts on “Copyright Laws & Quilting

  1. when I make a quilt I usually make a letter stating when it was made, who the designer was, and the name of the pattern. Even if it is all my creation that way the recipient knows something about the quilt. Lavania

  2. I like that you talked about traditional designs such as the Lone Star in your pattern above. How you used the traditional design in your quilt is yours. Instructions are not as clear. How to make half square triangles, for instance, can only be done a few ways. Many many many patterns use half square triangles.

  3. I often hear that if you change something 10% you can then call it your own. I have known quilt shop owners that do this then sell ‘their design’ for their own profit. I do not know the legality of this… but it does not seem tight. Seems to me, they should have permission of the original designer… and credit that designer. Should they even be able to make a profit off their altered design???? Doesn’t seem right to me. I hear this often, so assume it is a widespread notion.

  4. Thank you for posting this and thanks to for the very nice flowchart. It has long been a concern of mine. How do I tell the difference between what I learned in a class and what I create using those techniques? This helped lots.

    1. A basic technique isn’t covered under a copyright but the text of the technique is. You should not use the text of the instruction as your own for a class, pattern, etc. Simply learning a technique from someone and using it is what we like our students/customers to do. However, if you use someone’s technique, wouldn’t it be nice to give them credit for it?

  5. Dear Jinny. I consider myself a student of your at 100 percent. Lately I began to receive offers to teach hand piecing. I find it difficult always in such cases, because I can only teach to what you taught me. I have long been trying to invent my own learning block, so that it was on the content of the same as well as your excellent learning block Genesis. Would not this in violation of your copyright, if I teach someone to sew using your block Genesis?
    I always tell everyone that you are my teacher, because I’m proud of it. Thank you very much.

    1. Hi Lena,
      Jinny said this would be fine for you to use this pattern as it is a great lesson for hand piecing. Thank you for asking!

  6. I buy a pattern but I need to in large it for the block size I need can I in large it without permission

    1. You sure can enlarge it. Many patterns come with the instructions to enlarge.

  7. I have been trying for months to get copyright permission to show, and use in a book, a derivative design of M.C. Escher’s ” Rippled Surface.” I have sent several emails to the Escher estate which is in charge of copyright permission but have received no reply. Any suggestions of how to proceed?

    1. Unfortunately I’m not sure if I can be much help. All those permissions were handled by my publisher and they went through the Escher Copyright permission process. Is there a number that you can call?

  8. I love this quilt. Searched your web site but couldn’t find a pattern or directions. Do you sell the pattern for this?

    1. Yes, this is the Lotus quilt which you can find here.

  9. I have been trying to buy this pattern.
    Can I buy this pattern it is so beautiful!

  10. I would like to buy the pattern only!

    1. All of our available patterns are on our website here.

  11. Can I donate your Lotus quilt (made from your kit) with a few changes, to a charity which will sell it, giving you the credit?

    1. Yes, as long as credit and the name of the quilt is given, you may certainly give to a charity.

  12. I appreciate your attempt to clarify things here. I have run into lots of questions this year while trying to come up with block of the month patterns this year for my quilt guild. Each person at the guild can purchase a printed block pattern & piece of fabric each month for $1, then returns the completed blocks the following month for a chance to win the pile. So, money is exchanged, although the $1 covers supply costs and is not profit. We usually sell about 12-18 blocks.

    Once I invented an oak-leaf “spinning” block completely on my own (well, based on a “spinning” pine tree one that I had seen), then found that the same exact oak-leaf spinning design had already been for sale online for several years from a different designer. So . . . complicated.

    I also found a quilt design on Pinterest that I loved, and, although I tried, was unable to locate either its name or a designer. It had little birds marching in a row. I went ahead and made a similar quilt a couple of years ago based on the pinterest photo, drawing out my own similar birds, but having them look up, down and in all directions rather than marching in a row. Was planning to use that this year for one of the Block of the Months, but as luck would have it, I spotted what I think must be the original pattern in a quilt store this year, and now I’m concerned it might not be legal for me to use my block for this purpose.

    I’ve also been told that it if you purchase a pattern and make a quilt from it (or even make a quilt using any of the recognizable elements from it), then it’s illegal to enter your completed quilt into a quilt show unless you have permission from the person who created the pattern . . . giving credit isn’t good enough. That seems kind of unfair to me. It seems that purchasing a pattern should give you the right to display your finished quilt, altered or not. But I guess it doesn’t?

    1. It never hurts to ask. If you are simply entering the quilt in a show to exhibit, yes, you should give credit, but there is nothing illegal about that. If you are entering it in a show to win a prize I would think it would be wise to not just give credit but also to ask permission. Hope that helps.

  13. I purchase lots of magazines ,sometimes the print is too small so I photocopy it larger.
    After I complete the project I hate to shred the copy.can I pass it on to friends to share?

    1. Sure, it’s great to share with your quilting friends. It’s best if you indicate the publication in which the copy was made from for future reference and for copyright purposes.

  14. Thanks for this article! Here’s my situation…I saw a quilt on Instagram that is a big one block quilt. I loved it but wanted a smaller version of it, so I made up a smaller version using the same block in multiple ways. (I made 12 blocks in different sizes.) I would love to publish my quilt pattern but it was inspired by the other quilt. Can I do that? I would really appreciate your input! Thank you!

    1. Are you able to find the name of the block and who the designer is? If it is a traditional block and in the public domain there is no problem using it.

      If the block is an original then you would need permission from the designer to use it in a published pattern.

  15. I belong to an online quilt group. We are making a calendar block of the month using different quilt patterns and techniques. Many members of the group are new quilters, so learning a new technique is great. We wanted to do a Sunbonnet Sue patch for the month of June. I have a quilt book with many different Sunbonnet patterns in it. Would we be able to use one of the patterns if I gave credit for the book and the author. I have been told that we can not use it.

    1. In general, except for personal use, no copies can be made of pages in a book for distribution to others, without permission from the author. Therefore, I would reach out to the author directly with your question.

  16. I am considering starting a small home based business. The question I have is if I find a pattern that I would like to make and then make the quilt to sell would this have anything to do with copyright? I am not copying or selling the pattern I am selling the finished product. I just need to know if this is legal or would I need to contact the designer and ask for permission? That of course wouldn’t be a problem as I feel it’s their design and they deserve the credit for it and the rights to how it should be used? I just don’t want to step on anyones toes:)

    1. It would be best to contact the individual designer(s) and have them advise you accordingly.

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