The Free Motion Quilting Project: Copyright Terrorism

Friday, March 30, 2012

Copyright Terrorism

Oh yes, it's high time I address this hot topic.  Of course, everyone has a different opinion when it comes to intellectual property rights, and you may or may not agree with mine.  As always, read if you want or go enjoy all the free designs I've shared so far (all of which you are free to use for whatever reason).

Copyright issues seem to be cropping up with increasing frequency in the quilting world and I for one would like to try to stem this flow, or at least open your eyes, to the very real threat looming for our craft.

What is this threat?  Where is it coming from?

It is coming from within our own ranks. Quilters with a certain penchant for copyright and legal wrangling are turning our open, creative craft into a mine field of rules, regulations, licensing, attribution, and copyright lockdown that it's enough to make anyone set down their rotary cutter and sell their sewing machine.

And these particular Copyright Nazis (I really can't think of a better name for them) are not just vocal, they are flexing their arm powerfully enough to include copyright notices within quilt shows.

Just recently I was contacted by AQS asking if it was okay if a quilter used my designs in a quilt entered into one of their shows.

At first blush, that seems like a good thing.  I'm excited to know the designs from this project are being used and seen in shows.  Of course you have permission!  Run with it!

But then I started thinking - they were referring to a QUILTING DESIGN.  A squiggly line drawn in thread by a machine on a quilt, like any one of these:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Is that really even copyright-able?  The image, yeah, I can see my photograph of the blocks above holding a copyright, though unlike many bloggers I don't mind if you use my images so long as you tell people where you found it.  Does the actual STITCHING hold a copyright though?

Do you see how ridiculous this is?  How the questions and implications start, but they very rarely end.  You can set a precedent once by your reaction to a situation and it will just roll from there.

Here's a simple case in point:

This is a spiral design.  I call this Basic Spiral and it was published on Day 5 of the project and published in From Daisy to Paisley.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
But is this DESIGN really MINE?  Can I claim ownership of this?

First off, I don't even WANT to claim ownership of these designs.  I don't feel like this is my property simply because I stitched it on a 4 inch square, named it, and published it online and in a book.  See my full copyright policy here.

I feel this way because spirals have been around since the dawn of time.  A spiral is a spiral is a spiral and stitching it out in a quilt doesn't make it a special, different design from the spirals drawn on walls or sand thousands of years ago.

But what about the designs that aren't spirals?  What about the designs that I'm sure are 100% new and have never been stitched on a quilt before?

First off, how I can I be sure, 100% sure, that a design has never been stitched on a quilt before?  Have I seen every quilt in existence since the dawn of man?  No!

I have a human brain, and have seen an ordinary creative person's usual quantity of inspiring images, places, and things that have led to new designs.  I do have a unique talent for creating new designs, but I'm not so conceited to think that I'm the ONLY person who has ever though to create a design like Desert Sand.

My point is: All art is derivative.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
But could this stitched design really have copyright to the extent that someone could be afraid to stitch it on a quilt for fear I would come after them for copyright infringement?

As scary as this question is, at the beginning of the Free Motion Quilting Project, way back when it was called 365 Days of Free Motion Quilting Filler Designs, some of the first questions I received were from quilters concerned with copyright.

Mostly the questions came from longarm quilters who need to be able to use designs in quilts for service.  Technically this is a commercial activity and most copyright policies get very sticky when business / money gets involved.

These longarm quilters were so gun shy of using the designs from this project that many would ask, then ask again for further clarification that it was REALLY OKAY to use these designs in the quilts they quilted for service.

They were scared.  Very scared.  And that makes me so sad.

Because if you're in business to make a living, the very last thing you should be scared of is doing the thing that makes you money! 

Why in the world should they have to ask for permission in the first place? It's a quilting design!  It's the design in thread that's stitched on the surface of a quilt and I don't care how exactly you follow my instructions, every quilter will quilt the design slightly differently.

But these quilters had more experience than I did at the time. Early in the project I published a design that looked too similar to another design by another quilter. It didn't matter that I'd thought of the design while eating sushi, the level of negativity, name calling, and awfulness this generated was so overwhelming I took the design down.

Despite the fact that I seriously doubt these designs can or should be copyrighted, I backed down.  So I've been on the receiving end of a Copyright Nazi and her cohorts and I know what that feels like.  It sucks.

My question is this: is this the world we want to create? 

Is this the industry we want to build, where quilters who quilt for a living must live in fear that they will be sued for the designs they use?  That a blogger trying to teach and spread the love of free motion quilting can be threatened for using the wrong design? That quilters who quilt for show must credit every designer involved in their quilt, down to the fabric and thread manufacturer?

Because as I said before, once the questions start, the don't stop.  

Recently there's been a very public example of this with Kate Spain, C&T Publishing, and an author Emily Cier.

I've read many posts directly from those involved and have a basic understanding of what happened.  Of course, situations like this are so fraught with drama and finger pointing and blatant lies that it's often hard to know what is true and what isn't.

The basic story goes like this: Emily Cier wrote a book called Scrap Republic for C&T Publishing.  Moda, a fabric manufacturer sent her lots of fabric for free to create the quilts in this book.

Now this doesn't seem like a big deal at first sight, but Emily was designing quilts that used only a specific line of designer fabric.  Out of a line of fabric, you might have 10 - 20 prints that all coordinate together so you can make matchy matchy quilts.

Of course, when you make a quilt out of only one line of fabric, it's pretty obvious.  The fabrics are designed to match, so they do actually match! 

Just to see what all the fuss was about, I purchased Scrap Republic this past weekend and flipped through it.  I'm not a fabric designer and I don't even use prints that often, but I instantly recognized several fabric lines popular in 2011.

Yes, the fabrics were large enough and obvious enough that you could easily tell not only the particular print, but the entire fabric line being used.  I'm sure someone more into prints could easily recognize all the lines in the book.

I also found while flipping through the book that while Emily Cier was given credit as the creator of the quilt, neither the fabric line, nor the photographer were given credit for their contribution to the book.

And this is a sticky point because I actually like the fabric in two of the quilts and would really like to know who designed it!

Sometimes providing credit (attribution) is a good thing and has nothing to do with copyright. In this case, it'd be nice to know the fabric line so any quilter reading could search for the right fabric and make that exact quilt on page 39.

So that's enough about the book, which had some clear flaws.  It's one thing if you take a line of fabric and chop it down into 1" squares and mix it with 100 other prints.  It's quite another thing to leave the fabric in large pieces where the design is very obvious.   

Some attribution should have been given, not because of copyright, but because it would have made the book a better resource.

Now the story gets sticky because C&T Publishing randomly flipped through the book and picked a photo of one of the quilts, enlarged the image and printed it on the front of an eco tote bag.

Keep in mind, the fabric used in the quilts were obvious.  The pieces they were cut into were large, making it very clear which line of fabric each quilt is created from.

The quilt used for the eco tote just happened to have been created using Kate Spain's Fandango fabric.  Kate saw the bags and decided they violated her copyright of her fabric line.

Kate Spain then initiated a lawsuit against C&T Publishing and Emily Cier and demanded both the eco totes AND the books be destroyed.

Now things get murky because on her blog, Kate Spain denies starting a lawsuit, but it's obvious on both C&T's and Emily Cier's blog that a real, big, scary lawsuit was initiated.  C&T Publishing ended up taking the blame and came to some accord with Kate Spain.

I'm thinking a lot of $$$ changed hands because everyone is friends again and Kate wants to design quilts with Emily.  Personally after a lawsuit threat I'd tell her to shove her fabric get the idea.

You can find all this information in various forms on Emily Cier's Blog, C&T's Blog, and Kate Spain's blog.  Keep in mind that everyone has their own spin on the truth. (Note: Blog posts were removed at some point in time on the last two blogs mentioned above.)

I'm not saying Emily Ceir was the bad guy, or Kate Spain, or C&T. I think they all made mistakes in this situation and no one is the winner.  Personally I'm the most cheesed off at Kate Spain simply because if she is this quick to sue and get cash for it, how many other fabric designers will start doing the same thing.  Will I one day be sued for the print fabrics I used in Power of Now?  

free motion quilting | Leah Day
If I have to worry about how I use a raw material (fabric) how is that any different from a lumber company copyrighting a special type of wood or a yarn company copyrighting an exclusive type of yarn?  THIS IS RIDICULOUS!

As I said before, this situation only creates questions, questions, and more questions.  

Let's work backwards: the tote bag was printed with a PHOTOGRAPH which was taken by a photographer for the book.  Whoever that person was, they aren't credited in the book.

The QUILT was designed and created by Emily Cier.

The FABRIC used in the quilt was designed by Kate Spain.

Who really own the copyright?

Is the quilt actually Emily's or should she pay licensing fees to Kate just to sleep under it?  And if Kate is really wanting everyone to use her fabric for any reason, why does she print "for personal use only" on the selvage of her fabric?  That statement implies a limitation and a rule of what can and can't be done with it!

(Updated: Fandango did not have this printed on the selvage)

Unfortunately this entire situation sets a precedence.  C&T Publishing took the blame and settled, which means the real question of who owns the copyright in this situation will never be battled out in front of a judge who would give us the legal guidance we need to know what is right and wrong in this situation.

Even better would be to get a judge who knows copyright law and understands the public domain nature of utilitarian industries.  Personally I think copyright has gotten way out of hand in the quilting world, which is only one step shy of the fashion industry.

And guess what the fashion industry is?  

Open, public domain.

I have a favorite jacket that I love wearing in the winter, but it's getting worn out.  I could take that jacket and make an exact copy of it.  An EXACT COPY.  I could even turn that copy into a pattern and sell it.

I would not be doing anything wrong.  I would not be violating any copyright.  Clothing is completely open because a long time ago the US government realized it would be ridiculous to try to copyright clothing - a utilitarian commodity.

Imagine if a company could copyright a zipper - we'd all have to pay licensing fees just to use it. Or the collar of a shirt.  Or the way your elastic pants fit.

I can feel you nodding your head in agreement.  You wouldn't want to pay $50 extra for your socks just because the manufacturer had to pay an expensive licensing agreement with the copyright holder of sock design.

But how is this any different from a quilt design?  We use basic geometric shapes: squares, triangles, circles, hexagons, diamonds that have been around for hundreds of years, yet quilt designers are increasingly demanding that this is THEIR quilt pattern, or THEIR exclusive technique.

To understand this better, take a minute to watch this awesome lecture on the fashion industry.  The details, especially the comparison of revenue and net worth of this open industry in comparison to copyright rich industries like the music or film industry is extremely eye opening. 

I love this video because it perfectly illustrates all the reasons why copyright can be detrimental to an industry.  If you lock everything down, slap rules and limitations on your work, you essentially slam the door on your potential.

And that's not just your potential to make cash, though money certainly flows more freely into open systems.  It's also the potential to create new designs, come up with new ideas, continuously innovating and expanding into new realms of design.

Current copyright idealist say that without copyright, the creator won't want to create because they're constantly being copied and ripped off all the time.

The current mentality is that being ripped off, an example being those eco totes with Emily's quilt and Kate's Fabric, is the worst thing in the world because the designer isn't getting paid for their work. Kate even wrote on her blog that if she didn't protect her copyright, she wouldn't be able to make a living.

WTF?!  How much did sending your lawyers after C&T an Emily Cier cost?

And this brings us back to the core question - did Kate even have copyright over the image of the quilt in question?  Was it not Emily's quilt because she cut the fabric up and turned it into a quilt?  Or wasn't it the photographers copyright because it was his / her photo?

The idea that an eco tote being sold with a photo of Emily's/ Kate's quilt on the surface would suddenly beggar Kate Spain puts me into a rage.  It is such utter nonsense.

The fact is, if Kate had simply requested that her name and Fandango line was mentioned somewhere on the tote, she would have had a wonderful advertisement for her fabric being sold all over the world.  She would likely have sold even more fabric, and gained loyal customers for future lines too.

The idea that without copyright all designers will be broke and stop designing is simply not true.

The reverse is the truth!  How much innovation comes out of the fashion industry each year?  They innovate constantly because as soon as a new shirt is released, it's copied quickly, but the buyers loyal to the brand want the original, real product from the real brand.

So in order to have a business, big designers are always changing the look, cut, and feel of clothing so they remain unique and authentic and their loyal customers keep buying.  

They continuously innovate, not in spite of, but BECAUSE they are being copied all the time!

I probably wouldn't have created all 365 designs if I hadn't posted them online and seen quilters start to use them.  The excitement of seeing these designs in all sorts of quilts just made me feel so excited, I couldn't wait to make more.

I could never fathom telling you where or how you could use these designs.  I can't even imagine requiring you to give me credit.  I certainly appreciate it, but did I actually quilt YOUR quilt?  No!  YOU DID!  I just taught you a cool design, but you were the one with the skill and talent to use it.

I know for a fact, if you lock everything down, all you will focus on is keeping everything locked down.  You will spend countless hours NOT quilting, designing, or being creative because you'll be busy talking to lawyers, reading copyright laws, and studying ways to make your work "safer."

When in reality all you're doing is make people feel uncomfortable and scared.  I don't know about you, but I'm extremely uncomfortable about using not just Kate Spain's fabric, but any designer print thanks to this situation. 

Already I knew better than to use any fabric printed with "for personal use only" or "for home use only" on the selvage but now I feel far more constrained in my choices.  And constraint of any sort makes me want to punch my fist through a wall.  I hate feeling like I can't use something or do something because someone might wag a finger and threaten to sue me.

Should I only create with hand dyed fabric?  What if the dye manufacturer comes out with a special, exclusive, copyrighted color and demands attribution for using their color of purple?

I'm all for sharing great products, and I love telling you all about the tools and materials I'm using.  It's when it becomes a REQUIREMENT to tell you every tool, every material that went into a quilt, that makes me very uncomfortable.

But this is the world that's being built every day by situations like I described above.

If you want a quilting world where we all work in secret, creating in a void of new ideas and innovations just so your work can be "yours" to slap a copyright on, you can be guaranteed of one thing: failure.

Because no one wants to deal with this.  No one wants the headache, the complication, the fear, or the negativity that this kind of attitude will bring.  The more you shut down and lock up the quilting world, the fewer people will want to have anything to do with it.

I've met a few quilters with this close minded mentality.  One in particular came to teach at my local guild.  She was unbelievable in her desire to copyright and control every aspect of her quilts, right down to trademarking the name of her "exclusive" technique.

After a conversion about teaching, she emailed me to say that I should never use a term - TWO WORDS - we had both come up with to describe a new way to sell patterns.  I deleted her email and will never speak to her again.  No one has the right to tell me what words I can and can't use.  I have no time or energy for Copyright Nazi's or the lies and fear they try to spread.

On the flip side I've met wonderful quilters who seem to understand the reality and implications of excessive copyright.  If we lock up this industry, we will lose something powerful, something essential, something that brought me to quilting in the first place: freedom.

Freedom to play with fabric.  Freedom to experiment with different shapes and layouts.  Freedom to play with new techniques and materials.  We can lose the freedom to create.

Because if you have to check with 5 different fabric designers and the quilt pattern designer AND the free motion quilting designer in order to make your quilt, how likely are you to do it?    Even the idea of asking, even words like "licensing," are enough to send many people packing.  Off to find another hobby the lawyers haven't ruined yet.

Many quilters understand the growing impact of situations like the recent tote bag fiasco.  I for one want to see an end to excessive copyright, particularly on blogs.

If you post something: an idea, a technique, a pretty picture, whatever, man up and give it away for free.

REALLY free.  As in copyright free - as in anyone can use whatever you post for ANY reason.

What's the worst that can happen?  Someone might teach your technique or idea.  More people will learn it and enjoy it than you could ever reach alone.  Is that such a terrible thing?

Spend some time thinking about copyright today and what world you're helping to create with quilting.  

A world where we share ideas, techniques, fabric, and tools as freely as our grandmothers around a quilt frame.

Or it could be a world locked tight by fear, lawsuits, negativity, selfishness, and egotism.

The choice is yours. 

I'm off to quilt now and create something beautiful to share with you later this weekend. 

Leah Day

UPDATE - 3/31/2012

I've never received so many responses to a single post before, and I plan to keep the comments open so everyone has a chance to air their opinion on this matter.

Kate Spain even shared the following comment which clarifies some points, including a mistake I made about about her fabric:
Hi Leah,

Thanks for your thoughtful post and great questions about copyright and the extent to which it is influencing the quilting community. Lots of people think I'm trying to control the ways in which my fabric is used, but that is untrue. As far as making things (quilts or otherwise), please answer these four questions about your fabric use:
- Is it just you sitting at your sewing machine making stuff to give to friends/family or to sell?
- Are you shipping fabric overseas and having any manufacturing done in a factory?
- Are you copying or otherwise reproducing recognizable designs from fabric and printing them onto another material like laminate or plastic and then manufacturing a new product like a tote bag? Or shower curtain?
- is your distribution through mass market channels?
If you answered Yes, No, No, No, then you really have nothing to worry about! Whatever you are doing with my fabric is fine!

Also just wanted to clarify that the selvages on my fabric do NOT have a "for personal use only" stipulation. If you spend your hard-earned dollars on it you should be able to use it however you like! I've written more on my blog to clarify the resolution of this situation and an FAQ:

I completely agree with you that an absence of attribution is a missed opportunity for both promotion as well as resource material.

One last and important thing to know is that I did not make ONE dollar on this, and donated the recalled tote bags to several local charities.

Keep up the great discussion!

With Kindest Regards,
Kate Spain 
Sincerest apologies for my mistake about your fabric, but my core issue with this entire situation remains.

If I have to stop and ask myself 4 questions before I cut fabric, I simply won't cut it.

Because here's something I know about the quilting / crafting world, Ms Spain - it is very rarely black and white or as simple as a "Yes" or "No" when it comes to question #1. 

The question was: Is it just you sitting at your sewing machine making stuff to give to friends/family or to sell?

First off, if I answer "yes" to this question, is that yes to making stuff for family / friends, or is it yes to potentially selling it?  Already things are getting confused!

If I plan to sell what I make - what does that mean?  Can I make something to sell: a quilt, a handbag, a tote, a belt, a skirt, pants, machine cover, etc, etc, etc or not?

I've been making some form of income from sewing since middle school.  Back then I would slice up the leg of jeans and insert funky fabrics into the leg to create homemade bell bottoms.  These caught on so well, I began making them for other girls in class.

So it's safe to say that EVERY item I've ever sewn since the age of 12 has been for personal AND / OR business use.  

I know I'm not an anomaly with this.  I've posted about business before and been surprised by just how many quilters (around 80% I'd guess) make SOME form of money from this craft.  It doesn't matter whether you make $50 or $50,000 a year with this, money is money, sales are sales.

Which is why this issue is so very important.

We want the freedom to make whatever we want for whatever reason.

I shouldn't have to ask myself 4 questions!  I shouldn't have to question my right to cut up fabric and use it!

Because the questions never stop.

What if I made a quilt for myself and photographed it.  That photograph ended up in my online quilt gallery and one day, years down the road, I decided to make a picture book of all my quilts, which was then sold all over the world and through mass market channels.

Technically that would fall within the big no-no you've just outlined, but at the time of cutting the fabric, I would have no idea of the potential of that quilt, made with that fabric, to end up sold in that way.

We never know what the end use of a quilt will be.  

We never know how long it will last or who it will be given to, or who will photograph it, or what those photographs will be used for.  We just don't know.  It's impossible to know.

All the questions this raises will just keep getting bigger and bigger, more complex and more technical, and our feelings of frustration, anxiety, and fear will build until all desire to create is obliterated.

It's far easier not to cut that fabric and not to have to ask those questions.

I've edited the above post to reflect my mistake about Kate Spain's fabric.  Her fabric does not have "for personal use" stamped on the selvage.

Thank you,

Leah Day


  1. You know what makes me very sad- I've heard quilters say they do not look at other quilters work -EVER- because they want to make sure their work is original.

    I can't imagine restricting myself from enjoying the beauty of someone else's work for fear I would accidentally copy it.

    That said- this is the first time I've seen that 'scrap republic' tote- and I can see where Kate Spain thinks she has a case. It does seem a violation, because they took a photo of her fabric, reproducing her design, without her receiving any compensation. If they BOUGHT her fabric and made the bags, then I think it would be different.

  2. Bless you for this post. My husband is in law school and we are constantly discussing copyright/IP. It's a murky puddle, but we're learning more and more about it.

    You said it well. Thank you for sharing what you have created/figured out/designed.

  3. There really isn't much 'new' in the quilting world. So many things were done in the past, with slight tweeks. Look at the Modern quilt guild online. They are taking 'old' patterns and tweeking them with new fabrics, or adding a slight design change to make it different. I had to take down a tutorial for a pineapple pattern. Do you know how many pineapple patterns are out there? THOUSANDS, but, this lady threatened me with a lawsuit. Does she really think that she created this pattern? It's been around hundreds of years. Oh well. I refuse to make lawyers rich by suing anyone.

  4. This is the best, most well thought-out, sensible look at the copyright kerfuffle I've ever read. Thank you for taking the time to put this all down in such a clear and logical manner.

  5. Excellent post Leah and a great TED talk too. I've been compiling some thoughts on copyright since I started my blog last year. I'll be linking to your post. I'm definitely with you on the more open approach. I've seen those 'for personal use only' notes on selvedges and wondered why on earth you would put that restriction on your fabric. Maybe we should just all stop buying that type of fabric and only buy from manufacturers/designers that let us do anything with their fabric!

  6. I agree with some of your post about copyright. It is a little excessive in some parts of the quilting world.

    In this case though I do believe the design, not the fabric, was the culprit. After looking at the tote bag, it could be mistaken for a plain image of the design instead of fabric on a quilt.

    On a different note, one comment you made seems to bother me.

    You said,
    "If you post something: an idea, a technique, a pretty picture, whatever, man up and give it away for free.

    REALLY free. As in copyright free - as in anyone can use whatever you post for ANY reason.

    What's the worst that can happen? Someone might teach your technique or idea. More people will learn it and enjoy it than you could ever reach alone. Is that such a terrible thing"

    The worst thing that could happen is that someone takes all your designs and videos, which you have posted on your blog, mass produces them for super cheap and sell them on amazon for 50% less than you sell your own book. People would buy the cheap version and you would loose your business. All because you told everyone to man up and give away their stuff for free and let anyone do anything they want with it.

    A little Copy right is good. Even for blogs.

  7. I agree with you Leah. It does get ridiculous at some point. We went through the same thing with machine embroidery designs. A group similar to your Nazis were sending people letters to pay fines for using copyrighted designs they had no right to ask for. Only a court of law has the power to do that. And some people paid. This is with a lot of other things online is that they came up with the technology, put it out there and let it run, people started using it and then came the problems. Napster, embroidery designs of Micky Mouse sold on ebay. Technology making it able to do these and then decide Oh this might not be right. And what is out in Public domain and what isn't. People have been copying recipes out of cookbooks for years, and nothing was said, how is this stuff any different. My first thought if someone use fabric I designs in a project in a book I'd be delighted. They paid for it I got my money. What's the point after that.

  8. This whole copyright issue is something that I do find frustrating and mentally exhausting, really. There was a period where I sort of backed off quilting for quite a long time because of some articles I'd read about copyright in quilting and it so put me off that I couldn't figure out how to approach my craft any more.

    I think of, say, quilt patterns people sell for the ubiquitous square in a square block. You can make it different sizes, you can off-set the inner square(s), you can make it wonky, but at heart it's a square in a square. What's there to copyright? Can ANYONE claim to have created that idea which surely has been around for as long as humans have been designing? So I had a brief period where I felt like I couldn't do something of that sort of design lest some pattern writer somewhere claimed I'd stolen it from him/her and hadn't paid for the pattern, thus couldn't use it.

    I don't know. The one thing I think I've mentally settled on as far as copyright in quilting goes is that when it comes to fabric design, the actual image printed on the fabric can be copyrighted. So, when Tula Pink discovered her Plume line had been reprinted by some other company and was being sold at WalMart, that was a violation of her copyright. Nobody else could have drawn all those designs quite exactly the way she did.

    So leading from that thought, if C&T had actually printed Kate Spain's designs on a tote, in such a way where they hadn't been cut up and put into alternate use, then probably I would consider that a violation. But once it's been made into a quilt?

    I don't know. Murky waters, anyway.

  9. My head is spinning from all this copyright stuff. The latest being Pinterest. I guess I haven't purchased any of that fabric that says for personal use only on the selvage. Hey what happens if that fabric gets sold as a fat quarter? You know one FQ might have the selvage intact and the other FQ might not even have the printed selvage end on it. You wouldn't even know that FQ said for personal use only and you might make something out of it to sell. I think that is totally ridiculous to have restrictions on fabric! If I ever see a selvage that says for personal use only I will walk out the store and NOT buy it.
    Thanks Leah for adressing this never ending crazy copyright issue. I love the "Copyright Nazis" too. Hey can I use that saying on MY blog? Or did you copyright that?

  10. Bravo! Couldn't agree more with everything you've said. It has gotten ridiculous. Our whole society has become so litigious and everyone is afraid someone else is going to make more money than they are. Sad.

  11. As always Leah - Right On!!

    My husband and I were talking this morning about design ownership and who would have the rights to the piece that you acquired from me for the Transformation Challenge. We came to the conclusion that you would own the piece itself, but the inspiration and craft that I used in creating that piece are mine. If I wanted to replicate elements in another piece that I created, it would not infringe on your rights to that piece.

    That being said - there are some scary implications here. If i went to a class then created something using a technique that I learned there, would I own it or would the teacher?

    One of the things that I most value is the free interchange of inspiration that is happening on the internet. I am continually learning from videos that people have generously shared. (my next experiment - gelatin printing)

    I would be afraid that the imposition of copyright concerns would strangle this and I would lose a valuable resource.

  12. I try to look at copyright in its most basic form, as in the right to copy stuff that I have written or photographed in fixed form. As in... I show you a photo of a quilt I made. No, you cannot take my photograph & print up note cards, tote bags & such, but if you want to make your own quilt based on my photo, knock yourself out.

    Similarly... if I've written a pattern, and give it away, or sell it, no - you can't photocopy it, scan it, email it, or otherwise distribute multiple COPIES it for others or pass off as your own written work, but if you want to make dozens of placemats from the pattern, knock yourself out.

    In other words, the photo is mine because I took it; the pattern is mine because I wrote it... all the rest of it, maybe I inspired it but I don't see how I can lay any claim to it.

  13. eBay sellers have been dealing with this kind of stuff for years. Check out

  14. I think Ms. Spain loses more than she gains. I'm not one to care whose name is on the selvage, but now I know Kate Spain and I won't purchase it. I recently had to change my blog because apparently my blog name violated a trademark. So now I can be found at: I'm hoping someone hasn't trademarked my name! I'm not going to document every fabric in my quilts or every inspiration. If they want to restrict how their fabric is used, maybe they should just quit designing. After all, isn't the purpose of fabric, to make something from it? It's all too silly.

  15. Very interesting. Thanks for taking the time to write this.

  16. Well said! Bring back the kindess, I say, and we all grow from each other's creations, and learn. You are spot on, Leah, so thank you for taking the time to engage thoughtfully and articulate your own position so clearly. As an academic, I teach my students about plagiarism: simple rules about attributing claims and facts to help their readers learn about the wider picture by themselves, and to allow others to follow up the leads they have mapped out. It also helps avoiding the need to reinvent the wheel every time, and have to claim something is new just because you never really took the time to learn about what came before. Writing is not so different from quilting: allowing others to source fabrics or employ skillful photographers because they have been told about them, and build together upon a shared craft by recognising the skills past down through time. But heaven forbid we should become clingy about it all, and get mixed up in daft economic arguments which are, as you so rightly said, counterproductive in the long run. Totally ringfencing something as intangible as heritage crafts - however 'new' or 'modern' we may think we are - is like shooting ourselves in the foot (not to mention historically ignorant), otherwise we'd have those marvellous Amish and Mennonite female ghosts chasing us forever demanding payments. Next we'll be suing each other for negligence when we get our fingers pricked or cut ("But Leah you didn't explicitly SAY I couldn't use the rotary cutter on a pizza...")
    Let's go quilt indeed. Juliet

  17. Well put and it definitely needs to be said. It is a sad world we live in if everyone is ready to sue at the drop of a hat.

  18. I think about all the great painters and I mean great painters like Picasso, Matisse, Rembrandt, DaVinci, Michaelangelo, who were honored when people emulated them. They set up schools where they trained apprentices and created things like "Rembrandt-Style/School". There were Cubists, Impressionists, Realists and many painted the Virgin Mary with the Baby Jesus. So glad they never had to worry about copyright - what a boring artless world we would live in! I agree completely with you Leah! I'm pretty sure when I'm quilting in my pajamas no one is in the room with me - directing me - it's just me, my machine, the thread and the results are never the same twice!

  19. Leah - I understand your point, but you're actually wrong. I would be perfectly fine with it if someone made a book of all 365 designs and put it on Amazon! It would stop me from having to do all the work myself and I could then wholesale it!

    Keep in mind brand loyalty is far stronger than most people realize. If there was a choice between a quilt book of all these designs by xyz unknown quilter or me, which would you pick?

    Yes, some people buy only because something is cheap, but that number is far lower than the people that buy for loyalty, interest, and passion.

    Consider really can change your life.

    Leah Day

  20. Wow! What a fantastic post. That video about the fashion industry really opened my eyes. I'm with you Leah - I'm all for sharing! There's enough room for all of us.

    I too, make my living in the quilting industry. But I'd rather us all be friends rather than each other's "competition"!!!

    I'm a quilter first, business owner second and it hurts me to see people's creativity being stifled because of fear of being sued. Right on girl - stay vocal!

  21. I love your post, Leah. If you think of the history of quilting, it came from people SHARING--their patterns, their scraps, and their lives while stitching.

  22. Ugh. I completely agree with you about how ridiculous some people get about copyright. My first encounter with it was a few months ago -- I was at a huge quilt show with my mom and my aunt. My mom had volunteered to white glove a booth for a few hours. While she worked, my aunt and I continued to browse. At one of the vendor booths, there was a quilt on display made from a pattern they were selling. My mom would have loved it, so I took a picture of it so I could show Mom when she was done working, in case she wanted to go back and get it.

    Holy cow, the amount of grief I got over taking that picture, you'd think I'd stolen the quilt right off the wall. The gal running the booth got incredibly attitudey with me, insisting that I couldn't take pictures of the quilts because they were copyrighted. Even after I explained that I was taking it because I thought Mom might want to buy the pattern, she wouldn't relent.

    Later in the show, I found another quilt at a different booth that I also thought Mom would like. This time, being gun-shy after getting my wrist slapped so hard previously, I sought out the gal running the booth, explained why I wanted to take the picture, and asked if it was all right. She was incredibly reluctant -- and cited "copyright", too -- but eventually agreed.

    In the end, when my mom was done working, we met back up and I showed her the pictures I had taken. I showed her the first quilt and said, "But she was a huge bitch to me about taking the picture," and without missing a beat, she said, "Then I'm not going to buy anything from her." I showed her the others, from the booth where the gal had been nice, and we went back to it together, and she not only bought those patterns, but several others and a bunch of fabric as well. And she made a point to seek the owner out, thank her, and explain that the only reason she had made it to the booth was because the gal had allowed me to take the pictures and show them to her.

    I guess that's a really long-winded way of making my point, which was that the Copyright Nazi lost out on a potential customer, and the other gal gained one, as well as a fair bit of good will, because she allowed this "copyright violation". But even now, months later, I still don't understand the problem -- how is taking a picture to show to someone who might buy it any different than selling the pattern on a website, where there would be a picture of it? I bet she doesn't get uppity at them for showing the quilt. Ugh.

    (And! I am COMPLETELY blown away by the fact that Kate Spain prints "for personal use only" in the selvedge of her fabric. WHAT?! What business is it of hers what people do with it after they've bought the fabric? Isn't that the whole point? To sell fabric? I don't care how beautiful/cute/awesome a fabric is, if I noticed that on the selvedge I would not buy it, and I'd go out of my way to avoid any fabrics from that designer in the future. I just think that's completely ridiculous. Ugh.

  23. I couldn't agree with you more Leah! Quilting has been around for so long with long standing traditional designs that are shared through quilting bees. Patterns may be tweaked here and there by each quilter, making it special and their own design. But I always thought that copying was the sincerest form of flattery. I love looking at quilty blogs and thinking about how I like to make the quilt.

    Thank you so much for standing up and sharing your point of view on this topic. It looks like most feel the same way.

  24. I am so glad you feel the way you do. If you went after me for being inspired by your work, we'd never get out of court. I'm so glad you're sharing what you see with us and subsequently, I share what I see from you with others. I try to give credit, just to draw attention to what you have to contribute and route people to you so they can see for themselves. But that's nearly impossible to do every single time. Again, thanks for sharing what you know. I know more because you shared it. Lane

  25. I stand up and applaud your blog post today..i posted on my blog all about your post..thank you for making a "stand"

  26. Thank you for your post. It has certainly made me stop and think.

    At this point in my life I just quilt for myself, but what if that changed. There would be no way for me to track who made all the fabrics in my collection!

    I'll definitely be avoiding "for personal use only" fabrics.

  27. Leah, I agree with you on the "copyright" issue. Before I was a machine quilter I had seen hand quilted patterns on quilts so similar to what we do with a machine it's not funny. Do people truly think they have a monopoly on our creativity? Why would only one person come up with a quilting pattern, only one person has an imagination. My designs may at some point be similar to another's but who is to say whom had it first. This is so beyond ridiculous it makes me ill. If a quilt is made exactly like another with the same pattern, fabric, thread,quilting every piece is matched completely; then and only then could there be a "copyright" issue. It would have to an exact copy of the other person's work.....Do I have to put a copyright on my mind, dreams, imagination and artistic ability???

  28. Leah, now I understand why, when I first contacted you there was a disclaimer about being mean and then you posting it, it caught me so off guard I didn't know wheather I should contact you or not. I can see why some people would be mean to you, you teach and share ideas without getting paid for the teaching, advice etc. You go girl I'm right there with you and also help others to be more creative within their minds and put it into the work they do with their hands.. Thank you for being a "kindred spirit." Even though we haven't met in person our souls have! Jeani

  29. Great post! The more I read Emily's story, the more shocked I am at the whole situation. Not only am I shocked but frustrated as well. With Emily's story, it makes me want to dye my own fabric and not ever buy fabric again. I do believe copyright rules are needed but so is commonsense and that seems to be very lacking too often!

  30. Great post, Leah! You nailed the issues. Personally, I will never buy anything designed by Kate Spain, even though she's a terrific designer. I think she's got her priorities all wrong and I won't help support her attitude.

  31. Here I go again. Having been an RN for years I saw so many changes in the medical fields. A suggestion; When in doubt, copy a post, design, pattern or what ever, make a copy. Mail it to yourself "do-not-open-it" stick it in a safe place, years down the line you may need it..This may take some time but, who ever has the first date is the legal owner of the "thing." Again as a nurse to "CYA" me; I documented many, many things that happened during my shifts,kept notebooks with dates, times and place. I finally got to clean out my safe place a few years ago it was a very good feeling. Leah should get credit for any designs you use and if it wins an award, I bet she will feel like a brand new mom knowing, she had a part in the winning. My having been here and posted makes me liable if I took all Leah's designs, put them in a book and sold them. By rights the money would be Leah's. When and if I do a design book, I won't need to steal from others or it will not be done at all. If someone steals my designs from my Facebook page then tries to say I stole them, the dates, pictures and my studio will save me. Old habits die hard.

  32. Just one comment, WOW! Thanks for saying what you said. Wow!

  33. I believe in karma. All your free instruction and patterns inspire me to buy from your shop. There are some designers that have completly turned me off by going to JoAnns and seeing that all quilting items except theirs are on sale. When their show comes on TV and they pull on their gloves I supress my gag reflex and find another channel.

  34. Very well said, and much appreciated.
    It hasn't been all that long ago that even many fabric manufacturers didn't always put their names on the fabric selvedge--and certainly not with instructions limiting its use.
    Greed seldom benefits anyone--except, maybe, lawyers--and I hear a lot of them are having trouble finding good jobs in these tough economic times.

  35. That is a brilliant, well thought out, and balanced review of the issue. Thank you for sharing it and helping us all to understand more clearly. And thank you for everything you do to make the quilting world a wonderful place to be!

  36. Thanks for this Leah. I must admit i felt a bit deflated by all of this stuff. I am so grateful to people who share on their blogs and sites. With out it i would be lost.
    I havent posted on my blog. I was a bit afraid that some bit of fabric would be recognized but i see it all a bit clearer. It has not quite got to that yet. Hopefully it never does. For the most part everyone is of the same mind. A few bad apples however can spoil the basket full.
    I think any credit like you say is a good resource. Like your stuff for example. It has changed my quilting experience and i want everyone to have that advantage. It is like you are one of my kids too (hope that is ok:). I am proud of all you young women out there that create make a living from your home, teach and share and desire to continue to learn. You are amazing. Many of you are changing the face of quilting in a mighty and positive way!To have it all bogged down in "red tape" would be criminal.
    My two cents.

  37. OMG I SO AGREE!!!!!!!. When it comes to fabric, isn't it just a tool, or medium, to create art??? I mean, if I were to create a painting, do I have the ask the manufacturer for permission to sell the painting and also, list the specific products used to make the painting? It burns my ass!! I can see if a fabric design is reproduced exactaly, how there would be copyright infrigement. But geeze, I'm scared to buy fabric for use. I have only been blogging a short while. I love quilting, and fellow quilters. But I HAVE noticed a lot of snobbery. I was looking at a blog a few weeks ago, and it was a quilt with Granny Square blocks. The blogger, gave props to another blogger for the design. So I went to that blog, and she was asking that if you used her design, to give her credit. Really? Really?? you want credit for a design that has been around for at least a 100 years??? Because you modernized it with a colorful pallet instead of the standard checkerboard pattern. You own that now?? HORSE S$#T!! That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. I too, have come up with a quilting design recently that after I quilted it , after I thought of it, I was googling quilting designs, I found an ALMOST identical design. So is the idea no longer mine? Yes it is! Its her idea and mine. There was another blogger who does beautiful long arm quilting. Actually a winner in a major quilt show. She has a real knack for combining simple quilting designs that look fabulous in a quilt. On her blog she asks that you ask permission do use her designs. For what, I ask??? to quilt simple U shapes and grid patterns and echos??? PU-LEEZE! continue to next comment

  38. On another recent blog the blogger was praising AccuQuilt for their new copy right policy. From what I gathered, designers of Accuquilt quilt patterns and embroidery designs that are compatible with the Accuquilt have to ask permission to sell their patterns, and if given permission, must add an Accuquilt logo to their patterns. Wow, talk about mandatory free advertisement! Now this may be actually good to have the logo on the package, because it might help your sales. But doesn't this limit creative freedom? I mean, they don't have to let you, and if they say no, you can't. i started to comment on this blog, but I chickend out for fear of being DELETED. But I did save the comment, because I was pondering it. here is my not published comment. "(blogger), I love your blog and what you do. please don't take my next few word the wrong way. This is not aimed at you, just this subject in general. I don't own an AccuQuilt,but this seems a little ridiculous to me. If you create something using a product that you bought and core reason for it existing is to create, Is it not yours??? But now,if I used AccuQuilt dies to make quilts that I wanted to sell, Do I ask permission and then put a big AccuQuilt logo on it? I mean, If I bought a package of Grumbacher oil paints, and painted a picture, and sold it, am i required to list the brand of paint I used and put a Grumbacher logo on it?? I wouldn't think so.I guess it is not exactly the same thing..but kind of. These people created patterns that coordinate with a specific product. So, now, they have to ask permission to use the Accuquilt name. I get that. But all of this permission stuff just gets on my nerves. Collen asked your permission to post a hotlink.We have to ask permission and give credit everywhere. Is this all necessary? We get inspiration from so many places, and though I love quilting, it seems as though the quilting world is full of "no,that's my idea, you can't use it unless you ask me and mention my name, even if you change it and add your own twist." I know, I am ranting. And I don't mind giving credit where credit is due, but sometimes it makes me feel like my ideas are not my own. Like they REALLY belong to someone else."

    Sorry for the long comment, Leah. you just opened up Pandora's Box for me, haha;) I don't like being forced to be nice, and give credit, and refer back to whomever. I do that anyway...if I remember, and feel like it, well, most of the time. I had to put in 2 comments because I had to many characters in this comment!

  39. AMEN! This is such a pissing contest that has gotten out of hand - pardon the expression. I, as a result of this event, will not buy fabric by Kate Spain. Period. I do not want to encourage such preschool behavior.
    Thanks for being direct and true to your heart in this post.

  40. Some women are getting into a snit about Pinterest too, not wanting their quilt blocks, etc, shown on Pinterest. Same small-minded attitude.

    Thank you, Leah. You're a breath of fresh air.

  41. So many times I read in the magazines not to copy or use these patterns without permission. Well if you purchase the quilt magazine I believe they have given you permisssion to make these quilts. To copy and sell maybe is another issue. For home use or a gift is there quilt police that are going to arrest you. This copyright issue is playing over to Pinterest and also on I make the quilts and use the designs for my own use and I do not sell anything. Doing craft shows over the last 35 years has taught me never to try and copy anyone else's designs. For years the Licensed big companies like Disney could come in and shut you down and sue you over a copied product.
    As you have said most of the quilt designs have been around for eternity and yet they say they are new. Maybe new colors or new quilting, but if you study quilt history much you see a pattern in the designs and you can see others have monopolized on it to make money.
    I beleive in eveything you said and thank you for voicing your views many of us feel the same way. Thank you for sharing with us Leah. Chris

  42. FABULOUS post. And every word so true. We've become a nation of law suits. Everyone suing someone for something it seems.
    If you aren't familiar with a gal named Tabberone who sells/sold items on Ebay that she made, you might want to read her stuff, she's battled with lots of big companies and mostly over fabric. Interesting reading for sure.
    Again, LOVE your post. Hope lots of people read it. :)

  43. I disagree with some of the other girls regarding the tote. This is a printed image of a QUILT, not raw fabric. Big difference. We have quilts of big name prints photos everywhere on blogs. what's the difference. Also, they SELL the quilts on Etsy and other sites. Again, what is the difference.

  44. You Rock!

    I quilt for fun and for gifts etc. I have sold a few things over the years but have never thought about the fabric designers having rights over what I make with the fabric.

    My stash now is too big and I could never go through it all and find that info. and most of it isn't designer anyway.

    Thank you for this post and for being outspoken. Looking forward to seeing what you create next.

    You are wonderful!

  45. Great post Leah! The free and open exchange of information is what makes the online crafty community such a great place. Hard work and commitment create value. Sitting on an idea that others are prevented from expanding or sharing will instead restrict its value. We very much appreciate all of the learning materials you provide for free and I for one am always happy to recommend your site and your shop to others so that they can enjoy their quilting experience as much as I have.

  46. Thank you, Leah, for your thoughts on this topic. I, too, am concerned about how pervasive copyright is becoming in the world of quilting. How can a designer "copyright" a pattern based on alternating Amish Star and January Thaw blocks? These blocks have been around since forever! Well said!

  47. I agree!! I love looking in the quilting magazines for new quilt ideas, but I am terrified to sell any of them. Great.... I can use them for personal use, but how many quilts can I use or give away. Really, these companies would go out of business if we were all quilting for ourselves. It's such a shame. I now only purchase quilt designs & embroidery designs that have no restrictions. I just love the quilt designers that state you can only use their designs 10 times then you need to repurchase.... Really???? When I buy a cake pan, do I need to buy a new one every ten cakes??? Just nuts!!!! AND I hate that fabric designers state you can use their fabrics in a quilt you are selling!! Just plain greedy. Love your posts Leah!!

  48. Very interesting. Im in the home dec biz and we have the same issues. Workrooms put photos of 'custom' draperies online and other people steal them and say they are their work. Well it was eye opening to get a book from a museum of drape designs from Europe in teh 1600's Yes 400 years ago and they look just like drapes being made now. So everthing has been done already so you cant claim its mine and you cant copy it.
    The Kate Spain thing comes from a scarcity mentality. That there isnt enought to go around and that everyone is out to steal from you. Where there would be a issue I think is if someone took Kates fabric and said I made this. Obviously not, but if I buy Kate Spain fabric and make a quilt Im not going to credit her on my lable. Get real. Its my quilt and I bought the right to use the fabrics the way I want when I paid for them. Including putting it in a show or selling it.
    Getting bogged down in this issue will just kill creativty and make everybody sad. I hope it doesnt go further.

  49. A wonderful post and a lot that absolutely needed to be said. You have impressed and amazed me from day one because of what you share,and what you do, and how well you do every bit of it. The Nazis's are everywhere in every aspect of quilting from blogs, to shows,to ideas. I did long posts about this years ago when quilters were huffing and puffing over every single 'copyright' kind of ting when they didn't even have legal copyrights on any of it. Those designers, those quilters, and those bloggers have only gotten worse and made everyone else cling to self righteousness and ownership, ego, and fear in all ways. So much better to give and to share. I'm with you all the way! The day I was sketching a craft idea at a craft fair and was asked for my pencil sketch on paper to have them throw it away as a possible 'copyright infringement' on a craft idea was the day I stopped going to that craft store. I should have told her she violated my rights by grabbing my piece of paper with my sketch on it. Ha. Humans are so selfish and so silly sometimes!

  50. As someone who just designs for myself I have been reading these different blogs about copyright issues for a while and find it all frightening...almost to the point of shutting down my dream to share my designs...I've worried about being sued for something I make no money from. Since I work with EQ7, I think it would be pretty easy for me to come up with something very similar to someone else. I've worried about the construction methods I use because I've learned most of them from someone else...most of the time I don't know who came up with that method first. Thank you for taking the time to so eloquently research and write your response. The video was amazing. I completely agree with your take...I don't want more rules and regulations that lawyers create so that more lawyers have to be hired to interpret them. It's supposed to be fun...for everyone. I use batiks and had no idea there were fabrics with "for personal use only," printed on the salvages...makes no sense to me...if you pay the asking price for the fabric you should be able to sew it for any use...yes...even to resell. You paid the fair price for the've held up your part of the bargain. I think the benefits of exposure far outweigh the revenue someone else makes when using a designer's fabric.

  51. Bravo, Leah! Very well said. So many folks are so quick to involve lawyers and lawsuits. It's a sad state of affairs, in my view.

  52. Thank you for such a sensible post - and that video is absolutely fascinating!!! I have very little patience with the broad assertion of copyright but have found that it is mostly bluff. At quilt shows or groups most people claiming copyright have no idea what they're talking about and will back down under even the gentlest cross-questioning.

  53. I really enjoyed reading this post. Funny thing, I just bought an instructional DVD the other day. I was so excited to watch it because the subject matter interested me. Unfortunately, the instructor ranted throughout the entire video about copyright and her angst. It left me with such a bad taste in my mouth. I will never buy another DVD by her again. I can't believe the publisher even put it on the market for sale like that! It completely sucked the artistic inspiration out of me. So sad. So negative.

    I understand the importance of copyright. I understand the importance of attribution. As a teacher myself, I also understand the importance of sharing and learning. All of these areas can live in harmony. And no one should live in fear of making art.

    I didn't even realize there was fabric out there printed with rules. That makes me laugh. Maybe I better go check my paper, paints, and markers too. What's this world coming to?!

  54. Amen! Y'all who are big in the quilt world need to keep speaking out loudly on this issue because the average quilter thinks this copyright stuff is for the birds. We understand we can't sell copies of your patterns or reproduce fabric lines on our own...common sense! The rest of the rules are quilt nazi. I like Kate Spain's fabrics but they will never enter my home or be knowingly used by me and the same goes for any other prima Dona pulling this crap.

  55. Arghhh....This makes my head hurt. Glad you posted and others have responded. How can you copyright the materials and components that go into making art - that they need to give permission/have a mention/be paid for it? Didn't you do that when you bought the product? What a horrible slippery slope. I agree that if you copied fabric and passed it off as your own, that would be a problem. But using fabric as a component in something you created?

    BTW, as an aside I read yesterday that US copyright laws changed last September so that it is "first to file" not "first to invent". Seems like this encourages a lot of filing of finite and small steps versus the intent of a formed idea or product.


  56. Thanks for such a well written post, Leah. I too, would have loved to see an end to this in the courts so there would be real clarification about what we can and can not do with fabric we purchase. I think Ms. Spain would have lost her case. There have been cases brought by big name companies that lost because once an item has been sold, it no longer belongs to the seller. This is a something she will never live down. I saw some of her fabric in a quilt shop this week and maybe I didn't look closely enough but I couldn't find a "personal use" statement on the selvedge. She will never get a dime of my money if I can help it.
    Sheryl Till

  57. You are wonderfully generous with your quilting designs. Thank you for that, and thank you for your well thought out words on this topic.

  58. I had no idea fabrics had such limitations. I hope no fabrics I've ever bought are for personal use only. They don't always have a selvage on them. In fact, none of the FQ's I have have a selvage. If I ever see a fabric that does specifically say Personal Use Only, they won't get my money. Fabric is sold to be fashioned into something else, to be used, not to sit and look pretty on a shelf. Once I cut that fabric and make it into something of my own, it's mine to do with as I please and I won't buy any fabric that denies me that right, no matter who the designer is.

  59. Thank you for tackling this firestorm topic. I so agree with you. Although we are all, as a quilting community, saddened/possibly feeling 'threatened' by this the one (maybe more) who is really the 'prisoner' is the one who is at the heart of this (Kate Spain). She has placed herself in a very small fortress, protecting her 'turf'. She will, now, ever be more vigilant to protect her turf and it may take its toll as it robs a body of peace, joy, and may taint future creative efforts on her part (which would be a sad loss for all of us). Peace, love and hugs....Doreen

  60. Hi Leah,

    Thanks for your thoughtful post and great questions about copyright and the extent to which it is influencing the quilting community. Lots of people think I'm trying to control the ways in which my fabric is used, but that is untrue. As far as making things (quilts or otherwise), please answer these four questions about your fabric use:
    - Is it just you sitting at your sewing machine making stuff to give to friends/family or to sell?
    - Are you shipping fabric overseas and having any manufacturing done in a factory?
    - Are you copying or otherwise reproducing recognizable designs from fabric and printing them onto another material like laminate or plastic and then manufacturing a new product like a tote bag? Or shower curtain?
    - is your distribution through mass market channels?
    If you answered Yes, No, No, No, then you really have nothing to worry about! Whatever you are doing with my fabric is fine!

    Also just wanted to clarify that the selvages on my fabric do NOT have a "for personal use only" stipulation. If you spend your hard-earned dollars on it you should be able to use it however you like! I've written more on my blog to clarify the resolution of this situation and an FAQ:

    I completely agree with you that an absence of attribution is a missed opportunity for both promotion as well as resource material.

    One last and important thing to know is that I did not make ONE dollar on this, and donated the recalled tote bags to several local charities.

    Keep up the great discussion!

    With Kindest Regards,
    Kate Spain

  61. I read your blog all the time, but seldom comment because the day is short and I try to get in as many quilty blocks as I can. :) Having said that, I will tell you that yes, I agree that the photographer and the fabric designer both should have been given attribution to tell us all who did that work, but I will never knowingly buy anything that is a design of Kate Spain again. I am pretty sure she lied on her blog, which I totally cannot respect. If you really think that someone has infringed upon your copyright, then you should not be ashamed to admit it. You should be willing to shout it to from the rooftops. Her lie tells me that she thinks she either A) did something wrong, maybe by going too far or B) was afraid that she would lose sales because OTHERS in the quilting world would think she did something wrong. That's how we decide what our basic social rules are as human beings. I wish the author had given credit, but seriously, Moda sent her the fabric because guess what? They WANTED to sell more of their fabric, and Moda should have accepted some of the blame for that, too. I've watched the Ted talk that you included before, and quite frankly, I think that the tech world is way worse in all this, but it really pisses me off that now it's entered into the quilting community, where I never thought such bullshit would be pulled.

  62. GO LEAH! GO LEAH! IT'S YOUR BIRTHDAY! (you know the rest!)
    Great post !!!

  63. WOW! I love the passion in which you eloquently wrote this article. You had me laughing out loud and behaving much like a cheerleader for this cause. I agree with everything that you stated, and I applaud you for putting it out there for all to read.

    The video that you shared conatined such eye opening information. I have passed your blog entry on to every quilter that I know. We need to educate ourselves about this nonsense.

    Thank you for the time that you put into this article.

  64. Bravo, Leah, well said! I agree wholeheartedly with you. It's a great example to compare the quilt industry w that of fashion. I have a clothing design background and one of the first things my draping professor taught was that 'there's no such thing as an original design. Everything's been done already."
    That said, I'm getting darn tired of seeing quilt 'designers' copyrighting traditional patterns and intimidating others about it.
    Additionally, I won't buy so-called "designer" quilt fabrics that say 'not for commercial use' or 'for personal use only' because I don't agree w this arrogant philosophy. I laughed the first time I saw that on a selvedge and thought since when is my purchasing fabric for my art dictated by a fabric designer who has no doubt taken their design from another?!
    I'll end on this note: last year, I picked up an *old* Dover-like book on ancient (Eastern/Moorish?) motifs at a book sale. An excellent book...I thought it had wonderful color and quilting inspirations. Well, I'm looking at it once I'm home and what do I come across? Recent fabric designs by an established fabric and quilt designer who is highly admired-and whom I also adored. While their fabrics didn't boast the words 'for personal use only', you can be sure they didn't indicate anywhere on the fabric selvedge that this is where their design idea originated ;) Needless to say, for me, this drove home the hypocrisy seen in our industry today...

  65. Hear hear to your original post and all the comments above. This is all getting so out of hand! At the end of the day, all we are doing is cutting up bits of fabric into geometric shapes and sewing it back together again then stitching squiggly lines all over it. Which is the same thing our great grandmothers were doing years ago. Who could possibly trace the origin of all these designs etc.
    For what it's worth, Leah, I usually shop around when I buy anything, but I saw your products and didn't hesitate to buy from you. Why? Because you provide so much free content on your website and you share your knowledge and skills. Karma is like that. And while I appreciate you were probably not the first person in history to stipple across a 4 inch square of fabric, I am grateful you took the time to post your videos so we can learn from you, for free. Your contribution to the quilting world doesn't go unnoticed.

  66. And another thing, re someone's comment on Pinterest and copyright issues. I love love love Pinterest for how it lets me organise what inspires me and it irks me that people have issues with the stuff they post on the internet ending up on Pinterest.
    I went to pin something from a scrapbooker whose work I really like the other day and she'd disabled the ability to pin from her site and expressly says you can't put her stuff elsewhere. YET this same woman still has her pinterest boards up with thousands of pins on it. Can you say HYPOCRITE?

  67. Since a couple comments mentioned Pinterest... that is a fairly different issue that mostly deals with the Terms of Service and licensing as written by Pinterest (and is in the process of changing since they just updated the ToS after the hubub).

  68. ah Leah, I love your boldness in dealing with the petty crap we have to put up with today.

    Have you thought of taking on the food industry (with their horrid addictive additives) or big pharma (with all the toxic stuff they sell and call it medicine)?
    big sigh as I get off those soap boxes.

    Thank you Leah and thank you ladies I read all your comments - it seams we're all sick and tired of this nonsense.

  69. right from my heart, could't agree more.

  70. I couldn't agree with you more! Well said, bravo!!

  71. Dear Leah, I agree completly.
    In Germany it isn' better.
    Thank you very very much!

  72. Beautiful Beautiful post! Loved the TED talk and your words that your wrote. You've summed it up perfectly!

  73. I recently took a crazy quilt class and it was the first time I experienced this "copyright frenzy". We paid for the class, bought the kits, but the teacher didn't like us taking notes about her project, she was afraid we were going to steal her design, and this was the project we were making in the class! Made me not want to invest any more time trying to learn from this person whose goal I felt was really not to teach but to sell her products.

  74. I felt so strongly about this, I had to blog about it! I love your post, Leah, it's soooo on point! It all comes down to a feeling and if you want to try to protect your work, the only way to do it is try to ligitgate and see what a court/judge will say. Go with your gut on this. My post is here:

  75. I could not agree with you more!

  76. Unfortunately, efforts have been made over the last several years to expand copyright laws to fashion design. As much as we like to think we have freedom in design, we are feeling the pressures of the copyright police. I like to use some of the great cotton fabric prints in my girls dresses and I have even felt the need to ask for permission. One print in particular was designed by a well known designer in the scrapbook industry. She has been known for going after people who used her stamps to sell items. I still used her fabric but I always wondered if she was going to come after me.

  77. another blog I read put it right when they said that fabric is a tool NOT the final product!! I can understand not replicaing the fabric (which is what was done in the case you mentioned and that is why it was such a big deal) but I do NOT understand buying a designers fabric (they get paid right) and then using it for whatever creative use you plan and then selling it or whatever you choose to do with it!!! Hey, I guess I am just not into buying designer materials if that is the case!!! :) Great post Leah! Thank you for having the gal balls to say it!!!!!

  78. Thank you for speaking up. I've been wanting to say something about this for a long time. This whole copyright thing has gotten out of hand. I have a shop on ETSY and people visit my site, copy my ideas, and then sell them on their sites. I see bloggers who take a free tutorial produced by someone else and make it into a pattern and charge $l0 for it on their sites. Is it unethical? Probably. Is it illegal? NO. Whenever possible I contact pattern designers to ask if I can use their pattern to make items for resale. It's common courtesy. And that's what we need more of, common courtesy. I guess its the hard economic times or something, but it just seems that the whole quilting/blogging world has turned into something that is just about money.

  79. Very well written post Leah. It was clear, concise and should give all quilters food for thought. Alas, I do think it does need to get addressed by the quilting community before it gets out of hand and people start sending lawyers over free tutorials that people post online.

  80. Thank you for stepping out into the copyright and attribution discussion. I do quilt shows and I wonder when the worry about copyright/attribution issues will start to winnow the participant pool (if it has not already started). I do have hope because many well known quilt pattern designers are open to their designs being used in shows (with their permission)….and usually give it gladly. Giving attribution is usually the key.
    The designers who have a reputation for being kind generate goodwill and interest in their patterns. Those designers get more publicity, favorable branding, and sales (a positive feedback loop).

  81. Thanks for your wonderful blog and the link to that great video. I have created a facebook page,
    Quilters Concerned about Fabric Copyright Use and Liability in order for this discussion to keep going. Kate Spain directs people to this page in her last post, and has closed off comments....I wonder why??? ;) Again, thanks for your insight and information, and hopefully, our creativity will not be continually stomped on...

  82. Great article. I too see how Kate Spain has a case in that they took a picture of her fabric and printed it vs. using the actual fabric, but you're right -- it's a picture of a quilt someone else snapped (photographer's copyright) and someone else made (quilter's copyright) so where *does* it end?

    Thank you for giving us these designs and YOUR intellectual property. Your quilting designs have given me the gumption to try free motion quilting with gusto. If you didn't post your videos, I wouldn't have the skills to translate the quilting from your designs to my quilt. You give me all the tools, and I turn to your designs for inspiration for every quilt I make.

  83. Brava, Leah! You've articulated the problem beautifully and I'd like to link to this in my own blog.

    Unfortunately the Copyright Nazis are not just confined to the quilting world but are seen in other art/craft areas as well. Rug hooking, for one, has similar problems. A knitting needle manufacturer actually tried to copyright the colour purple! Sheesh.

    I personally think it's a control issue - they wish to have complete control over their creative output (image, pattern, design, technique, whatever) which of course becomes impossible the minute it's released. Plus of course it's linked to a perceived loss of profit if someone else uses it and perhaps makes some money that they feel should be theirs. There's obvious circumstances where you wouldn't take other people's work directly and pass it off as your own and I think most of us are pretty clear when that happens, but from there it gets murky really quickly. Personally I'd rather err on the side of "If you love something, set it free"! But then I'm not trying to make a profit from my work so maybe that skews my attitude. I've always believed in sharing ideas freely anyhow. It can only make us richer in the long run - in a creative sense if not a monetary one.

    Fascinating topic. Lots to ponder. Thanks, hon'!

  84. Bless your little pea-pickin heart for writing this! It is not just a fiasco for quilters as it blazes across all the creative arts. I think your post will have us all re-thinking things!

  85. Don't forget, folks... Copyright Laws per se are not LAWS, they are guidelines for legal action. People who have deep pockets and can afford lots of expensive legal counsel (and have nothing better to do with their time) will sue at the drop of a hat.

    There are three issues here, "intellectual Property" (the creative issue),
    "Fair Use" (intent to defraud), and "Loss of Income" (did you deprive the other person of cash they could have gotten?)

    I will continue to ignore the "Copyright Police" mentality and go on about making my art... Rembrandt, Senellier, and Canson will just have to take their chances getting anything from litigation regarding attribution. Same goes for the cookbook publishers whose recepies I use in my (occasional) work as a private chef.

  86. This was incredibly concise and well thought out and written. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. As a relatively new quilter, hearing all the talk about copyright with regard to patterns and fabric and photographs scares the MESS out of me ... and it makes me very hesitant. I don't want to go to QUILT JAIL! I liked Judy Laquidara's idea of dying my own fabric from here on out! :)

  87. I've said it before and I'll say it again: You are my hero. Well done, Leah.

  88. ---If I have to stop and ask myself 4 questions before I cut fabric, I simply won't cut it.---

    thank you, Leah, thank you.

  89. Great addition Leah!! I completely agree. How in the world can you know how your quilt will be used in the future?!? I guess we all need to have a time machine to make sure our quilts are never used in any form of copyright infringement.

    If our quilts last more than 100 years and become vintage pieces how can we prevent future people from photographing them for historical books or being shown in a museum?? It's impossible! Where is the line drawn?

  90. The video by Johanna was excellent! I have read Kate Spain's "clarification" response to you but find little in it to satisfy the question. I, again, thank YOU for your concise statements regarding this difficult, 'grey' area(?) topic. If I have to pause before each purchase and analyze the end product/purpose of use for it, I will simply bypass the purchase! Regardless of what is printed on the selvage, everyone has been affected by this situation and will never view said fabric/people/items the same again. Very sad. All this stated IMHO!
    Now......on to my whole cloth exercise!!!!

  91. I've been quilting for about 17 years and must be incredibley naive. I've never thought twice about looking at books, looking online and on blogs. I love looking at other quilts. That is how I got so interested in Mondern Quilts. I've bought patterns before, but I look at other quilts for inspiration as well. Isn't that what they're out there for? If you don't want someone to see what you've done? Take your quilts offline. Don't show them to anyone. Keep them to yourself. Let the rest of us enjoy what we all love to do.
    Thank you Leah, I think. LOL.

  92. In response to the comments about taking photos at quilt shows. I understand why you shouldn't take photos at quilt shows. . especially at booths in which the pattern is sold. I don't need a pattern anymore, I could recreate the quilt from just the photo if I wanted to.
    It's kind of like people bragging about going to the library, and copying quilt patterns right from magazines (that are trying to sell) and not buying them. LOL There's lots of jobs at stake. Think of the jobs at least.

  93. BRAVO, Leah! Having worked in information security the last 8 years of my career and dealing with intellectual property rights, I found your latest post REFRESHING! And supportive of the "creativity" that so lends itself to quilting in general.

    I have a new lack of respect for Kate Spain and will no longer support any product with which she's associated. My lack of respect may well extend to the MODA family of products if I feel MODA supports KS's view of "copyright". You can bet I'll check selvages for the "personal use" attribute; if it's there, it won't be in my stash. And if I have any now, I'll be sure to pass it on to another user.

    Leah Day, you're still my HERO. Thanks for the beautiful post and for freeing many of us from the copyright bondage!

    Quilt on, Sista -

  94. Write on Leah. I can't worry about copyright nor will I sic lawyers on someone who uses my original designs.I DO appreciate it when someone says, "Inspired by Pepper Cory ." Makes my day. Those of us who make our living in the quilt industry need to keep in mind what the old Eskimo said: "Only the lead dog has a view." In other words, stay out front by continuing to be creative. Good vibes from Beaufort.

  95. Very well laid out. Thank you. I am so sick of the copyright issue I could cry! There are indeed endless questions to the question, and I, too, question who owned the copyright to the photo of the quilt containing a fabric on a tote bag..... waaaaay too many layers!

  96. Sad to say KS has gotten her 15 minutes of fame. Sad to say it is negative and the response to your blog only proves that. She maybe has dug a hole and will fade away now. What ever happened to turning the other cheek and not stirring up trouble? Sad to say this will go on for quite a while and yet you are so gracious to keep us all informed with your work and the thanks is not enough.Leah thanks for being and advocate for the rest of us and hopefully every one will keep cheering you on. Chris

  97. I like the way you think, Leah!

  98. Katie,

    I disagree with your comment about photography in quilt shows. The last show I attended with Leah was the AQX Knoxville show, and only one exhibit was under guard against photography. This was a glaring contrast to the majority of the show where photography was open. There were many photogenic and memorable quilts, especially the ones under the art quilting category. In fact I snapped several photos and Leah shared these on her blog, promoting the quilter, her quilt on show, as well as her other works.

    Contrast this to the exhibit which was literally guarded by several people as if they were Secret Service watching out for cameras. It was uncomfortable for everyone involved and I noticed many people simply passed on this part of the gallery.

    To put this further in perspective I used to visit the Robert E. Lee Memorial in Lexington, VA regularly every year in the early 2000s. I was shocked and appalled to learn I could no longer take pictures due to "copyright" and a vague reason of pirated images on postcards.

    The Lee memorial is free to visit. Every year I gave a donation, but not anymore. It's ridiculous to stop people from taking pictures of a major monument. What next, no pictures of Mount Rushmore?

  99. Leah,

    Awesome! I felt the same way as you do ever since I joined the quilting industry, but I wasn't able to express my views as eloquently as you did!

    Irena Bluhm

  100. To some extent I will say I agree and disagree. I sew and quilt, but my degree is in art with an emphasis in photography. I'll state first off that the "starving artist" stereotype is no joke. Yes, to some extent we create because we have an innate need to create. We also have a need for food, clothing, and shelter. For instance, if I made a beautiful collection of landscape photographs, who would want to buy them from me, as an artist if you could right click on the image on my website, save it, and have it printed at walmart? Not only does this prevent me from making money off my work (getting to the location, setting up my shot, calculating exposure, and editing the photographs). I wouldn't be able to make a profit, much less a living off my work when essentially, it's being stolen. I think it's important for copyright to be used properly in order to protect the livelihoods of creative professionals. Innovation of one's creative work should spring forth out of an innate need to develop, learn, and explore, rather than harried attempts to stay ahead of thieves.

    I also think attribution is key in showing respect for fellow creative professionals when using one creative work to make another creative work. In the case mentioned, Moda should have let Kate Spain know it was sending her fabric out for the quilting book to be made, the author and publishers of the book should have made sure to attribute the design of the fabric AND the photos in the book. This is pretty basic stuff, really. For that kind of information to be left out is pretty unprofessional. I'm not saying anyone was malicious, but C&T and the author should have known better. It is very possible that the author thought moda had cleared everything with Ms. Spain before sending her the fabric. The fact that C&T yanked a picture and made a tote bag that featured designer fabric is another instance where they really should have known better.

    A fabric designer knows that people are going to buy fabric and even make money of objects made with that fabric. As long as they get paid for fabric that's great. The work put into transforming fabric into finished product is owned by whoever did it, and it's pretty clear that quilters and sewers make no claim to have made or designed fabric. It isn't cool, though, when you take someone else's work (like surface design on fabric), put it on something different (like a tote bag), and sell it as one's own.

    I'm not advocating for copyright Nazis. I kinda think copyrighting quilting patterns (the stitching holding the three layers together) is pretty ridiculous unless it involves a trademarked symbol (say, for instance, a Nike swoosh). It seems like trying to copyright doodles, which is pretty silly. On the other hand, it is very important to support the work of creative professionals (and those striving to be creative professionals). If these people can't receive the profit from their work, doesn't that kill creativity too? What is it about design products that people think should be free. People expect graphic design for free/cheap, but by golly will pay an accountant without a gripe? It is vital for creative professionals to respect each other and their work first and foremost. If we don't respect each other, how can we expect the general public to? Dealing with copyright might not be one's favorite part of the job, but part of the job nonetheless. It's nothing that people in other industries don't have to deal with (what academic paper doesn't have works cited?).

    P.S. It is terrible that you were bullied about that design you came up with that just happened to be similar to someone else's. I think part of respect for each other as creative professionals is accepting we might have similar good ideas :)

  101. I have read both sides, see both sides of the story, but completely agree with you, Leah! We should be able to do do whatever we want with the fabrics that we buy!! I have a question for you, or anyone for that matter. Can a pattern designer dictate to those that purchase it what they can do with it? I have bought several patterns over the years that say "for personal use only" and give instructions on their blogs on purchasing a licence to be able to make the item in the pattern if you would like to sell on etsy, etc. Is this right? Can pattern writers really dictate that you can't sell what you make?? I just thought I'd throw that out there.

    I haven't seen this message on mass produced patterns...just on the ones I have bought from bloggers.

    Thanks for putting this out there for others to read!!

  102. Shanna - This is a very good question. Can a designer really dictate these rules in the first place?

    Personally I think anyone can CLAIM they have the right to limit / put rules on their work, but is it actually enforceable? I really don't know. I'm a quilter, not a lawyer!

    If someone did try to enforce strict use requirements, the designer would have to keep tabs every time she sees her fabric being used or pattern created, then she'd have to send cease & desist letters when she things someone is breaking her rules.

    It would be such an incredible waste of time...

    It's still a good question that I also addressed in the post - had C&T not settled, would this suit have gone to court? What would a judge have ruled?

    Unfortunately these questions will have to be answered with another ugly situation like this.

    I hope everyone can see that no one wins when excessive rules are applied to creativity.


    Leah Day

  103. The missing piece in your post is the well understood legal principle that if you do not defend your copyright, you risk losing your right to defend your copyright. Kate Spain is not just a fabric designer. She needs to protect her copyrights to her designs which appear on a wide array of items. She makes her living licensing these designs. I really don't see why making scapegoats is even necessary. Most people don't understand the ramifications of all of this and decide it comes off as personal attacks and meanness.

  104. great post!!! Isn't free motion machine quilting like hand writing a lot if individualization comes through the needle?

  105. Thank you, Leah, for explaining it so well. As always, you are a GEM! Aside from being a superb teacher, you have so much wisdom. Bless you, my dear! I am one of your very many fans.

  106. ummmm....this has me thinking of unforeseen situations.
    What if I make an art quilt today from a pattern using designer fabrics, next year I die. My kids know nothing about quilts except to sleep under them. They decide to photograph it, sell it on ebay. Will they get slammed with copyright lawsuits?
    What if one of them cuts up a quilt, covers chairs, home dec style. After a few years they change their style, photograph it, sell it on ebay. Copyright lawsuit?
    Fortunately I rarely use patterns, or print fabrics, and with all this mess, will definitely stay away from both! Solids are looking better all the time!
    How far will all this copyright mess go? Ridiculous!

  107. Very interesting blog post, and all the comments. Several years ago on a quilting program I saw a designer demonstrating a ruler she developed to use in her quilt patterns. I fell in love with the designs that can be made with the ruler. Immediately I started an EQ project using the shapes made with the ruler. I've had so much fun since then playing in EQ coming up with different patterns using the ruler. Some of her blocks are 'copyrighted', but I have no idea any more which ones I have in EQ that are hers, and which I've come up with on my own. This designer only allows her patterns to be used for the purchaser's own personal use and for gifts. Nothing from her patterns can be sold or even given to charity, such as a raffle. And this morning I submitted some block designs to a contest. Now I'm wondering if I have infringed on her copyright with some of these blocks--as I said, I have no idea anymore which blocks are simply from my imagination. I agree that copyright is needed, but too many times it goes too far. There are so many blocks in the public domain, just coloring them differently doesn't make them new.
    Thanks for all you do, Leah, I've learned much from you.

  108. I have to say I have seen so many quilts these past days that I would love to try to make, no pattern just pretty quilts, not for me to sell but to donate to youth in need ppl with cancer etc. However I have been afraid to even try to make any of the quilts I have seen for fear of causing a problem with whoever may have made the quilt, I see they are quilts with triangles boxes circles placed in a different creative way....they are pretty, I like them however I know the quilt I make would never be the exact same as I am not a very good quilter, thing is I have fear with what I make in future...and I do love seeing all the wonderful quilts that are made <3

  109. Great post! I've also been following this on a machine quilters forum and on other sites as well. It's definitely a challenge to decipher all of the in's and out's. I appreciate your take on this topic and reading all of the responses. It does bring abuot more awareness. I recently saw a tutorial for a baby quilt that I thought was very interesting. I'm now wondering if I can make the silly thing or not. Makes you question whether you can or not and when do you have a need to notify. It could be several years down the road before I get around to maybe making the quilt and then not know who to ask because you don't remember.
    Thanks for posting:)

  110. Oh my, the idea of attributing the fabrics you use in a quilt gets very tricky, doesn't it? This is one of the reasons I don't blog!
    I suppose if you frequently make quilts using only one line of fabric, it's simple enough. But that's not how lots of us quilt.
    I buy designer fabric, but I usually buy the blender parts of the range, not the easily discernible prints. When I get new fabric I cut off the selvage because I save them. And then I have my stash and scraps sorted by color. I have been quilting for 17 years. I have been purchasing and swapping fabric for 17 years.
    I quilt by color, not designer. I swap blocks with other people. I like scrap quilts. There may be 100 different fabrics in any one of my quilts (maybe more). I have no clue who designed most of those fabrics. Please don't start asking me to attribute every single fabric designer and manufacturer - I can't and I don't want to have to. I just want to play!!!

  111. Wow! You are asking the same questions that I asked! All of them! At some point, a case is going to be heard and ruled on just as in the garment industry. Lol, can you imagine, folks heading out to the quilt shows and markets just so they can make a "knock-off" of some spectacular quilt and mass produce it for mere pennies? I like you have been making money on (especially jeans) making clothes and dolls since grade school. It never occurred to me that I needed to consult with the jean maker. I've been spending so much time looking at blogs and such and making sure I wasn't making something LIKE anyone else that I've been paralyzed ... not making anything!!! No more, I'm going to make whatever with whatever. If I use a designer's line, I'll name it, etc. This is really ridiculous...and I don't buy anything with restrictions on the selvage because the designer is not paying me to advertise his/her fabric... I used to see this as a win win ... I purchase fabric...make pictures and yell about it --- free of charge to the designer ... free advertising!
    So sad...

  112. Well written Leah and thoughtful to all sides of the story. I've always thought once I purchased the fabric it was mine to do as I want, I have never read what was on the selvage (but will now). Society is starting to put such limitations on so many things it makes one hesitate which in turns slows down creativity. Even though Kate stated her case I will not purchase any of her fabric line because of the way she handled it.

  113. What if the quilters of the past who created the 'traditional' blocks that are the basis for quilting and usually the foundation for all that start patchwork and quilting could 'see' what's going on now and what would they say about this whole scenario? You'd probably have one or two thinking about the money they could have made and the majority be in awe of the fabrics, the designs, and most importantly the quilts, quilts, quilts.
    Though a lovely patterned bit of fabric is lovely, it can be stoked, fondled and admired. It is nothing more than a bit of fabric! But when cut and transformed into an item of clothing, quilt, wall hanging or bag, it becomes a, skirt, top, quilt, lap quilt, snuggy, comforter, tote bag, work bag, snack bag, clutch bag, wallet ...... whatever that can be useful and loved
    No matter who's design, the design / pattern is only that until WE spend our time and creativity in constructing something that we love and use or usually pass onto others as gifts of love...

  114. Hi,
    I'm Dutch and live in Holland and we respect copyright (offcourse) but we don't go as far as the people in the US. I've seen a drawing of a circle (yes, just a line going round...) in a Quilting Arts magazine where they state that they grand you permission to use this circle! Who are they, that they think they own the right to do this? If some people could claim copyright on the air we breath, they would do that.
    I sometimes get the impression that even singing a song from a famous artist while taking a shower, can get you in trouble because of this copyright business.

  115. I have found the most lucid, and I believe accurate, discussion on the tabberone website. Just search tabberone and copyright to find. The conclusions are backed up by court cases, as to what copyright really means. I think many folks use their opinion of what they think copyright laws protect, rather than what the laws actually do protect.

  116. Thank you. So much of quilting is the darn doodles we all have drawn since we were 4! And, as far as the copyright terrorists are, a lot of what I see is just stuff presented as new that I remember seeing in years gone by. Like you, if I have to get a sworn statement to use cloth/patterns/quilting regarding a quilt I am doing, fugeddaboutit.

  117. Thank you, Leah, for bringing this subject into light. The various quilting groups that I belong to have discussed copyright for years and still do not understand it and from time to time we do worry about what we can or can’t do. I have been quilting and buying quilting tools, magazines, books and patterns since the 1970’s. A major copyright suit was brought to court in the late 70’s or early 80’s, so it is not a new question.
    I started free motion quilting in about 1990…give or take 5 years…I didn’t document my quilts as good at that time as I do today…guess I wasn’t feeling mortal enough at that time! LOL But when I found your 365 FMQ designs early on, I was surprised at how many designs that I had “developed” by my own doodling that were exactly the same as some of yours. Did I feel that you copied mine? Not at all! I felt a kinship to a much younger lady from a totally different geographic area and lifestyle who just happened to come up with the same doodle as mine. Because that is all FMQ designs are…doodles! You just happen to be a master at it! To clarify, I just turned 70 and spent most of my life in Alaska which is where I learned how to FMQ. Some of the same “doodling” designs were done while Leah was possibly still in diapers.
    Your questions about the copyright laws and where it might take us in the quilting world, compared to the wonderful sharing that my quilting world is all about is right on. I plan to repost this so as many people as possible will see it. When showing my quilts I always reference a pattern if I used one, but have never considered that I would have to reference a fabric or a tool just because I used them. Keep it up Leah. I guess I need to come back to your blog for more than the 365 FMQ designs! Thank you.

  118. Here's another aspect of the copyright police:
    Quilting books, on copyright pages, have permissions granted by the author(s) stating what the quilts can be created for (i.e., personal use and charity donations)...further provisions include explicit wording on what the quilt label must include (author, book title, publisher). Oftentimes, for-profit use is omitted/not allowed...
    REALLY?!?!?! All this for (oftentimes) a simple scrappy patchwork quilt that they *surely* were not the first to come up with?!
    Another example in which a quilter pays for something outright yet can't use freely.
    Maybe all of these self-professed 'designers' should keep their day jobs so they'll stop their inane demands.
    Just my 2 cents...

  119. Lots of opinions and no real answers for those working with fabric.
    Thank you for posting.

  120. Hello, Leah! Thank you for this post! I do not know your language, so I read and write through a translator and actually this issue is complicating for me, because I don't understand too well what is or rather where is heading?
    To live in a country where the Quilting is almost non-existent, my shopping on-line are on cheaper goods or in liquidation. And I buy many Fat-Quarter or Scraps, which do not have grassy which can emerge who is the designer or even manufacturer. For this reason, if I do some work using these fabrics, to whom I have request authorization? If I do a Tutorial to explain something I learned so that others be provided also his way of doing this, I will have do it with white fabrics to not generate conflicts? Because I do not know their origin or know if I should or not asking permission! This has complicated for me! I was so happy learning Quilting until these days where I went to have a thousand questions and few answers!
    I hope that this is only a storm at sea and calm resumed.
    Thank you for all that you offer us every day! I know that I can learn to quilt only follow their blog and their explanations! If there were not people like you who generously share what you know and everything... makes people like me would never able to fulfil our dream of knowing what to do Quilting is possible in a country where it is almost non-existent!
    You have a beautiful day and a better week!
    A big hug!

  121. I agree with everything Leah said in her post about copyright. I have felt just as she said, afraid to use some fabrics and designs for fear of the copyright police. I have said that it is getting so nutso that I am ready to do just like she said throw out my rotary cutter and sell my sewing machines!! I too have though that at the rate it is going we will have to get permission not only from a pattern designer or publisher but from the person how made the fabric and the thread and the machine we used to sew the quilt on and so on and so on it just will never stop. It is discouraging. I am not a professional I have sold some of my quilts if someone who saw a piece offered to buy it and if it was not one I wanted to keep for some reason I will pick a value I think it is worth and I will sell it. But as Leah said, when I made the quilt I may have not had any plan to sell it I may have made it just to make it and when I was done with making it decided when someone offered to buy it I sold it. It may be years from when I made it. They you have to ask, what if I donated it to a cause, someone bought it from a auction for that fundraiser then she decided to sell it because she was tired of it or it did not go with her new decor who gets in trouble then?? People are so sue happy and money crazy that it is ruining the fun of quilting and crafting for me at least. My enjoyment has been to enter shows. I know I will never win a major prize but I have won minor prizes and/or ribbons it is fun to get that award but with all the hoops I have to go through now to enter a show if I happen to use a pattern I am not buying patterns now and I am afraid to enter shows if there is any fear that some designer or publisher or someone will try to say I used their pattern or idea even if I didn't. It just happens that sometimes more then one person may come up with the same idea. Same goes for a technique, I am often afraid if I use a technique I read about or took a class I paid for to learn a technique that if I use it in a quilt I made that I want to enter in a show someone will be beating down my door if I do not mention whose technique or class I learned the technique from. It is crazy. I hope this discussion will get read by more people and this madness will stop.


  122. Quilting - or better use the old-fashioned word patchwork- to me is about standing in the tradition of women who throughout the ages, passed their skills, techniques and patterns on to their (grand-)daughters and fellow quilters. It's about saving a craft, sharing and companionship, friendship. It's about women working together on big quilts in quilt bees.
    Maybe that's too romantic for nowadays, but that is where we come from.
    So how is it possible that we, coming from that tradition, find ourselves nowadays in ugly aurguments about copyright? Have we forgotten what it's all about?
    Is it all about making money nowadays? I've always thought that we were better than that, that we could and should be proud of preserving a respectable craft, rather than seeing it is a moneymaking-machine.
    I understand that I cannot sell someone else's patterns or fabric designs as my own, but the moment I buy fabric, it's mine, and I use it in my quilts. Whether I give my quilts away, or sell them on fairs etc., is my own right, and no one should be suing me for violating his or her rights. If that were the case, fabric companies should be closed tomorrow.

  123. Thank You. Very well said. Still looking over my shoulder for all the possible police coming after me. lol

  124. This is a wonderful post. Not only well researched and well spoken, but well role modeled. You have given so freely with your own ideas and techniques. This post is probably the best written of all the ones I have read. Good going Leah.

  125. I have to leave my 2 cents worth somewhere about this issue and hope it is okay to do so here. I have read a bit about the Kate Spain copyright confusion but do not have all the time line details that are so important. But to an extent I agree with Kate. My daughter is a designer/illustrator who has worked with a major retailer (Target) and manufacture and also has an agent who sells her designs. She has had several of her design copied by major companies. She got an attorney but it was too hard to fight a huge business.
    Kate's designs are hers. It is her business, livelihood and reputation. For CT to copy the quilt and put it on a tote bag was not okay and an infringement I am sure. If she is like my daughter she would be tired of the lack of respect artists get for their work.
    As for Emily's quilt design in her book I think that is proper use of the fabric.
    May be this incident will help clarify some of these issues for all of us.
    On a coincidental side note I am making that very quilt in Scrap Republic out of Fandango for my grand daughter!

  126. Yeah Leah! Thank you for speaking out on this controversial topic. I too would suggest going to but be warned you could be there for days. She has actual legal precedents that she speaks about regarding trademark and copyrights. Basically nothing that falls under the general idea of a useful item can be copyrighted and this includes all sewing patterns/designs. What can't be copied and resold are the actual pattern photos, envelopes and drawings but you can redraft the design and take your own pictures of the finished product and sell it. Also once you have bought a fabric or a pattern, it is yours to do with as you wish, sell it or give it away. Licensing is for when Company A wants to make a product with Company B's cartoon character for profit, you don't need a license or permission to sell something made from a printed fabric or pattern. She has it all on that site and has used the information in court, representing themselves. It's a nasty business and I wish some people wouldn't get so hung up over it. If you have a great design/pattern and people want to deal with you, they will buy it. I'm suspicious of those who have to hide behind these little understood laws. I hope that came out coherent, I have an awful virus I'm getting over but still had to say kudos to you for being so generous and awesome!

  127. THANK YOU Leah, for a great post!

    I'm the first person to uphold Copyright because I expect it from users of my patterns...but it has become clear to me that most people don't know or understand what Copyright is or what it is used for and what it MEANS.

    It was nice that Kate Spain contacted you, but like you said, the issue still stands and it isn't a nice one.

    Kate Spain is out of my stash. Problem is, with such a large stash...where will this madness end?

    And it's not just quilting. My DD is an avid knitter and that community is 'copyrighting' stitches left right and centre. As if that were possible! Those stitches have been around for hundreds of years, no person OWNS them!

    Sadly, the issue is not resolved. Are fabrics our tools, or are we indebted to them? What are they for if they become their own copyright elements within our work???

    It's a spreading madness for sure.

  128. Right on Leah! I agreed with every word you wrote! I too never know what purpose will become of the fabric that I buy. I always say, it is for quilting. . .but, pieces have ended up as trim on towels, pillowcases, mending patches . . .well, you get the idea. As for the quilts I make, I don't know where those are going to end up either. . .I don't make them to sell; but I might sell some in the future because I'm running out of space for all of them!!!

  129. Thank you for ALL your FM quilting designs and your thoughtful comments on the copyrights issue.

  130. Great post!
    Kate's lost another customer.

  131. I think Kate Spain has gotten a lot of shabby treatment and the subject of misplaced anger. As Jessim said, if the fabric in the totes was PURCHASED (Kate would have made her royalty on the fabric) and made, it is entirely different than an image of the fabric and quilt for which neither Emily nor Kate was paid royalties, as I understand it.

    On another note, how would YOU feel if someone took ALL YOUR FREE, (and I gather uncopyrighted) free-motion designs, and put them in a book called 365 Days of Free Motion Quilt Designs, slapped their name on it, and sold it for profit??? That is ENTIRELY DIFFERENT from using designs you have given away for free and USED in a QUILT that may or may not be pictured and published.(OK) do you see the difference?

  132. Thanks for the thoughtful post, Leah. I agree that the copyright issue has gotten out of control. I was in a quilt shop this weekend and took a look at the Scrap Republic book. It's interesting that the copyright page says that we are allowed to make quilts from the book for our own personal use and for donation to charity organizations for sale. I guess that means we can't make them ourselves for sale. Will C&T go after quilters who dare to sell quilts made from the patterns in the book?

  133. I think Kate Spain is FINISHED! And she did it to herself!
    Leah, you are so right. I never look at the selvages. Unless I need to find more of that same fabric! What the heck is wrong with people?? And I agree, some copyright is good. Just look at what happened to Paula Nadelstern!

  134. Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution, aka the Copyright Clause:

    "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

    The key things here are "to promote progress" and "for limited Times." Copyright was NOT intended to award exclusivity in perpetuity, it was intended to reward people's industry and invention for a limited time, after which their industrious inventions were to pass to common use, and that use would spur new invention that would pass into common use, and so on. The goal was to promote general uplift through sharing. Funny how things evolve.

    There is a long history of precedent on copyright issues. M understanind is that it is not all that difficult for a court to sort out who owns what. It's expensive for the litigants, but the kinds of issues under discussion here are not all that difficult.

  135. If one looks closely at Ms. Spain's fabric line, one will see leaves, flowers, graphic lines...etc. Can she then be sued because she used these images in her fabric line? Who owns THOSE copyrights? My point is where does it all stop. While I understand that people should get due credit for their designs, artists will stop creating when they get boxed in. They will move on to other things. I agree with you Leah, that even if you dye your own fabrics, will you then be brought up on charges for using a color from a manufacturer? This could turn into a big, ugly monster for the quilting world to the point that people will stop entering shows for fear of being sued. I'm interested to see where all of this goes. If this gets bigger, or if it blows over.

  136. @ bmayer

    First, drop the caps. Your condescension and patronizing attitude comes through enough without shouting it out, okay? Secondly, Leah has a post in the works that addresses this very issue.

  137. It all leaves me with more questions and after watching the video it makes me wonder if the wording on lots of patterns carries any truth? "This pattern is for private use only. If you wish to make and sell items from this pattern, please contact us for terms" "This pattern is intended only for non-commercial, personal purposes and may not be used in the production of goods for sale in any form" or any other version with the same meaning.

  138. @ Josh Day. The one problem with the written word is that you cant always interpret "tone". My use of caps (not the only person to do so, but I believe the only one called out for this) is for emphasis, but not yelling. I'm sorry you feel this was condescending and patronizing, I really dont see it,....but kudos for protecting your wife! Just because I have a differing opinion I hardly think I should be called names. It seems I am in the minority in my support of Kate. I also am in support of Leah's wonderful work, and have sent all of my quilting buddies to her site, for her fabulous tutorials. My comments were to protect her hard work from THEFT and PROFIT by others, not USE by others (Emphasis, not yelling) I just read her most recent post regarding this, and I must say, she is most generous for basically saying, go ahead and publish a book using all her hard work. In full disclosure, I have been a free lance fabric designer for over 10 years. You've never heard of me, unless you read selvages. By the way I have not ever seen "for personal use only", on a selvage. I am not a "name" designer, and that is fine with me. I just plug along, but copyright is serious, albeit confusing, business. Fabrics I have designed are routinely given away for free to other quilt designers, whose finished quilts have appeared in major quilting magazines. I love it! If an entire quilt is made from my designed fabric, credit is given to me as the fabric designer, although not 100% of the time. I do not (and dont expect to)receive any payment for someone elses quilt! It is good promotion for the line! However, if someone took a picture of the fabric (without buying yardage) and sold a mass produced product, then yes, that would be copyright violation. This is basically what happened with Kate Spain fabric and Emily Cier quilt. C&T should have know better. I think the negativity towards Kate(whom I have never met) is, as I've said before missplaced and unwarranted. This has been a very interesting discussion though!

  139. I have loved fabric and design as long as I can remember but am not worried about any texts on the selvedges since I am not connected to a big company manufacturing items for sale on a big scale. That is mainly what that the 'for personal use' text is about.

    I buy my fabric and I get to use it as I want since it is my money that bought it. The same goes for any ruler, pattern or book I buy. I understand people who might come up with a new ruler and copyright the actual ruler to protect it. But I cant for the world understand why they try to copyright any pattern or design that you can make with said ruler or book. I'd love to see that go to court. How could you say it is your specific design when I am sure if you dig around a bit in old quilting books or look at some antique quilts you would find the same or a very similar design already made.

    I love the internet because you can stumble over so much inspiration that comes FREE. I often save pictures of beautiful quilts on my computer so I can go back and get inspired when I want to try something new. Sometimes I have come across pages that you cant save from but then I have an option of a screen shot and can still add the quilt to my collection if I wish. But you know what, once it is prohibited in any way it loses its beauty somehow and I often pass over it and surf on to the next quilt that I can save.

    I am with Leah, if you give freely and willingly you will get so much in return, not only the loyalty of your readers and customers but you will also get inspired by what others are doing with the techniques and designs you have made available for free. All the copyright madness that is circulating is only doing one thing, it is stopping the creativity and scaring people away from quilting. And that is a very sad thought.

  140. I'm with you, Leah. I just want to quilt. Be creative, productive, inspired, and somewhere down the road, hopefully help another to find that same passion. Copyright Nazis will be basted & tied...

  141. This was a great, well thought out article, Leah. I heard about this issue on C&Ts blog. I sent them the following email: "I read your article on copyright with interest. I am just an average quilter but this subject interests me. There was recently a brief discussion of this issue on (nothing official from the organization, just a few questions and comments from readers). I have to say that I agree with you and perhaps you went overboard in trying to satisfy the designer involved. What are fabrics designed for if not to be used? And how could quilt how-to books (which would encourage would-be makers to purchase said fabric) even be published at all? I’m not an attorney, but common sense tells me that you did nothing wrong. It would seem to me that the logical progression of this argument from the other side would be that companies that manufacture paints for artists have a copyright on their product and artists cannot use them in their work! Just my two cents worth."

    In painting, artists borrow from one another all the time. I don't know who the first Impressionist painter was, but obviously there were many others who painted in this style.

    This concept also happens in classical music. I was listening to a Schubert symphony on the radio once, and then heard a number of bars of music that were unmistakenly Beethoven! I called the station to ask about it, and was told that this was common, and is referred to as a "signature", which is used by the composer to compliment another composer.

    To get back to quilting, one thing that bothers me is seeing quilts (listed on a blog which displays "modern" quilts) that utilize patterns that have been around for a long time and are in the public domain, and are claimed by the maker to be an "original design".

    It would be helpful if this pattern/fabric issue was clarified in court so everyone could have the same facts.

  142. I wanted to add my comment that I posted on QuiltUniversity about making a product from a pattern:

    I have a book on making pillows by a well-known designer. It has the verbiage about making them only for personal use or for non-profits. Really? Give me a break. I've seen all or most of the designs elsewhere. I cannot fathom how they think they could restrict making and selling, for example, a pillow using a log cabin patchwork, or patchwork of all squares. The idea of using quilt patchwork designs for pillows is something I had thought of before I ever even picked up the book.

  143. I wanted to add one more comment: in the QU forum on this subject, someone mentioned this site: I do not know if this information accurately reflects the law, but it makes sense!

  144. Loved this! I've been writing about this as well on my blog at, so was happy to read your take on things. I have to say my favorite line was "Personally after a lawsuit threat I'd tell her to shove her fabric get the idea." I laughed right out loud because I feel the same way! And bravo to you for deleting the Copyright Nazi email, and for not talking to the other CNazi (I know who she is, but because you didn't name her, I won't either). And lastly, anyone who has her plates in Crate and Barrel doesn't have a "little business," as Ms. Spain noted in her first post about this. I love her designs, I have those plates, but I am thinking twice about using her fabric in my quilts. And thanks for pointing out the lunacy in her four questions.

    I think most of us who love quilting and the sharing and the comraderie and the friendship are of the same mind as you. Thank you so much! (And yes, I also wish they had hashed this out in court.)

  145. Great post! So glad I found it thanks to Patrick Goff.

    Appreciate the video as I had to re-watch it with my husband.

    Though I am not a full on quilter or fashionista - I see your point about how "copyright can be detrimental to an industry."

    Look at Facebook and how they "copyright the word 'BOOK' in new user agreement as company tightens grasp around other common words like 'wall' and 'face'"

    Read more:

    It all reminds me of children playing in a sandbox - some happy to share toys and play with others . . . while a few want ALL the toys and throws a tantrum if you touch just one.

    Again. Great post - thank you so much for sharing your insights!

  146. Who actually "wins" in all of this? IMO only the unethical people who try to scare the uninformed/confused about copyright rest of us by threatening lawsuits. I'm with you! Freedom should reign.

  147. I believe that this is the best discussion about this issue that I have read to date: and I have to say that I will be not be buying this designer's line of fabric in the future. I agree that if I have to stop and "ask myself questions" before I buy a piece of fabric I see and love, before I get to use it, then it's not for me.
    And it is too bad, it hinders the creativity that makes us love what we do with the fabric as well.


    Good post...especially the part on our behaviour as part of a quilting community.

  149. I totally disagree with you on many of these points. Should a pantograph designer give their images away for free? Should I be able to replicate Aneela Hoey's Sherbet Pips fabric images on my own gear and sell it? Should the Garfield image (it's just his doodles, afterall) be open for anyone to copy and sell their own Garfield books?

    I think it's absolutely amazing that you give your FMQ designs away for free. It is one of the most generous free bodies of work in our industry. But this industry is also made up of many orignal inventions (rotary cutter, self-healing mat?), designs (Heather Ross VW Buses?) that deserve copyright protection if the designer is going to be able to make a living designing more for us.

  150. Unfortunately, I'm positive that Kate is getting a bad rap for this. She would've had no complaints re the tote bags if the image used didn't look like just a photo of some of her fabrics. The quilt was cropped and enlarged to the point that there really was no discernible quilt pattern. That was the problem.

    I'm all about free and easy, but I understand that designers are trying to support themselves and we should respect that. Swearing off of Kate Spain fabrics forever truly is your loss and, frankly, incredibly immature. Who thinks it's wrong to cite a source in writing? No one! Why would we think less in quilting? Why do we find it difficult to give credit where credit is due?

    And for being such a "supportive" community of creators, this whole thread of responses doesn't feel very supportive.

    Since I've yet to sell anything I've created, I've no issue buying fabric with a "for personal use only" label. Most ppl will use it that way anyway. On the other hand, it does irk me a bit to see patterns, especially modern patterns that I can point to a 100 others just like them free on the web, are actually being sold and claiming copyright. Really? You made a jellyroll race quilt with all solids in the same color, varying tones, and think that pattern is new and different? Don't kid yourself. It's not.

    Anyway, my point is simply that making Kate out to be the bad guy in this scenario is wrong and petty. I still love her fabrics, use them and will continue to buy them. Would you quit reading an author because he/she insisted that you couldn't copy a chapter out of their book and sell it without their permission and without paying them something for it? Probably not. You'd likely be mortified that you didn't think of it in the first place and be quite apologetic to the author.

  151. How very sad that a craft with such heart is being ripped to shreds by all this. I have to say..seems to me by all that I read on all 3 sites..Ms.Spain jumped the gun and brought in the heavies when this could have been solved by just giving credit where credit is due. She sure is getting alot of publicity..but I'm betting its not what she wanted. But then again it is what she wanted...everybody Smile! ugh...

  152. VERY interesting to read your input on this subject. The video link was fascinating to watch too :)

  153. Great post! Thank you for weighing in on this issue. I too, wont be buying any Kate Sapin fabric. I have just started to design my own patterns and have them for FREE!! I just want to share. As someone else has said, is there anything really new in quilting? It's just tweaks and peoples own take on things that have been around for years. This whole copyright thing is getting seriously out of hand and frankly, kinda scary.

  154. I must say, I am in awe. It saddens me greatly to think that this would even occur in a world of such giving, generous people. I recently left my first career to make quilting my second. And, I left that career because I was tired of the politics. I am thinking of quilting myself a bubble to live in now.

  155. Well written commentary.

    I agree that credit could have been given to Ms. Spain's line; but clearly, the Ms.Cier didn't take credit for the fabric design. And the photographer, etc etc should also have been credited, shame on C&T.

    If Moda provided the fabric—for free—it was an endorsement to use it in the book. A "credit required" would have avoided the issue, altogether. Moda should have taken a large portion of the responsibility, and kept faces out of the mix.

    As for the tote bags, it is a little more murky. If the bags were is true competition with a Ms Spain, tote, i could see the distress. But since they were not destroyed but redistributed, why was it not left to proceed as set with the publishing agenda redirecting the proceeds on Ms. Spain's behalf ...Ah well! what do i know.

    I am in publishing, and in the craft industry. I personally have had my classes and work copied, and even pirated. As i look at it " they cannot duplicate the Rick Experience, God bless them!" I am not a policeman or security guard, I am an editor and designer, I can do that better as I move on creatively.

    Feeling violated is never fun. I do sympathize with Ms. Spain in that. But the manufacturer should have taken the higher road and come to terms with the publisher. It would have served the industry better...remember that behind every bad decision there are human decisions within the the corporate walls as well, and it should have been addressed on that level.

    Someone at Moda felt inclusion of the fabrics in the book would garner added exposure for the line, with no idea it would have negative repercussions. By bringing the faces of author and designer into the mix, personal feelings and grudges come to light— amongst Ms Spain, Ms Cier, and their fans.

    I wish everyone well. Unfortunately, I and many other quilters will think twice before purchasing the next "designer" line. Fortunately, this is a hobby rather than a source of income for me.

  156. Well said, Leah! I agree with you completely -- the copyright issue has gotten out of hand. As a buyer, I simply don't buy fabric or patterns that say I can use them "for personal use only". As a retailer, I do my best to avoid patterns that say "for personal use only", and absolutely do not offer fabric that's created "for personal use only".

    On the flip side, if I want to use someone's pattern to make & sell something -- say tote bags or pajama pants -- I *will* write that designer and ask their permission to do so. If they say no, I give the pattern away. If I *do* get their permission, I make certain the designer is credited with having created the pattern. It's only fair.

  157. Amen sistah! You made a very clear argument that I agree with 100%!!

  158. This issue makes me so mad because I just can't decide what I think about it. I, too, have had angry days because someone decided that they could reprint my work for free while I had trouble coming up with rent money. On the other hand, it's really a huge compliment that they liked it that much.

    I think know it sounds cynical, but what seems to bring out the worst in people on this issue is money. They think they are protecting an asset, and they are, but at what price?

    Fabric is printed to be used. To be sewn together into something. That's what it's for. And once it is used to make an object it has served it's purpose. It seems to me, from that point, the object it has been made into is actually the "property" of the person who turned it into something else.

    However, a picture of an item is not the item itself. The things that make my head spin about copyright protection in this instance, are the same things that made my head ache when I had to deal with photographs as a designer. You can buy all of the rights, some of the rights, or one-time-use rights.

    (And I wouldn't worry about the photographer involved in all this. Anyone hired as a professional to take pictures for a book knows that the person who hired him or her is buying the rights to reproduce the photos in any way they choose. It's part of the business.)

  159. This is a big issue with big problems attatched. thankyou leah for being brave enough to post a bog on this.

    I am with you though where is this going to take us. I am concerned that the copyright law is dragging us into to areas we don't want to be. I want to be able to make art based on my own intellectual ideas not to be worried about checking throuogh thousands of quilts to make sure I do not breach any copyrights. This really concerns me and needs to be stopped now by all of us by letting go of selfishness and encouraging giving information to one another freely.

  160. I think Kate Spain was correct to be upset over the tote bag only. The bag clearly is a reproduction of her fabrics. You can't do that. I can't take a fat quarter of her fabric and make some paper to be used in scrapbooking. It first has to be licensed from her. Whatever was C&T thinking? But to go after the Scrap Republic book and the author was ridiculous. And I don't buy that that's what the lawyers did. They work for you.

  161. Leah, I want to throw roses at your feet. Thank you for a comprehensive & (IMHO) spot on take on the whole mess.
    I completely understand that designers want to & should be compensated for their work & creative energy, but I think the tote bag issue was an incorrect call by Kate Spain.
    I think the "four rules" she came up with are unworkable, for reasons already discussed. Nobody knows what the future will bring.
    My own personal disappointment in the quilting world was when a designer/ teacher whom I love, asked on her blog that we put "designed by..." info on the tags to our quilts. No. I am not making a quilt tag that reads "Sweet Dreams Made for Anna Smith in honor of her First Birthday Pieced by Skye Daniels Quilted by Jean Jones San Antonio, Tx. 2012" (this I consider history for the generations to come) But then to add "Quilt designed by XYZ, in her book, ABC, named as RST" just seems stupid & overbearing.
    *sigh* What a sad time.

  162. You know, the fear that has been created about this is amazing to me. I am a new quilter, so obviously I am constantly referring to websites for guidance. My favorite are the traditional star blocks; but somewhere along the way, the "traditional" has been taken away from these and people's names have been put on them. How is that? History was made years ago in the quilting industry, which we all have learned and grown from; but now I don't even want to make flying geese, for fear that some one may have claimed that design as an "original"? I had my mother send me a picture of her over 100 year old snail trail quilt, only to find out...if I reproduce it, from a picture my mother sent me (on my phone, no less), I may be stepping on toes of someone else who has taken the initiative to do the same thing? I love quilting, and LOVE free-motion. However, this past week, I have designed two quilts on paper, cut out another, pieced a top...and now I don't want to finish any of them, because someone, somewhere may have a similar line/cut/color as I do, and obviously has been around longer than I, so what's the point if mine can never be seen? Amazing. I commend your support of educating quilters Leah. I am grateful you are as talented and inspiring as you are. I just hope the quilting traditions don't die out, because of such stiff boundaries.I hope I lose my fear from all this. I miss enjoying it.

  163. LOL Oh my, oh my, oh my. Ms Day, this was a great article and I really liked the video you included. Buying something is like giving a present, once you give it, it's totally up to the owner what to do with it. Cutting it up and making a quilt out of it makes it her own invention. I feel sorry for Kate Spain, that she is so very insecure in the fact that she is not enough, that she has to be a bully about it instead of showing generosity and requesting a bit of credit.

    Thanks for the copyright "Piece"

  164. One more question:

    Patterns are copyrighted. Some really old clothing patterns are copyrighted. How does this fit in?

  165. I LOVE your attitude. I am considering making a quilt to enter into a local guild's show. I love quilt shows for the inspiration and I want to support my small town guild's show. It will be my first entry. But I am racking my brains about patterns, is taking the fun out of it. What a shame we have come to this

  166. As usual a lovely blog post, Leah.
    What irks me the most about heavy-handed copy right controllers is that I may make a quilt, give it as a gift, and the recipient may sell it for good money without risking legal pursuit. So why can't I make the money?

  167. You GO GIRL!!! I have been sewing, creating, inovating since age 5..thank you for saying and ideas..and keep inspiring us Leah!!!

  168. Very well said. I for one am sick of the subject...our state quilt show has to have a permission slip to display our quilts in the show and it has cut the amount case in point...a gal uses 16 different blocks not in public make a beautiful work of art...needless to say she is not going to take the time to check with each designer. again thanks for tackling a very controversial subject. We cannot even have a table to sell our goods because of copyright....some have carried to extreme...very sad for the woman who is only guilty of the God given art of quilting and wants to make a little money from her goods that she has put time and money into. Well enough said...Thanks Leah enjoy your teachings ..

  169. Thank you so much Leah. I actually just finished a quilt of Kate Spain's "Good Fortune" fabric. It's the first quilt I've made with a fabric line--plus a couple others in borders. So here's a question: would I even DARE post and show you a picture of it?! (Kate?!?!) (I'm actually quite proud of it!)

    I bought several charm packs to make it--those don't even have selvages, so how would anyone know if there was a restriction claimed? I don't think that restriction is valid, but just sayin'....when you buy fat quarters and the like, you don't get the selvage.

    I'm glad Kate contacted you because I was fully unhappy after reading your original post; now, I'm just mildly upset with her slightly ambiguous position. I believe without a doubt I could have sold that quilt. I should mention that I was "inspired" by someone else's pattern. I made my own template, and it's a STANDARD variation on a pinwheel. Yet that designer thinks it is hers....

    Speaking of which, one more point: I bought a cute tote pattern (support quilt shops!). It's not something all that unique, but I thought I could save myself some time in coming up with all the measurements from scratch. On the back of the pattern is a "warning" that I can only make the tote for my personal use!! It would be impolite to type here what I muttered under my breath. Does someone really think they can copyright the design of a common TOTE BAG with a small pocket and--if you can believe it--handles!?! Unbelievable!!

    Yes, I would like to make some money to support my hobby someday. I think selling patterns are valid, but it's the instructions you own and sell, not the pattern and certainly NOT the product that someone else creates from it.

    Sorry this is so long! You really did hit a nerve with this one! Great job! Maybe I should vow to not buy another pattern with such a copyright claim, and contact the designer to say I didn't buy it because of it. If we all did that, could we make a tiny difference?

  170. anjkasper, you're breaking my heart. Finish your quilts, then love them, share them, photograph them, show them, give them or sell them.

    The quilts you make are the result of your work and creativity. Let it shine!

  171. It is especially sad when women decide that, to do business, they have to give up their feminine traits and act like men in a cut throat business industry. Generosity will win out every time over greed ("Good business sense") Unfortunately, Kate apparently let herself be bullied and bamboozled by her publisher.

  172. Well done Leah, I applaud you in coming out and speaking your mind. I have a quilt upstairs that was made by me ex husbands great grandmother.
    I am sure there are many copies of that pattern around these days, but the missing ingredient is the hand stitches that were made by her.
    Each quilt is made unique by the different emotions and stitching styles that go into making them.

    A similar thing is the sweaters that are made on the Isle of Aran. These patterns were passed down through knitters in the family, now books are made where these patterns are used, who owns those? So wrong on every level. Lets take it back to basics where we share the love.

  173. Check out old posts regarding the Farmer's Wife sew along on Barristers block blog spot. The format and the names of the blocks for the sew along had to be changed because the author of the book, Farmer's Wife...accused the blog of copyright infringement. The book is full of historic blocks, whatever we call them. Most quilters who would participate in the sew along would certainly buy the book for the historical context...I wish that I had not ever bought this book after the author's behavior.

  174. Leah, I have been bothered in some ways by this copyright law in the quilting world. Many people I know decided to simply stop buying quilting magazines since they were worried of copying a pattern. Others said they would not go in quilts shows because they were not sure if their quilt was all original. It is crazy since even though you might follow some pattern, you usually put in your way of blending fabrics, or the quilting is different.
    I don't inderstand why the creators scream copyright. After all, we have to buy the pattern or the fabric or the tool to make our version of their quilt. They do make money off of their products as we need them. Also I think they should be pleased that we choose their product over others to work with. If the law gets to strict...many will just stop, stop doing something that makes them feel good, and positive about themselves.
    I have to say thank you Leah for sharing your quilting designs as even thought I might never be as good at it as you are, it sure provides me with something to strive for and ideas to make my quilts look better.

  175. One of the questions posed by Ms. Spain was whether we were shipping fabric overseas for mass production of a product.
    Well, if I were to buy ten thousand yards of fabric to mass produce anything on any continent, why would there even be a problem with that? After all, would I have not been an excellent customer, having placed and paid for such an order?
    Not that I'm planning such an operation, mind you. But if I were the seller, I think I'd be happy with that sale, and would want to cultivate more of the same.
    I'm just sayin'..............

  176. What a wonderful discussion and very much needed. However we should all realise- that no matter how we feel about this subject there is still laws that we need to obey and respect that we need to give to those that claim their copyright. As Sharon Boggon pointed out on her blog Pin Tangle about Pinterest- you can unknowingly land in a lawsuit and claiming innocence will not save you. So as much as we hate this issues in our most beloved quilting world, this is the reality of today- so be cautious.

  177. Thank you so much, Leah, for this thoughtful discussion of copyright issues.I can't help but agree that the time spent worrying about theft of ideas is time spent not creatigin. You have inspired me to perhaps make my work public on my blog.

    Also, it made me remember that I once thought I had invented a new block only to come across the block while researching blocks for a quilt I was about to make. The block had already been invented! So, I agree, all art is derivative. If you think you have invented something, you are probably wrong, LOL.

    Love your work. Love your intelligence. Love your attitude.

    Best regards,

  178. Wow. I have a very young friend that has made a number of beautiful things and feels every thing she has done is unique and should not be copied. She feels this is something she should be paid for. I, being quite a bit older, sees the very things she feels are new to the world as being things I have seen in my younger days through someone else's work, many times.

    My thought is just how many things in this very old world has not been thought of and used somewhere. Being first in any is hard to do.

  179. Bloody well said! I've had a gut full of the whole copywrite whinging that's been going on. Nothing makes me more angry than a BOUGHT pattern that states you can't sell the items you make with it. This is on a par with the fabric issue. I'm totally with you on everything you've said. I think the introduction of Pinterest into the lives of so many sewists/quilters has also brought the copyright bogeymen out to play... more examples of ridiculous thinking.

  180. To quote a very old book, "There is nothing new under the sun."

  181. This whole issue reminds me of several situations that have cropped up in my life recently and make me wonder where the line will be drawn. I was quite shocked over the weekend to be told that I wasn't allowed to photograph certain elements of my sister's wedding because they had signed a contract with the professional photographer preventing this! I now feel quite glad that her wedding gown wasn't made of copywrited fabric.

  182. Substitute the word "Needlework" for "Quilting" and it's very much the same situation.

  183. Coming this way through CraftGossip, thank you, thank you and thank you a million times more, for this post.

    (I've a similar post/page in my humble little blog,, and I'm now doing a link back to yours)

  184. I craft/sew/create for arts sake. it is therapeutic. If you happen to come across one of "my designs" and you can make money from it, go for it! Life is too short to waste by chasing and cataloging, each and every piece I have ever made! In fact I would be flattered that something I made- someone else wants to pay money for. I say about copyright, if you dont want it "stolen" dont publish it! Now how boring is that?!

  185. Thank you for expressing what so many of us are feeling. "Copyright Terrorism" is yet another sad reflection of the greed and selfishness we are seeing way too much of today.

    One commenter asked simply where does it all end? What happens if I change my mind about selling my work? Just focusing on the fabric portion of this issue I add the following: My stash is 90% fat quarters and fat eighths, obtained throughout the U.S. and Canada. What is the likelihood that each piece has fabric identification information? I rarely buy "yardage" and, yes, I have used an 8-inch square as a focal point in a quilt. Who designed the fabric? I have no idea. What's more I have no idea where that particular fat quarter was purchased, so I can't go back to ask. And what about older purchases? Will "copyright terrorism" force manufacturers to print design information on both selvages and print it close enough together to be fully disclosed regardless of fabric cut? Will retailers start handing out fabric design and manufacturer information with each scrap we purchase from the "quilter's candy" box?

    What if I give my work, but my receipant sells it? Indeed where does the end?

    I will continue giving as much credit as I can to those who inspired me, as best as I can, whether it be a fabric designer, quilt designer, cathedral floor tiler, or mother nature.

    For now I won't be selling my work, but I do show it. At our last guild show, I displayed placemats made from coffee bags. Guess I was lucky I didn't get sued by the coffee company for using their bags in my placemat design.

    Perhaps instead of making us all crazy and the lawyers richer, we should be urging Congress to add quilting to "public domain." Ahh, what a can of worms that could be. . .

  186. Thank you for this. I really love modern quilts, but now I feel like I can only look at historical quilts for inspiration and to learn about quilt designs. How far removed does my quilt have to be from another quilt before it counts as an original design? I hate that I'm so nervous to show the things I make.

  187. Ya all have to quit being so nervous about your quilts and showing them! For every quilt that is shown, there is a .00000001chance of having some idiot say "I designed that!" And if this causes us to quit making and showing our quilts....what a travesty. IF you can find a block from 1912 or something to prove that it's NOT their design, there ya have it, grounds for a counter suit! DON'T let the copyright thing stop you from making and giving your quilts to your kids and grandkids or even selling them to a friend or neighbor. Tweek the pattern enough to 'make it your own'. Even the folks who claim the designs as their own creations got their inspiration from somewhere. "There is nothing new under the sun."


  188. I'm late to the party and haven't read all the comments, but RIGHT ON LEAH!
    What really gets my goat is the copyright nazis who abuse and misuse copyright law to terrorize everyone else.
    Like the pattern writer who says "purchase of this pattern entitles use to make one copy" and the design is in the public domain. Copyright on a pattern does not include the right to limit the use of the pattern.
    I believe the same is true of those labels on the selvage. I just today noticed some panels I bought at a quilt show have a notice on the selvage (which was not visible to the buyer because of the packaging) says "sold for non-commercial home use only." How can the holder of copyright on the IMAGE limit use of the FABRIC by the end buyer? I will research this and post more on my blog but I don't think they can.
    Meanwhile, what all of us quilters can do is not buy any fabric with claimed restrictions. They will go away if no one buys them.
    For me, the only way I can be sure I don't buy any is to not buy any new fabric (my stash can support me for years to come anyway).
    And we need a Free Quilting movement.
    [I'm trying again, I got an error message the first time. Sorry if it turns up twice.]

  189. I am late to the discussion but have spent a good while reading all the posts in response as well as a couple of blogs (one really slamming you good to the point of accusing you of tax fraud!). So you really hit a nerve and I would say on both sides of the issue.

    I completely agree with you. I think the copyright thing has gotten so far out of control it is ridiculous. As well as so many people claiming "original designer" on things that are definitely NOT original. I read one blog that was selling cupcake potholder patterns and wrote the entire blog post complaining about someone else selling "her design". Seriously? A cupcake potholder? Like NO ONE has designed one before? (I use caps for emphasis too. It is to try and make sure I am not misconstrued.)

    I can understand a little of Kate Spain's position. However, I also think that there are times you need to consider the repercussion of how you handle things. Once she knew she had to bring the book into it, she should have reconsidered how she handled it. By bringing them in, her point was lost and she alienated many that will not buy her product again. Fabric designers need pattern designers to get their fabric's sold. Just as music bands need radio stations playing their music. Without that medium, their art is not brought to the masses. When we quilters (especially us newbies) see another quilt designed using a fabric, this does inspire us to purchase that fabric and make our own. If not in that design in another simply because we like how it all came together. Many newbies cannot put it all together and see how the different fabrics in a line come together till we see it done by another. Her actions will make other pattern designers reconsider using her fabric simply because they don't want the problems that may arise from it. I know I wouldn't want to use it. I would prefer using another one that didn't carry so much risk.

    She has obviously seen the backlash from her suit, hence the olive branch to the quilt pattern designer, though I imagine it will do little good.

    I understand the need to make a living. However, with any business you need to weigh the risk of legal action to the loss you will take doing so. She made a huge mistake and listened to the wrong people I think. Just because you CAN sue a person, doesn't always mean you should.


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