On designing…

Howdy y’all. Firstly, I want to say a huge thank you for the positive reaction to my Giant Rubber Duck. I’ve already got photos of one winging (see what I did there?) their way to me from Ravelry user Pamvdz, who has been invaluable about reporting back a few errors in my pattern. These have been fixed now, so if you were gonna make one and were put off then rest assured you can retry without hassle now. If anyone finds a pattern error in any of my patterns please do tell me! Since they’re given away free I don’t tend to pattern test (although usually I’m a much better editor as I write lol). If I were to ever get into selling I would be pattern testing to avoid errors.

Which segues me rather nicely into today’s topic, designing patterns. (Sorry, no free pattern today, I’m fiddling a few things on what I expected to post so hopefully next weekend). A few weeks back I posted a stream of thought on selling products made from other peoples patterns. Basically, I’m not jumping on the ‘grr, how dare the designer ask you not to sell their products?’ anger band wagon, but my post basically boiled down to respect their wishes, play nice, and go find a pattern you can sell. Everyone is happy, noone gets angry, and on a strictly business level, you and the sellable pattern designer get money, credit and promotion, and the non-sellable pattern designer doesn’t. It was basically a call to hippydom – give peace a chance rather than getting pissy etc.

As a follow up though, I’ve seen a lot of other posts about this topic in the last couple of weeks (it seems to be a current big issue) which then go on to address a topic that DOES anger me – pattern stealing.

It goes without saying that designing a good pattern takes a lot of work. Some of my early efforts suffered from me thinking I could just wing it and it’d be fine, which lead to me accepting some subpar results. These days I’m more open to frogging* my work to make sure it’s exactly what I want to put out there. I want people to send me photos of what they’ve made from my patterns, and I can’t expect people to make ugly amis can I? (Although I have seen some patterns out there for sale that need some additional TLC to fully realise the creators dream in a more profitable way. In my opinion anyway – of course if they like it, and are proud of it, then I’ll be the first one cheering them on.)

*Frogging is pulling the work apart and redoing it by the way – it took me months to work that out!

So when someone takes your design and publishes it as their own, it sucks. And the resulting anger is righteous and supported. Luckily this has never happened to me (which often leads me to joke that I must not be good enough yet. This is 100% a joke – if it ever actually did happen I’d be on the warpath!). That’s out and out stealing and is wrong, even if some countries are in a moral grey area about it’s wrongness (apparently in some countries a pattern is not copywriteable because you didn’t invent crochet. Who knew?!). But the average person can see this as stealing right?

So what about if you take one of my patterns, and change a few stitches, or give it different hair? How about if you take my Basic Human Base Pattern, dress it and bequiff it? Well, then surely you can call the new pattern your own!

Except, no, you can’t.

If you’ve even slightly followed my pattern, then it’s not yours. It’s not new, it’s an edit. Just because Coke change the recipe, did it all of a sudden became the all new product Coak? No, it’s still Coke. Same with crochet patterns. Changing the colour wouldn’t make it yours, so changing the shape of the feet slightly doesn’t either. Sure, it makes those edits yours, and feel free to publish them, but don’t repost my pattern. Link to mine and say ‘I changed row x to read’, or ‘I decided I didn’t like the hands and did this instead’. If you only used my head shape and put your own body onto it, then you’re free to post everything except my head pattern.

But my patterns are free! Surely reposting is not hurting anything?! But it DOES. It hurts my blog hits, it hurts the integrity of the crochet community, and it hurts my feelings. Just because I’m not making money from it doesn’t make it suddenly ok. Especially if you then go on to sell yours – all my hard work will line your pockets, when I’ve been generous enough to put it out there for everyone? Erm, no! Making your version and selling the finished product is all about your talent as a crocheter so sell away, but copying and pasting my pattern and swapping some stuff does not make you a pattern designer.

Aaaand breathe.

I think the problem here comes from the use of basic shapes in amigurumi. You’ll notice a lot of my patterns follow a hexagonal shaping rule – generally stitch patterns are repeated six times a round, and rounds increase in multiples of six. It’s a common way of working, although other designers work in fives, more others have no set rule. I find it easiest to come back to standard shapes for basic creations because I can guarantee how it will turn out with no frogging related stress. I’m not for one second saying that because I do that, noone else can do that, and that if you published a ball pattern using hexagonal shaping then I’d be flaming down on your for stealing my designs. The additional twiddly bits, colour changes and overall combination of the shapes is what makes it mine. Now, you very possibly could come up with a design, completely by yourself, and it look like one of mine with never having seen mine (I actually tackled someone on this once and they claim to never have seen the design of mine I was concerned about having been copied. I tend to assume the best of people, and because the person in question was clearly a young teenager and wasn’t selling the pattern I chose to believe her). But, as KreepyKim says in her blog post on this topic, do your homework. If you’re going to publish a pattern, be it on a blog, on Ravelry or Etsy, or basically anywhere online or off, do a quick search to see what else is out there. Currently there are about a million Despicable Me Minion related items out. Excellent, I bloody love Minions, but so many of the hats looks exactly the same, and there are so many ami patterns that look exactly the same. I’m not saying don’t make a Minion (or whatever) if there’s one already out there, but put your personal stamp on it. Make it bigger, small, more expressive, add arms or a particular costume or face – something to make it stand out. Otherwise not only do you run the risk of being accused of copying, you’re also just going to fade away into the crowd, and cause others to do the same.

Last little comment, just to finish up. If you think about it, really think about it, there’s no reason to edit others patterns to pass off as yours. If you’re clever enough to spot something that could be changed for the better, and able to drop it in there and make it look seamless, then why the hell are you not exploiting that talent and making your own designs?


11 thoughts on “On designing…

  1. you’re licensed characters such as batman, robin, etc are licensing violations. if you create a pattern for personal use (one for yourself to use) then it’s ok and the pattern does belong to you. however, you cannot sell or distribute the pattern for free without permission of the licensee. you have to first prove someone used your pattern in their design. using part of someone’s pattern is called “borrowing” and is legal. if more than 50% (not real sure on percentage but it’s something like that) can be proven to be your pattern then it is illegal. best way to know is call the library of congress patent and copywrite office and ask them which is what I did, besides what I learned when I went for training there as an archivist for the government.


    • I was told it’s ok to distribute for free as I’m not giving away a pattern created to sell by the designer/ company. If I were to sell it there’d obviously be problems. It got likened to fanart when I asked someone who had (apparently) looked into it – posting fanart online and tutorials to draw your own versions of the characters is legal and all I’m doing is showing people how to make 3D art. Of course, that could all be wrong and if I were asked to take them down of course I would. I’ve only heard of cease and desist notices being given to people who sell their pattern however, NOT those who give it for free.

      I’m not saying ‘borrowing’ from a pattern is illegal, I’m saying it’s morally wrong by the way. Credit to the designer is a matter of common courtesy, not a legal issue in this case. Keeping with your 50% figure though, that’s exactly what I’m saying – taking a pattern from someone and changing a little bit of it doesn’t make it yours. It’s stealing, even if it’s not illegal.

      Thanks for your comment, it’s always interesting to see a knowledgeable response to topics like these, as my post is evidently opinion (and a dose of anger lol).

      • Dug up the document I was linked to:

        Click to access edupack.pdf

        I was told that under section 7 of that which concerns fair use, my free patterns can be classed as educational therefore exempt, but selling them would then nullify that (again, if any of this is incorrect please do tell me! I am in no way an expert and my googling will only bring up legalities around selling patterns not what happens in the case of free patterns. For example, I’m not sure if for it to be considered education I have to be there in the flesh showing them rather than distance learning online via notes and photos, or if as I’ve been told that still counts. I’m also not sure if my UK based use of a US based character license cause changes to anything. It’s a mine field!).

  2. *blushing* You’re lovely! You know, if we all band together, and show a united front, maybe we can get a few folks to stop. Hell, even just one person who stops claiming things as their own and starts giving credit! It’s a common decency thingy.
    I was thinking about this, and before computers, when folks used to have books or hand written notes they worked/cooked from, they did little tweaks to things, took original recipes for chocolate chip cookies and changed the salt amount, and added some secret ingredients to things, and they became “Grandma Lucy’s chocolate chip cookies,” which is all well and good, until the internet, and accessibility came into play…now we find out Grandma Lucy took a Tollhouse Cookie recipe and cut the salt since she’s hypertensive, and the secret ingredient is an extra tablespoon of sugar and love. Doing homework is essential.even just to see that you may not need to create a new bear pattern because there are 20 thousand, and it will be hard work to create something completely new. Not that folks shouldn’t create new bear patterns, just make sure it is new.
    Awesomeness, as usual!

    • It’s the difference between personal use and public distribution isn’t it? I wouldn’t care about someone claiming to their friends that they designed this awesome piece because it’s a handful of people and the focus is probably more on the work itself rather than the pattern (or recipe in your example) anyway. But when you put it online then your group of friends becomes a potential audience of millions (not that I think I appeal to millions – chance would be a fine thing if it were my name on it lol).
      I’ve decided against designing a number of thing because there’s so many out there when I’ve had a search round. I’m not particularly bothered for following other peoples patterns, but if there’s already a million out there, especially one looking just like you imagined (which has happened to me with a few things) then why add to the pile? Crochet that one, post the photo and link and enjoy the free time gained not writing out the pattern!
      I would hope there is that one person at the very least out there whose seen a post on this topic and changed. I’m fully accepting that people might be editing and posting not knowing that it’s not the done thing…

      • There’s totally no shame in using someone’s pattern, saving yourself time! I have favorite patterns I use, hell, i’ve memorized their particulars because I’ve used em so much, but I’d never call em my own. This is the information age, it’s not too hard to find the original person, or the copiers.
        I’m hoping for that one person who “knows better” to stop, and maybe some others who didn’t really know to actually get some good knowledge too!

  3. I love this post. I don’t care what the legal issues are because they are still confusing to me – just when I thought I understood them and had a good handle on them, more information is presented to me and screws me all up again. I think the best bet is to give credit where it is due. Giving credit does not take away from anyone, it doesn’t belittle the person who used a pattern or the person who followed a recipe – they still did the work in making the finished item and they deserve credit for that. Kindness and respect are just the best ways to keep a good cro-munity, which I love, a happy place to be. And you are right about doing the research – there are going to be popular items like minions and owls and monkeys etc. There really isn’t much sense or pride to be had in making yet another similar looking item if you want to be a designer. On a side note, my heart dropped a bit when I remembered you had also made a tiny minion before I did my experiment with them, but then I realized you knew I was making them out of the pill pattern because you were part of the experiment – so I knew you wouldn’t think I was copying you. But it is one of the reasons I never posted my own Minion pattern that I’ve had from when the first movie came out – it’s about the size of my plankton but there were already so many of them out there and really – with such a simple body shape, they can only look and be so different. LOL. So that one stays in the notebook to be make for future children in the family and nothing else. There is just so much passion about this subject but really, kindness and respect make all the difference.

    • Your Minion Experiment is a perfect example though – it’s tiny and pocket sized whereas mine is keyring sized, and others out there are anything from similar to both right up to cuddleable. i’ve never seen another one so small so that’s the thing that makes your unique. For mine, I would like to say the plastic glass eye cover makes it a bit different. It’s all about putting your own stamp on it. I wouldn’t have even considered that yours was a copy of mine (I was too excited to be involved to even think about it lol).
      I couldn’t agree more about it all boiling down to kindness, respect and pride in your work – couldn’t have summed it up any better than that Mad! x

  4. Pingback: Five things that annoy me about crochet | Amiguruthi

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