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?