Yes, you can sell crochet pieces made from someone’s pattern!

Yes, you can sell crochet items from someone's pattern

“Hand With Butterfly” by Salvatore Vuono on freedigitalphoto.net

Yes, you can sell crochet pieces made from someone’s pattern

That is the short answer to the long asked question “can I sell items I make from someone’s pattern?”. However, because I’m sure you’re wondering why I say that, how I know or if it’s actually true, I’ll be happy to share the research with you too.

My personal experience

For the 11 years I’ve crocheted, I’ve wondered why it was that people didn’t do more with the patterns they owned when it came to selling pieces. Most crocheters will create items from a pattern but sell something they feel they have to create on their own. Oh, how much work that makes for us! So here is my true story.

A few years back, before I began my crochet designing journey I wanted to sell items that I could crochet from patterns that were readily available. So, I called the Lion Brand Yarn Co. and asked if I had permission to sell pieces made from their patterns. The person on the line seemed almost baffled by my question before she gave me this answer:“Yes, you can sell anything you make from the pattern, you are just not allowed to sell the pattern as your own.” Great! I started making a few pieces and felt comfortable knowing I could sell them if I chose. Then I got online and realized that in the crochet community there was an insane animosity toward those who made items from others patterns to sell. ‘How dare they sell those items’ was the pervading feeling. So I began to design even though I had confirmation from a major supplier of crochet & knitting patterns that it was fine for me to sell my completed pieces.

Fast forward a few years and I now have my own patterns on the market and someone asks me if they can sell items completed from my patterns. It felt strange, but to one person I said “not at this time” and to the next I said “yes”! I wondered if they actually needed my permission legally, or if they were getting my permission because of the pervasive belief in the crochet community that you cannot sell items made from someone’s pattern. That’s when I began to take a real look at the subject and came up with a few questions:

  1. How would I be able to police every one of the items made from my pattern? I would spend the rest of my life and the fortune I didn’t have on policing people who were making items that I’d freely given them permission to make by selling them the steps to make it.
  2. Why would I want to spend my time worried about those who were making items from my patterns to sell to make a living or build a boutique or feed their families? It just didn’t make sense to me that I would think I could and should police people when I clearly gave them the directions to make the items to do with as they pleased.
  3. What makes me think I should have a say in what people do with the items they make from a pattern I sold to them and therefore relinquished to their discretion?

All the answers to those questions came back as I don’t know how, I don’t know why and I don’t know what. So all my patterns come with the “blanket” permission to sell the items as you like, but please don’t sell my pattern as your own.

 

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Now for the legal stuff:

First, most patterns are not copyrighted. . . I could go into all the details here, but Tabber’s Temptations did a better job than I could ever do so I’m going let you check the information out there.

Basically what it says is that a pattern is a tool used to create an end product. The end product cannot be claimed nor does the pattern designer have any voice in how the final product is used.

A pattern is a procedure, process or method of operation, for making something. The specific instructions for making the item might, qualify for copyright registration but that copyright only would cover the written instructions, not the patterns or what was made from the patterns.

Basically “No one can claim that the copyright on instructions on making and/or using an article gives the manufacturer the exclusive right to that article.” So, therefore, we as pattern designers really have no legal leg to stand on when it comes to what people do with the pieces they make from our patterns. I know that will bother some, but I’m quite relieved to know that I don’t have to spend my life policing the few patterns I’ve created. It frees me to keep creating and growing my business and providing a tool to help others grow and develop their businesses. Whew!

Now, as far as I’m concerned that’s enough for me. However, if you’d like more you can check what Copyright.gov has to say about it and you can even run more searches if you’d like to think there is more protection. I know there are pattern designers out there who are working under what they call a “Cottage License” where you need to pay them to sell a completed item you’ve made from their pattern. . . Well, that too is a made up “license” to make extra money. . . again, I could go into the details but why when Tabber’s Temptations does such a good job of making it plain.

Bottom line, when you buy a pattern the pattern maker has no right to tell you what you can or cannot do with any piece you make with their pattern. If they try to scare you, send them to list posting and let them know you have more of a legal leg to stand on than they do. I know that some people may be using these excuses to protect themselves out of ignorance, however, a little research would show them the error or their ways.

Have you ever come across a Cottage License? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Tell me if you’ve ever been told that you can’t sell an item you’ve made from a pattern. That would be an interesting story to hear.

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Comments

  1. I always let people sell things they’ve made from my patterns. After all, if someone says “what pattern did you use?” it’s like free advertising. :)

    • I agree! The message has always been so confusing that in the beginning I didn’t know what was right. I hope this helps people understand they aren’t doing anything wrong and that it’s actually a compliment for someone to use your pattern!

  2. I once knitted a shawl from a pattern I’d bought and listed it on Etsy (this was years ago) and someone sawl the shawl contacted the company that sold the pattern. The company then contacted me and said “I could only sell items made from their patterns if I put them in the listing” plus send them $2.00 from the sale of the item. Since then I try very hard to design my own pattern or modify patterns.

    • Wow Virginia! That is exactly what the article talks about. Many companies stand behind an imaginary wall that they think gives them the right to demand payment for a completed item. It a false notion and it is wrong for companies to do that. I really do hope more people become aware of this information. So many people could be growing in their skills and income if they understood the possibilities. Thank you for sharing your story!

      • Engaging topic! Thank you for posting this! In Virginia’s case, how can we protect ourselves from “big brother” and their thinking they have the right to police the products made from sold patterns?
        My current difficulty is with my county. They want to tax me on business property, of which I have not bought furniture or special items just for business use. I crochet and knit anywhere my little heart desires. In the car spanning 3 counties, doctors offices, etc, etc.
        There seems to be too many “police” in our society today. I enjoyed reading today’s post and will come back to it time and again!
        Keep those hooks and needles flying!

      • Hi Holly, well, in terms of the big companies, I think they rely on our “ignorance” of the facts to be able to bully us into doing what they ask. In that case you have two options: 1. Don’t use their patterns and give them the honor or your free publicity; 2. Have a shouting match throwing all the legal information at them without lawyers letting them know you know better. Personally, I’d rather not deal with a company like that at all so I would choose option 1, others may choose option 2. Either way, you’ll make your voice known. As far as your county, I’m not sure how you can be taxed on business property if you have none and if you don’t claim any on your taxes. . . but I’m not a tax attorney so I would seek some legal advice to know for sure.

  3. Dear Sedie, this was the main question that had stumped me. Some designers create beautiful patterns even offer them for free and then say do not sell items you make! So then A) why release the pattern at all if a person can use it only one or two times.
    B) will they ever really come to know if we do sell the items.
    Your article has helped a lot. At present I am going to stick to yarn company websites like Lionbrand and Red Heart and touch “designer patterns” only if I really need to. But I am ready to put their name as designer after all they have spent time in designing and refining the patterns. Thanks for a lovely article.

    • Thank you Sangeetha for your comment. Yes, my suggestion would be to stick with companies that understand you can do what you will with a completed item. If you do want to use a designers pattern, then ask letting them know you are fully willing to give them designer credit. If they don’t want you to use it, best to not do it if only to keep the peace. All the best in your business!

  4. I looked into this a couple of months ago when I found this page http://anadiomenadesigns.blogspot.co.nz/p/cottage-licensing.html, I posted on a New Zealand facebook group (mainly for knitting) and got told it was legal and that all the information was US based and the designer is in Canada so it is all different.

    So I actually messaged Tabbers Temptations asking if they knew anything about cottage licensing and how it applies to different Countries and this is the email I received back.

    “Copyright laws are fairly standard in many parts of the world because of a number of international treaties. There may be some minor differences but the fundamentals are still there.

    The claim on that web page is typical of people who do not understand the nature of copyrights. The copyright covers the pattern and not the end product. A license would only cover the making and selling of the pattern. End products are not copyrighted but must obtain patents to be protected.

    However, if you agree to her terms concerning the end product before you purchase the pattern then she has a licensing claim because of your agreement.”

    I actually got the pattern free when she was giving one pattern to each person on Ravelry with a code. I went back and checked the listing and it said nothing about not being able to sell it. I actually didn’t notice until I read all the way to the bottom of the pattern and then went to check out the website.

    So I am guessing I would be well within my right to sell a product made from her pattern but I would hate to think of the backlash my business would get because of the people that did not realise that cottage licensing/telling people they cannot sell is fake.

    Also Tabbers Temptations has me sort of confused with one minute telling me that I can sell what I want and then going on to say well if they ask you not to sell the finished product before you purchase the pattern then you must not sell it.

    I am glad you wrote this though. It is one of the best explanations I have come across to do with this subject.

    • Thank you for your comment Teri. There are so many ways to respond but I will stick to this one, if someone doesn’t want you using their patterns to sell completed projects, my response would be not to use their patterns and find another pattern to use. There are a number of designers who understand why people would want to sell their pieces. They also understand that it is a compliment to have someone make and sell an item you designed. Although most people might not want to pursue anything to the full extent of the law I would never encourage anyone to work with someone who wasn’t truly working with them. The law at the U.S. copyright office is written in legaleze which is hard to decipher, but it does say that a completed item a cannot be pursued. It’s almost like selling a recipe and then trying to make sure no one uses their recipe except when serving in their own home. . . if the pattern is not kept secret like a secret formula or recipe, but placed for public consumption, good luck with policing all finished items from your patterns. You are right. Many people wouldn’t know that there is no basis for the “cottage license” or that copyright laws don’t cover and there would be backlash. To protect just ask and if permission is not freely granted, than walk away. Who needs the headache?

  5. Wow, you have really opened a can of worms with this post, Sedie, but I am glad you did. I have never understood why some designers don’t want you to sell the items you make from their patterns? As you and many of your commenters have noted, it’s free advertising, not to mention the fact that you steer people away from your patterns when you put that prohibition on them. So you are essentially cutting off your nose to spite your face. And why wouldn’t you want your fellow crafters to make some extra money to feed their families or pay a bill by selling the items made from your patterns? You are actually charging for the time you put into making the item (i.e., your labor), your overhead, and the cost of the materials you had to purchase, plus whatever profit you want to make above your production cost (see, I read your excellent book on pricing :-)).

    I haven’t designed a lot of patterns, but I do have some free ones and a few for sale on my blog. So I added a page with my copyright policy so people know that they can’t sell my patterns, but they can definitely sell the items they make from them as long as they attribute the design to me. And I really can’t police whether everyone does the latter, but I know some will.

    Thanks again for posting on this subject. I’m sure the conversation will continue for some time.

    • Thank you Patrice! Yes, I’m sure the conversation will continue. But like you said, I can’t imagine why someone wouldn’t want the free publicity you get when someone attributes the design to you. Plus, it’s such a hassle and counterproductive to think you can police what happens to an item made from your pattern in the world. I just feel I don’t have that kind of time, patience or need for drama. ;)

  6. Exactly. I believe Lion Brand and Red Heart state on their website that Yes, you can sell the products you make from the patterns only ask permission for the ones that are featured from designers as they may be from books. That goes against what they told you on the phone or maybe the person just forgot to mention that part. (http://www.lionbrand.com/faq/67.html?www=1&lbc=&language=)

    As for cottage licenses, I used to have one for a diaper cover pattern which gave me permission to sell 20 in a year. They did have a unlimited license as well. I ended up not even using the license. :)

    I think the intention behind all the ‘don’t sell items from my patterns’ comes from people trying to product themselves from mass production. Stacey from Freshstitches.com wrote about this topic too. She said that it’s pretty near impossible to mass produce crochet as their isn’t a machine to do so like in knitting.

    I think their might be confusion between the copyright of the pattern and the end product. You can’t sell the actual printed pattern and claim it as your own but the end piece is yours. You buy the yarn, you make it, it is then yours – Not theirs.

    I’m so glad you wrote on this topic. It will definitely free up a lot of people in their businesses.

    You are awesome.

    • Thank you for your response Sara. Yes, there are nuances and we do need to be careful and aware of them. But you are correct when you say that is is almost impossible to mass produce them unless we build factories with multiple people working on projects. There is no machine to replicate crochet. I know most do it to protect what they feel is their intellectual property. But at the end of the day, the pattern was the property, they sold or gave it away so now it will become what it becomes. I am by no means an advocate of people selling other people’s patterns. But if I make something, I should be able to say how it is used. ;)

  7. I even re-read my comment and still have errors in it. “trying to protect themselves” not product “there” not their

  8. laura hinton says:

    I came across a free purse pattern one time and it said I couldn’t sell the finished product because the pattern was copyrighted. Does the article above mean that I could sell it or is it only for patterns I purchased?

    • Yes, you could sell it. But because the pattern creator asked that you not sell it, I would comply. Not because it is within their right to ask you not to sell anything made from their pattern, but because it is good to keep the peace within the community. I would go to another pattern or write your own if you know how.

      • laura hinton says:

        I was just curious I wasn’t actually going to sell it. I made the purse for a friend and it was a lot of work because of the pattern was designed to look like zebra stripes. It took Mr about 2 weeks to crochet it.

  9. I have encountered the “cottage license” with a sewing pattern I purchased. It was not an inexpensive pattern, and the per item licensing fee as stated, was not an insignificant amount . It seemed a bit greedy and totally unrealistic in that it was so high relative to the value of the finished item, and price it would command if and when it actually sold. I have yet to use that pattern

  10. I do purchase patterns through raverly and I’m getting sick of buying patterns that does not have any details before purchasing that I can not sell the pattern but once downloaded it is at the end of the pattern should they not make you aware before purchasing it seems to be on nearly every payed pattern

    • Opps lol I’m mean can not sell what I have made from there pattern

    • Yes, it would be a courtesy to have that in the description before someone were to pay for a pattern. I would say to ask the designer before you buy the pattern if they mind you selling items made from their pattern. Again, it is only a courtesy until people realize they really have no legal basis for that request.

  11. melissa in chicagoland says:

    I am so glad someone has the courage to speak up about the issue of “cottage license”. I agree with you on the supposition that this is primarily meant to discourage mass production. I think that many of the designers of crochet have forgotten that the highest form of compliment is imitation or in this case replication. :) Thanks again for informing me and giving me peace of mind.

    • Thank you for leaving a comment Melissa. Yes, although I can understand some of the thinking behind it, I think it can get out of hand and really hurt the industry. As you say, the highest form of compliment is replication and I would feel honored if items completed with my pattern sold well for someone to make a living. That would make it all worth my time.

  12. I think designers who don’t “allow” the finished products to be sold come off as very selfish and I won’t buy from them! So it’s important for business owners to know that if you limit your customers, they will find patterns elsewhere! Don’t limit your market!

  13. This is an excellent article! Thank you for making it crystal clear what the rules really are when it comes to making crocheted pieces. I for one, do plan on making pieces from designers and selling the completed items. Whether I modify the pattern or not, I would never claim I was the originator of the pattern if it weren’t so. But let’s face it, many (though certainly not all) currently existing copywritten patterns are re-workings of much older patterns. That’s not to say no skill goes into that type of work or that credit shouldn’t be given where it’s due, but if proper attribution is what is truly sought, we’d be reaching very far back into the past. Thanks for bringing up this topic.

  14. Thank you for your comment Bekka. I do encourage you to contact the pattern designer if you plan on making their item for sale. It may not be legally within their right, but most people are not aware and they would see you as the culprit if the designer decided to target you. Yes, I think most would attribute to the designer but some designers feel no one should be able to “Profit” from their design but them. I guess they have a right to that feeling. I also agree that most patterns are derived from older patterns. I wish you the best in your work.

Trackbacks

  1. Can I Photograph My Crochet Gown with a Crochet Booklet? | Crochet Business | Guest Blogging | Crochet Blog | Crochet Jobs | Selling Crochet says:

    […] For a good read on this issue (which is what sparked this question in the group) visit Sedie’s blog YarnObsession and read her article “Yes, You Can Sell Crochet Pieces from Someone’s Pattern“. […]

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