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August 9th, 2007 at 06:02 am

Free Pattern and Entitlement Issues

The question posted to the Crochet Partners list was how do Designers feel about the requests for free patterns that often appear on-line in the “discussion” groups

To have this discussion, we need to first set aside as much as possible the complexities of intellectual property and related copyright issues.

We also need to keep me from going off on how I currently see monetized blogs taking away from the value of list like Crochet Partners. Or even the “consumer view” – important as that is, it is not germaine to the question.

And, we might even have to read and consider Jeff Lazlow’s recent Wall Street Journal columns on the irrational sense of entitlement we seem to have been breeding into our society in the last 50-60 years.

Finally, we need to recognize that wonderful as Crochet Partners is, it is not really a group for serious business discussion – that is just not why most of the 3000 members are there.

BUT SINCE YOU ASKED, and I truly did wake up this morning thinking about this issue for many reasons, (which will be on my NOT monetized blog ) not the least of which is how to properly share more information about the Grant’s One Needle Looper and the K-Tel Knitter.

Professional Pattern Designing Authors and Publishers are well aware of the plethora of patterns available on the Internet and the effect that has on their sales and other opportunities.

Many wonder daily if providing quality designs, well edited and illustrated is a viable career option. Sadly, increasingly, it is not.

Yet, many remain involved in preserving the traditions, “keeping the craft alive” – something that is not done by unethical pattern sharing.

Instead, many are using their talent and skills to create really wonderful and useful “How-To” illustrations on their websites, in thier blogs and of course You Tube and similar video sharing services.

Providing technical information that will allow each of us to continue on our journey of exploration into all the many forms of using “string”

What is upsetting and most disheartening is the when the free designs they are offer are misused, i.e., when someone chooses to copy the pattern, and distribute it without the need for the recipient to visit that Publishing Author’s website, with or without accreditation.

At the top end of abuse is when any pattern’s instructions and illustrations are also copied and distributed in any way without compensation to the publisher.

Foremost among the reasons for offering a limited free Patterns on Websites is to draw the needle worker to the website so they can see what the Publishing Author has to offer besides a free pattern.

The abuses are now causing many in all forms of needlework to withdraw those free patterns – and I would predict that eventually all that will be left are those offered without benefit of good editing. Meaning it will always be a “crap shoot” whether you will be able to enjoy the work or meet with frustration.

Of course, this particular blatant disregard of the spirit and intent of the offering will just hasten the process of high quality offerings being removed including those wonderful Tutorials – no income from pattern sales, no website to support the free information and education…

We ALL need to work to make sure we provide LINKS TO GET and not the CONTENT – keeping our use honest and our designing authors in business.

So when anyone takes the pattern and gives it always without that recipient visiting the Publisher/Author’s website, they have “stolen” an opportunity from that designer.

The Effect?

Without a viable return on investment,

-it makes it more difficult for publishers at any level (from Self-Publishing to Giants in the Industry like the major book houses) to justify the expense of producing fully tested, well edited, and complete instructions.

-it means that mass merchandisers like the Marts or even chain book and craft stores see it as less and less viable to offer patterns, books, leaflet, which means less exposure of the craft to “new” practitioners

-it means that the independents will also not be able to justify keeping a diverse inventory of instructional materials like books, patterns and leaflets.

-it means, without those new books, etc… in demand, our libraries will follow the lead of

-it means a compilation of other little things –
– most of them not good overall,
– like not making corrections if a Pattern, leaflet or book makes it to re-printing
– like making it less than economically viable to engage in a professional design or teaching in the NeedleArts except for a very lucky few.

Where is it all headed, who knows but if the current trend in publication is any example, I am sincerely concerned it may not be a really good place.

Please share your thoughts and on what we might do to ensure future generations have the same opportunities (different from entitlements) you and I have been so fortunate to share.


  • 1

    I wrote back (off list) to the lady asking the question and actually directed her here to read the posts about yarn and such.

    As a new designer, it scares me how often the crocheters in my own non-CGOA group expect and desire only free patterns (and cheap yarn, but that’s a whole other soapbox). For simple things, I can see free patterns being useful. But I wouldn’t expect a free pattern for a complicated piece. I would expect to pay in the form of buying a PDF from the designer, buying a magazine, or buying a book.

    Thank you for getting these things out there. :)

    fibersbytracie on August 9th, 2007
  • 2

    I’m not convinced that your predictions are accurate. Historically, how many craft/pattern designers have actually made a living from writing patterns? How many fifty years ago? How many one hundred years ago? Before the days of easy copying via photocopiers (and currently, digital methods), patterns were hand-copied (yes, they were), or simply shared. You could borrow a pattern from a friend, make the item, and return the pattern…or pass it on to someone else. There was never a time in history when every single hand-crafted item was made from a freshly-purchased pattern.

    Patterns were hard to come by…so they were stored, copied by hand, passed on to a second generation. If you desired to learn, you had to find someone who could teach you. The crafts were learned one-on-one, and they still managed to survive (with some ebb and flow) to the present.

    Today, patterns and instructions are easy to come by. Some older, public domain patterns are available for free, but I also see new designers offering pattern after pattern for free. Are they going to stop doing that because people want free patterns? I doubt it. Some of the very best, most versatile (various sizes, for example) patterns are still going to be in demand…with some people. But there was never a time in history when crafters purchased every pattern they used, so why must we start now? I’m happy to buy excellent patterns (bought a pattern for a child’s dress in thread within the past two weeks and I buy crochet magazines every month), and I’m happy to make use of free patterns or tutorials when they meet my needs (learned entrelac crochet from someone’s terrific blog tutorial and made a lovely bookmark from a free pattern within the past two weeks).

    There will always be big-hearted, talented people who freely share their craft and their designs. That’s what keeps an art alive and growing, and the internet makes it so easy to find people who are willing and able to help a wanna-be learner. Designers who are trying to make a living–really make serious money from patterns–probably need to look at history and see if that has ever been a viable career. You say “Increasingly, it is not,” but I’m not sure that it ever was. I’m sure good designers can make some money, but have there ever been more than a few truly remarkable designers who made a living wage from designing patterns? I don’t think most needle arts have to rely on those who want top-dollar for their designs to continue and thrive. It’s the love of the craft and sharing freely of time, talent, and knowledge that keeps the needle arts thriving. New patterns are wonderful, but there are already more patterns in existence in every craft than any needleworker could make in a lifetime.

    I certainly have no desire to discourage talented designers, but in my opinion, the well-being of the needle-arts rests in the hands of those who love what they do, not the designers. Supply and demand operates in the micro-economic realm of the needle arts and free patterns are not going to go away. I see new free patterns posted every week. I think designers are going to have to work within that climate just the way the long-ago designers had to work with a situation where Mary Smith sent off for a pretty pattern, then passed it around to all the ladies in town so they could make xyz too.

    (Please note: I am not addressing the concept of copyright violation at all–only the existence of many free patterns legitimately available. I am not in favor of illegal copying of patterns in any manner.)

    Krakovianka on August 10th, 2007
  • 3

    I agree that people seem to think they are entitled for “something for nothing”. I think the practice of perhaps having one or two free patterns to lure the customer in is a good one (to me). First, I want to see if the pattern is written so I can understand it. Sometimes “free” patterns are worse than none at all. I also like to see if th epattern is “doable” by me. I generally do not work with thread, but I have adapted thread designs to yarn.

    Copywritten patterns belong to the copyright holder. If the holder chooses to allow me to make th eitems and sell them, that’s cool. If not, that’s cool, too, I won’t do it. I get a little bent when I see what some designers claim as “my pattern” or “my stitch”. For example, making a hat in the round generally uses the same basic start – crochet “x” amount of chains, join with a slip stitch and crochet into the middle of the ring. Nobody “owns” that particular direction, it’s like a traditional granny square, it’s a basic direction.

    but that’s me

    blazelaflame on August 11th, 2007


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