Monday, October 21, 2013

Integrity and an update on my flannel quilt

I belong to an online group for modern quilters and this morning, one of the topics caught my attention. There was an issue of one quilter being untruthful about where her inspiration (and perfect copy) came from for a particular quilt she created. Bad form, not illegal. Distasteful for sure, but I don't surround myself with people who would lie about something like that. Regardless, it got me thinking... I'm not entirely sure where I stand with this concept and I wanted to reach out to you all to see what your thoughts are.

Sometimes I see something somewhere in some place that just moves me to create a quilt. Those are quilts of my own design and imagination and I love them. Sometimes I see an art print that just needs to be interpreted into textile art and I create a quilt from that (or a tote, or a pouch, you get the idea). Sometimes I just see a quilt I HAVE to have and I blatantly copy the very foundation of it, maybe making a few changes here and there, but basically copying the exact design. And I love those quilts too.

When does it become wrong?

I recently witnessed a very public online debacle regarding one quilter who created a quilt for herself based off a quilt she had seen created by someone else. The quilt was for her own home and she gave credit to her inspiration but still she suffered the wrath of the online quilting community (certainly not everyone, but a smattering). Because she posted the images of her quilt to her blog, she was seen as having stolen the design, stolen the color palette. Even though she was honest and forthcoming with her design inspiration, people still drug her through the mud and basically ruined the excitement of finishing a new quilt.

I steal ideas all the time. I see something a friend is making and think, "Man! I totally love that. I'm going to make me one." I see hand towels and pillows at Pier 1 and think, "How freaking cute is that?! I'm going to make one!" I see remodeled kitchens and handwriting samples and crafts and recipes and I steal all those ideas too, bringing their beauty into my home. And I see nothing wrong with it.

I understand the frustration an artist gets when someone else comes out with a design similar to their own. It happened to a friend of mine just a couple months back. Sometimes one person is just immoral (the copier), stealing designs and trying to get more exposure before the original designer does, making the masses think the copier is the original designer. Sometimes, two people out of the 6 billion living on the planet have the same idea at the same time, making both the original designer.

Sometimes a designer picks a design that has been out forever (or is super simple to recreate) and claims it as their own imagining. Sometimes they even get their patterns published. Kudos to them for seeing a need and meeting it. I know there are hundreds and thousands of people out there who NEED patterns to create; who can't make without being told dimensions. I'm glad there are options out there for those people. But that's not going to stop me from making a Carpenter's Star block and calling it a "Swoon", or using my Drunkard's Path templates to create a Retro Flower quilt, or from calling the off brand tissue a "Kleenex".

Modern quilting is supposed to be fun and our online community was created to give us all a place to share and encourage each other. When I finish a quilt, I'm excited! I want to share the quilt's story. I want to share my heartache, my frustrations, my process, my elation when it's complete. I want to share about the people I made it for; who they are and how every stitch was placed with the future owners in my mind. I want to hear the same from of all of you. I want to see the pictures of your daughters and granddaughters snuggling their quilts. I want to see the charity quilts you create and the stories of the people in need who made you work tirelessly to complete such a perfect and thoughtful gift. I want to see the quilts you make for yourselves. And I don't care if you didn't make up the pattern. Or the inspiration piece.

I guess what I'm saying is the community is getting less inviting and more exclusive and I don't like that. We were all beginners once. We have all been inspired by something other than our own thoughts and dreams. We all have skills and visions to bring to the table and I would hate to see anyone stifled just because they made a quilt someone else may have already made.

And please note, I'm not talking about when people take patterns created by designers and rewrite them to sell, or even people who try to sell pieces made with a pattern when they didn't get the express consent from the designer. I don't want to get into the legal-ese of all that here. I'm talking about when people make something as gifts, for themselves or people close to them.

So here is a confession: I stole the idea for the flannel plus quilt I made for my best friend's wedding. I saw Jeni of In Color Order creating a plus quilt out of Anna Maria Horner flannel (AMH is my FAVE!!) and I thought, "I just have to have that." So I bought up flannel to make one. Then my best friend saw my stockpiled flannel and asked me to make one for her too. So I did. And it turned out lovely. And I didn't use a pattern.

AMH Flannel Quilt

Now, Jeni has a pattern for that quilt which you can purchase here. I, personally, did not need a pattern for this quilt. I cut a bunch of squares, arranged them, then sewed them together. It made sense to me.

I didn't mention this in my original post about the quilt, mostly because I forgot. It's a plus quilt. Everyone is making plus quilts. But in light of recent grumblings, I thought I should mention it here and update my original post, as to not be labelled a thief or other terrible, untrue title.

My intention here is not to start a war. I just want to hear opinions from others in the community. Am I wrong?



  1. Very well put! Thanks for giving credit where credit is due.

  2. You have very eloquently stated my exact opinion. If I am "inspired" by something I say so. If I see a quilt and I like it and decide to make one "like" it then I post where I originally saw it.

    I have been quilting for so many years that when I see things I usually have seen them before somewhere else. The thing that gets me (like you) is when there is a hub bub over "she designed this and has a pattern and you can't make it and give/sell it unless you have her permission". I call bologna berries on that since my grandmother made 2 "Retro flowers" quilts when I was 9 years old (that was 30+ years ago) and called them "Jesus Tears" quilts and I used to sleep under one of them when I spent the night at her house.

    At this point, in MY opinion (note how I emphasized MY opinion) everything that is being done has likely been done before. If someone can "copy" a pattern without buying the pattern then likely more than one person came up with it and just didn't try to make money selling the pattern. Again, MY opinion. I don't make things from patterns. If I am making a quilt like my churn dash from a well established block I find a tutorial somewhere and adapt it for the size I want then I do what I want with the blocks.

    Sorry to rant but this subject always gets me going when it comes up.

  3. Yeesh, life's too short to get hung up on who saw what, where and when. If you're ripping off someone else's pattern for money, that's not cool, but then I would find it very difficult to prove who did what first in quilting - with bears, as patterns are hand drawn, it's obvious, with a collection of squares, rectangles, triangles and curves, well, that's a bit more challenging, and with the internet who knows what has percolated through from where and when. Improv is the way to go lol

    PS, are you sure that quilt doesn't want to come and live here? Really? ;o)

  4. Blimey - a plus quilt has got to be one of the easiest quilts to make without a pattern, as long as you have the space to lay it all out, so I see absolutely no problem in just making one, showing it and not particularly having to thank anyone - I like patterns for such quilts purely to give me the yardage requirements!

    If I make something from a non-commercial pattern I would definitely say thanks to the person I saw make it first, as much as I would name a pattern I had used, as it is polite, and just what you do - but I do believe in this incestuous craft you could still come up with something you think is your own idea but had been thought of before too.

    Fibbing about it is just uncool!

  5. I made (and blogged about) my Crosses quilt, which looks just like your Plus quilt, in 2007. I'm pretty sure that pre-dates Jeni B's pattern (she had a tutorial on her blog in Sept 2010). It's been said before, there's nothing new under the sun. They're SQUARES for crying out loud.
    But yes, I agree with you that the Modern Quilt movement is taking a strange turn it seems. Less inclusion and more rules.. wait, wasn't the whole point of Modern Quilting that there weren't any quilt police? Anyway, if you define yourself as a Modern quilter you have the freedom to interpret that label as you choose. Still, the internet plays such a huge role in the quilt community for many of us, and it can be jarring when people make comments that make it seem that quilting didn't exist before the internet.. Like when I showed a string quilt at the very first NYC Metro Mod guild meeting in 1/2010--- someone asked if I made it from Film In the Fridge's tutorial. The question struck me-- No, I took a string piecing workshop at a quilt shop in Atlanta in 2004. People think that if they saw it online, then the maker must have seen it in the same place. So not true! I don't even know which drama you're referring to in your post because I don't have time to read all the blogs anymore! Not if I want to get any quilting done anyway..
    But one more quick example that involves published patterns...
    I have a pattern in my EPP book (Quilting on the Go) that uses the same templates as the very popular Spring Carnival pattern/tute over at Katy Jones' blog. Katy's post went up in February '12. My book came out in June '13. Did I "steal" her idea? Um, sorry, no. At the time I was working on the book, I was waaaaay too busy for blogs at all, and didn't even know who Katy was really, let alone that she also did EPP. The patterns for my book were all decided in the winter of '11-'12, and I had NO idea she was working on something similar. (On a related side note, I didn't know Hexa-go-go was coming out til spring '12 either. that's how self-absorbed I was that year..)
    So I don't know if I contributed anything worthwhile to your discussion here, Danny, but thanks for opening the subject. It sure is an interesting one. I like your Plus quilt, btw, and wherever you got the idea from, it was a good one.

  6. I so agree with you! If you don't want your work copied then don't photograph it and add it to the crafty interwebs. Everyone is inspired by something with what they create, some are able to make the idea their own a little bit more than others. Sometimes I see things, forget them, have a great idea and then look through Flickr faves and realize it was something I had seen before! Just give credit where it is due and give praise for a job well done, too - even if its not "original." Your quilt is beautiful and I bet it is cozy and will be well loved!

  7. Aw, I feel bad for the quilter who got dragged through the mud. She must have loved what she saw so much, and I can imagine how happy she was to have completed it, and the pride she felt as she put it up... and then to have negative reaction? That would be horrible. I have to imagine it has tainted her enjoyment of her quilt, but I sure hope it hasn't, and she still loves it. I don't think she's done anything wrong.

    If you're making quilts or patterns for profit, I would imagine (and expect) that one would be quite a bit more careful about hunting down what else is out there or crediting where one got one's inspiration. That's smart in a legal sense, as well as courteous. But if I saw a color scheme or a great idea for using a fabric line that I love, I wouldn't feel guilty in the least for replicating it for myself or a friend. When posting on my blog, I'd give a shout-out to whoever inspired me, but I wouldn't feel bad about it at all. I think Courtney's point is a good one: if you really, really, really hate the idea of someone else replicating what you've done for their own use, then maybe the "crafty interwebs" are not the place for you.

    I'd hate to see the modern quilt community get sullied by needless bickering and lengthy rules. I read blogs for months before taking the plunge to quilt about a year and a half ago, and it was so very inspiring to think of all the things I could make! I love that so much of our work is available to other quilters, old and new.

  8. I'm with you and everyone else who commented -- if you don't want your stuff copied, be realistic and don't put it on the internet. And if you don't need a pattern to make things, more power to ya! (hehehe) :)

  9. I'm hoping I'm not the quilter who's in the hot water for not giving proper credit for copying a quilt! I've only ever "copied" one quilt and I was careful to credit the person (who posted photos of her quilt on a Tumblr blog, and didn't write a lot of words about it, and whose quilt I found on Pinterest). And I was careful not to make a huge deal about my copy, because I knew it wasn't my idea. Nevertheless that copy I made still unsettles me and I wish I hadn't done it!

    I also think it COULD happen that I could copy a quilt without knowing it. I think that I see so many images of quilts every day, that I could come up with a plan, totally blithely think it was my own idea, and run with it, not remembering that I'd seen it before. Seriously. It could happen.

    Recently I was struck by the fact that, really, all of these quilt designs and ideas have been circulating for a LONG TIME. If there is a way to put fabric together to make a quilt, someone else has probably already done it before me. That's why you can only copyright pattern templates and words, not a "design." Otherwise some bozo would have copyrighted the HST.

    (Your flannel plus quilt is beautiful. Don't sweat any bit of it.)

    1. "That's why you can only copyright pattern templates and words, not a "design." Otherwise some bozo would have copyrighted the HST." LOL, right?! :)

  10. I think the problem stems from not thinking when you post something online it becomes public to the world. If I were more talented I could copy patterns just by looking at a picture but I am not. When things are posted online you have no control over who sees or uses your images to a certain extent. You have to realize that there will always be people who are not honest and will borrow the image or pattern and not give credit. Honest people will always give credit. I hope to never be guilty of not giving credit to a designer. Some patterns are just an interpretation of someone's block. I don't know if that is copying or changing enough to then make it their own.

    All this to say that I really enjoy the limitless amount of inspiration I receive from the quilting online community. I would be very saddened to see it come to an end. As a rule I think we are all willing to share and give credit where credit is due.

    Thanks for reading my rant. I think your blog is awesome and I enjoy reading it immensely .

  11. If you change how a piece of art/quilt looks by 25 percent you can call it a new design. That being said, there are many quilts out there that are "new" and the design already exists. One designer came out with a pattern and tutorial for a quilt and it was copyrighted by her and a company. I sent an email that said the design was an old pattern called "__". She responded nicely but no where on her blog did she acknowledge it, nor did the company. Not only did they "copyright" something that has been done before, some of our quilting history may have been waylaid as people may now think this is her design with an incorrect name.

    I like to sketch out my own blocks and designs and am fully cognizant that they probably aren't "new". I wouldnt miind someone telling me so. Afterall people have been doing this for hundreds of years. There is a reason there is the saying, "Immitation is the sincerest form of flattery." And that you see art students in museums copying exactly other painters work or have people painting "in the school of" or copying the style of someone else. We wouldn't have different movements in art or quilting if people weren't coming out with similar things, either by copying or mutual creativity. Things we create don't come from a vacuum. All that being said, I think it's great and appropriate to site influence or inspiration.

    1. "If you change how a piece of art/quilt looks by 25 percent you can call it a new design" -- This is not true. It's a widely-believed myth. There is no magic amount that a work has to differ for it to no longer be considered a copy. However, it's only a violation of copyright law if the piece that was copied (even, say, 10% copied) was wholly original (and not in turn inspired by any other work.) In your case you were obviously not violating copyright law (and the "copyright" that the designer claimed on the design meant nothing and could be ignored -- just saying that something is copyrighted does not make it so.)

      There is some great information about quilting a copyright here and here.

  12. Well now of course I'm curious about what online modern community you are referring to. I may want to join :-)
    This topic for sure warrants lots of discussion - so thanks for bringing it up!

  13. Hear hear, Danny!! I am definitely of the opinion everything has already been inspired/designed/created before. It's HOW you personally are inspired that matters, I think. I saw a gorgeous pavement pattern in northern Japan, sketched up a quilt design, and then a few weeks later saw a couple of very similar, practically identical patterns. I couldn't/wouldn't then call it original and claim it as my own anyway like I see some people do!

    I too rarely buy quilt patterns - I love working out designs of my own, and if I really wanted to make someone else's design, chances are I could work it out myself anyway because I love a good puzzle. Honestly I sometimes do that just for fun! #quiltnerd

  14. I'm a total copycatter when it comes to sewing. Sure I would love to make something that was purely all me one day but honestly with all these inspiration can you ever really say I made this with no help from nobody? When I see something I like I look for a tutorial or the book it was in but in the end I copy that person. Am I wrong maybe but at the end of the day I'm not the type of person who takes credit for something I didn't design and will let you know if you want to but I will definitely take credit for the work I put in to making something and am very proud of my ability to recreate something I saw. Most of time the color will be different but honestly if someone has the same taste then we share the same taste, good taste! I can understand anybody getting upset if someone completely claims that the work is completely theirs and nobody else had a hand in it but I have found the quilt blogging community to be a support group not a mean girl drama mama. I guess I'm just lucky my blog hasn't caught that kind of attention yet like I said I'm a big copy catter but I always give credit where credit is due.

  15. I think the main problem here is, as said very well by everyone else, is that there is little 'new' in quilting. But there are a whole lot of quilters trying to make some money from their craft now. Attitudes change when money is involved. I rarely ever use a pattern, but I do look at all the inspiration that is online and let that help me create what I make. I see that photos put on blogs, IG, Flickr, etc are all in the public eye and may provide inspiration. If you don't need the pattern because you are perfectly capable of working out the maths for yourself then surely that is okay. Only if someone makes a concerted effort to make something that is as close to the original as possible in a colour/fabric/design combination is it truly a 'copy'. I am repeating what everyone else said, but it's all been done before, and will be done again. If someone does not know they have 'copied' they cannot give credit where credit is due. They should not be pilloried for this.

  16. First of all your quilt is LOVELY! Great topic for a discussion too. As you know I am a pattern follower (I might be able to figure out that plus quilt, but oh so much easier if I just follow a patter, lol) and I do copy from anything that inspires me! If I see something I like I sometimes make my own. I think nothing happens in a vacuum and so what really is original anymore? I do think it is nice to give credit where credit is due and I have little problem with folks that copy what they see for themselves or loved ones, but do think it is wrong to copy a pattern to earn money off someone else's talent and hard work. Kudos to your honesty :)

  17. luv your quilt Danny!
    I must agree with you about the modern on line quilt community becoming less warm and encouraging and more exclusive.
    I really thought the reason for starting the modern movement was freedom to express yourself through this traditional art form in your own way! N O T!

    Thank you for thoughts on this and give you little cutie pie a hug!
    Hope she is well and that she had fun on Halloween!

  18. Danny, thank you very much for sharing. I have met some wonderful people in quilting blogs since I started quilting 3 years ago, but i left blogging for a while because I felt like so many people were on the attack. When you look at the history of quits, they developed first regionally, then perhaps but country or culture when magazines became more popular but now everything is global 5 seconds after you write it or post pictures on it.

    When I first started quilting about 3 ish years ago I was playing with a bunch of HST and I made a pattern from them and then a quilt. recently I have seen the same pattern in quilts being finished, there is even a pattern for sale for the same idea. Do I think I invented the pattern of course not, but I realized the other day that I was afraid of remaking the quilt with fresh new modern fabrics because I didn't want to get attacked for it ( have gotten attacked for coming up with basic quilt on accident but not knowing it "belonged" to someone else). It made me really sad to think that I was afraid of being creative. Since I have come back to quilting a couple weeks ago, I have tried to treat it like art therapy, I am trying to give myself the permission to be creative again. I felt a great relief at reading your words, thank you so much for sharing them. There was a time that blogs were just for sharing what we are working on and being a part of a comunity, but as it has been mentioned before, there alot of people who are trying to support their families on crafting and/or blogging. So it's okay to give yourself a break for not mentioning exactly where you saw the quilt that made you want to make the same quilt.

  19. Ok? Off topic a tad, but I would love to "steal" your idea of a flower from drunkards block. Or at least a tidbit to get my brain rolling. :)


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