Quilting Copycats

Copying ideas is something that gets a lot of attention in creative industries like quilting. And rightly so–intentionally stealing ideas for profit is the same thing as stealing physical property. The problem is, intellectual property is harder to prove as being stolen, and more difficult to defend from thieves, particularly online. Public sharing platforms make our work even more visible, which is a double-edged sword. Most of us are searching for exposure and customers, but the more well-known you are, the more likely you are to be copied.

My experience with the quilting community has mostly been through Instagram. This magical place which allows quilters to connect with each other has been a boon for professionals and newbies alike. There is so much information to be had, things to learn, and inspiration. Oh, the inspiration! It seems every day I’m discovering more talented people and being awed by their work. I’ve connected with other quilters and made friends. I’ve been cheered on and advised and comforted. As my profile has slowly (ever so slowly) gained momentum, I’ve started to experience glimmers of the copying I know other quilters dread.

My mountain quilt is my quilt that is most often discussed for copying

Before I started writing quilt patterns, I occasionally designed my own quilts and shared them on Instagram. There were plenty of times where people would chat with each other in the comments of my post, talking about whether or not they could replicate the quilt I was sharing. I always tell myself people don’t mean any harm by this, but it still feels unsettling. At the very least, discuss your plans in private! When this first started happening, I usually just ignored it, but these days I will often delete the comments. I’ve also received messages from people asking me how to make quilts that I’ve shared. While I know people are just excited by a quilt they’ve seen, this is also an unpleasant request since I feel like I have to directly tell someone not to copy me. No fun for a non-confrontational person like me!

I’ve never seen any evidence of my quilts actually being replicated without credit, but who knows. Now, does it really matter if there’s a duplicate of my mountain quilt out there in the world? Not really. I made it for my son and I’m very proud of it! It’s the first quilt I ever quilted myself, and it was the push I needed to start quilting more seriously. Someone copying it doesn’t lessen my achievement, but it does sting a bit. After all, they could have given my idea credit and gotten my name out to new people who might not know about me. What is more concerning is when people sell a quilt or pattern based on someone else’s idea. If someone makes a quilt just like my mountain quilt for themselves, that’s one thing. But if they make it and sell it, well, that’s money I could have earned.

Whether it’s intentional or not, copying can be a problem among quilters, and I have a few suggestions which I’ve personally started implementing to do my best due diligence when I have new ideas!

Do Your Research

Instagram hashtags are an amazing thing, so put them to work for you! Spend some time looking up different hashtags to see if there are quilts or patterns similar to your idea. Pay special attention to hashtags specific to your idea, like #trianglequilt or #hrtquilt in the case of my Triangulation quilt. If you’re friendly with any quilters on Instagram, you can run your idea past them to see if they’ve seen anything similar already. Checking around to make sure your idea isn’t an exact replica of someone else’s idea will save you some heartache–better to check first than spend lots of time creating an idea only to find out someone else did it already!

My Triangulation Quilt…which I’m 99% sure is an original pattern!

Credit, Credit, Credit!

Let’s say you’re blown away by someone’s work and want to make something similar. Awesome! This is when you give them credit like crazy so people know where the original idea came from. If you make it clear that you were inspired by someone else, you’re being upfront and giving people an opportunity to discover the quilter who had the original idea. There are lots of prolific quilters who have very specific styles and there’s no shame in being inspired by them. But it’s crucial to give them credit! And even more than that, you need to….

Make It Your Own

Related to giving credit is another important concept–making an idea your own. I don’t mean changing it just enough to get away with it. I mean really challenging yourself to think about what you like about the quilt you saw, and how you’ll put your own spin on it. Copying something exactly is taking the easy way out. To grow in your craft, you have to take risks and be willing to mess up. It’s fun to find your own style and way of doing things, and that can only happen by trying…not by copying. And selling items that are very similar to someone else’s really isn’t cool at all. Quilters can do better than that!

I think it’s worth reiterating that most people in the quilting community are amazing people, and the majority are trying to do their best work and not steal anyone’s work. Still, mistakes happen (and there’s also likely a finite number of quilt ideas out there!) so your first step should be to reach out to the other person if you ever have a concern or feel that someone is copying you. Quilters tend to be kind, generous people and our industry isn’t exactly cutthroat, so I imagine most of the time people would simply be embarrassed (and hopefully apologetic) to have their mistake pointed out to them. I know it isn’t always that simple though, and I think this is a continuing conversation we’ll be having in the quilting community. I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts on this topic!

8 thoughts on “Quilting Copycats

  1. I’m absolutely with you on that topic. I could also add ‘Don’t copy – get inspired instead’ which is also along with your thoughts that if you copy, make it your own. One thing that bugged me as well was the fact that people wanted to copy ‘Bling’, the best in show winner at QuiltCon 2017 by Catherine Jones, her quilt was inspired by a princess cut diamond. Catherine denied the request for a pattern because the quilt was suppose to be a one-off piece. But still people were copying her design and there is even a pattern out, not the same, but very similar. Why can’t people not accept the fact that this is a one-off piece of art and leave it at that? For me that has something to do with respect and sometimes quilters are lacking that, in the otherwise very kind and supportive community.

    Like

    1. I completely agree–people need to just be able to accept something is a one-off piece and not be so insistent on replicating it. I feel that way about my mountain quilt. It was made specifically for my son and I don’t plan to make another one ever again. It gets annoying reading about so many people’s plans to copy it.

      Like

  2. Mary Fons has a considerate and logical take on this topic in her Quilty video from a while back. I’ve generally used this as my guide: https://youtu.be/bqU4wfSRGBA

    A few key takeaways are:
    (1) Credit, credit, credit. Be kind and give credit!
    (2) If an artist made a pattern and put it out there, it’s ok to make one for personal use or sale… but if you make more than that, get permission
    (3) Changing three things to make it yours used to be a guideline… but that’s not necessarily enough because it’s more of a grey area than that

    P.S. I love your work, Peony & Fern! I think this is a great discussion to have, and I’m not sure the video addresses your specific scenario when a designer did not put a pattern out, so they haven’t really granted any permissions for other to recreate it. So I’m interested in seeing other people’s thoughts on this.

    Like

    1. Thanks for sharing the video, that’s a great contribution to this discussion! There seem to be a lot of conflicting viewpoints on this topic so I’m not sure we’ll ever reach a consensus, but I am glad it’s at least getting some attention!

      Like

  3. I had my first experience with someone copying my work this past year. They saw my design, copied itvchanging it slightly then 2 people put it out as their own design. It felt really yucky. One I got resolved, she ended up giving me credit but the other one never did. That still leaves a bad taste in my mouth (and she is a well known designer😕). Thanks for bringing this up yet again ♥️

    Like

    1. It’s a super yucky feeling! I’m really sorry you experienced that. I wish everyone would respond the way your first person did, but unfortunately that’s not always the case.

      Like

  4. Very interesting. We all inspire each other and giving credit to other makers is a must. Thanks for putting this out into the world to inspire others to do the same.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s