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valesparza posted this lovely creation of the coffee date dress:


FNM commented:

“I love your dress, but I think that elainemay could sue you. You shouldn’t sell product that is not your pattern.”

What are the rules here? What is legal? Has this anything to do with “open source sewing” or does “open source sewing” simply mean, that I am allowed to modify an open source pattern and post the changes?


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    May 20, 2010, 08.13 PMby Anna Aasbjerg

    That’s a very good question, that I would like to know the answer to as well :-)

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    May 20, 2010, 08.34 PMby daiyami

    ElaineMay does not say, so I would ask her directly:http://selfishseamstress.wordpress.com/downloads/ although “for your own personal use” might be meant to preclude selling.

    I don’t know what open source sewing means, really, but I would expect that the same sort of Creative Commons licenses could apply to patterns as to pictures, eg, making a dress based on the pattern would be a derivative work:http://creativecommons.org/about/licenses/ And so people could pick a license that allowed that or didn’t allow it. BurdaStyle has specifically allowed it, of course. But I would think that the rules are set by the original creator, that it’s not necessarily consistent.

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    May 20, 2010, 08.54 PMby wackyblonde

    As far as I understand all of the patterns are open source. Unless the creator has stated otherwise. The new uploads by BurdaStyle magazine are NOT open source. Meaning you cannot mass produce these items for sale.

    1 Reply
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      May 20, 2010, 10.01 PMby katexxxxxx

      It is also generally regarded as very bad form to manufacture or sell things made with someone else’s pattern unless they designed it for you to use and they also profit from your sale.

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    May 15, 2013, 03.52 PMby marliesee

    I don’t think that selling something elses pattern is good idea. Use it on your own ;)

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    May 21, 2013, 12.37 AMby smokemirrorz

    This is open for debate but please check this interesting article out.


    I personally think that if you take the time and effort to make something, whether it’s from a pattern or not, you should be able to sell the finished product if you wish. I certainly don’t believe in reselling the pattern, but a finished product is a totally different thing in my opinion.

    2 Replies
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      Jun 27, 2013, 04.48 AMby ginniehazel

      What about the person who takes the time and effort to make the pattern? They didn’t make it for someone else to make money with.

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      Jul 1, 2014, 12.23 AMby Ashley Thornton

      Ginniehazel. Are you saying that McCall, simplicity, new look etc mass produces millions of patterns with the intent of single use for myself? I don’t think so. If they wanted it to be a single use they wouldn’t be so easy to come buy or as cheap as they are. How ridiculous. If your going to put something out there and sell it them you have to expect someone will reproduce and sell regardless. If you don’t want your items yo be produced and sold by someone else don’t put them out there for people to use.

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    Aug 25, 2013, 01.34 PMby blueartisan

    In the world of embroidery it’s not uncommon to be able to buy a license from the designer/digitiser. This gives you the right to use the design commercially, you can’t sell the design but you can make stuff with it and sell them. The cost ranges from designer to designer. I know a few pattern designers who also state that they are happy for you to use their pattern to make items to sell on Etsy etc, but there is strictly NO mass production (ie: the purchaser must make the items, not out source.) and that an acknowledgement to the pattern designer be made either on your tag or in the description would be appreciated. I think it is at least good manners to clear the use with a designer first. Think about how you would feel if someone used something you worked hard on to make money without paying for it/asking or acknowledging you? I know I’d be peeved. I’ve actually had someone do that in a way, they paid me to make a range of dance tops to specific sizes for their students. I gave her a bulk discount because most were for kids and I wanted to keep the prices low for them (which in all honesty was way too low but I was young and way too eager to please!) and she gave me the measurements. I made the tops and delivered them. Next thing I know she had a friend make patterns from the different sizes of tops I provided and was selling them in direct competition to me. The pattern was entirely mine, drafted by me and included features that are unique to my designs, but because she was a business and I was just a hobbyist, I was the one who looked like I was ripping her off. I’ve since learned to let it go, but it really did knock me for six at the time. I worked hard and was thoughtful and ultimately I was scammed. It didn’t matter that she probably only made $15 profit on each top, it was the fact that my intellectual property was used against my wishes for someone to gain a little profit. I have since stopped being so generous and I don’t lend patterns or do cheap deals anymore even for charities. So I guess you could say that people using stuff without permission are ultimately hurting the whole community. That said, I do believe that in legal terms if you change 10% of the significant design features of a pattern then you can claim it as your own design. Design features are not anything to do with sizing or embellishments I might add, so grading it to a different size or adding a different trim doesn’t cut it.

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    Oct 14, 2013, 03.48 PMby purplefan

    I know that Vogue Patterns in North America had text on its pattern envelopes stating that it was for personal use. So if one had a dressmaker make up a dress using the pattern, the customer would wear the finished garment. Or if the customer made his or her own garment that is for personal use. However, no one can make up a batch of Vogue Pattern garments then turnaround and sell the lot online or at a sale>because it become a commercial/income stream. So the point is if you really like someone’s pattern enough to use it to teach others how to make it or to make garments to sell, you have to trouble yourself to make contact with the authorized licence holder and find out if it’s possible to get a licence or not and what the cost is.

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    Dec 4, 2013, 11.44 PMby Haystack

    Interesting debate, as someone who also makes clothes to sell I’ve heard good points raised from both sides of the debate, and I circumvent this by draping/drafting my own patterns, and then if I so desire, use store-bought patterns for my own personal use and for gifts. Any tutorials created by others for the purpose of learning how to draft certain basic garments are free game, IMO, because they are ultimately not the ones doing the drafting, you are.

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    Dec 5, 2013, 09.39 PMby sabineo

    I’m actually struggeling with this issue as well. i love to sew and would like to sell garments I make on Etsy. I don’t know how to make my own patterns though. Maybe I could manage to do it but then I still don’t know how to grade it for various sizes. So, what do I do? Do I have to give up on my Etsy store? Aren’t there seamstresses and tailors who use patterns to sew for customers? Can I use Burdastyle pattern because they are open source? How about the Burdastyle books? Anyway, I really don’t know how to handle this and there are no classes for pattern drafting where I live. I would appreciate any suggestion.

    2 Replies
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      Mar 25, 2014, 03.05 PMby Deanna31

      Hi, If you would like to learn pattern making I would suggest this book; Patternmaking for fashion design by Helen Joseph-Armstrong
      This one for sale on ebay is a really good price. Only $60. I bought mine brand new for $120.


      It tells you how to create a basic pattern from scratch (block), how to manipulate darts, and it has about 700 pages of different ideas for patterns and how to create them!
      I don’t think it has anything about grading though, but the principle behind it is from the centre of the pattern to the side – slowly move all the dart points and design lines over and down, with the side seam moved over 2.5cm.
      If you buy a pattern and study how they graded, you will get an idea what is involved

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      Aug 26, 2014, 05.18 PMby becky6968

      I’m with you on this. I have many ideas and would love to create my own patterns, but I have no idea how to. There is nothing in my area that teaches pattern making, so I’m kind of stuck. I do not intend to make money off of someone else’s idea/pattern, but I need something to get me going. If I make something as a gift, I seem to be okay. But if I want to make say 10 to 20 of something, I can’t afford the designer’s license. Not sure what to do here and could definitely use some help.

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    Mar 25, 2014, 02.49 PMby Deanna31

    A lot of tailors who make clothes for people ask the customer for a pattern. I think its ok to do this. But if you want to sell a lot of the same garment you will need to change 20% (in Australia anyway) of the pattern. If you see an outfit you like in a store or on the catwalk you will still need to change 20% of the garment to be able to sell it yourself. But its pretty easy to do this… lengthen the sleeves, and hem… change the neckline. Add a waistband. Volia

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    Apr 1, 2014, 11.43 PMby froggypondd

    I had actually read that you cannot register copyright for a sewing pattern (I don’t know about other crafts) as it is considered an “intrinsic utilitarian function” and therefore if someone was to copyright the basic tee shirt (for example) then no one else in the world would be able to make tee shirts without asking for their permission/paying them a fee and it would ultimately create a monopoly on something which is very vital to our society. What is copyrightable is logos, which is why you see designer brands, like Louis Vuitton who have their handbags stamped with their logo, because they can’t sue people for stealing the design on the handbag, but they can sue people for the use of their logo without their permission. I’m sure there’s a TED talk out there somewhere on this.

    When it comes down to hobbyists and small businesses though, I think it’s good practice to either ask the creator if you can sell however many you’re intending on making and if they would like a cut of it, especially if it was a free pattern. If it was just one, I wouldn’t worry too much, because it’s hardly going to make a difference but if you’re looking at doing it on a bigger scale, I would think it fair to credit them in some way (whether it be through a percentage of the profit or linking to their website, etc where you’re selling it). However, if you’ve bought the pattern, you’d assume that the price they set would cover that to some extent but I don’t know.

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    Apr 28, 2014, 11.58 PMby raeborough

    When a pattern is copyrighted you cannot sell it, sell clothing made from this pattern without written consent from the legal copyright owner. This is what copyright means. The right to copy. It’s just that simple.

    I’m a musician and this comes up a lot in music. I hear people say it’s only just this one. It won’t hurt anyone if I do that. Well, multiply that by hundreds or even thousands and the person who is trying to make a living out of their copyrighted creation is out of an income. Please be sensitive to this. If you want to sell something that involves someone else’s copyright you need to purchase a license for this. Some small pattern makers will sell a separate commercial pattern for this type of use and for this reason. But I have not seen this with the big pattern makers. I wish people would respect the word ‘copyright.’ Please do :-)

    Note: what is copyrighted within a copyright is very specific. So if you are using a pattern to make something for sale and want to do this legally (civil law not criminal law, by the way) you have to change the pattern to the point where it is not like the original. This is where the gray area is. How much change? Well, that you’d have to use some reasoning and research. I’ve gotten to the point myself where the pattern is just the starting place. I alter and add things. For instance I made a cycling rain jacket from a pattern designed for a fleece jacket. I added zippers to the front pockets, a zippered pocket on the back, a vented yoke on the back, and reflective piping. At this point I think I’m no longer under the original copyright. You would never guess this cycling jacket came from a fleece jacket pattern. So if I wanted to sell this jacket or similar I’m confident I’d be okay.

    I hope this helps. To understand Copyright Law in music. I have taken a few college level classes to understand the details of this very gray area I’m referring to. So that’s where it gets fuzzy.

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    Apr 29, 2014, 12.41 AMby raeborough

    I wanted to add this: according to the USA copyright law as soon as you make something or create a copy of something that you yourself came up with (a book, a website, a song, and yes a sewing pattern, etc) as in your own original thing, not like (or exactly like) anything else you then own the copyright. You used to have to state on the copy of the item that you owned the copyright to legally protect your creation from being copied and not getting paid for it. But that law has changed. You don’t have to place copyright by so and so. But it’s recommended to still do so for all the reasons of the above confusion about who owns a copyright. To register a copyright in the USA you need to file with the Library of Congress through the copyright registration office. This is only to have a copy on file to prove you came up with it first. Registering a copyright doesn’t create a copyright. You own the copyright as soon as you make something original and unique. Proof is the hard part so that’s why people register copyrights. For legal reasons this is my understanding of the copyright law. If you need real legal advice go to a lawyer. I think that’s why Burda has not chimed in here, They don’t want to give legal advice. I’m stating my understanding as far as I know it. I hope this clears up some misconceptions about copyrights.

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    May 26, 2014, 07.53 PMby Cynsin

    So many patterns are so generic and so similar, it seems that, unless there is a very unique design element never used before – and that would be a stretch – most patterns are open source. What about the wrap dress, that now is a 40 yr old design, or the Chanel jacket that is repeated continually?

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    May 26, 2014, 11.33 PMby Cynsin

    This is a quote from the U.S. Copyright office: First, copyright protection for the designs of useful articles is extremely limited. The design of a useful article(11) is protected under copyright “only if, and only to the extent that, such design incorporates pictorial, graphic, or sculptural features that can be identified separately from, and are capable of existing independently of, the utilitarian aspects of the article.”(12) According to the House report accompanying the copyright revision bill, the test for separability can be met by showing either physical or conceptual separability.(13) The purpose of the test is “to draw as clear a line as possible between copyrightable works of applied art and uncopyrighted works of industrial design.”(14) In keeping with this congressional intent, courts have applied the separability test in a way that excludes most industrial designs from copyright protection.(15) The Copyright Office has been similarly restrictive in its registration practices.(16)

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    May 27, 2014, 09.57 PMby Cynsin

    Also, even if you (or Vogue or an individual" put language on your pattern that says copyright, that does not mean the U.S. Copyright office has actually approved it and, even so, it would have to stand up in court. There is a huge international “brooha” going on now regarding art that is being reproduced overseas by the thousands and sold around the world without the original creator’s permission. It is prohibitively expensive to pursue and is one example of obviously original work being copied en masse

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    Jul 1, 2014, 10.44 AMby katexxxxxx

    Strictly speaking, if you buy a copy of a dress pattern, you may use it to make one dress. If you have three bridesmaids all wanting the same style, they should all have their own copy of the pattern… Pattern companies have long realized that this is impractical, and tend to treat patterns rather like books: you own the copy of the item and may read it/use it as often as you like for PERSONAL use. But you may not copy it or use it commercially without the express permission of the copyright holder, in this case the pattern company. SOME less commercial pattern companies allow limited licencing: you may make a limited number of copies for sale, but must acknowledge where the pattern originated. There are embroidery pattern companies that design and sell patterns expressly for commercial use: Twisted Threads, for example.

    Burdastyle patterns are generally ‘open source’, which means that you can use the patterns as often as you like. It would be polite to ask the designer if they object to you using their design, and it would be advisable to get a legal agreement in place, and to recognise their input financially. If you want to sell a line of clothing, it is probably best to design them and draft them yourself, but read Kathleen Fasanella first: http://www.fashion-incubator.com/

    1 Reply
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      Aug 24, 2014, 03.39 PMby jenss-1

      It’s an interesting subject and it differs depending upon the country and its copyright laws. In the US, fashion designs cannot be copyright protected. So, by extension, I don’t believe that there could be any limitation on how many garments could be made from a pattern. Because there’s no copyright on the garment design, there would not be any prohibition on selling those garments either. (Which explains, in part, how/why the knock-off business is so prevalent here). There’s been a number of attempts to create copyright protection for fashion design, but so far all have failed in the US as far as I am aware.

      That said, there would be a problem if someone made a digital or photocopy of another’s pattern and sold or distributed it. That would tend to be an infringement of the printed image of the pattern, rather than of the design itself. In essence, this reflects the distinction between the design (garment, not copyright) and a graphical image (copyright).

      Of course, if someone enters a contract, or licenses a design from another party, and then violates the terms, that is an entirely different matter. In the US it would tend to involve contract law rather than copyright issues. Considering the lack of copyright protection, I suspect that design-based licenses are probably not prevalent — trademarks are an entirely different issue.

      However…some countries have more stringent copyright laws than the US (the UK is probably one such example), and with internet issues and cross-border distribution, the rules could all be different. (Anyone involved in cross-border transactions should probably gets some legal advice on copying designs, if that’s what they plan to do.)

      In any case, nothing stops a pattern company from suing someone, even if the company would almost certainly lose in the US–so it’s hard to see how it would be cost efficient, except for a major infringement of a registered copyright. But again, US pattern companies may have additional rights outside of the US. It’s worth checking out. Anyway, it’s an interesting subject!

      (Disclaimer: views expressed are my own and for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice.)

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    Aug 25, 2014, 09.44 PMby deborah berry

    i have read in other things “creative” that the key to use to sell, is to make up to a 10% change in the pattern. Lets face it, in almost all of the basic patterns the big companies especially sell, they are just that….the basic pattern you would have cut if you were wanting, say a basic halter dress with a high waist band and a full skirt. bam….one could find a basic pattern like that in ALL of the companies pattern books. So what are they doing? i would imagine just a little nip and add here to change the pattern as little as possible.

    look at it this way, IF one of the companies were to sue, there is hardly a single style that I could not find at least 2 or 3 patterns from other companies that if finished the same way i finished the dress i wanted to sell, would make all the dresses look what? oh yea…THE SAME! I have bought patterns before that i know for a fact are patterns i bought when that same style was in fashion often times, decades ago! where is the individual difference? there ISN’T ONE!

    Ones creativity comes in the choices of fabric and fabrications, and of course the use of decorative items like types of buttons, even different kind of zippers can change a pattern.

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    Aug 27, 2014, 11.28 AMby kim42066

    If a pattern is marked for personal use", you may not make and sell the garment. I had my own sewing business, and if someone wanted a specific pre-made pattern, they could purchase the pattern and I could sew it for them. I couldn’t buy the pattern, mass-produce (& that could mean two of the same pattern), and not infringe on copyrights. This is now 20 years ago, but that was the law then. If you are making items for sale, consult a lawyer before it’s too late.

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    Aug 31, 2014, 05.48 PMby jenss-1

    There’s a lot of misunderstanding here. To clarify, you can’t photocopy a pattern IMAGE (the actual tissue or PDF) and sell it (in the US). The actual picture on the paper/pdf is a “graphic work.” To be copyright infringement the purported “copy” has to be a reproduction of the original, i.e., it is a copy of the actual picture on the paper or PDF pattern. In practice, a pattern is essentially a tool, and a garment made from it is an entirely separate thing. The garment is not a copy of the pattern.

    Here’s the actual law; showing the limitations of copyright in the US:

    “(a) Copyright …Works of authorship include the following categories: (1) literary works; (2) musical works, including any accompanying words; (3) dramatic works, including any accompanying music; (4) pantomimes and choreographic works; (5) pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works; (6) motion pictures and other audiovisual works; (7) sound recordings; and (8) architectural works.”

    BUT, it specifically does NOT include “any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.”

    A paper pattern essentially embodies a system of construction, a method or procedure of producing a garment. Other than the graphic image (picture) it does not appear to qualify for copyright protection in the US at all and a company cannot randomly create copyright protection that doesn’t exist.

    For anyone that’s interested, it’s all here: http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#103

    (Disclaimer: views expressed are my own and for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice.)

  • Missing

    Sep 5, 2014, 05.42 AMby maruta

    If an objection to the right formula no one can use it without your permission

    • This is a question
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