Tuesday, January 15, 2019

business as usual

What can I say? It's business as usual, or is it? The longer I have a blog, website and pattern business, the more I get frustrated with the whole deal. Please don't get me wrong. I love designing, writing patterns and teaching. I truly do. It is just the flip side that I don't like. Let me give you a little peak into the other world.

I have been publishing my patterns and free tutorials in the Internet since 2012. I originally wanted to share my knowledge and help others to learn and feel good about themselves and their patchwork achievements. When someone makes one of my designs or uses my patterns and shares a photo of what they have sewn, it gives me such a great pleasure in knowing that someone liked my design enough to try it out and more importantly, succeeded in doing so.

I am also there for you when it comes to trouble-shooting. When a customer is having a problem with a design, I answer questions freely and quickly, because I truly want them to achieve their design. With most of my designs and tutorials, they were provided without any financial compensation. That was okay with me. I only wanted a small thank you or a photo with a kind pingback to my website or blog. With my IKEA Cutting Table Hack post, I received many pingbacks, comments, questions and a few "thank you's." It is the all-time favorite post on the blog! It was even linked up in a book.

My husband's beautiful work, my idea, my photos!

Some of my most popular posts, original ideas and copied patterns are as follows:
It plays on my heart, when I see a pattern or design that copies one of my ideas without reference to my original design. Why should it, you ask? The fact is - designs are not copyrighted! So I shouldn't feel offended. Only the text on how something is made is copyrighted as well as the actual photo. That is true. (And sometimes, even I fall into the trap of seeing something, getting an idea and running with it to form my own design.) However, you should reference your ideas! When I submit patterns to magazines, I am required to reference my ideas no matter how trivial. 

What really bothers me here, is that more and more people, robots, websites are using my free ideas and tutorials to make profit for themselves! I check the statistics of my blog and Etsy shop sometimes to see where traffic is coming from. I was alerted once to see a website was referring readers to my shop. That sounded nice, new customers. How exciting! When I looked at the website in more detail, I realized the owner had downloaded and used my photos without my permission and posted them on her website (with a reference to my shop). That's fine and dandy, you say? No, because her website was set up with a great deal of advertising, tracking and was set up to make her a profit (Google Ads, etc.) with readers coming to her site. These are things I do not wish to associate with. I asked her to remove the post with my patterns. She kindly removed them in a prompt manner. I never would have known about this, if I hadn't checked the traffic to my sites. Please remember this too. All photos are copyright protected. You are not allowed to download and post other people's pictures without consent. They do not need the © sign to be copyrighted. The MONA LISA would look a little funny with © Leonardo DiVinci, now wouldn't it?

Another point in case is the Mini Pinwheel Pincushion. I love the look of fabric manipulation. I saw an idea of a fellow patchwork group member, Birgit M., a few years ago making 3-D pinwheels for a baby quilt. I loved the idea and wanted to try it out. A pincushion is the easiest was for me to try out a new technique with quick results. I made a pin cushion and quickly posted on Instagram with some general dimensions and explanation - no tutorial.

It was quickly written into a tutorial by another person and posted on their blog with reference to me. I WAS given credit for the idea. This same idea (mini pinwheel pincushion) was copied by one of the largest fabric and quilting supply retailers in the United States. When I saw their video demonstration on how it was made, my heart dropped. There was no reference to my idea nor to anyone. When I inquired about their idea, their response was, "we saw an idea on Pinterest." What is your take on this? 

Case 3: At Christmas this year, we didn't give a lot of presents, and I didn't receive anything quilty from my family. I spoiled myself with a new book about miniature quilts after the new year. I waited for the right moment when all of the chores were done and a free moment was earned to sit down and thumb through the book. I was dumbfounded when I came to a page showing the "Forgotten Five Mini Quilt" called something else of course. The cutting and assembly directions were written differently, but it was still the same design and effect. The setting was in a 4 x 4 grid rather than my 3 x 3 grid. I believe coincidences can happen, and that people can truly get the same idea when designing. (It has happened to me, too. I try to retract my idea when it does though.) However, this idea was given freely and posted without compensation for the Moda Bake Shop in 2014 written by me. So, did someone take one of my designs for their own profit? I earned recognition for the post but was not financially compensated. 

Moda Bake Shop Tutorials

When I design quilts and pincushions, I research for new ideas. I want to create something unique and that hasn't been done before. I write and publish (what I know as) original ideas. It can also be the case that the ideas are already out there, and I have overseen them myself when researching. I apologize if one of my designs has coincidentally copied an other's idea for profit. Please bring it to my attention if it has happened.

Case 4: With the help of one of my friends, Carmit E from Quilting Rainbows., I was alerted that a robot on Instagram had copied a photo of one of my creations and reposted it on their account. 

New Pattern in the Works
Yes, there was a pingback or reference to my account just like in Case One about the patterns. Don't expect robots to ask for permission to repost. The purpose of robots is to find, harvest and repost good, clear photos without identifiable watermarks or copyrights to gain followers. These are not real people! They have no interest in you. This account will, in turn, be sold for a profit. You might gain a couple of followers by the action, but the bots profit much more. This is happening on a more regular basis and that is why I am trying to watermark all of my photos with a copyright sign. Interesting fact: Press ALT + 0169 at the same time on your keyboard. There's your copyright symbol.

I was able to report the repost on Instagram (with a long, lengthy process) and it was removed within a couple of days. I think it was removed quickly, because the photo was copyrighted with a rather pale print which was missed by the robot.

I am also more careful about my followers on Instagram. I do check to see who is following me and if it could possibly be a fake account. Fake accounts are usually the robots who are harvesting beautiful, clear, high-resolution photos for their own profit. They also redirect followers from your account to their account. Beware of 10K+ accounts following you without even liking one of your photos. It is purely for the redirection of your followers to their account.

With all of my frustration, I still am designing. In fact, I created a new pincushion - the Prairie House Pinnie featuring a log cabin design and prairie points. I made this as a special thank you to my #tobeabee German patchwork girls. I wanted to make them something nice. I am terrible at remembering birthdays too. So this is my present to them! I patterned the pincushion as less of a profit for myself and more of a security so others will not copy and profit from my design. I now know, that when I show something on Instagram or here, it will be copied. I'd better get the pattern out first, before someone else does.

Patterns on Etsy

So, it is back to business in a more secretive and sensitive way. I cannot show little glimpses of what I am working on no matter how exciting it is, because the fear of theft is just too great.

I would really like to know your opinion on this. Maybe I see this all wrong? Maybe everything posted on the Internet should be free for use by everyone? 


  1. I agree with you. I'm not a designer but I report bot accounts whenever I see them which is a few times a week. I've also reported copied photos to the designer when I recognize it belongs to someone I follow. Creativity is not given it's proper appreciation.

    1. Thank you for your opinion. Creativity is priceless.

  2. What you are lamenting about is called theft of Intellectual Property Rights. And unfortunately, the only way to keep yours, well...yours, is to watermark your images. As for ideas, and I totally get it, again unfortunately if you put it out there in the inerwebs you offer it up for all and sundry who would consider stealing it. It is the bane of bloggers like ourselves. I work in the world of Cybersecurity (by day) and whenever I blog or make a YouTube video I always give credit where credit is due, but today's millennial blogger or bot designer, again unfortunately...I sound like a broken record, does not feel any such compunction because well, hey, the internet is free - hence, everything they find on it is free.

    In my humble opinion, I suggest you go back to your roots of your desire to help people discover the love of stitching and helping those who get stuck. If that is where you get your greatest satisfaction, then revel in that and give the ugliness that is the internet "the hand" and get past theft of Intellectual Property. Do what you can to prevent it by watermarking all your images, and if someone steals your idea with minor modifications to call it theirs, then remember that imitation is the highest form of flattery.

    1. Thank you for opinion. With the changes in the Internet, Social Media and Cyber Crimes I am finding that I need to change as well. Thank you for your advice! I will take it to heart.

  3. This is interesting. Hard to tell what you can copyright. For instance, the new pincushion you picture here. What is the piece that is copywritten? The log cabin is a block used by a lot of people and then you have a border on each side. So I'm wondering what is original to be copyrighted. It's hard to know. I would just keep on doing what you love.

  4. Thank you for your opinion, Tammy. It is true about the Log Cabin block. There are some blocks that are considered "royalty free" or no copyrights applied. But these too were once someone's idea. Why were they not protected? I have often wondered that myself as a quilt block designer. Would blocks have to be patented to truly be protected? The only insurance that I have to claim a block design is the date in which it was originally posted publicly, especially in a book or magazine. Even those publications will be forgotten in five years. It would be interesting to know how the classic blocks came about and who designed them!

  5. I agree Karen! I'm not a designer, so I don't have problems with my designs being stolen. I always give credit for ideas and inspirations, as well as patterns. And I'm so frustrated with those 'bot accounts! I think I report one at least every day. IG has been quicker about taking them down recently, but really, there must be something they can do to prevent them! And the creepy middle-aged Christian military officers who follow me too! Argghh!

  6. Thanks for the laugh this morning, Trudy. : ) Those middle-aged military guys - the thought is creepy, yes. : ) I love and hate the autonomy of Instagram. I'm afraid one day I might completely throw in the towel. Enjoy your weekend and thanks for stopping by.

  7. I can't give you any advice on that but I understand your feelings. I know a lot of people who always "forget" to give credit to the designer when showing pics on Instagram... some of them just don't understand the necessity of doing so, others just still fight with social media and are happy when they manage to upload a picture... You needn't worry about those. But I know that there are enough black sheep even among the quilter community who take advantage for themselves whenever possible...
    Hugs from one of the proud owners of your latest pincushion design :-)))

    1. Hi Sandra,
      Thanks for dropping by and sharing your opinion. As a good student in school and college, we were taught to always reference our cited work. In today's social media world, we are punished for doing, because it can be seen as advertising especially here in Germany. If that were the case, then every time the news mentioned a company's name, it would be deemed "advertising." What is your understanding on this?

      Quilty hugs,


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