Copyright and Quilt Block Patterns

Intellectual property is an important issue, especially for artists. Just like physical property, intellectual property should include legally protected ownership. Someone stealing ideas and selling those ideas without the creator’s permission, knowledge, attribution and/or compensation is theft as much as stealing someone’s car or TV.

And it doesn’t seem like there should be equivocation about what that theft means. If you are using someone else’s pattern, you don’t have the right to sell it as your own. I use the Magic Corner Placemat system by P3 Designs for years. The little mitered corner template is a staple at my sewing table. Even though I wanted to demonstrate the techniques and write out patterns for the Online Quilting Classes membership site, I haven’t gotten around to contacting Carolyn Reese about that possibility. So, I haven’t included those tricks into my pattern libraries.

However, sometimes the lines blur. Quilt block patterns have been around for hundreds of years. Nobody owns the Ohio Star or the Pinwheel. I think that buying a pattern using a Monkey Wrench block in a very specific way and with a very specific color pattern and then selling that pattern as your own is copyright infringement.

How much change is enough to make it your own? Putting together various versions of quilt blocks into lots of amazing quilt tops has been happening forever. Who owns what combinations and where is the line?

Here is my story. I saw a star made from half square triangles. I even tried to buy the pattern and it was not for sale. I didn’t need or want the pattern; I wanted to honor the creator for giving me an idea, for teaching me something I didn’t know before. And I wanted to change it considerably. However, only the kit was for sale for $150. I didn’t want the kit. I didn’t want the fabrics. I didn’t take a photo. I didn’t draw the pattern. I simply understood that I could make the star I wanted to make using half square triangles.

I went home and started drawing. I expanded the design and added more star elements in the corners and edges. The color scheme was entirely different and the shading gave a different feel to the piece. I made a queen sized quilt top using the inspiration from the initial version. This is not meant to be justification of plagiarism. It is meant to ask about how far reaching the changes need to be.

Here is (on the left) the original and (on the right) my version. Their kit is still available at It features a pattern designed by Miss Rosie’s Quilt Co – “Hubble” and it is (as of this writing) available for $48. And the screen shot doesn’t do the vibrancy of their colors justice.


Star Quilt Block

The question then is, when is a quilt pattern someone else’s intellectual property and when is it a logical organization of traditional blocks? I searched online for the words “images of quilt stars made from half square triangles.” This is the screen shot of my results.

quilt stars made from half square triangles

I then searched for “historical quilt stars” This is the screen shot. (Sorry Eleanor Burns, but Google thinks you are historical.)

Historical Quilt Stars

There are pages and pages of quilt tops from very different time periods. And there are similar techniques used often.

It is sometime really obvious when copying is copying. But sometimes it is just inspiration. I don’t sell my quilts, so the monetary aspect is off of the table. It just seems that there is a line that is not quite clear to me. As Artists, we take what everyone sees and interprets it in their own way. How much does the interpretation need to be changed? What are the real rules?

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Starting Out Planning

How to Make 3-Dimensional Pinwheels by Kimberbell Designs - YouTubeLet us go back to the beginning. What is the intended purpose of your stunning new creation?

I am going to make a baby quilt for a friend’s new grandbaby and I want to make a companion Grandma lap quilt for her.

I want the quilt for the baby boy to have a feel generally in keeping with the nursery theme that new mother choose to register for. It is wonderful that we all get to spy on the tastes and preferences by secretly checking out registries. I do that for wedding gifts and baby gifts that I make.

However, I don’t think that my friend, the new grandma, wants blue elephants. So, I will use some of the same fabrics in a different pattern to create a special remembrance just for her.

That means I need to choose quilt patterns that will work with roughly the same number of fabrics and that will be appropriate for a new baby and a new grandma. These don’t have to be the same patterns. I just want them to be similar enough to be thought of as a special set.

Image 3Blues and grays – zoo animals for the baby – soft geometrics for the adult

That is the start. Lets see how this progresses!

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Jump Right In And Start

There is no better way to learn a skill than to jump right in and start practicing it. Sewing is no different.

Here are some of the steps, which you should be doing right now:

— Choosing designs

Everyone starts a quilt with thinking about the purpose. Is it for a baby shower, a wedding gift, a child’s bed?

image 2That purpose determines the pattern. There are patterns that are more masculine, more contemporary, more juvenile, etc. Knowing what you are doing for whom will help in the pattern selection.

Other considerations involve the difficulty of the pattern, although quilt top piecing is exactly that – piecing small part together to eventually have a large quilt. You would be surprised at how easy it is to create a quilt that appears to be extremely complicated. Stretch yourself and don’t be intimidated. There are many who are willing to encourage and tutor you along the way.

— Choosing fabrics

And the fabric – Oh the fabric!!!

Just pick a theme and you can probably find fabric to match. Or let the fabric talk to you. I let the material that is yelling loudest to be molded into a creation take center stage.Image 3

I was recently trying to match a new mother’s layette pattern for a baby quilt. Almost as soon as I entered the fabric store I saw material that seemed to have been taken directly from the bedding manufacturer. I then tried it again with another baby quilt I had to make and the match wasn’t there, but the colors were. I could take them and embellish a more plain piece with embroidery and applique.

There are so many colors and themes and textures and options!!!

WARNING! – This will definitely result in your becoming a fabric hoarder so be prepared with storage options.

— Learning sewing skills

Learning sewing skills is a no-brainer. You have probably already guessed that you basically need to learn sewing skills. But that is so simple to do. There are videos and personal instruction and friends and family and all sorts of resources available to anyone with an interest. And if, in practicing, things don’t work out the first time or two, dog shelters all around the country love donations of bad quilting. The puppies don’t mind if the points don’t match up.

Practicing is the key. The more you try, the better you become. I spoke once to an international superstar in the quilting world who told me that whenever anyone jealously says to her that it is just because she is so talented, she responds that they would be that talented as well if they put in as much time practicing as she did.

For easy to understand instructions go to and join the free membership for ideas.

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Start Quilting With The Best Equipment

The art of quilting is making a comeback. Instead of being something that “my grandma used to do” it is becoming a mainstay in the modern and contemporary art world.

It, of course has always been a necessity in the world of baby cribs and cold winter nights. So, are you up for a challenge?

Do you like working with your hands?

Do you want to offer your children and grandchildren something they can cherish that can outlast you?

Do you love colors and textures?

A yes answer to these questions means that you have the right mindset and that means that you are 75% of the way there. Now on to the nuts and bolts (and bolts and bolts and bolts – of fabric!)

There are tools that you will need. A friend of mine is in to the sewing everything by hand movement that is sweeping the country. If that is your choice, all you need is a needle, thread, fabric and scissors. I am more incline towards the machine version of quilting.

Image 1A good, reliable sewing machine is your first priority. There are lots of machines to be had. The general rule of thumb is that you get the best sewing machine that you can afford. That can mean spending $10 to $10,000 on your equipment. If you are truly starting from scratch, I would look at used machines. There are garage sales, estate sales, eBay, sewing forums and groups, local quilt shops, etc.

I can’t stress enough how a good, reliable, well functioning sewing machine will do more than any other single factor to ensure your enjoyment of quilting. Machine frustration is avoidable. All it takes is getting the best. That piece of equipment may be used or new, but get the best you can!

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Christmas Fabric Choices

I have the privilege of knowing some really special people and 65 of them are so special that I feel compelled to create something stupendous for them for Christmas. This takes a lot of planning and scheduling.

This year I started in September. I made my list, checked it twice and then determined the gift that I was going to make. I looked at the tasks I needed to complete in order to get all 65 presents done in plenty of time for Christmas.

– Choose the fabric
– Buy the fabric
– Cut the fabric
– Sew the blocks
– Assemble the tops
– Quilt them
– Bind them

Christmas Fabric Choices

Easy enough —– Right?
Of course I procrastinated, not by choice and now it is the end of November and I have 64 quilts to complete. Hurray, I got one completely done. Now I have to adjust my schedule.

Next year I will start sooner and I will schedule for planned procrastination and saving the occupants of my world so that I will breeze into December knowing that I can just relax and enjoy the holidays.

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Christmas sewing begins with the ideas

This year was going to be different!!! I would not be finishing up Christmas sewing projects Christmas morning. I would be finished by the end of November. I had a plan. I had a calendar and it had a bunch of days on it until Christmas.

Christmas sewing begins with the ideas, but the physical part starts with a list of recipients. There are generally around 64 of them. These include mothers, sisters and brothers and their children and even grandchildren. The list includes my childrens’ parents-in-laws and neighbors and a few good friends. All in all, it is for too many people, but I can’t help myself.

Sewing Christmas Bags

I figure that if they are just “homemade” things, it doesn’t count as too much. So I make the gifts. I make sure that whatever I am making can be made in bulk but that each gift is individualized to the recipient’s interests. Then I make a schedule in my Christmas book and hopefully I will be able to achieve my goals and my loved ones will have a gift they can cherish forever.

Like every year before, I have been tasked with so many things to do, aside from my Christmas sewing, that I am once again overwhelmed. Wouldn’t life be grand if people would leave us alone to do the thing we love most, SEWING?

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Invitation to Christmas Challenge

For our Christmas sewing challenge, all you need to do is go to

and sign up for your free membership.

Online Quilting Classes Membership

If you are already a member, simply log in.

Write in your page, a blurb with your end of the year sewing goals and the major milestones with dates

Then let us all know how you progress is coming along. If you are being challenged, let us know. Maybe someone can solve a seng issue you are having. Maybe you just need some encouragement, or maybe you need to readjust your goals. It’s all good.

This challenge is meant to develop a safe place to work together to accomplish wonderful things. As a supportive community’s, we can achieve much. Sometimes, though, we need a little motivation, problem solving or a good kick in the butt. I would love for all of that to happen for my Christmas goals.

It would be wonderful to see lots of photos of all of our projects. There will be designs that might spark new ideas. So post photos of everything in all of its various stages.

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Introduction for Christmas Challenge

The membership part of Online Quilting Classes is offering a Christmas Sewing Projects Challenge. 

It will consist of 

1. Committing in writing to our Christmas sewing goals

2. Setting out a plan and calendaring our milestones

3. Tracking our progress 

4. Reporting on our progress

5. Supporting and cheerleading the others

What are the rules?

1. No self-flagellation

2. Make preparing for the season fun

3. Encourage others

If you are not doing any Christmas sewing, join in with your UFOs or quilt obligations that have gone unmet for way too long.

 Here is the calendar for the months leading up to December 25th.

Christmas Sewing Challenge

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2014 Christmas Sewing Challenge

100 Days until Christmas!!!

We are starting out 2014 Christmas Sewing challenge. Join us as we get more done, get it done on time and have fun supporting each other in our quest.

If you aren’t a member of Online Quilting Classes, join for free and get started.

Click Here To Come Sew With Us!

Instructions for members for playing the game:

1. Go to My Page in the Navigation bar in our Ning community

To start the Christmas SewingChallenge

To start the Christmas SewingChallenge

2. Create Blog Post
Include the following:
Here is my goal:
Here are the steps needed to accomplish my goal:
What I need to succeed:
Share a picture of where you are at now – perhap your fabric? Your squares? Your empty hands?

3. Publish your post.

4. THEN – review 3-5 other members Christmas Challenge Goals and comment.

5. THEN – check back in weekly or as often as you would like to post updates, share your successes, and cheer each other on!

We LOVE seeing photos and short videos of your project!

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Christmas sewing

Next step is to choose the fabrics, embroideries or accents for each person. I have a good-sized stash and I always shop there first. With the main project in mind, I have a good idea of how much I will need for each. If someone has a new interest, or if I visualize something I don’t have, I will go shopping, but it has become a self-contest to not buy anything new. That never happens, but I can come awfully close.

Image 3
This year will be easier as I am doing seasonal gifts and they will not be much customized. I have a big Christmas fabric selection, but it will still require some shopping.

In writing this, I am changing my ideas of the outcome and I will be going back in to my fabric to see if I can adapt. I had it in mind to only incorporate one theme. In that case, and needing 300 blocks, I didn’t have enough of one image (or variation thereof). In stepping back and rethinking this, it makes more sense to do as many of the original theme as possible and then move on to the next fabric images that strike me.

That is the way that Christmas sewing goes for me. Obviously, once I am committed on a specific gift for a specific person, it doesn’t change much. However, until I start cutting for individual, nothing is written in stone.

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