Category Archives: Blog

Giving Credit and Avoiding Copyright Violations

There’s a new skirmish in the quilting community. Apparently the admin for a Facebook group used tutorials and patterns created by other people, without attribution. When challenged on it, she kicked the complainers out of the group and made the group private.

Stealing is wrong, and though I don’t know the details of this story, it sounds like the admin did the wrong thing.

A couple of bloggers/quilters I respect have written about the incident and how to avoid copyright infringement. (See Sam Hunter’s post and Lori Kennedy’s post.) I’ve written about it, too, with some different links and thoughts. Since the last time I posted about it was a couple of years ago, I’ve updated that information below to provide it again.

Do you remember Robert Fulghum’s famous essay? “All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten” begins like this:

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 5.20.28 PM

The essay was published in Robert Fulghum’s book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. I am using this excerpt based on “fair use” rules for copyright.

Honestly, we don’t share everything, but I know bloggers and crafters are incredibly generous. Mostly we don’t hit. And as to messes, what happens in your studio should stay in your studio!

But there are three things here I think we should take seriously. One is playing fair, and one is not taking things that aren’t yours. And when we do mess up, we should apologize.

I see two separate areas of trouble when it comes to playing fair and giving deserved credit. One is for bloggers, and the other is for quilters and crafters. Obviously the two groups overlap.

Sometimes, in enthusiasm to share cool stuff and brilliant thoughts, bloggers use work that is not their own. Using information from other people might include photos, words, charts, tables, logos, or illustrations. The easiest violation is with photos. I wrote some about this earlier this year.

Are you sharing photos of someone else’s work? (This happens a lot after quilt shows.) Did you give them credit? There are both ethical and legal concerns on this. Legally there are copyright rights to the photo itself, and also to the creative work being photographed, such as a quilt. I am not the best person to speak about the legal issues, but I know enough to be very careful about sharing photos of anyone else’s quilts. In fact, unless I am linking directly to a picture someone else posted, I pretty much don’t do it anymore. (Some photos are in the public domain, meaning there is no copyright protection. Those can be shared freely. Still, information about the creator and the owner of the work should be included.)

Ethically, using someone else’s work without crediting is taking something that’s not yours, and it’s not playing fair. Ask yourself how you would feel if a photo of your quilt appeared in various blogs, but the bloggers didn’t have the courtesy to credit it with your name, or a link back to where they found your glorious quilt. Or even to ask permission to use the picture.

If you’d like more information on posting other people’s content appropriately, see a really helpful post from HubSpot Blogs. It is on citing sources and not stealing other people’s work on the internet.

When it comes to creating tangible (rather than digital) work, there are other ways to take things that aren’t yours. Here again, there are obvious (I hope!) examples of wrong-doing, as well as others that might seem more grey.

First, a lot of people see no harm in copying a pattern that someone else purchased. If your friend buys a pattern and you want to make the same thing, you can just make a photocopy or scan of hers. In fact, your whole bee or swap or small group can have copies, too, right? But there is harm, as it deprives the creator of pay for their work. Imagine working — many hours of effort — to create a product for sale. Imagine someone taking it without paying for it. That is stealing, plain and simple.

Sam Hunter wrote about this better than I can. When a friend-of-a-friend stole one of Sam’s patterns rather than paying for it, it created a sticky situation, to say the least.

And remember, this isn’t true just of patterns that you buy one at a time. It also counts when you didn’t buy your own book or magazine patterns, but photocopied someone else’s instead.

Now comes the harder part, the grey area. Now also comes the caveat. I am NOT an attorney and am not providing legal advice. Most of the information provided below is based on two posts by Jen Bernstein. [Links below.] She is an attorney, but she also is not providing you legal advice. If this is an area of concern for you, please retain your own attorney. 

The design (what a quilt or project looks like) and the pattern (instructions of how to make it) are separately copyrighted. So let’s say you see a quilt and don’t want to buy the pattern. Instead you spend time figuring out how the block is made, how many of them there are, and how big they likely are based on the size of the original. You draw it all out in EQ7 to get your layout and fabric requirements. Ta-DAH! It’s all good, huh? Well, maybe not.

Depending on how closely “your” design matches the original, you may have infringed on a copyright. For more information, see Jen Bernstein’s guest post “Can You Copyright a Sewing Pattern?” on Abby Glassenberg’s While She Naps blog.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours. That’s the legal part of this. Now I’ll return to the ethical part: play fair. To me that includes acknowledging others for their inspiration and contribution.

That might mean literal acknowledgment in blog posts and Instagram and pins, or on labels. Some people say when you label your quilts, you should include the pattern and designer’s name, or the source of inspiration. I’m not likely to put that stuff on labels (I design my own quilts), but I agree with the intention.

Or it might just mean having an attitude of gratitude when we create. None of us is the first ever to make a quilt. That happened thousands of years ago. Regardless of how original we think we are, how fresh our designs, we were inspired by something.

Even if we are “self-taught,” likely that means learning from online sources or books, which someone else wrote and made available to us. We should be proud of ourselves and our work — we do amazing things! But we can be humble enough to feel gratitude for those who came before us, and for those who work by our sides.

Facebook Catbird Quilt Studio Page

For a variety of reasons, I’ve decided to shut down the Catbird Quilt Studio Facebook page. If you’ve been getting links to my blog posts there and wish to continue following me, please follow me directly from here by using the Follow button on the right margin. Or if you use another reader service such as Bloglovin’ or Feedly, you can add the blog to your list that way.

After this post, I’ll no longer link posts to Facebook. In a week or two, I’ll remove the page.

Thanks so much for reading and following, however you choose to do so!

Some of My Favorite Posts from 2016

Carousel kaleidoscope

When trying to figure out why last year seemed so darn weird, I reviewed both my photos and my blog posts. (Sense of weirdness explained here.)  I also checked my stats to see which posts had the most views. As it turns out, only two posts from last year finished in my top 10. First was the aptly named How to Finish UFOs. The other one was Carousel,the Kaleidoscope Quilt. The quilt is pictured above. My all-time most viewed post, including last year, was Economy Block ANY Size! (With Cheat Sheet).

There are a few other blog posts I think are worth highlighting, though they are not necessarily about quilting or quilts.

Things I’ve Learned From Blogging
Thoughts on Work and Play
Green Quilting
Body Armor
Too Much

The posts I most enjoy writing are those that teach me something. Whether it is by articulating process on my own projects, discussing design principles and elements, or considering how we limit ourselves with labels, these posts push me farther in understanding how and why I create.

As we go into this new year, I thank you sincerely for reading. If you follow this blog, thank you for that, as well. There are so many ways you can spend your time, and I’m touched that you choose to spend some of it here.

P.S. WordPress just notified me this is my 500th post on this blog.

Things I’ve Learned From Blogging

This is my 400th post at Catbird Quilt Studio. It feels like this should be a profound moment in some way, but it’s not. In truth I don’t know how many blog posts I’ve written. A few of the posts here were re-blogs, though most were my original work. But I also contribute to the Our View From Iowa blog with Jim. We have 330 posts between us, some written by me and some by him and some by both of us. And before coming to WordPress, I contributed at a couple of other sites, totaling well north of 100 posts there. Let’s just guess there are something like 700 posts.

Rather than worrying about how many I’ve written, it might be better to consider what I’ve learned through the process. Below are some thoughts about writing and reading blogs (and posts elsewhere, such as Facebook,) and about relationships in our digital world.

Respect your readers. Assume they are intelligent and capable, and write to that level.

Offer something of value; make it worth the readers’ time. A story, a tutorial, helpful pointers on process, or just a great photo can make a reader glad they clicked in.

Edit. Edit for clarity, basic grammar, and spelling. Even with editing, mistakes happen. Fix them when you see them.

Don’t post when angry. Rants can be fun to write and read, but rants also can cause damage. Write when angry, perhaps, but re-read, edit, and post (or not) after you’ve calmed down.

Welcome comments and questions. Don’t just invite them, also respond to them. It’s a small way to acknowledge readers’ time and effort. I prefer to respond on the blog. I think it is more inclusive for all readers that way.

Give credit. Use links, credit photos, provide references and original sources. It’s not hard, and it’s the right thing to do.

Give the writer the benefit of the doubt. This includes both the person who originally posted as well as those who comment.

Disagree respectfully. Don’t call names, of the individual or whatever affiliation they seem to represent. If you’re disagreeing on a matter of fact, cite sources. If it is a matter of opinion, remember we’re all entitled to our own. Walking away often is a good strategy, regardless of the point of disagreement.

xkcd “Duty Calls”.

Not everyone comes from your background. The online world includes all kinds, from all places. Maybe she calls it a “cushion” when really it is a “throw pillow.” Who cares?

Use your time wisely. Reading blogs is not an adequate substitute for real life. DO stuff, too. If you are a quilter, go quilt. If you have a spouse or other family or friends, talk to them. If you love to bake, bake something. Don’t just read baking blogs and imagine what great things you could make.

Our online connections include blogging, Facebook and other social media sites, and basic email with people we’ve known for decades. I’ll preface this by saying I’ve had enormously rewarding personal experiences online, as well as deeply disappointing, even upsetting ones. Jim and I have even traveled halfway across the country to meet multiple people we’ve known online. Sometimes that has gone great (Hi Jim F! Hi Ben!) and other times less so.

A lot has been written about how difficult it is to convey meaning in words, without the larger context of intonation and facial expression. Some people always sound like jerks in writing. It can be hard to separate those who actually are jerks from those who are not. This is where it helps to know someone in a broader way.

Because we are working with limited information when dealing with people online, all of the above writing and reading pointers can help. Here are a couple more thoughts.

People disappear. Bloggers quit blogging, sisters slam doors, people you thought were dear friends walk away. After an attempt or two to communicate, let them go.

RPT is key. RPT stands for “Real People Time.” It’s the term Jim and I use for opportunities to socialize in person with others. While it’s tempting to hole up here by ourselves, we always feel better when we have a little RPT.

Blogging, in general, has been wonderful for me. I’ve made friends I would never have made without it. I’ve shared my quilting with thousands more than would have seen it otherwise. I’ve researched plants and animals and history. I’ve sharpened my technical writing skills with tutorials. This may be my 400th post or my 700th post, depending on how you count. The enrichment in my life has been infinite.

Thank you for reading this post. If you stop by regularly, please know I appreciate it. 

Back to School Blog Hop — be sure to check these great posts!

I’ve been enjoying the Back to School Blog Hop. How about you? Here’s the full list again, with links directly to the posts where they’re available:

Sept 1: Peta Minerof-Bartos of PetaQuiltsDiagonal Pieced Backings
Sept 2: Cheryl Sleboda of Muppin.comThe Quilter’s Knot
Sept 3: Teresa Coates of Crinkle DreamsThe Importance of Pressing
Sept 4: Cath Hall of Wombat QuiltsColor Coding for Paper-piecing
Sept 5: Sam Hunter of Hunter’s Design StudioHow to Calculate and Cut Bias Binding
Sept 6: Melanie McNeil of Catbird Quilt StudioCredit Where Credit is Due
Sept 7: Mandy Leins of Mandalei Quilts How to Keep a Perfect 1/4” Seam Between Different Machines
Sept 8: Rose Hughes of Rose HughesFast Pieced Applique
Sept 9: Megan Dougherty of The Bitchy StitcherThe Care and Feeding of the Domestic Sewing Machine
Sept 10: Lynn Krawczyk of Smudged Design StudioMake a Mobile Art Kit
Sept 11: Susan Beal of West Coast CraftyLog Cabin 101
Sept 12: Sarah Lawson of Sew SweetnessZipper Tips
Sept 13: Jane Victoria of Jolly and Delilah – Matching Seams
Sept 14: Jemelia Hilfiger of Je’s Bend – Garment Making Tips and Tricks
Sept 15: Ebony Love of LoveBug Studios – Curved Piecing Without Pins
Sept 16: Misty Cole of Daily Design Wall – Types of Basting
Sept 17: Kim Lapacek of Persimon Dreams – Setting your Seams
Sept 18: Christina Cameli of A Few Scraps – Joining Quilted Pieces by Machine
Sept 19: Bill Volckening of WonkyWorld – The Importance of Labels
Sept 20: Jessica Darling of Jessica Darling – How to Make a Quilt Back
Sept 21: Debbie Kleve Birkebile of Mountain Trail Quilt Treasures – Perfectly Sized No-Wave Quilt Borders
Sept 22: Heather Kinion of Heather K is a Quilter – Baby Quilts for Baby Steps
Sept 23: Michelle Freedman of Design Camp PDX – TNT: Thread, Needle, Tension
Sept 24: Kathy Mathews of Chicago Now Quilting Sewing Creation – Button Holes
Sept 25: Jane Shallala Davidson of Quilt Jane – Corner Triangle Methods
Sept 27: Cristy Fincher of Purple Daisies Quilting – The Power of Glue Basting
Sept 28: Catherine Redford of Catherine Redford – Change the Needle!
Sept 29: Amalia Teresa Parra Morusiewicz of Fun From A to Z – French Knots, – ooh la la!
Sept 30: Victoria Findlay Wolfe of Victoria Findlay Wolfe Quilts – How to Align Your Fabrics for Dog Ears
October 1: Tracy Mooney of 3 Little Birds – Teaching Kiddos to Sew on a Sewing Machine
October 2: Trish Frankland, guest posting on Persimon Dreams – The Straight Stitch Throat Plate
October 3: Flaun Cline of I Plead Quilty – Lining Strips Up