I’m pretty steamed.

I’ve discovered that someone who bought my Chunky Wee Zippy Pouches pattern has ripped it off, obviously believing the “just change 5 things or X percent and you’re safe” nonsense.

Chunky Wee Zippy Pouches features three different sizes of zippy pouches. One is long and thin - a pencil pouch, the other is rectangle shaped, and the third is cube shaped.

Whatever the nuts and bolts of copyright law might state about what is in the public domain and what can’t be protected on a pattern for a functional product, it’s just freaking WRONG to plagiarize someone else’s stuff to make money from it.

Look. Most of this industry is made up of nice women, women who often get railroaded by corporate policies that abuse our niceness. We should be looking out for each other, supporting each other, protecting each other. NOT STEALING FROM EACH OTHER. If you have to hide behind the minutiae of copyright law to justify your actions you KNOW you are doing something slimy. So don’t do it. Just DON’T.

If you want to write patterns, then by all means come up with an original idea, and find your way to executing it. When I set out to write this pattern, I hadn’t ever owned nor made any other zipper pouch pattern. I decided I wanted to make a pattern that had a formula for making ANY size you could dream up, and I made a dozen samples getting to that. Yes, I have boxed corners in bags before – there are really only two ways to do it – and I chose the technique that works most accurately for me for the pouch. I didn’t steal anyone’s drawings on how to construct the pouch, I looked at the one in my hand and drew my illustrations from observation. Is it the first ever zippy pouch pattern? Nope. Will it be the last? Nope. Is it all my own work? YES.

Designing is hard work. You have to have your finger on the pulse of the industry to keep current on trends, and at the same time, you need NOT to be looking at too much other stuff or it will pollute your head. For instance, if there is a trend of flying geese going on, by all means design something goose-y with your favorite construction method, but start with a blank slate when you do.

The person who stole my pattern came up with handles to add to it. If you have such an idea, the appropriate way to handle it is like Elizabeth at Occasional Piece did with her modifications to make a mini Sew Together Bag. She wrote her mods in such a way that they did not divulge the content of the original pattern, and then offered it for free on her blog. Bravo. New idea shared, original idea protected. Boom.

If you can’t generate your own ideas yet, you aren’t ready for the prime time arena of the pattern design industry. Despite what might look like overnight successes to an observer, it takes a LOT of work to become decent at this, and even those of us who’ve been at it a while sweat every pattern we attempt. You have to sew a LOT of other stuff to be able to discern and design good construction techniques, and you need to learn expensive software (or hire expensive help) to present your writing and drawings/photos well. What you don’t see is the seventeen tries to get it right before we send it out, nor the anguish that consumes us when, despite our best efforts, an error slips through. You don’t see the teams of unsung testers that help out. You don’t see the mounting scraps of expensive fabric sacrificed to the process. Pattern design involves several learning curves and shortcutting them with plagiarism is not only bad form, it cheats you of the skills you ought acquire to create a long lasting design career.

While I don’t think my plagiarist is an inherently evil or vindictive person*, her willingness to “dabble in pattern design” by dancing on my toes smacks of an ignorance born of casual disregard for what it takes to survive in this industry. She thought she could make a quick buck. While I fully acknowledge that I do this for money, there is no quick buck involved in a carefully crafted pattern. I have somewhere close to 60 hours invested in Chunky Wee Zippy Pouches, from pondering the first idea to sending the first pattern to a distributor, to say nothing of the fabric, fusibles and zippers I ate up along the way. I also write patterns because I care deeply about creating a happy experience for our makers. I want people to enjoy quilting so they do more of it, not give them poorly written crap that wastes their time and their fabric, not to mention makes them want to quit the craft.

While I’m angry that my pattern was poached, I’m even more frustrated with the time this has cost me – time I could have used to design something new to grow my pattern business. I have had to research copyright law, capture screen shots of her website and Facebook pages to support my case, consult my colleagues and legal team, talk to the person that did it (and no, it was no fun to do that), write a Cease and Desist letter, and make a trip to the post office to send it certified. I have had to send pictures of her patterns to my distributors to request that they not purchase them as they are based on mine. I’ve wasted a ton of time trying to get calm about it, and formulating an action plan. I probably could have made a whole new design in the time this has cost – and it’s a loss I’ll never recoup.

In conclusion, I just want to appeal to a higher morality amongst us, regardless of any convoluted points of law. Don’t steal from or undercut your fellow humans. We face enough battles without being attacked by people who should be our peers. Up your game and we all win, truly. #WASWI

Thanks for reading.

Sam Signature

* I am choosing not to name this person, nor link to her because I believe that it could turn ugly. I’ve seen and experienced enough nasty internet hate to believe that few people, if any, who receive it, deserve it. I sincerely hope she appreciates that.