Licensing Lingo

Yesterday I tackled the weighty issue of copyrighting patterns.  Today let’s discuss licensing.


We’ve all seen taglines in variation of this:

Tutorials and patterns are for personal use only.  If you are interested in using any of the patterns or tutorials for resale, please contact The Owner at to discuss licensing agreements.


Here’s the nitty gritty of licensing.

Under copyright law, a license is a written permission from the copyright holder granting the licensee privileges that are normally reserved to the copyright holder. So yes, licensing is a way to restrict use of the material.


The key in the above statement is the copyright holder is granting permission.  But it was discussed yesterday that patterns themselves can not be copyrighted, nor can the items produced from such patterns.  So there is no copyright holder and in turn, no license and no need to grant permission to the end-user.  Yet again, in my opinion, it becomes just an issue of ethics.

A quick check of copyright records shows no clothing pattern copyrights held by Simplicity, Butterick or McCalls.  Simplicity holds copyrights on some of their pattern envelopes, but not the patterns themselves.  Of the more popular designers, Amy Butler was the only one I found to have registered copyrights for some of her patterns.  Her copyright material was mainly for non-clothing items, technical drawings within the pattern or needlepoint designs.  The other designers had some fabrics copyrighted but nothing else.


Which makes a person wonder why we see the technical wording we do.

  • Why do designers state their items are copyrighted when in fact most aren’t?
  • Why do they state a requirement of licensing agreements when no copyright for the item exists?
  • Why do they indicate they have a legal right to restrict the end use product of their patterns when in reality they don’t?

Is it because they think they do?  Or is it because they think we don’t know otherwise?

Copyright Confusion

Truth be told, I’m not a very good pattern maker.  Some of the items in my shop I’ve completely designed myself (the peasant dresses and eyelet sundresses for example) but it takes me days and days and days of tortuous struggling to figure out sizing adjustments, bodice widths, skirt lengths.  When I consider the time and headache involved it’s much easier for me to purchase patterns or adjust a free online pattern to my liking.

The drawback to this is that some pattern makers/designers –mainly independent ones such as Etsy sellers, not the big names such as Simplicity, Butterick, McCalls and Vogue– add a stipulation to their work stating any items made from their patterns are for personal use only and are not to be sold.  I’d say that 2/3’s of the patterns for sale on Etsy are this way and it makes it challenging for sewists such as myself.   So I look for patterns in which the seller encourages the sale of items from their pattern and then I go so far as to credit them fully in the resulting listings.  (Whimsy Couture is fabulous for this and is the first place I now shop for patterns!)

Legally though, the pattern designer has little control over what a seamstress does with the items made from their pattern or tutorial.

For starters, the pattern itself cannot be copyrighted as it is a template and templates are not copyrightable.  A pattern could also contain specific methods or procedure which are not copyrightable.  And all items considered “useful articles” (which we all agree that clothing certainly is!) are not copyrightable under sections 101 (definition of “useful article”) and 102 (subject matter of copyright) of the Copyright Act.  I suppose one could argue that both the pattern and the resulting articles of clothing are “useful articles”.

Even if the pattern *could* be copyrighted, how could the copyright extend to the items made from the pattern?  All of the pieces used to construct a garment — fabric, thread, zippers, buttons, ribbon, lace, velcro, etc.– would not be covered by the pattern copyright.  Logically, one could conclude that IF a pattern could be copyrighted the rights would extend only to the physical pattern purchased.

Carolyn V. Peters (a licensed attorney who specialized in Intellectual Property including copyrights, patents, and trademarks) states the following in regards to pattern copyrights:

Under the copyright laws, you are not allowed to make a copy of the pattern, except for your personal use. As the legal owner of the authorized copy of this pattern, you have purchased the right to make the article that is presented in the pattern, to sell or give away your authorized copy of the pattern that you purchased, and to sell or give away the article that you made from the pattern.

In my opinion it comes down to an ethical issue.  Legally they can not tell you items produced are for personal use only.  Legally you can do whatever you wish with the resulting items.

But if someone asks you not to do something, shouldn’t common courtesy come into play?

Hence why I try to only purchase patterns that allow items to be sold.  Even though the designer has limited legal rights regarding the items I make, it still makes me feel funny to go against their wishes.


If you want to read more, check out “Patterns and how they are affected by copyright law” and “Pattern Companies and Copyrights“.

Pretty Packages

When you break it down it seems quite straightforward:

  1. Get an order.
  2. Make the item (if not already made).
  3. Ship item off to buyer.

However, with almost 300,000 active sellers currently on Etsy (and a substantial number on the internet in general), it’s increasingly important to take a few moments and examine the third and final step.  A few minutes is all it takes with each order to ensure the packaging is up to par or exceeding buyer standards.

In this consumer driven online marketplace, ATTENTION TO DETAIL IS PARAMOUNT.  The way you package your Etsy orders for shipping can be the single deciding factor in a customer coming back to you for not only another order, but several orders.  With scores of competitors making similar items you can use your packaging to set you apart from the others.

One of the most important things to do is develop a signature packaging style and stick to it for continuity.  Use colors that are relevant to your Etsy shop — I use black and white–as coordinating colors will stick in the buyer’s mind.  For fairly cheap you can also customize business cards, note/thank you cards, return address labels and stickers to match your theme.

After you establish your packaging style, follow these important tips to ensure premium packaging.

  • Make sure your items are in tip top condition.  With clothing items make sure all loose threads are clipped, the fabric is neatly pressed and there is no lint or hair (pet or human) stuck to the fabric.
  • Wrap items in materials that will not transfer color/ink to your items.  Newspaper might seem like a fun way to “upcycle” but the ink will rub off on fabrics if the weather is humid or the package gets wet.
  • Tie your packages with ribbon.
  • Protect items from the weather.  Use waterproof polymailers or put wrapped package inside a seal-able plastic bag.
  • Use pristine packing materials whether new or previously used.
  • Keep in mind your buyers if using upcycled/recycled packaging components.  Some buyers prefer new packaging materials when purchasing new items; buyers buying upcycled materials might prefer upcycled packaging.
  • Tuck a hand-written note, a business card and possibly a discount code in with the items.
  • Include freebies if you desire, making sure they match the theme of your shop.  Pens and magnets make great add-ons and work as fantastic marketing tools.  Don’t include soap/heavily perfumed items if you sell edibles, fabric, clothing or anything else that could absorb the scent.
  • Write out labels as neatly as possible or use your computer to print them.
  • Put a copy of the address inside the package for international packages.  Domestic packages would benefit from this as well, but I will admit that I don’t always include a packing slip.  This is on my list of things to improve upon.
  • When taping packages closed or labels on the package make sure there is no hair stuck on the tape.
  • Add a shop sticker to the outside of the package to catch the attention of anyone who handles it.


This is what my packages look like before going in a polymailer.



My hope is that the recipient will be excited to open it when it arrives on their doorstep!

In the Press

I mentioned that Baby Girl was born shortly after midnight on New Year’s (January 1st).  What I didn’t mention was that it made her the official New Year’s Baby for the area and a little more than 12 hours after an emergency c-section I was talking to a hospital room full of media people.  Yeah, that was LOTS of fun.

The news reporter from the local paper was talking to my husband and I about our professions as he gathered information for the article on Baby Girl.  It was brought up that I had made the transition –after being laid off– from working as a research scientist for the local University to running Stitch To Stitch and sewing children’s clothing.  He told us that the paper was interested in doing a story on local businesses that were started in response to economic downturn and asked if I’d be interested in being interviewed as part of the story.  I agreed and whole heartedly thought nothing would come of it.

Fast forward 2 weeks — my phone rings with a local number I didn’t recognize.  It was another reporter from the paper asking if I was still interested in talking to him about STS.  I agreed yet again (this time to being interviewed in the privacy of my home, after showering and dressing in something nicer than a hospital gown) and spent the next two nights frantically organizing the remaining chaos in my sewing room.  I had been in the midst of organizing when my water broke on New Year’s Eve and much of the newly painted room was still stacked in precarious piles.

After the interview, I was told the story *should* run in Sunday’s paper.  Little did I know what I had in store!  I stopped dead in my tracks that Sunday morning (January 23) when I saw this sitting on top of the stacks of papers…



It’s hard to see your face taking up that much space on the front page.  Even if you do *like* the picture.  😉

The Good & The Bad of The Internet

There’s been a lot of discussion the past few days about a new feature that is available on Etsy.  Up until now, as sellers (and buyers) we were only known as the username we registered with.  Within the last couple of days they’ve implemented the ability for users to add their full first/last name to their profiles. Some people are in full favor of it; others think it’s a bad idea.

This part is the cause for discussion right now:

If you provide your name during site registration or add it to your public profile, it will be displayed on your Etsy profile, favorites and feedback pages, and will be accessible to search engines. Note that your name is your personal name, and is separate from your username or shop name.

Some people are concerned about the accessibility to search engines and how that affects their internet “privacy”.

My thoughts?

As a shop owner, I think that it could be really beneficial if people could search for us by our real names.  Sometimes friends/family forget store names and would rather look them up by the owner.  If I was solely a buyer on Etsy I wouldn’t put my real name on my profile.  The purpose now would solely be to drive more traffic to my store.  There is nothing associated with my Etsy store  or account that could possibly embarrass me or that I wouldn’t want people to see.

As buyers what do you think?  Do you think it’s advantageous to be able to search Etsy shops by the real name of the owner?


On a side note — I suppose though, when your name is googled and 90% the first 6 pages of results really are you anyways, anonymity on the internet seems like a fairly moot point.  😉

Officially Official

A highly anticipated letter came in the mail yesterday from the Secretary of State.

STITCH TO STITCH is officially recognized as a business entity in the state of Idaho!

Woohoo!  Yeah, it’s only a silly piece of paper with a stamp and signature on it but it means that I’m official.  No one else in the state can take my shop name and my tax identification number should follow shortly.

My business cards, thank you tags and some miscellaneous marketing “stuff” (i.e. magnets, a pen — both free from Vist@print) were delivered the other day too.  When I was talking shop in the fabric store yesterday it was really fun to be able to pull one out and offer to someone.  Thankfully too, she asked for a couple more after I gave her the first.

I’m sure it sounds silly to some people but these little details mean a great deal to me.  It’s so cool to see the pieces of it all start to come together.