Ask Madelyn: Weaving and Copyrights

Have you ever wondered how copyright applies to weaving? Madelyn has the answers.

Madelyn van der Hoogt Nov 24, 2015 - 4 min read

Ask Madelyn: Weaving and Copyrights Primary Image

Photo Credit: George Boe

Hi Madelyn

I’ve read the eBook Know Your Rights: Copyright 101 for Weavers. After collecting 25 years worth of Handwovens, are there any patterns that could be woven for resale? Your magazine is to be used as a resource, but if you can’t use the drafts or part of the drafts, change colors and patterns what’s the point?


Hi Beverly!

Your question (and concerns) are probably shared by other readers. Know Your Rights explains that copyright law (which is not something Handwoven created) protects the published content in the magazine, i.e., the specific written instructions for projects. That means that you can't follow the instructions in Handwoven to make a replica to sell or to show as original work. It doesn't mean that you can't get ideas or information or ways to use weave structures and colors from Handwoven projects as you create your own designs for pieces you sell or show as original work. And, of course, you can always follow any of the instructions to make pieces to use yourself or give as gifts.

In your question, you use the word "pattern." Sometimes weavers refer to drafts for weaving as "patterns." Most drafts for weaving are commonly known; that is, most of us use plain weave, twill, or a selected block weave to design original pieces. The "draft" we use is usually not original--it's part of our general weaving heritage. But the number of repeats and the specific fibers and colors and their arrangements have infinite potential for variation, and those arrangements should be unique to an original piece of work.Most of our readers weave for their own pleasure rather than for profit. The increase in guild sales over the last decade or so (and weavers' participation in State or County fairs) has probably made questions like yours come up more often. Guild members, even if they are new weavers, are encouraged to make things for guild sales or enter pieces in fairs, and most new weavers need help coming up with successful designs. It's important that they be encouraged to develop their own work, however. A good way for them to do this is to follow the instructions for a project in Handwoven, and as they weave it, think about ways that they can make it better. This doesn't mean just changing green to blue, but careful thought about the proportions of colors, the yarns, the setts, everything that can be done to make it a better scarf, towel, placemat, rug—and then designing and weaving their own piece for sale or show.

I would say that the "point" is that you can use Handwoven to learn how different yarns, colors, and weave structures work together without having to use them all yourself to find that out. That seems pretty wonderful to me. We did, by the way, feature a column for a number of years called "Weave to Sell" which granted permission (from Handwoven and the original designer) to make the piece for sale (though not for show as original work).

— Madelyn