Adapting patterns and selling knitted items

Hi all…I have a dilemma of sorts…hoping you have some advice.

A friend of mine saw my pictures of my FOs, mostly baby hats, and she is crazy about them! She is actually planning to open a high-end baby store and would like to try selling some handmade items. She would like to work out a deal with me to make a few and test them in the store to see if there is interest.

The problem is, the hats I’ve made thus far have been gifts for friends, all made from free patterns I got on the web. I’m sure that there is a problem with someone else selling items made from other’s patterns, right?

I’ve never created my own pattern, and not sure that I could before she wants a few hats to sell. So exactly what magnitude of changes would constitute a “new” pattern? I mean, if I took a stitch pattern from an encyclopedia and incorporated it into a basic hat pattern, would that be original enough? Or if I added stripes, bobbles, buttons, etc?

Thanks in advance for your advice…

Oooooh, that’s a sticky one all right! The free patterns we receive on Knitty, etc. usually have a very concise copyright attached at the bottom of the page, don’t they?

Well, in the art world…9 major changes must be incorporated into your artwork if you want to sell it as your own art design. Even then, some artists sue other artists over the issue…and sometimes win.

My company has dropped the images of certain artists like hot potatoes when another artist makes a claim of infringement. (and it is hard to copyright ART!) We just drop the artist rather than fuss and go to court over copyright laws. We expect the artists we carry to do their own homework prior to handing us their “new” work. If they get into hot water, we just drop their art. :pout:

It is good of you to think carefully about the issue. It shows that you are conscientious and honest-hearted.

A side-story: I make Thank You Cards, using rubber stamps. I have been approached numerous times about selling my cards to them, or in stores. I reply with: “The rubber stamps I used for these cards are copyrighted. I can’t sell the cards. If you buy a piece of art from me, I will give you a thank-you card FOR FREE…but I can’t sell my cards to you. You have to buy the stamp from the store, and make your own cards. That is how the original artist makes her money…if you buy the stamp!”

Anyway, read the copyrights closely.

IMHO: if you make enough changes to the item, it really becomes another design. I mean, how can one copyright “cables surrounded by rev st st”? Isn’t that all the Irish Hiking Scarf is?? :teehee:

I was actually just thinking about this myself today. It’s a bit of a situation. I was thinking that if I were to sell anything, I’d contact the makers of the pattern and would agree to give half to the Animal Rescue League in my city and keep half to renew my knitting stash. Maybe you could do something similar?

Free pattern or not, you should contact the designer and ask. Some do state right on the pattern whether it is okay or not. If it doesn’t say, I would ask. My opinion anyway.

I’m pretty sure that if you take a stitch pattern and apply it to a basic hat pattern you are good. Or make a baby blanket with another stitch pattern. Honestly who can say they invented the pattern for a basket weave baby blanket. I have an almost 90 y.o. baby blanket knit by my Great Grandma for my Grams in that pattern. There is an article on Knitty about copy right and selling.

when in doubt: don’t do it.

it’s always best to contact the owner of the pattern (or image… as I did for a paper for my web page development class… it was on copyright infringement so I e-mailed the owner of the graphics i used in the paper and asked permission… she gave it… but that short 5 seconds to send out the e-mail saved me grief w/ my instructor!).

Supposedly you have to change a pattern 10% for it to not be the same as the original…

I wouldn’t do it in all honesty.

While the basic design of any hat is pretty much the same from hat to hat, you’d need to do something to make your design unique in order to call it your own.

If you use a pattern that has something very unique about it, I’d say don’t sell it. If you create something that is unique itself, then it would be yours to sell and you’ll feel better about it to boot.

I’d suggest starting with a basic hat design that is common to most hats, incorporate unique design features of your own, and thus create your own pattern for it.

Thanks all for your sage advice. I have never designed my own hat before, being that I’ve only been knitting for 2 years, but maybe it’s something I can work on. I just wouldn’t know if what I came up with was unique enough! Or maybe I’d make something, thinking it was all mine, and then turns out it was an idea someone ELSE had and I had no idea!

This is a tricky situation. I think I will tell my friend I need to hold off until I can come up with something on my own.

It’s a really difficult area, that no-one really knows the ins and outs of. A basic hat pattern is one that starts off big and reduces in stitches, and no-one can really copyright that - the only thing they can copyright is the exact written instruction. If you take a stitch pattern (which aren’t copyrightable anyway) and do a few repeats in a circle, and reduce either in normal st st or try to reduce the pattern in a way that looks good, then it’s yours and no-one can have a go at you for it. You know how many stitches to cast on for a hat already, so just choose a suitable stitch pattern and play with it until it works :slight_smile: Good luck!!

Good thought, willowangel. I am thinking about stitch patterns and also color designs that I can use to turn a basic hat into something special/new. Hopefully that will do the trick! I would of course be happy to share my own patterns with the knitting world, such as posted on my blog, etc.

There is posted on a blog a recipe for hats…

Hopefully that will give you some guidance and then you can create from there. I am probably going to do the same so that I can sell some hats too. You can do it.

This might help too…here is a hat that has permission on it to make and sell.

Thanks so much, mom2hancj! I am definitely going to pass that info along to my friend and see if that’s a style she’d like. I’m also going to try creating my own patterns too…wish me luck!

I like to refer to these two sites for knitting copyright questions: and

Thanks! I’ve read through all of the advice and those documents, and I think the only way I’ll be comfortable is to really work hard to create something on my own. It might have typical elements (most hats do, like similar ways to decrease the crown, rolled brims, etc) but also some elements I make up.

I’ve started one hat which will hopefully look a bit Victorian…Pics coming when I’m done! You all can help me weigh in as to whether you think it’s too similar to something you’ve seen out there, or if it’s original enough to call my own!

Of course, I’d be sharing all of my patterns for free…with copyright protection of course. :slight_smile:

We really get bogged down with this. A sweater or hat doesn’t have to be something no one has ever seen before to be your original pattern. How many basic hat patterns have you seen that all have copyrights on them. A lot. How about a basic cardigan? Lots of them. It is the written instructions that are copyrighted as I understand it. If you also figure out how to make a basic hat, how can someone come along and sue you for copying that?

After all, how many scarf patterns have you seen that are…
cast on some number of stitches, knit every row until you are almost out of yarn (or desired length) bind off.
I even saw someone who had an entire 30 minute tv program, I’m sure I’ve seen them for sale in the mall.
IMHO, if you just want to use the basic hat pattern, make it your own with your stitch pattern and yarn and color choice.
However I doubt you would make enough money for anyone to worry about. Think about the cost of the yarn and your time, then think about what people would pay for the hat.
Best of luck and I hope every thing works out.