Ask Madelyn: Can You Sell a Project from Handwoven?
Thank you for considering my question! I am a relatively new weaver (been at it for about two years). Of course, I never have enough time to weave like I want to. I am thinking about doing items that I could sell and make some extra income. I searched the web about selling items and came across one of your posts about items that are woven from Handwoven magazine projects.
“If a weaver uses the instructions in a magazine (or any copyrighted printed matter) to make an item (number of threads, draft, yarns, colors, sett, finishing methods, etc.), it is a copyright violation to sell the item or to enter it in a show of original work. The written instructions are copyright protected, not the actual item. Simply changing a color or a yarn would probably not be regarded as enough of a change to avoid violation.”
So, I’m thinking that it really is not possible to sell anything that I make, since all of my projects would come from patterns that I see in Handwoven magazine, eBooks that I’ve downloaded, or from other books, such as A Weaver’s Book of 8-Shaft Patterns.
How would a weaver make an income if everything is copyrighted?
This is an age-old question that merits revisiting now and then. The drafts that appear in Marguerite Davison’s A Handweaver’s Pattern Book and Carol Strickler’s A Weaver’s Book of 8-Shaft Patterns are fine for you to use for items that you sell. To use them, you will be choosing your own materials, colors, setts, numbers of threads, etc. Most of these drafts appear in many places and could be considered part of the public domain. It is, however, a violation to follow the exact written instructions in a Handwoven project to make something that looks just like the piece in the photo and then sell it or enter it in a juried show. Juried shows intend for work to be original. (I have had the experience of seeing an item receive first place in a juried show that had been a Handwoven project. It turned out the weaver thought the piece was juried for craftsmanship, not originality. Juried shows always mean for the work to be original.)
This doesn’t mean that you can’t use drafts that are in Handwoven for original work. What you can’t do is follow the instructions exactly as given for the yarns, warp and weft color order, length, number of threads, etc., and then sell a piece as yours that looks just like the photographed project in the magazine. There is obviously a gray area here in terms of how much needs to be different to avoid a copyright violation. If you change one element simply so you can say that you didn’t use the instructions, you would know that you have violated copyright. If you try a project in Handwoven and from weaving it learn a lot about the yarns, color interaction, and the weave structure, and then continue exploring on your own to come up with something that the project only inspired, you are not violating weaving copyright. You are the one who really knows if the work is yours.
I hope this helps!
Posted March 29, 2016. Updated February 16, 2018.
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