Lately I've been seeing a lot of little turtorials on other blogs for basic items like eyeglass cases and lanyards. These are items that require little or no thought to create a pattern but the bloggers are nicely putting together a photo tutorial on how to do them. I think this is a great thing that they are doing- until I get to the end and find: "please do not sell anything you make using this tutorial." Now. I completely understand that you don't want someone else to make money off your original work. I really do. And I think if you make something that is unique, that this is perfectly reasonable. In the last couple weeks though I've seen tutorials for things I could have made myself and would have done in the exact same manner. So what happens now? Am I never allowed to make and sell those items? What about the key lanyard that someone did a tutorial for that is literally:
Take a strip of fabric x inches long by x inches wide. Make a tube and turn it inside out. Slide a toggle clip on and sew the ends together to make a loop. Please don't sell any of these if you make them!
REALLY? SERIOUSLY? I mean, her tutorial had pictures and all, but couldn't anyone have done that? Where is the line? It seems clear that I should be able to sell this lanyard if I wanted to sell it.
There are a lot of tutorials out there for simple totes with boxed bottoms. I made quite a few of them before I discovered the world of craft blogging. I did not use a tutorial at all, but used techiniques from a pattern that I had bought for another bag. Now though, I have read those tutorials. If I unintentionally follow some aspect of their technique instead of doing it in the same order I did before, am I allowed to sell my bag? What if I make my pocket like they did, but do everything else the way I always have?
On the other end, if do make a bag that is clearly not the usual bag, I can understand saying that I can't copy that. But at what point does it swap over? I've seen tutorials for items for which I've bought mass retail patterns. I think it's great that I could have made my own without buying the pattern, but what's to say the blogger didn't copy the publisher of the pattern? Am I not allowed to sell something made from a McCalls or Simplicity pattern? What about if I make a quilt from a pattern in a book? Can I sell that?
Before the book Weekend Sewing came out, I saw a tutorial to make a checkbook cover. There is a pattern for that in the book. Did Heather Ross copy them? In 1997, two friends and I made checkbook covers and book covers to give to people for Christmas. Our pattern was shockingly similar. Too bad we didn't publish a tutorial.
At some point it seems that everything has been done and nothing is original (you should be able to say this about books too though, right?) When does the 200 crayon rolls I've seen turn into me copying someone else's idea illegally? Have you looked for a crayon roll on Etsy? Because clearly the majority of the people selling them, myself included, copied that one original person, intentionally or not. (That search found 990 of them.)
After giving this a lot of thought, I've decided to use my best judgement on this. If an item is a simple basic item I'm not going to worry too much about copying you. I've seen a millon handmade tote bags. I'm not going to stop making them for my shop because someone did a tutorial. I don't particularly want to make lanyards, but if I did I'm not so worried that you told me how to make a long tube. I know this is gonna make some people angry at me, but let's use some common sense. If I bought your pattern and you asked me not to do it, I won't. If your item truely is unique and is something I'd never thought of myself, I won't try to sell the items I make from it.
So what do you think? Do you only sell things you've created in a vacuum? Am I being unreasonable? Are you about to call the craft police on me? Should I just close the shop now? I'd love to hear your thoughts.