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How to Copyright a Quilt Pattern

copyright law

Have you created a quilt pattern and want to share it with the world? Read on to learn how to copyright your pattern.

Special thanks to avid quilter and Tulane University Law School John E. Koerner Endowed Professor of Law, Elizabeth Townsend Gard, for answering the question “If I write an original pattern, do I automatically own the copyright to that pattern?” Tune into her podcast “Just Wanna Quilt” for more from Townsend Gard. Or, if you have other legal questions, email her at and she may answer it in a future issue of Creative Retailer.

How to protect my pattern

First, when you create something copyright arises automatically. That includes quilt patterns. But of course there’s more to know. Copyright protects the selection, arrangement, and coordination for that pattern. However, that protection alone is weak.

To strengthen your copyright, Townsend Gard suggest two things. First add © name, year after the pattern so the world knows its protected. Second, register your pattern with the U.S. Copyright Office. Registering is not difficult or expensive, and allows enforcement of your copyright.

What if someone infringes my copyright

This depends on a couple of factors:

  1. Did they infringe on what’s protected or did they use non-protected elements? (We’ll go over this more in next week’s blog).
  2. Did they have access to your pattern and are the patterns similar? (A court will ask this).
  3. Did you register your work?

If the infringement is on social media you can file a notice-and-takedown with the platform to begin the review process. You can also file a complaint with the Copyright Claims Board for claims under $15,000 for a cheaper and quicker option than a federal district court.

Stay tuned next week for quilt pattern copyright limitations.

Inspiration for this post comes from “Copyrighting Quilt Patterns,” by Elizabeth Townsend Gard published in the October 2022 issue of Creative Retailer.

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Common quilting mistakes

Quilt mistakes

Learning a new skill can be both fun and challenging, but making mistakes along the way is just part of the journey (and part of the fun too). Check out these mistakes made by both beginning and experienced quilters alike to help you become an expert quilter in no time.

Take your time

Someone very wise once told me haste makes waste. This is true for all things in life, but whether you’re working on your first quilt, or your 50th, you can still make very basic mistakes by working on a project too quickly.

Along with taking your time, it’s also important to plan ahead. Planning your quilt in advance can save time later down the line. Make sure you have enough fabric and plan your piecing beforehand to make sure your project is executed seamlessly (no pun intended).

Basic mistakes

One of the largest and most noticeable mistakes beginning quilters make is cutting incorrectly. It’s important to be precise on every quilt, but especially for quilts with a lot of piecing.

Another common mishap is not back stitching. Back stitching is important in securing the ends of pieces, and can contribute to blocks not squaring away.

Two common things beginning quilters get wrong are batting and marking tools. If you’re unsure what batting would be best to use, seek assistance at a fabric store. Also at fabric stores are machine washable markers perfect for quilt projects; buy several so you always have multiple at hand.

Fabric mistakes

Common fabric mistakes include pressing too hard and not buying enough. Again, when in doubt consult an employee at a fabric store if you’re not sure how many yards of fabric you’ll need for a project. Also don’t forget to prewash that fabric once you bring it home from the store, especially if a quilt is going to include colors by white material.

Last but not least, follow pattern directions. Some new patterns are harder than they seem; stick to the directions to make sure the quilt turns out as it should.

What are some things you wish you knew when you started quilting? Quilting is a life-long journey and an ever-evolving art; making some mistakes along the way is just part of the fun.

Thanks to Create with Claudia for the inspiration behind this post.

If you’re looking for more information to guide you in owning a retail business, subscribe to American Quilt Retailer today. Already a subscriber? No worries—join our Facebook group for insights and dialogue from industry specialists like you.