Skip to Main Content

Knitting, Crochet, and Creative Commons!

Pattern Designing

It is an ongoing source of tension in the fiber arts community since artists feel that their work is being stolen and some people operate on the “5 things” or “30%” myth, meaning that if you change five things or 30% of a pattern then it is yours.  A prominent issue with copyright in the fiber arts community is misinformation.

The U.S. Copyright Office, in particular, does not specifically say what can and cannot be under copyright only having the loose boundaries of a Work of Visual Art meaning the final piece may be able to maintain copyright, but is it really under copyright when the stitches used to comprise the piece are within the public domain or are ineligible for copyright protections?

U.S. Copyright law deepens this confusion because technically “any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied” is excluded from copyright protection, but what about the moral and commercial rights of pattern makers? 

The U.S. Copyright Office did release documentation in Circular 33 detailing what works are not protected under copyright. While it does not mention fiber arts directly, the circular goes into depth about what is copyrightable in recipes whose structure is similar to knitting/crochet patterns. “ In contrast, a recipe that creatively explains or depicts how or why to perform a particular activity may be copyrightable. A registration for a recipe may cover the written description or explanation of a process that appears in the work, as well as any photographs or illustrations that are owned by the applicant.” From this explanation and the ruling in Star Athletica, we can infer that stitch charts, color charts, infographics,and photographs of the work can be placed under copyright. While a singular stitch can not be placed under copyright, using that stitch in a creative way such as creating 3D appliques can be considered for copyright registration. 


Bailey, J. (2014, October 8). Copyright in knitting and Crocheting. Plagiarism Today.

Circular 33 works not protected by copyright. (2021, March).

Meindertsma, J. (2014, July 14). Patterns and copyright protections. Copyright corner.

Mountain-Manipon, C. (2019, October 8). Knitting pattern plagiarism: How do I make my pattern original?. Sister Mountain.

Nolo. (2017, May 22). Supreme Court rules that garment design elements are copyrightable.