Copyright and Teaching Sewing Classes

Simply stated:
Whether you teach using a single pattern, magazine article or from a book, each student should have his/her own legitimate copy.  It is generally NOT okay to buy one copy of a pattern, magazine or book and then make copies to distribute to your students.

But patterns and books cost so much!!! Believe me, cost is a HUGE factor in deciding which projects to do with my kids.

As a librarian at the day job, it’s my responsibility to explain copyright and fair use to my staff. I’m certainly not an intellectual property attorney; however, I do my best to model ethical copyright behavior in both the day job and when teaching sewing classes.  Here are some tips to help keep things copyright compliant while keeping costs down:

  1. If you absolutely love the pattern, teach from it and have your students buy the pattern for that class!  See if you can get the pattern at a discount.
  2. Fabric and craft companies (plus designers) post numerous free projects online.  Use those!  Work with the shop to kit the projects. If necessary, have students print out their own copies of the free pattern and bring to class.
  3. For books, students can often borrow from a library or find them much cheaper at a used bookstore/online vendor.
  4. Buy basic commercial patterns (pajama bottoms, skirt, aprons, etc.) that you’ll actually use in classes when they are on sale for $1-2 each at the big box retailer. I buy 4-5 copies of a single pattern at a time.  Each kid takes home the pattern they used in class and the cost is built into the class fee. This is a convenience for my students and helps keep things copyright compliant.
  5. Design your own patterns! Inspired by something you saw but can’t find a pattern that you can use?  Pinterest and YouTube are your friends.  I’ll bet you can come up with something!  Keep projects simple and let the kids add their own creative flourishes.  Pillowcases, tote bags, zippered pouches, drawstring bags, tablet covers, mug cozies and potholders can only be made so many ways.

When planning projects for classes, I survey my students to see what they’d like to make. If it’s a garment, see #4.  If not, I meet with the shop owner to see if there are any patterns currently in stock that they’d like me to use.  If not, I’ll go to option #2 & then #5. Honestly, I usually develop my own patterns and instruction sheets for the Kid’s Club projects.  Most project patterns are written for adults – not children.  Occasionally, the quilt shop calls because a customer wants to buy my project instruction sheets. I’ve since spiffed up the format and now sell them when asked.