Honesty and Digital Designs

There is a question I get time and time again about my digital designs: “Karlee, I love your designs, and I want to use them for {insert specific reason here}. Is that alright with you?”

First of all, I LOVE THIS QUESTION. As an independent designer who sells downloadable designs, I appreciate so much when people take the time to find out the answers to their specific questions on how my designs legally can and cannot be use. So, I wanted to break it down for y’all and answer these questions more specifically to clear the air and answer this question as I am sure it will continue to come up in the future.

I know that sometimes it can be tricky to define and draw the lines of what constitutes honest pattern use and what does not. Unfortunately, some customers think that if they purchase a design, they can share it with their friends, or try to sell the design to someone else. This is not the case. That being said, a lot of times, even when someone is breaking the rules/law surrounding intellectual property rights of a design, it is more out of ignorance than malice. But hey, “The More You Know” right?

So let’s break things down and get answers to specific questions about where I draw the line for my entire library of downloadable designs. We’ll start with the obvious ones:

Personal Use
Use my digital designs to quilt your quilts! Duh. This is the whole reason that I sell designs- for people to finish quilts!

On any machines that YOU (the purchaser) use
Use my digital designs on ANY of your machines that you own. My designs come in every quilting machine filetype you might need, and many also come with machine embroidery filetypes, at no extra cost. If a design does not automatically come with a folder of the embroidery filetypes, you can request those files after purchase at no additional cost. (I only don’t automatically provide them for every design, because depending on the design and machine, sometimes you have to digitize the design to a specific size before you export the filetypes. So I ask for the embroidery machine’s hoop size before actually exporting the file.)

If you happen to rent a quilting machine to do your quilts, you can still purchase designs from my website and use them on a rental machine, but you must not leave the design file on that machine when you are done. The design should stay with you, not the machine. (unless you chose to donate your design to the owner of that machine, but doing so would mean that you’d lose your rights to that design.)

Quilting For Hire
Use my digital designs to quilt for customers. I want to do a deep dive into this one because it is the most frequently asked question, and is really the most common scenario (besides quilters who just quilt for themselves) of why my designs are purchased. So let’s chat about this more…

I have a good analogy to help illustrate my point about this. Think of my digital designs similar to the way you would think of a rotary cutter. So, you make quilts for a living, and you need a rotary cutter to do the job. You go to the store and you buy the rotary cutter and mat. When a customer asks you to piece together a top for them, they would provide all the fabric and pay you for your time. You wouldn’t proceed to charge the customer for all the supplies you would use to make that quilt top (your rotary cutter, mat, sewing machine, pins, the headphones that you rock out to music with while your sewing.) All these things are tools in your studio that allow you to do the job you need to do. My digital designs are just like that.

When you purchase my design, you can add it to your library of available designs that you can quilt someone’s quilt top with, and you use it as a tool to complete the project in the way your customer wants you to. You can charge them for your time to quilt their top, or by the square inch at the price point you designate for whatever type of quilting you will do (i.e. edge to edge, interpretive, custom, etc…) But you MAY NOT charge them a fee for the design itself. You do not need to re-pay for the design each time you use it for a customer, but you also cannot charge the customer for the design each time you use it. It is a tool that only you use, not a product that you buy and re-sell. Just like you wouldn’t charge someone a rotary cutter fee each time you use your same rotary cutter on their set of fabric.

*sidenote: if you are a professional quilter and you want to get my designs at a DEEP DISCOUNT, sign up for my Digital Design Loyalty Club*

So let’s take this a step further. Let’s say you purchase a bunch of my designs, and then you decide to sell your quilting machine system to someone else. What do you do with all the digital designs you’ve purchased at that point? You have 1 of 2 options:

#1 – You include all those designs in the purchase of the machine. This means that along with the machine, those designs now belong to the new owner. This means that all files from any backup location other than the quilting machine should be discarded or also transferred to the new owner.


#2 – You keep those designs and they are removed from the quilting machine system before it is given to the new owner. If you planned to buy a different quilting machine system, you ARE allowed to keep your designs.

The point here is that the designs should either stay with ONE OWNER, or ONE MACHINE. Never both.

Here is what you CAN’T AUTOMATICALLY DO with my digital designs:

Sell copies or variations of the downloadable files to other People
When you purchase any of my designs, they always come in every quilting format you might need, depending on your system. This means that for instance, if you use the .QLI filetype for your quilting machine, but later on you decide to change machine brands and the new machine uses a .HQF filetype, you still have the ability to use all the designs that you have purchased from my website on your new machine. However, if when you sold your previous machine, you included all those same designs, then technically, you should not be using them in a different file format on your new machine.

Furthermore, and I really hope this goes without saying… but if you purchase a design from my website, that design file SHOULD NOT BE copied and redistributed to multiple people, whether it is sold to them or given.

If you decided that you no longer wanted the designs, you could technically sell the actual designs to someone else who might want them. But this means that you FORFEIT all rights to ever use the designs again, unless you go back and re-purchase them from my site (or an authorized re-seller).

If you are a website owner who also sells quilting designs, and you want to license designs, there is a completely separate partnership contract for this which would entail paying ongoing royalties each time the design sells. I do partner with a couple other website at the moment: Legacy Quilting and Intelligent Quilting. Shout out to them. They gave me a platform before I even started selling my designs on my own site. Partnerships like this are wonderful and mutually beneficial.

Mass produce products that utilize a quilting design (without prior authorization)
Now this is one that from the get-go is not allowed. However there are some caveats that I’ll explain, using some examples from past experiences.

The first experience used my Majestic Lion Design:

There was a quilt shop owner who purchased this design through my website, just like any other quilter, but then wanted to stitch out the design multiple times, and then sell that fabric as part of a kit for a class that she wanted to teach, using this design as the focal point pattern for the entire basis of the class. Now, to execute this class and kit all by itself, by only paying for the design one time and using it over and over and over again every time she taught the class would be unacceptable because it was only paid for for personal use, meaning that more than one person should not be using the design in any way, and it would also be a form of unlawful design distribution. But like I said there are exceptions that could make this partnership work for both parties…

Another example will illustrate this point. A professional quilter friend of mine recently purchased a couple of my Mandala Designs:

Later on, she decided that she wanted to start manufacturing quilted Christmas tree skirts, using this design on some solid colored satin fabric. Now, if she were just making a one-off, or even maybe just a few to give away as gifts, this would be totally fine and within her rights to do so under the personal use definition. But, she took the exact right steps to cover all her bases when she knew that she not only wanted to make a large number of tree skirts, but that she would be selling them as part of her business. She reached out to me and we had a great conversation about how we could support each other’s business in this way. I have a policy in place for these exact situations. All that was required of her was to pay a one-time commercial licensing fee for each of the Mandala designs that should would be using for these tree skirts. This agreement allowed her to pay the fee up front and it would grant her the rights for a specific amount of years to use those designs in a commercial way.

So, if you are a business owner and you want to use my designs in a commercial, large quantity way, LET’S TALK! Each design and project is unique, and so the commercial licensing fee varies based on your needs. (I should mention though, that with this type of partnership, while it does allow the distribution of finished products using the design, it DOES NOT give rights to distribute the design file itself to other quilters.)

Change a design by X% and sell it as my own
This one drives me a little bit insane. And I wish it weren’t even a thing to address, but sometimes it happens. There is a myth in the art world that if you see a piece of art and you change it by a certain percentage, then you can legally then pass it off as your own and sell it as you please. THIS IS FALSE. And, it’s pretty low-road to be honest. If you are an aspiring digital designer, please do not copy other people’s work and just make slight variations. As a designer myself, there are 2 things that I have always done to avoid ever being accused of copying/stealing someone’s work. A) I make it a disciplined point to not peruse other designer’s libraries, websites, or portfolios. This way I know that I am not even being influenced by someone in the same arena as me. And B) I strive to make work that is so unique and specific to my style, that there is no probable way that it could accidentally have already been done by another designer. Now, of course, after creating 1500+ designs, there has been a time or two that my designs have looked very similar to another designer’s but it was a very basic, entry level design. When this has happened in the past, all it takes is a simple conversation of honesty to come to a conclusion. Sadly, I have had another designer totally knock me off and literally only change 10% of my design, and then outright claim that their’s was “different enough” and refuse to take their design down. People like that just make me sad, but at the end of the day, I’ll refer you back to my point B. I always strive to the most unique work possible.

My designs are a TOOL to assist you in your quilting journey. Use them to your PERSONAL heart’s content and BE HONEST within the bounds set above. And, please know that I stand behind my designs 100%. If at any time you ever want to chat more about this subject I AM HERE FOR YOU! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Be great to each other!


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