Saturday, 3 May 2014

Are You a Copycat?

I've been absolutely taken over by top making frenzy.
The first five are all stitched up and hanging waiting to be worn. 

I've been making lots of drawings of different changes I can make to each one. From embellishments, to shapes and fabrics. 

When an idea pops in my head when I'm out and about, I scrabble in my bag for paper and pen. When I get home all these scrappy shopping lists and receipts get added to my book of ideas and things

I've been having a lot of fun stitching these tops. I started off with a basic idea in my head and as I've gone along I've made changes to make the pattern work better.  I feel I've now got the pattern to how it works best and that means I can start to try out all my other ideas for it. 

That means even more tops then.

 I wore this one to work this week. 
There was nothing wrong with it at all, but I got the urge to add a little something more when I got home.

Come Friday I was at my machine as soon as my man drove Little Bun off to school (Miss Rosey has been abed all week with high temperatures). This is my second to last Friday off for a while as I'll be doing five day weeks for a bit so it was even more precious stitching time. 

Within a couple of hours I'd done and dusted the yellow and blue tops I'd cut out last weekend.

 I decided to keep the yellow fairly plain and simple with just a cream trim to the bottom.

 The blue one is made from one of my favourite fabrics. It has all the best shades of blue in it and I just love the bolder print. 

This is cut from a double sheet that I found at last summers Little Vintage Lover Fair in Heydon.
I've not wanted to cut into it as I couldn't decide whether to use it for curtains, a dress or ?????
Then I thought for goodness sake use what you've got and stop being so precious. 
So I cut some of it up.

Then I thought I know I'll add some blue spot binding to the neckline, give it a bit of a break up of pattern.

I squeezed out time this week to finish Little Bun's top too. 
 It fits perfectly (phew) and she loves it too (second phew). 


Miss Rosey hasn't asked for one yet, she is more of a Jack Wills, Hollister lover, but will wear things I make for her now and then.

Do you know, with five all hot off the machine, I have one absolute favourite. It's this one made in the most glorious cotton. The print is in perfect shades of pink, mustard and yellow which I love, but even better than that is the softness of the cotton. I found it in a fleamarket and am so glad I chose this one. I only had enough cash on me for one of the two fabrics I'd picked up and I nearly chose the pale lilac floral instead.


When I got the idea in my head that I wanted to make a top I knew exactly what I was after. I drew up some shapes and gathered some fabric together. As I'm slowly trying to teach myself how to make my own patterns I searched through my books to find a basic shape to help me out.
In the first Sewing Bee was a basic vest shape that gave me the starting point for the type of shapes I needed to draw. From there I made my own patterns and created tops that are nothing like the original pattern I turned to. 

I've been thinking about this a lot this part week. Does this mean what I've made is my own creation and the idea belongs to me, or is it a copy?

 My man feels that once you take something commonplace such as a vest shape and make it into your own then the design right belongs to you. A friend I chatted about it with thought you only had to make two changes to something for it to become yours. 

Copying and copyright are something that have always been on my mind and is really quite a tricksy area which a lot of other creative blogs have also discussed.

In the end I looked it up to see where I stand. 

If you're interested in this type of thing then here's a bit of what I found out woven up with my own opinions.

Question 1. What do I do if another person copies me? 
Question 2. What do I do if I see someone has copied another person?
Question 3. How do I avoid copying other people?
Question 4. Are there any rules or laws on this?

There is the view that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery". There's another view that imitation or rather downright blatant copying is not done and is in fact stealing.  For something to copyrighted it has to be original, not commonplace Design Right Act of 1949.
It's hard to absoultely avoid appearing to copy another persons creation as we are all prey to similar influences and trends and there are few things are truly original. However, there are certain things that are commonplace such as basic trousers or t-shirt shapes for example, it's what you do with that design that makes it original.

There are also some things we just want to copy for our own use as we love it so much.
If I want to copy something because I love it or I see something that inspires me then I always refer to that source. I would never offer that design for sale as my own as it's just not on (aside from the fact that there are laws about this fair dealings/fair ise rules). 
I checked up on the laws around this and it seems that are two things to consider. First, the designers brand identity. Second, the embodiment of their ideas (what they produce). 

I've seen two examples of blatant copying over the years where one person not only takes the brand identity, rather than being able to establish one of their own and then they go on to produce exact copies of that other persons work. Both designers that I've noted being copied are very well known and highly thought of in their fields so possibly they aren't bothered by these two smaller fish in the pond. However, copying without consent of the copyright owner is against the law as is copying if you then have a financial impact on their sales. I guess this is where your copy is cheaper and easier to get hold of so people will buy from you. 

In one of these cases I was contacted by another blogger, who happened to be a highly regarded artist and had become a friend of mine (the point of this is that she was struggling with her work being copied). She asked what I thought about this other person who was copying Julie Arkell's work and then selling designs as her own. I agreed I thought it was going on and so I mentioned it to someone I knew who is great friends with Julie. Her response was that Julie was aware of it and really wasn't bothered. She created from passion and I guess at the end of the day this other person knows they're a cheat.

If I believe someone has copied my ideas then I might challenge them if I have enough proof. 
On the whole, with the amount of places we can post our ideas and work these days, I think uploading images of your work and reminders that it is in fact your work serves as enough of a gentle reminder at times. 

You can take the other option and just ignore it as often what they've created is pretty awful anyways.

There are so many other aspects to all of this I know. They're just my views on the subject, I'd love to hear what you think.


  1. Let me start by saying that I love you tops. Secondly, re the copying thing. If you had taken a top from a designer or shop and made an exact copy, same fabric, shape and so on and then said it was your design that could be copying - stealing - in my book. However, if you saw a blue vest top and thought, oh, I could make something like that and came home and sketched out a pattern shape and used your own different fabric, and so on that would not be copying as you were just inspired to think you could make a top. Even when you use a bought pattern, it is very rare that two people make it in exactly the same fabric and they may also alter the pattern. Then you should say that it is made to this pattern, but you could say that it is yours because you have chosen the fabric and so on. I have no basis in fact, but that seems fair and simple to me. We are all inspired by things we see, trends, colours and so on and it would be very unlikely that no two people ever had similar ideas, but blatant copying I generally pretty obvious I think! So, I think that you need have no worries about your tops, all you have copied there is yourself! You have done a great job of it too! xx

    1. It also appears that I cannot spell - sorry about that folks! xx

  2. Thanks for your thoughts on this Amy and your kind words about my tops. Seems we're on the same side of the fence with this one. X

  3. I think that you can certainly rest easy regarding your tops - you have obviously moved so far from the original in terms of restyling and embellishment that these are very much your creations. Just because you started from a basic pattern from somewhere else as a jumping-off point for your own creativity does not nullify that - all art and craft starts from some basic idea which can come from anywhere. It is where you take that idea and how you develop it is the creative part. Copyists don't do that - they just copy full stop!

    I am now waiting with bated breath for you to publish a pattern, or, even better, make some for us to buy!! xx

    1. Thanks for your helpful comments Pomona. I hate the thought of accidentally doing the one thing that makes me furious with people who copy. I think you've guessed that this idea might be going further. I'll be back with news and I'm really flattered that you would actually wish to buy or have a pattern. Thank you. Also lovely to know you're still out there. I checked your blog a while back and nothing so I'll visit again now you're in.


  4. I agree with Amy and Pamona. You have made a pattern your own. Example - I knit a lot of cardigans for my grandchildren from a basic knitting pattern I bought, but my finished cardigans look nothing like the pattern I bought, and my daughter-in-law always gets asked where she gets the cardigans from. To me blatant copying is when it looks so much like the original but you have said its your own pattern.

  5. Just what I thought too. Really good to hear that other people feel the same way. X

  6. Really interesting thoughts here. I have recently seen Kirsty Elson's work being copied blatantly , even down to the little rusty nail fences and washing lines. The culprit is tweeting these copies as though they're original on Twitter! I'm rather livid about it. There's an organisation called Anti Copying in Design (ACID) who offer legal help and have successfuly brought individuals and organisations to justice for copying artists' work. I may do a post about this as it's increasingly common I think. Thanks so much for highlighting it.

    I think your tops are wonderful. You have added extra design touches and alterations. DO you plan to sell them? xx

  7. I am seriously in love with those tops ! Especially the blue one, with the bigger print, I would buy that immediately if I would find it in a shop !!!
    As for the copyright/copying thing, it is - and always will be- a difficult discussion... Everybody gets inspired by the ideas of others, consiously or inconsciously...
    I agree with the comments above, if someone elses idea is only used as inspiration, it is not copying. Only perfect copying & selling an item, claiming it is the original, will be defined as plagiarism in court.
    But famous artists aside, who will go through the hassle (and costs !) of suing a copycat ?

  8. I love those tops, they look great with a spring cardigan :) Copying is a tough one, I've made a few things then seen them on other blogs & even worse in Cath Kidston! I don't know if they copied me or not but hey that's life! I've also made things that I've then seen online but I didn't copy it x

  9. I love each and every one of your tops Lisa, all those very beautiful fabrics and the contrasting binding. Love little Buns choice and that mustardy rose one too. Whenever I visit here I am filled with colourful inspiration from you and all your beautiful colour and pattern choices lovely Lisa x As of the copying I really think it's important to have ethical behaviour around not taking someone else's creation or design and I think that you are right to question it and your creations have become and been tweaked so far from the original I think you can definitely say they are yours xox hope you all enjoy the rest of your bank holiday weekend x

  10. It's a minefield isn't it, the whole copyright thing. And then there are issues such as trademarks to consider too. As you say we are all influenced by what we see in the world around us. I was taught that keeping copious notes on how designs and projects develop is a good way to counter accusations of copying, because it's inevitable that someone somewhere that we're unaware of will have done something similar before.

    Loving all the colourful tops :)

  11. They say copying is the greatest form of flattery but it is very upsetting when it happens to you. I think that you have adapted something you have seen and made it you own and they all look fabulous.
    Jacqui x

  12. Love the tops so much!
    Copying scares me so much, the Internet is a place of inspiration but then I think 'I cant use that colour or material' because someone else has used it! So sometimes the Internet can be as restricting as it is a useful resource!
    But then again I guess all designers and artists have faced this quandary throughout history!
    A very interesting post Mrs Bobo and thank you for researching this topic for us to read.
    PS did I say just how much I LOVE. Your sewing!

  13. Love love the tops you have made...

  14. Personally, I agree with your man - you've made these tops your own, irrespective of where you got the inspiration. In this day and age, it's very difficult to lay claim to a particular design or item because most things have been done before. I've only released a few little crochet patterns and have a very laid back approach to what people do with them. If, one day, I decide to sell patterns to make a few pennies, I can't see that changing. Policing the internet is simply impossible. I seldom follow patterns but always, always credit the source of my inspiration because I think it's simply good manners. Thankfully, I think most people are the same.

    As for your tops - I absolutely love them!!! The pink remains my favourite - I spotted the fabric in John Lewis after seeing it on your blog and bought a metre. Rest assured, I won't be making a top because I'm pants at sewing - I think perhaps bunting or a cushion is my limit!!!

    Have a fabulous weekend.

    Heather x

  15. What a gorgeous collection of tops! I don't think anyone person can lay claim to a basic garment shape, such as a sleeveless top, a t-shirt, a simple A-line skirt for instance. As Pink Milk says most things have been done before. Your individual stamp comes with the fabrics you source and the embellishments, which look fabulous.

  16. Always "tricky" for crafters. I've been to two of Julie Arkell's workshops and she shows you how to create her designs. I have made brooches and watches but these are purely for myself or for gifts. Love your tops. Need to look in my old patterns and get making clothes again!
    Carol xx

  17. Your tops are darling! I concur with all the comments above. I just want to add a little homily to illustrate my thoughts. Recipes cannot be copyrighted, yet we all buy and watch many many books and shows about cooking, there is no one claiming rights to the scone. I understand your morals in blatant copying but as to what you are doing it's just another scone recipe at the end of the day! I love scones....especially with jam and cream. :-)

  18. You've inspired me to get out my patterns and have a look! These cotton tops are beautiful and they look so cute on you. Well done.
    As for copying, people just need to use common sense, respect the hard work of others and ALWAYS link back to their source. Good post!

  19. I'm a craft designer and have had a few run in's with copy cats. Some are just bare faced about it - either way I find it hurtful and upsetting and has resulted in me not putting anything too precious to me up on my blog, facebook etc with the downside being that I don't put very much out there which makes me sad too. There has been times when i've seen blogs by people showing off creations that they have "designed and made" when they have blatantly not and are reaping accolades and recognition that they don't deserve. I have outed them to the original designers where I could. I do agree that there is a common pool of ideas and sometimes people come up with similar ideas with different approaches to producing them but neither have stolen from each other. However there are always the ideas that simply stand out as one off so these are easier to keep a watchful eye over.

  20. Hello there, not been into my fave blogs for ages, I copy stuff all the time but never stuff I (try) to sell, I think copying something to make as a gift is fine. Love your tops, has made me want to make some lovely summery tops for myself(not to sell), instead of tudor woolly items that are currently dominating my time! Catx

  21. I certainly don't think you have anything to worry about and your tops are great. 99% of everything has been done before, even the lovely work of Julie Arkell may have originated from something such as photos of old toys, she's made it very recognisable as her work, so it seems silly to copy it exactly. In college we were visited by a big retail brand who told us they went to all the big shows, bought the clothes , changed one thing, then produced them as their own, we weren't impressed, and they looked really bad when they ripped off a swimwear designer and she took them to court. About 8 years ago I was given a Japanese book by a Japanese friend and made some things to sell following the photos (they allowed commercial use) I still have one. At the time I didn't know anything about blogs, but several years later saw online the same item by an american very popular blogger and I felt awful in case people thought I'd copied her, then realised, hold on, she must have seen the same book. There's so much lovely work out there and lots of it overlaps, I think we all probably produce similar work to others at some time. There's no problem with yours, what are you going to do with them all? x

  22. Beautiful tops!! Love them all, and the cute hangers, too. ;) xo Heather

  23. I love love love your contrasting facings and put one into my latest make - a skirt as part of Daisy Jones sew along.

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Bobo X

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