Cutest blog on the block background and template

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Settings for Sylvia

The complete Sylvia's Bridal Sampler has 140 6-inch blocks. So far, I have finished 113 blocks (see them at my Flickr pool) using batiks and an off-white background with a subtle print. I'm trying to decide on a setting for my quilt and spent some time in the gallery of finished quilts looking for inspiration. (I can't link directly to the Gallery. Just choose Gallery from the menu)

I used EQ to draw a couple of layouts I thought would work.Both layouts have two black borders surrounding a scrappy batik border made from block leftovers. I loved the black SBS quilts in the gallery and Lynda DeTray's Sylvia and Louise quilt used the scrappy border. I might create a flange out of a bright Prisma dye batik instead of the scrappy border. I've never done a flange but it doesn't look difficult. I've learned so much making these blocks, I might as well learn to make a flange, too! 

Layout 1
The first layout alternates a block from the sampler with an Irish Chain block as Trisha Chubbs and Caroline Van Maele did with their SBS quilts. Some of the sampler blocks are very intricate (Mrs. Cleveland's Choice has 65 pieces!) and adding the Irish Chain block gives a little visual space for one's eyes to rest. I like that.

This layout requires  requires 106 blocks and an equivalent number of Irish Chain blocks. The final dimensions are 102'x108'. 

Layout 2
The second is an on-point layout. For this one, I would probably add a very thin frame in a complementary batik around each block. If you look at the gallery of finished quilts, this is similar to what Rita Visscher, Barbara Jennekens, and Teresa Simons did with their SBS quilts. This, in my opinion, helps showcase each block. It would also hide the fact that my blocks ended with inconsistent sizes! I would cluster the predominant colors in an Around the World layout, I think.

This layout requires 113 sampler blocks and finishes at 115"x115."

Several of the finished quilts at the Sylvia's Bridal Sampler website have pieced borders. They are beautiful but I don't think I'm willing to spend the time that would require since I would almost certainly end with borders the wrong length and have to fiddle and fuss to make them work.

These drawings are imperfect. Some of my block photos were better than others but I think they get the point across reasonably well.

What do you think?

Edited to Add: I've updated the images based on piecemealquilts' excellent advice! Thanks, Sandy. I didn't realize I could do this and I certainly didn't realize the impact this small change would have.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Does "all rights reserved" mean all rights?

In my work as an instructional designer, I often have to figure out what I can and can not use in the training materials I develop. Some times I have to approach authors and developers to ask permission to use their work in mine. I'm not always successful but my requests have been treated with respect and usually approved. Most authors are flattered to get a request and, in my experience, willing to work with me to figure out a way to grant the request. My experience doesn't include a law degree, but I've gained some practical knowledge that may be useful to you as you try to decide what you may and may not do and how you can request permission if you need it.

First, a bit of background.

The balance between authors' rights and society's rights is so essential that, in the United States, it's a part of the Constitution. And not an amendment, either. It's in the actual Constitution. Article 1, Section 8 says, “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” The U.S. Copyright Office's mission is "To promote creativity by administering and sustaining an effective national copyright system" (

Copyright is in place to promote creativity and innovation.

To begin work on this post, I grabbed several books scattered around my office and sewing room. My little stack included:
    •    a technical manual for a piece of software I'm learning,
    •    a novel by Jodi Picoult,
    •    a research methods textbook used at universities,
    •    a popular sampler quilt book, and
    •    a children's book called "The Quiltmaker's Gift" by Jeff Brumbeau and Gail de Marcken.

I deliberately chose a variety of books to look at copyright protection. The children's book is highly original with a story from the author's imagination accompanied by fanciful illustrations. The technical manual and the research methods book have a lot of text written by the authors, but the books primarily explain facts, procedures, and principles. Finally, the quilt sampler book compiles traditional quilt block designs and patterns for making those blocks.

When I think of a "typical" copyright notice, I think of something like this:
Copyright <Year> by <Publisher>. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission of the publisher.
What did the copyright notice in these books say?

The technical manual said "All Rights Reserved" and didn't elaborate all of the means listed in the sample. The three word phrase, "All Rights Reserved" was the entire copyright notice. The novel's copyright notice replaced the list I see so often with "in any form whatsoever." The remaining copyright notices (children's book, research methods book, and quilt sampler) were mostly what I expected to see and what you would probably see if you pulled a handful of books from your shelves, too.

Although publishers often add some extra text, "all rights reserved" says everything they need to say. For the technical manual, they left it at that.  (That book has almost 900 pages. I guess they had to reduce word count somewhere!)

Let's look at what the phrase "All Rights Reserved" means. The Copyright Act is a good place to start and section 102 outlines the general terms of what is protected. (See for the original source).

§ 102. Subject matter of copyright: In general
(a) Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Works of authorship include the following categories:
  1. literary works;
  2. musical works, including any accompanying words;
  3. dramatic works, including any accompanying music;
  4. pantomimes and choreographic works;
  5. pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;
  6. motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
  7. sound recordings; and
  8. architectural works.
(b) In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to 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 in such work.
This section let's us know that "original works of authorship" in a variety of categories are protectable. If I grab a pen and a piece of paper and sketch a diagram to illustrate an idea, I have reached the bar for original work of authorship. My sketch is an original  because I made it. Since the sketch is retrievable, it's "fixed in a tangible medium of expression."

But is this protectable under the copyright law? Look to paragraph (b) for the limits. It turns out that ideas are not protectable under copyright law. Anyone can use my idea - they just can't use my sketch without asking. If they want a drawing to illustrate the idea, they will either have to create their own or get permission to use mine.

Of course, people with integrity will credit me for the idea. In my field, we call that academic integrity. People lose their jobs and their reputations for failing to appropriately credit ideas.

What about quilt blocks? The copyright has expired on many of the traditional quilt blocks but original expression of the blocks abounds! The quilter’s choice of fabrics, her placement of the fabrics in the blocks, the placement of the blocks in the sampler - these things may be protected. Look at the Flickr photo pool for The Farmer's Wife Sampler Quiltalong for one example after another of original expression (protectable) on traditional block designs (not-protectable)

Let's go back to my stack of books to see how the differences between protectable and non-protectable play out there.

  • The Quiltmaker's Gift - This book strikes me as the most original book in my stack. (That's my subjective impression. You might not agree!) The story itself is protectable as are the gorgeous illustrations! But, here's where the limitations on authors' rights come in. No one else is barred from writing another fable extolling the benefits of generosity just because this author did! And lots of stories can have rich, beautiful illustrations! The idea of illustrating children's books doesn't end with this book. Placing these limits doesn't harm the market for children's books. It makes it possible to have more books!
  • The novel by Jodi Picoult is almost 400 pages of protectable text and a dozen or so protectable illustrations. According to the blurb on the back cover, it's a story about a teenage girl's first love and her relationship with her father. I haven't started it yet, but the idea of using a teenager's first love as the setting for a story is hardly original. I'm counting on Picoult's original expression of that idea as being a page-turner. This novel is possible because we allow more than one book on a teenager's first love.
  • The research methods book and the technical manual I chose focus almost exclusively on non-protectable items listed in paragraph (b). Despite this, many authors offer their version of how to approach these subjects. Their words and illustrations are protectable even if the ideas and procedures they describe are not. I benefit by shopping in a vibrant market for these books (over 33,000 choices at Amazon when I typed "research methods" and dozens of choices to help me learn my new piece of software) and so do the authors. Some of the research methods books are in their 11th editions!
  • A popular quilt sampler book - I have several of these. In all of them, the authors/compilers use quite a bit of material from other places. The original source material might be protectable by the originator, but it's not by the author who re-used it. What they DO get to claim protection for is the specific placement of the blocks in the quilt; placement of the fabrics in each block; the photos and illustrations; and whatever narrative they actually wrote in the book. They can also claim protection for templates and patterns they provide but can't block someone else from providing templates and patterns of their own. (I'll come back to the collective nature of these sorts of works in the next post).
These examples illustrate that granting authors' rights while simultaneously limiting those rights, leaves a lot of space for creativity and innovation. Talented authors who write good books can make a living selling their books. Consumers benefit from a vibrant market filled with high-quality choices.

The next time you see "all rights reserved" in a copyright notice, remind yourself that those rights are subject to the limits expressed in the law. It just might be that you can follow up on a bright idea you have for a design or a blog post.

In the next post, I intend to look at what copyright law says about compilations and derivative works. We have a lot of those in the quilting community so the topic deserves a post of its own. And, I'll walk through my thinking about an idea I had as I reacquainted myself with The Quiltmaker's Gift to see whether or not I am infringing someone else's copyright if I follow through with it. After all, I'm a big fan of authors' rights!

As always, comments are welcome.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I'm calling "shenanigans" - There are limits to an author's rights!

Several days ago Laurie Aaron Hird, author of The Farmer’s Wife Sampler, wrote to tell a list member she was not permitted to post tutorials on her blog to help others learn to make the blocks in the book. Mrs. Hird claimed creating tutorials for the blocks in her traditional sampler book was a violation of copyright law. The ensuing discussion on the Yahoo! list revealed some fundamental misunderstandings about what copyright law means to the quilting community. That discussion, coupled with some of the contortions I see as Flickr group members try to toe a line the author has outlined has persuaded me to do a short series of posts on copyright as it relates to quilting. 

This is the first in the series.


I want to start by letting you know that I'm a big fan of author's rights and of copyright. On the one hand, copyright grants important rights to authors. And on the other hand, copyright places important limits on an authors' rights. Those limits are crucial to promoting creativity because the limits allow authors to build on one another's work. And, when authors do that that we all benefit. We have more and better books; more and better blogs; and more and better classes as a result.

Let's look at how The Farmer’s Wife Sampler benefited from the limits of copyright:
  • The author used letters other people wrote. She was entitled to do so because the letters had passed into the public domain. The copyright on those letters was limited in duration.
  • The author used blocks other people designed. She was entitled to do so because the block designs had also passed into the public domain. The copyright on the blocks was limited in duration.
  • The author didn't develop the idea of a sampler. She was entitled to use that idea because ideas can't be copyrighted – only the expressions of those ideas.
  • The author didn't develop the technique of constructing quilt blocks using templates, either. But she was entitled to include template techniques in her book because, even though a specific description or illustration of a technique can be copyrighted, the technique itself can't be copyrighted.
Clearly, the limits imposed on the original authors' and block designers' copyright were absolutely essential to the development and publication of The Farmer's Wife Sampler book. Those same limits benefit the hundreds of other quilting books, blogs, and classes that discuss traditional quilting blocks and techniques.

So, I was more than a little surprised when Mrs. Hird claimed that bloggers could not create tutorials on making these quilt blocks because those tutorials would violate Mrs. Hird's copyright. Every quilter has the same level of entitlement to use the resources of the public domain in their own work that Mrs. Hird has for hers. I'm calling shenanigans on her claim. Her rights simply don't extend that far.

All of us - traditional authors, contemporary bloggers, teachers, and quilters  - benefit from reasonable limits to authors' and designers' rights. Those limits make possible the vibrant quilting community we love so much.

I've been an educator my entire adult life and I believe it's important for us to know what is so and what is not so in order to act responsibly towards our heritage and towards the authors who contribute so much to our culture. I thought it would be useful to take a few minutes to learn what the law actually says about how to protect our quilting heritage, our public domain, and the rights of our authors and ourselves. In a few days, I'll post some background information about copyright with a specific focus on the quilting tradition.

The intent in this post - and in my upcoming posts - is to educate us on what copyright actually means to quilters and to the authors/designers/bloggers whose work we appreciate.

Edited to add: I contacted the moderator of the Yahoo! mailing list asking how we could share info about copyright with those on the list. I thought I had allowed enough time for her to respond. When she didn't, I went public with this first post. Well, I just got a very nice note from her. In it, she said that "I think we are closer to thinking the same thing than it appears." I'm going to work with her on figuring out how to share more information without getting everyone in an uproar. I hope we'll be clarifying some misunderstandings in the near future. I really hope the discussion is helpful.

Edited (again) to add: Mrs. Hird has contacted me through the comments on this post. I tried to contact her through the Yahoo mailing list before making this post. When I didn't get a response, I sent a private note to the Yahoo list moderator leaving it to her to decide if she would share with Mrs. Hird. It was only after those two attempts to clarify failed (or so I thought), that I made this public post. I look forward to talking to both of them and clarifying any misunderstandings.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Making a Progress Chart in EQ 7

I wanted to make a progress chart to Cre8tive Quilter's chart for Sylvia's Bridal Sampler. Lynda at ColorMeQuilted created an HTML chart for Sylvia's Bridal Sampler and generously offers it to others through her website.  I've been using it for months and it works great for people who are comfortable using the software to resize blocks and FTPing the photos to their own website. Here's a chart of my SBS progress that I created using that method.

For the Farmer's Wife Sampler, I wanted to be able to track my progress with an on-point setting and to audition some setting colors like GreyCat Quilts and The Loop were doing on their blogs. For that, I used EQ7 and digital photos of my blocks that I scanned on my flatbed scanner.

Here's how I did it using EQ:
  1. I wanted this is a separate project, so I created a new project file.
  2. I created the quilt layout. I used 6-inch blocks in a 7x9, on-point layout with sashings and two borders - at least for now. I might change it later.
  3. I imported the quilt block photos to the Photos Library and moved them to my Project Sketchbook. (See EQ7 Help menu for instructions on how to do that).
  4. From the Quilt Worktable, I used the Set Photo tool to add each block to Layer 1. I had to add the Set Photo tool to my toolbar. It was not there by default. 
  5. I also colored my sashings, cornerstones, and borders.
  6. When the progress chart looked the way I wanted it to, I chose Export Image from the File menu. The dialog box will let you choose image quality, file type (I used png), and name as usual. For posting on the web, 72 dpi resolution is fine.
  7. Once the image is saved, I can work with it in the usual way.
 Here's the progress chart I created in EQ.

You can get a better view of my blocks in my Flickr photo album.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

From Farmer's Daughter to the Farmer's Wife Quiltalong

Several of my favorite bloggers have signed up to make the Farmer's Wife Sampler. After a couple of weeks looking at their beautiful blocks, I've decided to join the fun. Who cares that I still have 40 blocks to go on my Sylvia's Bridal Sampler? Or that I'm in the middle of several other projects?

I find the 1930s reproduction fabrics - especially with a lot of white - are very appealing. I have a stack of 30s fat quarters and this seems to be a good use for them. My book arrived yesterday. I bought some background fabrics (and a stack of 10-inch 1930s squares) yesterday.

With each new project, I try to learn to do something new. I've never worked with templates and this book uses them extensively. I've been wanting to try Marti Mitchell Perfect Patchwork templates and this quilt gives me a terrific excuse to do exactly that. And, luckily, Marti Mitchell has created a mailing list to send out instructions for how to use her templates to piece the Farmer's Wife Sampler. Today, my first two sets of Marti Mitchell templates arrived in the mail.

Let the Farmer's Wife Quiltalong fun begin!