As a member of two very large vintage pattern seller teams on Etsy, I became well acquainted with the reasons some people really don't like reproductions, and it can sometimes be hard to belong to a field that can sling quite a bit of undeserved frustration your way.
You would be surprised at some of the angry comments directed towards myself and others by those who only sell original sewing patterns (though, I must point out, they are not necessarily a majority in the field, but a very vocal minority.) I heard things like, "You devalue our sewing patterns by making copies," or "You're violating copyright law and stealing" and a few other arguments. And over the last 5 years or so, I've spent a lot of time explaining myself. Recently I was asked to leave the largest pattern selling team on Etsy, Pattern Patter, because a change of leadership and team policy decided that suddenly any PDF (digital reproduction) seller on the team was not allowed to compete with other team members in the marketplace. So for example, if someone from the team were to list an original sewing pattern that I was selling as a reproduction, I would be required to take my reproduction down. This was impossible due to the time and money I spend developing a pattern - money I need to recoup by selling that pattern. I tried to negotiate this point and others but the leadership, though they tried to reach a solution, couldn't and instead asked me to leave if I couldn't comply.
I don't blame them. They're doing what they can to protect their businesses from what they see as a threat to sales. That's ok. Misguided, but ok.
I feel compelled today though to explain once and for all, why I do what I do, and what I've learned doing it for as long as I have, and why some of these detractors are quite mistaken.
The main argument I get from pattern sellers (and very rarely, from collectors) is that by making a reproduction of a rare sewing pattern, I'm making all surviving original copies less valuable. So anyone who might be selling that pattern from their collection for $200 worries that it won't sell if I have a paper copy available for $20. To that, I say, don't worry - your pattern is still worth the same! Allow me to explain. There are mostly 2 kinds of sewing pattern buyers.
The person who buys a PDF nearly always can't afford an original and wouldn't buy one at all. This person wants to sew the pattern for themselves or a friend, and likely has a small budget for buying patterns. Then there is the collector, like myself. The collector will almost never buy a PDF copy.
In all my time selling patterns, I've gotten to know my customers very well and there is very little cross-over between these two buyers.
Buyers like myself, for example, are die-hard collectors and really don't want a copy. Believe it or not, I've never bought a PDF pattern. I can't take a PDF out and admire it, and enjoy possessing a rarity like any other collector would. But I spend thousands each year (don't tell my husband!) on originals just for my own collection. The same goes for some of my biggest customers - they buy originals and almost never buy a PDF. They're just two different species of buyer. A die-hard collector once told me that she would only ever bother buying a copy if it was of a rare pattern she already had in her collection - just so that she wouldn't have to go to the trouble of tracing the original to sew it for herself. That collector is still going to pay $200 for the original, and the seamstress on a budget; that student sewing her first prom dress or stay-at-home mom making a house dress - they are still not going to buy a $200 pattern. They will simply buy something else.
As for pattern copyright law, it's complicated, cloudy, and frankly dry as hell and I could write for hours everything I've learned doing research, attending law classes, and consulting with lawyers. But I won't. Suffice it to say, if I have bothered to make a reproduction of it, you can be sure I've covered all of my bases, sometimes including buying licenses to do so!
But lets really get down to it. Why do I do what I do? The answer is more simple than you'd think. It is pure, unadulterated love. Many of you know that I grew up in an antique shop.
|My sister and I playing dress-up in Mama's antique shop.|
One of my earliest memories as a girl is of my mother pulling a beautiful Victorian ladies' magazine carefully out of a box. It was stunning, and I remember the look of awe on her face as she leaned towards me to give me a better look. As she carefully opened the first page, she explained to me how treasures like that should always be treated with care and reverence because you never knew when you were handling the last existing copy of anything. As we opened the second page, the magazine started crumbling in her hands, almost as if to emphasize her point. I remember how sad we both felt, watching a treasure crumble to nothing. The same thing happened to me with a rare old sewing pattern in 2009. I cried ugly tears, collected myself and decided "This is not ok."
|My dear, late Mama in her wonderful antique shop.|
I started carefully tracing copies of the first few rare and old pieces in my collection for my own use, and little by little, my pattern reproduction business came into being. I do what I do because I love vintage sewing patterns. I want them to survive so that the high school student and stay-at-home mom, (and broke young military wife, like I was when I first started sewing) can enjoy them just as much as the die-hard collector with a larger pattern buying budget.
Honestly, I got a great education in something else, and could be making more money doing just about any other job. But I love this, and my husband loves me enough to have told me the other day, "I'm so glad that you love what you do. One of us should, and I don't care if you don't make much doing it. I can't put a price on how happy you look working in your studio every day."
And he's right, that wonderful man of mine. In my studio, reverently handling a rare sewing pattern, I feel close to my mother - the last of her kind and also gone, and I feel joy, and that is priceless to me. That is why I do what I do. And that is why, no matter how many times I hear negative comments from people, it doesn't phase me.
I have joy in what I do each day. I have found my bliss, I know I've made my mother proud and I wouldn't trade it for all the paychecks and accolades in the world.
|Me in my happy place.|
I wish you very happy sewing, my dears.