Cross Stitch Design Theft

To take part in cross stitch you need:

  • a design
  • floss
  • fabric
  • needle
  • scissors

There are rare thefts of floss or small embellishments from bricks and mortar stores, but nothing like the systematic and systemic theft of the designs.

TNNA copyright logo
TNNA copyright logo

What is Design Theft?

When you buy a design, either a paper chart or a digital download, you are paying for one copy of the chart.  Most designers allow you to make a working copy of the chart to enlarge and/or colour in. As you only bought one of the original design, you can only make one working  copy (designer permitting).  You cannot make copies for your friends. You cannot upload this design to a website or group where other people can make copies.  You have paid for only one design and there should only ever be one original and it’s working copy.

If, for any reason, you no longer have the original chart, you must destroy your working copy.  You cannot give away the original design and keep any copies.  Nor can you accept anything other than the original chart.

Why is this such a big deal?

Generally we choose what cross stitch project we are going to work based on the design.  We fall in love with the design and then choose fabric and floss to complement it and we pick up a needle.

A lot of work goes into each design you see. Most of the designs that I have reviewed here, and those in your collection are the results of weeks of artwork design; first the idea, then the sketch, choosing floss, charting the design, deciding whether to add embellishments, then it is stitched, then amendments made and it is stitched some more and eventually, weeks later, correcting the final design, writing the instructions and sending it to the printer (or starting the process of printing and compiling it themselves).

If you put weeks of effort into a project at work, you would expect to be paid. Cross Stitch Design Theft takes money away from our designers and affects their livelihoods. A mon ami Pierre, Dragon Dreams, and many others have stopped creating new designs because of Design Theft. The Gift of Stitching online magazine closed down because of Design Theft. Jennifer Aikman-Smith of Dragon Dreams wrote about how Design Theft affected her and her family.

Is this really an issue?

Here’s an infographic on the flow-on effects of one design being placed on a website for anyone to copy:

Copyright - Snowball effect

And to put that into perspective, here’s the monthly site visits and downloads for one illegal Cross Stitch sharing website based in China:

Statistics Chinese Site

That’s 120,000 visitors in the last six months. So you multiply the numbers in the top picture by 120,000 and you can see that this is as huge issue and that’s only one site.

Design Theft occurs via email, websites, Pinterest, Facebook groups, Yahoo groups, and photocopies being passed around.

Why does Design Theft happen?

It’s easy.  Most people wouldn’t go into a store and smuggle floss or fabric out under their coat, but running a chart through a photocopier or scanner takes a couple of minutes and can be done in private.

It feels good. Whoever first makes copies of a design available can feel smug and happy that they’re “helping” their community and/or beating the system. Many are competitive about how fast and how many designs they can distribute.

It becomes a hobby. Design Theft usually occurs in groups, so participating in Design Theft enhances your feeling of belonging to a group. As I’ve shown in many of my reviews, the design is usually the cheapest part of a cross stitch project. If they can’t afford the design, then how can they afford to stitch it? For many design thieves it can be more about collecting the designs than it is about stitching them.

Erm, I may have some illegal charts …

OK, now you know what Cross Stitch Design Theft is, where it takes place, and how attractive it can seem,  you might find that you have accidentally participated. 

I would suggest that you destroy all copies of cross stitch designs that you do not own.. If you are a member of any group that shares copies, I suggest you leave them. Many designers are monitoring sharing sites and tracking participants so it is in your best interest to leave any such sites or groups,

Is there anything else I can do?

You can contact the designers and let them know about any groups and where their designs are being shared. Many designers can be contacted directly through their blogs or Facebook pages or, you can email with the same information.

Some sites, such as Pinterest, have a report button and you can report the person for the pin as Cross Stitch Design Theft.

pinterest reporting

Also remember to contact the designer or email so they can investigate. Companies often pay more attention to reports from the designer.

You haven’t mentioned Copyright?

Although there are international standards, every country has their own copyright laws, and these differ, something that is illegal in the United States may not be in Australia.  Educational organisations such as libraries have slightly different copyright requirements in some countries. The legal definition for  “Fair Use” also differs from country to country.

Regardless of the whys and wherefores of national and international law, we should now all understand that when we buy a design, we have paid for one of that design.  Most designers allow us to make a working copy so we have one original and one working copy. Anything other than this hurts our designers financially and harms the future of the cross stitching community as we won’t have those great designs to catch our eye and make us pick up our needle.

Links for Further Reading


What else can we do to help our designers and reduce Cross Stitch Design Theft?


Did you like this article? Did it contain useful information? Is there anything you would like added or removed from the article? Please head over to the Suggestions page and let me know.

Last Updated: 6 December 2014


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