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The craft world needs open source

My 2011 resolution was to get more of my craft stuff online.  Peddle it on etsy, post photos online, join forums, etc.  I kinda have.  My etsy store has been relatively successful, and I've gleaned lots of helpful tips from just getting to know the general craft blogosphere.

Like most crafters, I'm a woman.  Unlike most crafters, I'm an engineer/computer geek.  My whole life I've experienced the conflicts that occur because the worlds of science and women don't intersect enough, and this is another example.

As a geek, I am bothered by two big things:

1) Tutorials online often come with "terms of service", specifically saying that you may not sell anything you make using the tutorial.

2) Patterns for seemingly simple things are being sold for a profit.  This originally annoyed me because it's flooding etsy searches with uselessness... I want to buy a knit hat, not make one!  And to compound the issue etsy's search tool ["hat -pattern"] is unintuitive and unreliable... oh yes I have complained to them.  But I digress.

The pattern sales also annoy me because I feel like they're in bad spirit.  I even saw a cross-stitch pattern of Tux the Linux penguin for sale on etsy.  Really?  Larry Ewing so nicely gave the world this special penguin, and you can't give away the pixelated, tiny boxes version?

Dear crafters: open up!

Who's it gonna hurt if someone makes your silly little zipper bag and sells it on etsy?  Maybe they're making it out of really unique fabric, maybe the sales is their motivation for improving on your design.  In fact that's what open source is all about... improving on each other's designs.  That means getting the designs to start with, sure, but it also means giving people the freedom to take your work and do with it what they will.

The creators of the open source movement envisioned a utopia, where millions of coders would work for a greater world.  If you had a feature that would improve, say, your printer, you'd get into the code and make the improvement.  Then you'd tell everyone else about it.  And odds would be, because you're so smart, some widget company would call you up and say "we need our printer to do *this*, we'll pay you" and you would do that and also give that code away.  Because the company doesn't need to own the code, they just need to have it, and that's how the world goes around.  De-centralize the power structures.  A bazaar, not a cathedral.

It's a new way of thinking but it's done wonderful things for the computer world.  Open source operating systems like Linux and FreeBSD are the force behind 90% of the web servers you pull content from every day.  You do not need a computer science degree to understand the principles of open source, we can all take lessons from it.

I've only posted a few tutorials, like my skirt pattern calculator that helps you make arcs for flared skirts, but if there's anything you ever see in my etsy shop that's complicated enough that you want to know what's behind it, let me know.

Crafters can benefit from these concepts in ways we can't even imagine.  Anything can be open source.  Anything can be improved.  You never know when someone has something valuable to add to your design.

Free the crafts!


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 15th, 2011 02:41 pm (UTC)
And if you GPL'd your hats, whoever sold hats using your pattern would have to include the pattern and a copy of the GPL! I like the way you think.
Nov. 15th, 2011 08:23 pm (UTC)
I have bought a couple of crochet patterns from Etsy, but they seemed quite complicated to me so I think they were worth it. None of them came with any legal stuff that said I couldn't sell the items though...I could see why they would do that if the pattern author were selling the items themselves, but if they're just selling the pattern then I don't see what the problem is. Some people just are not going to make their own things and want to buy them pre-made.

I like your skirt calculator, that is super nifty! :) I'm going to share it with my sister, our resident seamstress and software engineer. Hee hee
Nov. 16th, 2011 03:27 am (UTC)
This is one thing I really enjoy about BurdaStyle. There are a whole bunch of free patterns, and the rest are pretty inexpensive as patterns go. It's an extremely creative community, so variations and personal touches are encouraged. Then again, it's populated largely by home sewists, and not by crafters looking to sell a product, so maybe that's the difference.

Even my favourite pattern sellers have a couple of free patterns on their site, and they want to see any and all variations that folks come up with.

I really like the idea of an open source crafting community, though, doubly so if we could get garment sewing in on it, too.
Nov. 16th, 2011 05:48 pm (UTC)
Technically, all the mumbo jumbo pattern writers say about not selling stuff made from the pattern is...mumbo jumbo. Copyright protects the pattern itself from being copied. It has no application to actual useful items, like the clothes that come from using the pattern.
Nov. 18th, 2011 03:25 pm (UTC)
What if it's presented as a license?
Nov. 18th, 2011 03:42 pm (UTC)
I don't think you can make a license cover more than the copyright did to start with, but a contract would make things interesting.

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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