Stealing Designs and the “IDEA” of Custom

There is a new thread on Celtic Flame about stealing designs.  A dressmaking mom writes that another mom in her school told her she was wasting her time coming up with her own designs because there was so much to COPY on the internet.  When she first wrote, she alluded to a website that sells embroidery, so I wondered if she might be talking about Taoknitter Arts.

An answer that she just posted to another reply makes me think she is talking about my website.

Big sigh. 

Susan and I have hashed out the pitfalls of posting clear pics of the designs since I started.  She has dealt with this issue far longer than I have, and I respect her viewpoint, her advice and her experience.  I will not bore you, or myself, by re-visiting  the mental gymnastics (complete with teeth gnashing) that helped me arrive at the current presentation of the designs on my website.  If you look at it, I think you get it.

But, I do want to say that I know I take the risk of people copying things.  I have this tendency to believe that all folks are inherently honest and honorable.  I do, routinely, get blind-sided by self-serving idiots with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement, and I sometimes finally get really irked by stupidity and mean-spiritedness, but I have yet to see a change in my basic trust.  I now know what it sounds like when Susan shakes her head at me over the phone.

It would make me crazy to try to police things or try to find a more complicated way of managing the designs.  But let me be clear, copying a design is stealing and I am not shy about approaching the thief and making it public if I have to.  I did, by accident, see an exact copy of a dress I made for my daughter.  Susan designed it for us.  The design was never made available, but there it was, perfectly copied on someone else’s dress.  When I contacted the overseas dressmaker, she was great about it, very sorry, and told me that the design had been given to her by the dancer. 

I get contacted rather often by dancers who send me pics of designs from other dresses, even BN dresses, wanting THAT design digitized.  Sometimes I get a design “created by the dancer” only to be led by the dressmaking gods to pics of the EXACT design on a finished dress…that blows my mind.  Once I explain that I will not copy because it is both unethical and illegal, they usually calmly explain that they did not know that and we go forward.  Only once did I not hear back after my refusal…I think that was embarrassment.

I do think most folks either do not know or really do not think about it.  One poster on CF wrote: ” I think the problem is that most people don’t equate “appropriating” someone’s design as stealing because they don’t physically take something.  It isn’t like shoplifting where you actually take something in your hand.

It’s more like cheating on a test.

Ask your friend if she encourages her dd to copy her neighbor’s answers on exams in school. Why not? It is just what she did. She used someone else’s work and passed it off as her own.

Ask her if she’s going to brag about how she aquired her designs – Wow look what I copied off of the internet and I didn’t have to pay for it! If someone asks her where the design came from, is she going to say “Oh I digitized it myself” or something equally evasive. If she’s so proud of her cleverness, why not tell all?

Ask her if she thinks the TC will be happy if she finds out the design was lifted. Is she OK with her school being known as the one where it is OK to rip off other people’s dresses?”

Interesting viewpoint.

Susan made me laugh when she pointed out that truly, the only thing I should worry about is if someone else’s poorly digitized “copy” was thought to be mine!  Now that would be a drag!

There was also a point made by someone about using designs from a site on the internet.  She wrote: “While there are a couple of sites out there that have drawn up several dress designs specifically for irish dancing use, you have to remember then, that your dress won’t be an original. Chances of running into another dancer with the same pattern are slim but just something to keep in mind.

That mind set has never occurred to me!!  Yes, yes, I know that the conversation about whether or not a BN dress is really custom when they re-use designs in part or in whole pops up routinely.  But, it has always been my assumption that each dressmaker brings a totally different perspective to making a dress and so it will be rare that 2 dressmakers will use the same design the same way let alone the same fabrics.  In fact, what I love about my clients is that they always do something I did not envision.  Very often, they ask me to modify the designs by taking something out, putting something else in, taking it apart or trying something new with a piece of something else!  I love it.

Still, I guess that is a concern for some people.  I appreciate that.  And I also thoroughly appreciate my creative dressmaking clients.  Thank you for spurring me on!

I thought that the above might have been a rant…I guess it was just a bit of mental popcorn…

There are a couple of links in this brief post about Copyright Law: Substantial Similarity

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New ID School Dresses: Design, Digitizing, & Finding Fabric

Susan and I have been working with an existing ID school to create new dresses.  I have really been enjoying those process.  Good folks.

We sent them first to read these two posts: ID School Dress Design  Chapter 1 & Chapter 2.  I don’t think I have ever finished organizing the info, but the process is there.

So far, the focus has been on getting a new design.  Lots of talking, critiquing, tweaking, and then the design is ready for me to digitize it.

I am not going to use the actual design here (don’t want to steal the school’s thunder for the unveiling day), but I can still talk about my approach using Dana’s design from her tunic dress.  Dana’s design was digitized with the same stitch ideas in mind that we are using for this school.

Here is Dana’s finished bodice.  We used a satin-look step stitch for the black and then a narrow satin-stitch for the silver.

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In a nutshell, I get the design from Susan in either a jpg format or as vector graphics.  We have experimented with the vector graphics format to see if the auto-digitizing function would work to make things go faster, but I have NEVER been happy with that function.  The logic of it on complicated designs like this one is NOT logical, and I spend so much time cleaning it up that I might as well have done it by hand in the first place.  Vector graphics can be a cleaner pic to follow, but these days I have gotten good enough at this that clear lines are no longer mandatory in the pics.

Susan has always sized the designs correctly, but sometimes in the translation from her computer, thru email to mine and then opening them in my software the dimensions have changed.  I re-check dimensions and re-size the graphics accordingly.

In the past, I have whined until Susan has put in tremendous time to show all of the overs and unders.  Again, because I have gotten pretty good at this, this time I told her I really did not care if it was drawn correctly, just indicate!  So she indicated!

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Then, I choose a starting point and get busy.  Here is the finished design.  (The lavender stitches making the box outline are basting stitches to hold the fabric in place since I use sticky stabilizer more than I actually hoop the fabric.  More about that here: Embroidery placement.)

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Not really interested in going through my whole approach to digitizing something like this, but I will say that making the overs and unders true overs and unders is important to me.  When the auto digitizer is used, this does not happen…lines just butt up against one another with weird gaps and even stitches filling angles in odd ways.  What I do takes time, but the end result is worth it to me.  This pic shows a close-up of the end result.
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My process for the new school dresses will be the same.  A big part of this process is doing test stitch-outs to see if it looks the way I want, to check thread tension, coverage, and any consequent pulling, puckering, tunnelling, or drilling.  I am expecting a full round of stitch tests on this new design because the fabric is completely different than Dana’s even though the stitch combination is the same.

Once the initial middle-range size is digitized, then I create files for each size dress.  Time-consuming, but once it is done we are set!!!

During all this time, I have also been researching fabric sources to find not only the kind of fabric we want (durable and washable), but also the quantity.  Since this is a new dress for an established school, we have many, many dresses to make.  And, another consideration for a source is that they will have this same fabric far into the future.  Heading off to JoAnn’s or Hancocks is not the solution this time.  Even my favorite online stores cannot be counted on for this kind of reliability.  But, Susan suggested Raymond’s Textiles, and I think I am set!

Susan is also creating a custom set of patterns for this school because the skirt is a bit different than the regular three panel.

So now I am doing a few wash tests to see how the fabrics react.  If all goes well, then the prototype dress made for the school director is the next step.

The Tunic Dresses

I was planning on writing more about our new tunic dresses (Liz’s Tunic Dress, Dana’s Tunic Dress), but Caroline posted a bunch of questions before I got to it!  So I will use her list as my framework:

I love it! And BOY do I have questions! -D
You have again revolutionized the concept of an Irish dance dress…

So here goes,

How did you attach the pink panels? Are the black panels part of the bodice? How can I adapt Susan’s pattern to do this? Will Susan make a special pattern for this and where can I buy it?
How did you stiffen the panels? (Did you stiffen the panels? ) How did you work out the lining for the black panels? Is the underskirt secure? Is there any Velcro or other form of attachment to keep the bodice and skirt in their place?
At what stage of the bodice did you embroider the panels? Do you have to embroider around the edges of the panels when the darts of the bodice were already in place?

I am sure I can think of more questions, but let’s keep it with these for now -D

Love,
Caroline

Let’s start with the bodices.  The black and red panels are cut as part of the bodices…there are NO horizontal waist seams! 
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Susan put her mathematical mind to work to create a custom bodice for each dancer.  The obvious challenge was to incorporate not only the appropriate darts and seam angles but also the angles and lengths of the panels themselves!  When she brought the first test pattern to me so we could look at it on the dress dummy, I was amazed by both its complexity and its brilliant simplicity.  Together we worked through a couple of things, but I served mainly as her sounding board… amazing, Susan!!

This pattern was not an alteration of the Feisdress pattern.  Each bodice was specifically created to fit two very different bodies.  I cannot imagine that this could be generated as a generic pattern…alterations would change it drastically and mess up the panels and their angles of hang.  We did have to alter the pattern for the red dress…I just stood there in awe as I watched what Susan did to it to make it right.  Not an easy task.  Later, I was able to make another SIMPLE alteration, but only because I had worked through it with her once before.

If you want a custom pattern, you will have to contact Susan.

Attaching the pink panels was not as simple an operation as I thought it would be.
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I had many ideas…many moments in the middle of the night when I would pop awake with the “solution.”  But I could do nothing until all of the pink panels were finished…11 of them…the never-ending panels………  Yes, the pink panels are stiffened.  The design was embroidered first, then I attached it to 1 layer of firmflex, attached a back lining, and satin stitched the outside of each panel.  Then I began fooling around with attaching them.  We wanted a narrow silhouette (no panels sticking straight out to the side), and we wanted them to move freely.  I was thinking that minimal attachment would be best, but then they hung at odd angles.  I ended up sewing the pink to the black across the top of each pink panel and the again down about 1 inch on each side of the black where it splits at the top of the pink panels.  Deciding on the width of that opening was a journey of trial and error.

The designs on the panels of the red dress and the black bodice were all done after the bodice was cut but before any construction was done.  I serged the lining to the black bodice as I always do, completed the satin stitching around the panels, then completed the bodice darts.  For the red bodice, I did a partial bag lining so that the darts would not become stiff simply because of the amount of fabric in them.  The lining was serged to the bodice around the edges.  Then, again, I completed the satin stitching, followed by the darts.  Both tunics have separating zippers.

There is only decorbond in the shorter panels of each bodice.  Keeping them soft, especially on the red dress, was a priority.  In fact, there is no firmflex (like timtex) in the entire red dress!  WOO-HOO!!!

Now, the underskirts…felt like I invented a wheel.  Thought this would be a piece of cake…not.  But, each of these skirts was a good challenge.

I decided that Dana’s skirt should be a drop waist so that there would be no extra bulk under the black tunic.  The attachment of the skirt fabric to the skirt yoke evolved.  My original thought (and attachment) was still too bulky, so this ended up working.  Here’s the top black layer (and the mysterious cat tail!)…
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…and the next poofy layer which I thought would be enough.  Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
But when the pink panels were attached to the bodice, it was obvious that we needed another layer of poof to resist the panel weight. So, I added the silver.  You can see here how soft everything is.
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This skirt is on a stretchy yoke with an elastic waist.

The red skirt is totally different. I forgot to take pics of it (walking dead), but here is a pic from the O as it was waiting to be worn…
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This skirt has 2 very gathered layers attached to a wide elastic band.  There is a short zipper in the back.  Finding just the right poofiness (love that technical term) is the reason for all of the “quilting” below the waist band.

At a fitting, young Liz said she loved the way this skirt felt because it is so light!

The tunics are made to simply be worn over the skirts.  There is nothing to attach the tunic to the skirt because they fit well and there is no centering to worry about.  If I needed attachments to keep things in place, well then I would not have done a very good job of fitting!

Dress Observations

(Disclaimer: I love making Irish dance dresses, I love making Irish dance dresses, I love making Irish dance dresses,I love making Irish dance dresses…)

In order to meet & fit a new client, I went to the Nation’s Capital Feis yesterday. I had made the mock-bodice from measurements Susan had taken a few weeks ago…the client lives in southern Virginia and was here, obviously, for the feis. Very nice people. Good bodice, if I do say so myself…only have to make it smaller in the bust.

The young lady has quite a beautiful dress now. Dancer said it was a second hand Siopa Rince. Nicely made except for that zipper…shows on the inside of the skirt, not covered at all. What is that?!!! Dress costs a fortune and no one can take the extra five minutes to tuck the zipper into the lining and whip-stitch it into place? Irritates the bejesus out of me. Had a nice visit with the new clients. Had some musical accompaniment as a dancer prepared to play her fiddle for the music competition. Just love that. Finished with the dress business, Meave and I began our slow trek back to the car.

It felt very odd walking through a feis after all this time. Molly’s last feis was the Oireachtas in December, and Maggie’s and Meave’s was earlier in the fall…it may be almost a year by the time we go to our first one this fall. Anyway, I was hit by a very odd feeling as Meave and I maneuvered our way through the crush of bodies…I felt my shoulders rising to my ears. I felt a twitch starting at the side of my mouth… No doubt that “competing” charges the air in a very specific way. It was a disconcerting feeling.

Of course I was compelled to study every dress I walked by…quickly because I was NOT compelled to stop (had to escape some of this mania. Note to self: remember what it is like before we go to our first feis this fall). There were so many made almost entirely of sequins! And not just any sequins…FISHSCALE sequins! For those unfamiliar with them or who might call them something different, this pic illustrates what I call fishscale sequins:

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Rather pretty, aren’t they? And they make a whole Irish dance dress something to behold. Very striking…and very expensive!!!

I saw every type of dress imaginable…even a bubble skirt bobbing down the hall in the distance. Little girl moved too fast for me to see much before she disappeared. So many ideas…just proves what many on the boards have said…there is no absolute style to these things, no standard to measure yourself against. If you like it, do it because anything goes!!!

I did manage to end up next to some dresses sporting the “newest” trend (translation: it will change in five minutes) of using mainly embroidery and very little applique. The satin-stitched lines are thick so the design can be seen, which is great. I for one am happy to see some knotwork making a comeback. But what I have noticed in pics as well as in person yesterday is that they all seem to look the same. Why? All of the knotwork designs from days gone by did not look the same, but these are all using the same sharp-pointed diamonds, curly Victorian scrolls, and flowers. Can we not be creative on our own?

And it does look as if computerized machine embroidery is close to the norm now. I do not have a problem with that since that is my expertise. It also means that folks have seen the value of what we digitizing artists can do…perhaps there will be no more of those moronic statements on the boards about how this kind of embroidery takes no skill.

Interestingly, there was recently a lamentation on the Celtic Flame dressmakers board that all the new embroidery was being done by machine and that perhaps the hand-guiding embroiderers were now behind the eight ball, that only those with computerized machines can pull this stuff off. I do not believe that to be so. I know that there are ID dressmakers who are capable of doing hand-guided embroidery of all kinds. My Feisdress partner, Susan Gowin, still does the embroidery by hand for the dresses she designed for Dudney and Maple. I am amazed by the clarity and neatness of the stitching. Don’t give this up, too, ladies!!!!

Here are pics of Susan’s gorgeous handiwork:

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Beautiful. You can see more in her Feisdress gallery.

Meave and I both said, “Whoa!” when we passed the for sale area. The rack set up for the sale of used dresses was packed, stuffed, and scarily overwhelming. Meave and I did stop briefly as I glanced over them, but there were so many, so precariously smashed together, that I did not want to really examine any too closely because I might have to pick them all up from the floor! But a couple of things struck me.

1) They all looked new…and beautiful. I could see “used” on many of the info signs attached to them, but the signs of wear were not immediately evident.

2) There were so many of them.

3) The use of fabrics of all kinds was fantastic! Visual feast!

4) The dresses that I could see were ALL 3 panels.

5) There were so many of them.

6) The prices for these “used” dresses were out of this world! From $1200 to $2500 for a used dress!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Susan and I are about to put a used dress up for sale…it has been worn 5 times and we are thinking of asking $950, half the actual construction price…$1200 is a new dress!!!!

7) There were so many of them!!!!

Conclusions that one might draw…one must not keep a dress too long because you must keep up with the trends, so sell it when it is still technically new. Charge an arm and a leg so you can make up what you spent in the first place so you can buy another new dress that you will only wear 4 times so you can then repeat the process. 3 panels are old fashioned…so why would anyone want to buy it? At that PRICE?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I feel a twitchybitchy fit roiling…

There have been several “conversations” on the boards about the glut of dresses in the used dress market. It is a very interesting phenomenon, this mentality that a dancer must only wear a dress a few times, that staying “current” is SOOOO important. I am pretty sure that every solo client that I have had still owns the dress I made. They do not feel compelled to keep buying new dresses. Not sure I understand this aquisitive state of mind. I am interested to see what happens in the next year as folks are unable to sell their used dresses. Perhaps a change in attitude is a-comin’!!!

While I was at the feis for the fitting, Molly and Maggie were in Irish dance class. Meave and I went back to wait. Meave spent that time practicing her steps. Near the end of class, I went to watch for a little. Jordan was really putting Molly thru her paces. Loved it. Such interesting, wonderful choreography. After my short trip into La-la Land at the feis, it was nice to see just dancing. I will admit here that going to feiseanna can make me crazy. Competition was nowhere to be found in my classical dance training. I competed as a cheerleader…and that is what competing in the upper levels at a feis reminds me of. Made me crazy as a teenager… makes me very tense as an adult.

Good to have this reminder now. I am resolved to be as cool as a cucumber at our first feis back this fall. I will encourage the divas to be friendly, to talk to their fellow competitors. I resolve to keep all of this light and fun and social. I resolve to meet at least 2 new folks. Maybe I will go introduce myself to ZandB and get myself a MoonPie!