Creating a home by hand.

The Workbasket Embroidery Patterns and Public Domain

A reader posted a really good question and since it requires quite a long answer, I decided to answer it in this post.

Sandy commented:

“I just found your blog and love the DOW embroideries. I collect them whenever I find them. I am just finishing a set of “Bunnies” DOW and hope to have them posted in a couple of weeks. How do you determine when patterns are copywrite free? I have enjoyed cruising around on your blog, very interesting…”

As a writer, copyright is something I take very seriously and so before sharing the Workbasket embroidery patterns here on my blog I did as much research as possible to determine their copyright status.

In order to do that, I needed to find out when the patterns were first published.    Again after much research, I discovered that the patterns were ones that were mailed to subscribers of Workbasket in the 1940s, 50s, and perhaps into the 60s.

In fact, when I found the patterns in the stool of the Art Deco Cabinet they were inside an small manila envelope with the Workbasket return address on the front.  So that fit with my research.

Once I had them dated (approximately), I then did further research and was able to determine that the patterns I had found had passed into the public domain.

These are the resources that I used to make that determination:

Under the section entitled Works Registered or First Published in the US

Date of PublicationConditionsCopyright Term
Before 1923NoneNone. In the public domain due to copyright expiration
1923 through 1977Published without a copyright noticeNone. In the public domain due to failure to comply with required formalities


None of the pattern pages have a copyright notice and as they were published well before 1977, they are in the public domain.   This page has a good description of what being in the Public Domain means:

And here’s a link to the copyright law the above two resources refer to:

Since the Workbasket patterns are in the Public Domain that meant I was free to do with them as I wished.

I decided to share the various individual patterns from the pattern pages here on my blog once a week over a period of several months as a gift to my readers so that they could enjoy them as well.

Thank you Sandy for your question and giving me the opportunity to explain the process I went through to determine the copyright status of the vintage Workbasket patterns.


Disclaimer:  I am not a lawyer and nothing I have written above should be construed as legal advice of any kind.   I was merely explaining the personal research process I went through to decide if I was free to share the Workbasket patterns with my readers.



  • Nancy D
    April 13, 2013 2:07 pm

    I would like to point out that if these resources aren’t shared, then the skills will die, and then the intellectual property becomes sort of moot. Copyright laws important to me too, and they are not easy to research, so I appreciate the effort — and the transfers.

  • Elaine
    April 13, 2013 1:51 pm

    This was great and informative. As a librarian Zi too am a stickler for copyright and intellectual property. Thanks for sharing your process.

  • Mary
    April 13, 2013 9:08 pm

    Very informative. I have years of very old Workbasket magazines from my grandmother and use them all the time for projects.

  • Laurie
    April 14, 2013 10:19 am

    I have seen people sell “collections” of vintage embroidery patterns. I don’t know to what degree they researched the copyright of the original patterns. I believe they feel they are selling either their cleaned-up versions of the designs or their resized versions – something that puts their spin on it. I once tried looking up some of these designs for copyright information, which can be tricky. Do you have to find the original copyright date to see if it has expired? These were often printed in newspapers, so I’d think the newspapers would have copyrighted them, if not the designers…

    • Super Mom No Cape
      April 14, 2013 12:11 pm

      Hello Laurie, The research I did was only with regard to the particular Workbasket patterns that I have. Different forms of publications have different copyright laws that pertain to them and would have to be researched to find out the copyright dates and laws in place at that time. More than that I don’t feel comfortable stating an opinion on.

  • Sandy
    April 14, 2013 2:51 pm

    I just found some information about the history of Workbasket magazine and what happened to it posted on this site:

    • Super Mom No Cape
      April 14, 2013 3:41 pm

      Thank you, Sandy. I did come across that site during my searches. It is fascinating and yet sad at the same time that a publication that served so many for so long would essentially disappear, gobbled up by other publications until it was unrecognizable.

  • Sandy
    April 18, 2013 9:31 am

    Thanks for taking the time to write this post.and giving us all the information. I will save it for future reference. Good job!

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