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How to Find Public Domain Patterns

There are hundreds of thousands of patterns available online, in books, and in stores for all types of creations. Most of these patterns are copyrighted and meant for personal use only and legally cannot be copied, resold or used to create products for sale. It is possible, however, to find public domain patterns that can be copied, sold and reused multiple times, and for profit.

Study current copyright laws, as they occasionally are changed or amended. According to the United States Copyright Office, as of 2010, any pattern created and published before 1923 is in the public domain. Public domain patterns may be used and distributed freely by anyone.

Check patterns you find at flea markets, in books, and online to see if they are copyrighted. It is still possible that a pattern created and published between 1923 and 1963 has passed into the public domain if the copyright holder has not renewed the copyright.

Check to see if the pattern belongs to the U.S. Government. Patterns created by the federal government remain in the public domain regardless of the year they were published.

Search online databases that are created specifically to house and distribute public domain works. Avoid purchasing recently compiled e-books, or collections of patterns that are supposedly in the public domain, as the creation of such a product itself may be subjected to current copyright laws.

Request a search through the United States Copyright Office if you are unable to locate the information about a pattern on your own. You will need to contact the bibliographer on duty, either through the online form or by mail, and hourly fees apply.


Do not purchase a photocopy of a pattern unless you are sure it is in the public domain.

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