Three Types of Illegal Cross Stitch Patterns

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Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Been hearing about illegal cross stitch patterns on Facebook and not sure what it’s about? Today’s post unpacks three types of illegal or restricted imagery, and will help pattern designers and cross stitchers understand their rights and responsibilities when producing (or buying) creative works.

1. Trademarked Items

Many of your favourite logos, brands, and movie characters are trademarked items and may not be copied or reproduced (in any form) without first securing a content licence. A trademarked item is a word, slogan, design, picture, colour or scent (yes smells can be trademarked) that is protected by law against copying and unauthorised usage.

Some examples of trademarked items that regularly appear in illegal cross stitch patterns are:

  • Harry Potter and other character’s from the films.
  • Mickey Mouse, Disney Princesses, and characters from Disney cartoons.
  • Characters from the Star Wars Saga.
  • Images from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe logos and characters.
  • Coca-Cola bottles and cans.

Unfortunately, many home designers create patterns from movie stills and screenshots they have grabbed from the internet — without paying their dues.

You can imagine a pattern designer, who has taken the time to apply (and pay) for a content licence with Disney, getting very upset when they see unauthorised patterns of Disney Princesses and Star Wars characters being sold online.


If you are buying a cross stitch pattern that features a trademarked logo or character (eg, baby Yoda) look for evidence of a content license that has been issued by the relevant agency (eg, Lucasfilm). If the pattern designers has invested in an expensive license, they will definitely display this on the website listing or pattern label.

And do remember, there is nothing wrong with creating or stitching an original interpretation of a fairytale or comicbook character — Disney doesn’t own Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. Just make sure your interpretations have unique costumes, hairstyles, and facial features.

2. Government Emblems

It’s fun to show national pride and honour national monuments in cross stitch, just be sure there are no constraints on the images you want to stitch.

Some governments restrict the way flags and images of government buildings can be used by businesses and the general public. Examples of restricted emblems include the National flag of the Philippines, the Canadian Royal Arms, all emblems and seals listed in the United States Code, and the Commonwealth Coat of Arms.

The responsibility always rests with the end user, so even if you buy the cross stitch pattern, you could still be prosecuted by a government agency for displaying the finished piece.


In the Philippines, the national flag cannot be used on merchandise of any kind and there are restrictions on how the flag can be displayed (especially by non-Filipinos). Specifically, it is is illegal to:

  • Print, paint or attach a representation of the flag on handkerchiefs, napkins, cushions and other merchandise.
  • Wear the flag in whole or part as a costume or uniform.
  • Use the flag as drapery, festoon or tablecloth; as covering for ceilings, walls, statues or other objects.

Even if you buy a cross stitch pattern of the National Flag of the Philippines, you could still be prosecuted under the to Philippine Flag and Heraldic Code for stitching it up and displaying in your home.

3. Illegal Images

Digital cameras, phones, and social media channels have enabled access to private photos and footage that can now be turned into cross stitch patterns. But just because you have access to an image doesn’t mean you should use it.

Do be discerning with the images you choose for your projects because (depending on the country where you live) many are illegal to use, own, or display. At the same time, some images sit right on the fringe of poor taste and unethical conduct.

Here are some examples.

  • Privacy violations — images taken without permission (particularly of children) or images that are intended to harass or humiliate someone.
  • Pornography — especially depictions of young people under 18 years of age.
  • Racially charged symbols — eg, Nazi flags, vintage cartoons that negatively depict African Americans and indigenous persons.
  • Recreational drugs and paraphernalia — this will depend on your home country’s laws and attitudes toward recreational drugs.


Be nice. Design and stitch projects that are beautiful and inspiring and generate more love, joy, hope, and peace in our world.

Antique cross stitch

Looking for a new project but don’t want the worry of copyright? No problem with these reworked antique patterns that were originally published more than 100 years ago.

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