If you have a question for Ask CRAFT, shoot me an email at [email protected], or drop us a note on Twitter! We’d love to answer your crafty questions on any topic: technique, projects, crafty culture, or anything else! Each week the answers are here; include your name, where you’re from, and your website or blog if you have one!

Allison in Washington, DC, writes:

I am wondering if I purchase a ready-made clothing item and then embellish (e.g. through applique or embroidery), can I ethically sell it as my own work?

You certainly can sell it as your own work, but I’d make it clear in any online listings that you didn’t construct the garment itself. Look on Etsy for things tagged “embellished” or “applique” or “refashioned” or “upcycled” for some examples of how other people list these types of items. In my opinion if you’re adding something valuable and creative to the clothing, then it certainly is your own work. Pictured above is Madrigal Embroidery’s hand-embellished upcycled necktie on Etsy. What are your thoughts on embellishing garments to sell? Share with us in the comments!

Becky Stern

Becky Stern

Becky Stern ( is a DIY guru and director of wearable electronics at Adafruit. She publishes a new project video every week and hosts a live show on YouTube. Formerly Becky was Senior Video Producer for MAKE. Becky lives in Brooklyn, NY and belongs to art groups Free Art & Technology (“release early, often, and with rap music”) and Madagascar Institute (“fear is never boring”).

  • Deanna

    In my opinion, it depends on how much embellishment was done, and if it is enough to be focal. To me, if the focus is the original design or item, it isn’t okay but if the focus is on the new modification or decoration it is okay.
    For instance, I’ve seen embellished items that consist of a pre-printed tee shirt where the design was accented with a couple glued on buttons or rhinestones…to me, the focus is still the original design, and therefore isn’t ethical to re-sell.
    I have seen a lot of great work made from refashioned clothing and bags though, and I also often thrift for fabric. I’ve made men’s vests from old bridesmaid dresses and hand bags from vintage curtains. I’ve also added knee patches, embroidery and screen printing to boring old pants to make them more edgey.
    In degrees, I think people really know where the line lies though, if your gut tells you its wrong, there is a good chance it is. If you feel like you have put a lot of labor and love in something and made it new again, you most likely have.

  • LollieP

    If I take a garment and upcycle it into something completely different than the original piece (ie a shirt into a bag) it it OK to leave the designer label on the fabric? I wouldn’t present it as a “Calvin Klein” bag but it would merely still have the label as originally sewn in the garment…

  • Becky Stern

    I don’t think if the label is prominently displayed and may be one of the reasons a person buys it that it’s really fair and may constitute copyright infringement (but I’m not a lawyer, this is not legal advice). Profit from your own ideas, not others’ brands, I think that’s the principle here.