This makes me so ANGRY. Like, “Hulk smash!” angry. Urban Threads is ripping off Jenny Hart of Sublime Stitching, someone who we all know has spent years building up a successful, independent business supplying amazing embroidery designs to crafters everywhere.
Jenny is smart, kind and truly generous — I have had the distinct pleasure of working with her in a number of contexts, from putting her embroidered art in a fiber art show I curated a few years ago, to working with her on yarn embroidery for my Knitgrrl books and embroidery embroidery in The Pillow Book, to seeing each other all over the country at shows such as TNNA, Renegade Craft Fair, to… you name it. I’m proud to count her among my friends.
I’ve watched as she’s helped educate other crafters in the ways of building a profitable life from their work, too — I can remember when a certain Evil Company In NYC Who Wanted To Pick A Fight With Knitters flatly deleted a very calm and reasoned response she’d made on their comments section about the brewing controversy, I can remember when she showed up to a semi-private meeting at TNNA about designers’ rights (and hearing “what was that embroidery person doing here?” — a quick DO YOU KNOW WHO THAT WAS? THAT’S JENNY HART! shut them right up).
In short: Jenny has so much street cred, she’s got asphalt coming out her ears.
Have you heard the term ‘greenwashing’? It’s when a company tries to paint its products as more ecologically friendly than they actually are. Well, here we have ‘indiewashing.’ Big company tries to pretend they are a small company, to seem cooler, and even appropriates a former (current?) employee‘s identity to have a figurehead masking their deception.
(Niamh, I sure hope they’re paying you lots of money for the use of your image and such).
From the very first link, from a letter by Jenny:
I am an independent entrepreneur only recently helped by four employees that work out of a converted garage (a nice one!). I founded and built Sublime Stitching in 2001 on a loan of $1,000 from my late father and made it what it is today. Sublime Stitching has never been backed or funded by another company. It has taken me eight years to produce Sublime Stitchingâ€™s current catalog of patterns. Urban Threads appeared virtually out of nowhere, fully stocked with themes identical to ours. I have a true passion for what I do. We still struggle to grow and meet the enormous demand for our unique designs. I am incredibly proud of my team, my work. I am so deeply proud to be a part of the DIY movement and enjoy its support, and nothing pleases me more than watching new, real, indie businesses thrive on the success of their own, unique offerings.
I have no problem with big companies (hey, I hope to be one someday), but I do have a problem with bigger companies pretending to be smaller than they are in order to deceive those who choose to purchase from real indie businesses. What I donâ€™t understand, is why this company never asked to work with Sublime Stitching.
Credibility and authenticity are the cornerstones of DIY craft movement, both for independent business owners and the customers who support them. I feel strongly that the DIY community should be made aware of Embroidery Library Inc.’s deceptive actions.
I do believe Urban Threads’ disingenuous positioning as a small â€œindieâ€ operation will be discovered, and you are free to share this information. Facts are facts, and there is no penalty for sharing them if you choose to. Everyone has a right to voice their own opinion about this.
What are we doing about it? Sublime Stitching has some specific, brazen copyright and unfair competition issues that we feel obligated to pursue in order to protect my company. We are taking aggressive legal action, but we know that our greatest strength comes from the support we have earned over the last eight years in this active, vibrant and aware community.
Do click through and read the rest… but in case it ends up getting taken down for some reason, some other pertinent information from Jenny’s letter:
It turns out, however, that Urban Threads is an â€œindieâ€ front for a bigger, machine/digitized embroidery stock art company, Embroidery Library Inc. ( www.emblibrary.com/ ), that operates under numerous assumed names (Starbird Stock Designs Inc., Embroidery Island, and possibly others). â€œUrban Threadsâ€ appears to be their attempt to enter the â€œindieâ€ market with hand embroidery, complete with a supposed â€œindie crafterâ€ for a figurehead. The offices for each of these businesses are at a shared address, including â€œNiamhâ€™s studioâ€, located in an industrial park outside Minneapolis (we Googlemapped it). We believe there are multiple artists contributing to the creation of the Urban Threads design catalog, apart from their “Artist Patterns”, one of which is the work of a stock illustrator who designs for WalMart and Target.
Niamh claims on the Urban Threads website simply that â€œI used to intern for an embroidery design companyâ€ and that she later “started Urban Threads” while she is in fact currently employed by Embroidery Library Inc (since 2007) as an illustrator. We feel itâ€™s clear the Urban Threads website is intended to look like a smaller, â€˜homierâ€™ operation to deceptively cater to those who specifically want to support independent businesses. But Embroidery Library Inc. owns the business name Urban Threads, has applied for a trademark for â€œUrban Threadsâ€ and owns the domain name urbanthreads.com (address and phone number are registered to their business), and they are apparently financing the marketing and operations from behind the scenes. As a true indie design company, we simply cannot compete with a larger, well-funded company that is targeting our business in an unfair way, while using resources that we, and others like us, do not have.
I wish Jenny and her staff the best of luck in fighting this egregious, and frankly, disgusting ripoff of their work. Ever wonder how a real artist develops her patterns? Take a look at this.
Oh, and for the record, I have personally dealt with two people “at” Urban Threads, and neither of them are Niamh. I was helping out at the magazine I edit’s sister sewing magazine, there was a reference to Urban Threads in one of the articles, and we asked for some images of their embroidery we could put in the magazine. Standard stuff. Here’s a reply from November 2008 — bold mine.
Our advertising budget is less than $0 right now, as we’re just getting started and not even making ends meet. Maybe next year?
Funny, you’re big enough to have an IT manager and a marketing manager but you can’t afford a hundred bucks for an ad?
Updated to add links to discussions elsewhere: