Freebie Charts for Needlework Groups' Newsletters
and Shops

One way to promote your work as a designer is to give away free samples of it. Thus, people become familiar with your name and have a mental image of the "kind of work" you do. Freebie charts are advertising pieces, pure and simple.

I edit The Grapevine , the newsletter of my EGA chapter, Vintage Stitchers, and the following remarks are made with my editor's hat on. They are suggestions for producing freebie charts that are congenial for newsletter use.

And remember, when your design goes in a chapter's newsletter, it isn't seen only by those members. Chapters generally exchange newsletters with other chapters in their region and also with chapters in other regions, who themselves exchange within and outside -their- region. Thus, your work can circulate around the country in a matter of months.

Isn't this the kind of publicity you want?!

I also include some information specifically about in-shop freebies, but much of what is said about newsletter freebies applies to shop freebies.

Design Quality

Don't make this a "throw-away" design. It should be just as good a design as one of your retail leaflets! This little chart may be the first time many stitchers see your name or look at your work. You want to make a good impression on them, yes?

Sometimes designers will excerpt a small motif from a current-release design and make a freebie chart for a bookmark (who doesn't need another bookmark?!), needlecase, Christmas ornament, and so on. If so, make sure the name of the retail leaflet is part of the text on the freebie so your new fans will know what to ask for at their local shop!


Your freebie must contain your name and business name/business logo, copyright notice, reprint policy, the chart, color key and materials list, and any stitch diagrams.

Include your URL and e-mail addy, if you have them, along with your business address/phone/fax. Make it easy for people to get in touch with you to buy your work!

Knowledge of cross stitch, backstitch, and tent stitch are givens. Stitches other than these should be diagrammed.

Condense instructions. Example: "Work cross stitched areas, then drawn-thread areas, then knots."

In some cases, you may be able to eliminate instructions altogether if the piece is all cross stitch and "substantial" fancy stitches (such as Smyrna cross, eyelets, Rhodes stitches) which will hold up under handling and thus not affect the piece's stitch order. Stitch diagrams will be sufficient "instructions" in a case like this.

If there is room, include the names of similar designs. ("If you enjoyed this piece, ask your shop owner for "Name," "Name Two," and "Name Three!")

Chart Size for Newsletters

Here are freebie chart sizes which are compatible with newsletter layouts.

Chart Size for Shops

For shops, the 8.5" w x 11" h format is excellent. A single-side chart is less expensive for the shop to photocopy than a double-sided sheet, thereby increasing the likelihood that the shop owner will make your design available.

If you can condense to 5.5" h, two copies of the chart will fit on one sheet of paper (this is called "two up" in printers' lingo). This means the shop owner gets twice as many giveaways for the photocopy price. Everybody loves a good deal!

If you are going to do two up, send out your print masters (the original printout from which the shop will photocopy) in a two up format. If the shop owner doesn't have to photocopy and then paste to get a print master, it is more likely that your freebie will appear in the shop, than if the shop owner must play printer's apprentice.

As with newsletters, everything that you can do to make your chart more useable and minimally expensive to reproduce will increase its chances of being used (and used and used and used).

Photocopy Degeneration

Which brings us to an important point.

Bear in mind that your hopefully-popular chart will be passed along, with photocopies of photocopies of photocopies of photocopies of photocopies, as friends share it with each other and newsletter editors pick up your design from other newsletters or friends of friends.

The grid lines are the first to go in photocopy degeneration, and when the stitcher cannot see how many threads to leave between areas of your design, editors will not print it. Your design is now useless. (Clever you, however, have placed your mailing address on the freebie, and editors whose readers love your work can send a SASE for a fresh copy!) Make sure the grid lines on your originals are solid black; a "dotted" black or a gray will wash out after the third generation copy.

Chart symbols fall heir to the same affliction. Select symbols which have clear shapes and do not resemble other symbols in the chart. A lowercase a and a lowercase o are not good choices for the same chart, as the right-hand curve of the a will "break down" during the subsequent photocopy process. A lowercase o and a black dot, however, are fine. A figure eight and a dollar sign are two other symbols incompatible in the same freebie chart if you want to ameliorate photocopy degeneration.


You have a lot to squeeze onto this piece of paper! Plan carefully!

While you will have to forsake some aspects of good page layout to fit a lot of information into a small amount of space, don't abandon ship on the following.

It's ok to turn the chart sideways in the layout. Avoid it if you can, but it's ok if you must. For example, if your design is tall and thin, rather than choosing the half-page vertical layout, which will not be used often in newsletters or shop freebies, or using 16 grids per inch for the chart, turn the chart 90 degrees and use the half-page horizontal layout.

Make the copyright notice large enough that after 10 generations of photocopies (people really love this chart!!), it has not been obscured. For this information and who may reprint the chart (see below), I would use a font larger than 10-point, such as 11- or even 12-point.

Similarly, make sure your name/business name/business address are set in a font that will stand up to successive generations of photocopies.

Who Gets Reprint Rights?

This boils down to the decision between "shops only" and "shops and guilds." And that decision is yours.

The "shops only" rationale is that if the chart is available only at shops, the customers must come in to get it (and will likely purchase things while there).

"Shops and guilds" obviates shop exclusivity. From some shop owners' perspective, such reprint permission is anathema, but newsletter editors love it because it gives them a wider number of charts from which to chooses for their members.

What to do? If your aim is getting your name out, it's a no-brainer, I think.

Should You Grant Permission to Kit?

Most freebie charts say that no one may kit them. In other words, a shop, needlework group, etc., may not take your freebie chart, collect kit materials, and sell them as a unit for profit. No one else should benefit financially from what you have generously made available gratis.

That's the idea, at least.

Suppose an unscrupulous shop owner puts your chart out on the counter, available for free to everyone, but side-by-side it are little bags for sale of the materials you call for in the materials list? The letter of the copyright notice has been obeyed because the chart is not -in- the bag with the materials, but the spirit of the copyright notice has been dishonored.

Unfortunately, there is not a lot you can do about a situation like this except stop making freebies available. I don't recommend this because you want to get your name out. This is the reason for doing freebie charts.

Suppose you are approached by a Girl Scout troop leader and asked if they may kit your design and sell it as a fund-raiser? It's your property, so you have the right to say yes or no. If yes, they will need a special permission statement to add to the chart (see below).

Should Freebie Charts Have an Expiry Date on Them?

In my opinion, no. Remember the whole idea of these charts: to get your name out! Make our freebies available in perpetuity.

Reprint Rights and Copyright Notices for Special Situations

Suppose you have a shop-only chart, and a newsletter editor, following proper protocol, writes and asks special permission to use it.

Should you say yes? I would advise you to do so (unless you have some kind of contractual or gentlewoman's agreement otherwise).

If you say yes, a special copyright notice needs to be appended. (Ask the editor to type it up and paste it on the chart; the editor can use some of the margin area for this addition.)

There are two common ways of wording such a special notice: (1) any chapter can use the chart now as long as the copyright notice is retained intact; or (2) each chapter must secure individual permission before reprinting.

By making it easy for the requesting editor and those of chapters who exchange newsletters with that editor's chapter, your chances of being reprinted are greatly increased. Plus, many members (and editors) have membership in another needlework organization, and your charts may be given to an editor there and thus make the rounds to another group of potential buyers.

Sample texts for these special situations:

(1) Copyright year, name. Used by permission. Sharing chapters may NOT reprint without separate permission in advance. Contact the designer with an SASE (mail address here) or by e-mail (e-mail addy here).

(2) Copyright year, name. Sharing chapters may reprint this chart, which originally appeared in The Grapevine of Vintage Stitchers Chapter of EGA, as long as this notice is kept intact and a copy of the newsletter is sent to the designer (mail address here).

If you want something different, tell the editor what you want. It's always best to write your own copyright statement rather than -describe- what you want. Editors prefer this, too, as they never have to worry that their wording is an erroneous interpretation of your preference.

If you don't care about receiving a copy of all newsletters in which your work appears, eliminate that portion of the specialized copyright statement. Important marketing data may be had, however, by seeing how fast a design "spreads" and what locations it reaches, so receiving a copy of the newsletter is a good idea even if you don't care about the other content of the newsletter. A well-traveled freebie indicates a real interest for a retail chart of very similar content. Several reprints in one area of the country may indicate a hotbed of interest in your style; you may wish to inquire of shops there about teaching a workshop.

Let's return to the example of the Girl Scout fund-raiser and suppose you said yes. Ask the leader to place verbiage such as the following on the chart:

Copyright year, name. Kitted for use in Girl Scout Troop #64's Spring Fling Fundraiser by permission of the designer, whose generosity we acknowledge. This chart may not be kitted by anyone else without prior permission. Contact the designer with an SASE (mail address here) or by e-mail (e-mail addy here).

Freebie charts are tremendous advertising tools. Whether you decide to allow guilds to reprint them freely, too, is your decision.

No freebie charts available? Get busy on one right away! Turn one out on a regular basis so shops know when to expect the next one - - they will tell their customers, who will turn up like clockwork for your newest freebie *and* expand their interest in your work to buying your leaflets.

copyright 1999, Martha Beth Lewis
Contact me about reprint permission.

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