Sewing Industry–Best of the Decade

on January 3 | in Sewing Trends | by | with 64 Comments

I’ve been reading and disagreeing with top ten lists all week–on topics ranging from best movies to best political quotes, everyone has an opinion about something.  Still, all the “best of the decade” lists really got me thinking about how much the sewing industry has changed in the past 10 years.  So,  for better or worse, I thought I’d throw my own opinions out there as fodder.   Here are some of the things that I found notable:

Most Influential Fabric Designer:  Amy Butler
Portland has one of the biggest fabric stores in the country, Fabric Depot, and yet there were times in the ’90s when I’d be hard-pressed to find a single design that I could get excited about.  Then one day I went shopping and I was drawn to one little rounder of Amy Butler fabrics that stood out like a tiny oasis in a vast desert.  Who was this?  Where did she come from?  Wow, the possibilities!  I still feel that way about Amy’s designs, although she has a lot of good company now.  We all owe Amy a big thank you, in my opinion.  Her vision, business sense and passion has had a tremendous impact on the industry.

Most Influential Quilter:  Denyse Schmidt
Not only is the book, Denyse Schmidt Quilts, one of the best of the decade, but her style has been inspirational to legions of quilters.  Simple, clean, bright and just a little bit wonky.  We still can’t wait to see what she does next.

Best Manufacturer:  Free Spirit
Amy Butler (before she left for Westminster, which later bought Free Spirit!), Denyse Schmidt, Heather Bailey, Heather Ross, Jennifer Paganelli, Anna Maria Horner, Tanya Whelan and more.  What can you say?  They have an eye for talent and are still at the cutting-edge of the industry trends.

Best Blogger-to-Author:  Amy Karol
Like her blog, Amy’s Bend the Rules books are instructional, approachable, and inspiring.  Whatever she’s currently working on is always the next thing we want to learn.

Best Base Cloth:  Home Dec Cottons
The “home dec” part is really a misnomer.  We use the sateens and oxfords from Westminster and Alexander Henry for bags, aprons, clothing and more.  The thickness makes everything just a bit sturdier without the use of heavy interfacing and the extra width adds to the versatility. The manufacturers haven’t been producing these as much lately, which I hope is just temporary.

Best Trend:  Zakka Style
The Japanese inspired us to make lovely, simple things for our homes and families.   Combining clean linens with beautiful prints and simple hand-stitching is a look that spoke to women all over the world and is a trend that will probably continue for awhile.

Best Technology:  Blogs
It’s hard imagine a day without a dose of inspiration from my favorite blogs.  Ten years ago I hadn’t even heard the term.  Quoting from Beth, blogs “really changed the community feel of sewing and in a way brought it back about a hundred years– Once again there’s a community of people making things/teaching things/communicating about sewing, it’s just that you might connect with someone around the world instead of in your neighborhood.”

Best Sewing Blog:  Sew,Mama,Sew!
It’s OK for me to say that, right? 😉  We owe it all to Beth, our fabulous board members, and many, many generous, creative contributors.  Thank you!

Best Pattern Company:  Oliver + S (how could I forget?!)
Fabulous children’s clothing patterns that are well-designed, well-written and well-tested.  Excellent support for both consumers and retailers.  Pattern designers-to-be would do well to follow Liesl’s example in running a business.

Sewing Trends for the Future:

Texture–We’ve submersed ourselves in pattern for the past decade.  I think the coming years will be all about different base cloths.  We’re already seeing the industry-leader, Free Spirit, take on flannel, voile, dobby cloth and vinyl, so I’m sure we’ll see more manufacturers doing the same.  Look for fun projects that combine a variety of fabric textures in the coming year.

Apparel–We’ve all cut our teeth on simple items for the home over the past few years.  I have a sense that many of you are ready to take on more clothing projects.  As a consequence, I predict we’ll be seeing a lot more fabulous patterns from independent designers. Brush off your zipper feet, ladies!

Less digital, more painterly–I think we’ll see more fine artists edging their way into textile design.

Quilting Bees–Not just quilting bees, but sewing groups in general.  One of my personal goals of 2010 is to have more “real life” encounters with other sewists.  The formation of small sewing groups is, in fact, something that we’d like to help facilitate on the blog.  Look for more information about this soon!

Custom Digital Fabric Printing–It’s undoubtedly here to stay.  We’re excited to see the ways it will be put to use in the coming years.


What about you?  What were some of the best aspects of the sewing industry in the past decade?  Personal favorites?  Least favorite trends?  Predictions for the future?   We’d love to know what you think!

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64 Responses to Sewing Industry–Best of the Decade

  1. Sara says:

    I really enjoyed reading your list, but can you go into more depth about what quilting and sewing books in general are your top fav. Maybe one of each that pops into your head right away?

    I also think that besides the sewing circle that there need to be more fabric swaps all around: )

    Thanks again!

  2. Teresa says:

    Fabulous list!! I’m so happy and proud to be a part of this amazing community of enthusiastic sewists!! Wish there was more excitement in my area (near Pittsburgh)…Unfortunately, we’ve lost nearly all of our fabric stores, but then again, that’s what got me looking on the internet and helped me to find all of these great sites and on-line stores!

  3. Suzy says:

    Great list!
    If I were to add anything it would be really ‘usable’ non-commercial sergers, the Internet in general, not just bloggers (Etsy, wikis, you-tube…all of it)and the cool new sewing tools designed by people who actually SEW!

    I love your blog and spend about four days a month in the Portland area, I’d love to attend a sewing circle!!
    PS – I take an extra suitcase up there filled with sewn goodies for my granddaughter and extended family and retun with it full of fabric from what my family refers to as “Mecca” but the rest of the world calls Fabric Depot (
    Keep up the great blogging!

  4. nicole blum says:

    Your blog is outstanding and I have linked to it through mine. I was recently selling at the Twist Craft Fair in Northampton, MA and taking names for folks who are interested in craft and sewing classes in my studio. I think 50 people signed up! Everyone wants to learn and most think it is super difficult- won’t they be surprised! Your blog is super inspiring and I know more will find it to help jumpstart their own crafty sewing life.

  5. Susan says:

    Terrific list. I felt the same way the first time I found Amy Butler’s fabric. The first time I got excited about sewing was seeing a quilt by Quilt Workshop (Weeks and her husband) featured in Country Living Magazine.

    Funny you mention a painterly technique. I’ve been thinking exactly the same the past couple days.

    Happy New Year!

  6. KG says:

    I kept thinking “yes, yes” as I made my way down the list! I love it! And one of my New Year’s goals is to meet more sewists in person…I’m glad to hear that may be easier soon!

  7. Jill B says:

    Great List – It’s almost exactly the list I would have made – spot on answers!

  8. Sandy says:

    Great post. I hope you are right on the money for the future of sewing.

  9. Sarah says:

    Love your top 10 list, and I particularly agree with the choice of Denyse Schmidt — I love her book about quilts and after making my first quilt from a pattern, I’ve made every one of the 30 or so that followed in the last couple of years very much making up the design on my own. And I can completely relate to those who are frustrated with the fabric shops. I don’t know if it’s in the U.S., but here in Canada the big chain for fabric is Fabricland. It’s only been in the last year that they’ve started carrying quilting cotton in solid colours, but the rest of the bolts are still rather traditional. I recall an interesting encounter with an older quilter in Chapters’ sewing section — she’d never heard of Denyse Schmidt or even contemplated making quilts without a pattern from a book or from named blocks. And the local quilt guild’s annual show had one small modern-looking quilt, hidden in a back corner of the room, lurking behind something else.

  10. Tiffany says:

    Your sewing group prediction must be spot on. I have actually started hosting a local weekly group in December!

  11. SewLindaAnn says:

    Blogs have really brought my fabric/craft connection to life. The inspiration and support of this part of ourselves is amazing on every level. I don’t have time for the back and forth of groups at home and am starting to join in online and having fun with it. Lantern Bloom, Full Bloom, Snippets, Daisy Chain to name a few are in my favorites stack and boy is it continuing to grow!! Now I can’t wait for Rural Jardin and collecting some of those great Japanese cuties. I am a continuing customer at your site and love the sales, service and selection.

  12. andrea says:

    I agree tho’ I wouldn’t be able to pick just one per category!
    I can’t wait to try out dobby cloth-love the idea of textures 🙂

  13. Nadia says:

    Great post, especially the future trends predictions! I’m very excited to see all of those trends come into their own.

  14. I think your list hit the nail. I relate to your feelings on Amy Butler. She’s definitely been a pioneer. I only started enjoying sewing the past 3 years, and kind of wish I had started a little earlier, to be able to enjoy the “slim-pickins” originality among fabric and designers. I find myself feeling inundated sometimes with all the look-alike designs that have developed…especially in the past year or two.

  15. I think you list is right on track……….Now how do you get those sewing groups going in local areas? I have been putting it out all over the place where I live to try to get a sewing group together and NO ONE wants to bite that I have found……..I have the studio. I have the supplies, I have the machines…….I am wanting to get this going and no one wants to sew with me……Help!! PLEASE???? My JOB is sewing and upholstery professionally but I am desperate for the “personal connection” of people , ladies or guys who like to create like I do……..Kim From Salt lake City, Utah

  16. Kate says:

    Totally agree with your list. Finding blogs and ‘other people like me’ has been such an amazing thing.

  17. Liesl says:

    I’m thrilled to be included in such a terrific list! Thank you so much–what a pleasant surprise!

  18. all8garden says:

    I have always sewn clothing and hope that this trend continues. Although it may end up just for independent designers because the Big 4 seem to have fewer patterns for children and especially for men and boys. Drives me crazy. My favorite find of 2009 was open source sewing.

    Is it possible for a new blog button? I’d love to post it on my site. Sew, Mama, Sew is a personal favorite and I’d love to share it.

  19. I love your list! And yay fro Zakka style. I just got a new shipment of Japanese sewing books and I am itching to sew. Sew Mama Sew is awesome so yes, it is okay to include it in your list.

  20. Beth Prince says:

    As I read your list, I got a little thrill in anticipating (correctly!) what your response would be! Especially Amy Butler… I could have never predicted that Amy Wolf, who I saw for most major holidays during the 80’s (she was my mother’s long-time boyfriend’s daughter), would eventually be THE Amy Butler whose designs grace the comforter my daughter sleeps with every night. She was interesting, artistic and intriguing even then, and now the entire sewing community owes a great debt to her!

  21. jacquie says:

    interesting top 10…i so appreciate that sew mama sew has been the catalyst and hub for modern sewing. i wholeheartedly agree that blogs are wonderful and the virtual connection between sewers is great. i think that as you said, that personal connection with fellow sewers/quilters can be facilitated through our blogs. i’m looking for that in the future as well. here’s to a fabulous 2010!

  22. amy k. says:

    um—thank you!! and, well, dang it, just thank you! I am beyond flattered.

    as for texture, garment sewing, more fine art looks in textile design—yes yes and yes!! I see it all coming too. I am especially excited by new indie designers coming out with their own patterns-

    and thank YOU for having such a rad sewing blog.

  23. You know what I LOVE about discovering sewing in the Portland area… about half the blogs I look at have Portland connections. There is so much happening in this awesome town! Letting the Sewing Bees begin!

  24. so grateful to be in such good company..!!!Thanks for shining your bright light in our direction. We are humbled by your input! all my
    very best to SMS. Happy New Year!

  25. Lauranie says:

    Well of COURSE you can say you are the TOP sewing blog!!! Without you, I would still be trying to figure out the Singer Learn How to Sew Book…I have ALL Brothers!! THANK YOU for inspiring me on a daily basis, and leading me to SO MANY others who do the same!! YOU are the BEST sewing blog!! Great list!!

  26. carrie says:

    wonderful list adn so very “spot on”


  27. Norma says:

    Oh please do follow through with the sewing groups! I’d join in a heartbeat! Yay~

  28. I completely agree with your Top Ten. Especially about Amy Butler, and Free Spirit and SMS and blogs being life-changing. I have made so many online friends in 2009 and been so inspired by what I see. Looking forward to a great 2010!

  29. Becky says:

    I completely agree with our Top Ten!

    Your 2010 predictions are intriguing.

    I would love to gather a sewing circle!

  30. Maeve says:

    When I found blogs (it took me awhile, I’m older than many of you out there), it changed a lot of things for me. I particularly love this blog – SewMamaSew – and it is the first one I check out on a regular basis. It is so fun to share with others, to learn what others are doing, what’s new, to find tutorials for new projects that are really nice enough to give (or keep!), etc. I agree with your top ten and I wish you another wonderful year blogging. We will be the beneficiaries!!!! Happy New Year!

  31. alison c says:

    The one thing on your list I agree with most is the importance of the blog.
    I’m not being funny but blogs such as sew mama sew ahve changed my life! I know it sound dramatic but three years ago I was a moleculare biologist(!) and had never sewn anything. After a drunken purchase of 1m of Cath Kidston fabric on ebay I realised I had no idea what to do with it, googled sew and up you popped! From reading here and at other blogs I have taught myself to sew and to understand how fabric “works”. I am now busier than ever crafting for friends and family. I have now hung up my lab coat and am hoping that in the not to distant future my dream of running “Dear Green Place” as a full time business will be possible.

  32. Great list! Sewing really has changed a lot over the past 10 years especially with blogs. I agree about Amy Butler. I remember being so excited to see these refreshing fabrics and never even bothered to know who the individual designers were behind the fabrics before she came along. She and Denyse Schmidt are such wonderful ambassadors for the sewing industry.
    Of course, I hope to se many more great blogger-to-author books in the coming year 😉 but
    I have to say that Sew Mama Sew has done an incredible job in both expanding and uniting the unwieldy online world. Your taste in fabrics and designers have made you a strong voice and reliable barometer in the sewing world yourselves-so well done both of you and looking forward to seeing what new ventures 2010 brings for you.

  33. ~Helena~ says:

    I agree a great list. I agree with blogs bringing us together(especially SMS) to share, teach and learn. (I love the idea Modern quilting bee/ sewing groups.)

  34. KC says:

    I couldn’t agree more with your post! A true sewing renaissance has gone on in the past 10 years. I remember thinking there was zero out there 20 years ago, when I learned to sew, but the past 10 years have brought patterns, design, luxe fabric, the handbag craze, and of course blogs. The best being this one! This decade has made my handsewn stuff seem less dorky than it once seemed. I can delight in my artistic outlet in public! 🙂 So glad this rebirth of DIY is widespread. I give your website out to all of my friends I teach or encourage to sew. Thanks for years of great work!

  35. Elizabeth says:

    Great list, Kristin! I had to laugh at your description of finding the Amy Butler fabric in Fabric Depot because I can remember having the same experience (also at Fabric Depot).

  36. Maggie says:

    I just love the idea of sewing groups! I have very few friends that sew and would love to meet more in my area (which is Ann Arbor Michigan)

  37. Jennifer R. says:

    It’s interesting that you say quilting bees are an upcoming trend. I have had sewing bees with my daughter and her friends for several years in an effort to encourage their sewing and to make items to donate. They have been a lot of fun and the girls look forward to them every year!

  38. Michele says:

    Loved this post!

  39. you are spot on with this list. really enjoyed reading this. happy new year! and thanks for this top blog!

  40. Carrie says:

    What a great list (and thank you Julie for that new-to-me bit of information). I continually find myself feeling so grateful for all of you who do blog and for the creativity, inspiration, and joy you bring to my little home in the mountains. Thank you!

  41. FibreJoy says:

    I completly agree with your choices… and yes, Sew Mama Sew is the best Sewing Blog.

    Happy New Year to you and your staff!



  42. Deborah S. says:

    I agree with all the others. Great list. I am old enough to remember sewing with the voiles for my children and such, so I am so glad they are back with such beautiful prints. It has been so exciting to see a whole new generation of young people get excited about sewing again and I can’t wait to check the blogs to see what is new in the mornings! Keep up the good work and thank you for helping to inspire our world to be just a little more beautiful and unique.

  43. Paula says:

    I love SMS and recommend it to everyone. Looking forward to 2010 and have high hopes of more apparrel for myself. Tips on chosing the “right” material would be helpful and making those first cuts a little less scary. Like designs that are figure flattering, fabrics that are good compliments and what materials work well to and not to sew for certain garments.

  44. Tawny Bee says:

    I love the idea of sewing circles and I totally think they will make a come back. I didn’t realize there were any sewing gals near me until I reached out on blogs and Twitter. Now we just have to organize ourselves and a sewing circle is born! Great motivation too.

  45. Andi says:

    I agree with all of these, especially the one about “the best sewing blog.” If it weren’t for Sew, Mama, Sew (which I stumbled upon quite by accident only a year or two ago), I wouldn’t know about any of the things on your list!

  46. cinzia allocca says:

    I agree with your top ten!!! I’m so excited about the growing handmade community! My first order of business in 2010 is to set up a sewing class for teens. I already have 4 interested parties!! How exciting is it that a new generation of sewing enthusiasts is emerging!

    I look forward to being part of this growing community of sewists!!

  47. Java Jane says:

    Regarding your comment on apparel: I see this happening in my own life. In fact, yesterday I cut out a “muslin” for a blouse. I had not heard the term “muslin” used for a quick mock-up until last summer when I read a 1950’s 4-H guide on how to fit patterns. Since then I see that a number of bloggers construct muslins as a precursor to sewing. This really helped when I made a skirt for my niece at Christmas. I felt that the pattern was running large–the muslin showed me how to improve the fit.

    Clearly I am evolving beyond the simple bag, pair of drawstring pants, or home decor item. I look forward to sewing my clothing again, something I haven’t done since I was a poor grad student. Totally different motivation today…

    Best Sewing blog? Sew Mama Sew. No question.

    Happy New Year

  48. Ali says:

    I’m planning on starting up a local chapter of a craft group called Brown Owls ( I love being part of the on-line crafting community and can’t wait for some more real life craft action.

  49. EJVC says:

    For me, you’ve missed at least one standout of the decade: PatternReview. As a community review site and forum, this is just an essential part of how I now sew, and I think it stands out and deserves recognition. And in popular culture, Project Runway?

  50. Mona says:

    I think the word sewist is new this decade. I can’t remember ever hearing it before the advent of sewing blogs. When I was a home ec teacher, way back in the dark ages, people who sewed were seamstresses. But, I have a way of not seeing what’s before my eyes, so maybe I just missed it or it wasn’t used in deep East Texas! 😉

  51. KarenLR says:

    I just pulled out some Folkwear patterns (from the mid 70’s) and gave them a second look. Everything that’s old is new again?

  52. Paula in NH says:

    I love your Top 10 list! Blogs are definitely great. I love seeing what other sewists around the world are working on in their studios. I can’t even remember what my reading life was like before blogs.

  53. SparklePetal says:

    I love your list, it clicks with a lot of my own opinions. I’m very interested in what you say about Amy Butler. It was her Lotus and Belle fabrics that really turned me on to the huge choice available nowadays, although I came to it only in the last five years, so it’s good to hear that other people have found her such an inspiration. I too would like to make some ‘real life’ sewing connections to complement my digital world. And sewing clothes – bring it on!

  54. Elizabeth says:

    A perfect list! I am thankful for the support my sewing blog friends! It’s so great to know people from all over the world that craft! Amy Butler was my start of sewing – thanks to her, her great patterns and fabrics! Know I know so many great other fabric designers! Good stuff…

  55. philippa says:

    Great list. I just hope that 2010 brings a little more sewing excitment to the UK shores. I get so envious when I read about the wonderful fabric lines and stores which stock them in the US.

  56. Cheryl says:

    Great list! I especially love the new “painterly” fabrics. I recently bought a few yards that look just like a watercolor painting. LOVE IT!

    I’m also glad to hear about Sew Mama Sew encouraging small sewing circles. This past year two friends and I started sewing together weekly — what a blessing this shared creative time has been for us!

  57. peggyann says:

    I enjoyed this…and I am delighted beyond words that sewing has taken a huge serge of popularity. I learned over 40 years ago from my mom thru 4-H, and sewing became something where I could excell as a teen.

    The fabrics, the tool and techniques, the creative ideas (& the internet) available available today amazes and thrills me every new day!

    This year I AM, finally, starting a sewing club. For no other reason than to share the love.

  58. min says:

    I SO agree with your whole list! I get very frustrated with my local fabric store which cannot seem to get out of the old school quilting mode. Nothing modern for the young peeps wanting to make something edgy for the home. Traditional patterns are terrific, but so many designers have such a modern touch – Amy Butler, Heather Bailey, Anna Maria…and so many more. I adore reading their blogs.

    I’m also glad you’ll try to help us gather to sew in life…I find myself enjoying blogs, but seeing less people in my day. Darn.

    Thanks for another great year!

  59. I totally agree with you, especially the…best sewing blog: Sew,Mama,Sew! I always enjoy your blog (and shopping at your shop). Thank you for all the inspirations! Wishing you a continued success in 2010!

  60. amanda says:

    Totally! Great thoughts… I couldn’t agree more.

  61. Emedoodle says:

    Awesome list!
    I just found myself in the sewing blogisphere about a year ago. I didn’t know that so many of my favorite things were as popular as they are. Anna Maria Horner fabric from Free Spirit is by far my favorite (I got some of the viole for Christmas!). I agree Free Spirit makes such soft fabric. Oh and I love Sew Mama Sew too! 🙂

  62. Linda B says:

    I whole-heartedly agree with your top 10! I’m also glad that we have the blogging community that pulls us all together:D

  63. Samurai Mom says:

    ooh count me in on Portland quilting and sewing bees!

  64. Julia says:

    Actually…there are already LOTS of great garment patterns from independent designers — they’re just not fabric designers. Check out Stitchers Guild at for discussions and pics of all sorts of great patterns. And, of course, is a great source of information about new pattern designers.

    And, the American Sewing Guild has a national network of sewing groups that is currently more than 20,000 sewists strong. Go to to see if there’s already a group near you — they’d love to have you visit to see what they’re up to.

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