Reflections + Predictions: Abby Glassenberg of While She Naps + Abby Glassenberg Design

on January 5 | in Featured Creativity, Sewing Inspiration, Sewing Trends | by | with 26 Comments

Abby Glassenberg from While She Naps is an author, pattern designer and she hosts the popular While She Naps podcast. Abby is also co-founder (with Sew Mama Sew’s Kristin Link) of Craft Industry Alliance, a trade association for craft industry professionals serving makers, designers, suppliers and pro bloggers. We asked Abby to fill us in on her favorites from 2015 and what she’s excited about in the new year…

Find more from Abby on Facebook and sign up for her newsletter. Abby’s weekly email newsletter features the very best in sewing, blogging and small business!

Don’t miss a single Reflections/Predictions post: Sara Lawson of Sew Sweetness, Mandy Leins of Mandalei Quilts, Jenny Rushmore of Cashmerette, Sandi Sawa Hazlewood of Crafty Planner, Alex Veronelli of Aurifil, Heather Jones of Heather Jones Studio, Sherri Lynn Wood of Daintytime, Melissa Averinos and Nicole Daksiewicz of Modern Handcraft.

As we head into a new year here are my reflections on what happened in the home sewing industry in 2015.

Books were still exciting.
To me, the best sewing books of this year came out of two publishing houses: Abrams and Lucky Spool. From Abrams we were treated to Sherri Lynn Wood’s book, The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters. Wood encouraged us to break free from rulers and rotary cutters and to use quilting as a form of mind-body connection. Also from Abrams we got Rebecca Ringquist?s Embroidery Workshops which, like Wood’s book, gave us the freedom to break rules, this time concerning perfect stitches and pristine backgrounds.

Sherri Lynn Wood on her The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters book tour
at Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver, via Sherri on Instagram (@daintytime).

From Lucky Spool we got a whole variety of beautifully designed and photographed books from favorite modern designers like Anna Graham, Alison Glass, Jeni Baker and Carolyn Friedlander, plus Shea Henderson created the curriculum to get new sewists on track with School of Sewing. We still savor beautiful sewing books which makes me so glad.

We crave magazines, but we’re becoming flexible about where they live.
Stitch magazine folded this year which meant saying goodbye to a beautiful publication that many of us enjoyed. Colette’s digital magazine, Seamwork, took off. To me this says we still want quality articles and excellent patterns, but we’re increasingly willing to pay for them to exist exclusively online.

The indie pattern scene expanded.
It became harder for new indie designers to get noticed and for customers to discern what’s quality. As a result we saw an influx of curated pattern sites this year including UpCraft Club, Indiesew and the Foldline, and new efforts to create a Ravelry equivalent for sewing such as Textilia, Threadle and the Sewist. We also saw patterns from various designers marketed together as bundles. All of this is an effort to reign in the enormousness of the indie pattern scene.

Sarah Galbraith and Alan Doan (with awards), National Small Business Persons of the Year.
Image credit: Small Business Administration

Missouri Star showed the power of a local quilt shop.
In May the Missouri Star Quilt Company was named the National Small Business of the Year by President Obama. Missouri Star not only transformed the town of Hamilton, where they have multiple shops and a retreat center, but they also have a huge and thriving online audience. Local quilt shops are in a time of reinvention, but it’s possible to not only survived but to thrive.

Etsy goes public. Image credit: NASDAQ

Everyone vied for a piece of the handmade pie.
Etsy went public this spring. CEO Chad Dickerson and a group of Etsy sellers rang handmade bells to open the New York stock exchange and also rang in a year of big companies competing for the handmade market. In the fall Amazon launched its own handmade marketplace and just a few weeks ago eBay followed suit. All of this adds up to wider recognition that craft is indeed a business and handmade products can produce profits.

We organized and professionalized.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the launch of Craft Industry Alliance, a trade organization for craft professionals co-founded by me and Kristin Link, owner of Sew Mama Sew. By coming together to connect with other craft professionals and learn more about the industry we’re able to strengthen our own craft businesses. Join us!

And now to look into the crystal ball. Here are my predictions for the home sewing scene in 2016:

Indie designers will rise.
I think soon sales of indie patterns will rival those of the Big 4 pattern companies. There doesn’t seem to be industry data on either so it’s going to be very hard to measure, but there are some indicators we can look to. Increasingly indie designers are being solicited by the Big 4 for licensing and increasingly we’re turning them down. The Big 4 need us more than we need them and I think that says a lot.

Indie designers aren’t just reaching a small group of tech-savvy younger sewists anymore. People of all ages and technical abilities are buying patterns from indie designers because they get a better product, an instant community, and the support and inspiration to complete their project. This is the year that indies will begin to win out.

On the flip side, the indie pattern scene will become even more saturated and it will be harder to be a breakout success. The newcomers that do it well will serve a niche audience within sewing like plus size patterns or lingerie.

We’ll embrace new ways to reach people (and the old ways will shrink).
Video and audio will become even more central to reaching an online audience effectively. We’ll see more online video classes from existing platforms such as Craftsy and CreativeBug and from smaller companies and individual designers. We’ll see at least a handful of new sewing podcasts, some of which will be short lived (podcasting is harder than it looks!) and a few standout Periscope and YouTube sewing stars.

As a consequence the sewing blog scene will get pared down to a few big audience ad-funded sites (which will include more native advertising) and a lot of hobby blogs. Most of the in-between content creators will focus their photo sharing energy almost entirely on Instagram.

Instagram will become even more of a hub of online sewing activity. New designers will break into the scene having never blogged and increasingly our community will gather and interact primarily through sharing photos and short videos on our phones.

Abby’s first Quilt Market trip.

The quilting industry will reshuffle.
Quilt Market will slowly shrink both in number of exhibitors and booths as well as attendees until eventually (at some point beyond 2016) there will be only one show a year. It’s easy enough for shop owners to see collections online and buy from their reps locally. We still need a trade show, but it will need to be reinvented.

Quilting cotton lends itself especially well to being bought online; once you’ve felt a particular company’s substrate you know what you’re getting. This means we no longer need quilt shops for their core product. More shops will close. Some will not only remain open, but will thrive. Those will be the ones that diversify into garment sewing and, perhaps, yarn; they will choose to focus on creating special experiences for their customers that can’t be had elsewhere. We’ll also see more shops design and digitally print their own signature fabric collections in the way that Hawthorne Threads does now. It’s all about exclusivity, specialness and the quality of the experience.

I’m excited for what’s to come in the new year. Home sewing is definitely going strong. There’s enthusiasm about making our own clothes and designing our own quilts. We’re ready to learn new skills online and in person, and make new sewing friends. Cheers to a great 2016!

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26 Responses to Reflections + Predictions: Abby Glassenberg of While She Naps + Abby Glassenberg Design

  1. raquel says:

    I’m with you a 100%. I love my kind of local sewing and fabric store (I travel 70 miles to shop there). I really value the customer service, the expertise, the friendliness and the ability to feel and touch the fabrics.

  2. For those commenting about LQS’es, it reminded me that there’s this wonderful article on Abby and Kristin’s other website about Fancy Tiger Crafts, and how they’ve diversified to establish themselves as a successful LQS who also has a major online presence.

    Even as some shops struggle and close, many who are willing to diversify (and also for some, straddle the brick and mortar vs. online divide) are growing and seeing a lot of success. I don’t think any of us believe the LQS is dead, not by a long shot – the industry is just in a time of change and people are figuring out what that means for each individual business.

  3. And I totally agree. The experience of being in the shop is what the shop has to offer that can’t ever be replaced. In person advice, help, a host for meetings, classes, and just a place to go where everyone understands you. The shops that offer that, that welcome both new and experienced sewists and offer more than a place to purchase fabric, will thrive. In my experience, though, there are many shops out there that don’t offer this. I wrote a post a few months ago about this topic and the comments are very interesting to read through: My point here was just to say that great shops will continue to be great and shops that aren’t will have a harder time sticking around given that shopping for quilting cotton online is accessible and comfortable to many people.

  4. This combination of indie patterns and big 4 patterns is so interesting. The doors are open now and I can’t help but think over times the market will shift. I’m not sure how or in what way and I definitely think they’ll still be both. Predicting the future is sorta fun, but also very hard!

  5. Hi Jill, I love industry trade magazines! I wonder which one you were reading? I’d like to subscribe to more.

  6. Beth says:


    I hope I am not repeating as I have not had time to read all of the comments but thought I would add some as a small LQS owner.

    I know you have separated the hopes and thoughts from your predictions but your spoken word resonates in this community. I respect your voice as do many others. As an LQS who tries very hard to bring something unique to the marketplace, every day all day long, I also feel very lost in the world that depreciates our value. Yes, you can “know” a fabric by it’s manufacturer and designer, and so you can buy it online. But can you really “know” it? Griege goods change all the time. Colors change all the time. Mills change all the time. If you know the industry, you know how all of that stuff works. And that is only the tip of the iceberg,

    But. besides the commodity aspect, when your bobbin is acting wonky, who do you bring your machine to? When you can’t quite figure out what that pattern is having you do, who do you go to? When you want to design something – a quilt, a dress, your nursery decor – who do you chat with about it? Who hosts your quilt guild meetings or sewing guild meetings? Who provides a warm nurturing space for you to share your creativity in? Where do so many of you teach?

    Maybe I am of an age that doesn’t need or want that. Or maybe you are. Maybe buying alone in my pj’s at 11:00pm and watching a creativebug or craftsy video (which I am a member and supporter of both) alone in your studio or dining room is enough. My guess is that those who don’t have a local quilting or sewing store would love one! What does that tell you?

    At the end of the day, as a small business, we all have to prove our value. And pay rent and salaries. And a fleet of other bills. But, bottom line, no value, we should go away. I have to honestly tell you how disappointed I am – both as a local store owner and personal creative – how easily you wrote off the local store value compared to the online value. Online gives you commodity. They don’t even stitch a sample. The consumer does. And provides all the photos and marketing for the big online shops. We have all bought into it.

    Please, when you look at the value of a local shop, please describe us for who we are. We sew, we quilt. We share. We pick out your fabrics. We gush. We help choose your binding. We loan you machines when yours is on the blink. We know your kids. We teach them. We have coloring books for them and fat quarters for you in every color imaginable. We let your partners pay for your machines – YOUR christmas presents – long after Christmas so you don’t see it on your credit card statements.

    Easy to say some will close. Some of us should. But please don’t say that online is a replacement. If it is, whether a choice or prediction, I will be saddened by this community if the local shops close. It is just sad for everyone.

  7. Jilly says:

    Love Seam Work. They are inspirational to me as to what a digital mag can be. I was reading an industry trade mag that said garment sewing will start to decline in 2016. And craft, quilt easy sewing grow a bit. If true this will hit indie pattern makers hard. Great post.

  8. Kristl says:

    McCall’s, Simplicity, Butterick and vogue Patterns. The ones you find in larger stores like Joann and Hancock Fabrics.

  9. Can I just rejoice for a moment about several of these things?

    1) Books and digital magazines! I have been totally amazed with the quality and sheer number of sewing books that have come out this year. The book sure is not dead, at least not in the crafting world. And as with so many people, I am absolutely in love with Seamwork and generally what Colette has been doing. I can hardly keep up with all the thoughtful books, digital magazines/articles, not to mention podcasts, and I couldn’t be happier about it. 🙂

    2) Indie patterns!!! If anyone thinks they aren’t a big threat to the well established companies, I have to disagree – just try and start cataloguing them all (thanks for mentioning Textillia, by the way!) and you’ll quickly realize the sheer quantity of them has exploded in the last year. Not just that, but the quality of the more established indie designers’ work is easily competitive with the big 4. Plus they go above and beyond by providing modern, tech-friendly products and support, and fascinating supplemental content…and COMMUNITY. The people who own these indie companies are relatable, we can interact with them, and then we want to support them to succeed – even the best efforts from big 4 companies on social media have a tough time competing that. It all comes down to the advantage of indie companies being small, personal, and “lean” – think of a sailboat in a breeze instead of the Titanic. They’re able to adapt to trends, technology, and the renewed interest in sewing so much more easily – I can only see things for them getting better with time!

    3) Online resources for crafters and crafty businesses. (I’m kind of lumping topics together here!) I’m a completely shameless Creativebug fan, and now Craft Industry Alliance member – it’s no secret that these amazing online resources are a big sign of what’s to come, and a big driver of opportunities in the craft world. I may be working within the constraints of life with chronic illness. Others might have small children, or live too far from a LQS or workshop/studio they can attend in person. Whatever the reason, these online resources are so valuable to so many people. Both as a way to learn and connect, and also as a way to bring their own business aspirations into reality. The internet is truly a magical land of opportunity if you have the interest, skills, and determination.

    Reading these predictions from everyone has been so fun, but most of all, I’m excited to see what the year brings!

  10. So it’s really the big 2 because they’ve merged. But McCalls, Butterick, and Vogue (all one company now) and Simplicity.

  11. This was a very interesting read. I am hoping to start a handmade business later this year and finally figured out a way to set up Instagram on my iPad mini because I don’t have a smartphone, but I feel like Instagram is more important to handmade businesses now than even blogs are (though I read and love yours!). As for Creativebug and other online classes or tutorials, or even Indie patterns, I have also benefitted from them because they seem to simplify the process of making something compared to patterns. That said, I do still enjoy purchasing patterns from the Big 4 because they can teach techniques that I might not learn from an Indie designer, and I don’t have to print out the patterns, and they are often on sale for 3/$5 or something like that.

  12. Allison Aller says:

    Very compelling and efficient look at all that is happening in ways I would never discover for myself. Thanks!

  13. Marianne says:

    I have to agree with Linda about craft blogs especially quilting ones. I have cut back my reading of them to just a few. I grew tired of all the sponsors and products being reviewed and pushed. I hate monetized blogs and all their “affiliate” links. Bah!
    I don’t agree with your comment on once you are familiar with a fabric companies substrate you can order online. I’d much rather see fabric in person then I can see the colors and feel the quality of the product. Not all fabric companies print their fabric using the same roll of gray goods. Fabric quality does differ within a companies products. Why this is I do not know. The only reason I buy online is because I am looking for a specific fabric that is not sold locally. LQSs can carry only so much.
    I still buy magazines but was never a subscriber. I much prefer the hard copy to anything digital. But I buy only if I like several projects in the issue.

  14. Karen says:

    Excellent article, Abby! Thank you! Not to sound ignorant (I mostly make quilts) but what are the names of the “Big 4”?

  15. That’s totally interesting and I think your experience and preferences are completely valid. I could be very wrong and on some points I do hope I am. I just taught a beginners sewing class last night and the five women who were there had never heard of indie patterns. Some of them had purchased Big 4 patterns at Joann’s in the past and were really frustrated by the instructions because these women just lacked the basic sewing knowledge to tackle a pattern like that. For them, basic indie patterns, even free patterns, are a revelation. Either way, I’m interested in the discussion. Thank you!

  16. These aren’t necessarily things I hope will happen. I love print magazines and I love a visit to a great local quilt shop. I tried to separate hopes from predictions.

  17. Forgive me for choosing the wrong word. I meant “rein.” I’m sorry!

  18. Colleen says:

    Hmmmm. This is interesting, but I don’t agree with all of your points. The LQS also supports a community of like-minded people. I personally don’t have time as I work full-time to hang out but I’m always happy that others can and do. My local started to sell machines to stay relevant so I guess that’s an option.

    Now, as far as Indie patterns go. I cannot even begin to tell you how many PDF patterns I’ve bought from Indies and have never put together. It is an onerous task and I won’t buy PDF’s anymore. I have PDF’s from indies who aren’t even designing anymore — I’m talking hundreds of dollars wasted. How can that compare to walking into Joanne’s and coming out with a stack of patterns that have been reduced to 1.99? I’ve often sat at the pattern desk for hours and talked to other sewists who’ve never heard of, say, Colette patterns or sewing blogs. I do think you are wrong about them needing us more than we need them. Why does either have to be true? Many people who sew wouldn’t dream of spending 15.00 or more on an indie pattern, especially when they are so basic. No, that’s just not true, in my opinion. The world you are describing sort of depresses me, to be honest. Sorry, but it does. Online shopping is my first choice as I work full-time but there’s nothing like walking into a sewing shop, be it a local independent shop or a chain store and getting that buzz on.

  19. Ros says:

    Well, she certainly doesn’t know how to spell it.

  20. Stitchwench says:

    “All of this is an effort to reign in the enormousness of the indie pattern scene.”

    reign in?

    I do not think that phrase means what you think it means

  21. Jamie says:

    Very interesting insights, Abby. You are one smart cookie!

  22. Joan says:

    Here here!!!! I too find joy in an actual quilt shop with actual fabric I can touch and admire and SEE. I enjoy the interaction of talking with other quilters and sewers. I love helping newer quilters and sewers with my experience – no question goes unanswered. I do not want to get my quilt fix from a photo – let me see it hanging in a shop for all to admire.

  23. I’ve decided to stop all my print magazines as well. They have little in them that I really find useful to be honest and the advertising is just overwhelming everything else. I’m a faithful follower of blogs (daily!) and I subscribe to Seamwork as well which I thoroughly enjoy. I have a few books but I’m trying to be very selective! Good, solid reference books with great illustrations/pictures are what I use the most. Despite my determination to keep it under control that library of mine is growing! I enjoy video instruction the best so I’m a huge fan of Nancy on PBS, Craftsy and several youtube channels as well. Great blog entry and I always enjoy what others share too.

  24. This blog, Sew Mama Sew, is someone’s full time job and it’s a pretty neat blog.

  25. Jen says:

    I agree with all of this! I LOVE Instagram and don’t really read many blogs any more. My favourite modern quilters don’t blog (other than to post the occasional sponsored entry which is entirely useless to me) but still do post amazing content on IG. I’ve made real friends on IG and discovered events (Sewtopia) and products that weren’t widely advertised elsewhere. It also seems more current than blogs — I don’t need to wait for roundup posts on some big event like QuiltCon because people are posting content about the event on IG as it happens. Same thing for periscope. After the last Quilt Market I didn’t bother reading a single blog post about it because I had followed everything on IG and Periscope already.

    I also really agree with your predictions on the LQS. I recently needed some black Kona. My LQS carries that fabric but so does my favourite online shop. The prices are about the same. I opted to order from the latter because for me, working full time with busy week-ends, it’s far more convenient to order online. I take Craftsy classes rather than classes at my local LQS because I can do them when it’s convenient for me. For me, supporting online businesses is no less valid than supporting non-online businesses. My favourite online quilt shop is a small business just like my LQS and is no less deserving of my business. That onlne shop also carries far more product that matches my tastes.

    I’ve dropped all of my print magazine subscriptions. I subscribe to several digitally and none of them are the large American magazines. There is so much more interesting content coming from indie publishers (Make Modern, Seamwork) and overseas publishers (Love Patchwork and Quilting, Quilt Mania, Australian Homespun, Quilt Now.) Having the digital option means that subscriptions to those publications is easy and affordable.

  26. Linda says:

    You sound so terribly confident but I am hoping you are proven wrong: many of us have lost our LQS and miss them terribly. No, I am now t satisfied looking at colors via an inaccurate monitor. I like to see my fabrics in person. I have stopped purchasing from online stores that do not also support a storefront. I believe people are not reading blogs because so many have become pawns of sponsors and instead of creatively combining fabrics they push single lines in each quilt. One big infomercial. I am hoping that those who have stayed true to themselves and are interested in creating, sharing and learning will survive. I certainly understand the need for some sponsors but thinking a blog is a full time job are misdirected. I would rather have fewer entries and less advertising “sermons”. I HATE INSTAGRAM. I love sewing and quilting, I love sharing with and teaching others and I believe we need to carefully think about what we really need and what companies are telling us we need. There is a large group of us that still “make do and mend”. – and that includes modern quilters of which I am one. Please dont lose sight of the soul of quilting.

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