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…
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.
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!