2016 is drawing to a close and it’s time to review the year. I thought I’d take a look at what happened in my own business and what I saw as significant in the home sewing and quilting industries.
Although I’ve written this blog for 11.5 years now, I only began writing year in review posts recently. This is the fifth one and here are the previous four:
First, a bit about my own business.
When it comes to sewing pattern design, I:
- Released 2 new PDF patterns (the Asleep/Awake doll and Sweetie the Popsicle)
- Created 1 new print pattern (Patchwork Elephant) and got it carried by three distributors
- Continued to update my old patterns with the new page layout (24 done! Only 27 more to go…)
- Took on a freelance job to design a felt kit for Becker & Mayer which will be in stores next fall
I did some travel this year including a trip to Midwest Craft Con where I gave the keynote speech on Friday night (so fun!) and to Sew Pro. In February our family finished renovating the front room of our house and gave it to me as my studio/office. After working from our bedroom for 10 years this room has been a true blessing and I love being in it every single day.
I did a lot of writing this year. I wrote articles for Modern Patchwork, Modern Quilts Unlimited, and Selvedge. I edited a book. I wrote 114 posts for this blog as well as posts for the Craft Industry Alliance blog. I wrote 16 article for the Craft Industry Alliance digital Journal for members. Here are a few articles and posts I wrote this year that I’m particularly proud of:
- Who Killed Quilt Your Heart Out
- How AQS Mishandled the Online Fallout After Pulling Kathy Nida’s Quilts
- Changes to Interweave Yarn Fest Contract Shift Financial Risk and Promotional Burden From Show Organizers to Teachers
- Is Massdrop a Threat to Local Quilt Shops and Online Fabric Stores?
- Reaching the Millennial Craft Customer
- Language Matters: Making Quilting More Inclusive
I also fully updated my Insider’s Guide to Starting an Online Sewing Pattern Business ebook and I produced 24 episodes of the While She Naps podcast, securing a sponsor for every episode. I sent my weekly email newsletter out every week of the year.
Craft Industry Alliance continues to be a fantastic experience. I’m proud that as of today we have 1,067 members and next month we’re launching a member benefits package (including insurance!) and I couldn’t be prouder of all that we’ve accomplished as a community. I had no idea that co-founding a trade organization was going to become part of my job, but it’s been a truly remarkable experience.
My blog will turn 12 in May and I still wake up every morning thrilled to get to work. I never feel dread on Sunday nights like I used to when I was in the conventional workforce and although I do get stressed out, I still love every part of running my own business.
And now here are my thoughts on what happened in the home sewing and quilting industry in 2016. (Last year I wrote a post for Sew Mama Sew reflecting on 2015 and predicting how 2016 would unfold which is also interesting to revisit now.)
I see a few major shifts that happened this year. The most striking one happened at F+W. For many years F+W stood out as a company that seemed to be unfeeling towards the artists who create the content they sell and the customers who buy it. This was a company that took apart yet-to-be released books to sell the patterns as PDFs in their own Etsy shop without their authors realizing it. In May when they couldn’t get full editorial control of Mary and Marianne Fons’ popular new podcast, Quilt Your Heart Out, they shut it down as a trademark violation. In July they shuttered the beloved magazine, Quilter’s Newsletter, a publication that was instrumental in reviving a national interest in quilting. In September F+W issued teachers at one of their popular events, Interweave Yarn Fest, a contract that made it nearly impossible to earn a living wage even when teaching a full course load. These are just a few examples of actions that have built ill will in the community over many years. It felt to many that this company cared only about profits and not about people, a depressing thought given that they own a huge proportion of the craft media being produced right now.
But then, in the late summer, things began to change. A new C-suite team came in. Leaders who cared about the artist community were given real control. F+W began to feel human again. The company seems to be working to reinvent their reputation for the better and I’m hopeful that it will become a positive force in the industry in the years ahead.
Craftsy also made some bold changes this year. Their site relaunched in September reflecting a strong dual emphasis on online classes and supplies. They’ve launched both an in-house fabric line and yarn brand, Boundless and Cloudborn, and laid off 56 employees who produced classes while expanding their warehouse space and staff significantly. The Craftsy affiliate program was significantly reworked to reward affiliates for promoting in-house supply brands and they launched The Midnight Quilt Show on YouTube which seems to be an effort to sell those supplies to a younger audience.
Etsy continued to invest resources in broadening seller services which now account for more than 50% of their revenue. The big new seller service this year was Pattern, a stand alone website builder for Etsy sellers for $15/month. Although Pattern got off to a fairly weak start, Etsy improved the offering significantly in November making it possible for customers to make purchases without an Etsy account and enabling MailChimp integration, something Etsy has yet to give marketplace sellers. Etsy shops got redesigned in March giving sellers more banner space for branding and making the shopping experience consistent between mobile and desktop.
This year Quilts, Inc. granted their International Quilt Festival instructors a 33% raise, their first pay raise in 17 years. The announcement came two months after I reported this story for Craft Industry Alliance. Quilts, Inc. also owns Quilt Market, the industry trade show, which seems to me to be on a slow but steady decline (here are the numbers going back to 2008) as brick-and-mortar quilt shops continue to close (perhaps the most prominent one to close this year was The City Quilter) or choose to save on the expense of traveling to the show, while fabric companies shift to a quarterly release cycle. As Mickey Krueger, president of Windham Fabrics, told me in the podcast we recorded, “The business is not there today like it was in the past for a couple of different reasons. As my VP of Sales says, ‘Quilt Market is not the end all and be all anymore.’”
Of course many other things of significance happened this year (please remind me in the comments). Overall, I think we’re in the midst of a significant change in the way craft and sewing information and supplies are created and distributed. It’s interesting to contemplate what the scene will look like in five years, and in ten.
Wouldn’t it be nice if 2017 was the year that that crafters got paid a fair wage for their work and we were all able to earn a decent living?
Honestly I think we made some strides this year. It’s not going to happen overnight, but each time we can point out how things work now and how they should work, and the community thinks about it aloud, we take steps forward.
Jacqueline WolskeL says
Thanks, Abby, for such a wonderful look back at 2016. Some of it I remembered from the blog, however, I had to go back and look it up again.
Being a relatively new quilter, I try to soak up as much as I can. I always read your blog and other people’s comments. You have so inspired me that I have started an “intermediate” project!!
Abby, thank you so much for your interesting, timely, and thought-provoking content, on every post. As a sewist currently out there ‘in the work force’ your articles have been instrumental in helping me wade through the minutiae of considering a future business strategy. I look forward to your email each week! Cheers to a successful 2017!
I enjoy your view of the quilt industry, warts and all. I estimate equally enjoy the transparency of your business details. You may have forgotten the restructuring of AQS was a huge change to an organization that has been around forever.
Eileen McKenna says
I’m continually inspired by you Abby! When I first “found” you several years ago it was an aha moment for me. I CAN make a career from a variety of things! I know you’ll continue to do great things in 2017. Happy New Year!
SPOOL in Chattanooga closed too, after failing to find a buyer. 🙁
And Sew Modern in LA among many others.
Autumn Latimore says
I recently discovered your blog. I have dreams of opening a (bricks and mortar) quilt shop but maybe I should revisit that idea…
I’ll stay tuned to your blog !!