As we wrap up 2017 and get ready for the new year I wanted to take some time to reflect on the year and all that’s happened. These year-in-review posts have become a bit of an annual tradition now. Although I started blogging in 2005, I did the first one in 2012 and have continued each year since. Here they are in order if you’re curious what I was thinking about way back when:
Although I’ve been at this for many years now I continually find fascinating new things to explore when writing about the home sewing and quilting industries. Interesting things seem to continually unfold and I don’t foresee every running out of stories to cover.
I did a lot of writing this year, including writing articles for Modern Patchwork, Modern Quilts Unlimited, Quilting Arts, and Sew News magazines. And I continued to write posts here on the blog at least once a week. Here are the posts on While She Naps that I’m most proud of this year:
- Two Yarn Shops Go Viral in the Wake of Political Change
- Should God be a Marketing Tool?: A Look at Accuquilt’s “So God Made a Quilter” Video
- A Perspective on Tula Pink’s ‘Spirit Animal’ and Cultural Appropriation
- A Cartoon for Quilters: The Story of Mrs. Bobbins
- Shruti Dandekar Quilts a Bridge Between India and the US
- From Professional Baseball to Publishing a Quilting Magazine: The Unlikely Story of Quiltfolk
- It’s Time for Quilts, Inc. to Change the Name of the Husband’s Lounge
I did some traveling in 2017 including going to QuiltCon for the first time and attending Fall Quilt Market for the second time.
I’ve been doing quite a bit of consulting which I really enjoy, helping small creative business owners figure out their next steps. I had 14 consulting clients this year and each one of them was a pleasure to work with. I’m looking forward to continuing this part of my business next year.
I also launched my first self-produced ecourse this year, Email Marketing Jumpstart. I have 208 students learning how to use MailChimp to create an email marketing plan for their small businesses. I truly believe in the power of email and it’s been exciting to see so many people implement email marketing for their own businesses.
I love producing the While She Naps podcast because it gives me an excuse to call up all kinds of people and ask them lots of questions on the pretext of creating a radio show. I’m happy to say that other people seem to enjoy the show, too. Right now it’s at 741,510 total downloads. The show is four years old now and I’ve published 111 episodes, including 25 new ones this year.
This year I hired a professional newsletter designer to redesign the While She Naps newsletter. It was worth every penny and I’m super happy with the way it came out chiefly because the newsletter now looks great in every email program out there.
One of the additions I added in this process were classified ads. These have been a popular product and I really enjoy being able to promote other creative businesses each week. For 2018 I’m releasing the classified spots as well as the podcast sponsorship spots at the start of each quarter. They both sell out quick so sign up here if you want to get notified when they go on sale.
My newsletter subscriber number continues to hover just under 20,000. I work hard to maintain a 50% open rate which means paring the list down periodically to delete inactive subscribers.
I remain totally devoted to writing a weekly newsletter and enjoy putting it together even though it often means I’m up late on Tuesday nights getting it ready. I also love responding to all the people who write back!
My kit, Felt Menagerie, came out in October. I did all the work for this project in 2016 so it was fun to just enjoy the results this year.
I released two free softie patterns this year: Tilly the Turtle and Backpack Bear. And I’m working, albeit slowly, on an open-mouthed puppet pattern (kinda like a Muppet).
I’ve been doing more writing and editing than sewing this year and that’s okay with me. I still love sewing, of course, and will continue to design new patterns, but the pace has slowed as my interest in covering the industry as a journalist has grown.
Craft Industry Alliance
And that brings me to Craft Industry Alliance. I spend a least half of my time, if not more, working on Craft Industry Alliance projects with my co-founder, Kristin Link, and our team. We now have 1,374 members which means we’re edging towards being the largest trade association in craft. Hooray!
CIA is a place where I’m able to write about breaking news in the crafts industry (yes, that does exist). We hire awesome people to write for our journal and present monthly webinars (and pay them!), and I’ve worked on a few longer form reported stories as well. Here are the pieces I’ve written this year that I’m most proud of:
- Pay Cuts for Michaels Teachers Put a Damper on an Already Frustrating Job
- McCall’s Simplicity Merger Points to Market Impact of Independent Sewing Pattern Companies
The Industry as a Whole
If I had to pick one word to summarize the craft industry in 2017 it would be consolidation. Many of the established players acquired digital first businesses in an effort to capture new customers and add digital media to their offerings. JoAnn Fabrics bought online class platform Creativebug, for example, and Comcast bought online class platform and retailer, Craftsy. Michaels also partnered with Craftsy to do some co-marketing. A.C. Moore bought online craft supplies retailer, Blitsy, and handmade marketplace, Zibbet in order to enlarge their digital stake.
We also saw consolidation among legacy craft brands. CSS Industries, the company that bought McCall’s in 2016, bought Simplicity a few months ago bringing all of the major sewing pattern brands under one corporate roof.
Craft publisher F+W Media brought on a new executive team in 2016 in order to consolidate its 200 URLs and streamline its business across print, digital, and events. By the end of 2017 the company was down to 80 sites creating a new online home for Interweave and a unified site for quilting content, The Quilting Company. Apparently these efforts weren’t leading to fast enough financial results for the private equity firm that owns the company. The board fired the executive team and installed new leadership they feel will be able to move things along more quickly.
Etsy’s shareholders were also not pleased with the returns on their investment this year leading the board to oust CEO Chad Dickerson followed by several rounds of layoffs. New CEO Josh Silverman has set out to focus the company on increasing sales on the Etsy marketplace, rather than distractions such as Etsy Studio, Etsy Wholesale, the Etsy Up conference, and other non-essential functions. After being pressured to participate in site-wide holiday sales and offer free shipping many sellers expressed even more concern that the company is drifting further from its original mission to promote and value handmade goods.
I think of the crafts industry as a microcosm of the whole world. Every social, political, and economic issue that we’re engaged in globally plays out right here in craft in one way or another. I strongly believe that it’s through the things we’re passionate about, including our crafty hobbies, that we can learn the most about the world around us. I hope my work helps to build that bridge.
I wake up every morning excited about my job and I’m looking forward to 2018 and all the interesting stories it will bring. Cheers to a very happy new year!
Thank you Abby, I’m a fan of the way you cover the industry. I always look forward to your posts. And I also meant to thank you because your podcast episode with the Sew News editor gave me the push to write to them and I’m now a contributor!
I saw that on your blog. That’s so awesome!
thank you for everything you do, you’te my go-to person to read about anything that happens in the crafting industry. I am excited to see what next year brings. Happy 2018!
That makes me feel great! Thank you so much and happy New Year!
Ann Scott says
You have given readers a wealth of information and resources. Thank you so much for all you do – you are truly inspirational in many ways!
Thanks for reading, Ann!
Fran Gardner says
I subscribe to very few quilting lists, and you are my favorite of the ones I still receive. Keep up the good work!
Thanks so much, Fran!
Kathy Healey says
Discovering your podcasts this year, through the Nancy’s Notions email newsletter, was a true highlight for me! I am a faithful listener and have recommended your podcast in the American Sewing Guild’s Rochester, NY chapter newsletter. After you interviewed the Sew News editor this year, I submitted several ideas for future articles. I hope they will choose some of them for publication in 2018. Thank you for all the energy and research you put into your work.
Jeeze Louize….While She Naps is a misnomer…..When do you nap??
I actually love to nap! And I love sleep. Remember, this work documented here is my job.
Aurora wolfe says
I just discovered your podcast and really enjoy it. I am a beginner knitter and have been looking for just your type of podcast! Would you be so kind to tell me where I can find others like yours- in the crafting, making area?
I enjoy the type of questions you ask your guests and welcome all of your practical tips.
Hi Aurora, If you look at my navigation bar there is a category for the podcast and underneath it, in the dropdown menu, you’ll find posts in which I recommend other shows I like. The comments on those posts are also full of great recommendations. I hope that helps!