When I posted a couple of weeks back about the loss of our friend Jamie, I was touched by the outpouring of lovely comments and emails from so many of you. Thank you for keeping us and more importantly our friends in your thoughts. I will be forever grateful to all of you.
One person who emailed me was the lovely Carol Sulcoski – you know, faboo designer, rockstar author and creator of Black Bunny Fibers. She asked what she could do – offered to write a blog post for me. I readily agreed. During our exchanges she mentioned her dad was undergoing some tests. I wished her well, thanked her for helping me out and went about doing what I could to help Sarah, JP and Peyton. What I didn’t know was that Carol was dealing with a crisis of her own – her father was diagnosed with end-stage pancreatic cancer and died last week.
I am so grateful for her support and so sorry for her loss. I only hope I can find a way to help her, the way she has helped me. Here is Carol’s post:
I’m honored to be guest-blogging for Kathy today, and I know that everyone is thinking about her and her family, and wishing them peace this holiday season.
Every December, when a new year is right around the corner, I start to think about the year that is coming to a close. I read all the articles with titles like “2009: A Look Back” and “The Year In Review,” and somewhere along the line it became a tradition with me to do a retrospective look at the knitting world, too. So without further ado, I present “2009: A Knitter’s Look Back.”
The first thing that comes to mind when I think back over the past twelve months is the profound impact of the American and global economic recession. The struggling economy was a topic on everyone’s mind, and it had tangible impact on the knitting world. It seems to me that people became much more mindful about their fiber pursuits: purchasing less, yes, but also reshaping their attitudes. Knitters and crocheters went back and fell in love with their stashes. They seemed to delay purchasing items, waiting for sales or saving up for special events and fiber festivals.
It seems to me, too, that the economy pushed a lot of folks into fiber-related commerce. Etsy and Ravelry made it easy to sell handdyed yarn or fiber, handcrafted items like stitch markers and knitting bags, and knitting patterns, and people faced with cuts in their pay or hours, or who were laid off, began trying to leverage their passion for fiber into a means of generating some income. It seemed as though the number of vendors selling fiber-related items, whether stitch markers, handsewn project bags or yarn and wool, went through the roof. My suspicion is that, as the economy starts to improve (we hope), the sheer number of vendors will start to decrease.
2010 will likely be a tight financial year for many of us, and we’ll no doubt see some signs of budget-tightening in the fiber world. Expect to see fewer new yarns, more discontinued colors and yarns, and a renewed focus on the workhorse yarns, staples like Cascade220 and perennial favorites like Noro and Malabrigo. We may see more emphasis on small-gauge projects and more intricate styles of knitting, like colorwork and lace, given that these projects take longer and thus provide knitters with more hours of knitting relative to the cost. We may also see a focus on one-skein projects, providing a relatively inexpensive way for knitters to treat themselves to a new project to try a new yarn.
The continued growth of the PDF and self-publishing.
Pattern sales became as easy as point and click once the internet facilitated the use of the PDF document. While there is still a sizeable contingent of knitters and crocheters who want hard copies of their patterns, the growth in PDF patterns continued throughout 2009, aided by sites like Patternfish and Ravelry, as more designs, old and new, were put on the market in digital form. Websites like Patternfish continued to add to impressive collections – including archived designs from venerable pattern companies like Classic Elite – and major magazines and yarn companies began offering their own PDF delivery, or expanded their existing offerings. One interesting sidelight of this is the effect on knitting designers. PDF publishing rights took center stage in negotiating contracts, and many designers started insisting that they have the option of retaining future publishing rights, instead of signing away all publication rights forever.
Another interesting development that I’ve just noticed: offering magazine subscriptions in either traditional print or digital formats. European magazine Verena offers subscribers a choice of digital delivery or traditional print, as does Yarn Forward, a UK-based magazine. We’ll have to see if any of the big American magazines follow suit in 2010.
Self-publishing pattern collections (as opposed to individual, single patterns) has also continued to grow. We saw some excellent, high quality offerings from designers who decided to forgo the traditional publishing companies in order to retain more control over the end product and receive a higher rate of return for their work. Risky, yes, because the designer has to pay for the production and printing process herself, but if the book or booklet is successful, the designer doesn’t have to share the profits with anyone. Top quality offerings we saw from the self-publishing world include Janel Laidman’s The Enchanted Sole; Chrissy Gardiner’s Toe-Up!; and Grace Anna Farrow’s The Fine Line.
Comings and goings
As always, during the past year we made new friends and lost some old ones. I was particularly said to see Knotions, a great on-line knitting magazine, cease publication at the end of the year. Knotions’ motto was “Knit smarter,” and contained lots of technical information as well as free patterns. However, the patterns will remain archived for the foreseeable future. Several other of the new e-zines also discontinued publication, including Metapostmodern Knitting (on hiatus; not clear if it will be permanent or return) and Black Purl. Is the on-line knitting magazine model is harder to sustain than we thought, is it a function of the struggling economy or some combination of both? In a slight twist (or do I mean “slightly twisted”?), parody site Regretsy burst forth in late 2009, showcasing handcrafted items of dubious distinction taken from Etsy, and combining them with trenchant captions.
When it comes to yarn companies, although Westminster Fibers apparently is folding its RYC label into Rowan, selling under one name in the future, and while the large conglomerate Coats got rid of its Moda Dea brand, I’m not aware of any other yarn companies or major brands going out of business. On the other hand, an exciting addition to the field is St-Denis Yarns, a company headed by fabulous designer Véronik Avery. Avery’s first yarn offering, released this past fall, was Nordique, a vintage-feeling wool that is categorized as a sportweight,but is versatile enough to be knit at many gauges. Nordique’s palette begs for stranded knitting, and Avery’s first St-Denis magazine received rave reviews. Look for a second yarn and another pattern magazine this spring.
Another brilliant 2009 debut was the Spud and Chloe line, from Blue Sky. Spud and Chloe took an interesting approach, giving us three basic yarns: fingering-weight wool Fine, wool-cotton worsted-weight Sweater, and thick wool Outer. Pattern support is strong, and everything about the Spud and Chloe line is stylish and appealing, including the patterns’ paper envelopes reminiscent of sewing patterns. This is another new line that I expect exciting things from.
When it comes to people, Shannon Okey left the helm of Yarn Forward, lovely Tanis Gray left Vogue/Soho Publishing; and Véronik Avery left JCA/Reynolds; Cathy Payson joined JCA/Reynolds; Michael “Tricky Tricot” DelVecchio joined Universal Yarns; WEBS’ own Cirilia Rose joined Berroco and produced a lovely collection of teen/tweener designs for girls, as well as several other designs for Berroco’s strong fall collection. Jared “Brooklyn Tweed” Flood released his first collection, “Made in Brooklyn,” in conjunction with Classic Elite – and a knockout collection it was.
If you didn’t hear about the first Sock Summit, a gathering of sock-knitters that took place this past summer in Portland, Oregon, you must live under a rock. The Sock Summit brought together an amazing assortment of the sock-knitterati, providing classes, networking opportunities and a large vendor’s market.
2009 also saw an expansion in the number of knitting-themed travel options, as all sorts of workshops, cruises and retreats were planned for locations like Tuscany, southern France, Morocco, the Carribbean and many other locations in the US and elsewhere. We’ll see if this trend continues given the current economic climate.
Last but not least, knitting publishing remained strong, producing perhaps fewer titles overall, but lots of high-quality and mouth-watering choices for the book-loving knitter. In addition to the self-published titles mentioned earlier, sock knitters got to enjoy Cookie A’s Sock Innovations; blogger Wendy Johnson’s Socks From The Toe Up; and my own Knitting Socks in Handpainted Yarns. Three books with eastern themes were released: Haiku Knits, by Tanya Alpert, Japanese-Inspired Knits, by Mariane Isager, and Knitted Socks East & West, by Judy Sumner.
Some other top-notch titles released this past year:
• Clara Parkes’ The Knitter’s Book of Wool;
• Color by Kristin, by Kristin Nicholas;
• Green Mountain Spinnery’s 99 Yarns and Counting;
• French Girl Knits, by Kristeen Griffin-Grimes;
• Classic Knits, and Inca Knits, also by the very talented Mariane Isager (what a fabulous trifecta of titles for one designer in a single year!); and
• Vintage Baby Knits by Kristen Rengren.
Alice Starmore fans were thrilled to see her seminal Book of Fair Isle Knitting finally republished and updated; and crochet fans rejoiced when they saw the spectacular Crochet In Color, by Kathy Merrick. Spinners got to enjoy an updated All-New Homespun Handknit; Amy King’s Spin Control; and Respect the Spindle, by Abby Franquemont, among others.
It was an eventful year in the fiber world, and you’d best buckle your seatbelts, for who knows what a new year and a new decade will bring…
Thanks so much Carol! It has been such a strange December. So much sadness in the air. The Yarn Harlot has something going on with her family, Annie Modesitt has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and our lovely town of Northampton has been rocked by a string of 11 fires this past Saturday night that destroyed several homes and cars and killed two people.
I normally love this time of year, but I cannot get my tree down fast enough, get the decorations packed away and move on. That’s not to say that 2009 hasn’t been a lovely year for us overall or that the past decade hasn’t been equally wonderful. I just hope that whatever is misaligned in the universe gets itself straightened out.
Thanks to all of you for reading my blog, listening to our podcast and for shopping with us. I also want to say a big “thanks” to our team who have kept things moving along these past couple of weeks (and all year long for that matter) and have allowed us the time and space to be with our friends.
I hope you all have a very Happy New Year.