What's new in various product categories; monthly
Comparing Quilting and Needlework ...
One is growing while the other.... Some
possible reasons why.
Reader Contributions (November, 2003)
(Note: CLN received an interesting reaction to a letter
published last month. We're re-running the original letter, and then
I have been watching the discussion about stitching magazines
disappearing and the generally downward trend of the counted
thread/cross stitch industry with great interest. As many of you
know, I work in needlework, but I also have a foot in the quilting
industry. I have found it both interesting and illuminating to
compare and contrast the two industries.
One of the most telling observations I have made concerns the
business models followed by many successful quilt
designers/personalities. Currently the quilt industry is a much
larger, more dynamic, and varied industry than the counted thread
segment of the needlework industry. However, even with the many more
commercial opportunities afforded by these dynamics, few of the
"name" quilt designers are focusing on design alone.
If one looks carefully, it becomes apparent that most are involved
in what I call the "Four Ts of Quilting": Teaching,
Technique, Tools, and Theory. Many of the quilting world's success
stories are involved in at least three and sometimes even four of
This led me to question the practicality of needlework designers'
expectations and their focus primarily on designing.
I do agree that counted thread is currently in a slump and general
industry wisdom has it that there are cycles, but I also feel that
we as designers may be putting an undue pressure on the structure of
our own businesses with such a narrow focus.
I agree that it would behoove us to look for ways to expand and grow
the counted thread segment, but we also need to take a good long
look at our own business structures. My feeling is that a broader
business base can help minimize the economic vagaries of any single
area of needlework. - Tink Boord-Dill, Tink Boord-Dill Needlework
(http://tinkbd.com), and Following
The Thread Internet Radio ( http://fttradio.com)
Has Needlework "Lost It"?
I especially enjoyed the comparisons between needlework shows/trends
and the latest Quilt Market. I started out in quilting in the
early 90's, then switched to needlework for personal reasons not
relating to trends. So my initial show experience was with Quilt
My first TNNA show was a big disappointment. It wasn't nearly as
exciting as Quilt Market. Again, for personal reasons, I
haven't been able to attend the big national needlework shows
lately, but instead go to the small regional markets (which are
always dull), so I haven't made the big show comparison lately. But
I'm not surprised that many are having the same reaction I did.
So I really clicked with Tink Boord-Dill's comments about how maybe
the counted thread business has blinders on. She is right on!
For example, one of the biggest problems I hear from my customers is
that they buy these great designs, but they don't know how to make
them into something useful. They could hire a finisher, but that is
for the idle rich. When I've looked for good books I could sell on
making stuff into useful items, I've ended up at Half Price Books
with needlepoint books from the 1970's. (Great instructions, but you
have to get past the styles and colors, which are just nauseating!).
So a lot of these designers who come up with pretty designs
(including Tink, who has a cool line of sleep masks, but no
instructions on how to finish them that I could see) should package
some finishing instructions with their designs. If nothing else, the
stitcher can give the instructions to their favorite quilter, who
might be able to do something with it, given some guidance! And no
fair charging an extra $5-10 for those, like they do for the stitch
Our local craft store, where my mother ran the needlework department
(Arnold's, well before MJ Designs or Michaels made inroads here),
would sell project sheets for 50 cents because they moved the
supplies better. That applied to needlework, too (again, back when a
craft store actually sold open-stock needlework yarn and painted
Somewhere along the line, the needlework business lost it. Designers
are already getting bucks for the pictures, which is where the real
value is - they should keep the price rock-bottom low on the tools
needed to make the design SELL.
Here's another thought. Designers who believe that the art is where
all the value is should try licensing, instead of squeezing it all
out of the stitcher in ever higher prices. (I could buy framed art
for the price of some patterns today!) If they can't get a licensing
deal, perhaps their art isn't worth as much as they think it is.
Debbie Mumm is a good designer/quilter who has moved beyond
quilting. And you don't see Thomas Kinkade making all his money on
framed art; he's got stationary, lunch boxes, puzzles, and just
about anything else that could be decorated -- plus, of course,
cross stitch versions of his art. If it's really good design, it can
go beyond stitching. And that adds value everywhere. -- Catherine
(Note: Previous columns in Category Reports are available by
clicking on the titles in the right-hand column.)