Crafting Trends for 2017 Part 1: Needles, Thread and Fabric

Crafting Trends for 2017 Part 1: Needles, Thread and Fabric

Between fall fiber festivals, holiday craft shows and the end-of-year deluge of catalogues, we have put together some observations crafting trends we can expect to see continue into 2017. We’re also watching our social media feeds and seeing what our favorite crafters have added to their repertoires. Pictures of new creations proudly posted from weekend workshops spark our own creative impulses and put new crafting activities onto our radar. We’re sharing a little of what we’ve spotted to help you make planning and marketing decisions for the new year.

We’re covering this in two posts: one focused on the decorative and functional needle-arts, and the other on fiber-arts (including paper), with some other observations.

Decorative Stitching

While the hand-crafting renaissance after 9/11/01 favored practical yarn crafts like crocheting and knitting, the decorative needle arts such as counted cross-stitch, embroidery and needlepoint didn’t ride that wave. But their time has come: 2016 has seen the opening of the non-profit San Francisco School of Needlework and Design, which offers classes from introductory to professional levels in embroidery, crewel, counted-thread, metalwork, stumpwork, black- and whitework, as well as special and experimental topics. Offering classes in two locations in the Bay Area, they also have open stitching times throughout the month at their main facility. The kind of work that they are teaching has both historical and modern applications in fashion and decorative arts.

Even as SFSNAD offers formal instruction of classical needlework techniques, needle artists are also bringing their own sensibilities to traditional crafts, in what we can best call “subversive” stitching. Etsy is full of hoop art kits to embroider or cross stitch everything from anatomically correct hearts to baby sloth faces, including framed samplers of sayings we won’t even repeat here. The design aesthetic takes the visual vocabulary of traditional needlework and applies it to contemporary sentiments, trendy motifs and other non-traditional subjects. It’s a twist on the framed wall-art stitchery of a generation ago.

Both the traditional formal needlework and the current cross-stitch and embroidery revival are being applied to clothing, whether it’s all handmade or commercially-made. It’s part of a trend of customization that turns off-the-rack items into unique garments that express the passions and interests of the wearers. Needlework is not the only mode for this kind of customization. Recently at The Gathering of the Northeast Handspinners’ Association, Cal Patch offered one class on Embroidery for Knit and Crochet, and another on Crochet on the Edge, teaching participants how to embellish a commercial T-shirt with crochet trim. This intersectionality of crafts, where projects require two or more crafting skills, or a craft skill is applied to a commercial base, is an area in which we foresee growth in 2017.

Sewing and Other Practical Stitching

Another trend we’re seeing is people expanding their own craft repertoires. The evidence is anecdotal, in that it comes from knitting designers we follow on Instagram, but we are seeing that a lot of designers whose work we love have taken the plunge into sewing clothing. It’s as if the skills they have mastered in designing well-fitted sweaters has given them the confidence they need to make the rest of their clothing fit their actual bodies.

Maybe that’s a better way to describe this trend: knitters have gotten used to being able to customize patterns to fit: adding short rows to accommodate their curves, lengthening or shortening sweaters based on their own body measurements, changing necklines for their own most flattering looks. That ability to customize spoils these customers for off-the-rack clothing so they are taking workshops and following sewists and clothing pattern designers like Cashmerette and the aforementioned Cal Patch down the road of making all their own clothing, from drafting custom patterns to choosing fabrics, cutting, tailoring and sewing. Laura Nelkin recently modeled the first pair of jeans she made for herself on Instagram from Heather Lou’s Ginger Jeans pattern.

We also see the “subversive” trend in patterned fabrics for these sewing projects. Even people who might not wear a skirt made from a zombie pin-up girls print would carry around their latest knitting or crocheting in a project bag with that print. The particular example we linked to perfectly illustrates the trend we’re describing: sweet floral patchwork surrounding a subverted retro image. That tongue-in-cheek sensibility in patterned fabrics is something to consider, since the Etsy seller who made that bag will be looking to source other similar fabrics because they sell. But note also the patterns that she has used for the patchwork. Traditional is not dead–it’s the juxtaposition that feels fresh to the younger crafters.

In quilting (a trend we whose counterpart we also note in part 2 in knitting), we are seeing kits by  big-name quilt designers with pre-selected fabrics in a choice of palettes–ready to go for the quilter who wants to make the quilt exactly as it is presented in the publication or at the expo. We are also seeing, for modern quilting, designs based on mixing variations on a fabric print, like chevron, in a larger project that doesn’t necessarily reference that print element. There’s a mid-century modern feel to both the patterns and the palettes of the fabrics referenced in this example. Finally, in art quilting, we’re seeing expressions of that same kind of intersectionality we’ve seen in other crafts–a mixed-media approach that combines disparate fabrics and stitching in ways that play with formal and rustic, high and low.

Communal Crafting Spaces

Where are all these cross-crafters getting their equipment? They might not be buying the big-ticket items for their own home use. We are seeing communal crafting spaces popping up all over the map. These spaces like A Gathering of Stitches, Praxis Fiber Workshop or Steel City Fiber Collective, offer classes on a fee-basis, but also rent ongoing access to equipment and studio space. There is generally a membership fee and then a scale of fees for the type of space and equipment desired. It can range from a table in a shared room to dedicated studio space for working artists. Use of the technical equipment requires instruction or demonstration of proficiency. Depending on their specific focus, they might have sewing equipment, dye facilities and/or fiber-processing equipment (If it’s woodworking tools, they are called “makerspaces”). These ventures are being run as non-profits, cooperatives and for-profits.

So instead of every budding sewist going out and buying their own sewing machine and serger, they are paying to learn to use them and to have access to them while they are learning. They want to know they enjoy a craft and will use the tools before they commit to buying them. It’s a convenient way to try a craft and a practical solution for the space considerations that fiber and textile hobbies require. It is also buoyed by the social aspect of crafting, since shared space and open studio events allow like-minded people to gather around an activity they love.

How can you take advantage of this development in the craft world? Depending on your expertise and product lines, you may want to partner with a local space to teach a specific class or work with their teachers to be a materials supplier for their classes. It’s definitely a place to build relationships as their members use the products you sell. If you can, think of donating or selling at a discount a piece of equipment. As members become proficient with whatever it is, your brand is the one they know and are comfortable with if and when they decide to purchase their own.

Read our next post to find out where we see fiber-crafts moving in 2017.

If you find our insights useful, contact to learn how we can help you grow your craft business.

Leanne Pressly
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