Monday, January 12, 2009

Is it too late for this?

You know how I love my grand retrospectives of The Year That Was: Knitting Edition. Okay, it's technically January 12, and we're supposed to be all about looking forward and suchlike, but perhaps you can indulge me as I begin my look forward by looking backward.

2008 was a wild and tumultuous year in many respects. As the year wore on, the economy -- specifically, its worsening state -- seemed to be on everyone's mind. I don't have access to any industry statistics, but from where I sit, the staggering economy did have a noticeable effect on the knitting world. It seemed to me that knitters cut back on their spending, looking to use the stash of unknit yarns they already had. Even at fiber festivals, it seemed to me that knitters were buying more selectively than in years past, while paying closer attention to budgets and price point. By the end of the year, it was easier to find sales and discounts (a free shipping offer from WEBS in December?!) and even vendors who traditionally sell out quickly seemed to have more inventory on hand for longer time periods.

It was a transitional year for many of the big magazines, too. Eunny Jang -- named editor of Interweave Knits in mid-2007 -- began producing issues that were hers from beginning to end, with some alterations in IK's style. Even the models changed; no more Pam Allen's daughter or the Little Redheaded Girl. In December, Kim Werker -- who had such a positive impact on Interweave Crochet -- left her job as IC editor and sold her website, Crochet Me, to the Interweave family of companies. Marcy Smith, a lifelong crocheter and newspaper editor, will succeed Werker. (I don't know Marcy but I look forward to meeting her. And Marcy, give us lots of Kathy Merrick patterns, 'kay?) I found myself increasingly enamored of VogueKnitting (more lace! some ethnic-influenced patterns! more wearable stuff!), perhaps due to the continued influence of Vegamite-lover and knit-goddess Tricia Malcolm. Knit.1 got a retooling, with Tanis Gray and Faith Hale replacing Adina Kline, and looking less trendy and "out there" than in years past. In the meantime, KnitScene, in the capable hands of Lisa Shroyer, quietly added depth to its array of easy-yet-stylish patterns for less experienced knitters. Finally, the inimitable Shannon Okey was named editor of UK magazine Yarn Forward; it will be fascinating to see Shannon's influence develop on that publication.

Print magazines faced even more competition from a batch of new online knitting magazines and pattern delivery options. The two nearest and dearest to my heart (in alphabetical order) are Knotions and TwistCollective. Knotions has the slogan "Knit smarter," and Jody Pirrello (I'll 'fess up -- she's a friend) helps you do that with cool free patterns (from designers you know, like Grumperina & Phoenix Bess, as well as some new and talented folks), technical content (like tutorials on short-row bust shaping) and book and product reviews (some book reviews are written by me). TwistCollective adopts a completely different business model: patterns are sold individually via download. TwistCollective splits the proceeds with designers in exchange for providing space on its gorgeously styled & photographed site. With Kate Gilbert as Creative Director, and designers like Gilbert, Norah Gaughan, Veronik Avery, Fiona Ellis, Pam Allen, Cookie A and so many more, you'll find plenty of goodies to choose from -- and Gilbert's emphasis on treating designers fairly is a joy to behold.

But wait: there are even more choices for the discerning knitter. Metapostmodernknitting is aimed at "fashion-forward and avant-garde knitting"; Popknits takes a new look at vintage knitting; Crochet Uncut is the "official unofficial magazine of the Crochet Liberation Front"; The Inside Loop bills itself as "Dedicated to Fibre Arts in the United Kingdom"; K1C2 presented us with WhoKnits, to present articles about "people who share a common love: knitting"; and I bet you've heard of more that I am not familiar with. All of these offer free patterns and generate operating income from advertising sales.

Competition for on-line pattern sales also increased via Ravelry's on-line PDF service, which was up and running (at quite a clip, it appears) in 2008. We also greeted Patternfish, an on-line compendium of patterns available for paid download; Patternfish was designed to provide a platform for designers to sell PDFs of their patterns with no editorial content or standardizing, just a way to browse through patterns and download whichever ones you want. Participating designers include Cabin Fever, Lucy Neatby, Classic Elite, Nashua Handknits, Heartstrings Fiber Arts, Reynolds and many others (over 2000 patterns were available at the time of this writing).

Stitch Cooperative, run by Shannon Okey, is yet another business model: it allows bricks-and-mortar shops to order a selection of patterns from indie designers in one fell swoop, without individual orders, invoicing and shipping. Designers like Jillian Moreno, Stefanie Japel, Robyn Chachula and Kristi Porter are on-board for Stitch Cooperative, making it an interesting way for the local yarn shop to compete with the ubiquitous Internet.

As always, I'm curious to hear what you think about the above developments of '08.

Next stop on my retrospective of the Knitting Year That Was will be ones, discontinued ones, and all those changes at your favorite yarn companies.


jillian said...

Thanks for the summary of online mags - I feel like I can't keep them all straight. Plus - hadn't heard of Patternfish!

turtlegirl76 said...

Well, that's the first year end summary I've read! It was great! I hadn't heard of patternfish either!

Unknown said...

Thank you for all the fantastic links! I definitely have lots more things in my queue now.

Anonymous said...

Cool. More stuff to click on. More stuff to read. Now if you could just provide a link to knitting time...
(seriously- thanks for the links)

Anonymous said...

I have noticed a definite trend towards "things I'd actually like to knit" in magazines, on-line zines, and books. This is a Good Thing, and if it's the people you mention I hope they all get enough chocolate or licorice or whatever it takes to keep them happy and keep up the good work.
(I don't know any of these people. None of them have taken me up on my standing invitation to drop by for a cup of espresso)

Eline Oftedal said...

Thanks for the links!

Anonymous said...

As so often, you've done us a real service - new links, plus context and reflection. Looking forward to your yarn look-back.
- Beth