My son knows someone who works for a company that predicts what will be important a decade from now. Yes, it’s their job to tell companies what you’ll be buying in 2027.
Not that I can come anywhere near doing this. But after over a week of looking at canvases, thinking about canvases, and writing about canvases, I do see some clear trends in needlepoint, both in the design and in the industry. I’ll share these with you today.
Easter & Judaica
Halloween and Christmas continue to be very popular with stitchers and their are always new stockings, ornaments and decorations coming out. So much so that it can seem to the casual observer that we stitch nothing else. There are two emerging trends that speak to other areas that are becoming important.
Easter and springtime are becoming increasingly important in many designer’s lines. These canvases celebrate rabbits, eggs, and other signs of spring. You will not find lots of obviously religious symbolism here, although there is some. What you will find are lots of canvases in bright springtime palettes, often with the feel of vintage children’s books.
There’s lots of room for design in this area so expect to see lots more here.
Another growing area for canvases are ones celebrating Judaic holidays and heritages. It used to be that only a few companies specialized in this area (Gone Stitching, Rishfield, and Magic Needle). At the show I saw several companies that were celebrating their heritage with dreidels, tallit bags, and pillows with Judaic themes. This trend started a year or two ago, but it has emerged as a major new source of designs.
Cats & Dogs
Our four-footed friends are important to us, but they continue to be a growing source of needlepoint design. Lots of companies make ornaments with pets as a theme and more are joining them every day. In addition there are several companies making larger canvases, often realistic, to show off your love of your pet.
These designs demonstrate a marketing principle called the Long Tail. It’s the small but steady demand for products that have small markets. To understand how this works, I can take my own case. I love cats, but my cats are both black. I’m unlikely to stitch a cat canvas with a white Persian on it. But I’m a sucker for non-Halloween black cats. That’s the long tail.
Because our pets are so varied, creating lines of canvases depicting them becomes a place for expansion and steady sales. Because they are fun to stitch, expect increased demand to bring more cat and dog canvases to market.
The Internet as a Design Source
Spend time with boomer stitchers and you’ll often hear us bemoaning how to get young people interested in needlepoint. Let’s face it while you and I may not see the point of hastags, emojis, or social media, Millenials and their older siblings do. Creating needlepoint that reflects the Internet generation just makes sense. There are about half a dozen companies making emojis as needlepoint. I know of at least two that are bringing hashtag canvases to market.
Both these types of designs are very easy to make. Expect that this is just the beginning. Intedrnetand meme fueled canvases will soon be found all over.
Words, Words, Words
I’ve always loved the shape of letters and fonts and words, but mostly they haven’t been a big part of needlepoint. At this show I saw words being used in interesting ways. Several designers used writing or the words by themselves as design elements. More interestingly, several companies created canvases where the letters that spell out the word were large and cut out, exposing a scene through them. It’s an exciting concept and one I think we’ll see more often.
The Shrinking Trade Show
In every industry there is discussion about the value of trade shows like TNNA. They are expensive for everyone involved. It isn’t only the money, which can be substantial, it’s the time. A designer friend of mine once told me that every TNNA show (a three-day show) she lost two weeks of work. That’s because when she is packing and unpacking the show, traveling, setting up the show and tearing down the show, she cannot be creating new designs or selling her product. That puts lots of pressure on those three days to make up for the lost time.
While attendance at the shows has been dropping for many years, the recent improvement of designer sites has made it even easier to view and shop from home. Although the impact of seeing the canvases for real is great and the value of in-person contact is wonderful, the fact is that canny shopowners and stitchers can see what’s available, often before the show opens. This also lessens the value of the show.
This year was the first time I saw these concerns played out in a big way among the exhibitors. Several companies I expected to see were not there. These are not small designers but well-known established companies with large lines. I think these companies decided that the other marketing methods would work as well.
In addition, many companies chose to showcase their newer designs and not crowd their booths with everything. I liked this because these booths were less crowded and allowed the designer to highlight certain products while allowing the attendee some mental space to think. Stepping from one of these booths to one of the kind that had packed canvases felt as if you were stepping back in time.
A final bit of evidence that the shows are shrinking is that there were plenty of unsold booths at the show. There were empty spaces throughout the floor with a huge lounge in the middle. Now some of this may have happened because TNNA changed management last year and there is considerable controversy over the changes. But that doesn’t explain it all. The way we are seeing new products and the way shops are buying them is changing. What will happen? I don;t know.
This week is part of my extensive coverage of the Winter 2017 Needlework Market from TNNA. Last week, there were two preview posts (here and here) and a post about what happens at a trade show. Monday had information about threads and tools. Wednesday began the coverage of great new canvases that continued Thursday and Friday.
Plus next week I hope to have two more new product posts. One will be Bits & Bobs from the show. The other will cover new products from companies not at the show.