In 2019 and 2020, much was made of the “new normal.” For needlepoint, this new normal has been very good for stitchers. We are finding more stores, less expensive options, and better opportunities for learning. Many of our beloved designers have found new ways to sell, giving them the freedom to design. In today’s article, I’ll look at several of these trends.
Retiring Designers: It used to be that if a designer quit designing, by retiring or for other reasons, you could only find the canvases at resale sites or guild auctions. Today, retiring designers are contracting with needlepoint distributors (there are several) to carry their lines. This allows the designer to create new canvases without dealing with all the handwaving that comes with running a business.
That means, in many cases, the designs continue to be available even if life intervenes or family members don’t want to run the business. This can be especially useful when a designer has passed away. The presence of experienced distributors in the needlepoint industry can seamlessly continue to make these canvases available.
In addition, there are several shops that have picked up lines where the designers or previous owners have retired. The owner of Olde Town Needlework in Phoenix now owns Danji. Under her ownership, she has licensed Frank Lloyd Wright for needlepoint. and has picked up other lines, like Hummingbird House, that lost their distributor. She works closely with Jill, the founder of the company, and continues to bring out new designs and maintain the vibrancy of Danji.
She’s just one example of several shops that also own wholesale lines that are known by different names.
Computer Printing: One of the worst effects of the past few years on the needlepoint market was the extreme delays in getting hand-painted canvases. This was for a simple reason — they are painted abroad by painting services. Delays could take up to six months, and even today, there are still significant delays in getting canvases from the copy painters.
Because this is a specialized skill, I don’t know of designers who newly turned to US-based painters, although some do this. Instead, designers and others turned to computer printing. The technology to print on canvas, giclee, is known, and there are several companies, such as Art Needlepoint, that have specialized in this for a long time.
For designers entering this world, the printer can limit the size of what they print, and there is a learning curve to get canvases that are accurate. Canvases can be created quickly, whether by the designer or through a service or third-party company. There are three options for a designer. They can either add computer printing to their existing line as Love You More has done. You can create a printed-only line, for example, ditto. Or you can initially start printing because it has a lower cost of entry and then convert to painted canvases, as Bad Bitch has done.
With this as an option, new designers can enter the market more easily and stitchers can buy canvases at more attractive prices.
Self-finishing: Self-finishing items have exploded in popularity, with many companies and designers making items that can be finished by the stitcher in minutes. The number of inventive self-finishing ideas and the choices of colors and materials is astonishing. While twenty years ago I mainly relied on clunky wood boxes and coasters for self-finishing, now I have purse charms, card cases, tiny boxes, and luggage tags in all kinds of colors and sizes. I am so addicted to self-finishing that I keep a big basket of items for self-finishing for when I’m finished stitching a canvas (you’ll see one of them next week & another soon after).
Being stuck at home and burdened by inflation, we took a DIY approach to finishing. Shops regularly have ornament finishing classes. For less than the price of professional finishing of one ornament, you can learn how to finish them yourself, avoiding both anxieties and delays. And if no class is near you, YouTube videos are an option. I love the ones by Kelly Starke who gives detailed videos on many types of finishing. I also love videos from Nashville Neelepointer, a stitcher with some great videos.
Virtual Needlepoint: When we couldn’t go into shops for classes, shops and teachers turned to Zoom to run online classes. Although in-person classes have resumed, many shops continue to record their classes. Some shops like Gone Stitching in New Jersey and Stitching Studio in Virginia have stitch-ins on Zoom. Teachers have embraced this technology as well. Some add virtual lessons to mailed and emailed material. Others teach workshops and classes completely online.
With so many of us not living near a shop, virtual learning means we can get great teaching without leaving home!
Are you as excited about these trends. as I am? Let me know in the comments.