Monday, March 2, 2009

Musings about the Cross Stitch Community

I think I've posted this picture here before, but it was easy to find on my computer and is of one of the few stitched works I've ever done that I still actually own, so here it is. For those of you who stitch, you won't recognize it, as it is my own design, done about 10 years ago for a competition. I just felt like this post needed a stitched picture to go with it.

One of my stamping friends is thinking about going full time into the stamping business and she's been asking me a lot of questions, using the rise and apparent decline of the needlework industry over the last 15 years as a basis for comparison. (She's a former stitcher.) That's had me thinking a lot about how the public face of stitching has changed and trying to evaluate why. So, I'm just going to ramble on here, and hope some who know more than me will chime in with more insight.

I found cross-stitch in 1984. During a visit to Washington DC I found a little book of XS motifs at the Smithsonian store and bought it. I made my husband a tiny little piece- which still sits on his dresser (maybe I should get a picture of that one of these days) and I was hooked!

1994 brought me onto the Internet and a whole huge world of stitching opened up- people, designers, supplies, techniques, shows! The best part was finding other stitchers- hello, Etha and Bev!!!- and learning so much from and about them. Lifelong friendships developed around stitching. There were internet chat groups and boards. It was AMAZING!!!

Today I still stitch- when my time, my arthritic hands, and my older-every-day eyes allow. In the meantime, I've found tatting and lace making and scrapbooking and cardmaking and stamping. And, I cannot help comparing the way the Internet has been used/dealt with by the various arts and crafts.

There is no doubt that the popularity of crafts is cyclical. Remember macrame? So, some ebb and flow is inevitable. With the release of those fun new fibers a few years ago, everyone wanted to knit and crochet- don't we all have some of those fuzzy scarves in our closets? Some of us, me included, have been doing yarn work all our lives and for us it is not a fad. Others try the latest thing, enjoy it, then move on to the next "big" thing. So, every crafting industry needs to be prepared for boom and bust times.

But, with the spread of the Internet into the majority of homes, the means of sharing information about our hobbies has changed drastically. And, this, I think, may be where the needlework industry fell short. I don't think the industry used the Internet to its best advantage and I feel strongly that its current situation could be different if it had, or even if it still did, late though it may be.

Where are the designers' blogs? I said to my stamp-contemplating friend yesterday: "The fact that I cannot find stitching sites on the Internet doesn't mean they are not there- but if I can't find them, is it likely anyone else, especially someone with less experience, can?"

Where are the sites that will stir the interest? It is obvious that there are new stamp companies out there that were MADE by SplitCoast Stampers. Why have there not been similar sites for stitchers- and sites of long-standing that were established during the stitching boom?

Why are most of the websites connected with needlework design companies static, boring and rarely changed? Why is there so little option for interaction with their customers? AND, most importantly, is this lack of creative use of the Internet one of the reasons why needlework is not the thriving industry it was 10 years ago?

I really enjoy papercrafting- it's fun. But stitching feeds my soul. I don't know why one thing would mean more to me than another, but it does. I am frustrated by the decline in the industry, the lack of brilliant new designers like we saw in the 90s, the sensation from others that needlework is passe.

Stitching is certainly NOT passe. The number of blogs out there by stitchers will attest to that. But stitchers find one another by accident or effort and not because the industry makes it easy or even possible. The industry is not thriving or growing partly because others have used the new technology to entice stitchers away or to capture new participants first.

For all of these ideas and observations, I have no conclusion. I cannot control or influence the actions and efforts of designers or companies. I can only hope that the craft industry I love above all others will one day decide to reassert itself and seize the opportunities available to it. I am looking forward to that time.


Suzanne said...

I wish I enjoyed cross stitch just takes so long and my ADD kicks in and nothing gets complete. I guess that's why I like paper crafts immediate gratification of finished projects.....I do still have all my cross stitch stuff though so maybe one day!

Cindy said...

If only there was more time in a day...I would cross stitch, scrapbook, make cards and crochet. My wish is that the "average" person could and would appreciate the heart and soul that we crafters put into our work...that they would understand the expense and time that we put into our projects. Since I have become involved in blogging I have truly come to appreciate the talent that exists. I agree that the internet has opened the door for those who choose to walk through. My pledge is to encourage as many as possible to cross the threshold into the next room. The power of the internet needs to be used as a positive force in all endeavors. BTW - thanks for the shout out!

Cathrine said...

Interesting post (and interesting question!). I think papercrafting might be on the downswing of its cycle - and the point you raise (whether we can use new technology to pull it back up) is a good one. I think people recognize it and are working towards it with blogs, papercraft communities, hybrid projects with digi. Also - clear stamps are a great innovation that solve many problems.

Also - in my opinion people might start to rebel against the "sameness" of society. With the economy the way it is, I'm afraid many small and medium business may fall. So then we will all be forced to wear the same sweater from Walmart because thats all that will be left. There is opportunity there for the crafts person to fill that craving for something unique.

JMHO (before coffee!)

Etha said...

Several things come to mind with this: compared to stitching, paper crafting is like instant gratification, stitching is not, it is a much longer process and slower. That may be one of the reasons why stitch sites are not as fluid as paper sites, it just takes more time to finish something.
I also find that the community in itself is different. Remember the stiffness of the EGA with all its rules and do's and don't's? I've always done as I please, even in stitching, but the people just seem stiffer! In paper crafting nobody tells me that there is only one way to apply the glue, that I can use beads here or there etc etc. you just do as you like to. Not so in stitching ;) I think it is very different communities/people.
Going on from that, the hip paper crafting image shows me a young stay-at-home mom who quickly makes her birthday cards etc at her desk. Hip and colorful, young! The stitching industry shows me more of a grandma who sits in her recliner with a magnifying glass working on a hardanger piece that already took years and will take more to completion.....
All in all, I don';t think the two industries are comparable, they are too different in what to expect and in their target audience.

Shirley said...

Boy, you really know how to get the minds in gear!! I love cross stitch and crewel embroidery, but I tend to agree it takes a while for a finished product. I have several in progress, but since I started stamping I have neglected the other. For one thing, when I do cross stitch I have to count and concentrate. I can't be as social. When I do stamping I can talk more. LOLOLOLOL Maybe that's it.