2007: The Year in Review
At the end of last year I made the optimistic projection that the worst of the market slide was over and that the knitting industry had emerged stronger, smarter, and more agile, diverse, and customer-focused than ever before. While it's true that new yarn stores continue to open, and new yarn companies continue to enter the market, many online and brick and mortar stores continue to close—even ones that seemed to be doing well. We are gaining but we are also losing.
Ironically, we as knitters have never had it so good. It's a buyer's market. For every online yarn store four years ago, we easily have ten today. For every small hand-dyer, a dozen or more. Need a shawl pattern? Go online and you'll find hundreds from which to choose. We have an embarrassment of riches before us. Yarns everywhere we turn, books literally falling off the shelves, needles and gadgets galore.
We are eager consumers, but it looks like the supply is starting to exceed the demand. No matter how wonderful the products out there—and we have some pretty fantastic stuff on the market these days—there is a limit, and the market is clearly still in need of correction.What We Loved in 2007
We knitting consumers had quite a ride in 2007. The sock boom continued to be the main story, with even more hand-dyed sock yarns and books and needles and knitalongs and clubs all feeding a passion for socks that seems to have no end.
In terms of books, we had some of the most solid releases in years. Ann Budd ushered in a whole new generation of sock knitters with Getting Started Knitting Socks. Interweave further sealed the sock deal with its Favorite Socks: 25 Timeless Designs from Interweave compendium of gorgeous sock patterns. The folks at Vogue fired back with a giant, hard-covered Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Sock Book featuring not only patterns but history and technique as well. And Cat Bordhi once again demonstrated the power of fresh ideas and publishing yourself when she released her much-anticipated New Pathways for Sock Knitters: Volume One (which really should be titled, "Socks, The Next Frontier").
Fans of Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks cheered when her follow-up book came out this year, fittingly titled More Sensational Knitted Socks. And in an ironic twist of timing, two books came out almost simultaneously on the subject of knitting two socks—also simultaneously—on two circular needles. First was Antje Gillingham's Knitting Circles Around Socks, and three months later Melissa Morgan-Oakes' 2-at-a-Time Socks.dyeing their own sock yarn—to the point where they decided to get a wholesale license and hang out their shingle on Etsy. The vast majority of these yarns are superwash fingering-weight merinos and blends from the same few suppliers (Louet, Henry's Attic, Ashland Bay, or Kraemer), and even the dyes come from the same few suppliers, making the dyer's eye and aesthetic the key differentiators. Some small-scale discoveries this year included Sunshine Yarns, Yarn Chef, and Hazel Knits. In terms of the colors themselves, we finally began to move away from the brightly contrasting multicolor yarns (sometimes jokingly referred to as "clown barf") to more harmonious blends and semisolids. Let's Hear It For Lace
Socks weren't the only game in town, though. More and more knitters finally stepped over the lace threshold and worked our first yarn-overs and SSKs. (Lace is another great use for those sock-weight hand-dyed skeins of superwash merino, too!)
Supporting this new passion, Jane Sowerby released an exquisite study of Victorian lace, aptly titled Victorian Lace Today. And the folks at Skacel answered lace knitters' prayers when they released a special Addi Turbo Lace circular needle with a sharper tip, lighter weight, and softer cord optimized for lace knitting.
What's That I'm Knitting?
While knitalongs have been on the rise for at least a year now, we witnessed a new twist on the theme this year: mystery knitalongs. And the most popular ones involved lace projects. The idea behind a mystery knitalong is that you sign up for a project with no idea what you're knitting. Each week, you're fed another clue (i.e., pattern section) until finally the finished project reveals itself. More than 6,000 knitters signed up for the Mystery Stole 3 knitalong, and DK the Nautical Knitter had her Secret of the Stole knitalongs too—a new version of which they're launching for the coming year.
Raves for Ravelry
And where did people talk about their mystery projects? Besides in the knitalong Yahoo groups and blogs and in the KR Forums and on their personal blogs, I mean? On Ravelry, of course!
Although still in beta testing and only admitting a limited number of applicants each week, Ravelry has been the major story in the online knitting world this year. Called by some the Facebook for knitters, this online service was launched in April by young Boston couple Jess and Casey. Jess learned to knit four years ago and loves it. Casey is an excellent programmer and loves Jess. Together, they've created a place where knitters can maintain public listings of everything in their stash—each skein we own, all of our books, needles, and even our friends. You can see what other people are stashing, reading, knitting, and even hoping to knit. (I counted 4,663 listings of Cascade 220 Wool as of this writing, just in case you were curious.) Discussion groups and fan clubs exist on nearly every topic under the sun. Are you a Jeep driver? There's a group for you. Is your name Heidi? There's a group for you too. There's even a group for "Smartass Yarn Ho's." Just imagine what'll happen when Ravelry finally opens up to the general public, which we hope to happen some time in early 2008.Dot-Nots
Sheep don't usually browse the Internet (no high-speed access in the pastures), so they probably had no idea the attention their fibers were getting this year—especially in the realm of organic wools and farm yarns. I fell swiftly and completely for the simplicity and softness of New Mexico Organic, a two-ply wool spun at Green Mountain Spinnery using their eco-friendly "greenspun" method. In terms of adding color and "crunch" to the organic equation, Darlene Hayes swept me away with her naturally dyed Nature's Palette Organic Worsted-Weight Columbia yarn, a collaborative effort between her and teacher/fiber artist Judith MacKenzie McCuin.
Speaking of color, I was thrilled to see Kristin Nicholas return to center stage with the release of her book Kristin Knits. Years ago Kristin was creative director at Classic Elite Yarns before taking a hiatus to have a family and move to a farm in western Massachusetts. She details her creative endeavors and daily goings-on at the farm in her blog, Getting Stitched on the Farm, which is one of my weekly must-reads. Every pattern in her new book uses Kristin's yarn Julia (named after her daughter), which is distributed by Nashua Handknits.
And a more personal "hello" happened in October when my very first baby—The Knitter's Book of Yarn—was finally released to the world. It has been a deeply moving experience and I remain monumentally grateful that so many of you are as passionate about yarn as I am.
But alas, for every hello this year, there seemed to be a goodbye. In November we bid adieu to both the legendary knitting artist Mary Walker Phillips and KnitU moderator Gail McHugh. This month, Bonnie Franz sent out the final issue of the colorwork newsletter, Stranded, which she launched in 2002; and veteran online retailer Meredith Bright closed the e-doors to Yarnware.com. And just last Sunday, the KR community lost one of its longtime contributors and friends when Mary Lou Daniel succumbed to cancer.
Despite the market challenges—which I'm still confident we shall overcome—the knitting community is alive and well. We are smarter and more resourceful than ever before. Thanks to the Internet, we are more connected than ever before.
My hope for 2008 is that we remain connected to—and respectful of—one another. May we stay challenged and rewarded by what's on our needles, and may we never lose our love of the craft.
This year is nearing an end, but our journey together continues. Please know how much I value your readership and trust, and how I look forward to continuing our adventure together in the New Year.
All my best to you,