A sewing workshop at Craftcation, a creative retreat founded in 2011
As we prepare for 2020, we’re looking back over the decade and remembering craft industry highs and lows. The past ten years have seen rapid changes in technology and culture, many of which impacted craft business owners. Here’s a recap of some of the biggest moments in the craft world this decade.
Etsy Grows Up
After ceding the CEO position to Maria Thomas in July of 2008, Etsy founder Rob Kalin returned to Etsy in late 2009. Kalin was ousted again in 2011, replaced as CEO by former Etsy CTO, Chad Dickerson. Etsy moved to their DUMBO offices in 2009, where the (now defunct) Etsy Labs hosted Craft Nights and Virtual Labs events.
Since 2009, Etsy has grown from 2.4 million registered members to 44.8 million buyers in 2019. The marketplace has also expanded, from 155,000 sellers in 2009 to 2.6 million sellers in 2019.
In the early 2010’s, some Etsy businesses struggled to maintain their handcrafted ethos while simultaneously scaling their businesses. “The irony is that if we ever became successful, we won’t be allowed to sell on Etsy,” Etsy shop owner Mackswell Sherman said in 2009, alluding to Etsy’s original rules that required members personally make the items they sold. Etsy began allowing manufacturing partners in 2013.
Etsy announced its IPO in March 2015 and officially went public on April 16, 2015. Beginning at a share price of $16, Etsy stock was initially considered an underperformer, hitting a low of $6.90 in early 2016. In 2019, Etsy stock fluctuated between a high of $72.85 and a low of $40.49.
Craft companies launched, bought, and sold
In 2011, A.C. Moore was acquired for $41 million by Sbar’s, an art supply distributor. In 2019, A.C. Moore Arts and Crafts’ parent company Nicole Crafts announced the closure of all A.C. Moore retail stores.
On December 23, 2010, Jo-Ann Stores announced plans to sell out to private equity firm Leonard Green for $1.6 billion and was delisted from the stock exchange in March 2011.
In 2016, Michaels acquired Lamrite West, Inc., which operates wholesale craft supplies business Darice, as well as 36 arts and crafts retail stores under the Pat Catan’s brand name. In 2018, Michaels shut down Pat Catan’s and Aaron Brothers stores, reopening some locations under the Michaels brand name.
Creativebug, an online education community for creatives and crafters was founded in 2012, and acquired by Jo-Ann Stores in 2017.
Online craft class platform Craftsy launched in 2010 by former eBay executives John Levisay and Josh Scott, Yahoo! exec Andrew Rogers, as well as Todd Tobin and Bret Hanna. Craftsy was acquired by NBCUniversal in 2017 and rebranded under the new name Bluprint in 2018. Just before the rebrand, Craftsy announced a change to a subscription model, a switch from their previous a la carte model.
Pinterest has become a tool for craft pros and enthusiasts
Advances in technology
Instagram launched in 2010. Instagram rapidly gained popularity among creatives, with one million registered users in two months, 10 million after one year, and 1 billion as of May 2019.
Pinterest launched in 2010, after founder Ben Silbermann personally invited thousands of creatives and bloggers to join during closed beta testing. Pinterest has reached 300 million monthly active users as of August 2019.
Website builders were marketed to creative businesses and craft companies in the last decade, offering the ability to build a branded site without the aid of a web developer. Shopify, Squarespace, Wix, Big Cartel, and BigCommerce were all founded from 2004-2009.
Yarn bombing hit zeitgeist levels in the early 2010s. A popular yarn bombing book was published in 2009, bringing artists Knitta Please and Olek into the international spotlight, and expanding the conversation around contemporary craft.
Hand-dyed yarn became a larger part of the fiber industry over the last decade. The increase in popularity of hand-dyed yarns was ushered in by larger companies such as Lorna’s Laces, Malabrigo, Sweet Georgia and Madelinetosh (recently acquired by Jimmy Beans Wool), as well as small studio dyers sharing their work on Ravelry, Instagram, and Indie Untangled.
Los Angeles knitters Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman started The Pussyhat Project in 2017. The grassroots movement demonstrated how craft could act as a protest tool during the Women’s March on Washington after Trump’s inauguration. It’s estimated that over 60,000 pink, cat-eared knit hats, dubbed “pussyhats,” in a show of solidarity and support for women’s rights, were created for the 2017 march at the National Mall.
Issues of UPPERCASE Magazine published since 2009
Craft magazines close, niche magazines spring up
It was a difficult decade for craft publishers. Many craft magazines shuttered, and niche magazines have sprung up in their absence. Creative compendium UPPERCASE launched in 2009, and Mollie Makes debuted in 2011 by Immediate Media Co., the UK’s leading craft magazine publisher. Other notable additions include Pom Pom Quarterly (2012), Knit Wit Magazine (2015), Quiltfolk (2016), Making Magazine (2016), Laine (2016), and Curated Quilts (2017).
Indie craft fairs expand
Many indie craft fairs are celebrating 10th and 15th anniversaries this year. A decade ago, the scene was still gathering momentum. Renegade Craft Fair, founded in 2003, grew far beyond their Chicago roots over the last decade, expanding their shows to 12 cities, and producing 25+ Fairs and Pop-Ups annually.
Patchwork, a series of craft fairs in Southern California, was founded in 2008 by Delilah Snell and Nicole Stevenson. Building on the success of the markets, Snell and Stevenson founded Craftcation in 2011, bringing together craft pros and enthusiasts together for a creative conference.
Maker Faire debuted in 2006. After growing to multiple cities worldwide during the last decade, its parent company, Maker Media, canceled its world Maker Faire event in 2019, citing financial difficulties. Twelve featured Maker Faire events are scheduled for 2020.
The Midwest Craft Caucus drew crafters to Columbus, Ohio, in 2011 for a one-off craft business event. The event was revived as Midwest Craft Con in 2016, and is now an biannual event.
Craft industry controversies
The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act went into effect in the United States in 2009, setting strict limits on lead and phthalate content in toys and other children’s products. Toymakers must certify their wares’ compliance via third-party testing, which can cost anywhere from less than a hundred dollars to several hundred dollars per test. Hardship complaints from sellers of handmade toys led the Consumer Product Safety Commission to exempt some sellers from the regulations.
This decade saw many conversations around diversity and inclusion in the craft industry. Etsy shared company-wide goals for building a diverse team. The response to Karen Templar’s post about a trip to India on the Fringe Supply Co. blog stirred up a larger conversation about racism and insensitivity in the craft world. Many knitters of color shared their experiences of being followed around yarn stores or of being ignored or minimized in online knitting communities.
Making Things launched in October 2018, and sparked heated discussions about the cost of knit and crochet patterns, designer compensation, and disclosure of affiliate links.
Rows of quilts on display at QuiltCon
Contemporary Craft Communities
In the last decade, Ravelry has become one of the world’s largest craft communities, with over 8 million members. In 2019, Ravelry banned support of US president Donald Trump on their platform.
Callie Works-Leary, founder of CityCraft in Dallas was featured in Inc’s 30 under 30 in 2010, citing her contributions to building community around creativity.
The Modern Quilt Guild launched in Los Angeles in 2010, founded by Alissa Haight Carlton and Latifah Saafir. Today, the Modern Quilt Guild has more than 200 chapters and 15,000 members around the world. QuiltCon, the international conference and quilt show by and for The Modern Quilt Guild, launched in 2013 in Austin, Texas.
Share your memories
Our list of memorable craft industry moments from the last decade is just the beginning. What sticks out to you as a defining moment for the craft industry from 2009 – 2019?
Erin is the textile designer and artist behind the home décor company, Cotton & Flax. She licenses her surface designs for fabric, home décor, stationery, and other clients. She’s also a teacher, writer, and enthusiastic advocate for small creative business owners. She lives in San Diego, California.