XRX, Inc., producer of the Stitches shows, has filed for bankruptcy. The announcement was made on the company’s website yesterday.
XRX was a second-generation family business run by Benjamin Levisay and Elaine Rowley. The company was founded over 40 years ago in the basement of Rowley’s yarn shop, The Golden Fleece, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with Levisay’s father, David Xenakis, and, Alexis Xenakis. The XRX stood for Xenakis Rowley Xenakis.
David Xenakis is a weaver who became world-renowned for his work on the rigid heddle loom, including his development of the Xenakis technique. The Golden Fleece became a nationwide hub for weaving instruction and innovation, bringing in teachers from all over the world and hosting a variety of demonstrations and events. When an article David wrote for Hand Woven Magazine was accidentally misprinted, the trio was inspired to begin publishing their own fiber-focused magazine, Prairie Wool Companion. They eventually closed the retail space to focus on publishing fiber magazines and books.
Expanding into events
In 1991, XRX officially expanded from publishing into events, hosting the first Stitches show in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Consumer knitting shows were fairly novel at the time and, Levisay told me in a 2017 interview, not everyone welcomed the idea. “According to my dad it looked like a scene from an old Frankenstein movie, with villagers coming after us with pitchforks,” he said, referring to local yarn stores in the area that were upset by the competition and the suppliers that were protective of their retailers. Eventually, the industry adapted. Stitches expanded, hosting consumer shows in various parts of the US for the next 30 years.
In 2017, XRX ceased publication of its last periodical, Knitters Magazine, which at that point was no longer profitable. The company was winding down the print book business as well, but investing in and expanding the Stitches shows to include a new concept, Stitches United, that brought in quilting, sewing, embroidery and cross stitch along with fiber arts.
“What I want is the local yarn, quilting, and sewing stores to feel welcome here and have me help them be successful here,” Levisay said in the 2017 interview referring to Hartford, Connecticut where Stitches United was taking place. “I want to throw a big party and introduce you to some new things and then leave. This should be a marketing opportunity [for the stores].”
At that time the Sioux Falls-based company had 14 employees, four of whom were related (Levisay’s wife worked in the accounting department).
The pandemic’s impact
The pandemic hit events-focused companies like XRX hit particularly hard. Stitches United 2020 and Stitches West 2021 were canceled along with a new trade show the company had planned for May 2020, Stitches Pro. XRX pivoted to offer virtual workshop events called Stitches at Home, each of which spanned the course two weekends. When in-person events started up again, XRX continued to run the virtual events along with the shows.
XRX seemed to be intending to continue as a going concern until very recently. In April Levisay posted plans to revive the company’s podcast, Fiber Hooligans. Stitches was continuing to sell booths for an upcoming show in Southern California as well as others that were planned for later in 2023.
The social media accounts for the company were taken down yesterday. In the website announcement, the company stated, “We are saddened that what we’ve built can no longer survive the present economic climate. As of today, XRX, Inc. no longer exists…We’re sorry we couldn’t make it work. Please believe us when we tell you we tried.”
For many in the fiber community, the news was difficult to accept. “I was incredibly saddened to hear this,” says Laura Zander, co-founder of Jimmy Beans Wool. “It’s a major hit to the fiber industry and truly an end of an era.”
Abby co-founded Craft Industry Alliance and now serves as its president. She’s a sewing pattern designer, teacher, and journalist. She’s dedicated to creating an outstanding trade association for the crafts industry. Abby lives in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
Talk to the vendors and teachers who will not see a dime of their booth fees and classes sold.
Plenty of students prepaid for the Minneapolis boutique show as well (including airfare and hotels). Then there’s the issue of how vendors and teachers will replace this revenue stream on their income going forward.
Any student who purchased classes that are no longer happening should contact their credit card company or PayPal and file a claim. Many have done so successfully.
David Xenakis was the weaver who developed the Xenakis Technique.
Thank you for this correction. I will make that update now.
If you signed up for a sewing class with me (Jennifer from J Stern Designs) during the Stitches Boutique or the Great Rub Off in June at Stitches Expo, I’ve decided to teach these classes via zoom. Please reach out to me and I’ll send you the zoom invites for the classes you paid for. If you were going to sign up for a class, you’re welcome to join us!
“David was…” I believe David is still quite alive, no?
Good point. I fixed it. Thanks!
Wow. This is unexpected. I just purchased a vendor spot for their June Stitches at Home Event. I have been emailing them the last 2 weeks for more information and I haven’t heard a peep. I feel terrible for all the people that lost their jobs and all the other vendors who invested money into their events.
The Stitches executives were extremely rigid in excluding those who chose natural immunity over vaccines. Perhaps that contributes to their downfall. I found it disheartening and haven’t been “allowed” to attend since the COVID debacle.
Another company that blindly followed the now proven baseless COVID ‘rules’ (your body, your choice EXCEPT when the untested vaccines were mandated!) and went belly up.
Unfortunately, some of us fiber folx suffer from autoimmune and other health concerns that make “natural immunity” a health risk for us, actually a death wish. So we cannot be around those who choose that path.
The number of people who have either 1) chosen to be vaccinated against a very real virus with very real, long-lasting, debilitating and life-altering aftereffects, combined with 2) the number of people who cannot risk exposure to the unvaccinated due to autoimmune and other health concerns, greatly outnumbers the few who either believe COVID is a hoax or isn’t “that bad” and for whatever reason chose to remain unvaccinated (or pursue “natural immunity”, as you call it).
All venues and events are wise to acknowledge this and I commend those that have chosen to engender these “extremely rigid” restrictions in order to keep their attendees, vendors, and employees safe.
I’m sorry that you haven’t been able to attend events that you’d so badly wanted to attend, due to this restriction.
It’s tough, isn’t it? It’s sad and frustrating to be unable to participate in activities you once enjoyed, due to restrictions.
Now you know what people like me (autoimmune conditions) live with every day. Welcome to my world.
Say that to the families of those who were severely injured or now dead from an ineffective dangerous product. I know several. I have autoimmune & suffer severe reactions to pharma products.
Please note that the intent of this article is not to take a stance on vaccination status. Thank you.
Abby, I admire your calm and straightforward handling of divergence from the primary topic.
Many online moderators could learn from your example.
As of Friday, May 19, no one has been able to independently verify that they have filed for bankruptcy. No court filings have been found.
Anyone who is owed money by this company, needs to contact their State Attorney General’s office. These offices are usually in the capital city of most states. If this guy says he filed and no one can find a filing……………there’s something that’s not on the up & up going on. When he posted online that vendors should contact his attorney and then left no attorney info, I found that extremely concerning .
The States Attorney General’s office is normally NOT going to take an interest in small dollar amount cases. However, if there are enough vendors in a state, they can petition the Attorney Generals office if they all get together.
This is just a suggestion. You might also try the FTC in Washington, DC. I’m not an attorney, nor does this guy owe me any money. I’m just a knitter who wanted to offer a suggestion based on my experience in business for the last 45 years. I hope this can help some one.
For MANY years XRX was a HUGE contributor to our industry. During their prime, their magazine provided many knitters with fabulous patterns, articles, and photography. The Stitches Shows were the highlight of the year for many knitters and vendors alike. They were simply fun. From pajama parties, to fashion shows to endless vendors all in once place, they were in my opinion, the best shows around. The crew at XRX were (are) a very talented group of people who cared about the people they worked with, from the vendors, teachers, and sponsors to their end-consumers. They shared knowledge and time and were generous people. I never felt like it was all about the money when working with them. They all enjoyed what they did. They created some amazing books that hopefully will remain on knitter’s shelves for many years to come. One person you did not mention was Rick Mondragon. He was the editor of Knitter’s Magazine for many years, but his input into XRX went far beyond that. The entire crew at XRX will be missed as will their shows and their presence in our industry. Until one of them speaks out as to how they came to this point, I will not speculate. It is simply sad to see another fine business who has done so much for our industry, not survive. I for one, wish their entire crew well and hope to see them around in the future. Benjamin, Elaine, Alexis, Rick – if any of you are reading this, Good Luck! You will be missed.
The shows *were* great but had become less and less relevant, IMHO. The pivot to include sewing was misguided.