This week Yarn Market News, the trade magazine for the yarn industry, announced that the January 2020 issue will be its last.
Origins of the magazine
Currently owned and operated by SoHo Publishing, Yarn Market News (YMN) was first published in the 1970s by Lark Books, a publishing house based in Asheville, North Carolina. The editor at that time was Jeanne Hutchins who went on to serve as editor of Piecework Magazine for many years. In the 1980s SoHo Publishing, publishers of Vogue Knitting Magazine, acquired Yarn Market News and shifted it from an ad-supported to a paid subscription model. The yarn industry was facing a downturn at that time and the effort was unsuccessful. The magazine folded.
Art Joinnides and Trish Malcolm.
In 2004 Trisha Malcolm, Vice President and Editorial Director at SoHo Publishing at that time, was moving her office from one floor to another and came across a stack of Yarn Market News magazines. “I was amazed,” she recalls. “I walked into Art Joinnides’ office [SoHo Publishing’s Publisher and President], put the magazines in front of him, and basically asked what on earth this was.”
“I remember saying to him that this is what the industry needs now. He very nonchalantly said yes, do it. Just like that!”
They hired Karin Strom to be its new editor. The magazine would again be funded through advertising revenue and was distributed to retailers free of charge.
“When I took the helm of Yarn Market News in 2005, the publication had been on hiatus for about 13 years, so we basically had to recreate it,” Strom says. “The yarn world was booming: Celebrities were knitting, and new shops were popping up like crazy. The internet hadn’t taken over retail, and communities were excited to have a local yarn shop.”
Yarn Market News became the source of business information and education for the burgeoning yarn industry. “At one point, Portland, Oregon had around nine yarn shops, each one with a slightly different spin on things, so to speak,” recalls Strom. “The shop owners, many of them new to running a retail business, were thrilled to have a trade publication to help them, and YMN became kind of a yarn business community hub.”
The magazine included a “market report” that covered recent industry news, book reviews, event listings, updates from the trade associations, company profiles, and in-depth articles on business fundamentals.
Cover photos and events
The magazine became known for its cover photos created by Art Director Joe Vior which showcased yarn in unexpected ways.
“I called them ‘yarn porn’ and would always be thinking about how to create visual puns with yarn and what the perfect yarn would be to do it with,” says Strom.
Cover photos turned yarn into a roiling ocean, a source of electricity, spaghetti noodles, and a bowl of ripe tomatoes, among many other creative examples.
As the number of yarn stores in North America expanded YMN began offering live events. “My directive to our team at the time was to look beyond our industry and bring the best of retail wisdom and expertise to knitting retailers,” says Malcolm. “One of the biggest opportunities for failure for niche industries is to look within for inspiration and expertise, rather than searching for larger-scale thinking and forward prognostication.”
A changing industry
In 2010 Strom moved on from Yarn Market News to take a job at Interweave. By then, she says, the yarn industry had begun to fundamentally shift. “The internet was changing the retail climate and there were so many new small yarn companies opening up. The climate became a lot more competitive. Publishing was also evolving from print to digital.”
Erin Slonaker took up where Strom left off, becoming the magazine’s next editor. Her first issue was January 2011 and she continued in that role through the January 2020 issue where the closure was announced. In her final editor’s letter, Slonaker reflected on her time at the magazine. “I’ve met so many of the people who shape our industry, I’ve knit so many sweaters in new-to-me yarn, I’ve traveled to a needle manufacturer in India, and I’ve watched freshly dyed yarn hanging to dry at a fiber factory,” she wrote. “I got to be in the thick of things, doing what I love.”
The magazine’s impact
Knitwear designer, attorney, and writer Carol Sulcoski, was a regular Yarn Market News contributor for many years. She says the magazine’s impact has been significant. “It was a pioneer in providing practical information to folks in the yarn industry in a way that made very clear that yarn businesses were businesses first and foremost.”
“The yarn industry has always suffered from the hobbyist quotient, that idea that because we all love knitting, we shouldn’t be concerned with the tawdry attempt to make money from it, that it’s somehow shameful to expect to be paid for work, that loving knitting should be satisfaction enough for doing a very hard job. YMN helped to combat that.”
“If you look at the local yarn shops and businesses that have lasted, they are the ones who are serious about being a business and unapologetic about the need to profit from it.”
Shrinking ad dollars
In 2013 Yarn Market News went from publishing five times a year to three. In recent years events were phased out and the magazine published just three issues a year, one digital and two print. Leslie Barber, who served as managing editor for the magazine since 2001, expressed perplexity about the changing advertising market. “The reaction to the magazine was universally positive. I never met anyone in the industry who did not read it. I’m amazed that advertisers increasingly chose not to sell their wares to this captive audience,” she says.
Strom is saddened at this week’s news of the closure. “Shuttering it is an understandable move, given the drop in advertising revenues, but it’s so important for an industry to have a trade publication of some sort,” she says. “It’s really sad to see it go away.”
Without Yarn Market News Sulcoski fears the industry will continue what she, and others, see as a trend toward fragmentation. “I liked that Yarn Market News tried to be accessible and relevant to all segments of the industry. We’re losing that common culture that knitting had, much like we’ve lost the common culture that television used to provide – we all saw the same things and talked about them and they became shared experiences. Now everyone is in their own bubble doing their own thing,” she says.
“You used to be able to read each issue and feel like you had a handle on the big things – trends, new products, business developments – that happened in the industry,” says Sulcoski. “I guess it now moves so fast that a print magazine is no longer able to keep up.