Sunday, January 22, 2023

The Impact of COVID on Needlepoint

I've been thinking about the impact the COVID-19 virus had on the world of needlepoint.  It's actually rather wide-ranging, even if you ignore the stitching friends and family we have lost to the disease and the experimental vaccine, not to mention people who died because they didn't have routine screenings or health care because they were afraid to leave their home.  Some postponed operations when they shouldn't have.  It was a dark time.

In spring 2020, the shops were closed but people stuck at home wanted something to do to distract themselves.  So they turned to needlepoint, either learning it, doing more of it, or coming back to it after years coping with Life.  That lead to all sorts of things.

The finishers found themselves overwhelmed!  That's still ongoing.  May-June seems to be the deadline for finishing to be turned in to be available for the following Christmas these days.  There is a lot of variation, though, so check around if you can't make your favorite shop's deadline.  Rittenhouse started charging extra for guaranteed Christmas delivery last fall although I don't know if they are still doing that.

The designers created all sorts of small COVID-themed designs, many of them humorous, to help us mark these dark days.  You can find a long list here if you are interested.

The designers had great trouble getting painted canvases to the stores due to the great demand and the fact that many painted canvases are created overseas.  A lot of painting services were closed and for those that were open, shipping was a nightmare.  For a while it was taking six months to a year to get a design.  That seems to be better these days.  A typical wait time for a canvas not in stock is now 3-6 months from what I can tell.  I've noticed designers are starting to promote in-stock designs now.  For example, Melissa Shirley has a section on her website listing what's currently in-house, while Colors of Praise does periodic Instagram and Facebook videos showcasing what they have available to ship right now.  

Thread manufacturers had a lot of trouble getting the base threads they dye due to shipping problems.  Kreinik's manufacturing facility was shut down multiple times due to COVID infections plus they can no longer get the spools they use for their metallics.  For a while they shipped on white spools instead of their normal black, but now Kreinik has switched to one standard size spool to help with the problem getting spools.  Most shops had trouble keeping popular colors like black and white and certain reds and blues and golds and sometimes silver in stock.  The increased demand from stitchers meant that the thread manufacturers were under a lot of pressure.  Kreinik stopped making anything but their most popular threads to be able to at least get those to the shops and thus their customers.  I'm sure the other thread manufacturers had similar issues but Doug Kreinik was very up-front about the challenges his company was trying to meet so I know more about what Kreinik went through.  Things are gradually returning to normal but I suspect the change in spool size will be permanent.

The dynamic duo of Melissa and Megan (of The Wool and the Floss and the Needlepoint Clubhouse respectively) took to YouTube to do Pointing It Out videos about various topics of interest to needlepointers.   After a year or so of weekly Saturday evening postings, they transitioned to using Instagram to show off finishing, trunk shows, select canvases with pulled threads, tools, new books and stitch guides, upcoming classes, etc.  (They still do their YouTube videos, however, just bi-weekly now.). Their use of Instagram especially has spread among shop owners.  Now ten or so shops do Instagram videos to showcase their shop, educate viewers and tempt us to purchase that darling canvas with a matching needle minder that just arrived from the hottest new designer.

There has been an flowering of new shops and new designers.  If you keep an eye on various social media, you'll see notices of new shops popping up all over in 2021-22.  New designers are everywhere, using social media to promote themselves.  Many of them sell directly from their websites or Etsy, too, although as they grow, that seems to die away as they realize selling wholesale to the shops is easier for them and helps keeps the shops in business.  Designers find that shops are their best business partners.

Instagram has turned into the place to see needlepoint.  Shops post their new items, designers do the same, teachers post tips, etc.  If you don't have an Instagram account, you probably should consider getting one.  Facebook is still important but I think it's fading somewhat. Of course Instagram doens't allow the social back and forth that Facebook does, so I don't think groups like NP Nation will stop being of some importance.  You can't solicit help on Instagram the way you can on Facebook.

Not many shop owners use YouTube, which I find interesting, but Kelly Starke of Starke Art uses YouTube videos to teach finishing techniques.   She does private and cyber classes but often posts public videos to show how she finishes this or that.  Personally I find them fascinating.  Kelly also uses Facebook creatively.  Her Needlepoint Self-Finishers group is full of people trying their own finishing.  There are plenty of tips there, by the way, if you want to learn to finish items yourself.

Speaking of finishing, self-finishing items have exploded as so many stitchers were frustrated by waits of six-twelve months to get their finishing back.  Planet Earth expanded their product lines; Vallerie Needlepoint Gallery has some lovely boxes and coasters;  Pointe2Pointe has fun items like self-finishing bracelets, cuff links, bottle stoppers, etc.  Evergreen Needlepoint offers self-finishing can cozies in two sizes with a space for a small stitched canvas.  Turtle Bags have either one or two windows for showing off your larger designs.  Rachel Barri's passport covers, purses, boxes and laptop sleeve are new and fresh. Of course Lee's classic leather self-finishing items have been available for decades now.  Although not inexpensive, these self-finishing items are often cheaper than a finisher and you can have your finished piece ready for use right away.

COVID really has made a difference in the World of Needlepoint.  

Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow
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