Untapped Marketing – Crochet Ruminations

If you were to divide crocheters into experience classes, when you think about it, the beginner class is rather small and short-lived.  The girth of our community is somewhere in the middle to the advanced side.

So much of advanced crochet skill is not necessarily governed by stitches and patterns, but in learning consistency and control (which can’t be taught as much as practiced), refining our methods and then there are advanced concepts like shaping.

And yet the type of instruction generally offered to the crochet community remains below the skill levels of the majority.  Resulting in crocheters being ignored and even written off as cheap and unwilling to spend $$.

The way I see it, our market has so long been poorly understood.  And there exists a whole frontier of creative marketing that just hasn’t been adequately explored.

What about you?  Do you feel the level of training offered in crochet adequately responds to your expertise?  And how do you feel about the way our market is approached?  Let us know the area you’re from when responding. 🙂  Maybe we’ll hash out some good stuff!



Filed under Crochet Ruminations

14 responses to “Untapped Marketing – Crochet Ruminations

  1. (I reserve the right to post my comment as a blog post on my blog–your blog post hit a nerve!)

    Today I am coming up with my game plan for attending the New York Sheep and Wool Festival this weekend. I’m browsing through the vendors and classes available.

    Sadly, there are no vendors (other than a rogue vendor who does Croshirret, which I refuse to learn because I have enough fiber related obsessions at the moment), and there is only one crochet related class available. The class is for freeform crochet, a technique I adore, and know personally.

    Each year that goes by, there is less and less for me as a crocheter to appeal to me. Sure there’s yarn. And food. And of course, seeing my friends that come in from out of state for this annual event.

    What I see, as a crocheter, going on at NY Sheep and Wool is problematic, and I’m sure I’m not the only crocheter who is frustrated by this.

    In general at wool/sheep/fiber festivals as well as at our local yarn shops, I’d say outright there is an obvious paucity of training/classes available to intermediate-to-advanced crocheters. We are the overlooked majority. This is not to say I fit the stereotype that persists that crocheters are “cheap,” as I have paid people for their time and expertise to either show me how to do a technique or help with comprehending the text in patterns that woefully lack charts for us visual learners.

    Most of us are no longer learning these skills from our mothers and grandmothers and aunts. I dare say the majority of us who are learning these techniques are doing so out of a love and interest in the craft, more so than for economic gains/profit.

    It’s distressing for intermediates-to-advanced skill level folks to be pretty much left no recourse but to hunt down obscure classes, which seem to be more “niche” than norm (subtext: specialized vs broad appeal).

    For instance, I want to learn Bruges, Irish Lace, more specific Tunisian techniques, Hairpin, Broomstick, etc. I know of ONE class in NYC which happens usually on a week night, once a month (I believe at Cooper Union?) for either Tunisian or Broomstick.

    I’ve even looked into the (most local to me) chapters of the International Old Lacers, and even the classes or workshops they offer tend to be more bobbin lace and needle lace related with nothing that would appeal to me as a crocheter.

    There comes a point in time where the end user/consumer has to strike a balance: How far is too far to drive, or how much is too much to pay to learn the things we want to learn? For example, in order for me to learn Tunisian entrelac in the round, I had to drive from downstate NY to Manchester NH to attend a class held at CGOA’s Chain Link; I’ve driven over an hour to NJ and elsewhere to learn other techniques, too.

    With the current trend of brick-and-mortar yarn shops closing up due to the economy, it’s astounding that they are letting a silent majority, an as-yet-untapped REVENUE STREAM languish, all because of either outright ignorance or yarn store owners/managers willfully opting to perpetuate 19th century textile biases (for instance, knit lace was desirable and for the wealthy; whereas crochet lace was for the working class and poor) for what amounts to be no other reason than over-inflate the presumed superiority of knit vs crochet.

    Old habits die hard. Perhaps crocheters have mistakenly gotten the reputation for being “cheap” because crochet had almost always been associated with the poor/working class? It’s a theory. But like I said, that’s a 19th Century textile bias. Last time I looked, we are now into the 21st Century. Times people change. Circumstances change; however, the loops on the hook do not. They are timeless and beautiful.

    If the world could finally accept that Galileo was in fact correct, that the world was not flat; why is it crocheters just can’t get a fair shake in the fiber arts community?

    Historically, this type of thing has happened before, not necessarily with the “textile biases” (which is something more symptomatic of a larger issue: obsolescence, perhaps?). It happened to Esperanto. It happened to the Mayans (though one might argue they didn’t disappear into thin air, but assimilated), and it could very well happen to crochet.

    • Love, love love your eloquent response Maven! Do write a blog post – this issue needs more discussion and attention and it’s always better when we respond en mass. I read a post by a crochet instructor once that said crocheters weren’t doing enough to support crochet by signing up for classes. I about came unglued. That is completely upside-down marketing. And the crochet industry at large really needs to get with the times and understand good business.

      I’m curious, do you think the “hobbyist” mentality of some instructors and even yarn store owners plays a role?

  2. I don’t think the instructors make that distinction about hobbyist or non-hobbyist. With very few exceptions, I haven’t met many who self-sustains their lifestyle with their given textile art. From what I can see from the outside looking in, those who design, write books, and teach ALL without a doubt HUSTLE nearly every single day, countless hours a day, to promote crochet and their designs. And that’s not including countless thankless UNPAID hours fielding emails, texts, tweets, FB status updates with questions and problems regarding their patterns and designs. Couple ALL THAT up with the plagiarism and copyright infringement that is rampant, THAT is enough to keep me on the sidelines looking in. Ultimately I do and design what I do because it brings me joy. I know to attempt to make a living at it would cause me nothing but thankless heartache.

    Now I’ll counter your question with a question of my own: What distinctions, if any, do you think there is between a “hobbyist” and an “artist?”

    I only ask because I don’t do this as a pastime. I do it because I am compelled to create in the way/s I know how.

    • Actually, I meant hobbyist business, vs. serious business when it comes to instructors, not crochet consumers (students, etc.). The legal distinction the IRS imposes upon businesses, or the mental/emotional definition should that fit instead. The types of decisions made can be different depending on which category an instructor might fall.

      I’ll have to think on your question a bit. I know there’s a difference between someone who finds something mildly interesting and dabbles in it, vs. someone who loves an art and uses it as their expressive modality.

  3. Also worth mentioning herein, are the hobbyists who do what they do because they love it, then sell their stuff online for shamefully low prices. I suppose their rationale is that they’re not in it for profit; however, doesn’t that devalue the work that other folks are doing? Because you and I both know, the idea of “making it up in volume” doesn’t work out so well when you’re making things from scratch. The RSI (repetitive stress injuries) alone would prevent me from getting into “production work.”

    Perhaps that’s skewing a bit off topic, but IMHO, I think it’s worth mentioning as this scenario bridges the two worlds of hobbyist and business.

    For myself, I try very hard not to (fall in love with and buy) clothing that has crochet details on it, because I can tell by the cost of the items, that the person who crocheted either the trim or the garment itself, did not get a decent wage for their work. The only real circumstance I will buy something crocheted is when I am traveling the world, and the artist him/herself is selling the item.

    One day, perhaps I will blog post about a top (any top really) in a catalog that is made of crochet (ideally motifs). I’d break the garment apart visually, count the motifs, then work up one motif myself, and try to MATH IT, and come up with a price, and see if that price would compare to the catalog price.

    Perhaps it would be an interesting concept for a CAL.

  4. catzikay

    The crocheting community is definitely much smaller than the knitting community. A knitter I know thinks crochet is boring, because we’re only doing one stitch at a time verses her entire row (not really sure how knitting works).

    If we are accused of being cheap, it’s because there’s much less out there for crocheting. Most things are targeted toward knitters. Crocheting books that have relatively easy patterns shouldn’t mean that an advanced crocheter won’t buy it. Some patterns are incredibly easy, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t pretty. The problem is that most crochet patterns are terribly outdated looking. I am put off that I find designs for knitting patterns better and more modern.

    Also, personally, I’m completely self-taught, and I feel that once you get the basic stitches down, there is no need to attend classes. I haven’t come across a pattern that I couldn’t figure out on my own. I think the majority of people can pick up crocheting without a class, but if there were more classes, would the popularity of crocheting increase? Maybe.

    The crochet market isn’t as misunderstood as it is just outright ignored. Knitting definitely overshadows.

    • Amy

      The comment from your knitting friend about crochet being boring because it’s done one stitch at a time whereas knitting is done in rows boggles my mind. Um, those knitted rows are done…wait for it…one stitch at a time. And those “boring” crochet stitches become rows or rounds. I’ve heard a lot of comments on why people think knitting is better, but this is the first time I’ve heard that one.

  5. mysterioussmysteries

    Very interesting posting. I had never really given much if any thought to a subject like this. I’m not sure what my response to the question would be at this moment.

  6. Julia, for five years, I have droned on and on about the craft and yarn industry lack of creativity, vision and marketing acumen. Frankly, I think they are bound and determined to not make money.

  7. katieslullaby

    As a kid from the 50’s I grew up learning to crochet from my grandmother, great grandmother and great aunts. According to their conversations they crocheted as a means to adorn their houses with lacy touches that protected the furniture from dirty hands and hair grease (not dirty hair but the pomades used). Their ancestors crocheted to provide additional warmth with heavy, bulkier items. It was a necessity more than a hobby. One suggestion I have is to try craft groups at your church, nursing homes, senior centers. There are a lot of seniors who would be thrilled to teach what they know to others simply for the asking. I have learned a lot of things I didn’t learn as a child from some of the older seniors at my church. I have also learned that a lot of stitches are called different names than they are known by today so keep that in mind if you venture into this method of learning. While learning some of the newer, more modern techniques is desirable sometimes learning the old way can be beneficial as well. I have discovered that some of the “new” stitches I have seen introduced are actually old stitches re-emerging (sometimes with a slight variation).

  8. Hi Julia, I really enjoyed this post and the comments. I think about this ALL THE TIME. I feel like I’m constantly sleuthing, peeling back layers of a weird onion (the State of Crochet).

    I’m fascinated by what types of intermediate and advanced classes crocheters say they want, and which they sign up for. I strongly disagree with the idea that “crocheters need to put their money where their mouth is” — that crocheters should buy in to something just to show support. Instead, when crocheters CAN’T RESIST a class or product, THAT is success. THAT should be the goal of ANYONE offering a product or service to crocheters.

    We crocheters are outrageously passionate about crochet! If the way we collectively love crochet could be harnessed, we could replace nuclear power. If we’re not lit up like live wires about a crochet product or service, we’re the opposite of switched on. It’s simple. We don’t have to ACT like we’re switched on to be a good crochet community. It should and can be natural. We’re entitled to expect !awesome!

    When I offered a crochet class rated Advanced at a conference recently, I was relieved that it sold out because I had no idea what to expect. I worried that other advanced crochet classes have been offered and didn’t fly, and it’s not always clear why. But it’s important to figure out why, to go beyond writing off crocheters as cheap or whiney or obstinate or whatever.

    I’ve gotten this clear about myself as a longtime avid crocheter: For a long time I’ve wanted MORE, but have trouble being specific. Instead, I know the specifics when I see it. This is the main reason I committed to designing — to sleuth out what feed MY fire, then see if/when/how it feeds the hookin’ fire in others. I do know clearly what I DON’T want and I see that others do too.

    Could be that I’m part of a demographic, but how do I know until the experienced crocheters are asked more penetrating questions, and can articulate nuanced answers to them?

    Interestingly, 3 BEGINNERS signed up for my Advanced class. This points to a wrinkle in this issue: many crocheters I’ve met either 1) don’t accurately assess their skill level. I blame overly generalized/simplified skill level descriptions for this, plus lack of concrete feedback based on a developed theoretical vision. Or, 2) disregard skill levels altogether — “Eh, how hard can it be?” — perhaps not taking crochet seriously enough that an “Advanced” rating really could be radically beyond one’s ability!

    Decades of crochet being marketed to the public as quick and easy may have been great for the short term but now we’re dealing with the long term ramifications…

    • ladyeeyore7

      I agree with your comment especially regarding marketing of levels in patterns. With the people I have worked with so far they find the basics much more difficult to grasp than they were lead to believe. They had tried basic classes and were left feeling frustrated because the instructors were not specific enough about the details and they could not achieve the results as successfully on their own. I believe that its important to really focus on the basics because that is where the groundwork is laid for the quality of workmanship and understanding of how it all works together. Once the basics are mastered the more difficult stitches and patterns are easier to accomplish. There also seems to be a lack of patience in learning these days. It seems that the younger generations want things to occur more instantaneously as well. My 6 year old granddaughter expressed an interest in learning to crochet. I started her on making a starting knot for her chain, where to place the hook, the direction of the hook, the grasp of the yarn. Not only is she learning to crochet she is also learning patience and the value of quality craftsmanship. The next time we are together and she is able to demonstrate that she can easily do the knot then we will proceed with a chain. I know that some people argue that there is more than one way to achieve crochet stitches and I wholeheartedly agree with this. However to fully understand the structure of each stitch you need to understand how it is made and the end result appearance. The technique you use to accomplish this can always be changed or adjusted later on to the crocheters preferences.

    • “Instead, when crocheters CAN’T RESIST a class or product, THAT is success. THAT should be the goal of ANYONE offering a product or service to crocheters.”

      Yes, yes, yes! I couldn’t agree with you more Vashti! Thanks so much for adding to the depth of the discussion!

    • Amy

      Exactly. Why should we spend money just to “support the industry.” There’s a market here. The industry needs to figure out how to tap it. Your classes are doing that, Vashti.

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