The DIY trend kick-started by a younger generation forming Stitch ’n Bitch knitting circles in the early 2000s hardly seems like a trend any longer. A decade and change on, it’s simply a part of the culture. As a result, publishers have seen the craft category—which encompasses titles about sewing, knitting, crochet, jewelry making, and just about any other handmade art you can think of—grow to a stable level of healthy demand.
The category is vibrant,” says Interweave editorial director Susanne Woods. “Sales projections are right on target. We have a passionate audience. These are the ways people define themselves—a knitter, a crafter, a quilter—and they are always going to need and want content to support that.”
This upcoming season Interweave’s list boasts titles across a number of craft types, including beadweaving, with Melinda Barta’s Mastering Peyote Stitch: 15 Inspiring Projects (Dec.); knitting, with Kristin TenDyke’s Finish-Free Knits: No-Sew Garments in Classic Styles (Dec.); and sewing and fabric arts, with Laurie Wisbrun’s Embellish Me: How to Print, Dye, and Decorate Your Fabric (Jan.).
Despite the increasing number of craft interests, most publishers agree that the segment of the audience that started it all—knitters—remains a big part of the category’s overall success and is still driving trends within it.
The continued importance of knitting can hardly be denied, with so many titles on the way and encompassing such a wide range of styles and approaches to the craft.
At Trafalgar Square, marketing director Kim Cook says, “Knitting continues to be our leading topic.” Cook points to one of the publisher’s breakout titles last year, 55 Christmas Balls to Knit by popular Norwegian designers Arne and Carlos, which to date has sold more than 100,000 copies worldwide. Trafalgar has high expectations for the pair’s follow-up, Knitted Dolls: Handmade Toys with a Designer Wardrobe, out last month. Meanwhile, Grete Letting’s Warm Little Knits (Sept.) and Anna-Karin Lundberg’s Medieval-Inspired Knits (Dec.) build on the interest in Scandinavian design patterns.
Andrews McMeel has two new titles on the way from its breakout author Fiona Goble, positioned to capitalize on her wildly popular Knit Your Own Royal Wedding. First up is Fairy Tale Knits: 20 Enchanting Characters to Make in September, with The Twelve Knits of Christmas arriving in October.
But beyond supplying more from audience favorites, publishers must also anticipate what knitters will want now—or next.
“Knitting continues strong, but knitters are looking for more than the basic project book,” says Laura Lee Mattingly, lifestyle editor at Chronicle. “Small projects are popular among knitters because they can be worked on the go.”
To meet that demand, Chronicle offers Step It Up Knits: Take Your Skills to the Next Level with 25 Quick and Stylish Projects (Sept.). Author Vickie Howell is a high-profile knitter, formerly the celebrity spokesperson for Caron yarns—where she had a signature yarn line—and the host of eight seasons of HGTV’s Knitty Gritty.
Publishing director at STC Craft Melanie Falick says, “The DIY movement is certainly in full swing, and it all seems to have begun with two sticks and a string—that is, knitting.” While she agrees that quick and portable projects still have a definite place, she also believes that “right now knitting-book buyers are excited about mastering advanced techniques.”
For those advanced knitters, STC has Knitting from the Center Out: An Introduction to Revolutionary Knitting with 28 Modern Projects by Daniel Yuhas (Nov.), which includes instruction on creating clothing, blankets, toys, and accessories using the center-out technique.
“Knitters love to be inspired to fully explore new techniques,” observes Betty Wong, senior editor at Potter Craft. The publisher hopes to meet this demand with its August title from superstar knitter Nicky Epstein, Knitting in Circles: 100 Circular Patterns for Sweaters, Bags, Hats, Afghans, and More, which tackles a shape and provides a range of techniques. Wong also says that titles featuring “cute and adorable knitting also remain strong sellers,” pointing as an example to September’s Super-Scary Mochimochi: 20+ Cute and Creepy Creatures to Knit by Anna Kathleen Hrachovec.
Susan Sullivan, Leisure Arts v-p of editorial, still sees space for the more traditional type of knitting project—creating handmade garments for baby. “I’ve been told by many first-time grandmothers that the impending birth of that first grandbaby is what brought them out of retirement. The consensus of knitters and crocheters alike is that there is nothing better than stitching for a baby.” The publisher handily covers the baby market this summer with Deborah Newton’s Heirloom Baby Knits (July), as well as Candi Jensen’s Knit in a Day for Baby and Crochet in a Day for Baby (Aug.).
Running Press also has a book of baby projects, this one aimed directly at moms-to-be. What to Knit When You’re Expecting by Nikki Van De Car (Oct.) is helpfully organized by trimester and progresses from the more complex to quick and easy as time becomes short at the end of the pregnancy.
Particularly in a category with such a diverse range of titles, key to publishers’ strategies is standing out in the crowded marketplace. For many, that means finding an author with an existing reputation and fan base.
STC’s Falick says that platform is more important than ever. “In fact, platform trumps content in some cases. Great books can be easily missed if the author can’t connect directly to his or her readers, either via online tools, such as blogs, Etsy, Facebook, and/or Twitter, or a full schedule of in-person workshops.”
STC’s fall list includes several category heavyweights. For instance, with more than a million knitting and quilting books sold, Kaffe Fassett now turns in an “elegant, intimate, richly illustrated” autobiography, Kaffe Fassett: Dreaming in Color (Sept.). The in-demand author travels worldwide teaching workshops and will tour this fall in support of his new book. STC presents two other books slated for September from similarly “big” personalities: Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing: A Modern Guide to Couture-Style Sewing Using Basic Vintage Techniques by Gretchen “Gertie” Hirsch, whose blog attracts 35,000 unique visitors monthly, and Heather Ross Prints: 50+ Designs and 20 Projects to Get You Started, which includes a DVD featuring the popular fabric designer, illustrator, author, and teacher Heather Ross, who also keeps a popular blog.
Other publishers have also boarded the platform bandwagon. From Ballantine comes New Dress a Day: The Ultimate DIY Guide to Creating Fashion Dos from Thrift-Store Don’ts by Marisa Lynch (Oct.), based on the author’s heavily trafficked blog of the same name, which has earned her Early Show appearances and feature coverage from the L.A. Times, Time, and Bust. At Simon & Schuster’s Gallery, meanwhile, noted TV personality Mark Montano, part of the design team for TLC’s While You Were Out and host of the network’s 10 Years Younger, has created a brand crafters connect to in The Big-Ass Book of Crafts and The Big-Ass Book of Crafts 2. And just in time for the holiday season, Gallery will present Montano’s The Big-Ass Book of Bling.
Another way publishers can set themselves apart is with packaging, something appreciated by the category’s design-conscious readers.
Interweave’s Woods notes that all publishers are “battling against the legion of free.” With Pinterest only the newest player on a very crowded cyberblock, Woods says crafters now expect free content online. “The way we try to address this is we go beyond the beginner level,” she says. “We offer a deeper level than a blog can get into.”
While Interweave has seen its significant direct-to-consumer business shift so that 40% is now digital, concentrating on beautiful packaging is also a focus. Woods cites Shades of Winter: Knitting with Natural Wool by Ingalill Johansson and Ewa K. Andinsson (Nov.) as an example, with the book’s 35 undyed wool projects showcased against Scandinavia’s winter snow in a number of photographs.
Running Press publisher Christopher Navratil also describes a deliberate shift on that publisher’s part to move away from more traditional craft series titles and to incorporate a trendier, design-heavy approach for the four to six books in the category it does per season.
“Based on what we’re acquiring and producing, we’re focused on drawing more attention to books as physical objects,” says Navratil. “The whole direction of both format and content is aiming at a hipper audience. These are craft books that are gift books.”
Coming up, Running Press has two fun and scary titles in Knitmare on Elm Street: 20 Projects That Go Bump in the Night by Hannah Simpson (Aug.), featuring knitted figurines and dolls based on familiar horror characters, and Horrorgami: Creepy Creatures, Ghastly Ghouls, and Other Fiendish Paper Projects by Chris Marks (July), with 25 origami creatures and some paper included to get crafters started. The publisher also holds high expectations for its latest title from media personality and green-living expert Danny Seo, Upcycling Celebrations: A Use-What-You-Have Guide to Decorating, Gift-Giving & Entertaining (Sept.).
Penguin’s Perigee is employing a similar approach to its offerings in the craft arena. Says publisher John Duff, “In this age of digital innovation, we’ve actually seen a return to books as physical object. Readers seem to be embracing titles with which they can directly interact, books that encourage them to participate in the process of creation.”
Keri Smith’s Wreck This Journal, a huge success on its 2007 publication, has been followed by other successes from Smith. In August, Perigee is publishing an expanded edition of Wreck, using its “classic” black cover, along with three special limited-edition packages. Coming in November is a new interactive craft title from Carla Sonheim, The Art of Silliness, which encourages readers to indulge in drawing and doodling fun for 10 minutes a day.
Quirk Books had one of the most unusual and buzzed-about craft titles last year in Crafting with Cat Hair, so it’s no surprise that editor Margaret McGuire agrees that “the creative conceptual spin and the visual components of craft and hobby books are so important.” In October, the publisher will release Sarah Goldschadt’s Craft-a-Day: 365 Simple Handmade Projects, which highlights fun, simple enterprises using basic materials such as card stock and felt.
If there’s a takeaway from all this, it’s that the crafts category is as competitive as it ever has been. McGuire says, “These days crafts isn’t a small, dusty little section of the bookstore. With the booming popularity of craft homewares, craft clothing, and craft food, modern craft is a part of nearly everybody’s daily life.”
The needle arts continue to dominate the craft category, but though knitting reigns supreme, sewing, crocheting, and quilting are gaining ground.
California-based C&T Publishing has been strong in these areas for some time, and publicity manager Megan Scott says what their consumer wants is evolving. “It’s an ‘on the go’ world we live in, and more and more, sewers, quilters, and embroiderers want to take their work on the go, rather than being stuck at home behind a machine.”
C&T’s upcoming list includes two titles aimed at satisfying the demand for portability. This month sees the release of Tacha Bruecher’s Hexa-Go-Go: English Paper Piecing: 16 Quilt Projects, which shows modern quilters how they can take English-paper-pieced hexagons with them anywhere to stitch up and then combine them later at home. And in September, Aneela Hoey’s Little Stitches: 100+ Sweet Embroidery Designs will provide original embroidery designs that can be easily transferred to jump-start a project.
At St. Martin’s, senior editor BJ Berti says the publisher has “had great success with knitting and crochet books of small projects.” Readers can choose whether to create a few or a plethora of items with this season’s 100 Snowflakes to Crochet: Make Your Own Snowdrift—to Give or to Keep by Caitlin Sainio (Sept.), Handmade Fabric Flowers: 32 Beautiful Blooms to Make by You-Zhen Lu (Aug.), or Bead Crochet Jewelry: An Inspired Journey Through 27 Designs by Bert Rachel Freed and Dana Elizabeth Freed (July).
On the more elaborate end of the spectrum, Taunton Press cites the influence of such shows as Project Runway as the reason behind more people tackling advanced and couture design, and has added to its list accordingly. The publisher has also aimed two new design titles at women of all shapes and sizes. The editors of Threads magazine have put together Taunton’s Threads Fitting for Every Figure (Oct.), a best-of informational guide with 200 full-color photographs and instruction for sewers at every level and of every body type. And there’s also September’s Curvy Girl Crochet: 25 Patterns That Fit and Flatter by Mary Beth Temple, which presents plus-size patterns for sweaters, wraps, and pullovers, among other wardrobe staples.
While advanced techniques may be the order of the day for some, DK Publishing has seen steady demand for its $40 technique bibles like The Sewing Book (2009) and The Knitting Book (2011), which are pitched to appeal to all. This fall, the publisher adds Dressmaking by Alison Smith (Sept.) and Craft (Oct.). Mary-Clare Jerram, publishing director at DK Life, calls the books “a dream resource for seasoned and novice crafters alike.”
Finally, for the budding designer, there’s Marjorie Galen’s The Fashion Designer’s Handbook and Fashion Kit (Workman, Sept.). This affordably priced book of designs for Barbie-size dolls comes complete with a kit that has a dressmaker’s dummy and fabric to help girls get started designing, and progress from easier projects to more complicated ones.
Craft and Hobby House
While the needlework side of the category is inarguably filled with diverse offerings, it can hardly compare to the craft and hobby side of the house, where you can find everything from sustainable living projects and home decorating to crafts for kids. This season, publishers are offering activity-focused titles to appeal to just about everyone.
The year’s hottest activity book for kids may well be Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen (Bloomsbury, Oct.). Gathering contributions from the likes of media theorist David Rushkoff and GetCrafty.com founder Jean Railla, among many others, the 350-page book highlights science experiments, crafts and upcycling, board game hacking, and geocaching, and is packed with q&as and trivia.
Workman has two other titles filled with creative projects for kids. Star Wars Origami: 36 Amazing Paper-Folding Projects from a Galaxy Far, Far Away… by Chris Alexander (Aug.) will have an estimated 160,000-copy first print run, and Recycled Robots: 10 Robot Projects by Robert Malone (Oct.) details how to use common household objects to create robotic pals. Workman editor-in-chief Susan Bolotin sums up the appeal of the books: “Basically, who wouldn’t want to make an origami Yoda or a moving robot out of tape dispensers and mint tins?”
Well-known for its bestselling origami books, kits, and paper packs, Tuttle adds to that roster this season. In October, the company presents Bible Origami Kit: Paper-Folding Fun for the Whole Family by Andrew Dewar, including a 64-page booklet with step-by-step instructions and papers provided for 72 models drawn from familiar biblical stories. Also out in October is Amazing Origami Kit: Traditional Japanese Folding Papers and Projects, which will include an instruction book and 144 origami paper sheets printed with Japanese-style designs and patterns. And the publisher plans to expand the scope of its paper craft products, with September’s The Beginner’s Guide to Chinese Paper Cutting by Zhao Ziping an early step toward that.
“We’re seeing paper as a favored material for crafters—easy to work with, easy to source, and loved for its tactile quality in the digital age,” says Chronicle’s lifestyle editor Laura Lee Mattingly. Playing to that audience is Vana Chupp’s Pretty Paper Parties: Customize Your Party with Papers, Templates, and Endless Inspiration, due in September.
Fox Chapel, too, is seeing interest in using paper in innovative ways, and hopes to capitalize on that with two October titles, Scrapbooking for Home Décor by Candice Windham and Simply Paper Cutting by Anna Bondoc. “Each book brings the art of working with paper out of the scrapbook and puts it right in the middle of the home,” says sales v-p Paul McGahren. “Each of the projects offers a functional benefit and screams of individuality.”
And if making unique projects out of paper can be a trend, why not duct tape? With five million “likes” on the ShurTech Duck Tape brand Facebook page and a host of craft-produced videos of duct tape projects on YouTube, maybe it’s not shocking at all.
Leisure Arts has partnered with ShurTech to “harness the worldwide duct tape mania that has grown into a phenomenon with the release of bright solids and numerous patterns,” says Susan Sullivan, v-p of editorial for Leisure Arts. She adds, “I firmly believe that duct tape has cemented itself in the craft world as an iconic craft material, not just a passing fad.”
Earlier this year, Leisure Arts launched Just Duct Tape It! and Go Crazy with Duct Tape by in-house craft designer Patti Wallenfang. Next month will see Wallenfang’s third title released with Stick or Treat: 25 Halloween Duct Tape Designs for Kids and Adults. The title is filled with Halloween-themed projects for “tapers.”
Fox Chapel has its own duct-tape book on the way in November, Crazy-Cool Duct Tape Projects by Marisa Pawelko. And Firefly Books has already found success with Ductigami: The Art of the Tape by Joe Wilson, and plans to build on that with September’s The Duct Tape Book: 25 Projects to Make with Duct Tape by Jolie Dobson.
Paper and duct tape bring everyday products into craft and hobby territory, and Julie Mazur, senior editor at Random House’s Amphoto Books, confirms that a very common activity is also doing well. “Photography is booming as a hobby,” she says.
On Amphoto’s upcoming slate are two new titles from bestselling photography guru Bryan Peterson. It will release its first original e-book with interactive features from the author in August, Bryan Peterson’s Exposure Solutions, followed by Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Composition Field Guide in November.
And the person who wants to do a little bit of everything may need to look no further than two fall books from Skyhorse, as part of a partnership with online how-to and DIY community Instructables.com. Extraordinary Projects for Ordinary People (Oct.) covers everything from making a butcher-block counter or building a solar panel to designing a werewolf costume, and How to Do Absolutely Everything (Nov.) brings together a special best-of volume of the Instructables series. Both volumes include introductions from Eric J. Wilhelm, founder of the Web site and cofounder of Squid Labs.
Skyhorse associate publisher Bill Wolfsthal describes the books as “exciting and strange and fun, and unlike anything else available.”