Why the hell did I open a needlecraft store? (In which I accidentally write a manifesto)

I opened my store one and a half years ago. I remember reading a report on the cross-stitch industry. The statistics were that the average customer was 55 and aging. The consensus was easy: Anyone in their right mind and under the age of 50 should not open a needlecraft store. If someone dies and you inherit a store, good luck.

But WHY? There's so much potential in cross-stitch and embroidery. Sure, there are different aesthetics. Primatives and reproduction samplers will always be a mainstay in the tradition. But it's only 1/100th of the possibilities!

So here I am, claiming to be a "Modern" store for needlecraft and making it up as I go. I don't have a model to follow (that I am aware of, oh please if you have a store like this BE FRIENDS WITH ME!!!).

My main complaint with the industry is it's steadfast tradition and it's unwillingness to adapt. It's not just that the themes of the products often seem outdated. The projects are often daunting, composed of expensive specialty products and requiring specialty tools...yet there seems no easy way in. I may have cross-stitched since the age of 10, but I often feel like an outsider in this industry. Not only do I not know the lingo, the tools, the variety of fibers...but the information isn't being taught and openly shared. When the information isn't shared, the population ages. When skills are not passed down, a tradition dies. When new offerings are still completely stuck in the same old tradition with no room for error, nothing evolves. When no risks or mistakes are made, nothing innovative is produced.

You can't learn a new skill without easy to manage smaller projects. You can't love a new skill without finding projects that are a joy to complete and a joy to gift or display. You can't build confidence without a community of your peers to share ideas to build upon and to swap techniques.

So you've never stitched before? Let me tell you the industry's dirty little secret. It's NOT hard. Anyone can do it. You do not have to consider yourself a creative or crafty person. Mathematical and anal types will love the repetitive nature of cross-stitch. Indecisive? Scattered? Don't want to be tied down by what is "right" or "wrong"? Embroidery is where you will shine. Stick to the basics or learn literally hundreds of crazy specialty stitches. Either way, stitching is calming and relaxing.

Your first piece looks sloppy? Of course it does. But you made it. And it was your first piece and you just learned something totally freaking new. Practice makes perfect. Time makes perfect. Until then, you work with what you've got. Or as I usually advise "Just stick that shit in a frame, cover the back and impress everyone."

Hand stitching is not outdated. It never will be, because the basic skills are timeless. The enjoyment level is also timeless. It's stress relieving. It's meditative. It's just mindless enough (but not too much), that it can be enjoyed with Netflix binging and a beer. Many of the hardcore "rules" and the adherence to certain traditions are outdated. We are no longer upperclass women being assigned this craft as an appropriate medium to relieve boredom but not too overly stimulating to lead us down the path of whoredom. It's a craft for men and women. All ages. All ethnicities etc etc etc. You can create a piece for $3 or you can spend $1000 perfecting an heirloom to be passed down with only the finest threads. You can take yarn and graffiti public fences or you can professionally frame a piece to adorn your family room.

Basically, a lot of people come into my store. They may be beginners. They are often a bit nervous. But the way they try to break the ice is by asking for rules. Sometimes, I struggle with the definition of a "modern" needlecraft store. But maybe this is what will set me apart. I can't give you those rules. I don't have them. I can offer you tips and advice. I can give you generally accepted guidelines and a starting point. I can't give you rules. Rules are destroying the industry. Rules make everything less fun. If your hobby isn't fun or enjoyable or relaxing, it's not a hobby. Make your own rules and your own guidelines. I don't need to like your finished product. You do!

It's an art that's been around forever (in many different traditions spanning the globe). But we are finally reaching a point where it's not completely defined by class, family lineage, trade, gender, economic status, expectations of subject matter and appropriateness for the medium and on and on and on. You can set your own rules or do away with them completely. I'm not there to stop you. I'm there to encourage you. And to troubleshoot with you. And to create awesomeness!

This post was supposed to be about new fun things I discovered at the Nashville cross-stitch trade show. Clearly, IT'S NOT. So that post is forthcoming.