If you looked at the industry’s sales chart for the last 40 years, you would see an increase, then a flattening, followed by another increase/flattening, then another, etc. Every increase was due to a hot trend. In this series I will examine each trend – how it started, how it spread, whether it was helped – or hurt by technology.
The first two trends were decoupage and macramé, and they were responsible for putting craft stores on the map. Until then, there were art supply and yarn/needlework shops, but crafts were delegated to what Boy and Girl Scouts did on a rainy day. And both of them benefited greatly by scientific advances.
Decoupage had been around for centuries. In 1771, Mary Delaney was honored by King George III and Queen Charlotte of England for her decoupage works, which is still on display in the Enlightenment Gallery at the British Museum.
For decades, decoupage was left to “artists,” because it was very time-consuming, requiring numerous steps and days to complete a project.
But then science created products that enabled decoupage projects to be much quicker and simpler, and didn’t require the talent of an “artist.”
By 1979 it was being supplanted as a “hot trend” by macramé which had also benefitted from scientific advancements. Macramé had also been around for decades, practiced by sailors who passed their free time on ships by playing with knots of rope.
Macramé attracted consumers in the 1960’s for making plant hangers, which were made with jute, a natural fiber. The problem with jute, however, was that it would eventually stretch, due to the weight of the plant. And if it was hanging in an enclosed porch, the occasional rain from a windy storm didn’t help it.
Then in 1954 polypropylene was invented in Germany. Now consumers would macramé plant hangers that wouldn’t stretch over time or be affected by water. Plus, it was offered in a wide variety of colors, so consumers could make a plant hanger that was color-coordinated with the drapes, or pillows on the couch, etc.
These two trends would never have taken off if not for how-to instruction books and consumer magazines. That would be true for every hot trend in the industry’s history.
Be sure to check back for Part Two: Counted Cross Stitch!
Mike Hartnett is a retired business journalist who covered the industry for 34 years. He was the editor of two trade magazines, Profitable Craft Merchandising and Craftrends, then editor/publisher of Creative Leisure News. He served on the board of directors of three predecessors of AFCI, and recently was inducted into AFCI’s Industry Hall of Fame.