The digitization of the crafting industry

How are the makers and creators of the world adapting to the digital age?
22 June 2018

The US creativity market is a billion dollar industry. Source: Shutterstock

When you think of the crafting industry, technology and digitization is probably not the first thing that pops into your head.

The world of knitting, yarns, needles, and hooks has long been associated with the older generation. Perhaps visions of your grandma knitting you a colorful winter scarf fills your mind, along with the passing down of magazine clippings with “how-to” instructions on how to create a particular pattern.

However, this old-age industry is adapting to new generations around the world as the selling and distributing of craft products is reinvented in the digital economy.

According to 2017 research from the Association For Creative Industries, the total size of the US creative industry is now US$43.9 billion. This is an increase of whopping 45 percent from 2011.

Online platforms such as Etsy, Pinterest, Amazon, and Facebook have brought the old-age crafting industry into the e-commerce age, providing a platform for makers to sell their goods on the internet, while usually taking a percentage of the sale.

This internet presence makes it possible for crafters – from hobbyists to professional artists – to showcase their work to anywhere in the world. They no longer have to rely on retailers to carry their work anymore – or the local village fair.

Many platforms allow designers to showcase their work to an online community. Source: Shutterstock

One company that is making waves in the crafting industry is LoveCrafts, a UK startup aimed at knitters and other home-craft makers.

LoveCrafts has created a platform that is part social network and part e-commerce marketplace, truly bringing the crafting industry into the digital age.

After starting in 2012 as a small online shop selling a range of knitting supplies to customers all over the world, LoveCrafts co-founder Cherry Freeman, began to notice an opportunity in the market.

“After a few months we started to notice a pattern of comments on our Facebook page: every time one of the community posted a picture of something they’d made we would get 100s of people saying ‘where can I get the pattern?’.”

“We realized that independent designers were struggling to make their patterns visible to a wide audience and that the digitization of patterns could make them accessible to everyone,” explained Cherry.

From this, the company decided to build a tool that would allow designers to publish their patterns on the company’s LoveKnitting site. Here, designers could add all the information they wanted about their patterns and set the price.

LoveCrafts now has a thriving marketplace for knitting and crochet patterns, with millions of users visiting the site each month to browse for inspiration.

With thousands of international designers on the platform and over 100,000 digital patterns, the platform has created a true social network for the crafting community.

“It has changed the way we think about our business and we now put content at the centre of everything we do.  As a consequence we have invested in building tools for the community that allows them to share their projects, comment on other people’s projects, and to find and follow other makers,” Freeman explained to TechHQ.

“This has created a virtuous circle of content: one maker’s creation becomes the inspiration for the next maker’s project.”

According to Freeman, the designers earn almost all of the proceeds from the sale. LoveCrafts claim to monetize largely through the sale of the physical goods needed to make the designs that feature in the patterns.