Better Homes and Sheeple

Better Homes and Sheeple
The past two months have been a real eye-opener, as far as the Australian craft industry is concerned. It all started when I got contacted by Better Homes and Gardens to help them out with a knitting pattern. Apparently there’s quite a lot of sharing that goes on between the international BHG’s, and the Australian branch had a French knitting pattern that they wanted to feature. The yarn was obscure though and they needed a local equivalent. They gave me the details and I worked that Superbaby was probably the best substitute. They thanked me and said that they’d list us as the stockist for the yarn. When the magazine came out, the level of interest caught us completely by surprise. I had no idea how many people would want to make something just because it was featured in a TV show’s magazine. I mean, it’s a nice pattern but it’s not the be-all and end-all of scarves in the world. Yet still, here they came streaming in the door, clutching their issues and asking for the Superbaby. I was astounded by how many of them didn’t even want to deviate from the colour used in the photograph (which was of the French scarf; it wasn’t even the same yarn!). We also had a number of people ring us up to ask about the pearl beads used to embellish the scarf; I told person after person that we didn’t supply the beads, that the stockist was clearly listed at the end of the article after our name. (It was an American company with no Australian presence. Go figure.) I was just left reeling by how much power this one publication has to generate sales. I mean, we never see this soft of wave for patterns from Creative Knitting or Yarn. I guess Australians just really, really love their lifestyle programs.

And the saga continues! BHG next wanted me to help them out with Australian equivalents for an elaborate crocheted blanket (done all in French yarns). I worked it all out for them, but warned that it was going to be a pretty expensive item to knit. (It used wool, cottons, metallics, and mohair.) That issue went on sale two days ago. I didn’t expect anywhere near the same response we’d had with the scarf; crochet isn’t as popular and just from looking at it, you can tell it’s going to be pricey. Yet we’ve had half a dozen calls about it already. Today I actually totalled up the price of all the yarns needed – $630. Isn’t that nuts? (Not to mention the fact that they neglected to print the quantities needed for each yarn, so everyone who’s even remotely curious about it has to ring us to get the bad news.)

I just kind of find the whole experience a little disappointing. Better Homes and Gardens clearly has a huge amount of influence and power over the weekend crafters of Australia. I want to help them to use this power for good, not evil; to feature knitting and crochet patterns that will teach people to be creative, not to slavishly copy something they saw on telly. I’m just disheartened to see so many people that clearly want to make something, to craft something with their own hands, yet who lack the creativity or confidence to do something other than what everybody else in the world is doing.

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  1. That is so sad. Makes my return to Oz feel like the end of craftiness for me, after 5 years in the UK, I’m back to the dreaded BHG!

  2. WHAT !!! Mess with the formula!!??!! BHG is popular because it keeps things really simple. It’s like a formula for the perfect life – follow the steps, and you too could have a home that looks like this.

    If BHG started to encourage peoples creatitivity, it wouldn’t appeal to the same mass market, and would be less popular. These are people who need hand holding every step of the way.

    We, the “new” knitters have already decided that the dominant paradigm needs to be subverted. But it still appeals to people who don’t want to think outside the box. But bless you for thinking that they could 🙂

  3. Hmm, guess I know where we should be advertising, then.

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