[Note to readers: this post should have been published in early September but apparently disappeared. I’m posting it now hoping it is still of interest.]

We finished up the West Coast Road Trip and headed days later to Grand Rapids to the AQS show, which is our favorite show to do. We took our capable and fun assistant Vanessa with us, which made everything easier given the crowds we had in the booth. We took bolts of both Victorian Modern and Passport and cut fabric in the booth. Bill taught 4 classes while Vanessa and I vended in the booth. Mostly I remember the food. We ate every night at Marie Catrib’s which is one of our favorite restaurants anywhere in the world. It’s especially glorious if you’re gluten-free and missing wonderful, flavorful, imaginative sandwiches and desserts. If you’re ever within 100 miles of Grand Rapids and you’re an adventurous eater, see if Marie’s is open.

Before we head to Madison WI next week for Quilt Expo Bill and I have been rethinking every aspect of Modern Quilts Illustrated before we finalize content for issue #7 and the new subscription cycle. We had planned to add 4 more pages to each issue but are now considering every feature in the magazine. When you have advertisers, you have to have a predictable format so they know what they’re buying. Our assumption (tell us if this isn’t the case) is that our readers want content. In fact they want as much content as we can possibly jam into each issue.

So we’re taking the approach that every single thing in the magazine needs to earn its right to be in there. The customary letter from the editor/publisher? Would you rather have a tutorial in that space? How about the back cover? If you sell ads, that’s valuable real estate. But we don’t so what’s the best feature for that location? Our policy has always been that nothing is allowed to be included in the issue if it doesn’t make you a better quilter. Interviews and behind the scenes features would help you understand design and materials so that’s in. Tutorials and patterns that teach you new techniques? Absolutely. Some $12.95 gizmo that you don’t really need? No, because that’s not going to help you be a better, smarter or more efficient quilter. So rather than create a bunch of features and then look for content to fill them, our approach will be to see what’s inspiring and interesting and tailor each issue to the content or ideas that we think will delight and inspire you. There will be patterns, of course, but the structure of the magazine may change from issue to issue if we find that a visit to a thread factory or something deserves more of a page.

Although it was anything but a relaxing summer for us, the best part of the summer for us was seeing other parts of the country and seeing how quilting differs in different communities. Quilters on the West Coast used different fabrics and had a different approach to quilting than we’ve seen in the Midwest or East Coast for example. Shaking up our routine encouraged us to question our assumptions about how we should structure our magazine and our patterns. In other ways, it affirmed some things we’re already doing. Truly, lessons learned are the best souvenirs from any trip.

9 thoughts on “Unpacking

  1. Always love your posts…even though this one arrived late. I would love to have you expound on how west coast quilters are different from those you are used to…is it just fabric choices, patterns?
    I saw your booth at the GR show and it’s always a breath of fresh air to see your original, thoughtful designs and colors among the sea of more predictable ones.
    Thanks for the comment on Marie Catrib’s restaurant in GR; next time I’m in town I will check it out.

    1. It’s hard to make generalizations about regions without people taking exception or offense at it but in VERY GENERAL terms the quilters that we have met in the Midwest, West and on the East Coast have generally been quilting for longer (usually 20+ yrs), have large stashes, have taken hundreds of classes over the years, bring to class a very wide variety of fabrics from Civil War to Kaffe Fassett and often are very active in quilt competitions and shows. Their skill level is often extremely high. The Bay Area also has a very large group of long-term quilters with similar skill sets and stashes to what we see in Midwest and East Coast quilters. However, many of the other quilters we met on the West Coast were relatively new quilters or had simply not made as many quilts (IN GENERAL)or had been quilting for less than 10 yrs. Very few have EVER done any handwork other than sewing on the binding. (IN GENERAL) They do very little applique and most have never hand quilted. Many were young or new quilters. Instead of having a large stash comprised of say 80% tone on tones that serve as the core of their stashes, many had smaller stashes with nothing but very bright multicolored fabrics and tons, and I mean tons, of conversation or novelty prints that we rarely see used in other parts of the country. It was hard, sometimes, to develop palettes among these prints because the only thing they had in common is that they are bright, multicolored and high contrast. There were more solids, lots more, than we typically see in the Midwest, West or East Coast as well.
      The best example of what I am talking about was our visit to Sew Modern in LA. Pretty much every print in the store is a high-contrast, multicolored print in bright colors. There were very few if any yarn-dyes for example. If there were plaids there I didn’t seem them. Lots of conversation and novelty prints with retro cameras and typewriters and such. Throughout the rest of the country a given shop might have 10 of those prints but that’s it. They have, I’m guessing, the entire Kona solids line in every color. Lots of retro prints. Almost every print seemed to have both white and/or black making it difficult to determine the fabric’s value or use a pattern calling for a light or dark fabric. Generally speaking the shops are smaller as well with fewer bolts. I’m sure if we had been to the Stitchin Post in OR we would have seen a large shop but we didn’t see any shops the size of Yoder’s Dept Store in Indiana (with 11,000 bolts), Big Horn Quilts in Wyoming or Pennington Quilt Works in NJ. Another shop in Ashland OR had almost entirely collections of very different types of prints but very few basics making it hard to use prints from different collections.
      Mostly what we learned is that we need to develop patterns for fabrics that we wouldn’t typically buy but that others love to use. The Retro quilt in Issue #7 embodies a lot of what we saw in terms of fabrics being used. Seeing this differences in our audiences will help us design patterns for a broader range of quilters.

  2. Late or not, I’m glad you’re posting these! I wondered how the rest of your trip went.

    I love issue #7. It has a great deal of very useful information. I’ve stopped subscribing to other quilting magazines. There’s so much repetition and overlap that I now prefer to purchase individual copies when I see something I like.

  3. Received issue #7 and I think it is the best issue you’ve produced. Love the fact that every page teaches you something. My favorite feature was the explanation about choosing the 15 fabrics for the triangle quilt. The quilts in the issue are amazing – love all of them. Just want you to know your thoughtful approach is appreciated. Can’t wait for the next issue.

  4. Design, design, design…that’s what I am interested in learning about and I would go back to college to study it if I could. I love your designs and you are excellent teachers. I can hardly get enough of your books! Thanks

      1. Yes, I have and I am going to go through it again! It is one of my favorite Craftsy classes I have done. Do you think you will do another with Craftsy or on another platform?

      2. Hi Patti,

        I would love to do another Craftsy class but don’t know if they’re interested. It’s a big investment on their end and I don’t know if I have the numbers to convince them that it would be sufficiently profitable for them. I don’t know how enrollment in my class compares to others. If they ask, I would but I don’t know if they will. Such is the life we lead.

        Weeks Ringle co-owner and designer

        Modern Quilt Studio 719 Iowa Street Oak Park IL 60302 (708) 445-1817 http://www.modernquiltstudio.com http://www.craftnectar.com

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