United We Stand

better world, design, quilting, sewing

The past few years have brought tremendous changes to the world of quilting. Shops have closed by scores. Magazines and book publishers have shuttered or merged with other publishers. American Quilter Society has ceased publishing books all together. City Quilter in New York is closing. Tension has arisen at times between genres of quilters who perceive one genre being intolerant to another.

We began teaching modern quilting in 2001. The ages of our students ranged from twenty-somethings to retirees. Even as early as 2001 we noticed that spending patterns were clearly divided by age. Retirees had large stashes and both the time and money to make lots of quilts. Younger quilters had student debt, insecure jobs and looming college and retirement costs that prevented them from spending as much time or money on quilting. If we had a studio sale with fabric deeply discounted, the 50+ crowd would spend hundreds of dollars and the 30-somethings would buy 4 fat quarters. It was a pattern we saw repeatedly. So we never drank the Kool-Aid about modern quilters or young quilters saving our shrinking industry. They can’t afford to.

Hiring designers based on the number of Instagram followers instead of talent will not save our industry. Deciding which books to publish based on the age of the author will not save our industry. Belittling other genres of quilting will definitely not save our industry. If you REALLY want to save our industry, here are a few things you can do:

  1. Buy fabric and supplies from an owner whose name you know. Buying quilting fabric from Massdrop or Fabric.com might not seem like a big deal but for a mom-and-pop retailer every dollar truly matters. If you buy from Massdrop, the designer makes 15-20 cents per yard at best. If you buy directly from the designer, they make $4-6 per yard.
  2. Buy books from authors directly or through local quilt shops. If you buy a book from Amazon to save $4, the author makes $1. If you buy it from the author, the author makes typically half of the cost of the book, usually $10-15. If you buy it from a local quilt shop, the shop owner makes the profit but at least it stays in the industry and they stay in business and buy more books. It’s an enormous difference.
  3. Support ALL types of quilting. If you’re a modern quilter, go to an exhibit of applique quilts at a local guild. Do a shop hop of shops you haven’t been to. Take classes that are outside of your comfort zone. All of this money filters down to support guilds, teachers, shops and designers.
  4. Teach someone to sew or quilt. Help a teenager make a quilt for college or for graduation. Show a boy how to make a messenger bag or a pillow for his room.
  5. Understand the laws of supply and demand. With fewer shops in business and fewer quilters, the cost of fabric has and will increase. No one is taking advantage of you or ripping you off. It’s just the economics of each yard costing more because fewer yards are being produced. Ditto for the cost of magazines, especially with magazines like ours that has no ads.
  6. Don’t expect everything for free. Unless you want quilting to go the way of tatting, with very few people able to make a living teaching or designing, don’t photocopy patterns for your friends and don’t limit what you can learn to YouTube. I understand that each of us only has so much money and it’s tempting to want to give away your favorite patterns with your guild friends, but if you don’t support shops, publishers, designers and the like, those people will have to find other ways to make a living. The closed shops, the shuttered publishers and those who have left the industry for greener pastures or as a result of closures are proof that it has become harder than it was 20 years ago to make a living in the quilting industry.

Most importantly, can we just band together to support all quilters? And when I say support, I mean financially as well as sharing with others the work you find inspiring be it at a guild meeting or through social media. Can we decide that each quilt is made by someone who loves quilting as much as you do? If you don’t like the way quilt competitions are structured, suggest a new category. If you want more books on a certain topic, email the publisher. If you want more magazine coverage of a certain trend, let the editors know. If you want a certain fabric your local shop doesn’t carry, ask if they would be willing to order it. We are fortunate right now to have more work than we can manage. However, watching businesses related to quilting close affects all of us. Please share in the comments section anything you can think of to support the quilting world.


231 thoughts on “United We Stand

  1. In addition to supporting the local shops, authors and designers, please support your local guild with your membership and participation. Guilds are a center for social, educational and charitable interaction with fellow quilters. They provide a venue for quilting professionals of all kinds to share their work and ideas with the quilting community.

    1. Except most of the guilds around me are age-preferential. They don’t want to show a newer quilter the ropes, and turn their nose up if the binding seam’s a little wonky, rather than show what worked for them. You have to show your work up front; no work to show means you’re not serious enough. And if you’re not an award winning or blue-ribbon ability quilter at the time you visit and show your work, in my area you’re turned away and not invited back.

      1. I agree! I saw this at the first guild I joined. There were two members who sat in the back giggling at people’s quilts and mistakes rather than helping them learn more skills and improve. Very ugly immature behavior.

      2. Same here! I’ve been told flat out that my local guild doesn’t “accept newbies” – yet they sure do like to take my money at show time! I’ve tried signing up for classes, both with the guild and my only local quilt shop (an hour away by transit), only to never hear from them again, the classes miraculously fill with the same people, time and time again. I can’t shop them most days as they close at 6, no way I can get there after work and still have time to browse. I don’t know how shops expect to stay open when they only cater to folks who are home all day. It’s disheartening, to say the least – I want to quilt more, I really do – the old guard just doesn’t seem to want to let us in.

      3. It appears from your login that you may be in VT. If so, please know that our Franklin County Quilter’s Guild near St. Albans is absolutely accepting and supportive of all quilters. It is an amazing group and welcomes all levels and all ages. We will support and applaud your progress as we have done to so many others. Come join us if you are nearby.

      4. That is so unfortunate hear. The only suggestion I have is to put out the word and start a guild of your own. Put it out there as their more than likely will be others that feel the way you do, To the seasoned wuilters out there, we have to share our knowledge, encourage others and build people up. By teaching others, you truly gain knowledge of not only the skills, but of yourself.

        Don’t give up…most quilters are great people and some of the most giving and supportive. I found an incredible guild that is outside of the city where I reside and I have grown with their support. There are great guilds out there.

      5. The guild I belong to is not this way. :-( I am sorry you’ve had such a bad experience! I feel lucky to be surrounded by others that love quilting and are willing to be patient and show a new person (we have men in our group too) the ropes!

      6. I am almost 60 and my local guild hasn’t even given me the courtesy of a sorry no thank you after 3 or 4 attempts to join, so it is not always a case of age discrimination….I wouldn’t exactly call myself a spring chicken….lol

    2. Some guilds are not very welcoming to new members. There are some who are snobby; not friendly at all to visitors. Some are just like high school cliques with those members who were former home ec teachers are county extension agents who believe they know everything. I had a very bad experience with the first guild I joined. So grateful to find a new guild that’s friendly and helpful as well as my church’s quilting ministry. I was so upset after an incident with the first guild, I didn’t sew again for 2 years.

      1. I don’t belong to a guild because my first guild experience was horrible — cliquish and mean-girl behavior. However, teaching I have seen lots of wonderful ones that I would join if I lived near them.

      2. I have seen our well established guild do the same thing. Younger women are not made to feel welcome, and certainly not modern quilting! I think these are the kinds of guilds that will certainly die off with the older members if they don’t become more welcoming and open to all styles of quilting.
        I have also seen new quilters give up because of a poorly written pattern or a badly instructed class. Just because you’ve made a quilt doesn’t mean you are qualified for anything. Please leave these things to the professionals so that novices can learn and be excited to try something new, rather than frustrated enough to quilt.

      3. Well these days anyone and everyone thinks they can be a pattern writer and designer……and in the end the poorly written instructions do deter many new quilters. Perhaps seasoned quilters can recommend patterns or maybe share blogs of good patten writers so that the newer quilters can get a taste of some of the better written ones.

  2. These are things that needed to be said years ago, and in some circles have been. Most women though are the ultimate shoppers, bargins & deals are in their blood. I know so many women that would rather them do without, so that their husbands could afford something for their hobby. Additionally, I have noticed a shift in quilting as a hobby and more as a way to try to make a living (very unlikely) or recognition which can lead to some sort of career. One of my guilds spends so much more effort on quilting related awards that the everyday run-of-the-mill quilter making bed quilts for her loved ones. Recognition and fame is being sought by more than just a small percentage. I do think that with the younger crowd, they are trying to eek out some sort of living at home to be there for their children. So that also means us supporting the cottage industries.

  3. As a mid 20’s quilter I think shops and designers, etc. need to get out of the mindset that quilting should be an expensive hobby supporting thousands of people. The value has to be commiserate with the cost. When it is not people won’t buy. For instance 20$ for a yard of fabric is outrageous, you aren’t seeing blog posts about cotton farmers wanting more money and they are making pennies comparatively. When retirees have more income (pension, ss) than people working the same job they worked 30 years ago have as a current paycheck you aren’t going to get people spending thousands of dollars a year on fabric and notions. I love supporting local guilds and shows but I feel ripped off when I go home and see the same pattern I just spent 13$ on for sale online with PDF download and a third size for 6$. Not everyone can be a LQS and fabric snob.

    1. It doesn’t need to be an expensive hobby but it’s important for you to understand that the industry will continue to erode when shoppers opt for spending their money with big corporations like Massdrop or Fabric.com instead of small businesses. And yes, my cousin is a cotton farmer and my sister-in-law is a linen farmer so I am well aware of the impact on them as well.

      1. I cannot afford to pay a local quilt shop several dollars more per yard, than I’d pay to buy through Craftsy, MSQC, and other online shops. Does that mean that I should stop quilting?

        I’ve seen comments in many a FB quilt group, that basically tell people, that their fabrics aren’t good enough, if they buy anywhere other than a LQS. I wish I could afford those prices, but I’m with Jean … $20+ a yard for cotton fabric is outrageously high. This is why I love designers such as Bonnie Hunter who encourage using what you have, or repurposing shirts, dresses, blouses, etc. to make quilts, as my grandmother did, an her mother and grandmother as well … It’s disheartening to see such snobbery in Quilting.

    2. The problem isn’t greed on the part of the small independent business owner. The problem is buying power.
      A shop owner does not have the same buying power of big box stores who can afford to play with their profit margin. And that’s not even considering the idea of how certain store I won’t name blatantly violate copyright by commissioning cheaply made copies of quality designs. Designers can’t afford to pursue all those copyright infringements.
      And yes, the cotton blight is still affecting our prices. Unfortunately, when prices bloat, they hardly ever come back down. Many people don’t realise what a small profit margin there is in fabric sales. The markup is not as big as people think.
      As far the difference in price with a printed pattern and a PDF.. Well, it’s obvious isn’t it? If a designer isn’t paying a printing fee, they can bring you the design at a much lower cost. You’re still paying the designer for the countless hours they spent writing and testing that pattern. (Which is harder than it looks)
      Trust me, designers don’t get rich selling patterns. I’ve spoken with several and it seems they get just a couple dollars (if that much) on even the most popular patterns.

      1. I am a quilt designer. I owned a LQS for 13 years and closed 3 years ago to pursue designing. I am not rich – I will never get rich peddling my patterns even though some do go ‘viral’. I do not and will not sell via pdf — only by paper – printed locally; stuffed into a plastic sleeve – by myself and my small team; packed and shipped by me, every single order! Yes, hours of labor goes into the production of one design. I am thankful for every order, I am saddened when my peers copy and share patterns – an ‘entitled-epidemic’ since I began quilting in the 80’s. Probably will continue, I just hope that those that copy and share realize that they are hurting the designers who create not only for the joy of this art, but for their own livelihood. Keeping this industry alive and healthy is our responsibility as quilters! Support your LQS with your dollars, words and integrity.

    3. Totally agree with Jean on this. As an example, the article states that the writer gets only $1 from a book sale through Amazon. But it directly from the writer and they’ll make … was it half the cost? Whatever, it was substantially more than they’d get from Amazon. SO, why are they selling those books just a few dollars less to encourage the public to buy directly from them or the publisher over Amazon?
      Then there’s fabric, yes $20 a yard is just plain crazy. I have a wholesale permit and know what it costs the shops. When did the unspoken rule of 100% markup change to 150%, 200% and in some cases upwards of 300%? Because the quilting industry has become such a phenomenon that everyone on the business side of it wants to jump on the bandwagon and make lots of money from it? I totally understood prices increasing several years back when the cotton crops were attacked by boll weevils or whatever it was, but hey, they rebounded yet the prices kept climbing up and up and up some more. It’s not the consumer shopping Amazon and fabric.com hurting the quilting industry, it’s the producers, distributors, and merchants that are hurting the industry.

      1. Authors are asked to sell books at the MSRP so as not to undercut brick and mortar retailers. Also we buy books, even ones we’ve written, at a higher price than Amazon. They have stronger buying power. It’s not a level playing field. I’ve never seen $20/yd fabric in the US. We sell fabric at our online shop for $11/yd for prints and $7.50/yd for solids. Sale fabric is $6/yd and we ship FREE to US addresses. I don’t know anyone marking up at the rates you quote. Certainly any retailer who does that should expect customers to go elsewhere. Cotton prices have remained high and shipping prices have increased. Manufacturers are offering smaller lines because shops can’t afford large lines for the most part. Smaller lines means that each yard is more expensive at the mills. The fact that so many producers, distributors and merchants have shuttered is proof that they weren’t making “lots of money.”

    4. I agree with Jean. Why would I spend $12 a yard on a yard of fabric when I can get it online for $7 a yard from an online quilt shop? I see no good reason not to support small online or Etsy shops. I have to make a living too just like a brick and mortar quilt shop. For example, Whittles quilt shop in KY is a mom and pop quilt shop with an amazing online shop too. Prairie Gatherings is $10yd everywhere else. Theirs is $5yd. Why would I buy from my local shop and spend twice the money when I can buy it online from a shop an hour away? I just cant do it. I spend about $5000 a year on fabric/notions. Im 45.

      1. I think you misunderstood the point of the post. No one is discouraging online businesses. I was trying to encourage supporting small businesses that invest in the quilting industry, online or brick and mortar. I was explaining how companies like Fabric.com and MassDrop don’t reinvest their dollars in the quilting industry while small businesses do. Ditto for etsy shops. It’s about supporting quilting instead of venture capitalists.

    5. I agree completely. I would love to do more quilting but can’t afford the cost of fabric. One gem of a quilt shop (Lyons Quilting in Lyons, CO) I use to live near sold what they called orphans fat quarters made from bolt ends they were no longer going to be carrying. These sold for 50% less than a regular fat quarter. There are deals to be found out there . It would be great if every store could do this.

  4. Thank you. I worked in a quilt shop and just hated it when people came in and said “I can get it cheaper on line.” My boss finally decided to close the doors. I just shared on Facebook so all my quilting friends can have a read.

    1. I’ve just gone through the exact same experience. It’s heartbreaking.

      As a quilt shop employee, I’m sure you’ll recognise this scenario.. we spend hours with someone, basically designing their quilt for them, pulling dozens of bolts, while the customer takes pictures of the colour palette, writes down measurements and yardage requirements, sometimes we even print it for them (ink isn’t cheap)
      only to have them say, “Hmm, let me go check Walmart and I might come back.”

      1. This is outrageous and makes my blood boil — that people are so rude and nasty to treat people who help them in this fashion.
        They should stay out of local small businesses and try to get some customer service in the “big box” stores — good luck to that. We recently lost our LQS after several years and it is sad to say goodbye to the talented women who ran it and became friends with all the customers.
        The same thing happens in yarn shops — people come for knitting circles (and help) and then sit and discuss the yarn that they buy at Walmart or Joann’s right in front of the store owner who is entertaining them. Unbelievable — and inexcusable.

  5. Good article, however, I have been to so many talk on what fabric designers earn, I felt compelled to add it here. I have heard ranges from $.05 to $.50, but never in the DOLLARS a yard.

    According to http://whileshenaps.com/2014/11/fabric-designers-earn.html, “Each fabric company has a slightly different royalty arrangement with its designers, but there does seem to be an industry average. Most designers earn about 5% of the wholesale price per yard of fabric sold. If the suggested retail price of a yard of fabric is $11.12 the wholesale price is $5.56 and the designer earns .28 per yard sold.”

    I would love to know which fabric company pays their designers $4-6 per yard as I would like to support their artistic effort and recognition they deserve.

    1. I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear. We have been designing and selling the fabric we design since 2003. No fabric company is paying designers that much. Abby’s article is accurate. The point I was trying to make is that if the designer sells his or her fabric directly to the consumer while teaching or vending at shows or on their website, they are able to make that per yard instead of the pennies per yard that fabric manufacturers pay. We make more money selling our fabric to consumers than we do in licensing from fabric companies. Fabric companies don’t pay enough for it to be a way to make a living so we rely on loyal customers who buy from us.

      1. What you are saying is that you are getting your fabrics at the wholesale cost and selling them for retail pricing at shows, events, etc. Therein lies the difference in the “profit.” As a designer, you get paid from the fabric manufacturer for your design. As a fabric retailer/reseller, you are getting the profit margin that a quilt shop would get from selling your designs or someone else’s. It’s really apples and oranges. The fabric manufacturers also incur a lot of risk and expense to manufacturer the fabric lines. They also try to keep costs down. There are a lot of “hands” involved in the process of creating/producing/shipping/marketing/selling the goods and everyone has to get paid. However, everyone is, indeed, in the boat together and designers that promote and market their fabrics/projects/classes will benefit from the demand for their designs and additional collections being printed.

      2. Actually we have 4 employees and run a busy online shop as well as selling at events. We have a different business model but the bottom line is that the dollars we earn are reinvested into the quilting industry. We have similar overhead as shops but we also have shipping and booth fee expenses.

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


  6. Thank you for this post! I’ll be sharing it in my newsletter next week. I also want to mention classes as an extension of what you’re already written. I am a quilting teacher and lecturer, and I’ve seen lots of classes with meager attendance, cancellations, etc. It’s unfortunate because it hurts both the shop/guild and myself. People always tell me they want to take my class or attend a lecture, and yet they do not go. If the day/time isn’t right, that may be the case. But it’s difficult to make a living when cancellations are abound. And no wonder I require a deposit (some guilds haven’t warmed up to that but I insist, for the sake of my time and sanity). The bottom line is: if there’s an event, and you are willing and able to go, don’t let it pass you by!

    1. Absolutely! Deposits are a must. I’ve seen this same trend.. Members asking for a certain type of class, then not following through when it’s offered.
      No other industry would ask guest speakers to go into debt for an engagement, or eat their cost when it falls through, quilting should be no different.

  7. I agree completely. Unfortunately, there are those of us who no longer have a local quilt shop to support, nor even one of those fabric/craft stores. Equilter.com and fabric.com are now the only choices. It has become a vicious circle.

    1. You can also support online quit shops, and many local quilt shops have Etsy shops or an online presence. Some I can think of off the top of my head include Intrepid Thread, Hawthorne Threads, Sew Me A Song, Gotham Quilts, Fat Quarter Shop, Rock Paper Scissors, Pennington Quilt Works (the last two are somewhat local that also have an online presence). I have bought from Fabric.com maybe 2x in the last 6 years, and that’s because I could not find what I needed anywhere else. There are always other options!

    2. I disagree. There are dozens of small online retailers like us and those mentioned in other comments. I didn’t say online shopping is bad. I said that buying from a retailer whose owners you can name is very different from buying from large corporations like Fabric.com.

    3. You do have lots of choices. Nearly all of the LQS around your country and mine have websites and e shops. And phone numbers. If you see something that you like in your browser search you have many ways of contacting that source to obtain what you want. Find somewhere close to you so it is easier to contact them and freight will be less. Your next town or next state is where I would go first. We get so many phone calls for products to be sent that sometimes the phones are ringing steadily all day. We love talking to our customers about their projects and how can help them.

  8. Shopping online does not give you the help picking out and matching your fabrics you sometimes need, the shop owner’s knowledge and offer of help when you hit a snag in following directions or conquering a new skill, or the sharing of ideas. I do order a few things online but only if I can’t find the item in my local shops but I don’t order fabric. I want to see the colors and feel the quality of the fabric I buy.

  9. There are many other aspects of quilting that need to be addressed. The fact is true regarding saving dollars buying on line, but look at all you miss. The life long friendships that develop over the years and the helpfulness of the many ready to teach and advise at shops and guilds. It is also very true that fabric can be very expensive, but when you figure in all that you get from buying from our quilting venues, I believe it is still the best deal. Maybe we should build up the fact that quilting is so much more then sewing fabrics together. Just my thoughts.

  10. I have been quilting for 6 yrs, but am involved with 2 traditional guilds and a Modern group. You are spot on!! Well said…I am sharing this with my fairly extensive quilting world!!

  11. Well said. I seldom, if ever, shop online. That said, I have often thought the industry grew too big, too fast. I’ve been quilting for almost 40 years and the days of spending up to a year to make one quilt seem to be waning. Not that I don’t like fast, easy, cute sometimes, too. I become overwhelmed with the quantity that one ‘quilter’ puts out in a day, a week, a month. Sometimes even the quick, simple, cute quilts take me a few months!

    1. Thanks Karen. I see so many quilters online who seem to take two days to make a quilt that takes me a month to finish. I had begun to think of myself as an underperformer. To come out with a finished product that makes me happy I have to take my time, if not my accuracy suffers. Thanks for affirming we cannot all be speed demons.

    2. Some quilters have ten hours a day to sew, some of us get that in a month if we’re lucky! We are all at different stages and should try to celebrate our fellow quilters but resist the urge to compete or compare our accomplishments to theirs.

  12. I am an owner of a LongArm rental studio with a small retail area. We are not a traditional quilt store. We carry wide backing to make it easier on the quilter to buy a single piece rather than seaming backs. So whenever new customers come in they are surprised by the lack of bulk fabric and realize they want ‘real quilt fabric’ I direct them to the shops in our area. The shops support each other. One of the shops won’t carry wide backing and she sends people to us, we in turn direct them to her. We became familiar with the styles that each of the shops carry and we let our customers know. Carrying fabric inventory is expensive so why have each shop carry the same? We have to be creative, the local shops need to communicate with each other so together we can maintain a presence and serve the community.

  13. I agree wholeheartedly with all of your points. However, I do think that the amount you’re saying the designer or author makes is inflated in all cases. You said that if a yard of fabric is bought at a quilt shop, the designer makes 4 to 6 dollars per yard. That isn’t quite true – The m fabric wholesales for about half of the retail cost. So a yard of fabric that cost $12 on the shelf cost the shop owner about six in most cases. Well that seems like a large mark up, the shop owner is also covering all of the overhead involved with having a shop. That means rent, electricity and other utilities, salaries for staff, running the risk of not selling something, the list goes on.

    That wholesale cost is what the distributor brings in, but they also have to buy from the fabric manufacturer, Who has to pay to have the fabric made and printed or dyed. The designer only gets a small portion of the wholesale price.

    Don’t give me wrong – I fully agree with all of your points ! I just don’t want people to think that half of what they are paying is directly lining the designers’ pockets. The designer makes much, much less if that fabric is bought from a large online retailer.

    1. I agree! Shop owners and designers are not getting nearly that much off a bolt. Fabric markup is not as much as people think, then figure in buying power of small businesses and it’s no wonder selections can be small.
      I always hear customers complaining that shops don’t carry what they want, but they often don’t get it.
      Give your LQS some friendly feedback so they can better serve you with their fabric choices, but realise they can’t buy and stock every line that debuts.

  14. I both agree and disagree with this post. I can’t speak for 20 years ago do my response is based on quilting over the last 10 years. I am 31 with no children, yet. I started quilting at 21 right after I bought my first house and didn’t have a husband.

    Yes supporting local is awesome, belonging to guilds is a must for many reasons, but I have found ways to support the industry that are not traditional.

    I belong to many blogs and read those daily. Many of these blogs are designers in the industry! They are fabric designers and pattern designers. I get so inspired seeing what they make and seeing their fabrics that I just have to have them! I then usually buy right through their links. This is not a brick and mortar shop and not locally to me, but it is supporting the designer.

    You mention fabric.com. They had to start somewhere. Are you sure they arent owned by a small family? No they aren’t just quilting, but how do they differ from everyone supporting Missouri Star? This is not sharing the wealth, but he has ana amazing business plan that works! That being said I have bought from both fabric.com once and MSQ 3 times.

    Now local shops. I just did the Row by Row Experience and have gone to some shops I haven’t been to in a while. Last time I went to these shops they didn’t carry anything I wanted. Many of the shops near me don’t carry items I want. Also, let’s talk hours. Many classes, shop hours, meeting times all occur during my work hours. This does not help. I will say there is one quilt shop I discovered that I will be back to. They carry many items I loved.

    When talking books and magazines, it isn’t just my generation that isn’t buying these. I have seen many blog posts from seasoned quilters admitting they stopping getting Quilters Newsletter many years ago and they stopped vuying books because they already have so many. This to me says the industry was inundated and there are more than cab support the industry. This does not mean we aren’t supporting the industry or that the industry is dying. There are more quilt shops and more quilters now than when I started.

    That being said, I do agree we must continue to support each other and our industry. It is sad when local businesses don’t make it, but that is also the risk of owning any local business. Let’s compare that to a local restaurant. We all have to eat, but not all restaurants that open make it. In fact very few do. There are many more factors involved with local businesses not making other than just blaming people for not supporting. I do hope our industry continues to grow. Quilting is everything to me outside from my family and work. I’m sorry if I’m a little passionate, but I get so annoyed with feeling like I’m being blamed for the changes in the industry. With the advent of the internet, the industry will and is changing. I’m sorry for those this is directly affecting, but nothing will change this back. Find a new way to compete!

    1. While I appreciate your point of view, I have a few thoughts…

      You say, “Find a way to compete.”

      Many try, and still fail. You’re absolutely right that there can be other contributing factors and a shop failing is not everyone else’s fault.

      Restaurants. That is an apt comparison, however, it doesn’t hold up to the scenarios where shops are closing even though they are the only one around for a hundred miles. If there’s one restaurant in a hundred miles, you can bet they don’t have to compete with hotdogs.com for business.

      Many shop owners realise the problem of class schedules competing with work schedules. As a teacher and planner of said classes, I’ve scheduled the same class on a weekday, a Saturday, AND offered a $10 an hour private lesson to anyone who wanted a private session at a time of their choosing, including evenings. If you do the math, you’ll see that this private lesson offer was actually the most affordable deal and the time constraint was completely removed. I still had very few take me up on it. This suggests to me that the excuse of time for not taking classes is an empty one, and there is some other reason that classes aren’t filling.
      Most shop owners are ready and willing to bend over backwards, but they’re often not being met halfway.

    2. Amazon purchased Fabric.com in 2008. I can definitively say from industry data that there are fewer quilt shops nationally. Even in my area, all 4 that were here when we began are gone. Two have opened but are much smaller. No one is blaming anyone but merely trying to explain the consequences of choices so people can understand what will happen long term to the industry. We are online retailers so I wasn’t bashing online shopping per se but rather explaining how money leaves the industry when purchases are made at Fabric.com and remain in the industry when you purchase online or in person from a small business in the quilting industry. In the same way that Amazon has decimated the book retail industry, Fabric.com and Massdrop have the potential to do the same for the quilting community. I jut want people to be informed so they can make their own decisions because many people tell me that they never understood the economics of the quilting world.

      1. I can appreciate that. I’m a little more passionate than I should be perhaps, but this is the 5th post I’ve seen in the last 2 weeks mentioning 20 something’s. I didn’t know fabric.com was owned by Amazon and that is great information to know. Thank you.

  15. I can’t stress enough how important it is to take classes both in your local shop, and through guilds.
    It’s becoming nearly impossible for shop owners and teachers to fill classes in smaller communities. Members ask for certain classes, but then don’t sign up when they’re offered.
    Online resources seem great, but buying fabric and classes online really have hurt local shops more than most quilters realise.

    The biggest way to ensure we will still have quilt shops is to do what shop onwers have been begging us to do for years. Support small businesses.

  16. Support your local quilt guild – LQG. Yes there is structure. What works for 6 friends in a living room does not scale up to 100s. Someone has to rent a site, arrange for program, do social media, organize a show, coordinate charity work. Leadership of LQG is by volunteers. If you want your Guild to continue or change then volunteer to do something. Guilds are places of connection.

  17. Your comments are spot on. I sew many different kinds of quilts and love the challenge of something new and different. I don’t think you have to put a label on it whether it is modern, traditional or otherwise. I just want to sew and have fun. I don’t care if others don’t like what I do as I am the one that has to like it. That is what makes us all individuals. As far as purchasing from your LQS, I am all for it. I buy from LQS when I can, but the only problem is when they are few and far between and they may not carry what you are looking for. I am all for Etsy or indie shops. There is a face behind each shop and they are just trying to support their families like all of us. Let’s support each other. I would hate to see quilting go to the wayside.

    1. In areas where shops are scarce, you can still access them online. Many shops are putting their inventory online in an effort to stay afloat.
      Even shopping online can suppor a small shop. And while you won’t get as much personal service, many shops are still ready and willing to answer questions and give advice over the phone to their online shoppers.

  18. I think there is a confluence of factors happening right now…a perfect storm, if you will. Some of my more avid sewing friends are swamped with finished quilts and projects that they don’t know what to do with….yes, they can be donated – but many are very beautiful and expensive in both time and money, and their frugal side says they just can’t give them all away. Some others (like myself) have been purchasing fabric for years and are horrified to actually sit down and calculate how much their copious stash represents. I have cut back SO much in my purchasing, simply because I have realized that I will probably never live long enough to actually make all the projects I have on hand. Once again, yes, I will be donating some of these – but I still have so many I really love and want to make myself – so no more (well, almost no more) fabric comes home with me. I try to sell as much as I can at craft shows and such, mainly to recoup the cost of materials, but as one of the previous commenters has said – I certainly could never make a living out of it! Money is tight these days for everyone, and I think it is true that the baby boomers spearheaded the quilting boom with their pension dollars and available time, but now there has to be a complete re-think of where the industry is going. If the new quilters want to make and sell their projects, they have to come up with patterns of their own (most patterns do not allow for commercial sales of finished projects) as well as make the item. This can be intimidating – unless of course they are making traditional patterns like Rail Fence or Log Cabin – but with so many fabulous patterns out there, this is a little disappointing.
    So as I see it ….maybe about 15 years ago a massive expansion of the craft produced a bubble of increased spending which led many publishers and manufacturers to take full advantage (much to our pleasure) and now the bubble has – if not burst – deflated. Everything is cyclical, and one day the industry will rebound with a new focus. In the meantime, there will be many casualties. It is unavoidable.

    1. Kristanne, so much of what you said is right on. I’ve been quilting for over 20 years and am 74 years old. If I live to be 150 I will not use all the fabric I have in my stash. When my guild has classes I often don’t take them because I have plenty of projects of my own. Sometimes I do take the class just to support my guild, then often end up with a UFO! So many of my friends are in the same boat and we just don’t buy fabrics at the rate we used to. I don’t know what the answer is. I will say I am very supportive of my local guild as a volunteer and happy participant.

    2. Up until 4 months ago when my husband was laid off due to the economy, it was nothing for me to drop $200 at my local quilt shop. I, like you, have more stash and books and notions than I can use in two lifetimes. I can’t just go dropping $$$ for fabric anymore as I’m the sole bread winner and don’t make a quarter of what my husband made. If I can find a jelly roll for $20 less online than in a brick and mortar, I’m going to purchase it online.
      I’ve seen the snobbery and backstabbing of the guilds. They use the local shops for their meetings, yet don’t spend a dime while they’re there AND raise cain if the shop asks for a $5 fee for use of the shop’s facilities! I would never join a guild for those reasons. I remember when I first started quilting and I went to the premier quilt shop in town (which closed suddenly and didn’t bother to inform the employees beforehand), only to be completely intimidated by the women working there. It was a horrible feeling!
      Many shops have closed over the years. And you can’t keep going to a shop that has the same old fabric they’ve had for 10 years. And you can’t keep going to a shop where the owner will complain about business and customers, or other shops and shop owners in front of their customers.
      Some shops will find that niche that makes them unique and draws people in and they’ll survive. Others will close. Survival of the fittest, I guess. Missouri Star began as a mom and pop and Jenny found her niche with tutorials and quaint personality.
      I don’t know what the answer is, but the economy is keeping a lot of people away from brick and mortar. That’s just my two cents.

  19. I agree with you. I would like to add that the older quilters need to help & share with the younger generations. My fabric stash is way too big. I love giving fabric to younger sewers and quilters. It helps both of us. I am glad to see the quilting world include modern quilting.

  20. Amanda makes an excellent point. LQS’s seem to cater to two groups: retirees and stay at home mom/dad’s. Typically, if I cannot shop on Saturday, then I cannot shop because they close at 5 or 6 p.m. Even if you close at 6, I can just barely make it after work (traffic!!) and certainly can’t leisurely browse. I can order from an Etsy seller and have my package 2 days later and almost always with EXCELLENT customer service. And that brings up another point – my experience in my LQS’s is not always so positive. I often wonder about that – do they look at me when I come in and judge how much I’m going to spend? I’m a serious hobbyist and it’s not unusual for me to spend $75-$100, particularly when the nearest shop is an hour and a half round trip. But I have walked out with nothing more than once when treated rudely. I’m not saying this is true of all shop owners, but it has happened to me often enough to be concerning. Sometimes I feel like there is a shop “club” and anyone who does not belong is excluded. And, finally, I think a retraction in this market was inevitable. I look at Instagram and I’m positively overwhelmed by the fabric lines/notions/patterns. It just does not seem sustainable. Nor does it seem original. I’m very much attracted to the Australian fabrics and designers as well as designers like Denyse Schmidt and Anna Marie Horner whose designs don’t seem like their last line in a slightly different palette. Thanks for writing about this, Weeks.

    1. You are right about the “shop club” Carol. I have put my name down for classes in one particular shop, and never heard from them again. When following up, I’ve been told that – despite being in the first 3 to put their name down – the class has been filled. I’ve since found out that unless you are on their ‘A’ List, you have no hope of getting into a class. When asking if they had any Kaffe Fassett fabric, I was told “I don’t stock that crap”, and got the same answer for something else I wanted. I now shop on line. I know not all quilt shops are the same, but in country Australia, quilt shops are few and far between, and lack of public transport doesn’t help.

    2. Carol you are not alone, there have been more times then I can count that I have gone into a quilt shop and not been greeted and the whole time I am looking around no one has said one word to me – not even a “hello” “can I help you” is it any wonder I turn around and say forget it I can get it at a lower price on line.

    3. Of all these things to shop at a LQS, customer service will keep you either going back or never returning. Last fall I went to one of my previously favorite shops. They had been almost two hours away and their recent move made it that much further. I found a book and a few patterns to purchase and waited patiently in line to check out. When my turn came, the clerk was summoned away to stock some empty shelves and I stood for about ten minutes waiting, but no one ever came. I will never go back to that shop, and I often wonder if it was because I was not a regular or I didn’t buy enough or had the wrong shoes on? Keeping the new shop stocked and pretty will not keep a customer unless they are only there to look, in which case they will fail. I know others who will sell a spool of thread with a smile, and their customers, near and far, always come back. It’s a two way street here, and if a shop expects customers to make a effort to support them, they need to meet them halfway.

  21. You have always been a generous and thoughtful leader in quilting industry and thank you for writing this! The battle between cheaper on-line and shopping local has been on going and tough one but what you said about hiring designers, tracers it book authors based on social
    Media following rather than talent struck me as very important. I have been noticing this for a while and mostly thought maybe I don’t understand fully how it all works… But talent is talent. One’s career may start based on popularity, but I substance didn’t follow, it’s not a good thing for this industry and art we all love.
    Well said and thank you!

  22. Weeks, beautifully said. I want to take this a step further, not only is the fabric and quilting industry being hurt with people not wanting to pay for services/patterns/goods. It’s across the board for small businesses. I have taken to heart what America is all about and how it was built and will buy from entrepreneurs and small businesses, ether on line or brick and mortar before I will go to the chains. I have made a conscious decision to purchase and support smaller businesses and choosing to pay a bit more because I understand that businesses are in business to make money, there are second and third order effects to the community and society when we choose to support local businesses. I am sharing your post on FB later today, it is well written and perhaps it will help others to rethink the impact of their shopping habits and leaving a legacy of the hand arts.

  23. It’s interesting that some segments of the industry are having to close while shows like Houston seem to be going great. I could be wrong there – don’t have any facts to support it. I’ll never stop wanting to “pet” fabric, so even though I dye fabric for my own work, I still go to quilt shops for gifts, notions and for fabrics I just can’t resist. The quality of the fabrics and service cannot be replaced on line.
    On a different note – is the quilt that is featured above available in a pattern?

  24. Go to local shows, Skip the RIP OFF Mancuso shows! I would rather drive 3 hours to support a guild show than put money in Mancuso’s pockets. I live in Va and routinely drive to NC, TN, W Va MD,PA to smaller shows. Ok, I love to drive. The shows and shops are a bonus.

  25. I have 2 thoughts …. the quilt market has way too many fabrics available. A glut of lines are out each hear and now they are on the clearance racks. There is not much we haven’t already seen in my lifetime of quilting. I will say thay technology makes it easier and cheaper to quilt than in the 80s….secondly young people in my corner of the world have no full time jobs. They are not in the market to spend money nor do they have time . Internet makes the lqs have to change marketing and many just can’t compete….

  26. Thanks so much for hosting such a vibrant conversation! All points good and valid, to be sure. (in the article and in the comments alike!) Thank you again!

  27. Well said Weeks. I am a baby boomer who has hundreds of yards if not thousands awaiting my attention so I have curbed my buying in the last year. I still buy when the fabric , pattern or book really grabs me. In my area it’s a matter of the ‘chicken or egg first’ when it comes to LQSs. My favorites closed years ago in part because they didn’t adapt quickly enough to a changing esthetic in their customer base. In a few cases the owners were stubborn about changing merchandise mix and spoke rather disrespectfully of new designers and products. The ones I really like are too far away for a quick trip so I only manage that every couple of months and even then I don’t spend what I used too because of the size of my stash. Those shops have done a great job of blending their mix and support all levels of quilter’s with varying tastes. I do try and buy online from the small family owned businesses. I stopped buying books from Amazon for the reasons you noted ( although my daughter works for them).

  28. I was a customer of my local quilt shop for many years. I am retired and able to sew on a daily basis. Being on a fixed retirement income, I try to get the best bang for my buck when spending on things that are not a necessity. I’m talking FABRIC here. Once a year, in January, our local shop always has a huge 50% off all fabric sale in order to reduce inventory for tax purposes. I had long been wanting some of the shop’s expensive batiks. On the day of the sale I went to the shop with plans of purchasing enough fabric for two queen sized quilts and one throw. The batiks were gone! The shop owner moved them out and took them off the market for the
    one day sale! I left empty handed. The next year she made the same move. Needless to say I am no longer a customer. I decided to use up my stash and made a vow to finish all unfinished projects, (done), and to see if I could go a year without purchasing FABRIC, (done). I am now half way through year two of sewing strictly from my stash. Another way I have saved is by purchasing certain tools and tool boxes from the sporting goods and household sections of stores. The same products, usually produced in pink or purple, are much more expensive when sold as quilting accessories. I will continue to sew and quilt, but do not feel any obligation to business owners who need my dollars. They needs customers, customers do not necessarily need them. I haven’t purchased any patterns or magazines for the last two years as I have more than enough, enough to last several lifetimes. I also have started to sew my own designs. Great fun! I am vetting ready to place an order for blenders and solids. I will probably buy them from Connecting Threads. I have been using their threads and they re great. Fabrics and threads are all made in the USA! I feel badly that I no longer shop at my local quilt store, but my money is important to me. Quilting will not disappear, it’s been around for centuries. You do not need expensive designer fabrics to create beautiful artistic quilts.

    1. Connecting Threads fabric is not made in the USA. For many reasons, there is no quilting cotton printed in the USA.. To my knowledge, just solids. Sad that it has all gone overseas.

    2. If you’ve never bought from Connecting Threads before, you might want to do a small order first as I have been told that their fabric is not of the same quality as that found in a quilt shop. One person even told me that their fabric was “nasty” and she wasn’t meaning that it was dirty and in need of being washed. As the old saying goes, “You get what you pay for.” If, on the other hand, the fabrics in your stash have come from discount chain stores then you may be alright including CT fabrics in the mix. While money is important to everyone and hard to come by, time is equally important and cannot be bought at any price. If you plan on spending a lot of time on your project(s) you need to consider spending more money on them as well so they will last past a couple of washings.

  29. This is a fascinating discussion. I enjoyed reading your post, as well as all of the responses in the Comments. So, here’s my experience, because I fall between the extremes of “old versus young” quilter and “traditional versus modern” quilter. I am 43 and I made my first quilt in 2002, so I’ve been quilting for 14 years. In that time I have completed exactly 13 quilts, less than one per year. Why so few? Because I have been raising children during that time, for one thing. My oldest was 2 years old and the first quilt I made was for him; he’ll be 16 this December. I have also been working during that time. So I might only have a few hours a week for quilting, or some weeks might go by with no free time at all. But my “low quilting productivity” is also reflective of the kind of quilting I prefer. I have zero interest in “quick and easy,” “quilt-in-a-day” type patterns. For me, each quilt is a challenge to learn something new. Right now I’m working on foundation paper piecing Farmer’s Wife 1930s blocks, and the last block I made was brutal with so many Y-seams that it took me two tries over the course of four days just to complete one 6″ block. And it felt AWESOME when I finished it and it had crisp, sharp corners, laid perfectly flat and measured exactly the size it was supposed to be. I’m also working on learning needleturned applique, which is also very slow stitching. It’s all about the process for me; I play with fabric to relax, not to meet arbitrarily-imposed goals. Personally, the majority of quilt patterns in books, magazines, and sold separately are pretty boring. Lots of giant squares, rectangles and triangles, or jelly roll strips. They look like quilts that I could buy from Bed Bath and Beyond or Pottery Barn for a lot less money than making them myself. Plus they are so easy that I don’t understand why anyone but a complete beginner would even need a pattern to figure out how to make them. I currently have 6 quilts in progress (I prefer WIP/WorksInProgress to UFO/UnFinishedObjects — I don’t need any more guilt!), and I have another 4 quilts in mind that I need/want to begin “soon.” When I buy fabric for a quilt, I always buy more than I need so I have extra for my stash, and I did spend some money building up that stash when I started quilting. At this point, I have a healthy supply of all of the prints I like to work with, and I just need to buy coordinating solids from time to time as I need them. But obviously, someone like me who takes a year or more to finish a single quilt is not going to spend thousands of dollars on more fabric no matter where I shop. The cost of quilting fabric doesn’t bother me one bit, because if I spend $200 on fabric to make a quilt and then I get a whole year of pleasure out of making that quilt, my hobby cost less than a dollar a day — and that’s a pretty good deal any way you slice it. You certainly can’t GOLF for a dollar a day, right?! So when I do shop for fabric, I’m looking for quality, convenience, selection, and service. But let me tell you about these LQS’s that I’m supposed to support. First of all, WHAT LQS?! There is a Bernina dealer 5 minutes from my house who has a very, VERY small collection of fabric for sale in the back of a tiny shop that is crowded with Bernina and Brother sewing machines and Miele vacuums and washers and dryers. They never have anything I want, and every time I go in there they try to sell me a new sewing machine for thousands of dollars. The next closest LQS is another Bernina dealer that is about 45 minutes away, unless I get stuck in rush hour traffic and then it’s more like an hour and a half. They have a large shop that is half Bernina machines and the other half has a healthy assortment of quilting fabric. Although, like the other store, they are a Bernina dealer first and the inventory of quilting fabric seems to support the sewing machine business by bringing customers back again and again, at least they are not pushy with the machine sales and they do have a lot of fabric of all different styles, well-organized and easy to shop. That is my favorite place to shop for fabric in person, but going there means my whole day is basically shot, and there’s no guarantee they will have what I want, anyway. I am not taking any classes there, either. Their class projects have zero appeal to me, as they are generally designed to promote Bernina machine accessories that I do not want or need, or those quick/easy projects that make me think “why bother” and “why would I need a class to make this?” As another quilter commented, my somewhat-local LQS hours and class schedules, and guild meeting and class schedules, are all tailored to a retiree’s schedule. If a quilter is juggling work and family, sometimes there ISN’T even a good time — if you’re working while the kids are in school, and when they get home from school you have homework to supervise, then driving them to lessons and practice and making dinner, packing lunches… I have the most time to shop for quilting fabric at TEN PM, after I’ve finished reading bedtime stories and the kids are in bed. So most of my fabric shopping is going to happen in my pajamas, online, where I can visit eQuilter.com, the Fat Quarter Shop, fabric.com, and my other faves and have the ULTIMATE selection and convenience. Each of these online retailers has excellent customer service, and although fabric.com is now an Amazon subsidiary, they started out as a mom and pop business out of Phoenix — visionary business owners who had the great idea to sell fabric by the yard online way before anyone else did, which is how they got that killer domain name. They came up with a great business model, were courageous enough to offer free shipping and even free RETURNS on cut yardage in order to overcome customers’ fears of buying fabric online without touching it, and their customer service is terrific.

    I think the saga of the closing LQS, magazine, or whatever is EXACTLY like the restaurant analogy someone else offered. Because it’s EXPENSIVE to eat out at a restaurant, and incidentally, a dinner at a restaurant with a family of four costs about the same as a fabric shopping trip at that quilt shop that’s an hour and a half round trip from me. Who in their right mind would keep going back to an expensive restaurant where the food is terrible, the service is awful, and they are only open for dinner between 2-4 PM for the “early birds?” Even if it’s the only restaurant around, I’m not going to keep giving my money to THAT restaurant just to “support local businesses.” One more point: In some respects, this “support your local businesses” thing is elitist, like buying only organic or all-natural or whatever. Not everyone can afford to buy all of their groceries at Whole Foods and spend 3x as much money as they would at the regular grocery store. It’s all well and good for people with $10,000 sewing machines, stock portfolios and vacation homes to talk about paying more for fabric out of principle, but that’s an unfair demand to make on quilters who are buying their kids’ clothing second-hand on eBay to save money and skipping their family vacation this year so they can afford violin lessons and braces. And really, let’s remember that quilting developed out of thrift and necessity, not as a get-rich-quick scheme for magazines and shop owners. Yes, I KNOW they are not getting rich at all — I’m just thinking about the rich history of quilters who cut up their old, worn out clothing and used feed sacks to make quilts, quilters who wouldn’t have dreamed of telling each other that they had a moral obligation to buy brand-new fabric at top-dollar prices for every quilt they made. Bottom line; no business is going to be successful if they have to guilt their customers into “supporting” them. In order to be successful, a business has to come up with a really great idea for giving customers what they want and need, even if they never knew they wanted or needed it. You have to structure your business in a way that it can be profitable, and many businesses that blame people’s Internet shopping on their failure really have only themselves to blame.

    1. This is a fabulous response. I too am a 40 something quilter and I do support local business but I do it by scouring my local thrift shops for quality used fabrics and only supplementing with new fabrics when I absolutely have to, most of the time purchased from Etsy. We have lessons/sports, doctor visits, and school events to pay for with only a tiny income. I shop from my stash and choose patterns I either design myself or I can get for free that use what I have. I understand my LQS needs my dollar but I don’t need their upitty attitude when I bring in my fabrics from 15 years ago and want to find something that will complete my project. I also don’t need to feel bad when I shop from their sale or clearance section because that is what I can afford. I dont need a new machine for thousands of dollars. My first Bernina I got used and is older than me. My second I also got used and is also still a workhorse. I don’t take classes because I have been sewing since I was 2 years old and most of the time I know more than the instructor (I actually applied to teach a few classes and the LQS I applied at stole my lesson plans that they required I submit for approval then taught the class themselves). My one exception would be if a quilter I really admire would host a class near me. I would figure out a way to afford to attend. I also am not interested in these bold big blocks that the only thing that makes them unique are the use of the designers prints. So many times I read a magazine and it has a catchy title “Dragonfly Dash” only to find out the block has 3 fabrics cut into huge pieces and the only thing dragonfly about it is the designers fabric. Boring! And why spend $10 on a magazine that is mostly filled with ads to buy stuff I either already have or have no income to purchase when I can get the same enjoyment from the twenty-five cent version I bought to support our local library? Sorry shop owners but if you want my business you are going to have to step up the qualify of your service so that it equals the value of my dollar I have to spend.

    2. VERY WELL SAID, Rebecca Grace! Originally quilting was about being frugal and using what was available. Now, it’s a status symbol – expensive machines, designer fabrics, and so on. I noticed a post a while back, singing the praises of a MALE quilter – a retired architect who had taken up the One Block Wonder ‘addiction’. His quilts sell in the range of $4,000 to $5,000!!!! WHY? Because he’s male? Or was a trained architect? Any of us who quilt are architects – same concept! We should all value our talents as he does, and not feel one bit guilty about it!

    3. What a thoughtful response! One other thing – when I shop at online shops, I feel I AM supporting small business. I see these people on IG and many of them are working parents with small children and their Etsy shop is their side business, helping them pay the daycare bills, lessons, orthodontia, etc. It feels so DIRECT to me. As well, I see ENORMOUSLY successful shops like Primitive Gatherings. This business of quilts is so fascinating because it IS a business, but it is so personal as well. I don’t think we take the cost of gas or milk as personally as we take the cost of fabric! It it because it is not a necessity? (Ha! I think it is!) I very well remember when you could get fabric at Joann’s for 99 cents a yard and I see people come in at Halloween looking for it! But I also remember when we pooled our money to put $1 gas in the car to have a night out! Gas is almost 10 times the cost it was when I started sewing – isn’t reasonable to expect fabric is significantly more costly as well?

    4. Rebecca Grace,

      All of what you said-YES!! I feel no obligation to spend money I don’t have to impress strangers with how I play at my hobby. I sew for the love it only, and buy fabric I can afford and where I can afford it, period. I have a local shop I love, but that’s a once a year splurge for me, usually supplemented by a gift card a Christmas. However, I feel I owe no one an explanation regarding my shopping of fabric or related notions, especially folks not writing me a check to support my lovely habit. If you can afford 12-22 a yard for fabric everytime you want some, good for you. I can’t, so I’m going to do the best I can online or at my local Hobby Lobby…at least I won’t have to endure all the turned up noses…..

  30. I have to chime in here for just a bit as a retired person who would love to take the classes offered at my LQS. But I live on Social Security, which is not a lot, and that has to pay for housing, food, utilities, gas in my car (I walk whenever I can) medical insurance so there are months that I don’t have an extra $65 or so for a class. Not all retirees have a pension fund or lots of money. Believe me I would love to have the money to be more of a support for my LQS. They are lovely people and I do what little bit I can to help them.
    I did learn a lot from this post though and am sharing it for all my quilty friends.

  31. All good points/opinions – it’s a hard place to be – a quilter! In order for LQS to stay open, they need to charge a certain amount/meter. In order for a median income earner to indulge the quilting passion, she needs to be frugal. It’s a rock and a hard place situation. Now lets look at another angle of the quilting ‘profession’ – I do manage to sell some of my quilts, and have one person who has ‘hired’ me to make her three quilts out of fabric she purchased online. She also has purchased three others from me, regardless of what I would have priced them at, because she loved them. Then I see people selling queen size quilts for $300 – $400, and get told by them “I can buy my fabric wholesale, and I have my own LAQ machine, so I can charge less”!!! That person just killed potential future sales for a lot of quilters, because Jane Public now thinks it costs next to nothing to make a quilt!! I love to sew, have been doing it for over 50 years. I PAY to have my quilt tops quilted, and that quilter also needs to make a living. If we are all going to support each other, there needs to be a common ground for all aspects of quilting, just my opinion

  32. I fall into the category of the “broke 20-something” mentioned in this article, as do my two quilting sisters. We are all bargain hunters by nature (thank you Grandma) and I know none of us could ever afford to purchase fabric for a whole project at our LQS. This article is dead-on: we will buy a couple fat quarters if they’re on sale (or clearance) but little else from our LQS because we can’t afford $20/m. The majority of our fabric/batting/notions are purchased at Fabricland (a Canadian chain) and only on sale. I do feel guilty going into my LQS knowing I can’t even buy a whole metre to support them especially since we love going to our LQS. Its like a special treat to see all the pretty fabrics. But if I want to keep quilting I need to go to the chain store. I can’t blame the LQS for pricing their products to make a profit, that’s what a business is. But I can’t quilt at those prices. Its either the chain or quit entirely.

    1. There are lots of de-stashing clubs online that might also be of interest to you. I know at times we’ve had fabric on sale on our site for $6/yd so even LQS have sales as well as indie online retailers.

  33. Thank you for your thoughtful perspective. Moving from urban life to owning a farm has taught me how to consolidate my shopping trips so fabric shopping was meshed in with everything else I had to do while I was off of the farm. Just one look at my stash and it’s obvious that I have supported LQS whenever possible but living in a rural area limits my accessibility to a LQS; making it very close to a half day or full day trip when the shops are over 70 miles away. I have shopped at many online stores. Two shops the closest to me have closed and the two remaining are limiting; one has low quality fabric at great prices and the other has quality fabric with low quality customer service and lack of working with other shops that were in the community. Basically, they do not make it enjoyable to shop in their store. I would rather drive the 140RT or 205RT miles to friendly LQS or shop online. I recently met the owner of a LQS that is a mere 73 miles away from me and she offers online shopping, which makes me very happy! I would rather support her than a big box corporation or a corporation disguised as something else. Within the last six months, small shops opened in very small rural communities that previously comprised of hand quilters who were happy shopping at any discount store for their supplies. I hope this means that new followers have embraced the craft of quilting. Although these shops are not close to me, they are in areas that I have frequented many years ago and it makes me feel good that there is finally something fabric/quilt/sewing related locally for these small communities.

    Regarding blogs; I follow many of blogs and buy the designers patterns to put in my file cabinet for that one day. The internet connects those of us who live in rural areas to other quilters/designers/sewists. However, I see the internet as a double edged sword for designers. While it gets their designs noticed, it also creates the opportunity for others to capitalize on some of their designs and rename them..or not. I found a video where a demonstrator was using a pattern and it’s name from a book authored by a friend of mine without giving her credit. I wrote to my friend and gave her the details, then wrote to the You Tube author of the situation. It would have been more appropriate, with permission, to showcase the technique and quilt, giving the book author credit then pushing her book along with the video. It is true that there is a plethora of quilt blocks already available from the ages which usually are no longer have active copyrights which allows us to recreate and change them without cost but when a designer creates a new quilt block or technique then writes a book on the process, including many samples of their works, it is not copyright free. The fact remains that this happens quite often and it is up to each of us to act as police for other designers as it will not end if we allow it to continue unnoticed.

  34. I liked what Rebecca Grace said. I’ll add the fact that my buying online is not taking money from local quilt shops, because if I couldn’t buy online, I wouldn’t buy at all. Due to time and money constraints, I’d find another hobby that fit my life better. I really don’t shop by foot if I can help it. I hate the traffic, the crowds, etc.

    And I think the manufacturers should carry some of the weight of guilt and blame for the shrinking industry, as the cost of fabric has well outpaced inflation. I have done business with some of the manufacturers. They are not exactly the keeper of ethics and fairness.

    I stopped quilting for about 10 years. When I came back to the hobby I was shocked about what it had become. The magazines were full of ads touting 5-figure priced quilting machines and other unaffordable items. They were a total turnoff, and I suspect those, along with the peppering of mediocre quilt patterns, may have had some impact on the loss of subscribers. And the advent of exclusive clubs like the “modern” genre, including a guild that I’ve heard deletes people from their site if they post quilts that fall outside of the “rules”. Wait, I thought the idea was that the “modern” genre had no rules. That exclusiveness was never what quilting was about.

    I started my career as a Word Processor. It never occurred to me to complain because the advent of technology destroyed the profession of word processing, since everyone has a computer now and most people can type. Instead, my goal was to find a way to fit in with the advancements. Thus, my knee jerk is to apply that same expectation of other professions. And yes, Rebecca Grace was right about Fabric.com. They developed a business that was good enough that Amazon wanted to buy it. I believe there’s still room to develop those kinds of quilting businesses.

    Those who lament the loss of mom and pop quilting businesses, how many shop at Costco? at Home Depot? at Amazon for merchandise outside of quilting? If we stop doing business with online stores, then doesn’t it make sense to stop getting the deals we can get at other big businesses? I think it does. However, again, I can’t afford it.

    1. This post is about supporting small businesses not online vs brick and mortar. Manufacturers are dealing with increased costs themselves and are struggling to stay in business as well. I don’t think anyone is gouging anyone else. It’s about purchasing power for large corporations vs supporting smaller online or brick and mortar businesses. The industry has changed in good ways and bad. I for one cannot imagine having the money to spend $10K on a sewing machine and I do this for a living. I have seen both great guilds and mean-girl guilds. The bottom line is that if we want quilting to survive and to have shops and magazines and designers, we need to be mindful of how we spend what money we have.

  35. I live in the UK where most quilters used to learn at Adult Education Classes run by their local government education departments. These, so-called, hobby classes are now very few and far between as government funding shrinks and the money is concentrated on skills to find work and improve work prospects. Few understand how important the social aspect of quilting is to improve self-esteem and general well being.

  36. This issue of consumers shopping online vs local is a global one. Quilting is not the only industry being affected. Personally I am a retired book seller, who had 3 successful shops running at the same time, in addition to 2 wholesale warehouses. The big box stores and ‘you know who’ became my competitors, John Q Public flocked to them to save time and money, and I had to shut down my operation. Bargain hunting and online shopping is here to stay. We as a society need to deal with it. My children are spread across the US, so I travel… a lot. When I do, I make sure I visit 2 places in each town… A book store and a quilt shop… and purchase something in each if possible. My income is limited, like most folks, and sadly taking quilting classes from talented designers is not an option for me… But buying a few yards of fabric or a book from local shops makes me feel as if I’m contributing to the ‘Shop Local’ movement. When I was closing down my shops and warehouses, a close friend reminded me that there are no longer any buggy whip shops either… As in ‘time marches on’. I find it sad that consumerism is heading in this direction.

    1. I have had many bad experiences in LQS. However, I truly think that in many cases it’s owners who are stressed out because the industry has changed too quickly and they are frustrated at having so much inventory that’s not moving or having people come in ask for their help and then order online. I’m not pointing fingers but saying that even if you don’t click with your LQS, you can find an indie online retailer (like us!) who will keep you dollars in the quilting industry as opposed to being given to venture capitalists or Amazon shareholders who couldn’t care less about keeping our industry alive.

  37. I applaud your thoughts about the quilting industry. Like you, I never bought into the concept that the younger generation of quilters would carry the torch forward. It is up to current quilters to support our local shops and all the designers and vendors out there or our wonderful passion may very well be gone before our eyes and all we will have left is our stashes of fabric and books/patterns (hopefully not photocopied) to console us. We recently lost a beloved shop in our area to the owner’s retirement. My friend and I went to the shop for their end-of-business sale and it was truly sad for both of us. While we got some beautiful fabric at a deep discount, it felt like picking the bone off an old friend. While the owner was excited about retirement as she should be, it is still sad to see the loss of a beautiful shop. The quilt guild I belong to, which is one of the largest in the U.S., recently raised its dues to almost double what they previously were. I seriously considered not renewing my long-time membership, but decided that our mission to the community, our wonderful annual quilt show, and the awesome programs sponsored by the guild deserve my continued support. I love to quilt and cannot imagine my life being as fulfilling without it!

    1. that is crazy that your fees have doubled, and i bet that put a damper on renewals! i wonder if your guild, like mine has a large bank acct that they just like to hoard and not spend?

      1. Susan, We must be in the same quilt guild or sister guild! Not spending plus expecting talented speakers and workshops for very little cost seems to be an unsettling trend.

      2. Susan, you expressed my initial thought about the guild dues doubling the same way I did. I thought NO WAY were people going to spend that. The guild sent out a detailed budget report to the membership and we are in debt (or close to it). The guild supports many service projects in the community, hosts the largest annual guild show in the country and rents one of the area convention centers for it, and brings in quality, nationally known speakers for workshops which I attend 1-2 per year. Our show attendance has been decreasing each year, and we are bringing in fewer speakers each year in an effort to cut costs. It will be interesting to see how many members choose to renew at the new rates. I believe the long-time guild members will, but those on the bubble will not. I live in a large metropolitan area with many shops to choose from, and believe the market might be saturated. The shops that are not competitive have been closing. We live in interesting quilting times!

  38. i wholeheartedly agree, as an employee of a local quilt shop. we barely pay the bills each month. this is NOT big business. the only thing i disagree on is young quilters. i dont think it is young 20 somethings that are part of the equation. its the late 20s- early 30s crowd with small kids. and they have money, and they spend it. ridiculously. as the groups that sprung up and all the craziness that went on over denyse schmidts fabric at joanns. the incredibly skyrocketed prices of wee chunks of heather ross fabrics. the craziness surrounding flea market fancy and the tula pink phenomenon. they are spending like crazy, but i think they are doing so online.

    1. We teach all over the country and all over the world. Most young quilters I know don’t maintain large stashes the way their older counterparts do. Often they end up destashing and reselling their Tula fabrics or whatever online at deep discounts. I see it regularly.

  39. As I haven’t read all of the comments, perhaps someone else has already addressed this, so apologies if they have.
    I think with any industry, but in particular, the industries involving crafts and hobbies, there is a cyclical element. Saying that, I’m NOT saying that is the reason for any individual LQS going out of business nor taking sides on supporting the LQS vs. any online venues.

    I began quilting less than 20 years ago. The quilting world was re-awakened and on the upswing with new tools that made quilting so much easier, faster and more accurate. Even now, new tools are brought out with the latest, dare I say fad, instructor’s name-brand. How many rulers, scissors, rotary cutters, and even sewing machines do we need? We rush to make as many quilts as possible, whether for family or charities – all good!

    The next point, is the blog-iverse. This wonderful element (I’m a hit-and-miss blogger myself) has additionally driven the quilting industry to new highs over the years. We see more projects than we can do yet want to do all of them, in six different color-ways. While many of us say we try to use up our stash, we continually add to it, and many have fabric stashes that rival an LQS’s fabric inventory! As consumers, we seem to be driven to constantly acquire the latest of everything and have become hoarders where we could never use the fabric we have in our lifetimes…nor could our children who it’ll be left to when we’re gone. I keep track of my fabric. I have the equivalent of around 3,000 yards of fabric…and my stash is small compared to some. I’m no longer interested in buying huge amounts of fabric whether $5/yard or $20/yard. I want to use what I have now in scrappy quilts. Our LQS closed after having been for sale for more than a year as the owners wished to retire. It was a great LQS and I shopped there now and then, but my greatest loyalty is being a wise steward of the resources ($$) that I have and my husband works hard for. About half my stash was given to me by friends and neighbors, or I picked up at yard sales. In the early ’80s, I was an Artcraft Concepts in-home demonstrator. Artcraft was HUGELY popular as everyone was into needlework: embroidery, long-stitch, plastic canvas, macrame, etc.. Artcraft has long been out of business after the popularity of those crafts became all but gone in the last couple decades, while quilting’s popularity rose. We may be entering a time where quilting’s popularity is beginning to wane; it’s a natural attrition as whatever the next popular craft or interest comes to light. Additionally, the last eight or so years has found the country/world in economic hardship making it all the more harder on any small business.

    This is just another view with no attempt to take sides on the LQS/Big Box/Online debate, nor belittle anyone for the stance they may take.

  40. I am 41 years old and have been making quilts since I was 17. I don’t know if it’s my age or where I live (Chicago suburbs) but I only know 1 other person my age who makes quilts. Hardly anyone I know sews anything at all, owns a sewing machine, or is aware that quilt making is an actual hobby people still do today. When I tell people I make quilts, more often then not they say something like: “with yarn and 2 needle sticks?” No, I answer, that’s knitting. Occasionally someone will seem interested and I tell them if they’d ever like to learn, I’d love to teach them how to quilt, no one has taken me up on my offer. Occasionally, someone will ask me to make them a quilt, but after I tell them the approximate cost of just the materials they quickly say: no thanks! My LQS sells Baby lock machines and high priced fabric. The majority of their classes are either geared to beginners or Baby lock specific projects. I am a hand quilter (piece by machine) when I asked one day why they don’t carry any items for hand quilters I was told no one hand quilts anymore and would I like to hear all about their very expensive Baby lock sewing machines? (I’d love to have a Baby lock but no way could I afford one.) Perhaps it’s where I live or who I associate with, but I’m surprised there are enough quilters in my area to support a LQS.

    1. There are independent online retailers who could use your dollars and supply you with all you need for hand-quilting. We’re in a similar boat. There are no LQS near us but I do buy at Rosemont, Grand Rapids, and Madison shows when we vend there.

  41. I have to say that I think things are quite different here in Australia. We didn’t grow up with quilting. I really think that no matter how much money you have to spend you shop around to find what you want. Albeit the colour or pattern. I have bought online from the US and from the UK simply because it was what I needed at the time. I don’t believe for a second you can make a living making and selling quilts. These days people just buy what they need when they need it and it will get harder. Times are tough for everyone and at times I feel quite spoilt and self indulgent having the time and money to quilt. I am 60’s and make quilts for all my family, most for milestone birthdays. I am very fortunate.

  42. The advantage LQS will always have over online companies is their customer service. However, some of the ones I’ve been in fail miserably in that area. I’m fortunate to have several LQS near me, but there are some I will never step foot in again due to how I & other customers have been treated. News travels fast. Let’s keep it real, money for fabric is mostly expendable income. It’s great to support our local LQS, but if I’m not treated well, that money is going somewhere I’ll get the most bang for my buck or not spend it at all.

    1. I agree , Lana. I’ve been quilting for over 35 years. I bought thousands of dollars from a LQS over the years, because it was the only one in the area, but that store owner was a royal grump! Then another one opened in the area and one of the co-owners there was less than friendly. Whenever I traveled (which was rare), I aways looked for LQS along the way. I noticed many of the store owners not being friendly. I began to think that being unfriendly and rude were qualifications to own a quilt shop! When you don’t get good customer service, and the fabric is a premium price, you turn to online buying, especially after you retire and have to begin to watch your spending. . After spending many years building my stash, I’ve recently had to greatly downsize due to my husband’s retirement and moving to a much smaller home. I had a huge sale – fabrics, quilt tops, tons of books and patterns, and magazines. What I found was that most people wanted the fabric and quilt tops (to practice their long-arm quilting). I sold the fabric for pennies on the dollar. No one wanted books – even at a dollar a book. I donated a third of the books to the local library, a third to one of the quilt guilds and the other third to the other quilt guild. I say all that to say this – people just are not buying quilt supplies like they did in the past. In our area we have had 3 LQS close – one several years ago, one about 4 years ago, and one just recently. I know at least two of my friends who sell from their homes online.

      I found the article and all these comments really interesting.

  43. I agree with most of what you said. BUT some of us live where are NO quilt shops. We have Joann’s and Walmart. We have no choices but to order online and use you tube. It would be wonderful to have a local shop to buy Aurafil or new lines of fabric- but we don’t!

    1. I didn’t say not to buy online. I differentiated between small retailers (online as well as brick and mortar) and large retailers with no investments in the quilting world. If you can name the owner, it’s a small business. We are an online retailer and we have no LQS near us either as Chicago real estate it too expensive. But I buy from small family-owned businesses at shows and when I travel. There are so many great online shops that you might find that their selection is better than that at Walmart or Joann’s.

  44. Whatever you do folks, just don’t go into your LQS so you can see the fabric before you buy it online! And if you do still decide to do this, PLEASE don’t tell them that you’re doing it!

    Thanks for a great read Weeks!

  45. I’m a knitter as well as a quilter and the same thing has happened to the yarn shops, books and magazines. For awhile, back in the mid nineties to the first five years or so in the 2000’s yarn shops were springing up everywhere and people were learning to knit. Then there were free patterns galore on the internet and cheaper yarn available on line. It sort of ran its course and most of the newer shops have closed, but my favorite shop, because of the customer service involved, is still in business. I do believe things like this run in cycles. Since I started knitting in the 50’s I have seen this happen several times. Home sewing was a big thing in the 50’s and 60’s and then the women’s movement hit and women were no longer stay at home moms with time to sew. (I was one of them). After getting an education and going to work I had more money to spend on yarn and conferences and went and those advanced classes and books were once again plentiful, because working women wanted to get away and had some experience under their belts. Now in my seventies, I have enough yarn and quilting fabric to outlast me. Also, even though my children and grandchildren love my quilts they only need so many. I’ve donated many to charity. I don’t know what the answer is to this dilemma.

    I support my favorite quilt shop, but I don’t buy as much fabric as I used to because I have so much. I took a lot of classes at first because there was so much to learn, but now I’m confident enough to figure out my own designs. I do think those of us who are older can take a younger quilter under a wing and encourage them. I see a lot of pictures in the online groups of grandchildren learning to sew and quilting is a natural because you can make pillowcases and small quilts to snuggle under to watch TV.

    What I do need and enjoy are retreats. And my experience has been that when shops offer these most folks are spending extra money at those times. Perhaps this is the time to bring a new quilter into the fold, maybe even paying their way as a gift.

  46. As a relatively new shop owner (3 years) it has been a struggle. Health issues and gossip have taken its toll. On the flip side I have experienced the joy of being published nationally and I have mad some new friends. Keep on stitchin’!

  47. Very well spoken. It is also up to the local independent shops to be reasonable in their mark ups and to provide good customer service and help (“the added no cost value”) to encourage quilters to shop local.

    People also need to understand that not everything on the internet or You Tube is correct. Even Craftsy is so mass-market that they are affecting local in-person teachers and books….why buy a book if it is all on Craftsy ? :)

  48. I’ve quilted for many years. I started when I was in college. I had sewn my clothes since I was 14 and started seeing quilts in magazines as the USA started to celebrate the bicentennial. I’ve built my stash and library bit by bit over the years. I made many wallhangings (now called mini quilts) because financially I could make them and still play with design and fabric. The local quilt show (Dallas) was an event highly anticipated and I was able to attend the Houston show twice. I’ve seen the industry grow tremendously since I started. There are more and more fabrics and books available. There are lots of different magazines. There are many styles but they’re all quilting and I’ve tried almost all of them. I’ve seen the industry go from a few choices to so many it’s overwhelming at times. It is sad to see beloved magazines and local quilt shops go by the wayside. The online ability to purchase fabrics and books (sometimes at great discounts) kills our local businesses while at the same time allowing access to those who are unable to get to those shops. At some point, the number of choices will dwindle to just those fabrics and books that sell in great volumes.

    We need to be aware that our purchases will decide our futures. If we’re always looking to buy the for the cheapest prices, we’ve got to accept that small businesses will suffer and the number of choices we have will dwindle. Just look at towns that only have a big box store as their main place to buy groceries and other supplies. Local businesses are long gone and to have more variety, shoppers must go to the nearest larger city.

  49. In reading through the comments, I wanted to point out how nice it is that this is a civil conversation – no yelling or personal attacks. Just goes to show quilters are good, polite folks for the most part, even when there is disagreement and/or discussion. Yay quilters!

  50. I am in Australia. I do from time to time purchase online from reputable overseas stores. I also maintain strong ties with my two reasonably local quilt shops. We do have a big box store which I must use to buy smaller everyday notions, dressmaking fabric, sewing patterns etc. I dislike it immensely. I essentially need to serve myself as you can’t purchase any expertise. It has swallowed up all of our other local haberdashery stores and leaves the buyer no other options. I have a strong relationship with my favourite LQS who goes above and beyond the call of duty to assist and foster my requirements. She also offers longarm quilting services and some classes while maintaining quite a savvy business principle of not over extending herself to be part of every passing fad. I consider it a privilege to be able to stitch as a disability pensioner but have a very fixed income. I must be prudent with what I buy. I also have no desire to compete with anyone. We are inundated with IG streams of well meaning people putting out work like an assembly line. That is not why I sew, I do it for sanity, relaxation, something worthwhile to fill my days, a heritage for my grandchildren and friends as a story telling platform of who I am (or was!) and if the era I lived. It I such a competitive world where we are flooded with new products hourly via social media that some days it exhausts me. I have no time for something that doesn’t challenge me and do not see repetition. Maybe it’s me that’s the odd one out.

  51. I buy most of my fabric at the shows and I get a lot from the senior members who are downsizing.
    Just returned from a month in Anchorage. Four quilt shops in town and four others in the general area. Fabulous shops and crowded with enthusiastic quilters! Very surprising!
    Like everything else in the retail world, the Internet has been a big game changer.

  52. With people buying quilting supplies online and forcing local quilt shops out of business, they have in turn hurt themselves. Where do they go when it really matters if a fabric matches or coordinates with a given fabric. Or do people just not care any more? I do. I’m particular and I just do not like some fabrics next to each other and want to even take the fabric to natural light to look at them. I can’t do that on a computer monitor. I don’t have the experience of another quilter when I’m making a decision, either when I’m buying online. I often ask the clerks in the quilt shop for input when I’m making fabric selections. That does not mean that I have not bought fabric from a collection online. I’m very, very picky about the fabric I buy online. I am librarian for my local quilt guild and I buy 99% of the books for the library from a local quilt shop to help support them. In return, the shop helps support the guild with a discount, too. Thanks for bringing this issue to the attention of quilters.

  53. I have to chuckle then almost cry. Where did some of you get the idea older people have more money? I don’t know the statistics but a HUGE amount of pensioner live hand to mouth, barely affording basic living expenses and health expenses. To say older quilters have far more to spend is very inaccurate. Most have to live much more frugally than in years gone by.

    1. I am stating that based on observing spending patterns at shows and at our lectures over the past 17 years. Shop owners I know have also seen this trend. No one is saying that all retirees can spend freely, but for example, one retiree spent over $600 on our merchandise last week. At shows, many retirees with pensions, houses that are paid for and low expenses are the big spenders when compared with younger quilters. Certainly not all are but it’s rare for us for the big sales to come from quilters under 40. That’s just our experience and the experience of several shop owners I know.

  54. If New York City with most likely thousands of quilters in the area can not keep the City Quilter in business is that not telling you something – quilters will buy what they can afford and most of us do not like someone telling us we need to support shops that we can not afford. Quilting should not have to be an expensive hobby and few people really can support themselves in this craft/art. AQS can not stay in the publishing business because they have not been picky enough about what they were publishing (IMO) – really one quilting book after another of the same designs just written a little differently. As a quilter we are constantly told we need this new item or that new item to make a quilt – we don’t! We can make quilts with whatever fabric we can afford, we can order on line if we wish and we can get a pdf pattern if we wish. If someone wants to open a quilting shop that is there business – do the homework first and see if you can afford it – don’t blame others if you can’t figure out how to stay in business and don’t blame the on line shop for taking the business. We do not need sewing machines that cost more than your car to make a quilt it is just another way that some new quilters think they can not afford to quilt. Let’s get back to basics if needed and enjoy the art and what you can afford. Do not tell others that they have to buy from physical stores if they can’t afford it. Do not take a class you will not enjoy because someone tells you that you to support that person – if you don’t like it don’t take it – don’t let other quilters push you into something that cost more than you can afford.

    1. No one is trying to push anything on anyone. No one is telling you to buy things you can’t afford. No one is telling you to buy expensive sewing machines. You have never heard us tell people that they need to buy anything special to make a quilt. In fact, we intentionally don’t require that people buy specific kinds of fabric or even patterns for our classes to allow everyone to work within their own budget. This is a post for people who are unaware of the economic realities of the quilting industry and who WANT to support the industry. Many people don’t realize that it’s not a level playing field for small businesses and are unaware of the impact on the industry of buying through Fabric.com and MassDrop.

      1. Then perhaps the manufacturers and designers should consider restricting somethings to LQS.

  55. I am the president of a large guild here in California. I see/hear a lot of comments by our members about, buying at Mass Drop, Joann’s, …etc, always asking others for copies of patterns, or wanting to borrow books and magazines to make copies from. Could I please have your permission to print your blog post in our guild news letter? And, if so, can you please send that permission to my email address so I have proof for our newsletter editor. A very good article by the way!

  56. Interesting conversation and viewpoints! Appreciate the civility. I’m 59 and have been quilting for only 6yrs. I learned through a wonderful teacher at the local Joanns. Unfortunately, Joanns wouldn’t let her just teach so they got rid of her. Ive not been back to Joanns since. I found that I preferred the quality of fabrics at the LQS. I found out the hard way Walmart’s fusible interfacing doesn’t fuse! I later joined a modern quilt guild and a traditional guild; both guilds highly encouraged shopping at the LQS. Customer service was mixed at the stores, one shop in particular had a well earned nasty reputation. I saw two lovely shops close. If ordering online, I look at fabricworm.com first, as she has a shop in central California or coolcottons in Portland,OR. Both of these shops saw the trend and added online purchasing to their storefront business. We can always learn from someone, no matter their age. I wish people would stop assuming older quilters have little to offer and younger quilters know nothing. Quite the opposite is true.

  57. I loved your article, Weeks. Thank you for continuing this discussion. I hope someday I have the opportunity to meet you. You are a grounded and sane voice in this industry.

    The closing of City Quilter has started a much needed “relook” at this industry. Good conversations are flowing. City Quilter represents something different than a local LQS – they were a destination. An international destination. Everyone who sews who stepped foot in NYC went to City Quilter. So it is with a very sad heart that we all read the news. But we have to remember that Dale and Kathy made this decision for personal reasons. After an amazing 20 some odd year run. They are not representative of the closing shops for financial reasons. I don’t think. Some of the magazines and other stores and parts of the industries are representative of that change. But every industry sees that. City Quilter has an amazing reputation, crazy great classes, and an admirable following by anyone’s standards. Hats off to them for building that. But they were trying to sell a business with high Manhattan rent, and inventory that would be considered “old stock” by many standards (because of the designer thing going on), and taking the licensed fabric (a huge draw) with them. “Times, they are a-changin”.

    But, actually, that change has already happened. The Internet shopper and the “must have it now at 11:00 at night” shopper, and “I had a bad day and want to make myself happy” shopper is here to stay. This new business model has arrived and we must all live and compete within it.

    I am the owner of a local sewing and quilting and crafting store that opened in 2010. Yup, one of those crazy people who took a risk so close to 2008. Only about 15 miles west of City Quilter, in NJ. I had plenty of people, who knew about the sale, approach me and ask me to consider making the investment. I sadly could never consider calling them. I don’t have that kind of capital and could not take on that risk. I dreamed about it. For 15 minutes. Oh, to be “City Quilter”. Seriously folks, who would not want to be them? But I could not do it.

    So first, I ask everyone to take a deep breath. This thing we are going on about – it is our HOBBY, our choice, our passion, our love. For a very, very few, it is their livelihood. And no one, let me repeat, NO ONE, is getting rich. I know plenty of the designers and manufacturers and quilt makers and store owners. Just trust me when I say, no one is getting rich. Please redirect that focus to Wall Street (which I was also a part of many moons ago) just blocks away from City Quilter.

    So, for those who care, let me explain the fabric store owner’s financial life to you. I buy a fabric for $5.50/yard. on average. I sell it to you for $11.00/yard. What a high markup, some say. What expensive fabric. Out of that $5.50 “profit” I make, I pay …. shipping on that fabric, rent, salaries, worker’s comp (which is high because of … rotary cutters, I guess, but is set by the state), electric bills, internet and phone service, the bags I put it in, the website and Yelp listings and any other tech service I subscribe to so I can provide information to you, heat/air conditioning, music services some may enjoy in our store, merchant account fees (that needs a whole other blog post), sample costs (fabric and staff time so that I can show you what you could possibly do with that fabric), the cost of light bulbs and toilet paper and cleaning supplies and bobbins for the classroom and repairs to said heating/air conditioning system, repairs to toilets that shoot water, or the cost of stolen merchandise. I choose to supply machines and tools for my classroom so we can add in those costs too. Oh, and I have to match all my employees contributions to Social Security and any state family leave and disability. And there are a million small costs that my staff can remind me of tomorrow.

    Oh, and I am single so I pay $966/month for health insurance and pay myself last (meaning not always). No Mercedes. No mansion. Absolutely no “profiteering”. and absolutely no “snobbery”.

    Bottom line. I have never and will never ask anyone to buy from me because I am “local” or “a small business”. Just ask my customers. For those of you who don’t have an LQS, I am sorry. We are a joy. We love your creations and want to see your creations and want to do your quilt math and find the perfect binding fabric for you. We spend 7-8/hrs a day, seven days a week on our feet, not because we are snobs but because we are doing what we love and we took some risk . You don’t ever have to support my vision. I own it. But imagine, if you will, a world without us.

    1. Some people have been angered by this post suggesting that I am wagging my finger at those who buy on Fabric.com or MassDrop. I’m simply trying to explain the realities as you have so well. Sadly not everybody cares if small retailers (online and B&M) survive. I wish I had an LQS but the 4 we had when we started are all shuttered. The aisles at Market are quiet. It is sobering when you see it from the inside. Thanks for your kind words.

    2. Thank you so much for the look into a shop’s financials! You’ve helped more of us understand the normal costs associated with running a business and employing people.

  58. I am all about supporting small, local businesses. It is hard at the best of times for a small family owned business to succeede especially in New York City. I cannot tell you how many of my favorite places in Manhattan disappeared in the last 10 years. Most got priced out, their leases doubled, etc. The City Quilter is one of those places, my mothership to quote my husband. It is the end of an era for me.

  59. The quilting world is a big business these days. There are more and more organizations taking advantage of this. Look at all the quilt shows happening now. Look at all the cruises designed for quilters only. You can take a tour to buy fabric in another country. Look at all the expensive ‘must haves’ that are marketed to quilters now. Your sewing machine must cost thousands now rather than hundreds of dollars. I’ve heard that every 3-4 months 100’s of new fabric lines are offered, each one in up to 30 designs or colorways. You have to buy them right away or else they disappear and heaven forbid you need to find some in the line of your choice to finish your quilt. It’s all about creating a demand for a limited supply of fabric. There are too many suppliers now of quilting related goods and services, and limited resources to purchase them. This rampant consumerism is however declining throughout society, whether out of necessity or out of clarity. When there is less demand, or the purchaser cannot afford what is offered, they will seek alternatives. Stop blaming the consumer for not supporting the quilting industry. The industry should stop creating so much supply that can’t be met.

  60. I think you missed the point of the post. There’s nothing in the post about encouraging “rampant consumerism.” Bill and I are unique in the quilting industry of NOT requiring specific patterns, rulers or fabrics in our classes because we want people to feel free to use what they have. The point of the post was to explain, for those who are interested, the economic realities of every dollar spent that stays in the industry as opposed to going to the pockets of venture capitalists or Amazon shareholders and to encourage people to support ALL kinds of quilts. There was no intention or expression of telling people to buy MORE but rather to make sure they understood that buying a fat quarter from MassDrop has different effects on the industry from purchasing it from a designer.

  61. Thank you so much for this article! It says so much of what I think. I own and run a LQS and LOVE what I do. I LOVE helping people achieve their creative goals and projects, no matter how old they are or what their style is. For the working folks whose shops are open inconvenient hours, how about telling the owner and asking for a shopping ‘appointment’. I understand the dilemma because I, too, work the same hours. We have tried having a consistent late night, which wasn’t successful, but we have stayed open late when people have asked. We have classes in the evening so I am often happy to stay and work with a customer who want to come after hours. It’s a win-win! We have an online presence but will are happy to take photos of matching items and email or text back and forth. I did this ‘real time’ custom shopping to a European customer recently – technology has made things so convenient for us to do this. It is true that there are SO many fabric collections coming out constantly that it is impossible for shops to have everything, which can be frustrating for customers. LQS have a lot to choose from but I like to hope that by listening to our customers we have something for everyone. What we offer that the online shops don’t offer is the service. And online shops often have great service, but they can’t show you a tip on basting or hold up the fabric choices next to your quilts for options. Spread the love of quilting, no matter what age or quilting genre. It’s not going anywhere and with positive attitudes it will thrive and grow!

  62. I would like to know where people are paying $20.00 per yard for fabric? I have never seen fabric higher than $12.00 per yard unless it is a specialty fabric.

    1. In Australia we pay $28 per metre in quilt stores for fabric. Out of reach on my pension. Even with postage, it’s cheaper to buy from the US. Chain store fabric is $12 – $15 pm for decent quality fabric.

    2. Here in Indianapolis, IN, in the good ol’ USA, there is a local shop that sells quilting cotton for $22 a yard…it does exists…

  63. When it comes to fabric, I don’t want to buy it unless I can touch it, feel the weight of it, and appreciate the actual colors in a good light. For that, I will happily pay $12-$15 a yard. When it comes to books, I won’t buy them unless I can open them up, flip through the pages, determine if there are at least three patterns therein that I’m on fire to make right now. Same for patterns–let me open them and look at the instructions and reassure myself that I’m not in over my head before I buy. All of this has to happen in a local quilt shop–not online. Seeing materials, notions and patterns in person is as much a part of the quilting experience for me as the cutting and piecing and stitching and binding. So, I will continue to support my local quilt shops–even if it sometimes looks like they are about to give up the good fight. Sadly, he last few visits I’ve made to at least two shops here in town have indicated that they feel compelled to carry a little less fabric, almost no books, and are downsizing the number of patterns. There doesn’t seem to be as much enthusiasm for merchandising things in an attractive way–not like there used to be. I found the same thing at a quilt shop I always look forward to visiting at my annual vacation destination. She said she is scaling back to focus almost exclusively on daily classes in this beach resort community. I don’t know what’s happening in the quilting world, but I’m still doing my part.

  64. A couple more thoughts (Why not, right?)
    1. The customer services at my LQS is rubbish.
    2. The stock at my LQS is not to my taste.
    3. The way they merchandise in not how I like to shop.
    4. Invariably they buy the pink part of the line & I want to purchase the blue.
    5. One LQS that is now out of business bought seconds (The kinds that are in the PA Fabric outlet or the Amish shops) & sold them at a premium.
    6. They don’t stock the pre-cuts that I like. Sorry I like VERY scrappy quilts (& would rather buy 40 small pieces of fabric) & am not interested in buying off the bolt to attain the look that I want. Not to mention the questions about the small amount from a lot of bolts questions that I get. It’s none of your business why I want a 1/4 to 1/2 yard of each of the 20 bolts. Be satisfied that I am making the purchase. I don’t buy big pieces because I don’t like matchy-matchy quilts. (I also don’t have to worry if I have the right red – because when you use 20 reds they all play nicely together.)

    I shop online mostly Hawthorne Threads & Etsy – because I want to search for ___________. Call me a snob, it’s my money to spend.

    1. Why oh why does my guild keep hiring “insta-famous” quilt/fabric designers to teach? In a million years I will not pay $100 to learn needle turn applique from a popular designer. We live very close to a Quilter’s Hall of Fame applique master who has published many books & designed fabric. (She’s just not one of the cool kids.) As a consequence we would not have to fly her into town & put her up in hotel & her price was less than $100 per person. This is one example, my guild has done this at least 3 times off the top of my head. (Don’t blame me when the classes “don’t go” or when the guild has to pay more than anticipated to cover the minimum.)
    Sorry, I’m not going to buy a $1 can of coke from the vending machine, I’ll bring the $.10 can of generic from my fridge.
    AKA you need to support your poor financial decisions.
    2. I have more UFO’s that I can shake a stick at!
    3. I buy craftsy classes for the entertainment value. (No TV.) I’ve gotten my $20 out of them.
    4. I was told that I had to buy the fabrics in the shop for the class. NOPE.

    1. I keep coming back to Modern Quilt Workshop – so I should just quit buying the others.
    2. As some one above stated, “…understand why anyone but a complete beginner would even need a pattern to figure out how to make them.” many of the patterns are so simple.
    3. I’m more interested in simple scrappy quilts at this point in time – 4-patch & log cabins (So I am limiting the books/patterns that I buy in addition to limiting classes.)

    Why do you have to have designers whip out new lines & patterns every six months? (40 fabrics in a line…) You are putting gout more than people want to or probably can buy. (I too have seen destashes.) Same with the books, they are put out so quickly & some not so well.
    This really turned me off of blogs that I used to read. “I have a secret that I can’t tell you about.” – I’m writing a book. Followed by: “Buy my book, write a review about my book, make the patterns and give credit/link back to me.” Any wonder why I’m back to log cabins & 4-patches?

    inequality in purchasing power
    I can only speak to what I have seen/know.
    1. The retiree quilters that I know are the ones that have the hobby long arms, $10K Berninas, & sergers (& thread/fabric stashes to match) They also do not have mortgages or student loans. They were able to buy when housing was reasonable compared to salary. (Sorry this one hit a nerve for me, both my parents & my In laws never paid the amount or percentage or income on living expenses as my husband & I do & we live in a 2 bedroom converted apartment – not a 3 bedroom rancher. & they all have retirements and social security that I can’t plan on. My 401K has routinely lost more than it has made.)
    2. The youngsters do not appear to have a problem purchasing when they want to – but they prefer Etsy/Hawthorne threads over the LQS’s (For the reasons I listed & others like the time a gal was told to use a pigma pen to fix the white dots on the solid red fabric.) Many of them resell it. I know a gal who buys a yard of each print in the line, then sub cuts it into fat quarters & ends up making a profit.
    Of course there others on the other end of the spectrum, but they don’t belong to my guilds.

    Quilt shows
    1. I go to the local ones that I know about
    I’m so tired of seeing _________’s mystery quilts. Kudo’s to her for finding her niche, but it is so over saturated! (I said the same thing when “Yellow Brick Road” was all the rage.
    2. I also go to the big ones that are close enough to me
    3. I don’t really shop much at either because they don’t carry what I want to buy. For example, at Quilt Odyssey in Hershey PA last month I wanted to buy “Little House” pins – Not one of the vendors carried them. (They all carried Clover brand.) One shop almost sold me some fabric, but they had the pink line & I wanted the blue…

    My overall perception is that the industry is a popularity contest/cult of personality & there is a segment of the quilt world who are devoted to them just like other people are devoted to the Kardashians/NFL Team/Musician/what have you.

    I appreciate the candor in this comment section.

    1. I do agree with your observation of fabric designers putting out a new line every 6 months. Several designers that I loved when they first came on the scene, I’ve discovered their “new” line is almost identical to their “old” line. I don’t get that. In fact, they are way too predictable. It’s gotten to the point that I can’t distinguish the old from the new!

      1. I didn’t mean to offend any designers out there. It was just an observation and my opinion. I understand that many designers have a “signature” ie certain colors, themes, etc. But it is my honest opinion that, if I can look at a precut and automatically know who the designer is because it looks just like the past 3 years of releases, and I already have it in my stash, what is my incentive to buy the latest release?

    2. Yes, retirement is great! When the company my husband and I worked for shut its doors and moved to a non Union shop 1000 miles away, he retired, SS and a 401k that neither he or said company could afford to contribute to for quite some time. I went to work on my long arm paid for with my measly pension, not old enough to retire. I work 6-7 days a week, on 60+ year old feet and legs to pay for my individual insurance and medical bills from my high deductible. After paying for supplies and overhead, my yearly income is too low to even bother mentioning. Last year I took care of my sick husband for 9 months (and worked late into the night) so it was less than 0! Meanwhile the cost of everything from food to taxes keeps increasing while our govt says seniors don’t need a SS increase. Please don’t assume that because we are old that we got it made! Since we’re being so honest….
      Quilting is something that I can do at home as a therapy, thanks to the stash I acquired along the way when things were good. I rarely find time to quilt my own things as I cannot turn work away. And I am grateful to be doing something I love. I would never judge someone by the money they make or spend, and I’ve read the comments about 20 somethings as well as the unfair comments about us retirees, living the affluent glorious life of over abundance.
      To get back on topic, though, I understand how stressful it can be just wondering if this is the year it all trickles down and puts you out of work. And the older you are, the less opportunity. This global economy is hurting lots of small business workers in every industry. And I can pretty much agree with all your points/complaints, it’s a personal choice how you handle it all. Putting up barriers between us vs them will never help this industry and some understanding and acceptance will go a long way to help us all hang in a little longer.

    3. Quilting makes me happy. It brings me joy. It enables me to meet great creative people and try new things. Sorry but you have tossed the joy out the window!

      1. Quilting brings all of us joy which is why I’m concerned that there will be fewer shops, fewer fabric lines, fewer shows because quilters don’t necessarily understand the economics of the industry. Please don’t shoot the messenger.

  65. Fabric.com is not as popular as you may think. They pretty much shove the fabric into an envelope – vs. niche online retailers who package your purchase so it looks like a gift. (At a minimum not a wrinkle bomb by the time it hits your door step.)

  66. I appreciate the help I receive from LQS and always purchase from them. When I travel, I always look for quilt stores to visit and have some fun in, just to support them, whether or not I really need anything. I have a long arm and will provide backings for several charity quilts a year. I cannot afford spending hundreds of dollars to do this and thats when I look for on line deals.

  67. Thank you for this blog post. I’ve been concerned about our industry for quite some time.

    I’ve been a quilt instructor/ author for 28 years, making my living at it for 25 years. (Getting harder every year) A fabric designer for almost 20 years, also getting harder every year.

    I appreciate your comments about “us” vs. “them,” the “cool kids” vs the “established teachers.” I wish we could come together, it would help the industry, I believe.

    How to do this – perhaps starting with talking to each other. Not think in terms of us and them, but simply as people who love fabric, love to piece, applique, sew and quilt.

    We’ve had the news that AQS will no longer be publishing books, QNM is closing their doors, other magazines have also folded. Question – where will quilters go for information and inspiration? While blogs or Instagram is a possibility. . . but another question. How long will that blogger continue to give away information and patterns for free? If one is trying to make this their job/their living, you can only give away so much before you no longer can. You will have to get a “real” job to pay the bills.

    As an author of 8 books and over 60 magazine articles, this is concerning. Fewer places to go to propose a new book or new magazine article. Actually right now, I’m not sure where to go to do either.

    A few thoughts on some comments I’ve read here:

    Quilt Market and or Quilt Festival is going strong. From someone on the inside, I would have to disagree. The aisles at Quilt Market are very quiet. Vendors are buying smaller and smaller booth space, bringing fewer people to Market. Quilt Market is very expensive to attend as a vendor and as a show owner. We’ve noticed shop owners attending only one Market per year or deciding to just wait for their sales rep visit and not attend at all.

    Why do fabric companies show so many lines a year. Here’s a secret – they may show 40 lines, but many of them are “on paper.” This means they have not been produced yet and only will be if there are enough pre-orders. Many of these “on paper” lines never see the light of day. While some lines are larger, all in all, the collections are much smaller than they were even 8 years ago.

    Many fabric companies have gone out of business, have consolidated, sold their business to a larger company. Some “big box” places you buy online are now producing their own fabrics, cutting out the middle man (fabric company) and this is also cutting into bottom line and pushing some fabric companies out of business. Some large names companies (names you would know) are on the edge.

    Fabric catalogs are cut staff, in some cases, half their staff is gone from a year ago and the catalogs are now smaller. few pages.

    Quilt Festival – it is a thrill to teach there and be on the show floor, but things are changing there as well. The aisles are larger (meaning fewer booths). Walk the show floor, at least 1/3 or more of the show floor is no longer quilting related. Take a look around, you will see booths selling candles, arthritis gel, jewelry cleaner, orthotic shoes where 10 years ago you saw booths selling patterns, notions and fabric. Don’t get me wrong, there are still booths selling quilting supplies, but the not as many as a few years ago.

    In the past 5 years or so, I’ve noticed the skill level of newer quilters has declined, which has lead us to changing the ranking of our patterns from beginner to intermediate. What does that tell me? Newer quilters aren’t taking classes to learn the basics, they are not building the foundation of skills as happened in the past.

    It is a vicious circle – fewer places to purchase supplies, few places to learn the basics, which fuels creativity and advances skills, which creates more demand for patterns/fabric/books. When the demand for books/fabric/notions/classes diminishes, there will be fewer teachers and designers, since they can’t make a living at their passion, so they leave the field. With fewer designers creating exciting designs, the LQS has few items to sell (harder to stay open), the quilter has fewer choices, which leads again to a shrinking industry.

    Now – what can be done?

    As Weeks mentioned – buy your supplies (whether online or brick and mortar) from the name you know, not the big box store. Buy from the small guy.

    Get involved with your local quilt guild. Ask them to hire a variety of teachers, expose your members to lots of techniques.

    Teach a teenager or young mother to sew. (We’ve been doing this in our church congregation. Holding small “sewing” classes to teach the basics, thus creating new quilters/sewers.)

    Put together kits from your stash and use the kits to teach these new sewers. (You won’t believe how rewarding teaching someone a new skill is. When their eyes light up and they just discovered a passion they never knew they had, well, it is like nothing you’ve seen before.)

    Visit your local quilt shop, thank them for being in business, bring a friend with you. Maybe bring that new quilter. Purchase what you can from them.

    Fight the urge of “us” vs “them.” If you are a modern quilter, reach out to a traditional teacher, they are pretty cool people too. If you are a traditional quilter, reach out to a modern quilter, they are doing some very exciting stuff.

    Go to the quilt shows in your area, bring a friend, bring that new quilter.

    If you aren’t making quilts, but still love the quilts, get involved in your local quilt guild. They always need people to help.

    Offer to do a quilting display at craft fairs, art shows. Expose people to the beauty of quilting.

    Yes, our industry is changing and it is a little scary (more than a little scary for those of us trying to make a living at it.), but lets all work together to keep it going.

    I’ve been quilting since the mid-1970’s. I remember only a few cotton fabrics available at the store, only a few books from the 1950’s, no tools, only one quilting magazine, no shows, no guilds. I don’t think anyone wants to return to this. I know I don’t . . . .

    1. Your comment regarding quilt festival is spot on. I think there are more clothing, jewelry, purses, massage chairs, shoes, novelty items, and body powders/hand cream/shower gel vendors than actual quilt or craft related booths! Although Quilted in Clay is one of my favorites. It’s jewelry, but quilt related jewelry!

  68. Okay gals…you’re freaking me out! LOL I am contemplating opening a small quilt shop here in southern Alberta, Canada. Hubby and I are going to (try) and sell our big house and downsize….smaller house and buying a small retail building. I’m not delusional by thinking I will be rolling in the dough when I open the doors but am hoping (praying) it can at least pay for itself. At the very least we will be paying for a property and that’s always a good investment.
    I have been quilting for almost 20 years. Living in Northern Alberta at the time, we would travel to quilt shows and shops. Whenever my son had hockey in a different town the first thing I did was check the yellow pages (20 years ago remember!) for any and all quilt shops. Friends and I would plan trips down to the States and hit all the quilt shops we could there and on the way. I think most quilters can “sniff out” a shop within a certain radius!
    I have a huge stash and could likely open the shop with that ! (I won’t!!) When I started I would buy mostly fat quarters and a metre (yard) here and there. Books, patterns and magazines too. I know there are a gazillion free patterns online but I LOVE the feel of a book that I can peruse and feel the pages. I also have many, many kits! If a shop has a sample on the wall and the kit to go with it and my husband is waiting out in the car, BAM, that’s what I will grab…and I love precuts…they are like candy!! Who doesn’t have room for another charm pack?
    When I started quilting, my grandmother, who quilted for many, many years, said quilting was dying out. But she did her quilting by sitting with the Woman’s Institute group, around the frame and hand quilted. (wouldn’t it be great to have the time to do that again??) I told her that it was hand quilting that was dying out (who had time for it anymore?) but quilting was a big business! My Dad (her son) still thinks a quilt isn’t a quilt unless it’s hand quilted! hahaha!
    I know that this will be hard work, long hours, some frustration but I am hoping the joy will make realizing this dream all so worth it and that it will no way feel like a job! Now this question is a bit off topic but besides great customer service (I think I have that down!!) what would make you shop at a Brick and Mortar shop?? I know pricing too which, has been mentioned, is a bit out of a quilt shop owners hands. How do you entice quilters who have large stashes and need nothing to be interested as well as ones on fixed incomes or are new to this craft? I am doing a lot of wool projects lately…the hand stitching is soothing and I love how portable they are! Not many shops in the area carry much for those projects….so I might bring that stuff in. My retail space will be small, the town we would be moving to has a lot of antique shops too and an amazing candy store! And the shop is located right on the main highway going through town!! Any advice, suggestions would be appreciated!

    1. Jane,

      I love the idea of the kits but don’t forget about online sales which can help sustain your brick and mortar store. And most importantly… learn how to and USE social media. I see too many small businesses struggle and close but they never bothered to create or maintain an internet presence

      1. Chris social media is awesome and FREE!!! I will be using it for sure! Facebook and Instagram I’m already on personally so those will be easy to continue with as a business. Thanks for your reply!!

    2. Jane you might think hand quilting is dying out – it isn’t there are a lot of us hand quilters out here and we are not all in our 60+ age group – if you check face book hand quilting and hand applique groups there are thousands of us!!

      1. That’s great to hear Karen! I knew there were still hand quilters out there even to this day. When my Grandma was talking about it I just meant it wasn’t the only way to quilt anymore and I thought more people machine quilted. :) I have always wanted to learn and be good at it. My grandma is gone now so I can’t learn from her…..maybe one day I’ll give it a go!!!

    3. Wool – some people are allergic. One of my friends (who can spend freely on fabric) doesn’t attend shows anymore because she is allergic. This would also keep her out of a shop that supplies wool.

      If it isn’t carried in your area, is there enough interest in your area? I personally don’t get it & have enough cotton & flannel to keep me from entertaining the wool idea.

  69. Jane,

    Your location sounds wonderful! Best advice I can give – be different. Don’t offer the same fabric that every other shop carries, be different.

    Don’t be talked into buying lines you know will be hard to sell.

    Your ideas of a sample and kits is spot on, perfect for those visiting quilters who want to grab and go. If they are traveling, small kits are perfect. If you offer the wool kits, make sure to include the thread, needle, everything the quilter needs to start working on it as soon as they leave. Make sure to have small kits available at the cash register, for those impulse buys. Package the kits in a different way. These will also make perfect gifts. (Look for different packaging ideas at the dollar store. Example: a little beach related kit packaged in a little sand pail. Put into a clear bag, found at the hobby store and tie with a raffia ribbon. Quilter can see what is offered in the kit. )

    Be inspiring with your displays, quilts on the wall, be the shop that people are excited to visit and leave gushing about how wonderful it is.

    Many shops have found success with being open late one night. This gives the working gals time to get to your shop. Some shops offer Sunday afternoon hours for those working gals as well.

    Have “Open Sew” on evening a week and one morning a week. This brings quilters into your shop, gives them an opportunity to work on projects, chat with friends and will turn into sales. Give the open sew gals/guys a sneak peek at new products that just arrived.

    1. SF…I LOVE your way of thinking and we are on the same wave length!!! Thanks so much for your reply…..all those ideas will be used once I get up and running…..someday in the not too distant future I hope!! :o)

  70. This post was great and all the comments very enlightening!
    I want to add my two cents even if I think someone else pointed out similar ideas.
    First of all, let me say that I am in the middle: I think it is good to support LQS and designers, but I think that the snobbish attitude that some people have towards QS push people like me to prefer sometimes “evil online giants” :)
    For example, I have been to my LQS 3 times recently. 2 of these three times I had extremely unpleasant interactions with customers judging my non traditional approach to quilting. Was this the LQS fault? of course not! however I am not a wallet. I am a person, so if I don’t feel comfortable being in the shop I won’t come again! Maybe the LQS encourages people of that mindset to feel at home, so maybe it is the LQS fault somehow. Maybe it’s just the community around there. I don’t know, but if I buy on line I don’t get judged! :)
    Second: what do you think I do with the fabric I buy from the “evil giants”? I make quilts… that require thread, backing, patterns, rulers, cutters, mats, etc… which I buy locally. So yes, if I buy fabric from the “evil giants” the local store or designer doesn’t make direct money, but the overall industry still gets the money and by keeping me involved it will make even more money in the years to come!
    Let me make a parallel (not real data, but as example): I buy a digital book and the author gets 50 cents. If I buy a real book the author gets 5 dollars. The author complains that it gets less money from me. HOWEVER, the author actually doesn’t know that if s/he had only the real book s/he would have got ZERO dollars from me, not 5 dollars, because I don’t have space for the real books. Plus those 50c allowed me to buy more books from other authors and, if they get a loyal reader, more books in the future. So comparing 5 dollars and 50 cents it’s the easy comparison because we cannot quantify the overall effect of the 50 cents, but let’s not get fooled by the catastrophic view “if you don’t give the max money to everyone, the overall industry will collapse”. That is only one way of the industry to work, and the industry should evolve with time.
    Be careful about how people present data: the same data can be used to tell very different stories!! It’s good to know how much a designer makes for a yard of fabric in different scenarios (direct, lqs, “evil giants”, etc), but how about the overall amount of fabric sold? Maybe they make less each yard, but sell more? How about the number of designers that now have access to do this: maybe the number increased because of the reduced price in certain aspects of the industry? Just few thoughts.
    I think it is more important to acknowledge that with each purchase we give a preference and we could diversify our support (from local to small online to giants). To me instead of focusing on limiting where to buy fabric, it is more important to focus on supporting the art&craft of quilting in all its forms because the industry is just a transient enabler that dynamically evolves to support what we need as creative artists!

    1. Evil Giants – a one time fabric designer for (Andover I think – a quilt shop merchandiser) once discussed in a blog post about how lucky so & so was to have a line with Fabric Traditions (A merchandiser for chain stores) because she would have more overall yards printed & sold. (“All” of the Jo Ann stores carried DS Quilts Collections as opposed to here are there local quilt shops had a few prints from the Denyse Schmidt lines (I’ve never seen a whole line carried in a LQS). It was rare that I ever found any locally. I once asked a LQS owner why she did not carry Denyse Schmidt & she replied that she did not want to be associated with Jo Anns. She is out of business because she did not realize that “the rising tide raises all boats.” (Jo Anns is still in business – she isn’t.)

      1. I think it’s easy if you’ve never owned a quilt shop to make assumptions and judgements about what they buy. The truth is that it’s not a level playing field. Big box retailers have different access to financing and lower prices than small businesses. I’m not defending that retailer but I don’t think it’s fair to suggest that not buying one fabric line is the reason she’s out of business. It’s so much more complicated than that. 80% of small businesses fail in the first 3 years. That’s a testament to just how hard it is to make a profit as a small business without the easy access to financing and low prices that large chains have. Each designer and retailer makes choices about how they want to run their business and I think it’s the wise to refrain from making judgements without understanding all of the facts.

  71. I just left my favorite quilt shop for the last time. It will close at the end of the week. But I thought I had a second choice. That was until I read in your article City Quilter is closing. I immediately called them and express my sadness. I went to them almost every time I was in NYC since ’98. Also I brought from them online. Thank goodness I have enough time fabric to keep me happy for a long time. And I will use your ideas and buy from designer when possible – Tula Pink for one. There are other good stores near me where I can buy basics. Now I must leave for my quilt guild. Over 700 members. Quilting still going strong

    1. We are in mourning over the loss of City Quilter in NYC. I am exceedingly grateful to Cathy and Dale for their leadership in the industry really their second career. It is time to thank them, their fabulous staff, and wish them all the best! Knowing from family members about the runaway commercial rents in Manhattan and watching family owned stores disappear at a dizzying rate in local neighborhoods I do understand. Being a short walk from Fashion Institute, Macy’s and Penn Station they were a must when setting foot in Manhattan. I am glad they will keep marketing the original NYC designs which I collect.
      Other thoughts: I cannot speak strongly enough about the value of joining a guild. Your skill level takes off when you spend time with quilters of all kinds. Guilds can be a little pricey in big cities due to the cost of meeting space. But the diversity of members and their skills will open up a new world. Doing it all on the internet is a poor substitute and the friendships you make face to face are a bonus. For those of you who feel unwelcome in groups that are encased in concrete and hostility, move on and don’t look back. Talk to your local public library. They are thrilled to have new programs. Start a sewing group, a needle arts group, something that will include quilters in the mix. I sometimes attend two needle arts groups just outside the city. The membership is very fluid. We honor each institution in a different way. One created something for the childrens room. The other provides handmade items for the Friends fundraiser. Both are filled with people from multiple towns. If your local PL is not interested look around to another town. Or try one of the churches or the park district or Historical Society, the senior center, even the botanical garden. You can have quilting fun on a budget and support the industry as well.
      As far as buying fabric is concerned I much prefer seeing and touching it under daylight. I am OK if it is a familiar designer who works in a certain palette where I can judge what will work. But there is nothing like a real quilt store to make your day. I order certain lines online, not from the mass marketers, as I know they will never be sellers in my part of the country.
      We could start a similar thread on sewing machines what with Viking, Pfaff and Bernina in the same hedge fund stable.
      Weeks thanks for initiating this important discusssion.

  72. While I agree with a number points, the supplier/author will also be losing in the long run. Why don’t they simply refuse to make items available to mass market competition (i.e. Amazon, fabric.com) by only offering items or at least special/select items through mom & pop shops. If Mom & Pop shops aren’t forced to compete maybe pricing could be better. Due to the lack of mass market competition therefore creating a higher demand to the smaller shops. Then the Mom & Pop must offer the “selected” items at a lower profit margin. And when a consumer buys the particular fabric or book they will are also likely to purchase additional items or be repeat customer. Expecting it to be fixed by saying the consumer needs to change and not the supplier hasn’t worked in any other industry so why should it be expected to work in quilting. Especially when you know the younger generation can’t afford Mom&Pop shop prices and will always look for a cheaper option to purchase. While I hate to see the smaller shops go they too need to part of the solution.

  73. Jane,

    I love the idea of the kits but don’t forget about online sales which can help sustain your brick and mortar store. And most importantly… learn how to and USE social media. I see too many small businesses struggle and close but they never bothered to create or maintain an internet presence.

  74. Thank you, Weeks, for your insight. I have been a quilt shop owner for 13 years. My business is local and independent. As such, I choose to run my business with customer service as my highest priority. I do not, nor ever will have, the budget or buying power of the big entities offering fabric at lower prices. What my business does offer is a welcoming environment where a customer can ask questions and be given time to receive answers. We frequently offer free patterns and free demonstrations. We also offer a place for the quilting community to gather for classes, fellowship, and inspiration. I am very thankful to be part of the quilting community!

  75. I’m one of those retirees. I’ve been sewing since the 1950s. I started quilting around 1998. just as I was getting to know there were Mom & Pop quilt shops they began to close. They had the quality that impressed me. Now I have to go to the big chain stores. I have bought from shops online but was disappointed when I saw the product in person. I have built up a stash and do not buy as much as I used to. I’m thinking maybe there could be a turn-around after this next election. I will go out on a limb and say someone with business savvy could be the answer to the USA businesses come back. I have a missionary friend in Turkey that knows women there who are getting into quilting! As for helping newbees I have a neighbor who lost everything, literally, when a hurricane hit our area several years ago. She lived on the Gulf of Mexico. She moved inland to my neighborhood. I learned she had been a quilter. She lost her machine, stash, needles, a partially done quilt and finished ones. She had nothing left, except her life and her husband, praise God for that. So to help her get back on her feet I bought her a sewing machine & a teaching DVD. I told her to teach her granddaughter how to quilt. She just rolled her eyes. So as a born again Christian I will take this quilting industry situation to Jesus in prayer. He thought enough about this to put it in His Bible. Proverbs 31:22 The Message Bible: ‘She shops around for the best yarns and cottons, and enjoys knitting and sewing.’ Join me praying this scripture into His ears? Jesus loves you and so do I. Mrs. Deborah Switzer

  76. Have you not been to Second City Quilt Company on Irving Park, or Quilters Trunk in Beverly or Fabrics Etc 2 in Bensenville?

    1. No, none of them is within 30 minutes of us and it’s often faster to buy when I travel for teaching. Amazingly, none of them order from us either. We ship to shops all over the world but none locally. It’s always been that way. No one is a prophet in their own hometown.

      1. Perhaps they think that people wanting to buy from you will go to you directly? (I live near Jinny Beyer’s Studio – none of the other local shops carry Jinny’s fabric for that reason.)

  77. Lots of interesting comments and thoughts here. We are a small quilt shop (mother/daughter partners) that has been in business for three years. We are a brick and mortar location, with a full on-line inventory. We would not have a brick and mortar if not for the on-line sales. We charge a fair price (not $20 per yard) and generally don’t run sales (we don’t want people to feel that they missed out because they weren’t there the week before). We encourage people to bring their UFO’s to the store, no matter where they got the fabric, and we help them find something to just get it to that next step and maybe finished. Since we are small, we are also able to give personal service to our on-line customers. We may only be “open” certain hours, but in an international world, our service hours are when our customers are up. We offer few classes, mostly because the enthusiasm for a class never seems to end with a commitment, whether it’s scheduled on a weekend, evening, or daytime, but we keep trying. We don’t sell machines in our shop – we don’t want the overhead, and don’t have the space (or manpower to add that). We make our own sample products (usually on our workhorse Brother machines). So all of this means, we try to be flexible, and go direct to manufacturers to get fabric that is a little more exclusive (we carry some fabric that you won’t find on fabric.com). We look for opportunities to sell fabric, and ideas, not just quilting, bringing in all shoppers (and not just women). We follow on-line social media platforms so we know what people are looking for and where we can provide service (leading to a Pinterest success and not a Pinterest fail). And finally, we keep track of our shops in the surrounding area, so we can refer people to someone we know if we can’t help them. But sometimes, even with all of this, we still feel like Horton and the Who’s – We are Here, We are Here. And without support, the answer will be silence. Thanks for supporting local. Thanks for supporting us.

  78. Wonderful article. I’ve been reading the comments, and I feel so sad that many of you have had negative guild experiences. I belong to the Crossroads Quilt Guild out of Perry, Ga. Our guild membership has a wide range of ages and skill levels, including 2 shop owners. Programs are presented with that in mind. Multiple ongoing “challenges” and charity projects encourage members to participate, improve their skills, an get to know other members. Applause and encouragement at our Show & Tell time gives members the courage to show their projects, fess up about their mistakes, and ask for help or advice. Fifteen years ago I joined as a novice, self-taught, but enthusiastic quilter. Now I’m lucky enough to have a few skills that I can pass along to new quilters. If you can’t find a guild in your area that is all of these things to you, I encourage you to start a group of your own. If you need help getting started, message our guild on Facebook. We have many members who would jump at the chance to share their knowledge.

  79. This article is, literally, right on the money!

    Here’s a little personal story of an industry veteran who changed herself in light of this industry change, and inadvertently came up with a way to support LQS’s bottom line in a whole new way.

    Having brought video to quilting (as many say) via QNNtv.com, I’ve witnessed these changes. In fact I kinda squeezed my own self out of the industry by creating a niche that in a way became obsolete as video became so predominant and easy to produce and as QNNtv.com kept being swallowed by ever-bigger fish. Looking at my options I realized that none of the old ways (I’d written 34 books, produced and hosted numerous series, done HSN…) of making a living (I’m single) would feed me and the horses, so I knew my only option was to reinvent myself. No whining! (Lots of crying in manes though.)

    Long story short, shooting a show at Bernina in 2006 turned into a Quilt Shop Cuckoo Clock birthed taping an additional episode in a factory in Germany. Yes, I managed to make one of my dreams come true! After my sleeve was pulled many a time over the years, I relaunched the clock through a Kickstarter in 2014 . It’s been an extremely tough two years, but with five cuckoo designs by year end, which I should be able to turn into enough horse shoes and Bermuda hay to keep them in their well-deserved fairy tale land, I’ve got a business.

    Back to our local LQS’s… Now I can — and figured out how to — give back.

    I did a test with Little Quilts before Mary Ellen retired. She ran a photo and description of the clock in her newsletter. When her customer clicked on the link, she was taken to my web site. If she purchased a clock the LQS made a big chunk of money paid automatically through the affiliate software that makes this all work. Mary Ellen didn’t have to buy the clock, stock, it, answer customer questions; She simply dropped some copy into her newsletter and on her web site with her unique code embedded in it and bingo!

    Of course, from my end it’s difficult to explain this to shop owners as they aren’t used to doing business this way. But gosh, a sale of just one clock is equivalent to selling yards and yards and yards of fabric.

    Mary Ellen sold five clocks!

    Dunno how this would work for other products, but I’ll be back on the phone today (while I wait for the first batch of the second clock, the Backyard Birds Clock to show up from Germany – yeeeow!) to see if I can get the point across to more shop owners. I figured out how I can support LQS’s!

    Happy quilting to all,


  80. I use to have a quilt fabric shop in a small town with a very strong quilt guild. It was so much fun to see some of my friends everyday. I worked really hard to find great fabrics at great prices so that I never charged more than $7.50 per yard. Most of my fabric was $4.50 and $5.50 per yard. I bought discontinued fabrics from Windham, Moda, Red Rooster, P & B, etc. These were still great brand new fabrics, but not the latest designs. However, I didn’t make enough profit to be able to have good thread or other notions on hand consistently. Finally I had to close the doors for health reasons and I still owe $10K from having the store. Everyone said, that I should have charged more for the fabric, but when I did try that, no one would buy it. I understand completely, about the cost of fabric being outlandish…I can’t afford to pay $20 per yard myself so I couldn’t see my way clear to charge that much.

  81. Just to add a comment on several of the above comments. If you don’t live near a quilting store, you don’t have much choice if you want to quilt. You have to order online. I have a quilt store about 45 minutes from me that I have tried to support. I have been there 8-10 times and they have only had what I need once…..and that was a spool of thread. I have looked for fabric there the other times and she never has anything near what I am looking for. Plus she is not accommodating about ordering stuff. You can get it quicker and less expensive online. Sorry, that’s just the way it is in some places. When I am near a good store, I don’t always know what I want so don’t buy much. If I am looking for something particular, like I was yesterday and the quilt store does not have it or anything close, I don’t buy much. I feel really sorry for the small quilt stores, but that’s the way it is for some of us.

    1. The post was about in part supporting small businesses in quilting industry. There are lots of small, independent online shops (including ours!) that you could order from and still keep your dollars in the quilting industry instead of the pockets of Amazon shareholders.

      Modern Quilt Studio
      719 Iowa Street Oak Park IL 60302

  82. I’m not sure where some of you are paying 20.00 a yd. For fabric. I’m a quilt shop owner. And I only have my fabric the normal mark up. If I pay 5.00 a yd. I charge 10. If some of you people only had a clue as too how much it costs to run a shop. I’ve been opened 5 years. I do massive amounts of alterations to support my store. I have no employees. I do not take a paycheck. My husband has a real job that pays our bills and health insurance. . I also have a fabulous sale room. When I’m able to find deals. My sale room is 5.99 or ,7.99 a yard. 1 yd. Cuts only. So I think we do our best as shop owners. We are not gouging prices like a lot of you think

    1. Come to Australia, most LQS fabric is $25 – $28 per metre (39″). Chain store fabric is $12 for decent fabric. Someone is making a large profit if the wholesale price is about $5.

    1. Thank you for that Patrick Lose. So nice to see your name pop up on my screen. I’ve used your fabrics over the years and admire your contributions to our industry. Hope our paths will cross some day!

  83. Being an online retailer I have experienced what low price leaders can do. It is just not Fabric.com and Massdrop, but there are others who discount below wholesale prices using daily deals, promotional pricing to set a hook for on line classes and inflating MSRP so the consumer “feels” like they are getting a good deal. These “come and get it prices” can be below what Fabric.com and Massdrop charge.
    But online sales are driven by low price leaders unless there are other advantages in the sale.

    When examining the problem one must be a student of very basic economics and understand that it is through supply and demand that things move.

    Yes demand in all the “usual” ways of dealing with quilt supplies is declining and supply is at an all time high (stores are offering to sell stash fabric at prices less than what big box stores offer really icky fabric, this is a prime example of high supply-declining demand) so those who wish to survive must be the change leaders. I believe opportunity is out there but it is wearing different clothes.

    Now about theft, when someone “shares” books and patterns with their friends and guild members it is theft! Unfortunately I’ve seen the theft of designs-it is ugly. Don’t do it!

  84. One last thought, Amazon! Some view it as the evil empire, but let’s look at a couple or three thoughts.
    Often pattern designers are very thrilled to have a wholesale distributor pick up their pattern (or book) and it is sold to the distributors wholesale customer. The distributor must make a profit and so that profit is made by the amount the designer or publisher is given. Yes the designer and publisher make more money if they sell directly to the LQS etc.

    Amazon has to get its inventory from somewhere. Either it is from the designer/publisher or from a retailer that is using one of the selling platforms and these retailers have to get their products from someone, Fabric.com has to buy from those who sell the products, and so do all the other companies who list their items on Amazon.

    The last point, like some many of you out there I must watch my budget, I purchase items on sale in order to stretch my finite amount of funds, just saying.

    1. Excellent point Jan. I agree. The product doesn’t just fall into the mass marketer’s lap. Somebody has made their profit somewhere along the line. Maybe we don’t have any idea how a LQS runs, but we have enough common sense to know that a profit has been made. Unless someone is stealing the product from the designers/distributors and that certainly isn’t the consumer’s fault.

    2. We do not sell our products to Amazon as of yet. We idealistically wanted to have products that could be unique to small businesses. When small shops began folding we decided to sell to JoAnn’s for a couple of years. They damaged and refused to pay for about $4K worth of magazines so we learned our lesson and won’t be selling through them. We may have to cave-in to survive if consumers continue to buy everything through Amazon but usually the first thing a shop asks is “do you sell on Amazon?” They tell us if we do that they won’t bother to order from us so it’s a tricky situation.

      1. When you write a book for a publisher, you have no control over where it’s sold. Rockport and C&T have sold our books published by them to Amazon. Ditto for our calendar published by Orange Circle Studio. We publish ourselves Modern Quilts Illustrated, Fat Quarter Love and our patterns. We do NOT sell them through Amazon, however, other shops may. We can only control so much. We may in the future be forced to sell what we publish in Amazon but it has always been our intention to support small online and brick and mortar shops by not selling on Amazon or MassDrop.

      2. This is why the books that I am working on will be self published…..and they will not go on Amazon….ever. It can be done and while it is not cheap it certainly isn’t entirely out of the question…I have to save a bit to do it but in the end, the profit will be mine and I will have control as to where it is sold…..I have been in art licensing and tired of everyone making money from my talent but me. I made $0.15 per yard when I designed fabric, the sales reps made more than I did……and in art licensing you make about $0.05 on the dollar of the wholesale price in royalties, and now they keep trying to make that lower too…..again, low man on the totem pole but its the art/design that sells it in the first place…..People say well the companies take the risk. Yes but so do designers…..if it doesn’t sell, we make nothing.

  85. While I agree with supporting LQS another issue is the number of suppliers of notions and fabric suppliers (and how often they release new fabric lines). The market is saturated and that also affects both LQS and consumers. The owner of the City Quilter was interviewed and this was an area she too commented on. Shops can only buy so much and consumers only have so much to spend. It’s somewhat of a catch 22. I do my best to support all local business. :)

  86. I have really enjoyed reading through everyone’s thoughts and opinions. Having a migraine all day, I have to say you folks kept me coming back to my computer to read a bit more all day long!!

    Now I have a question. I am considering the purchase of a long arm machine, with the idea of practicing for several months, and then taking in work. I have been told there are several other LA Quilters in my area, but only two names were actually given to me. My thinking is that people are going to continue to make quilts, but not have the time to hand or machine quilt them. Thus, maybe room for a small business for me. What do you think? Is there room for another LA Quilter in the market? For those of you who use a Long Arm, how long did it take you to be proficient enough to feel confident enough to take other’s work? I have been quilting for 30 yrs, both machine and hand (though hand is my preferred way), and do feel up to the challenge of learning a new skill. Any thoughts or feedback would be much appreciated.

  87. Hello, I was also a vendor at the AQS show in Grand Rapids, and fortunately just busy enough that I did not have an opportunity to come over and speak with you.

    There is a perfect storm (as someone mentioned) of many factors…….I saw this happening in the gift industry as well. Things have changed my friends and will continue to change and unless we try to make the shift our industry will suffer greatly.

    I am 58 and have been quilting for my own pleasure almost 20 years. Up until last year my career was in art licensing, an industry that has also been suffering from major losses and changes. The same we are finding here in the quilting industry. The tide began to turn back in 2001 after 911 but the shift was beginning prior to that but had just started. We lost many many mom and pop and independent gift shops to the bigger box stores, and when online sales became more prevalent……Major companies laid off in house designers to save costs and hired contract or licensed artist to fill their needs, so their was in influx of freelance individuals in the market place. Email and online opportunity made it easier to get art from artists outside the country and the competition became global. We also saw a decrease in the purchasing of goods from the baby boomer generation who were retiring and downsizing. So we have seen our share of issues too. It has gone into free fall and I do not see it leveling out any time soon sadly…..I have been selling my quilt design patterns for just over a year now and I do see some of the same changes that occurred in art licensing happening in the quilting industry.

    Yes there is a generation gap between those who quilt and those just getting started, but things are different than they were back when most quilters were growing up. Many of our seasoned quilters grew up during a time when quilts were a need rather than a luxury, or their mother or grandmother came from that era and passed on their skills to their daughters. In between we have a generation that went to work and there seemed to be less time for teaching the needle arts, we became busier and busier with other things and technology. Young women today have less time and some have less money than the quilters who are retired or older. While I love to support my LQS we cannot shame those who cannot afford it either. I have always told people that I would much rather they buy the best they can afford and quilt, than not quilt at all…..Perhaps those with a stash so big it will outlive them would be willing to part with it for those who cannot afford a nicer quality fabric rather than criticizing them for using something else. There needs to be far less snobbery and much more camaraderie…..

    My younger friend has had issues with older members of guilds not being as welcoming or of the condescending attitude some of them have taken with her. We MUST embrace the younger generation and become mentors to them or this industry will die right along with its oldest members…..Seasoned quilters cannot continue to see their way as the only way. The old saying you can’t teach an old dog a new trick needs to be left out and there needs to be an understanding that you can mix old and new techniques and learn from each other. A good place to start would be a mentoring program where a seasoned and novice quilter are paired up and they can teach each other…..

    The quilting industry is seeing the same evolution of change and we have to ask ourselves how we can slow or stop it, or adapt to the change. The first thing we can do its support EACH OTHER. I am talking the business owners in this industry…..At the AQS show I was a bit shocked to see that a few of my fellow vendors chose to ignore the contract and sell goods cheaper than the suggested MSRP so that we had an even playing field. I had even sent customers to another booth when I did not have a particular line from one of my fabric companies, however stopped once I found out they were undercutting the MSRP. I followed in contract….they either chose to ignore or did not bother to read it…..that hurts us all.

    So….what can we do? Well, for starters…..

    Buy patterns from local designers, invite them to do trunk shows. I do sell my patterns as downloads online but some people like to only buy paper…..I have several quilt shops within a 15 mile radius of me and only one of them has even asked to see my patterns or work with me…..One became rather upset with me when she found out I would be selling fabric online, even though it was a line she does not and has said she will never carry….and I plan on selling as part of a kit…..sad that they choose not to support someone in their own backyard.

    We need new blood in the industry and that is going to require some thought……One thing my husband became acutely aware of was the average age of the customers we had at the AQS show……lol…He asked me if I knew this….Of course, and the goal is to try and change it….Guilds have to bring in new blood and they are going to have to put on their thinking caps on how they can do it in their particular area.

    -Perhaps offer some daytime classes to young mothers and have a mini day care onsite with “guild grandmothers” to watch them and give moms the time to work on their projects.

    -Evening classes and mentorship programs.

    -Sharing of supplies to those who cannot afford it. An “Angel Program” if you will.

    These are just a few things I think could get the ball rolling……..

    I love to teach…..to share my ideas and thoughts with others and it seems to me that unless we encourage each other business to business or the younger generation we are in for a world of hurt.

    Thanks you Weeks, for getting the conversation started……xxxx

  88. I am in the 50 YO age group, still working. I buy sewing supplies a little at a time each month at the LQS to build my thread, fabric and tool inventory for now sewing and for when I retire in a couple of years. I have been sewing since my early 20s and never shopped at a quilt shop until I moved into my neighborhood (not far from where I grew up) We always had a Hancock’s, Cloth World (now JoAnns), etc to shop for sewing supplies for clothing and home decor. I personally think they would do better if they stuck with fabric instead of trying to be a craft store (we have Hobby Lobby and Michael’s for all the other stuff).

    I personally love my LQS – Painted Pony Quilt Shop in La Porte, TX. I have never had friends that sewed – only my mom (which we still love to sew together), so this gives me a great place to meet others that enjoy the same hobby as I do. I went to a class a couple of years ago for hand embroidery. We picked a project and learned a lot of stitches. Two years later we are still meeting once a month (some have finished the project – others have not), but we love to meet and work on other things and get ideas from each other for our most recent project.

    They mostly have classes during the week and occasionally on Saturday. I take a vacation day each month from work to go hang out at the quilt shop with the ladies I have fun with. It is a great break for me working in a busy personnel office every day. Our quilt shop ladies are the best – friendly and helpful, doesn’t matter if I am buying a couple yards of fabric or that $1.69 spool of cotton I need. I also like to support them buy buying what I can from them, but enjoy shopping on-line with Fat Quarter Shop in Texas, MSQC and Fabric Junction in Sturgis, SC.

    I do think sewing, quilting, crocheting, knitting run in seasons. I have crocheted since I was 10 YO and have seen the market explode with lots of different choices in yarns over the past several years. New fabric lines and textiles bring new people into these arts at different times.

    Enjoyed the post and all the comments! Happy Sewing!

  89. I have been Quilting for over 30 years.. and the first 20 years were lean… Buy just what I needed for that project… Learning about quality, price and value. Now I have a fair sized stash but it has grown only bit by bit and by taking advantage of good value.
    When I visit a quilt shop I head for the discounted table, and I may buy 5 or 8 metres if it is under $8. At $15 or more…I will think hard and get the minimum.
    The industry has grown almost too big and costly because of so many people wanting to make money from books, magazines, new tools, patterns, fabric designing. …. Quilts were made long before we had thousands of options…. People were just not making a lot of money from it as an industry.
    I see batting sold for over $40 metre at the fabric store…I would hesitate to start any quilts at that price. I buy batting by the bolt at $7 metre from a wholesaler. So my $190 buys me 27 metres and not 5 . I share this with Friends.
    What is needed is better understanding of the concept of value.
    Creativity and process for its own value and not a response to the Quilt Marketing industry.

    1. Quoting Linda G:
      “The industry has grown almost too big and costly because of so many people wanting to make money from books, magazines, new tools, patterns, fabric designing. …. Quilts were made long before we had thousands of options…. People were just not making a lot of money from it as an industry.
      I see batting sold for over $40 metre at the fabric store…I would hesitate to start any quilts at that price. I buy batting by the bolt at $7 metre from a wholesaler. So my $190 buys me 27 metres and not 5 . I share this with Friends.
      What is needed is better understanding of the concept of value.
      Creativity and process for its own value and not a response to the Quilt Marketing industry.”

      Linda this is completely untrue! I am the perfect example. Until I created QNNtv.com in 2006 and found a home for it (it got bought; I got a salary) I made LESS than I would have working at the corner convenience store. And I worked non-stop writing books, designing, and teaching. Back then some did pretty well hitting the road several times a month and then back at home creating products (books, kits, etc.) which they then sold on the road. But it was constant. Even at the helm of QNNtv.com I made waaaay less than I would have in the real TV world.

      When we created “Quilt Out Loud” we hired an producer who creates shows for HGTV. Touring Quilt Market and getting to know the industry she said she has never seen more incredibly competent go-getters working their fannies off but that they were barely making a buck. She commented at how they could be making super salaries, and probably left them behind to work in their passion. Husbands enable then to do it. Which is wonderful!

      The way I see it — and I bet other professionals will agree –is there are too many books and patterns and fabric lines, so it’s hard to make a buck. There are only so many quilters, and therefore only so big a pie. It’s being cut into tiny, tiny pieces. In books, I know for a fact that publishers struggle, and authors see writing books as a way to get their name out. Books that ake decent money are few ad far between. (I wrote 35. My average was way above the reported average of less than 2,000. My best seller? NOT QUILTING. I wrote a pop culture book on Rubber Duckies. 230.000 copies!)

      Prices are not high. Have you ever costed out what it takes to get a book published? If anything, having such a glut of stuff in the market drives prices down.

      My solution when QNNtv,com was bought by an even bigger fish two years ago, was to create my own niche. I’m single — there was zero way I could make it designing and teaching and I didn’t want to sell my paid-for farm to go to work in marketing somewhere or get paid dirt to be an editor of a magazine. In a way I’m still involved in quilting, as my first product is a Quilt Shop Cuckoo Clock. (And I have a Barn with a Quilt coming out next and a modern quilt cuckoo clock later in the year. The first clock was birthed while taping an episode of a show at a cuckoo clock factory when Bernina sent one of my shows to Switzerland.) It was so hard to walk away from quilting after decades in the industry. I cried non-stop for a year as I built two businesses to see which one would fly, and milked every penny of my savings. Still am. But it was the only thing to do. It was absolutely the right decision.

      So, if the industry is at fault at all it’s in the fact that it has somehow created free as normal. Design and make quilts for a fabric company to get your name out. Offer free patterns to get people to know you, etc. But I don’t see it as a fault. Heck, why not? It’s up to the individual to decide what the value of their time is. If no designer gave stuff away it wouldn’t be the way in. To me business is for-profit. I simply don’t understand why there is this sentiment around that businesses are at fault for making money. If that fabric isn’t worth $15 a yard to you don’t buy it!

  90. This is my first time on this blog and I am hooked, I have enjoyed reading everyone’s posts. I am a 50+ quilter am retired and only purchase my supplies locally. I quilt for the love of quilting. I buy my books from quilt stores as there is a better choice than at a big chain store, I think with the invention of the internet (am I dating myself?) we are fortunate to be able to have these conversations, but with the good comes the bad. To me the bad is the over saturation of the market. So many smaller quilt stores in my area, ordering on line, etc. I have 2 favorite stores to visit. One I go to and purchase most of my fabric…the only reason is this. He made an effort to know me. It is only he and his wife. I may go to him 3 times a year, but when I do I will spend $200+. He will throw in an extra yard when I purchase 3 or 4 of the same fabric. For every $100 I spend he knocks off 10% on my quilt backing fabric. As someone who watches her budget, why would I go to a store where, even after 10 years of going to the same store the only time you are talked to is to ask if you need help and how much fabric do you want to buy.

    I belong to a quilt guild and they have put a bad taste in my mouth, all the bickering and back stabbing I know this is normal when you get so many people together. For this reason I continue to go to hear our guest speaker and learn. I have a stash of patterns I may never use, but make sure I purchase from them since they took their time to come out.

    Am I off topic? Sorry. I have started taking my granddaughters to quilt guild with me and they have started asking questions getting interested. I also go to craft fairs as vendors (to make money to spend on quilting) but make only quilted items, and peanutbrittle. I always have some quilts to sell. This gets so many young people asking question. Maybe there is hope yet

  91. Unfortunately, I have to buy most of my fabric online. I wouldn’t mind paying $1 or $2 a yard more from my LQS, if they would actually stock some fabric that I like. When I ask about designers that I want to purchase, they tell me they can’t stock them because they’re ugly. Well, okay then. I’m fine with that, it’s your store, stock what you like and what you think you can sell. But don’t berate me or harp on in social media about how we have to buy fabric from your store or it risks closing. I don’t owe you a living.
    STILL, I try to buy tools from my LQS, and the occasional FQ, because I do want to support local businesses (of any type). It’s just unfortunate that I have to buy from (independently owned) online retailers when it comes to fabric.

  92. Yes, please credit the blog. As you can read in the voluminous comments, some people took offense and shot the messenger. You can decide if it would be helpful to your members or if others would also be annoyed at the suggestions in the post.

  93. May I share this excellent article with members of our quilt guild (Calico Cutups Quilt Guild, Bella Vista, AR) by printing it in our September monthly newsletter?

    1. Certainly. We just ask that you attribute it to Modern Quilt Studio and our blog Craft Nectar. Thanks. Glad you feel it to be useful.

  94. I agree with you on most of your points. However, with the increasing cost of fabric those of us who have stashes large enough to open our own shops are starting to use what we have. There is an increasing number of magazine publishers who repeat the same patterns over and over again. Sometimes you are lucky to find two good patterns in a magazine and they are sending quilters to their web site to print what they should have print themselves, some magazines bag them to prevent customers from see what they are purchasing ( I refuse to purchasing any of them) and in additions some of the newer magazines prices are excessively high and pictures are plentiful but pattern are not.

    Although we older quilters purchase more than the younger one our incomes are not increase anywhere near the cost of fabric, books, magazines, and patterns.

  95. And some older people are on a very limited budget and aren’t buying any more than those young mothers. =) It’s easy to point fingers at this or that as a cause of our quilting woes. There are many good points in this post, and I liked reading the discussion all the way down. I’ve been quilting for 50 years, so that means I go back to the time when quilting was just beginning to pick up, before there were dozens of shops, before there were slick magazines, before there were quilting books enough to line an entire library’s shelves, before Fabric.com (then Phoenix Textiles) was owned by Amazon, and WAS a family business, before, before, before…. It’s lots easier today to find what we want.

    Maybe we’ve gotten used to a surfeit of quilting everything. Maybe what’s happening is partly, at least, a natural contraction of having expanded too far, too fast. I don’t think either quilting or quilters is going away soon. I don’t think it hurts us any to care about and support all the quilters out there, no matter their level or expertise or their preference of style. I don’t think it hurts us to be kind and compassionate, two qualities missing in a lot of day-to-day interactions in the rest of the world. The truth is, no matter how much we spread this information, we aren’t likely to change very many people’s opinions or habits. Right here, we’re preaching to the choir, you know!

    We can do our best ourselves to support where we can afford to support and keep the dollars in the industry. We can do our best to try to influence our closest friends and fellow shoppers. NOT sharing our patterns with our friends is one big way to help pattern designers. I’ve never lost a friend for saying, “No, I’m sorry, I won’t copy a pattern and take money out of the designer’s pocket.” If each of us changed one thing we do to be more supportive of both brick-and-mortar shops and online shops that do their best to support us, maybe it will be like the butterfly’s wing movements and make a difference in time.

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