We were saddened to read today that publisher F&W is shuttering four craft magazines including Modern Patchwork and Quilty. In the past few years, we’ve watched one quilting magazine after another close. It’s heartbreaking to see so many talented writers, photographers, art directors and staff lose their livelihoods. However, those who follow industry statistics know that quilting industry growth has remained statistically flat for the past few years. Fabric designers know that the notoriously long production schedules for traditional magazines mean that it’s extremely unlikely that by the time the magazine is printed that the fabrics shown will still be available. Many fabric lines have a life span of under a year and magazines book quilt features over a year in advance. Advertisers know that they must divide their ad budgets among a variety of sources that didn’t exist when most of these magazines began.
Although we are sad to lose beloved publications, we want to reassure our readers that Modern Quilts Illustrated and all of our other publications have very different business models and continue to enjoy robust sales. Modern Quilt Studio has a project in an upcoming issue of Modern Patchwork and we hope that the company’s plans to finish issues already in production before they cease includes the issue that will feature our quilt project. Either way, we have three publications already in the pipeline to share with you in the coming few months so stay tuned.
We love the very sturdy oak chairs that we bought from Ikea for our dining table in 1999. One of the chairs appeared on the cover of Quilts Made Modern in fact. The have arms, fit our bodies well, allow us to have Settlers of Catan marathons and invite guests to linger comfortably for conversation after meals. They are cushioned and they have slipcovers that wash when there’s a spill. They are small enough to fit 8 at our table but large enough for a person and a small dog to curl up and for me to sit “criss-cross-applesauce” during said game marathons.
However, over the years the avocado-green covers had become stained and faded by sunlight. We looked for years for replacement covers and couldn’t find any. We also tried a variety of other chairs but none were as comfortable as these. They are also much sturdier than many chairs owing to their oak frame. The slipcovers are complex and would be very time-consuming to reproduce. So we decided to overdye them with an indigo dye. We calculated all of the chemicals needed and purchased the dye and chemicals from Dharma Trading. Taking advantage of the heat and the day off, we spent much of July 4 stirring and washing the slipcovers. We are delighted with the results. They feel and look like dark-wash indigo linen that has a really nice patina. We knew they wouldn’t look brand new but would have a soft wabi-sabi look that fits with our casual home. The color is crisp and perfect for us. Most of all we’re thrilled to be able to extend the life of the chairs and not add anything to a landfill.
If you are interested in doing something similar, read up on the many online tutorials first. If there’s top-stitching on your piece, assume that it’s polyester and will not take the dye. Our covers are top-stitched with a green thread so we planned the overdye color to work with the green topstitching and it does. Also stick to an analogous color in a dark value if possible; indigo over avocado green yields a deep dark blue that’s slightly greener than the original dye. A deep red would likely have yielded an earthy brown. Natural fibers take overdye the best so our 100% cotton slipcovers were the perfect candidate for this project. We did our dyeing in our garage for easy stirring, rinsing and cleanup. At some point, we’ll sew new slipcovers but for the interim, this was a great solution for us.
We’ve watched with sadness the shuttering of quilt shops, fabric companies and quilt magazines in the past few years and fear that we haven’t seen the end of industry consolidation. Hearing yesterday that Modern Quilts Unlimited and Machine Quilting Unlimited are ceasing publication was disappointing indeed. As retail and publishing environments experience structural changes, owners will be forced to adjust their business models to survive and in some cases it just won’t be possible.
Our business model has always been different. We’ve never relied on advertising for our publications and have never had a large staff, high overhead, debt or investors to please. We started our business 19 years ago this week with our own savings in a studio in our home with just the two of us. Our only goal has been to design and make quilts that are expressive of the time in which we live. Along the way we added a studio manager, an e-commerce site, began designing fabrics, wrote six books, collaborated with a job training facility for developmentally disabled adults and became publishers as well. We’ve adopted a child, dealt with illness, moved and fostered 84 homeless animals.
Occasionally we’ve wondered if we should close our business and pursue more lucrative lines of work but we found our sweet spot when we took the risk to put what’s in our heads on paper. If you had been up at 6am on a hot summer Saturday morning last August you would have seen us dragging a leather sofa out of our van and onto a sidewalk adjacent to an industrial pallet yard in Chicago with 18-wheelers whizzing by just because we wanted the patina of a rusted iron door of the pallet yard in the shot for our Reclaimed quilt. If we’ve just had a foot of snow and it’s 5 degrees out, chances are that we’re packing up quilts to shoot for our calendar while the snow is fresh. No sane editor would ask her staff to refinish a beaten up table found in the alley because it’s the perfect curve for the cover shot of Modern Quilts Illustrated 8. Several years ago we abandoned the subscription model almost all magazines use in favor of just putting out the best possible publications we can and taking the time we need to do that. We believe that if we’re excited about every detail of our publications that you will sense that as you flip through the pages and that you will want more.
In the future we may offer digital versions of our publications and patterns. However, just as there will always be a place in the world for books, there will also be people who love flipping through an ad-free quilting magazine on high-quality paper with beautiful photos and detailed diagrams. It saddens us to lose talented colleagues and inspiring publications, but we take these industry consolidations as marching orders to put out only our best ideas and our most inspiring work. Right now we are working on a project for fall that’s been in the works for six years because we believe that our best work is yet to come. Sincere thanks to those of you who have supported us for the past 19 years. Without you, we wouldn’t be here. Onward!