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.


50 things at 50

better world

I turned 50 today. Didn’t my daughter make me the most wonderful birthday hat ever? As is a common pattern in the blogosphere, I’d like to share in no particular order some bits of wisdom I’ve gleaned from the past 50 years. Please share yours as well in the comments section.

1. The more you love, the more you are loved.

2. I don’t know how my daughter and husband put up with me sometimes but every day I thank God that they do. I got lucky in the husband/child department.

3. Have at least one friend who is more than 15 years older than you. They’ve been around. They know stuff. They give good advice.

4. Making mistakes is forgivable. Failing to apologize and make it right isn’t admirable.

5. If you think exercise isn’t fun, you haven’t found the right one yet.

6. Hydrate. A lot.

7. You can skimp on t-shirts and jeans, but spending money on a good bra and a sturdy pair of shoes is worth every penny.

8. No matter what your spouse has done, remember that there was a day when you stood among your loved ones and made a promise. Even if the marriage doesn’t work out and he turns out to be a scoundrel, you’ll be happier in the long run if you’ve acted with dignity.

9. Kids want time with their parents more than they want stuff.

10. If you’re sad, do something kind for someone else with less than you.

11. Don’t eat food that has things you’ve never heard of in the list of ingredients.

12. You don’t need more storage. You probably need less stuff.

13. No one cares what kind of car you drive unless you’re in the automotive industry.

14. Stretch.

15. Each year, grow something.

16. Frugality is its own reward.

17. I’m so glad I spent my 20s living in another country. It’s hard to understand your own country until you’ve lived in someone else’s.

18. At least once in your life, put yourself in a situation where you are the only one in the room with your skin color/ethnicity/sexual orientation etc. Everyone needs to know that feeling.

19. I Love Lucy episodes will always have a soft spot in my heart.

20. Every meal eaten with cloth napkins feels more special.

21. If you’re a parent or a spouse, do one thing each day to make your family member laugh.

22. Sometimes I think people like me more than it turns out that they do. Oh well.

23. Every minute I choose to be with our daughter and not work is time well spent.

24. Caring for my mother-in-law during the last four years of her life was the hardest job I’ve ever had. A hundred times harder than being a parent. It’s devastating to know that no matter how hard you try the best you can hope for is a comfortable death. Caregivers of those who are ill or disabled deserve way more support than our culture gives them. We need to throw these people a parade. They are heroes.

25. I will never forget watching Neil Armstrong take that first step on the moon. It was magical.

26. When I turned 30 I threw away all of the makeup I owned. I decided that it was hypocritical for me to be telling the young girls I tutored that they should “just be themselves” because they were beautiful just as they are when I was sitting there with makeup all over my face. I didn’t even wear makeup to my own wedding. I’m lucky to have a husband who thinks that a fine quality of mine and I can be ready to go anywhere in five minutes. It’s fine if other people do it, but I’m done.

27. Once we started making our own oatmeal waffles, it’s hard to eat anyone else’s.

28. Part of parenting is being willing to stand up for your kid and advocate for them even when it’s uncomfortable.

29. I’m happiest when I don’t worry what people think about me. Sometimes that’s easier said than done.

30. Having a chronic illness is really a tough headgame. Healthy people cannot understand how hard it is.

31. Lead. It’s not fair. It takes a lot of energy. Things get better when people with good energy and good ideas step forward and take charge.

32. I started alternating cardio exercise and training with weights at 46. At 50, I’ve never felt stronger or leaner.

33. It’s nice to be able to invite someone to stay for dinner even if it’s just sandwiches. The company is often more important than the food.

34. If the service is good, tip generously. If it’s not, write on the back of the check what the problem was so owners can improve.

35. Don’t worry about things that you won’t remember in 10 years.

36. At least once every few months have a girls’ lunch/brunch/dinner.

37. I love this quote by Henry Ford:”If you think you can or if you think you can’t, you’re right.”

38. There will never be a movie I love more than The Sound of Music.

39. I wish I didn’t have to be a vegetarian. I grew up hating meat, poultry, fish, etc. so I’ve been a vegetarian for 32 years. It’s very inconvenient, people stereotype me as a result and it’s socially awkward with some people. I wish it weren’t such a big deal to other people what I choose to eat or not eat.

40. American restaurant portion sizes are ridiculous.

41. A part of me will always be in Japan. With all of its many problems, I still love every minute I’m there.

42. The amount of money that you spend on a wedding has absolutely no relation to what the quality of the marriage will be. Pass it on.

43. You can turn most any situation around if you really put your mind to it. Mary Poppins was right about that Spoonful of Sugar business.

44. If you put away stuff for 10 minutes every night and train family members to do the same, it’s really not that hard to keep a tidy house. Have a playlist of good cleaning music to make it more fun.

45. Everyone need a Board of Directors in their life: a bunch of friends that you’ve known for a very long time, a great contractor, a doctor whose a good listener, someone who makes you want to be a better person, a friend who will always tell you the truth (I’m that one for some people), a loving pet, a hairstylist who won’t let you get in a rut, an honest mechanic, someone with really great judgement, a rival to keep you sharp, and at least one great neighbor.

46. You train people how to treat you. Don’t be friends, employees or lovers with people who don’t treat you with kindness and respect. Admiration is a plus too.

47. I miss Martin Luther King. He was a shining light of change in my childhood.

48. I will never dye my hair to get rid of the gray. I know a lot of hot women with gray hair. I plan on being one of them.

49. I really appreciate that readers of this blog take time out of their days to read what I write. I hope I’m worthy of your time. I try to be.

50. God has a plan for me. I don’t always know what it is but every now and then I see glimpses of it and know that I’m doing exactly what I should be doing. What a blessing that is.

Your turn.