In the summer of 2006, Penny Gold arrived at our week-long Design Camp workshop. Penny had emailed earlier to say that she would be working on a grieving quilt about the death of her only child who was killed in a car accident a year earlier. She explained that she was a private person and didn’t want to share what she was working on with other students. We said fine and told her to let us know how we could support her.
Penny developed deep friendships in the class and has spent the past 10 years working on a series of quilts about the loss of Jeremy. Bill has met with her annually since 2006 to give her constructive criticism about her work and ideas for the quilts in the series. So it was especially meaningful when Penny wrote us to share the happy news that she’d be having a show of her series on loss this week. Bill went to the opening last weekend while I was on mom duty. If you are driving through southern Illinois this week, be sure to drop by, read the stories behind the exhibit Loss and see how Penny has tackled this heartbreaking topic.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
I got an email a few months ago from another quilter asking me to resurrect the Pet Postcards fundraiser that the multi-talented Pokey Bolton organized several years ago at International Quilt Festival Houston. I contacted Quilts, Inc., who manages Quilt Festival in Chicago and asked if they would consider it. They agreed. Some of you may know that after the passing of our beloved cat of 17 years Mies, who was found in a community garden plot along with his littermates, we began fostering cats and dogs of all ages for PAWS Chicago.
PAWS Chicago has been ranked by Charity Navigator as the #1 animal welfare organization in the US. They find forever families for over 6,000 homeless animals annually and offer low-cost or free spaying and neutering to over 18,000 animals each year in an effort to curb the homeless animal population. Working with them has been inspiring, fun and empowering so it’s easy to want to raise money for them. We’re asking quilters and craftspeople from all over the world to donate a pet-themed fabric postcard that will be exhibited and sold at International Quilt Festival Chicago from April 7-9, 2016. All of the proceeds from the sale of the postcards will be donated to PAWS Chicago.
So we’ve set up a website with all of the specifics including tutorials so click here for the link. Please share the link so we can raise as much as we can for the largest no-kill humane organization in the Midwest. We’ll be posting cards as they come in on the PetPostcard site and Facebook and all of the postcards will be exhibited at International Quilt Festival Chicago from April 7-9. Thanks in advance for your generosity.