NOTIONS: What the Heck is Happening in Our Q-niverse?

jake • July 27, 2016 • 75 Comments

So the conversation about recent closures in our q-niverse continues with the news that American Quilter’s Society will cease publishing books next year, and that the International Machine Quilters Association is folding. (IMQA produced one show held each year in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and was dedicated to machine quilting and functioned as a trade organization to further professional development in the quilting community. This should NOT be confused with MQX Quilt Festivals which produces two shows–New England and Illinois–and which is still happily in business.)

What’s happening here? In our humble opinion, we’re finally seeing the shrinking of a bloated industry, something that many of us expected to happen during our national recession.

We spend a lot of time identifying and analyzing trends, because it helps guide our content, which in turn serves our customers, and because we’re just nosy that way. (Several of us are journalists and put that hunger for news into GenQ.) Our small staff’s combined time served in this wonderful industry tallies our experience in decades. We’ve seen many changes over those years. What we’re seeing now is a little scary, because we’re facing the unknown, but we find ourselves far more excited at the possibilities facing our quilting and sewing world.

International Quilt Market: The opening session at SchoolHouse in Houston in October 2014. The opening focused on the new Quilting in America Survey that was released that year.

International Quilt Market: The opening session at SchoolHouse in Houston in October 2014. The opening focused on the new Quilting in America Survey that was released that year.

More than a decade ago, surveys and reports began pointing out that our main consumer was aging, and rapidly. The result of this information caused what we sincerely believe can only be described as industry-wide panic. We’d go to Quilt Market (held twice each year) and see the sweat on the brows of the shop owners, company managers, and industry leaders as they talked about the average age of today’s quilters. What’s going to happen when our devoted fans start disappearing from the results of old age? It was, and is, an important question.

The initial answer was to start recruiting younger people into our club. But no one was quite sure how to do this. We watched awkward attempts to entice children and teens into sewing, and to draw the notice of the 20-somethings, usually through special events and awards categories at major quilt shows. What we did not see was a concerted marketing effort to figure out what might attract these younger men, and women into our rotary wielding arms. What was it that they might want from quilting and sewing?

International Quilt Market: Houston 2015: Modern Solids by In The Beginning Fabrics.

International Quilt Market: Houston 2015: Modern Solids by In The Beginning Fabrics.

Flash forward to 2009, the creation of the Modern Quilt Guild, and a little shameless self-promotion here. Melissa and Jake were editors of another quilt magazine that faced a needed change. We wanted to identify a visual style for our magazine. Our research sent us to the Internet. Blogs were no longer new and those serving quilters and sewists were soundly thriving on the Web. Over and over again on our most popular quilt blogs we spied the new MQG logo. We’d never heard of the MQG, but we knew we had fallen down a hole only to land at the feet of a flourishing tribe of like-minded fabric addicts. And they were just beginning to draw the attention of some of our biggest suppliers—C&T Publishing, Moda Fabrics, Westminster/FreeSpirit Fabrics, BERNINA, and Robert Kaufman Fabrics are several that come to mind.

International Quilt Market: Houston 2015-Sara Lawson, bag maker extraordinaire, shows us her new book. Sarah very much reflects the Modern quilter--young mom, blogger, talented and driven to create a niche for herself in the industry.

International Quilt Market: Houston 2015-Sara Lawson, bag maker extraordinaire, shows us her new book. Sarah very much reflects the Modern quilter–young mom, blogger, talented and driven to create a niche for herself in the industry.

This movement and its fast growth impressed Melissa and Jake and we wrote the first magazine article featuring the Modern Quilt Guild and its members in March 2010. It was clear that this community was creating a lot of new love for quilting and we happily joined in.

It took the span of two Quilt Markets (read as fast as bad, gossipy news travels on the Internet) for the industry to see the potential that these quilters brought for the long-term survival of all things stitchy. We literally went from absolutely no acknowledgement or chatter about Modern quilters in May 2010 to everyone at Quilt Market talking about nothing else in May 2011.

Like everything new in our q-niverse, there’s never a shortage of strong opinion available. (Case in point: A quilter in 1983 would have been spray-basted and wrapped in batting if he/she submitted a machine-quilted quilt to a major show.) We won’t rehash these debates. We will point out that our industry made an immediate turn toward Modern quilters, hoping to welcome them into our club. Suddenly solids were cool (again—think Amish quilts); quilts were graphic and arguably more sophisticated in many ways; hip colors were being used in our sewing machines and rotary cutters, and quilt shops were now being called sewing studios and labs. We launched websites, blogs, and social media pages galore to reach out to our newest sewists. Modern was buzzing everywhere.

Robert Kaufman Fabrics celebrated 30 years of Kona Solids at International Quilt Market in Houston 2015.

Robert Kaufman Fabrics celebrated 30 years of Kona Solids at International Quilt Market in Houston 2015.

In our opinion, Modern quilters are an amazing addition to our community and it is their evolution that we believe helped to stall our industry’s shrinkage. It is possible, though, that our industry will now need to shrink more than would have been needed a decade ago because of its response to the Modern quilter, which was to flood our shops and shows with so much product that we can’t possibly buy everything that is offered.

And that is what we’re seeing today. In every corner of our q-niverse there is an overabundance of stuff—magazines included.

The following statements are very generalized observations and are offered completely without judgment, so please, no fussing. There are, of course, exceptions and variations, but we need a starting place from which to understand our changing community.

First, our legacy quilters are not buying as much because they already have enough. (Anyone want to challenge this premise? “Working from Our Stash” has become its own mini-movement at quilt guilds throughout the country.) Our newer quilters are not in the same life-place as most of our legacies, and they conserve their resources (AKA quilt budgets) so they can still feed their young children.

Second, there’s a dividing line between viewing quilting as a hobby and seeing it as a vocation with the potential of earning a living. Our newer quilters tend to invest carefully in their craft because they nurture dreams of designing, writing or otherwise working in the industry. Our legacy quilters are fueling a hobby, and they buy in a much different manner: for the fun of it. We believe that, in general, our hobby quilter is a much more impulsive consumer. They are collectors and connoisseurs, and their numbers are shrinking, for the moment.

What does all of this mean? Well, this is where our excitement comes in. With industry constriction comes less stuff and less choice. It’s a simple matter of supply and demand. As our consumer gets more selective, we must work harder to provide the best products possible. Our quilt utopia has better-curated designs, fabrics, books, tools and, yes, magazines. Those of us who work hard to listen to our community’s needs and wants will likely survive this constriction, and come out better for it.

Until we’re at the other side of this, it’s going to be a bloody road. Chaos is change’s natural partner. Survival means continuing to create products and experiences that are out of the box for our community. We have to treat them like the intelligent, discerning consumers they are and make ourselves better in the process. And our consumers need to support those businesses that speak to their hearts. It’s the Creative Circle of Life and we all have a part in it.

-Jake Finch is the co-founder and publisher of Generation Q Magazine. Along with her partner in crime, Melissa Thompson Maher, and their dedicated small staff of talent extraordinaire, and an amazing community of Q-bies, they seek to take over the world with stitching fun! 

POST SCRIPT: It was suggested that we should have a link to our own advertising information here. While this article was written with a global concern for our industry, it was probably silly of us to not offer this information here. If you’re looking for information about advertising in our print, online or eNewsletter, please contact myself, and/or Melissa Kanovsky, Ad Manager, at Thank you.

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Categories Notions (opinion)


  • Linda P • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #1

    Spot on..have seen it coming..not only for quilting but for everything..too much stuff..guilty..but it’s all so cute/pretty..we want it all..too many thoughts for this short comment..

  • kitblue • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #2

    What an uplifting article! I am an aging quilter/sewer with an enormous stash. I recently donated a lot of fabric, notions, etc to a new Canadian, a volunteer theatre company (working with disadvantaged youth) and a local charity. I still have more than enough to meet my own needs.
    I read voraciously and eclectically but gave up magazines – not just because of advertising but because I am in Canada and most advertisers are in the US; cross border shipping can be costly, if even available. I liked to borrow them from the library but they closed my local branch and I am boycotting them until they replace it (supposed to take 2 years but now …?). I do subscribe to on-line newsletters, like yours, and enjoy them. I especially like those with free patterns. If I make and like that pattern, I am willing to buy others.
    I highly recommend you check out Geta Grama, if you have not already. She lives in Europe where there are not many quilters so her outlet is on-line. Her machine quilting is stunning.
    I look forward to your newsletter and more about the state of the craft/art/industry.

    • Donna • 8 years ago
      COMMENT #

      I agree with the preceding writer that Geta Grama is a wonderful designer with a unique product. I save her freebies and have purchased other designs that I hope to make someday (soon?).

      • Sandy W • 8 years ago
        COMMENT #

        I to am awe struck at Geta Grama’s work and have downloaded her freebies and have since bought her designs to hopefully use later. Glad to know I am not alone.

  • Lisa E • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #3

    Very insightful! Something to think about…

  • Joan • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #4

    I agree with much of what you have said. May I humbly suggest that there is a third group, of which I am a part–those who are a long way from being 20, but who find styles/colors such as civil war unappealing, and gravitate to Tula Pink, Allison Glass, Amy Gibson, Katie Blakesley, Amanda Jean Nyberg, Lee Heinrich, Faith Jones, Victoria Findlay Wolfe, Jackie Gering, the fabulous Canadian and Australian quilters, and sooooo many more. We don’t purchase complete lines, as much as four or five pieces of a line, and find inspiration on the internet, however, still prefer to buy a paper pattern! We do buy books and magazines, but they have to have new material/ideas!

    • Jackie • 8 years ago
      COMMENT #

      I Agree whole heartedly with your post. My 20’s are long past but I eat up stuff from the modern designers like candy. I still consider myself a quilter but my true passion is bags/purses. However, pdf patterns are about the only thing I buy anymore – if it’s not available in .pdf format I usually pass. (Maybe it’s my need for instant gratification) I refuse to join my local quilt guild because of view points that are dated and the drama involved. I love hanging with newbies in the craft and feel I can learn from their new ideas. Blogs, eBay and etsy have had a huge impact on my purchasing habits. I support my local quilt shop as much as I can, while realizing they can only keep so much product on the shelf. Unfortunately, my local dedicated quilt shop rarely carries lines from modern designers.

      • Catherine S. • 8 years ago
        COMMENT #

        Jackie, perhaps pass on this article by Jake and a copy of Generation Q magaizine to your local dedicated quilt shop with a gentle suggestion of beginning to order a selection of the modern designers.

      • Summer • 8 years ago
        COMMENT #

        Jackie – I feel you! I do belong to my local quilt guild though. I find good friends in my quilting bee members, many of whom are excited to teach me their tips and a good foundation for quilting, and in turn, they are energized by whatever modern pattern or fabric I’m working on next. It can be a good symbiotic relationship if you find the right folks within the guild. Also like you, my LQS caters to their older customers and sometimes breaks the fabric line up around the store. I get so frustrated trying to find all the prints when a quick search of an online shop shows me everything! I try to balance purchasing fabric/notions that I do like from the LQS and going to the internet for everything else that they don’t carry. If they want more of my business, they’ll have to carry more Cotton+Steel than just one bolt!

      • Tisha Nagel (@quiltytherapy) • 8 years ago
        COMMENT #

        Jackie, have you looked at the Modern Quilt Guild to possibly join near your? I visited a local guild and our ideas did not mesh. The Modern guild is more my people. Varying ages and skills that is very supportive.

      • Marian • 8 years ago
        COMMENT #

        You can’t change their minds tho if you aren’t part of the group. I had this experience in the late 80’s early 90’s where I joined my local quilt guild and they thought machine quilting was NOT to be used whatsoever, but when I put my machine quilted quilts into their show and they started to sell, I saw a slight change of attitude.. If you keep them from seeing your new ideas and thoughts, they will never change, so give your local quilt guild a consideration, they may even give you some enlightenment also. You never know. With your local quilt shop… take in something you think you’d like to see them carry, ask them if they can get it, perhaps one little gesture like that will help enlighten them also to newer trends in quilting.

  • suzanne guthrie • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #5

    Thank you for the really interesting article. As an older “hobby” sewer I am presently making more quilts than ever before, but with the goal of using up that big stash. But I really LOVE the ability to design, and make “art” quilts, wonderful and fulfiling, but also do not take extensive new resources. SO I certainly agree with the buy less observation. I enjoy the print and blog world to learn more about people and how they design and create, as well as history………not very excited about the contemporary 1-2 page limit on magazine articles. One more observation, the quilting edges are also fraying and blurring as textiles are used in quilty sort of ways by the rest of the fibre world, several pieces in the recent Embroider’s Guild national show would have looked right at home in an “art” quilt show. It will be an interesting new world.

  • Abby Glassenberg • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #6

    This is so fascinating. Thank you for sharing your broad experience of watching the industry overtime.

    I do see a contraction, but it seems to me to be concentrated on how information is distributed and how commerce happens rather than on the fabric, notions, machines, patterns that make up so much of the industry. A popular magazine folded, the publishing arm of an organization folded, a trade organization and show folded, a percentage of independent quilt shops are struggling – that’s certainly a contraction. I don’t see a slow down in new fabric lines being released, though, or new patterns entering the market. I don’t hear indie designers saying they’re selling less. Is it possible that this is a shake-up driven by the internet more than anything else?

    • jake • 8 years ago
      COMMENT #

      Hi Abby: Jake here. I DO see a slowdown in fabric coming out. Remember that like some other industries, fabric has a 6-12 month lagtime before it’s on the shelves of retailers. I saw it at the last Market and heard from several large fabric companies that they were culling their bolts. The consumer will likely notice this around the first of the year. There is also a move BACK to more traditional fabrics. Not everyone, but some of the big ones were hearing this from their buyers. I also know there’s been a slow down in books coming out. The only things I don’t see cutting back right now are sewing machines, of any type. But the newest ones seem to cater to a lower price point for sale, which can also be seen as an answer to who is buying. BTW, the closures are happening fast in retail stores. We’ve lost a dozen shops this year alone, almost ALL to retirements and closings, not cancelled shipments. That tells us a lot.

      • Wilma Bland • 8 years ago
        COMMENT #

        I think the second wave as it were of the {shh! I hate to voice this…) economic downturn has left many quilting (and sewing in general) businesses faced with softer sales; higher expenses and higher TAXES. Couple that with the private sector (us) downsizing stash etc because quite frankly in the current political circus one is wondering when the next shoe falls. When we at the individual local level do not even attempt to support our favorite local suppliers and let them know what we are looking for when we don’t find it in their shop, we can’t expect that business to keep its head above water indefinitely. As for the closures due to retirements and no buyers for the business I would venture to say not many people at the moment are ready to take on the stress and financial burdens many of the retirees have dealt with and finally said time to leave something they had started out as a grand venture.

  • Sally Signore • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #7

    Thanks, Jake, for your inciteful and positive thoughts. Quilting magazines are certainly not the only print publications to be going out of business, never mind book stores closing! But I’m glad for your take that it may be temporary until things settle down. Growth doesn’t go on forever and there is a cycle to every business. The fittest will survive. We just don’t know what that will entail yet. I’m sure there are wonderful things to come.

  • Gay Brearley • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #8

    I have subscribed to many periodicals over a 40-year quilting addiction. For some time now there has been a depressing trend of having those longstanding, once-groundbreaking publications bought out by conglomerates who then turn their entire issue, patterns and all, into a shameless advertisement for a single fabric line. And for your convenience, they have kitted it for you to purchase. Not what most of us, who are already sitting on many lifetimes-worth of fabric, are looking for. And then their failure to capture the market results in the closure of an iconic industry fixture like Quilters Newsletter, which used to be such an inspiration to many of us, although certainly not lately.
    A question for those of you who are still publishing – is it no longer possible to have a thriving publication without selling out to the “affiliates”?

  • Susan Fuquay • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #9

    Truth well-spoken. Keep up the good work.

  • Joanne Moore • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #10

    these articles remind me of the song “Video killed the Radio Star” Technology will continue to change every aspect of our lives with some awesome results and sadly casualties. These articles have been Interesting reads about the quilting business.

  • Patricia Hersl • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #11

    Love to hear from a young point of view. As one of your legacy quilters (I’ll be 69 this week), I’d like to tell you how I saw the marketplace. For years, the fabrics were just ugly. I do deal with a budget even though no youngsters live here. It was difficult to find the gorgeous florals I adore. Many of the magazines had what I call zipper quilts. Same old quilt, new fabric line zipped in. All subscriptions stopped in favor of the occasional newsstand purchase. And truthfully, how many beginner classes can one take? So many things went wrong as too many people grabbed for their piece of the action. I now sit back and watch, feeling dread for all those who lose a job. And then wondering if I will ever find the perfect notion….

    • stitchercathy • 8 years ago
      COMMENT #

      I’m a quilter/textile artist born and bred in England (UK!) I agree totally with the statement about magazines having “zipper quilts”. I also have cancelled subscriptions in favour of occasional purchases. As for all those beginner classes……!! Thank goodness for the Contemporary Quilt subgroup of the Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles. Their online forum keeps ideas and creative processes bubbling, and their twice-a-year residential weekends offer us learning with tutors from the top of the tree. But there is a danger that the conglomerates will spoil the market, hoisting themselves with their own petards. It will be interesting to watch what happens from behind the piles of my stash!

      • anudge • 8 years ago
        COMMENT #

        I, too, had a love of magazines, but that has changed because of these “zipper quilts” (a perfect name for them) Now I also buy the occasional magazine at the newsstand. I tend to now find a block that interests me and design a quilt of my own from it. Also magazines based their offerings on a certain line, but we never see the line, or very little of it, to use as they show. Wish the manufacturers themselves would see some of that yardage – mind you yardage not kits.

  • Carol Stearnsc • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #12

    Very interesting article!

  • Becky Hanks • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #13

    I totally agree with your assessment of the quilt industry. You say better than I can on what I have been thinking for a long time. The changes are exciting, and as one of the old guard, I am looking forward to a fresh trend. I think there is a “self-design” concept that is building on the previous movers and shakers great work. I am really excited to see the creativity that is beginning to thrive. And I look forward to being a part of it!

  • Gina French • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #14

    I think it’s so sad that the quilting industry is slowing down. I find quilting to be so soothing and yet challenging. I have 2 daughters and neither one has ever shown an interest in quilting. I always imagined quilting would bring us closer. The young generation seems more interested in partying and playing video games. It’s so sad.

    • karen gonzalez • 8 years ago
      COMMENT #

      You are so right Gina. My friends kids would rather go to a brewery and play video games. They say they don’t have time for that kind of stuff. Sure hope they come around.

    • Cathy • 8 years ago
      COMMENT #

      Hmmmm, I remember watching my grandmother using her leftover fabric (she always made her own clothing and the children’s, my mother and her two brothers) in quilts she made and thinking how old fashioned it was. I remember being a young poor college student forced to make my own clothing and saving my scraps. In 1985 I finally landed a good job with decent pay and I took a look at that box of scraps and decided I’d follow my grandmother’s way and make a quilt, too. I made a few more and suddenly everyone around me was making quilts too. While I took several magazines, I didn’t join the local quilt guild until I retired, 30 years later.
      I do regret that my grandmother never saw my quilts.

  • Pauls Martin • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #15

    I am sorry to see the reductions but wonder if my experience today might be indication of why this might be happening. Today one of my emails had winners from the upcoming Quilt Show in Syracuse, I was so disappointed when I found that most of the winners in the featured link were winners from previous shows. Why would I be tempted to travel across the country to attend a show with the same winners or displays as the previous show in another part of the country?
    Am I alone in this thinking?

    • Alice Means • 8 years ago
      COMMENT #

      I totally agree with your opinion about winners being winners from previous shows. I was shocked when AQS announced they would be allowing winners to enter (and win) all of their shows in a given year!! It would be great to see new quilts winning recent shows!!

    • Rose in VT • 8 years ago
      COMMENT #

      My name showed up on that winners list for Syracuse this year. My first quilt entry for any AQS show was less than one year ago as I didn’t think I was good enough. If you want to see different quilts at these big shows, enter yours. Really, that’s how it happens.
      Also, check out the new rules for the Fall 2017 AQS show, they’re not allowing any quilt that was in the Spring
      Paducah show to be entered in Fall Paducah. Now THAT should be shaking up the industry! Add to that the Fall Paducah awards will not be purchase awards should bring lots of new quilts to shows next year. I’m excited to see what these changes will bring to our industry.

  • Barbara Cannon • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #16

    Well said! I am an aging quilter (62). My daughter and I taught ourselves to quilt when she was in college. We hand pieced our first project. Did not want to buy a machine until we knew if quilting was a keeper. We both come from cross stitching. I’m totally hooked on Judy Neimeyer at the moment. In the beginning I only bought for and did one project at a time. Then fell into having a *stash*. That got ridiculous so whenever there was a disaster from a hurricane I started donating said stash. I gave away to my sisters friend and her daughter who couldn’t afford the good stuff. A lot went to Goodwill, especially nearly all my books when we moved and down sized. I now am back to a small stash (mostly kits) of things I definitely want to make. My one weakness is IQF Houston. So much to do there. UPS counter to ship your things home. ?

    As to the state of things today IMHO fabric has gotten way too expensive. People in other countries have it even worse than the USA. Our young people just can’t afford it. On a high note I like seeing more mini quilts becoming popular. A good way to stay quilting when money, time, and space is tight.

  • Jacqueline Bonnier • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #17

    Thanks for the “true” things you wrote. I am a Belgian lady who is far above the 20. I am a quilter from the years1990 and found the fabrics, books and magazines price leval normal at those days. But now !!!!!!! When buying in the USA the shipping is so high nowaday’s ! The shops in Belgium disappear day by day. The fabrics are very expensive, and yought is giving more money to the fitness then to something else. There was a time that “hobby” was the only thing one could do, for distraction, but now the TV, GSM, playstation, I-Phone and all that sort of things, where I was not born with, takes all the time ! You have been very positive, but I am negative, sorry.
    I am sorry if there are to many faults in my email, I am a Flemish from Belgium and my English is not perfect any more !
    I hope it is understandable.

  • Joanne Lytle • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #18

    Your article illustrates one of the problems with publishing today. The light print used, gray and light green in your case, is difficult for older eyes to see and is a complete turnoff to purchasing books or magazines. Fabric is another matter; new designs are always interesting and stimulating, but, with a stash, I purchase mostly for a specific quilt. Change is inevitable.

  • Tempel • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #19

    I am closer to 100 than I am to 20! I have been a quilter for about 20 years. I love the new fabrics and fresh designs of the so-called Modern Quilt Movement. I have bristled at the label “modern”….as if what we have been doing was…old and stale. If we were not onboard with the Modern Quilters…what were we? However, I have embraced the new fabrics, designs, pattern, etc. choosing to ignore the label.
    Yes, I have a huge stash and need to destash! But I love the new fabrics and designs. I suppose it will be …out with the old, in with the new rather than significant shrinkage! Which brings me to my humble opinion on why the bubble is bursting. The price of a yard of fabric has bloated to $13/yd. this is ridiculous. Gone are the days of finding a fabric we love and waiting for that perfect time to use it. Gone are the days of buying fabric to round out the stash. Gone are the fun days of buying fabric. There is significant waste when cutting a quilt. The fabric is never straight on the bolt. It can be off by an inch or more. Employees nearly cut their fingers off making sure we don’t get a 16th of an inch too much. And, to top it all off, quilt shops are making it more difficult to buy portions of a yard. I visited one recently where there were no 12″/1/3 yd cuts allowed!
    The bombardment of new fabrics, new designs, quilt-alongs, block of the month leave ones head spinning. Mainly because it is all so exciting! We want to do it all! Even seasoned quilters overestimate what they can accomplish.
    The price of a decent sewing machine is obscene now.
    Greed has historically played a role in economic swings. I agree with you but would like to suggest that astronomical pricing has forced many of us…young and old…out of the market and is deterring many from entering and pursuing the hobby. We/ they simply cannot afford it anymore.

  • Donna Clements • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #20

    As an aging hobby quilter with a huge stash I’m geared toward several things. 1. Reduce stash drastically. 2. Fulfill my bucket list of making many of the traditional quilts, such as Dresden Plate, Grandma’s Flower Garden and so on. I love Traditional Quilts, not the modern ones. 3. Pass on my love of quilting to my granddaughter. She’s going to be one fine quilter some day.

    I believe that one of the things causing the shift in the quilting world is that many aging quilters are feeling gouged with the huge price increases for machines, fabric, patterns, tools etc. Surely those cost increases could not just be cost of manufacturing and so on. I will NOT pay over $12 a yard for fabric! Quilters by tradition are frugal and don’t pay huge prices for their supplies no matter how beautiful the fabric is. I shop online so save money and always look for free or reduced shipping, even though I love fondling fabric at the LQS.

    Thanks for this interesting article. Please include more of this type.

  • Francine Warren • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #21

    Reading this article was certainly very interesting and I am certain well founded. That said, I’d like to point you in the direction of all the ComaCons going on all over the United Sates & other countries. This is were the new sewists are to be found! They make the most amazing costumes and often are quilters too!They are very discerning over the cloth they buy.There is a Retro Game Con with a costume competition going on in Syracuse, NY the week-end of November 5th. I invite any industry people to come join this next generation & see where they can make the most impact. If you can make it, e-mail me & I will get you further information! Here are just some of the examples of what you’d see-

  • Marie Battisti • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #22

    I always knew the Internet would slowly kill of print media. There’s too much on-line competition.

  • Linda Sullivan • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #23

    Hi there! I so enjoyed your article so much! – As a quilt shop owner and designer, the current retail environment is challenging to say the least – your observations are spot on, as we have definitely had to adjust and remain nimble to react to these trends you speak of in both our older and younger crowds over the last 18 months…Although the road ahead may get bumpier, your article at the very least, gives us the re-assurance that we are not alone in the struggle and the industry is indeed experiencing a huge “shake out”.

  • scubadoodi • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #24

    Your article describes a shift to the modern look in quilting for me also, despite being of retirement age. But another factor is at play in the decline. Price of fabric. After a couple bad growing years for cotton 10 years ago, the price went up. That is legitimate. But now the commodity price of cotton is much lower, yet the retail price keeps going up. When a yard of fabric was below $10.00, I would buy freely when I saw something I liked. Now at $12.99+, I buy only what has immediate use, walking right past the vendors at shows. The young person you would like to attract gets sticker shock when faced with the price tag for fabric.

    • teri • 8 years ago
      COMMENT #

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. The per yard price has taken a huge jump in the last few years. Sometime around 2005 the commodity price went up, a lot reflecting an actual increase in price that hadn’t happened since sometime around the Civil War. I didn’t see a huge price jump on the per yard price until 2008, 2009 while working in a quilt shop. As I write the commodity price is about $74 per pound, and that is down about $0.40 from the day before. While the per pound price is down now, it will take a while for the lower price to hit the market in the per yard price in the quilt shop. Yes it does hit the purse kind of hard, and has us making choices differently.
      At the same time prices for quilt shop related things: rent, labor, healthcare, utilities, etc have all gone up. So while the commodity price may be decreasing it may not effect the per yard price as shops need to pay their other bills.

  • Annick H. • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #25

    I recently cancelled my subscription to a magazine. I couldn’t find a thing in it I wanted to make or a technique I wanted to try. It was all “slap-dash, call it done” kind of stuff with absolutely no concern about craftmanship or visual appeal. I believe that for a while, the quilting industry thought that, if they brought it to us, we would go gaga about it and buy it. This is a blatant lack of respect for the quilting customer and this is now coming home to roost and we are walking away with our dollars. On the other hand, I am raving about “Machine Quilting” magazine. They in my opinion, respect the customer, try to help the novice and challenge the more experienced quilter. Their pictures are sensational. I soon will be down to only that subscription.

  • Theresa • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #26

    Thank you for your article on the current state of sewing and quilting. Many of the comments I have read are spot on with what I see and hear from my quilting friends and the quilt shops in the Midwest where I live.
    I guess I would fall into your “legacy” demographic, as those of us in that demographic have made the quilt business what is today. Whether you are a shop owner, pattern designer, publisher, fabric manufacturer etc. your focus will always be to follow the profit. The shift from print to digital impacts all segments of our world today, just look at how libraries have evolved. But in wanting to embrace the new, modern, don’t be so ready to dismiss the current. I am not a “legacy” quilter, someone past and no longer relevant. I am a current quilter, someone very much aware and actively sewing, quilting, and most of all buying and supporting the industry. I may have a stash and stack of books, patterns and magazines, but I am also reading blogs, downloading patterns, going to shows and most of all still passionate about all things needle and thread. As you chase the modern new sewists, don’t leave us current quilters in the dust; our purses are still open.

  • SarahAnnSmith • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #27

    I remember when there were local guild shows and pretty much two major national shows: Houston and Paducah. Since then, shows have proliferated to a point where there are too many. Classes don’t fill, which affects teachers negatively income-wise. There are only so many shows you can afford to attend, especially if many of them have the same quilts over and over. We have an overabundance of shows, and some shrinkage is a good thing.

    What I DO see is a re-birth of general sewing: two new shops in midcoast Maine are not just quilting shops, but carry felt, wool, linen, garment patterns (independent lines, not the Butterick-McCalls-Simplicity-Vogue stalwarts) and many craft items. And they are thriving! They are catering to 20- and 30-somethings with young families as well as older quilters and those of us who have picked up garment making after a long hiatus.

    Also, I think the first vanguard of the quilt revival are now reaching retirement age, so they are now bowing out and making way for the new, which is where the opportunity lies, as the two new local shops have spotted.

    I will miss Quilters Newsletter greatly–it was my favorite long-time magazine–but it has been the same format since I began subscribing in 1989. And AQS had declined to change, saying they had a different demographic. Yes: one that was headed to nursing homes and wheelchairs! AQS just doesn’t seem to have realized the old days are old and over and gone.

    Finally, only one of the two news shops near me carries books—most of my local shops carry some patterns, and that’s it. It’s hard to BUY books and magazines when you can’t hold them and look at them. And I love books, but I’ve been sewing for so long it is all “same old, same old.” I look at some o the “Quilt Modern” (which I love by the way) and think sheesh…that’s traditional but with white background and happy colors, in larger blocks. Period.

    So I see this not so much as a period of retrenchment but as a time for re-tooling, re-thinking, changing focus and delivery. It will be fun to watch what happens.

  • Shirley Marvin • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #28

    Well, I am in the old age part of this article, which is really informative, but–the older eyes could use a darker print to be able to read.

  • Ellen L. Olson • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #29

    Great article and a good read. I am an older quilter, but, moving to modern tastes while still loving traditional block quilting. As a consumer I am disenchanted that the Fabric makers in the angst to flood the market with “easier” “faster” quilt making have flooded the market with very expensive “pre cuts” inclusive of uninteresting fabric that I would never purchase from a bolt. Some of these pre cut sizes need to be resized or sub cut to fit patterns. When they were first on the market, patterns were developed to work with these “precuts” that offered single cuts from designer selections. The selections were reduced, subsequently, the bundles rolls or whatever, now carry several cuts of the “same” fabric resulting in the geometry no longer working with the initial “pre cut” patterns first developed which depended on these variations & they have now driven up the prices for this supposed convenience. I forgot to mention they are not all cut to perfection. I have had a very limited use for “precut” fabrics and it is this move by the fabric industry that has driven me to be more frugal and use more of my “stash”. I love the newer fabrics & geometric designs of the modern quilters and very happy to be moving towards brighter colours. I subscribe to a lot of the Modern Quilters, however, there are some, unfortunately, that are pricing themselves out of a very large, more selective, more frugal, market base. Quilting magazines are as one responder stated just rehashing old patterns with new fabrics. Quilters can see this. I was reviewing one magazine and it had a minimum of 6 patterns from previous issues. A few years ago I adapted a technique for critiquing magazines… must have/contain a minimum of 4 projects that I would make before I would consider buying it. I literally go to the bookstore & sit on the bench and peruse through each and every one to make sure there is enough content before I will actually purchase the magazine. I purchase very few magazines as what is old has become new again and some…..just not appealing. It is inevitable that a downturn would come. Hopefully it will be a collaboration and meet the needs of all of us dedicated to continue quilting.

    • Chicktar • 8 years ago
      COMMENT #

      I couldn’t agree with you more, Ellen, when it comes to pre-cuts. I just don’t understand the great appreciation and following that they seem to have in the community. At the price for quilting fabric, my fabric budget only goes to fabrics that are each individually definitely fully appealing to me. I don’t want to have to pay $10 to $13 a yard for some fabrics that I won’t even enjoy working with and will be unsatisfying to me to have to include in a project. I rarely purchase pre-cuts and strongly prefer to select individual fabrics that each really speak to me (or that I have selected as solids, blenders, etc. to go with other things).

      It is very interesting to hear from you about magazines re-using patterns they have previously published. I have not been quilting and reading magazines long enough to have realized this and actually find it a bit shocking. It strikes me as something most readers would never expect when they spend money for a magazine and especially for a subscription to that magazine. It seems almost like lying.

      Thank you for your insight.

  • Jo • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #30

    Bingo. I’m a “legacy quilter” , of a certain age, with disposable income to spend on my passions, not needing to feed, house and educate kids. In the last few years it’s seemed that every message was Buy Buy Buy.
    I’m extremely pleased to see ” modern quilting” grow–even tho it’s not a style I’m into–yet. But it’s a bit different, and it’s interesting.
    The ebb and flow of interests, colors, trends: the ‘quilt world’ will emerge better as it transitions.

  • Carol • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #31

    My brother and I have the same discussions. He is a duplicate bridge instructor/teacher and runs local duplicate games in Florida. His market is dying rapidly and not attracting new people. We agreed that young people today do not have the time to spend on quilting/playing duplicate bridge until they retire. So the real marketing challenge is to figure out a way to attract the 60 year olds who have the money and time to devote to learning/playing bridge and learning/making quilts. Not trying to get the attention of young people who are working hard building their careers and raising a family. Businesses now need to figure how to “market” to the 50-70 year olds who have lots of money and lots of free time if they want to continue selling expensive sewing machines and supplies. I went to the first “Modern Quilting Conference” in Austin and 90% of the attendees I saw were over 50. It didn’t have anything to do with attracting young people but it was different marketing approach to making quilts (negative space, solid fabrics, muted color and more emphasis on machine quilting) This movement is more about the simplicity of design than attracting younger quilters.

    I am very sad to see so many quilting venues and channels closing. But, I’m sure that others will start up to take up the space. I think is one of the new channels that is providing the same content as some magazines did 10 years ago (note, I am a Craftsy Instructor) but personally, I love print. I love books and magazines and will miss holding these in my hands in the future.

  • Ms. V. Dana Allison • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #32

    All the comments are interesting insights into the thoughts of quilters, regardless of how long they have been quilting. I find it difficult to believe that quilters are dying off. My home is in a very rural area, far removed from the southern part of The State of Maine. Interest in quilting has been increasing among all ages, both in Maine and in neighboring New Brunswick. Quilt shows put on by local entities, churches, historical societies, clubs, etc. abound. More and more people express interest in taking up the activity, and do. I need more fabric the way a bull moose needs a hat rack, but that does not prevent me from buying a length of interesting fabric because I may figure out a good way to incorporate it into a quilt sometime down the line. Perusing the huge number of quilting magazines accumulated over many years has brought forth the realization that today’s issues illustrate patterns which are rehashings, and adaptations of those from years ago, and such as I could figure out how to do myself. Then comes the thought that present day magazines’ articles have information new to first time quilters, and are a valuable resource for newer, or younger quilters who do not have grandmothers, or older ladies in the neighborhood to give instructions. I am buying fewer and fewer magazines, concentrating on those published by national organizations, opting for them because of their higher degrees of information within their articles. I like seeing pictures of show winning quilts, stories of quilting, per se, different ways to produce desired results. Time saving methods of cutting, for instance, are a welcomed bit of information. Those of us who have only a few years remaining, yet want to make quilts for cherished relatives and friends welcome quicker ways of cutting pieces, information on what other quilters have deduced to use to make the process go faster. Machine quilting is a God-send. Many more tops will become finished entities. Perhaps not so many tops in the future will end up in antique stores, or in yard sales selling off possessions of departed quilters. I have hundreds of books to consult regarding a manner in which to make cuts so that the process goes faster. Many of my books accumulated over the years were donated to my local library because it was terribly deficient in such which newer participants to quilting methods wanted. Before you make your decision definite, and quit publishing books, and/or magazines, please remember the people coming along who are intrigued by the quilting activities will always welcome “how to” books from any angle of the “how too’s” to help them in their pursuits. As pointed out above, those publications make great substitutions for learning from a grandmother, or from the dear old lady down the street.

  • Nancy Myers • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #33

    Thank you for the wonderful article. And the responses from all these readers have been most interesting to read.

    I taught myself to quilt at 22, 40 years ago. Have always had the desire to do my own thing in quilting. I have a stash because I bought fabric when I was working, not knowing what retirement would hold. Happily I can purchase some of the modern fabrics–the patterns and colors I have loved all my life. I like designing. I would like to have been a pattern designer in my earlier life, so am attempting it now. I am encouraged by the internet (also something I should have really put energy into in my younger years) as I don’t see printed patterns selling in the shops very well. I taught quilting classes, but not the way I wanted to do it. Shops wanted to sell a line and a pattern, which most quilters didn’t want to make. They had a stash and wanted to know what to do with the fabrics. I no longer teach. I started a community sewing group to donate quilts to local organizations.

    Many magazines come and go in all fields. It is a cost issue, paper, shipping, advertising. I have had a few quilting magazines cancelled on me in the past. I only wish they had let me know (before I sent in the renewal in the magazine that had come) or offer me a substitution. Yep, lost money on those deals. There are so many ideas, pictures, and quilters on the internet, that magazines don’t serve me anymore. I can find obscure quilters with unique ideas that I wouldn’t find in magazines.

  • Jamie Stevenson Wilson • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #34

    I think even as a technically “millennial” quilter (I am 35 with 2 kids, so I don’t feel like a millennial, but it’s math I guess!!) I am finding myself trending towards a distinctly minimalist path in all areas. In fact, I recently completely destashed, donating 5(!) large garbage bags of fabric to a home ec classroom, and some additional to Goodwill. I absolutely appreciate & love beautiful designer fabric, but I have collected so much in the past 10 years & rarely have time to use it, and a chunk of it I don’t even like anymore, so I guess I’ve seen the folly in the stash… I am thinking about putting my kids through college while still juggling our own student loans, not buying fabric purely for myself that is $15/yard, even if I will acknowledge that yes, it’s absolutely “worth” it as far as designers/quilt shop costs/etc — I don’t feel that fabric should be cheaper, I totally get the math, I just am consciously choosing to only buy what I will immediately use. It also feels fantastic to have a very clean, minimal studio! I even recycled all my old magazines. All the brain power that was attached to old things I *might* someday make was instantly freed up! It felt phenomenal, and I have really been more productive (I make memory quilts for a living, which coincidentally use almost no extra fabric besides a nice backing – usually a solid cotton or a basic riley blake flannel!) I love Gen Q & buy most issues, because it speaks my language much better than any of the others & is a fun read while the kids are at soccer, but overall I completely have stopped buying all non-digital media in all genres. Especially with youtube on demand (nope – don’t even have cable, just streaming – I guess I am a millennial!) to help me figure out how to do a blind hem on my dress pants, or show me how to curl my hair with a (stupid) wand thing, or how to install a new water heater! Heck, my son just built his own computer & learned it all himself from free youtube videos! It’s just a shift in all consumption, and with younger generations more interested in tiny homes than giant craft rooms, industries will have to adjust.

  • Joy • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #35

    Thank you for your interesting article. Just a comment……I notice there is a lot of comment about the price of fabric in the USA.
    1 yard = 92cm, less than a yard and yet in Australia we pay US$20 to US$23 a meter for the same fabric.
    We get excited at your prices but add the shipping costs and online purchases become prohibitive.

  • lea smadello • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #36

    I’m speechless
    I’m from BC, Canada.
    I’ve been a sewer ( self taught seamstress)Since I was 18. Now I’m 45.
    I’ve just started quilting for a month now…
    I’ve been finding g many don’t know how to sew, now quilting is being less of too
    I’m just beginning to learn quilting
    It’s really sad.
    I’ve read about some great quilters (as I’m just beginning to)
    And realizing after reading this article…it’s to a near end..
    That’s sad..

    • jake • 8 years ago
      COMMENT #

      Hi Lea:

      Please DON’T think that quilting is coming to an end. What’s coming to an end is some of what’s offered, and I don’t think end is the correct term either. It’s more about evolving to fit the needs to today’s quilters–like yourself–than the death of quilting. We’ve watched contemporary quilting evolve for many decades now and believe that this is what keeps us going, quilting’s evolutionary willingness. Keep the faith and the fabric. Your love will help keep quilting moving forward.

      • lea smadello • 8 years ago
        COMMENT #

        Thank you
        And thank you for explaining
        It’s good its not coming to an end

    • TPRempel • 8 years ago
      COMMENT #

      Lea, google BC quilters- there are over 30 guilds in your province, quilting is alive and well! If you’re interested in art quilting, check out the Fibre Arts Network, a western Canadian collective. Lots of good stuff happening.

      • lea smadello • 8 years ago
        COMMENT #

        Thank you
        I will check that out

  • Christine • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #37

    Some random thoughts …
    I was the youngest in our quilt guild when I joined in the early 90’s. I’m still one of the youngest 25 years later.

    Younger people don’t collect “stuff” the way the Boomers and older Gen X’ers do. No Depression Era mentality of save things for a rainy day. They are growing up in the generation of “if I want it, I can get it by tomorrow”.

    The younger people don’t go to stores. They order and do their window shopping online.

    Crafts come and go in popularity. There will always be the core followers who do certain crafts for life . Then there are those that follow the trends. Drawing lots of new people to a craft come in waves. Knitting had a huge influx of new knitters in the early 2000’s. That has petered.
    Now the cell phones are taking up everyone’s random free time – someone once said that they are this eras cigarettes. And the in “craft” of the moment seems to be coloring.
    At some point quilting will resurge – just not sure when…

    • Rebecca Petersen • 8 years ago
      COMMENT #

      i just saw a link to this article.

      I agree with the above person who said that they should be trying to attract the 50-60 something who has time and money more than the 20 year olds (into quilting). I did grow up sewing — learned at home– but not quilting. I had very little time to sew as i had 5 kids and was home schooling. Part of me is glad I didn’t get into this addiction of quilting until my youngest was not too little anymore. I got into it in my mid 40’s.

      [ On the other hand, sewing is now ‘cool’ instead of dorky. In the 80’s it was so unsophisticated to make your own clothes–now it’s quite the opposite. I was a teenager then and I longed to have a store bought dress! ]

      It just seems to me that everywhere, everyone wants you to subscribe to something, buy a pattern, etc. I think contraction is normal and to be expected. I think too many people are trying to make a living via a hobby. I think that only the best will actually be able to do so. Just like in the country I live in (Poland), everyone thought they could open a tiny little store selling something and “get rich” when communism fell. Maybe at first they did…until big stores came over, competition became intense and the immediate ‘needs’ were filled. Now, most of the little tiny stores have gone the way of the quilt shops.

      One thing the younger ones are paying for that the middle aged or older people didn’t at their age is cell phone and internet….and it is pricey. That’s less money for things like fabric.

      I didn’t quilt when hand quilting was the norm and since I have never sewn a dress or skirt or shirt by hand, I didn’t even think that hand quilting much less, hand piecing would be normal. Then I find that many people think that it is THE original and best way. I can’t even hold a conversation (virtual) with them. I lose patience. I don’t understand the mentality. I don’t understand who “makes the rules” for quilting. For example, why is using a lot of white and bright colors “Modern”? “Why is using solids, “Modern”? Who said we couldn’t use solids, anyway…who made the rules? I live in a country where there are very few quilting type cottons–our Polish manufactured fabrics have multiplied in the last few years – incredibly. I’m so excited to see many new fabrics produced locally that we can use for quilting.

      Thanks for the interesting article.

  • Marian • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #38

    I’m not a modern quilter, but I can appreciate the quilts of modern design. I sincerely believe that part of the reason our youth are not sewing or quilting is because of schools dropping Home Ec programs. Look how many of our youth do not even know how to cook. They rely to much on easy solutions to create their meals or eat out instead. In my day and yes I’m in that older mindset, Home Ec was a necessary course you took for a year to graduate high school. If it hadn’t been for Home Ec, I wouldn’t have learned to sew or cook as easily. My mother never showed us those things, and while she knew how to sew, it wasn’t like she showed us either. From Home Ec, one is going to decide if sewing and cooking are going to be part of their lives. In some ways, religion also plays a part, when religious beliefs are held in a household, children are more easier taught about sewing and cooking because the family is usually more cost conscious.

    If you look at today’s youth, you see where they are focused. Parents buy their children the latest games, phones, etc, anything to get them out of their hair and doing something that will keep their minds occupied. When parents don’t spend the time with their children, their is also that loss of other things children could be doing than a game on the internet, or texting on a phone.

    If we spent more time with educating and teaching, I believe we’d see an influx of children or young people coming back to sewing and quilting. Fabric and sewing companies could offer a portion of sales for instance to schools to help fund a home economics program for children to learn from, by doing this, they also help build the future for themselves and those companies.

  • Ellen • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #39

    Another thing to consider is what happened to me. I have just finished 6 years of caregiving for a husband who progressively required more time as well as having to on the full responsibility for the running of the household. Despite having a room full of fabric, unfinished projects (UFOs) and un-started projects (USOs), I have not finished a quilt that I started two years ago, let alone anything else. I stopped going to quilt shows and shop hops – again time, caregiving and personal health constraints. So my stash has stayed static.

    I am in the process of preparing to move to a continuing care community, so have been downsizing substantually – again no quilting. I will comment that probably half the moving van’s contents will be my quilting room’s contents. I am planning on starting to sewing again and have taken the master bedroom in a two bedroom cottage for my “quilting studio”. I am looking forward to having time to quilt again and actually plan to focus on using as much of my stash as I can. I look forward to making charity quilts for my guild.

    As to magazines, I have three + years of unread copies of the two magazines. I find that magazines either are too basic, too filled with advertising and articles that are advertising in disguise or showing these super quilts that I have no inclination to make and are not really inspiring any more. I don’t want to spend hundreds if not thousands of hours on a single quilt. I am, however, interested in techniques and ways to do pieces designs faster. This is the first time I have heard of this magazine / blog and I enjoyed reading this article as the one about Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine’s shuttering.

  • Karen • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #40

    I belong to the local chapter of the Modern Guild and am president of a “regular” guild. In the regular guild, the members range in age from 20 (she comes with her grandmother) to almost 90. We all have our own styles and specialities – paper piecing, applique, etc. We are all supportive of each other and encouraging to new quilters who find their way to our meetings. The modern guild consists of mostly younger women newer to sewing and quilting and don’t want to hear about anything but modern quilting. Your comment about the younger quilters looking at the craft of quilting as a possible income source reminded me of a recent contrast in attitude I’ve seen personally. Both guilds hosted different fabric designers as guest speakers. The one who came to the regular guild has been in the business for a couple of decades. She was thorough in explaining the process she uses to create her lines, how long it all takes to get to the final product, had fat quarter packs of her most recent line available for sale and promised that if we bought enough fabric, we would be helping to build a home for widow with children in Africa though her favorite charity (we did). She also donated her fee to the charity. In contrast, the 20-something at the modern guild meeting was flippant, didn’t know much about the approval process that the designs go through, bragged about having her third line out already, and complained about having to create quilts with the fabric she designs. Seems she just wants to design stuff on the computer.

    I’m not sure I like the terms “legacy” or “hobby” quilter. In the regular guild, we make upwards of 250 quilts a year for the local intake center at the children’s hospital for children who are being placed in the foster care system. That’s spending our own time and money to supply a needed item. It’s having a direct impact on our local area. It’s not just a hobby. Add to that the number of quilts made for Quilts of Valor and the local homeless hospice facility by our members.

    I agree with the previous comment that quilting is here to stay, but will change with the times, just as it has over the last 30 to 40 years. Remember when quilting by machine was the worst thing to happen? Now we have longarms that can be programmed to quilt a perfect design and those quilts are winning ribbons in national shows.

    I’ve also noticed that there are ads for more clothing patterns showing up in the blogs and stores. Young women are making clothes again (with quilting cotton! – but only because the fabric has gotten thinner and softer), so the art and craft of sewing, whether garments or quilts, will stick around.

  • Nancy Hart Kline • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #41

    Very interesting article. While I agree that the industry is evolving, I’d like to share some thoughts.
    It seems that Quilters Newsletter had become more and more focused on art quilts–which probably limited it’s market. And IMQA, which I was a member of, was really targeted to the long arm industry and their show (I went this past May)simply did not have enough vendors to satisfy the long arm crowd. The quilts shown were amazing as shown by my computer photo folder, but for quilters that do not have a long arm and aren’t making major show quality quilts, the quilting is of the type that is probably out of most piecers price range for long arm quilting–so traveling to go to that show may not be attractive to non-long armers. Even as a long armer, I probably saw more quilts in the attached East Iowa Quilt Guild show that I found “doable”.

    I personally love the freedom shown in so many Modern quilts–although I worry that the introduction of more and more “modern” books and magazine(articles) will start to limit the innovation shown by the early Modern quilt trend. And I love batiks–which unfortunately seem to always be a bit more expensive.

    Cost of fabric is an issue–especially when most of the cotton used in the fabric is grown in the US to start with–perhaps it’s time for the industry to seriously consider returning the dye and print process back to the US–even if it didn’t result in reduction of price due to labor, the cost of shipping might offset that plus US consumers may be less reluctant to purchase knowing it was enhancing our own labor market. Case in point is the American Brand–which I always look for when I’m buying solids.

    As a 60+ yr old, I think quilting and young people is like any other art, craft or hobby. If we want younger generations to become quilters we need to make it more accessible. Guilds have the best infrastructure to do just that! My local guild has introduced a “junior” membership at a greatly reduced price, has reached out to the local schools to mentor a FACS class (we even reduced our own stashes by providing kits for them as many didn’t have the resources to make a lap quilt), Scout and 4H groups, hold an annual one day Kids Camp (free kits for a quick project like a pillow or bag); and have a free “make & take” booth at the local county fair. Yes, all this requires much time and effort on the part of the members–most of whom are in late 50’s and older. We’ve also introduced a college scholarship for a student pursuing a FACS related major.

    One thing you failed to mention in regard to younger quilters is that,in the US, fewer and fewer schools are teaching a sewing class in middle (jr high) or high school. I’m a former educator, retiring 4 years ago, and know that part of the reason for that is that cost–of machines and also on the student’s part for materials. Think about how most of us quilters started–we learned to do basic sewing and make clothes first, and now quilt. If young people are not given the chance to learn to do basic sewing on items that they need NOW–like clothes, curtains for that new apartment, etc then quilting is probably not the why they choose to create. But the other BIG reason for sewing not being in school curriculums is that there are fewer and fewer licensed FACS teachers–in my state of KS, in the last 20 years we’ve gone from having 4 out of 6 State universities offer a degree teaching FACS to only 2–and those programs may only graduate 6-10 students total per year. Once educators my age retire, there will be even more loss of FACS teachers. So often districts will hire non FACS teachers to teach the classes (as more and more states have allowed non education degreed teachers into the classroom)any many of those come from food industry backgrounds–and sewing is dropped. Again, we need to help young people find ways & means to learn to sew!

    Last thought–I truly believe that part of what we see is the impact of technology–we can so easily pull patterns, classes and shop the internet that purchasing magazines, books and even visiting our LQS becomes less and less a priority. IF we truly want to have those print mags,books and be able to view and touch fabric locally, then we have to make a concerted effort to put our $$ in that direction. Some of those will not “make it” unfortunately because the internet has made it so easy to “shop” from home.

  • jackie m • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #42

    i’m in the older segment of the quilting industry, pre-rotary cutters, pre machine quilting…they even griped about machine piecing!
    Personally, I’m happy to see the purging of the industry. When i started out, we had to learn to draft our own patterns because print media was unreliable. You learned how to inset seams if you wanted to do 8-pointed stars. Now there is a slew of patented special methods to do said patterns-some of which are so convoluted, i can’t help thinking, but its easier just to DO that set-in seam!
    There is a pattern (for purchase) for each size quilt or block-because we don’t know how to adapt it; and there is a different pattern for the same quilt showing one in modern colors and another in antique-y fabrics.
    There is a special ruler ($16 and up, of course) for any and every kind of block you want. Then there is a companion book to go along with it to show us how to use this contrived method.
    I work at a quilt shop and it frustrates me because we have panel prints-beautiful prints, some of them, but instead of using them as a jumping off place and planning a spectacular quilt, people add 3 borders and presto! instant quilt.
    and, yes, we even sell patterns telling how to sew those borders on.
    I think it is the notions and the gadgets market that has choked. All you need is one good ruler and some paper and you can probably produce any block in any size…which means you can focus on what is really important-your fabric and your design.

    • Deb • 8 years ago
      COMMENT #

      I like your thinking and agree with your view. The ‘must have’ rulers for everything – my mental arithmetic and maths improved so much when I started to quilt thirty five years ago, but now all I have to do is buy a new ruler!

    • Cathy • 8 years ago
      COMMENT #

      Sadly, in my estimation, 75% of today’s quilters cannot make a quilt without a pattern.
      I only had the normal maths when I was in school and I watched my grandmother with her cardboard templates, so I pulled out my graph paper and made my own designs and made cardboard templates. But if you’re on any sort of social media, from facebook or email groups all you read is “What is the name of that pattern, what is the name of that block?” I want to say “Oh you don’t need a name, if you like it, just make it”. At first I replied with a block name that I used, but it was confusing for some because a block can have several names and names can belong to several blocks. Once on an email group, I posted a photo of a log cabin quilt I’d just finished and some one asked where I got the pattern. I realize now, I probably offended her when I said something like “Oh you don’t need a pattern it’s just a log cabin block.”

    • Cathy • 8 years ago
      COMMENT #

      Continued: I know that some people are right brained and some people are left brained and we’ll never understand each other. But somehow I think if they just TRIED they could do it.
      I’d be happy to teach anyone that asked me to, but no one takes me up on that.
      I’ve used Electric Quilt design software since version 3 after I saw in on a PBS quilting program. It was quite intuitive for me, but I’ve heard on some social media that some people think it’s horribly wicked hard to learn.
      Again, we just don’t have the same learning styes. When I’ve had to learn things in the past, I like to go step by step, but it seems that is overwhelming for some. They offer many types of learning, there’s a manual, videos, there is someone reading the steps aloud and there are physical classes. I’d think that would cover all the learning methods, but apparently not.

  • Karen Hansen • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #43

    Great article. Thank you for sharing. I am an older quilter with a huge stash. I am doing a UFO year and trying to only buy backings and borders to finish up what I have. I guess I am a collector because I always come out of the store with more than I went in for. I am a military spouse and at our current base (and the many others we have been assigned to) I have a group of young, 20 and 30 something spouses from the base come every week to learn, share and quilt together. They get hooked on quilting very fast. The trend I have found in almost all of them is that they buy precuts, especially online from Missouri Star Quilts. They love the daily specials, the magazine and tutorials online. I think they do the on-line thing because they have little children and it saves them lots of time. Most of these young quilters choose fabrics that go with their taste in decorating, and none seem to be modern quilters. They rarely sew anything but bed quilts. I have been doing lectures at our local guild on how to help the beginner and giving out prizes to anyone who has helped a new quilter. There must be more we can to get more of them interested and educated.

  • textisle • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #44

    Missing from the article and the discussion thus far is any mention of improv quilting. The authors’ focus is on the industry and then the comments sort of took off in response to the article. Improv quilting however is an important component of modern quilting, but it’s largely invisible to manufacturers, designers and magazines, all of which are geared to selling more product.
    No one has commented either on Spoonflower, which enables anyone to design their own fabric and choose from thousands of designs by other designers.
    I suppose technically I fit the description of “legacy quilter,” as I’ve been quilting for 18 years and am firmly in the upper half of the boomer demographic. However I really don’t consider myself a legacy quilter. Scrap quilts and improv techniques are my main passion. Designers and writers like Gwen Marston and Freddy Moran, Cheryl Arkison and Amanda Jean Nyberg, Jacquie Gering and Katie Pedersen, the quilters of Gee’s Bend, Sherri Lynn Wood, Roberta Horton, and apologies to those missed out.
    Over time, I’ve built my stash up through a number of huge estate sales (one was estimated to have a retail value of over $30,000 and ran as several monthly sales as it was impossible to display everything at once).
    At Value Village yesterday while rescuing a vintage quilt top (not what I went in looking for!) their posters urge us to “give a shirt” and remind us that the most environmental clothing is the garment that is already made.
    Retail purchases from local stores are now confined to specific special projects, e.g. dinosaurs for a grandchild, bold modern print in a specific colour for a group charity project, and solids to provide negative space for improv.
    Local bricks and mortar stores can survive by:
    • Welcoming everyone including family members
    • Watch husbands for signs of impatience/frustration and quietly get an extra staff person cutting yardage so the whole experience stays pleasant. A 15-minute wait to get fabric cut can upset the whole day, although staff in the store will not see this.
    • Provide a space for sewing, basting and cutting – people will pay to use it
    • Provide how-to information – how about setting up an iPad with a library of YouTube techniques people could sit and watch in the store? Sometimes watching and being able to ask an experienced quilter is what it takes to get a newbie over a particular difficulty and move on.
    • Supermarkets and department stores do everything they can to keep people in the store. Quilt and craft stores can adapt some of these techniques. An animated store entices people in, whereas an empty store is discouraging.
    • One local store recycled people’s stash and estate fabric, while also offering some new fabric and a long-arming service. The owner knew what would sell and was selective in what she would take, and paid for stash with store credit or cash. Of course most people took store credit and would buy more than the value of their credit, so stock was continually turning over. Like a second hand bookstore.
    • Create and maintain a lively online presence/brand. Especially if the store has to locate in an industrial park or other low-rent area and people have to be enticed to make a special trip.

  • Deb • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #45

    I am 3 x 20 and have been quilting since the 80’s. I have enough publications to open my own bookstore as I’ve ridden along with the changes in quilting techniques, learning methods (yes from scissors to rotary cutters, sandpaper templates etc. etc) and I rarely purchase even a magazine today. A zipper quilt sounds like a phrase I could use as broadly speaking I am not really seeing anything different, only different contemporary fabric. On a daily basis we are being bombarded by social media with the latest must haves, can’t live with outs and empty your wallets for. I find it suffocating and it smothers and stifles my desire. I have a fixed income and don’t want every line of every range and I really don’t need to know the name of every designer so I can drop it in some poncey conversation to show how learned I am. I’m tired of the same quilts, different colour being made ‘a la production line’ mode – sorry, I don’t mean to offend anyone. What I see is a glut in the market, possibly as more and more people try to garner their piece of a very limited pie to in order to survive or enjoy a meagre living. We can only do what we can only do. I will leave this earth as many quilters of my demographic will, with enough fabric in storage for the next three generations. I’m making a conscious effort to use it before it becomes the lining in my box.

    • Lizz Ann • 8 years ago
      COMMENT #

      Deb, I couldn’t have said what I was thinking any better than your comment. I much more enjoyed the camaraderie of getting together with quilting friends at the now closed quilt shops (thanks to online shopping) than belonging to an online group, and shopping online is just not the same. It is the norm it seems these days to do everything via a *device*. Sure we had limited choices of fabrics but that was ok, there was enough to please most everyone. As you stated so well, “..find it suffocating… stifles my desire.” Exactly. The younger quilters these days, bless them, will hopefully keep the craft afloat somehow. I love stitching but really have to put on the blinders and do my own thing with all the fabric I already have gathered over the many years. LOVE your last sentence! Quilt on! 😀 Ann in NC

    • lea smadello • 8 years ago
      COMMENT #

      There is soo much I can learn from all of you
      I’ve been sewing for about 20 years and just started quilting.
      (About a month) the funny thing is that I had my stuff in storage a few years. It was nice seeing my fabric I had stored.
      Well thinking I was the only one that had fabric in storage…
      Now I’m realising that it is common to have fabric/ a stash ?

  • becky home ec E • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #46

    Great article, and some excellent suggestions from readers. Regarding the lack of FCS (home ec.) classes, I believe that the cause of this is the changes made by Congress in the vocational education legislation and funding that previously supported these classes. They decided that all classes funded must provide training for a real world paying job or career. Homemaking (not to mention having life skills) was determined to not be a career and therefore, many districts eliminated home ec. The requirement for hands on internships in something related to sewing(and other life skills) left many rural districts without anywhere to send students. No federal money to support the program=elimination of programs. Less demand for home ec. teachers=less programs to train them. As a recycled home ec. teacher, I cynically predict that some upstart company will re-invent home ec. and get a big government grant to fund re-creating the whole scenario and the uninformed will think it’s the best, most original idea ever!

  • Teresa Stroin • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #47

    Excellent piece, Jake. I’ve always known you to be “spot on” and here you are again.

  • Christine • 8 years ago
    COMMENT #48

    Home ex has been gone for a long time in many states. I didn’t know it still existed anywhere.
    It’s been replaced by art, chorus and band in Massachusetts.
    Plus , Standardized testing is what matters these days.

    On the upside, I just came from a tour of The University of Oregon.
    For fun, they have non-credit classes in
    Sewing, glassblowing, spinning, weaving, woodworking., jewelry making
    Not sure what type of sewing as I saw the machines – and looms and spinning wheels
    In their crafts rooms.

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