Friday, December 30, 2016

More About the Quilt Bizz

Dorothy Parker

Reply to your comments on yesterday's post about my retiring. I'm glad you'll miss me but I'll still be writing and posting.

First of all that was NOT my 2017 Challenge to go on a fabric diet. That's why I put the picture of Ignatz throwing the brick at Krazy Kat. Fabric dieters are Ignatz the mouse. Fabric manufacturers are Krazy Kat.


When I read things like that I say, "No wonder my fabric sales are down." A fabric diet seems to me to be a very silly idea. If no one buys fabric no one will manufacture fabric.

Our 2017 challenge should be BUY FABRIC! You shouldn't need reasons besides
Love Fabric.
Love to Shop.

Other ideas are more complex.

Louise's comments seem to define a lot of the problems:
"I suspect some of this might have to do with demographics. Older women (me included) have been buying fabric so long we are saturated. I know lots of people who are ready to "destash". (Not me...I hoard!) We also own quilt books on every subject already.
Younger women don't mind doing everything online. There are so many tutorials they probably don't need classes, although I like classes for the sociability component."

My favorite Baby Boomer analogy:
As that generation moves through life they dictate trends like a mousey bulge through a boa constrictor.

I'm not of the Baby Boomer generation. I'm older. But I've always hung on to the tail of their trends.
That influential generation is now retirement age. They have plenty of stuff and not enough places to store it.

If you want to sell stuff to Baby Boomers vibrating chairs might be a good idea.

The most important difference, in my opinion, is a generation gap between young stitchers (under 45 say) and older stitchers like me and you.

  • Each prefers different quilt styles.

  • Each prefers different fabrics & color schemes.
  • Each shops in different formats.
  • Each obtains information in different formats.

  • Each uses their free time in different ways (and has differing amounts of free time)
If we go back to my sad litany of yesterday you will see that each milestone indicating a downhill slide in the quilting business can be balanced with an innovation for the younger generations.

Book Publishers Closing <---> Patterns available by Instant Download. Instagram,Facebook, etc. provide pictures.

Magazines Discontinuing Publications <---> Digital Magazines with tons of color and tons of pages. Tutorials, blogs and posted pictures provide inspiration & skills.

Fewer visitors to Quilt Market & other industry conventions <---> Easy for retailers to keep aware of current trends online

Less reproduction fabric available <---> lots of brights/solids/minimalist/pink & blue on white prints being sold.

Fewer brick & mortar quilt shops <---> more online shops and other ways to purchase fabric.

Fewer visitors to shows---generations use their free time differently.

Each generation has its own preferences. There is no sense complaining about it. Trends do not go backwards. My New Year's Resolution is to get hipper. (As we used to say.)


  1. So true Barbara. Over just the past couple of years in particular, of a nearby guild, a couple have passed, one turned 90, and a few have just quit quilting due to arthritis or failing eyesight and such. This is one of the most talented groups of women I've ever known. I told my mom, what is sad is that there aren't young people learning those skills, designs, & styles. When they are gone, so too is a certain quality. I do what I can to glean their knowledge when I visit, but those visits don't happen often enough:). Other than that, all I can do is continue to appreciate and respect them greatly.

  2. I do not disagree with anything you have said so far, but there is a topic that has not been addressed so far,and it is a matter of simple economics. I am turning 72 is less than 30 days. I live on social security, a widows pension, and a pretty good retirement income from my 40 years of hard work while raising my three kiddos. I am one of the lucky ones, having planned far in advance for this time in my life when my income would become fixed while the cost of everything will continue to go up. I have no debts. That being said, I find it more and more difficult to keep up with the rising cost of fabrics. I buy books if I can find them on sale, otherwise I use my local library system which is extensive. I love all the new fabric lines, but cannot afford to buy very much of it. I do try to support the local brick and mortar, but again, the smaller ones have very few sales (understandable) and the larger ones, well I refuse to go to the large one here in the PNW - I discovered that as the price of fabric goes up, they reprice their entire inventory, so the fabric from two years ago is selling at today's prices - Price alone makes it hard to pass up some online deals.

  3. Well, I'd say you're very hip, and have been all along! As a quilt historian, you've now explained current history in the making. I like the positive outlook. Thanks! You're right. We must adapt. I hope you'll get to go on that painting trip to Spain.

  4. I am sad that your retiring because I will miss you, you have been such an inspiration to me thru out my quilting life/career, and yes I am also saddened by the changes in the quilting industry, I have an online store and a little backyard shop, I only sell and use reproduction fabrics and I am all about Quilt History, and one thing is for sure the cost of fabric makes a difference, quilt shows I attended in the last two years were a little dissapointing to say the least, there were more vendors selling unrelated items to quilting than fabric! I now find myself searching for a way to balance my love of traditional quilting and fabrics with the new and younger ..quilters and sewers. But I wouldn't even have half of my knowledge of quilting and fabric if it wasn't for you. I have to say that you have been with me in all my 35 years + of quilting, So I'm so glad you will still be posting. You have certainly enriched and educated the quilting world beyond expectations and I am one who greatly appreciated every word , every book, every quilt and every fabric! Thank You Barbara!

  5. Surely what is old will someday be new again. Or at least I can hope. I have no interest in buying the modern colors and designs that appeal to the younger generation and they don't look good in my home. Nothing against them or their designers, just not my taste. Younger people are also not interested as a rule in gardening, genealogy, history and historic preservation. These pursuits seems to come along after 50, or so my friends in marketing tell me. And busy working mothers truly don't have time for any of that, I've had opportunity to observe that first hand. Perhaps there will be a sort of revival when their children are all away at college. . . . I should only live to see it. Until them, I'll just have to grieve when I could make this or that repro quilt if only I could find some turkey red. Or poison green. Or prussian blue. Or madder. . . . Maybe right now we should all dedicate ourselves to seeing that when a repro fabric lover departs this world, her stash goes on the Internet for purchase, we should start a niche website for the sale or exchange of repro fabric.

  6. Barbara, who inspired me and countless others, was so successful at getting us to study old quilts that this very pursuit became emblematic of our quilt generation. And now that generation is fading. I think the big generational difference in the quilt world today, has to do with the fact that our mission in the revival and era of quilts that started in the 1970's was to get old quilts valued...and new ones, for that matter. Our mission was to preserve and extend the tradition, and it so happened that the fashion for country style decorating with antiques happened at the same time, so quilts looked perfect in our homes. Now, we already have quilt museums, collections of old quilts and all. For people that are becoming adults now and in the last decade or so, they see the "Country" style of decorating as belonging to their parent's generation, and they see the guilds as part of the same older generation. The style now is the Ikea style of modern, simple furniture, upon which the "Modern Quilt" palette looks perfect. So the shops that are closing often are of the older style--barnwood and calicoes and etc--and the shops that are opening are all of modern, ironic pastels in stripped down interiors that have shed any flavor of the "country" style. And the guilds, which allowed women to connect and communicate in the dark ages of the 1970's and 1980's, are being superseded by the internet, which allows us all to connect and communicate at will. And even the study of quilt history is associated with the older generation, as the Modern Quilt movement is fundamentally ahistorical.

  7. Okay now you made me feel old and ready for an old age home! 😕

  8. In all fairness to the many newly retiring Baby Boomers, or folks like me living on Social Security, we are on a fixed [ever decreasing, it seems] income and the recent price increases of cotton fabric can make quilting an unaffordable luxury for many. At almost 12.oo a yard quilt backing alone can run as much as my weekly grocery budget. I know I simply cannot afford to buy the fabrics I love including yours.


  9. One hope I find for the future of reproduction quilting is that quilting has almost died out a number of times, only to be rediscovered by a new generation ... who also rediscovered the beauty of those older fabrics - colonial designs and colors, civil war designs, your own Morris designs, the 1930s - I even saw fabric from my beginnings in quilting, the 1970s, referred to as vintage reproductions in a collection a few years ago!

    Edyta Sitar has quite a following among the younger quilters, and her line coming out in June for Andover looks very compatible with my Civil War repros. =) We may be on a downward cycle, or a changing cycle, but all that we do will still be around and still be loved and preserved and it will come back again. I'm sure of it. Your books will remain and be passed down, and you'll keep creating beautiful and irresistible projects for a long time. Beauty doesn't die, and taste cycles.

  10. Barbara,
    I am sad that you are retiring if this is sad for you. I was only involved in your blog the last few years, so I am 63 and wasn't "hip" enough to be into blogs earlier. I feel that I missed out on some great stuff from you.
    I recently made a Civil War quilt with reproductions and your book on Civil War quilts. My quilt honored women and their Civil War contributions on both sides of the line. I found that the fabric really grew on me and that my husband and other men responded to the fabric and block patterns in an enthusiastic way that they haven't shown my other quilts. My husband simply loves the quilt. He was quite taken with the graphic forms as I made each block. I found that while some may see the Civl War colors as dull, they are actually very sophisticated and drew upon my art design background more than many other types of fabric.
    I predict that there will be a swing back to reproductions and that as our modern quilters mature, they will see that the reproductions are quite interesting graphically and that they will feel a kinship with women from other times and places as they work with these fabrics.
    My local quilt shop, Thimble Pleasures in Chapel Hill, NC, just closed its doors after 20 years. It was a fabulous shop with an owner who needed to retire and no one else to pick up the challenge.
    I will continue to learn from you as long as you are posting. Thanks for so much sharing of fabric information and quilt history that no one else has and for your good-natured fun with fabric, women and quilting.

    Your devoted student,

  11. A lot of old skills are disappearing - but not totally because there are always those who wish to carry on traditions. Likewise with quilting. It may skip a generation but it will never be wiped out. Fabric will always be manufactured - well I hope so unless global warming will see future generations running around in the nuddie!!! And there will always be some young person with a keen eye and a longing for the fabrics of old and a manufacturer will say oh yes that will make a change and hey ho the circle of life is still in action.

    I'm thoroughly enjoying your Civil War blog. History was never a strong point at school but this is different. I am grateful for learning a different side to things other than how tos.
    Thank you.

    Happy New Year everyone.

  12. I really enjoyed your post for the photos and commentary. I never thought about the differences between generations, really interesting!

  13. So glad you will not retire your blog! It's informative and entertaining, always leaves me with something to think about.....maybe a challenge, maybe a new bit of a twist to stick in with my ideas. Thanks, Barbara!

  14. Great post!!!! Rather than dwell on our differences, we should rejoice in our uniqueness!

  15. Why would anyone want to go on a fabric diet? Would you ask a painter (artist not house) not to buy paint? I've been happily buying fabric for 25 years and don't intend to stop until I can't quilt anymore. Love your Baltimore Blues. Quilt shop, here I come!

  16. No fabric diet here and I think I'm about your age. :-) If I were to pick the one thing that really hit me from yesterday's post (besides your retirement of course) was the comment about at the last big quilt show you went to and the number of vendors selling vibrating chairs. This is why we don't go to flower shows anymore. Too many vendors with jewelry, pots and pans, etc!

  17. Another thing about quilt shows..expensive prices! Didn't see anything new and I almost felt like I was at an indoor flea market!what happened to atmosphere and creativity in the booths ? I almost was going to ask for my entrance fee back last time so disappointing!

  18. My mother was buying fabric and quilting until the day she died at age 95. I'm 63 and intend to gleefully uphold the family tradition of purchasing fabric as though I were immortal. My daughter, a newly minted quilter and psychiatrist (what better way to unwind after a day working in a public mental health hospital!) just returned from a Food and Fabric weekend in Portland, Oregon. What fun! I'm very grateful for the roomful of fabrics I inherited from my Mom. Barbara, your designs are among the most beautiful in her collection. Thank you!

  19. O Hello
    Is there a pattern of the baby boom boa constrictor.
    I like it.
    Happy new year

  20. Marijke
    Here's all I know about ingenious snake. Follow this link:

  21. I think the issue with show attendance - and the size and quality of shows & number of vendors - is a direct result of the industry getting too greedy. AQS for one has over-saturated the market with all of the new shows and it has definitely taken a toll on the "big" shows like Paducah. While I recognize that the addition of other shows all around the country has allowed people to attend that would not have been able to make it to Paducah, Houston, etc., I have talked to numerous vendors who say they can't afford to do them all so now have to pick and choose and know that sales have dropped as consumers are spreading their money farther at multiple shows. Now AQS is adding a second show in Paducah...so sad to see what was once such a treat become "just another show".

  22. Oh my goodness...what a post. BB retiring?? How does one grasp that?? TBTG for the blog. I have collected fabric for 50 some years..since late adolescence...I cannot give away a bit of it...well..only snippets to my sister, I know where I got each piece. I used to love to browse the quilt stores..not anymore...Now I browse the web...sales...trying never to buy above 5 or 6 dollars a yard.. someone posted somewhere...that it is a collection..No one ever tells a stamp or coin collector to use their collections...so if I do not use but a bit of mine...so what.? Love it too much.I love and use all fabric..old, very old, new, very new...Do not get me going on my love for fabric...xxoo to BB

  23. I'm 48, which puts me in 'Generation X'. I do lots online: read blogs, share photos, read books, participate in BOMs & quilt-alongs. I do, however, purchased my fabric at my LQS or stores in places I visit (like my Mom's LQS). There is nothing like touching, feeling, and seeing fabric. I rarely purchase online. I've struggled, though, with these 'definitions' that quilters want to give themselves because I don't think I fit into any one box! I'm inspired by the modern quilt movement, but I LOVE traditional and antique quilts. Some of my quilts have some modern influences, but many are probably better described as 'contemporary'. But I also have a couple projects in the works that use reproduction lines. And I'm very much looking forward to the 'Yankee Diary'. I decided a year ago that I was just going to be a 'Quilter'. I was going to make what I loved and enjoyed without getting hung-up on some one else's definition!

  24. The cost of fabric is one reason I too am trying to use more stash, but I would never say I won't buy more - it just has to be on sale. I am designing scrap quilts to use the many fat quarters and yards of fabrics currently in my "resource center", looking to traditional styles with a modern twist. I agree with another commenter on your last post that economics may have a role in the decline of quilt show participants. I love to go but can only do that every few years - the cost of hotel, classes, meals, transportation gets up there. There seems to be an upsurge in more "modern" quilting - there are two new guilds within driving distance here that are made of younger women doing more negative space quilts with prints that are brighter and more funky than my taste. I wonder, are the shows concentrating on Modern style doing better than traditional?

  25. You're right regarding how the "Good Ship Quilt Commerce" will right itself. I'm on the tail end of the boomer group and started quilting in 2002. Back then all I heard was how the women who started quilting in 1970s, 80s and 90s had to overcome the supply, pattern and production prejudices of the quilting eras before them and from who they learned from. That's how (what I consider) the current "golden age of quilting" came about. I learned from those "innovators" who the new generation may now view as "pioneers" (with all the ancient imagery that word implies). They will develop their own vanguards and push the ship on a different trajectory. You're right, we have to embrace what will be, don't mourn what is, everything eventually changes, hopefully for the best.

  26. I have run out of room to store fabric. And yes, I am a baby boomer. However, I still love to buy fabric and there is so much beautiful fabric coming out. So, I have come up with a solution. Crocheting rag rugs. I made a new rug for the downstairs bathroom. It used up 14 yards of fabric. That is a lot of fabric. I wish I could say it made a dent in my stash, but it did not. Next on my schedule is a new rug for the dining room. It may use 100 yards of fabric, who knows. Then I may make on for my son's room. By then, I should have plenty of room for new fabric purchases. Whooppee!

  27. I still like to think of my quilts as art. Each says something no matter how small. I like to think that the earliest quilters thought this way too. Whether I am making a jacket, a quilt or an embroidery, it is a physical blog; a commentary or remembrance, an inspiration or a memory. What we use is not significant, the way it is expressed is.