Thursday, December 29, 2016

Happy New Year!

2016 was a tough year all around. 

Not particularly great in the quilt business.

Sit down. 
Here's a selective recap of the year.


The Kansas City Star closed its book division including the PickleDish department, which published some fabulous quilt books (including mine).

Spring 2016 Quilt Market attendance numbers down 13% from 2015.

American Quilters Society in Paducah closed their book division. They'd published some classic books, including mine.

Quilters Newsletter magazine folded after 47 years. I'd written for them from 1976 to 2016.

New York's City Quilter closed its brick and mortar shop after 20 years, joining many other real world shops in explaining, "Business has really not been good."http://craftindustryalliance.org/city-quilter-close-20-years/

Attendance numbers posted for Fall Quilt Market in Houston (2,557) continued dropping, down from 2015 (2,634) and 2014 (2,933).

The last big quilt show I went to had more dealers in vibrating chairs than
fabric shops selling reproduction prints.

December Instagram Idea

"Last shopping spree until January 2018. Join me for my 2017 challenge---
no buying fabric during 2017."

What is an author/fabric designer to do?

Retire! (with just a few tears.)
I'm not working on any quilt books, magazine articles or fabric lines.

Spending more time playing with the dog,
and painting, drawing and breaking old dishes for mosaics.
I think I'll go to Spain to paint for a couple of weeks.

I'm looking forward to 2017.
I'm still blogging and I think I'll go back in the pattern business

Digitally, of course.
2017 has got to be better.


  1. Oh, dear! I had no idea the business end was that bad. I do know that I have to drive a long way to buy fabric at a real quilt shop.
    Looking forward to your patterns!

  2. I had heard a few of these things happening but had no idea about the falling numbers of attendees at the Quilt Markets......and I hate it when shops close. They are so much more than places to buy fabric, I love meeting people there, following courses, being inspired by what I see. Sooooooo.... no promises from me not to buy fabric in 2017 (I see those promises and 'idea's ' at the end of every year)... I will go on as I always have, enjoy the new collections , go to the shops , follow some workshops/courses , meet other quilters there and... buy some fabric. Let's make that our 2017 goal!

  3. We have an 'in-home' quilt shop (sell just quilts and quilted items) and teach quilting. We strongly stress supporting our local shops - they send us commission work, we buy fabrics needed from them. Yes, you can buy on-line (or go on a fabric diet) - but I love going into a fabric shop. The smell, the feel, the social event.

  4. This is sad news indeed. I've tried to get my favorite local shop to offer classes, but she mentioned that folks are taking classes on-line. I love visiting and meeting folks in a quilt shop, but the atmosphere has changed. It seems that people rush in and rush out. On Monday, I was able to visit the shop in Blue Ridge, Georgia and did buy several yards from their sale room. My stash is abundant, thank goodness, as I simply cannot afford the higher prices right now. I've a feeling many of my retired and soon-to-be retired friends feel the same. The 1980s and 1990s were GREAT years for quilting and I treasure the friends I made while teaching. Thank you Barbara for continuing to supply us with wonderful information and ideas. Those will never go out of style.

  5. I internally screamed a big, "NOOOOOOOO!" when I read you are retiring! Fortunately, I also immediately read you will continue blogging and designing patterns. Whew!

    I know many people who declare they're not buying any more fabric, but they still do. And somehow they "don't count" the fabric they buy for backgrounds, backings, a yard of an accent color, the dinosaur fabric for the grandson, the jelly roll they just couldn't resist from their favorite designer, etc.

    Yes, things change.

    But also consider how Missouri Star Quilt Company revitalized a whole town and become a tourist destination. A new quilt shop opened in the next town from me, and is already expanding. Another quilt shop about an hour away bought their own building and also expanded. Quilts of Valor continues to grow.

    We're still good!

    And thank you, Barbara, for all you have done and continue to do for quilt and women's history! I quote you often!

  6. Please don't be too discouraged. There are many of us who still love visiting quilt shops and browsing the newest book by our favorite designers. Also, please continue designing fabric. You are the best!

  7. I didn't know quilting was on the downswing either. At least not that much. I knew about Quilter's Newsletter Magazine (I'd still love to buy an archive DVD!) and heard briefly about AQS not doing books any more. Local shops *seem* to be doing well.

    My book buying has been mostly older out-of-print ones, with a couple exceptions. There are a couple new books I'm looking for (I may ask them ordered in for me at local shop). I think most of my new books have been about recreating antique quilts. But my shelves are full, where to put them? Ebooks and patterns are OK, but I prefer paper, since I can easily make notes in those.

    My fabric shopping has changed, I have so much to use up, especially garment fabrics and not enough time to use it right now - but a "no new fabric" pledge?!? OH H...!! ahem, I mean NO WAY!! At least not for quilting fabric, I have quilts for QOV to make.

    I do have to wonder a tiny bit if the quilting industry isn't shooting itself in the foot pushing the long-arm machines and accessories (how many have the $$$$$ & space?) at shows. And so many new books seem to be old patterns and techniques simply done up in new sizes or fabrics or shown quilted to within an inch of it's life.

    (big sigh) I guess this is just another reason to add to my list of reasons 2016 was crap.

    I'll keep looking forward to reading your blogs for quilt history and information, stories of your retirement activities, and keep searching for your fabrics and books in quilt shops in 2017.

  8. That was a very tight list of 2016, one that I have followed. I did not know the show stats, but it doesn't surprise me. I think there are many reasons for this, none of which are easy to solve. Yes, online shopping, and yes, we know the quality of the popular brands, but taking a class with others at the table cannot compare to an online class in your sewing room. Yes, convenience, replay, etc. I've bought long arm classes. But so many questions go unanswered because the teacher isn't there in the moment. Plus I always love seeing other students work on the same project as me. Different colors, different tools, conversation, connections, none of that can be done via the pc. Unfortunately your post was right on target, and as a long arm quilter, I know my work has slowed. I get better at my trade, my prices have stayed the same for years, and yet my business has slowed. I shall continue to quilt, offer classes, attend museum shows and local shops, but yes, the times are a changing for the quilt industry.
    I do look forward to patterns and I continue to enjoy your history lessons!

  9. Your retirement announcement, along with the summary of major changes in the quilt world gives me reason to reflect back on the quilting boom I've been fortunate to experience since the bicentennial - such a great time to be a quilter. We've seen a lot of changes over the decades and quilting like everything else is changing.

    So, my friends, let's say "Cheers to the Future" as we continue doing what we love!

  10. Sigh. As a loyal fan, I'm disappointed ... but I understand. I retired from teaching and longarming this fall. Local guild membership continues to decline also. Well, let's have fun with Yankee Diary in 2017, and see what develops. Hugs!

  11. I knew none of this! Except that I am weary of the use of technology! I can see why people will shy away from quilting though. It is very costly and I am speaking of the cost of fabric. Not many can afford several hundred dollars to purchase the fabric even if one wanted to hand quilt it. When my mother started 25 years ago I don't remember it being so costly but perhaps my memory is incorrect. I am new to quilting and worry when I retire in a few years that I will not be able to do but one quilt a year. But others may fair better so there is hope. I am delighted to hear you will do patterns. Your fabric is beautiful and although I have very little of it due to the cost I can dream and read all of the wonderful history of quilts. Best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year!

  12. Incredibly I didn't know City Quilter had closed at end of Oct!!!! I don't know where I can see quilt fabric now and I take it from your announcement that Moda is not doing any more repros. Although we are a dying breed apparently, that leaves a number of us high and dry. Please, don't abondon us as well!

    As I see it, the younger generations weren't exposed to home sewing and there are so many barriers to entry into this hobby if you are unfamiliar with sewing as a day to day activity and have no machine. How these barriers might ever be overcome I don't know. Just looking at fabric and pictures of quilts lowers my blood pressure and calms the mind. Can no one else feel this as well? Sadly the rival textile craft of knitting is so much easier and less expensive to do, to learn, to plan and to access.

    Let's all think -- how can we reach out to interest younger generations? Passing laws mandating sewing in the school curriculum -- I wish! Perhaps advocating for and possibly even teaching sewing, even if it is "fashion" sewing, as an after school activity? Volunteers, anyone?

  13. I didn't say Moda wasn't doing any more repros. I said I wasn't doing any more fabric.

  14. I can understand the desire or need to retire. What you do takes a lot of time and energy, and I know mine is waning, for sure! I love quilting - it's my life after church and family - but there are other things in life. I'm sure there are! LOL I'm glad you'll still be blogging and designing patterns. I have many of your books and they've always inspired me. I've loved following your blog and making quilt blocks for your projects.

    This post really points out some things that have happened, but I think there's more to the story. The cost of fabric is one of the reasons I've become so immersed in scrappy quilts. I can infuse a new project with little bits of new pieces and still have the majority come from what I already have, reducing the cost. I do buy online, but I also visit every quilt shop there is within 100 miles in any direction (and that's a lot!), and more if I'm traveling. My purchases range from $15 to $35 most of the time. It isn't a lot, but if 100 people a month did the same, it could make a difference to a shop, maybe.

    I never go on those fabric diets. For one thing, I don't have that self-control. LOL For another, when you go off your diet next year, who's to say your favorite shops won't have closed down because you and all your friends weren't out there spending those ten dollar bills? I think the industry is contracting, but I don't think it's going away. There are a LOT of young quilters! They aren't doing what we do. A lot of them don't have a stash. They do seem to mostly have a good disposable income, and buy lots more than I do. We aren't going away. We're just changing. =)

  15. Kay Hunzinger, 44katydid@gmail.comDecember 29, 2016 at 3:07 PM

    I would like to add my 2-cent opinion to the rest. I really hate to see Quilters Newsletter go by the wayside. However, I would like to say that none of the magazines cafter to my wants. I am an appliquer - there are hardly ever any Applique quilts in any quilting magazine. The few they do provide are very simple. There was a time when McCall's published quarterly issues featuring traditional quilts along with some applique. They openly refuse to do that again so I think they just don't care about public opinion. I can't be the only person who loves applique, I see many applique quilts in shows. In retrospect I have not enjoyed QN for quite some time because it had changed so much. Should have guessed it was a new owner. I am teachingmy grandchildren tol quilt - I refuse to believe it is also disappearing. I hope there are others doing the same.

  16. interesting stats. You'll survive not buying fabric next year. I went cold turkey in 2001.It wasn't easy, that first year was pretty bad :) But I'd loved every fabric I'd bought, never just because it was on sale, so I still love everything that remains in my stash. I have started looking for scraps to fluff and fresh what I have.

    all the best the new year can offer to you and yours, thank you for all the knowledge you impart to us. Sharyn in Kalama

  17. One of my local quilt shops closed this year for the same reason that City Quilter did. It was time for the owner to retire. And, while she tried to sell the business rather than close up shop, she couldn't find a buyer. Lucky for me I have another LQS, where I can go. This owner has done a lot to make her shop a true destination and not just a place to purchase fabric and notions. I don't like purchasing fabric online, and the quality/selection at the big box stores is just not up to par.

    Barbara, I'm very sorry to hear that you won't be designing fabric any more. Thankfully I have a good amount of your designs in my stash. But, my stash will only last so long, even without going on a fabric buying diet - ever! But I'm very happy to hear that you will continue blogging and designing patterns. You've done so much for this craft/industry. Thank-you!

  18. The New Year is almost upon us and I am keeping that in mind as I digest this news. I think I'm going to retire too; I'm going to retire from whining and feeling bad. Instead I will look forward optimistically knowing that you will have more time to spend researching all things quilty, blogging for us and designing patterns Barbara. There's still plenty of ways we can enjoy and indulge our love of quiltmaking. For instance I am in the midst of creating a quilt to be entered for potential acceptance into an art exhibit (not an art quilt exhibit but one where I am competing for a place alongside painters, photographers and more). Barbara, you have given me so much pleasure and reason to keep quilting ever since I found your Block of the Week Civil War quilt in 2011 and I am so appreciative of that. I'm looking forward to your book that is currently in the mail and headed my way. It will be book 1 for 2017 for my quilt book library. I pledge to continue retail therapy. Thank you so much.

  19. It is shame things are down on previous years. It is the same here in Australia. Event attendance are down, Brick and mortar shops closing some retiring some turning their businesses to online only. You are having to drive further to find a quality quilt shop. Let's hope 2017 will be better.

  20. 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.

    I love you fabric, and will treasure what I have until I find a worthy project!

    I'd love for you to blog about you mosaic projects. I've been collecting chipped plates for just that purpose, but haven't started anything yet.

  21. I had to close down my quilt shop last year. We had been a featured shop in the Quilt Sampler magazine in 2012 but business went way down and we could not keep it going. It's a sign of the times.

  22. I definitely agree with Louise, many of us who have been avid quilters for years are 'saturated', with fabric, notions, and ideas. And the ideas just keep coming, thanks largely to the internet ... blogs (which I love and frequent religiously!), websites, Pinterest (which I avoid like "the plaque"!) There is so much information out there, that it takes so much of my energy just sifting through it all, I have little energy left for quilting! I'm not complaining about all the free help available to all of us, but it does contribute to the decline of purchases made. I can't remember the last time I bought a quilting book. I used to buy many quilt magazines every month ... now I don't bother, since I can see most of the same 'stuff' online. Any fabric I buy (which isn't much ... I'm 'saturated', remember!) is from my LQS, or the odd quilt store I happen to find when we're travelling. Online purchasing will likely be the downfall of many retail businesses, including quilt stores. It seems to be the way the world is going ... except for the big box stores. As soon as Costco starts selling fabric, it'll be one-stop-shopping for all! LOL! I can't offer any solutions to this state of affairs, just my little observations. Let's hope for the best in 2017, and at least enjoy our quilting!

  23. Happy retirement - means you can do things you like doing. There are no limits to that either! It is sad about the books because I love turning pages. My husband has his Kindle whatever, and to me it's a waste of time - he had to wait for the pages to load while I just pick up my book and go.
    I've noticed a lot of my old favourite US quilt shops have closed, some for retirement, some for lack of business. I used to get lots of fabric shipped over here because it is so expensive over here - even with customs duty to pay and the cost of postage was still good. Now the cost of shipping is a high price to pay plus dollar rate is not good. Meanwhile cost of fabric here is still going sky high, so yes, I'm diving into my stash.
    I have a favourite UK quilt shop but that is also miles away. Use them or lose them altogether. Shops are by far better to visit for rapport and advice - and seeing fabrics without guessing at the digital image colour is no contest. So while I'd like to not buy more fabric, I probably will just for support . . . well that'll be my excuse!
    More people seem to be interested in quilting as it's slowly catching on - again most of us are older. Although my daughter is very enthusiastic when it comes to fabric shopping - she cannot sit down and sew - short attention span. Probably from my gene pool as I have a fair few tops to complete! So she chooses fabric - for me to do for her and I end up with colours I loathe and can't even get my creative cap on for making something out of it all! Which may just be the plan for 2017 - use that stash and work outside my comfort zone. Testing times ahead!

  24. Here's to you, Barbara! Thank you for sharing your wisdom, talent, and humor with us all these years. Glad to hear you will continue blogging while taking the time to explore new avenues in your retirement. I'm seriously considering joining you in your 2017 Challenge :) Happy New Year!

  25. baby boomers are retiring and not all are still able to buy frequently (that's me)...plus have quite a stash on hand already, much of which are your beautiful fabrics that are crying to be used on reproduction quilts...that is the reality until younger quilters get the repro bug--and some will--but technology has affected lots of people. in maine, for instance, paper mills that employed thousands of people have shuttered because their product is no longer needed for print media. the only industry in those areas has now left many without jobs and none to take the place of the mills....so it isn't just quilt authors who have been affected...just ask newspaper employees

  26. Whew!! At least you'll still be blogging :) I'm a faithful reader who enjoys and learns from your posts and always enjoys your humor.

  27. Kansas City Star closing was a real kick in the gut for me. I had been with them for 5 books and was very happy. I had to think long and hard about where to go next and consider my audience. I do primarily applique designs which puts me in a smaller niche. When I travel I make it a point to shop in the quilt shops along the way, even though I am a designer and don't "need" to shop retail. Quilt shops are so important to creating a quilting community. The internet is a valuable resource but nothing inspires creativity like seeing the fabric in person, touching and sharing with those who have similar interests.

  28. Enjoy your retirement--I think you will find yourself busier than ever! I'll miss your beautiful fabrics, I'll be forced to use the ones I've hoarded!

  29. Congratulations on your retirement. I truly hope you are looking forward to some new adventures. Selfishly I'll admit that I will greatly miss your fabrics and books. I just finished piecing two quilts using your Best of Morris collection and have much more of your designs to use. I have so enjoyed reading your blogs over the years and have learned so much. Your commitment and contribution to the art and history of quilting is unparalleled. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for all you have done and shared with the quilt world.

  30. Congratulations on retirement! I'm sorry it was such a down year. I was really hoping it was just due to it being an election year and things would bounce back in 2017. I'm sad there will be no more of your take on William Morris fabrics. I love those collections!! Thank you for your dedication to quilting and keeping history alive. I'm like most quilters, lots of fabric in the stash. But, I want to keep my local quilt shop around. So, I'm going to take the $50/month challenge. Spend $50 at the LQS. It's not a lot but it amazing what just $50 will do for the local economy and hopefully help the shop a little too. Thank you for continuing to blog! Best wishes and have FUN on your new adventure! Amy Campbell

  31. Happy retirement! I am not suprised but what you published. 2016 was the hardest year for me and my quilting. I know I have told you this before on your blog but I want to say it again. I love block base. I love block base. I hope you enjoy your retirement.

  32. Happy Retirement! We had 4 quilts shops to close in our area this year so your stats are not surprising. I am a fan of reproduction fabrics and although I can see the appeal of the bright and modern, I love old quilts and especially the red and green applique and album quilts. There is nothing like them in my opinion. I plan to continue to be true to myself as far as that goes, but since I just retired last year, maybe now is a good time to take your challenge of not buying any fabric. I'll see how tempted I am - the internet makes that challenge very difficult some times! Good luck!

  33. Jill-that's NOT my challenge. My challenge is to BUY BUY BUY

  34. Barbara you have such a wonderful impact on many of us. I have loved so reading all of your blogging and also have a nice big box of beautiful reproduction fabric (much of it yours) I am using. I will finish my civil war sampler this year!
    One change I think with big show attendance is that at one time my friends and I would eagerly await our yearly pilgrimage to Lancaster PA for the spring AQS show. It was a huge event for us and we would plan for weeks and make our hotel reservations a year in advance and save our money to stock up on fabric and patterns. Now new big shows are in Syracuse NY, Daytona Fl, and several other places so many of us no longer need to travel to see the same quilts. When I first started the only opportunity to learn was to go to your local quilt shop or take an adult ed class. Online quilt classes have replaced many in person classes. You Tube is saturated with videos showing techniques and patterns. Fabric for a quilt is a click away instead of going to a shop and feeling the fabric and seeing the colors. Plus all these precut packs and associated quilt patterns that abound on the internet have replaced so much of the challenge of selection and in person learning. Each generation looks fondly at what they have lost and I don't think that us seasoned quilters are any different. My beds are full, my families beds are full and now I am making heirloom quilts. Will anyone appreciate them? I don't know but I have to do what I love. All the best to you and I hope through the years your life was enriched even part of the way that you enriched ours through your research and beautiful fabric lines and books.

  35. I still find it too hard to resist buying fabric. I buy what I love. I just can't help myself. I plan to keep it up!

  36. What makes you think 2017 is going to be better in America? Lots of loss to come. For the first time ever I went into the new year with no hope or goals to reach.
    The changes you mentioned could indicate the changing face of quiltmaking. People like to order online, even though I love a brick and morter store. People want less repro prints and more mod prints. The quilt shows became too expensive to enjoy, or haven't kept up with characteristics show goers want. Some new quilting magazines have begun too. People are teaching online instead of in person but people are still taking classes. I think more than ever people will need the outlet of expression after they see the changes coming here.

  37. Things do look bleak but hopefully they will improve. I try to support my local quilt shops as much as possible (even though my dollars are limited). I like having them available and want their businesses to be viable. I hope things thrive in 2017.

  38. Like many I'm so glad to know that retirement does not mean you will simply disappear from the quilty scene. I love your blog with all the inspiration, history, and humor and you relieved my heart-wrench when you said that would continue. My all-time favorite fabric of yours is the Morris stuff. I bought all I could afford. I guess I will look around for whatever Morris is left on the shelf and buy more. But like many I have yards and yards of unused fabric, so good sense dictates some restraint. LOL. I have noticed the contraction of the quilty business - it's sad for me as I'm relatively new to the activity. And it took me a bit to latch on the fact that fabric companies do not keep lines active for more than six months, if that. Even if the fabric is very popular. I think they've missed an opportunity. So keep on inspiring us, Barbara. You have fans!