The State of the Quilt

Today is December 29, 2016.  In two days, we will ring in a New Year.  It’s a time to turn over a new leaf, set some goals, make some plans.  It’s also a time to think about the past year and decide what, if anything, you would do differently.  It likewise is a time to look back at what has happened on a larger stage and try to determine how that is going to affect the time-line continuum of the future.


With that in mind, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to address The State of The Quilt 2016.


And to be honest, in many ways 2016 has been brutal to quilts and quilters.  Let me recap briefly:

The National Quilt  Association closed.  This was the granddaddy on the quilting block – the organization that begat AQS, the National Teacher Certification Program, and the National Judges Certification Program.

Quilters Newsletter, the granddaddy of quilt publications, ceased publication in October.

The International Machine Quilters Association, which has been around for 20 years, shuttered.

The Applique Society came very, very close to disbanding and has only survived by going completely electronic and changing membership due dates.

City Quilter in New York City – a major shopping destination for quilters both in person and on line – closed.

Hancock Fabrics closed all of their stores.

And finally AQS announced  that they will no longer publish books.


Add to this several Mom and Pop quilt stores have either closed completely or shuttered their brick and mortar stores but have maintained a web presence, and 2016 looks particularly dismal for quilts and quilters.  I could not find the actual number of quilt shops that closed this year or in 2015, but a quick Google search produced four pages of quilt shops that are for sale – if you’re willing to take the risk.

The only thing I can even remotely relate this experience to is a patient waking up from plastic surgery – you know they’re probably going to survive, but you’re not quite sure what they’re going to look like when they wake up.

We’ve lost a lot in 2016 – from quilting organizations, to quilting publications, to quilt shops.  And as I’ve stated before, I’m not quite sure where exactly this all is taking us.  At this point in my life, I’ve quilted 27 years and I’ve never seen the quilting horizon look quite like this.  The need, the necessity to have a good fabric store within reasonable driving distance has always been there for me.  And now it is not.  I currently must drive 20 minutes or longer to purchase quality fabric and thread.  With my crazy work schedule I know I will be purchasing more on line than ever.  This will drive me nuts, as I am one of “those” quilters that has to touch and feel what I’m buying.  I can’t help but wonder how many other quilters are faced with this same situation.

On the other hand, the fact that quilters are extremely generous folks has been once again proven in 2016.  There are more than 20 national/international organizations that make quilts for kids, patients, shelter animals, etc.  And they all have reported either a steady influx of quilts, or more than received in 2015.

According to the latest statistics available for quilters, there are 16 million active quilters.  If you do the math, that means one out of every 20 people quilt regularly.  We collectively spend about 3.75 billion dollars to support and foster our habit craft. This means that 22.2% of American households have at least one quilter and that household spends an average of $3,296 annually on quilting needs.  Each of these quilters has an average of $13,000 in quilting supplies (machines, rulers, notions, and tools), and these quilters’ stash is worth an average of $6,000. Approximately 87% of these quilters own an Ipad, tablet, laptop, or e-reader and they use that in their quilting either through purchasing notions and fabrics, researching projects, connecting with other quilters, or taking on-line quilting classes.

So despite the fact that the quilting landscape is drastically changing, quilting remains a healthy, viable art.  But like I stated earlier, we’re just not so sure what it’s going to look like when things settle  down a bit.  However with 2017 peeking around the corner, I would like look into my quilting crystal ball and make a few quilting predictions.



  1. There will be fewer large shows.  They’re just not cost effective.
  2. Fewer guilds will have shows with vendors, too.  They can’t find the people to organize them and they’re not particularly cost effective.  I do think they will continue to have judged shows for their members’ quilts, though.
  3. More and more publications will go to e-versions only. They are now offering deep discounts to people that want an e-subscription.  Publishing a paper magazine or newsletter is costly, not to mention the postage will eat a budget alive.
  4. More local quilt shops will continue to either close or go to on-line sales only. Rent is high, and on-line sales lowers costs all the way around.
  5. There will continue to be more and better on-line classes available for quilters and the cost of these will remain reasonable.
  6. Instead of quilt shops, I see a rise in the number of “Quilt Studios.” These studios will be space where several quilters may split the cost of the rent and use it for teaching classes and keeping a small inventory on hand for use in their classes.  The studios will be open only for classes and at other times by appointment.

I keep reminding myself that not all change is bad and that it’s necessary for the art to continue to thrive.  Out of all the art forms, quilting is among the most flexible and has bent with the winds of change for hundreds of years and it will continue to do so.  We may not recognize the quilting world of tomorrow any more than we can imagine cutting out a quilt with cardboard templates and scissors the way our great-grandmothers did, but the quilt will survive and thrive.  As long as we don’t begin to quilt in isolation without the support and fellowship of other quilters, 2017 and beyond will work out quite well for our quilts and quilters.

We, and our quilts, are survivors.


Love and Stitches,


Sherri and Sam


Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas Everyone~


Despite the fact that my shopping and wrapping has been over with for  weeks, I am still in the middle of a thousand Christmas-y things, tonight’s being my Guild’s Christmas Party, an event where much fun, food, and merriment will be had.


So, to lighten your holiday spirit, instead of my regularly scheduled blog, here’s a little Christmas poem to hopefully make you giggle just a little.  Next week’s blog will return to all things quilty, starting 2017 out with my annual “State of The Quilt” address – similar to the “State of the Union” address, only funnier and much better.


 A Politically Correct Christmas 

Twas the night before Christmas and Santa’s a wreck…
How to live in a world that’s politically correct?
His workers no longer would answer to “Elves”,
“Vertically Challenged” they were calling themselves.
And labor conditions at the North Pole,
were alleged by the union, to stifle the soul.

Four reindeer had vanished without much propriety,
released to the wilds, by the Humane Society.
And equal employment had made it quite clear,
that Santa had better not use just reindeer.
So Dancer and Donner, Comet and Cupid,
were replaced with 4 pigs, and you know that looked stupid!

The runners had been removed from his beautiful sleigh,
because the ruts were deemed dangerous by the EPA,
And millions of people were calling the Cops,
when they heard sled noises upon their roof tops.
Second-hand smoke from his pipe, had his workers quite frightened,
and his fur trimmed red suit was called “unenlightened”.

To show you the strangeness of today’s ebbs and flows,
Rudolf was suing over unauthorized use of his nose.
He went to Geraldo, in front of the Nation,
demanding millions in over-due workers compensation.

So…half of the reindeer were gone, and his wife
who suddenly said she’d had enough of this life,
joined a self help group, packed and left in a whiz,
demanding from now on that her title was Ms.

And as for gifts…why, he’d never had the notion
that making a choice could cause such commotion.
Nothing of leather, nothing of fur…
Which meant nothing for him or nothing for her.
Nothing to aim, Nothing to shoot,
Nothing that clamored or made lots of noise.
Nothing for just girls and nothing for just boys.
Nothing that claimed to be gender specific,
Nothing that’s warlike or non-pacifistic.

No candy or sweets…they were bad for the tooth.
Nothing that seemed to embellish upon the truth.
And fairy tales…while not yet forbidden,
were like Ken and Barbie, better off hidden,
for they raised the hackles of those psychological,
who claimed the only good gift was one ecological.

No baseball, no football…someone might get hurt,
besides – playing sports exposed kids to dirt.
Dolls were said to be sexist and should be passe.
and Nintendo would rot your entire brain away.

So Santa just stood there, disheveled and perplexed,
he just couldn’t figure out what to do next?
He tried to be merry, he tried to be gay,
but you must have to admit he was having a very bad day.
His sack was quite empty, it was flat on the ground,
nothing fully acceptable was anywhere to be found.

Something special was needed, a gift that he might,
give to us all, without angering the left or the right.
A gift that would satisfy – with no indecision,
each group of people in every religion.
Every race, every hue,
everyone, everywhere…even you!
So here is that gift, it’s price beyond worth…
“May you and your loved ones enjoy peace on Earth.”

Merry Christmas!

Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam




The Last Stand and the Unfiltered Truth



I promise you this is the last (for the time being, anyway) word I will have about local quilt shops, nationally renowned teachers, and on-line stores.  I promise.

The internet is a wonderful tool for any artist or crafty-minded person.  Countless numbers of YouTube videos are out there on almost any subject any quilter could think of.  Machine quilting with a domestic machine, loading a long arm, machine applique with invisible thread, piecing tricks – they are all out there and available with a point of the cursor and a click of the mouse.  And many of these videos aren’t made by just any quilter.  A lot of these videos are produced by nationally renowned instructors such as Jenny Doan, Eleanor Burns, Jodi Barrows, Karen Kay Buckley – the list is endless.

And they’re free on YouTube.  Which means anyone with Wi-Fi access and a phone can watch and learn from the Master Quilters.  That’s a good thing, right?  It levels the quilting field so that everyone and not just a select few can obtain great quilty truths from truly great quilters.  It’s the democracy of quilting, correct?


Well… yes and no.

The “Yes” part is that it is indeed a wonderful concept that everyone can watch these videos, whether they’re on YouTube or any other website and learn new concepts.  This makes everyone a better quilter.  There are several women I quilt with that I know would love to take lessons from a nationally-known teacher, but the price is so far out of their budget, there’s just no way it will ever happen.  These videos make those teachers available to these women.  And that is a good thing.

But here’s the “No” part – nothing is ever really free.  

Let’s look at this a little closer.  We all use YouTube.  Admit it.  You’re having a tension issue and can’t make heads or tails out of your sewing machine manual?  Chances are there is a video out there that explains it a lot better than the mechanical engineer who wrote the darn handbook.  Need a little, quick inspiration?  Jenny Doan has a new tutorial out there and she is absolutely darling.  Want to take a class from Mary Sorenson, Leah Day, Jinny Beyer, or Beth Ferrier?  You don’t need to look any further than Craftsy.  Love Bethanne Nemesh’s long arm techniques and want to learn from her?  Iquilt can hook you up in a clicky minute.

So what’s so bad about that?  Sure, on YouTube the video is free.  On sites like Craftsy and Iquilt, you pay a fee.  So the teacher is earning some kind of profit, right?


Yes.  On that point you’re absolutely right.  And the nationally-known teacher reaches so many more quilters this way than he or she ever could on the quilt show and teaching circuit.  It’s easier in some ways, too.  The traveling is more limited – they may have to travel to the studios where the video class is produced instead of all over the United States.  They prep for the class one time instead of hundreds.  So it’s a win-win.  Why on earth should a renowned teacher ever offer actual classes again, and why on earth should anyone pay out a couple of hundred bucks to take an actual class?

I’ve taken classes with some of these nationally-known teachers and it would be really easy for me to flip out this excuse:  Take the class for the experience.  And that reason would be partially correct.  But the “experience” can be a flimsy reason to shell out a few hundred bucks for a class.

The teachers I have taken classes from have been very thoughtful about making the experience a once-in-a-life time opportunity for their students.  They take the fact that you’ve paid out major bucks very seriously and make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.  They will limit class size, make sure the room is prepped, and everything is ready to go the minute class is ready to begin.  And they cover everything in the syllabus.

However, in a video class, there are no opportunities to ask questions, laugh with the instructor, and get to know them personally.  Like most other quilters, they seem to long for the quilty fellowship as much as anyone.  But this still begs the question I asked earlier: Why on earth should a renowned teacher ever offer actual classes again, and why on earth should anyone pay out a couple of hundred bucks to take an actual class?

The answer is, there really isn’t a good reason.  And a part of me is afraid that if we all purchase the on-line classes and forgo attending the real ones, more and more instructors will stop offering them.  Then another part of our quilting culture will be lost, just like the local quilt shops are disappearing one by one.

Now hold that thought and let’s move on to the next sticky quilting issue – on line shopping.

No quilter can dispute the ease of shopping on the internet.  Want a fabric that’s hard to find, in a color that’s impossible to match?  That’s no longer an obstacle.  A google search can yield hundreds of results in a matter of seconds.  Inspiration hits you at 2 a.m. and you’ve just got to have five yards of orange fabric delivered to your door in no less than 24-hours?  Not a problem.  Point, click and it’s shipped.  See a pattern you just have to have?  Sometimes it’s just a download away.

It’s all very, very convenient.  There is no disputing that.  But remember what I said in the first blog about this (the one where I was channeling Kathleen Kelly)—that we must begin to carefully cultivate our stash and purge ourselves of the notion that “She who dies with the most fabric wins?”  We also need to begin to change the way we purchase items on line.

Like most of you, I get tons of emails.  And a great deal of these emails are quilt or fabric related.  Which means, yes, I get notices from MassDrop and  Do I order from them?  Yes.

But not until I’ve considered other options.  When Dragonfly was open, it was my go-to store because it was my local quilt shop.  I would have rather paid a little more and thrown my dollars Gerald’s and Patty’s direction for a couple of reasons.  First, I wanted them to stay open as long as possible.  And second, I got to touch the fabric and see it in reality and not on a screen.  I purchased as much as I could from my LQS.  However, inevitably, there were some pieces of fabric they didn’t have and I would have to make a decision about where to purchase them.  This is where I had to begin to change my consumerism and train myself to avoid the “big box” fabric warehouses.

So some things begin to come into play here.  Like a lot of quilters, I go to quilt shows.  I tend to pick up the vendor’s business cards and keep them.  My DH and I also travel a bit and he always takes me to a quilt shop or two in the area we’re visiting.  I get business cards from these shops, too.  So now, at this juncture, I pull those cards out.  The vendors and shops on most of these cards are truly Mom and Pop operations that are either LQS’s or are small business ventures that sell quality products, offer superior customer service, and like most quilting entrepreneurs these days,  struggle to keep their heads above water.  These are companies I go to first to do my on-line shopping.  And my reasons behind this deal with more than just to help keep the doors open for these business owners. It has to do with the fact that most of the time our business principles, work ethics, and values are similar.  It’s important to me that I support that.

I would encourage you to do the same.  I know Amazon and the larger websites are easy to navigate and easy to order from – believe me, I know.  However, behind every small vendor website exists real people who very, very much want to make a difference in our quilting world.  And they want to stay open.

And we want them to stay open.

Change is inevitable in any art or craft.  There are new influences, new inventions, and new technology that inexorably alter the way craftsmen do things.  Just think about the rotary cutter.  That item was introduced to the quilt world in the mid-70’s and by the late ‘80’s it was impossible to find a quilt pattern that didn’t offer rotary cutting instructions.  It  changed rulers, templates, and the amount of time we spent cutting our fabric.  We rarely ever think about not picking up a rotary cutter to cut out our quilts.

However, quilting is more than new fabric, new inventions, and new technology.  Quilting is an art, but it’s also a culture.  You don’t think so?  The definition of culture is “The arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.”  And part of our quilting culture has always been that intersection where the art meets artists (plural).  The declination of the number of local quilt shops has the potential of directly limiting the opportunities for quilters to meet other quilters, exchange ideas, techniques, and inspire each other.  The fewer the number of quilt classes taught by nationally known teachers means even fewer opportunities for the quilter to step out of her local quilt realm and experience that exchange on an even wider level.

And we have yet to see what that impact will be. While we know quilting has always been one of the more “flexible” arts, adapting to whatever fabric and tools are available to it;  it has, however, remained one of the arts that was often done as a group – it was social interaction as well as creative output.  With the opportunities of that collaboration dwindling in number, there is the danger that quilting will become a socially isolated event linked only by Facebook groups, blogs, and on-line chat rooms.

It is important that we not become so focused on the act and art of quilting that we lose sight of the culture of the craft, because it’s not all about the quilts.  It’s about the quilters – the fellowship that we have with each other.  It’s about sharing the good times and the bad.  It’s about multiplying the joys and dividing the sorrows.  It’s about taking the scraps that life hands you and sticking your finger in fate’s eye when you make something beautiful out of it.

That’s what quilting is all about. And that’s the unfiltered  truth.

Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam



Testing 1, 2, 3…

Once upon a time, not too long ago, I was a teacher.  I taught physics and chemistry.  Part of teaching is that you have to give tests.  Tests were never my favorite thing to plan for, much less grade if I had $5.00 for every weekend I lost grading tests, I could take one of those fancy-shmancy quilting cruises. However I did do two things that made them bearable for me and my students well, most of my students, anyway.  I told my students that if they had kept up in class, did their homework, paid attention, and took decent notes, they should easily be able to make a C on the test.  The second thing I did was rename tests.  The word “test” has such a negative connotation and it’s a four-letter word.  The word “quiz” is no better.

So, I changed the name of quiz to “party.”  “We’re having a formula party on Friday” sounds so much better than “We’re having a quiz on all the formulas attributed to motion and vectors.”

And test became “Celebrations of Knowledge.”  So much better.

Therefore, in light of last week’s blog and the fact I’m still pretty upset and bummed about my LQS closing, I’m giving you a true/false “Celebration of Quilt Knowledge.”  If you’ve read my blogs, been a quilter for any length of time, you should do just fine.  Answers are at the bottom.

True or False – Quilt store owners are rolling around in beds of money and laughing all the way to the bank because they gouge customers.

True or False – Quilt stores support local events, charities, and quilters in need.

True or False – Nationally known quilt teachers charge less than $500 per day.  If the quilt shop is charging you more than $40 for a session with these teachers, it’s because they’re trying to make major bucks.

True or False – Nationally known quilt teaches are happy sleeping on the pull-out couch in your den that smells like a wet dog.

True or False – The quilt store usually spends around $100 a day to feed the nationally known teacher.

True or False – If the quilt store signs a contract with the nationally known teacher, it’s up to the teacher to fund his or her own transportation to the city.  Once here, the store takes care of a rental vehicle or loans her a car and pays for gas.

True or False – The quilt store pays its employees minimum wage to help with this event.

Okay, begin. And while you’re pondering the above questions, let me tell you, while I love the holidays, I will be glad when they’re over.  I’m no Grinch, but it seems no matter how well I plan, I’m always behind schedule for Christmas.  I have had my shopping done since October, but I don’t think I will ever get through wrapping or bagging the presents.

On top of everything else,  I did have to do some unrelated-to-Christmas shopping today.  Major undertakings have been going on at Casa de Fields – we’ve had siding put on the house and in this process, the little hook on the side of my entry way where I hung our wreath was removed.  So I had to make a trip to my local Walmart to pick up one of those hooks you put on your door top to hang your wreath on.

That was my first mistake.  It’s 17 days until Christmas and I’m at Walmart along with a kabillion other people and only five registers open.

Along with the hook, I had to buy some personal items undies and socks and a few other non-Christmasy things we needed.  I’m well over 50 at this point, but I was really hoping for a female check-out person.  I’m kind of particular about who sees my unmentionables.

No luck.

That was my second mistake.

A young man with various piercings and a nametag that read “Cari’gon” (yup, his name had an apostrophe) had the pleasure of checking me and my items out.  And may I mention at this point, he had a man-bun.

A man-bun.  Seriously.  Cari’gon and his man-bun deserved the pleasure of checking me and my personal items out.  Who in God’s name decided it was perfectly fine and dandy for guys to wear their hair in a bun?  It’s freakin’ ridiculous….

Pencils down.  Now for the answers.   You may grade your own tests.

  1. False – Quilt store owners are lucky if they break even.  And you may wince at the cost of a yard of fabric, but ponder this a minute – the average wholesale cost of a bolt of good flannel is around $13.00.  Cotton fabric isn’t a whole lot better.  Remember the quilt store owner has to pay for the bolt of fabric, plus shipping, plus figure a profit that will cover her general expenses, allow her to reorder fabric, and put a little profit aside for herself.
  2. True – Most quilt store owners are generous to a fault.
  3. False – Most nationally known teachers charge between $500 — $1,000 or more per day. It’s customary.  And why not?  They’re experts in their field and have spent years fine-tuning their art as well as spent serious time preparing for the class.
  4. False – I mean, really? Cousin Ed might be perfectly happy sleeping on your pull-out that smells like a wet dog, but a nationally known quilting teacher is not family.  He or she is a professional that should be treated that way and that means a nice, safe hotel with at least basic amenities like wifi, coffee pot in the room, and a comfy bed.
  5. True—I know food costs can vary, but the teacher should be taken out to restaurants where there is a variety of food to choose from. Care should be taken to find out if the teacher is vegetarian, vegan, or has food allergies.  This means that the Golden Arches and Taco-de-Bell are not on the list.
  6. False – When a quilt store books a teacher, it’s responsible for the plane ticket and car rental.
  7. False — At this point in the store’s planning session for the event, employees may be up to overtime in preparation.  And the store may have to hire additional employees to help cover this event due to the fact that there will be more to it than just checking out purchases.  Employees may have to help students who are having trouble with their machines or who don’t understand a basic concept.  A hundred things can go wrong in a class room during the session and the employees will have to handle it.  At this point, the store is paying the employees who can handle this event between $10 and $12 per hour per day.

The reason I’m hitting hard on the nationally-known teachers issue is due to some of the rumblings I heard after my last blog.

“I don’t understand why that shop charges $250 for a session with __________ (insert a nationally known teacher’s name here).  That teacher can’t be charging that much.  That quilt shop is making bank.”

Seriously.  You’re going to look me in the eye and tell me that.

First, let’s do a little more quilt shop math.  Let’s say that teacher is at a shop for a two-day event.  The general cost involved in that  could cost over $5,000 easily.  Let’s say there are 20 students signed up for the event.  So $5,000 divided by 20 equals $250.00.

That quilt shop owner is not “making bank.”  She’s breaking even at best.  She’s doing it to bring attention to her shop so that she may get return customers.  And in return, you’re getting a great sewing session with someone who really knows their quilting stuff.  You can sleep in your bed, use your machine, be fed lunch, snacks, coffee/water/tea, and have a short commute.  Not bad for $250.00

And while we’re here, let’s discuss another issue.  It’s perfectly fine if the quilt store owner does “make bank.” Sure, they probably own a quilt shop because they love fabric and quilters and quilts, but they have a shop as a businessAnd you have a business to make a profit so you can make a living.

I hash back over this because one of the ways some local quilt shops (including one in my county) advertise their shop is to have a nationally known teacher in for sessions.  It’s tricky because you don’t know if you will break even, but you have to try all kinds of things to get customers into your shop.  And this is one way.  But it galls me that some folks who have this wonderful opportunity to take a class with a nationally known teacher – a once in a lifetime event – will nickel and dime it to death.

Trust me.  If quilt shops “made bank” there would be more of them.  I’ve said it so many times before and I will say it again right now:  Support your local quilt shop.  It’s a precious place with precious people.

I have one more blog about this subject.  Then I promise I will get off my soap box.


Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam



Channeling Kathleen Kelly

Subject: change
Date: 2/10/98 10:30:13 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: Shopgirl
To: NY152

People are always telling me that change is a good thing. But all they’re really saying is that something you didn’t want to happen at all has happened.

My store is closing this week. I own a store. Did I ever tell you that? It’s a lovely store– and in a week it will be something really depressing, like a Baby Gap.

Soon we’ll just be a memory. In fact, someone, some foolish person will probably think it’s a tribute to this city, the way it keeps changing on you, or the way you can never count on it, or something. I know, because that’s the sort of thing I’m always saying. But the truth is, I’m heartbroken. I feel as if a part of me has died, and my mother has died all over again, and no one can ever make it right.

—Kathleen Kelly to Joe Fox in You’ve Got Mail


I worked in a quilt shop.  I think I’ve told you that.  I’ve worked at Dragonfly Quilt Shop in High Point for a little longer than two years.  It’s a lovely quilt shop.

And at the end of December the store will be no more.  By January 2017, it will be nothing but a lovely memory.  The owners will continue to vend at quilt shows up and down the east coast, but the store front – the place where a group of women met one Tuesday out of the month to make chemo quilts for the Hayworth Cancer Center of High Point Regional Hospital, the place where Tuesday night Sit and Sew held open court, and the location of countless classes and hundreds of friendships will shutter and close forever.

Unlike Kathleen Kelly, I don’t feel like this is progress, or a tribute to High Point and the way it’s changing.  I feel like it’s just another infringement of big box stores and the mecca of on-line ordering once again killing off another small business.  Chalk another one up for rampant internet consumerism and the deliberate neglect of a brick-and-mortar-blood-sweat-and-tears retail store.

And if you’re smugly thinking to yourself that “Things are so much cheaper on-line,” and “I can shop in my jammies,” ponder this for a hot second:  Quilters in High Point thought that, too.  And now there are no fabric shops in High Point.

My nearest quilt shop is now 20 minutes away in a part of Greensboro I rarely find myself in.  It is out of the way and inconvenient and their customer service leaves a lot to be desired.

I am angry.   But even more than that, I am sad.  I am heartbroken.  I feel as if a best friend has left me and I will never see her again.  I know it’s silly to think of a store as that, but I did.  I could be having a terrible day at my “real” job, but the minute I’d walk in there, I could feel the stress roll off of me in waves.

It was good for my soul.

And so this long good-bye has begun.  The fabric has been marked down.  Most of the fixtures have been sold.  My quilting studio is now home to a dozen or more bolts of fabric that I had to have.

I’m treating every Sit and Sew from now until December 20 as nearly a sacred event.

I searched to find statistics of exactly how many quilt shops had closed in 2015, but that figure eluded me.  What I did find out from a slew of former quilt shop owners is that there generally is a formula that keeps a quilt shop open for a number of years, but not forever.

The first part of the formula is the financial basis of the owner.  If the quilt shop is owned by a retired couple, chances are everything else they own is paid off and they’re probably dipping into their retirement to fund her or his dream.  If the quilt shop is owned by a younger person, chances are that person’s significant other has a well-paying job that supports them as well as helps to fund the purchases made for the store.  Neither one of these facts make me very comfortable about either type of owner’s financial future.

The next part of the formula is that the quilt store owners do not rely solely on fabric sales.  It’s the sale of sewing machines that fatten the bottom line and make a store financially healthy.  But this is an investment.  A serious investment.  Most sewing machine manufacturers will require the store owner to purchase either so many machines or a certain dollar amount (read thousands of dollars) in order to carry the machine line in the quilt store.  And most sewing machine lines will not allow more than one store in one geographical area to carry that product.  They do not want their collaborators to compete with one another.

The last part of the formula is that the successful owners do not rely solely on their fabric and pattern suppliers.  They will design their own line of fabric and their own patterns and carry them exclusively.  That means the owner either needs to be very creative and comfortable in the “art” part of quilting or hire someone who is.

And it is extremely beneficial if the quilt store owner actually owns the building their shop is in.

On the other side of the quilt shop formula stands the quilter.  And the quilters must share the blame of the local quilt shops closing.  Even if the owner does everything that I’ve listed, if the local quilter doesn’t step up to the plate, the local quilt shop is doomed before it even opens its doors.

We quilters have got to overcome the mentality of “buy it now and buy it cheap.”  I know, saving a few dollars is a great thing, but cheap fabric means more than just cheap-looking quilts.  That cheap fabric is lessening our experience as quilters.

The local quilt shop is more than just a shop.  It’s a meeting place.  I’ve often said that Dragonfly was my Cheers (the bar from the sitcom…google it if you’re confused).  Everyone there knew my name and I knew everyone there.  It’s a place for sharing and classes and bees and a thousand other things that support and foster the fellowship of the quilter.  When those shop doors close, we scatter.  Hopefully there are guilds and bees that we can still see each other at, but we have to remember for the majority of our quilting history and future, quilting is a social event.  It’s a place for fellowship and support.  It’s a place to claim our victories and lament our defeats.  It’s a place of celebration and a place to ask for prayer.  With every quilt shop that closes, many of us immediately turn to our computer for support.  We find on-line groups and Facebook pages.

And suddenly we’re quilting in anonymity.

I wish beyond wishes right now that I could wave a magic wand and all the local quilt shops could stay open and be financially healthy.  But I can’t.  It’s impossible for that Mom and Pop Quilt Shop to compete with a mega-million dollar industry like MassDrop, or  The LQS can try all kinds of tricks and pull in nationally known teachers and promote all kinds of sales; but in the long run, it’s up to us as fabric and notion consumers to change our mind sets.   We need to get rid of the thinking “She who dies with the most fabric wins,” and instead carefully cultivate and plan our stash.

It’s up to us to initiate the change that we have a responsible part for in this formula and switch our habits.  We need to perhaps buy a little less on line and be willing to pay a little more at our LQS in order to support it and make sure it keeps its doors open.

One of the comments I heard over and over again from the “regulars” at Dragonfly was “You don’t have anything new in this week…”

Let me explain a little quilt shop math at this point.   When fabric is sold, yes, you do have to replace it.  However, the shop has to sell enough fabric (and notions and machines) to cover general overhead cost before it can invest as much as the owner would like to in new fabric.  The rent is paid (this is where owning your own building can be so beneficial), the utilities are paid, the employees are paid, the taxes are paid, and the insurance is paid.  From whatever is left, you first have to restock basics:  neutrals, notions, etc., before you get to the fabric that everyone wants.

And depending on how substantial your bottom line is, that is the tipping point of getting anything “new” in.   So when you walk into the shop and that’s the first thing out of your mouth, then evidently there has not been enough profit in the sales to do a whole lot.

The solution to this is that the quilt consumer has to look around the shop with new eyes and see what’s there in a new light.  Buy some yardage and make a quilt.  Then the next time you come in, maybe there will be something new.

Change your perspective.  Change your buying habits.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
Margaret Mead

And I’m not asking for the whole world to change.  I just want our local quilt shops to stay open.

 Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam