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.
- There will be fewer large shows. They’re just not cost effective.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- There will continue to be more and better on-line classes available for quilters and the cost of these will remain reasonable.
- 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