The State of the Quilt 2017

Dear Fellow Quilters:

It’s that time again.   It’s almost the beginning of the New Year, so it’s time for me to give my yearly address concerning The State of The Quilt.  I do this every year.  It gives me time to think about what happened in the quilting world during the previous year and make predictions about the upcoming trip around the sun.


So, I have my glass of 19 Crimes Red Wine and the latest statistics from The Quilting in America Survey 2017. The DH is snoring on the couch.  This is a perfect time for Sam and me to crunch numbers and make predictions.  First, let me explain the details of the survey as given by the Quilting Company itself, because we all know numbers are beautiful things.

In October 2017, the Quilting Company and Quilts published a survey that was independently conducted by the ORC International and Advantage Research.  The Quilting Company is a division of F+W Media, LLC.  This is the eighth in a series of studies they’ve conducted since 1994 to track the amount of time and money spent on quilting.  The study was conducted in two phases:  Phase I, administered by ORC International in January 2017, involved surveying an on-line, national panel of households to measure incidence of participation and the dollar value of the quilting industry.  When 6,105 completed surveys were received, ORC closed the survey for tabulation.  This information along with new sources of market data that were not previously available, were used to present the 2017 findings.

Phase II was conducted by Advantage Research in April and May of 2017.  Survey invitations were sent to a total of 415,104 quilters over a series of weeks.  I received one, perhaps you did, too.  The invitees were comprised of customers from APQS, The Quilting Company, Hobbs Batting, Northcott Fabrics, Quilting Treasures, and Quilts, Inc.  When the survey closed, a total of 21,347 completed surveys were received.  This means that Advantage Research had a yield response of 5.1%.

Now that we have the details about how the survey was conducted, let’s look at what all this data is and keep in mind that the last survey was conducted in 2014.

Who is the average survey participant?  These were the quilters that The Quilting Company defined as Dedicated Quilters.  That means that their households spend more than $500 per year on quilting-related purchases.  They represent 16.4% of all quilting households and account for 72.2% of total industry expenditures.  This group spent an estimated $2.4 billion to $2.6 billion in the quilting market.  The typical individual dedicated quilter is female, 63 years-old, well-educated (70% attended college), affluent ($95,000 was the average household income), she has quilted for an average of 19 years, spends on average $3,363 per year on quilting, and 85% of the dedicated quilters prefer traditional quilting, 20% art quilting, and 37% modern quilting. Ten percent of this group defines themselves as beginners, with 6.9 years experience; 59% considers themselves intermediate quilters with 16.8 years experience; and 31% consider themselves advanced quilters with 26.6 years experience.  It was also determined the more years a person quilted, the more hours per week are spent on the art.

How many people are actually quilting?  This is a complete number, not just the dedicated quilters – 7 to 10 million.  This boils down to 6 million to 8.3 million quilting households, spending an estimated $4.7 billion.  The average household spent $442 in 2017, up 48% from 2014.

What are we buying?

  • Dedicated Quilters spent an average of $136 on books, magazines and DVDs. They read an average of 3.4 magazines regularly, and spend about 6 hours a month reading about quilts, quilting, and quilters.  The top reason they read is to learn new tips and techniques (88%), inspiration (75%), find out about quilting products (63%), look at photos of quilts (62%), and find patterns (60%).
  • Sewing Machines. Ninety-five percent own a sewing machine, up slightly from 2014.  Most (86%) own a traditional machine, 45% own a serger, and 18% own a long arm machine.  Long arm ownership is up 11% from 2014.  In 2017, 26% purchased a new, traditional machine at an average price of $2,212, and 9% plan to buy a new machine in 2018.
  • In the past 12 months, the average, dedicated quilter has purchased 99 yards of fabric at an average cost of $9.34 per yard (total of $925).  Fabric favorites are batiks (72%), small floral prints (65%), holiday prints (64%), print solids/blenders (64%), and tone-on-tones/neutrals (58%).
  • Thread and Batting. The majority of us plan to purchase more thread in 2018.  Most will purchase 100% cotton thread (83% — up from 79% in 2014), 44% plan to purchase cotton/poly blends, 30% will purchase polyester, 15% plan on buying pre-wound bobbins (up 9% from 2014).  Over half (54%) have batting on their spending list, purchasing that in queen form.  A slightly smaller group (43%) purchase batting in roll form.  Out of all that batting, 66% is natural cotton and 55% is a cotton/poly blend.

Where is the internet and social media in all of this? I am very happy to report that 97% of all dedicated quilters are still purchasing the majority of their quilting needs through brick-and-mortar stores.  If you read my “Woe Is Me” blogs at the end of 2016, stating my concern about a lot of LQS closing, this gives me great comfort.  On-line sales are steady with 68% of quilters choosing to purchase some or all of their quilting needs on-line.  Quilting-based websites were sited as good sources among 64% of dedicated quilters, up 28% from 2014.  And a whopping 52% enroll in on-line classes and videos, up 30% from 2014.  Approximately 7.9 hours were spend surfing the web through Google searches or recommendations from other quilters.  Fifty percent use social media sites such as Facebook and Pinterest – up 14% from those surveyed in 2014.

So, what do all of these numbers really mean? I have thrown a lot of numbers at you.  And I know by now with some of you, your eyes are glazed over.  But as a former chemistry and physics teacher I can guarantee one thing:  numbers don’t lie.  Words can lie, but numbers never do.  This is what all those percentages mean in a nutshell:

More people are quilting.

More people are spending more money on the art.  Most of this is in the LQS.

More quilters are taking advantage of the falling prices of technology. Long-arm sales are on the rise and the price is dropping.  More quilters have discovered the beauty of pre-wound bobbins.  More of us are taking advantage of on-line classes.


However, there was also a curious side-bar to this survey.  The number of younger quilters is on the rise (Halleluiah!).

The average age of this younger quilter is 45 and she is an occasional quilter – that is defined in this survey as one who spends less time on the craft than the dedicated quilter.  But since this number is growing, I think it’s really, really important that guilds and quilt groups pay attention to this younger quilter.

This average, young quilter:

  • Is well-educated, with 35% having a four-year degree and 23% having a post-graduate degree.
  • Is affluent, with $98,000 the average household income.
  • Devotes an average of 10 hours per week on quilting (which if you consider exactly what was going on in your life at 45, this is an amazing number). The average total sample was 13 hours per week.  And this group is twice as likely to be employed full time.  Awesome!  We have our next group of quilting addicts.
  • Though most of these folks consider themselves beginners, they are hardly “newbies.” Most of them are really intermediates.
  • Most (26%) have traditional sewing machines and 26% have attended a quilt show in the past 12 months.
  • In general, they spend less than Dedicated Quilters, but only by about 10%. And this is driven by lower spending on machines and equipment.
  • Websites (75%), and on-line video (63%) play a stronger role for information and inspiration than the total sample.
  • Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest are important resources for this group.
  • In addition to internet search and social media, blogs are also very important to this group.
  • Modern Quilting is more prevalent in this group.

Guilds and quilt groups – put some effort into your website and social media presence to attract younger quilters!

These were my predictions for 2017:

  • There will be fewer large shows.  They’re just not cost effective. I was wrong on this one.  The year 2017 had more shows and they were going gang-busters because more brick-and-mortar stores closed and went to on-line and show sales.


  • 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.  I was wrong on this, too.   Guild shows are going strong. 
  • More and more publications will go to e-versions only. I was correct.  More and more magazines went to e-versions and completely stopped printed versions.
  • More local quilt shops will continue to either close or go to on-line sales only. Sadly, I was also correct on this, too.  More quilt shops closed in 2017 – at least the brick-and-mortar locations.
  • There will continue to be more and better on-line classes available for quilters and the cost of these will remain reasonable. I was correct on this one, also.  And more and more quilters are taking advantage of them. 
  • Instead of quilt shops, I see a rise in the number of “Quilt Studios.” I was kind of right on this one.  While I could find no hard numbers, I have found that quite a few of the brick-and-mortar stores have gone to this concept.

Now I know what you all have read through all of this to get to – my predictions for 2018:

  1. That younger group of quilters will make their voices heard.  I predict more Modern Quilt Groups and more quilt shows with modern quilt categories or completely comprised of modern quilts.
  2. More on-line classes will be available for quilters of all levels.
  3. I think that there will be a revival of brick-and-mortar quilt stores/studios. I believe we’ve learned the error of our ways.  I think the support for these stores will be tremendous and they will not be taken for granted this time around
  4. I see a new group of quilt teachers. Quite a few of our nationally known instructors are reaching that point in life where they are ready to slow down just a bit.  And unfortunately, we’ve lost a few of the wonderful quilt instructors this year.  I think within the next several years we will see a new group of younger quilt instructors on the rise.
  5. Quilting is not a dying art – Thank God. It’s always worried me that the art and craft of quilting will die out with my generation.  The fact that there is a rising group – a growing group – of younger quilters out there warms my soul and makes me happy.  We need to feed and nurture and support them in every way possible.


And after all of this, I have to ask myself (as I imagine you will, too), “Where do I fit in?”  I’m kind of an in-betweener.  I’m far younger than the average dedicated quilter, but older than the younger quilting group.  I’ve quilted 29 years, so that puts me in the advanced area and during 2017, I averaged about 15 hours a week quilting or involved in quilt-related activities.  So, since I’m not in the age-range of the dedicated quilter, nor as young as this rising group of quilters, I’m calling myself a “Bridger.”  I’m working at bridging the gap between the two groups.

I really, really appreciate you wading through all these numbers.  I hope this was informative.  I hope you’ve found either where you were on the charts of 2017 quilters or that the amount of money you spent on fabric was nothing out of the ordinary.

The year 2017 is quickly drawing to a close and with it our Year of Quilting Fearlessly.  I will sum that up next week as well as introduce our theme for 2018.  I’m excited about 2018 but 2019 will be even better.  However, it’s going to take me a year to get everything nailed down and put into play.  But 2018 will form the foundation for that!


Until then, quilt fearlessly!

Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam


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