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The 2020 State of the Quilt

I am writing this blog on December 2, 2020.  It will be published December 30  — near to New Year’s but not quite 2021 yet.  But close enough for me to give my quilty yearly predictions and announce our theme for the next year.

Overall, this is how I feel about the year 2020.

Yep.  It’s been that bad.  Personally, I’m ready to put this year in the rearview mirror. 

Over the past 15 years, the quilt world has changed dramatically.  We’ve seen more and more LQS’s shutter and go out of existence or change over to on-line sales only.  With the rise of such sites as Craftsy, YouTube, and AQS classes, the momentum was already there for more web-oriented instruction.  If anything, 2020 pushed both of these into the fast lane and then accelerated them to 120 mph.  To be honest, when I looked back at this year and tried to predict what will happen in the next, I really had a difficult time. 

Last year, if you remember, I had three predictions:

  1.  Technology would change our quilt world for the good and the not-so-good.
  2. Quilt groups would become smaller.
  3. There would be a resurgence in quilt preservation.

As a “seasoned” quilter (read that as someone who has been around the quilt block a few times), I had a love/hate relationship with technology.  While it allowed thousands of us to take classes via Craftsy, YouTube, and AQS, I was afraid we would lose our person-to-person interaction. 

Then enter COVID and everything came to a grinding halt until we were introduced to a little tool called Zoom.  Not only did this allow me to continue to meet with most of my groups, but it also allowed me to attend guild meetings all over the world.  I’m now involved with a monthly sit-and- sew with women all across the United States and beyond.  I’ve had the indescribable privilege of taking classes with internationally renowned instructors from the comfort of my studio. 

It. Has. Been. Amazing.

I’ve met so many wonderful quilters I would have never met if not for Zoom.  While I miss the face-to-face meet ups horribly, I can’t not appreciate the technology which has opened so many doors.  As a result of the virus, our physical quilt groups became smaller, but our virtual ones grew.  And I think once most folks get the vaccine, our guilds, bees, and sit and sews will swing back into regular sessions and grow.  I firmly believe quilters will want to see each other in person. And I also think that during all this stay-at-home time, hundreds of folks have started sewing.  I can’t help but think they also dabbled in quilting and would like to join a guild or bee. 

As far as quilt preservation goes, I do think there is an increased interest out there.  I’ve seen more questions asked about old quilts via internet sites than I’ve ever remembered.  And with Barbara Brackman and Electric Quilt publishing the updated Block Base, I’m sure that interest will continue to grow.  I really hope in the next couple of years we can see another round of quilt documentation days.  In North Carolina, the last gathering of such information was in 1985-1986 and it only included quilts made in the late 19th century through 1976.  I think it’s time for us to procure additional documentation before another generation of quilts are lost.

As far as my quilty predictions for 2021, COVID and its aftershocks have turned the quilt world upside down (just as it has nearly everything else).  Some of you know my daughter now works in logistics with a major international company.  We were talking over breakfast the other day and Bill asked her how the upcoming holidays plus COVID was affecting shipping and shopping.  “Is the genie out of the bottle now?  Will people keep ordering stuff online like this forever?” he asked.

Meg, who is working 16-hour days at this point, rolled her eyes.  “There is no bottle now.  There’s just lots of genies…running amok.”

In short, COVID has changed retail forever.  COVID may have changed everything forever.  The quilt world is no different.  So, my predictions are:

  1.  More brick-and-mortar quilt shops will close – with most of them being the small mom-and-pop operations.  They may go online only or opt to completely shutter.
  2. There will be few in-person quilt shows in 2021.  As a matter of fact, I don’t think in-person quilt shows will resume until most of the population has the vaccine (or at least the opportunity to receive it).  However, Mancuso currently has virtual shows and they are awesome.  You can access vendors, quilts, and classes.  Take advantage of this while the opportunity is out there.  I kind of hope virtual quilt shows remain even after the in-person exhibitions resume. 
  3. Get used to Zoom.  It’s here to stay.  My third prediction is that Zoom classes and meetings will remain long after its safe to meet in person.  It’s easy.  Security has improved a lot, and it allows quilters all over the world to sit, sew, chat, exchange ideas and tips, and fellowship.  Not to mention quilt instructors can now teach from the comfort of their own studio.  No packing or unpacking, no travel.  While I do think (and hope) in-person classes will resume, the opportunity to have instructions from great quilters all over the world is amazing. 
  4. Quilt groups will grow.  The folks who were already involved in quilts and bees more than likely will want to return to meeting in person as soon as we’re able.  However, if you’re a numbers geek like I am, and you’ve been looking at how many sewing machines and yards of fabric and elastic sold during this pandemic, you’re more than aware of this fact:  Hundreds of people started sewing in 2020.  I was in a local Walmart around June and it was completely sold out of sewing notions, including sewing machines.  I can’t help but believe (and hope) that out of all these sewing consumers, some of them have either learned to quilt or want to learn and will join bees and guilds once we’re able to start meeting again. 

It’s against the backdrop of COVID I decided what our theme for 2021 would be.  This past year was long and hard.  Collectively, we did some difficult things.  We shut down.  We didn’t meet.  Many of us pushed aside our quilting and made masks until PPE manufacturers could catch up with demand.  We wore masks and made darn sure everyone we loved had one.  We washed our hands multiple times a day (I finally quit wearing my rings.  They were taking a soapy beating and I was scared I’d lose one).  We social distanced.  We’ve put up with toilet paper shortages, meat shortages, and other scarcities.  We watched an economy (which was the best it had been in my lifetime) dwindle down to a near-recession.  We’ve been both afraid and determined and now we’re fatigued.  And you have no idea I wish I had some kind of Harry Potter magical power to wave a wand and make it all go away.

With those thoughts, plus knowing we’re all kind of tired, this year’s theme is “Quilting Survival.”  What does this mean?  It means this year I’ve gleaned all kinds of tips, tricks, and other information to make your sewing life a little easier.  I want to explain what some quilting terms really mean.  Due to an impressive response I received about blocks, I want to dissect certain quilt blocks – from their history to their construction.  I also want to delve into hand sewing and hand applique.  I love applique and haven’t really written any blogs on it in a couple of years.  I’ll also feature machine applique. 

Hopefully, this year will be a little easier on all of us.  That’s my prayer.

Until Next Week, Keep Quilting!

Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam

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