Improving your Quilting space – 5 ideas to help

In today’s post, I’m going to give you a window into the inner workings in my space, and share with you 5 things which I use every day in the studio to make my quilting better. If you’re still looking for ideas to put on your list – these are items that make sewing more fun. 


I firmly believe that what works for me may not necessarily work for you.  There are some universal truths, though – so hang on and I’ll go through the list.  I’d love to hear from you what your best ideas are to make your sewing more fun…I’m ready to start on next year’s list. 

This is NOT an affiliated post in any way, so take what you want and leave the rest. 

Taming the threads…

This works so much better than my old ‘ice cube tray’ system! 

Believe it or not, thread and bobbins have been a major focus in my space this year, and these have helped me corral the spare threads that make me nuts. 

I use mostly Aurifil thread in my quilting, and this product has helped me start to tame the thread beast. They are called Bobbin box organizers by Tidy craft, and at less than $10 for the set, they make it easy to keep things organized. Yes, I do know that I have several grays at the bottom – my color of choice! 

A sharp blade is a safe blade…

This is one of my favorite tools in the sewing room. 

This was something that Santa brought me last year – a blade sharpener that I absolutely love. It does give my blades extra life, and there is nothing like a sharp(er) blade to help with your accuracy when quilting.  This was a great hit – it’s in the top drawer of my cutting table, where it’s able to be used often. 

LEDs are a gift from the Sewing Gods…

Now that the days  are getting dark sooner, I depend on the lighting in my sewing room.   Well, Move over, ottlights…you can’t take my LEDs away from me. My space is a bedroom, and there are only so many lights a girl can have…you need to make the most of them.  

Sew organized! 

Sew Emma – Vertical Storage in a tiny spot

This is a handy little organizer that’s just big enough.  It holds all my go to tools on the back of my cutting station, near the Ikea cubby. It’s got space for my collection of seam rippers, my pencils, tweezers (you’d be sutprised!) as well as a pair of Had’s scissors I keep on hand to work with.  My rotary cutters and the Good scissors are in the drawer – outside of the hands of little ones who don’t know they are little.  It’s from Sew Emma, and it’s called the Stash and Store…well named. 

Angela Walters’ Rulers

I sew on a Janome 8900, and I need my tools to be sized appropriately for my machine. That’s why I love (and am developing an obsession with) Angela Walter’s rulers for Creative Grids.  These are easily handled when working on a domestic machine, and they allow you to maintain control of your quilting. If you have an opportunity to try them, you will find them very easy to work with. 

What’s my favorite tool in the sewing rooom?

I’m participating in the #myyearinquilts hashtag over on Instagram, which was started by the Modern Quilt Studio on their IG feed.  I have been out of the practice of posting regularly to Instagram, and I do find it helpful to do with the structure of a challenge. I’m on day 6, and I’m writing this in an internet cafe (how milennial of me!) on my way to pick up my granddaughter…so here’s today’s blog.

The prompt for today is my favorite tool — and there’s only one thing it can be. My Janome 8900…but if you have ever asked me in my life how many machines I would own (currently 3!), or how many times I would have upgraded to get here…I’d have had to plead the fifth.  It’s been long strange journey to get here, and I find today that even now, in my 3rd year of ownership…I still find things to love about it.  Have I mentioned that it’s my 4th Janome?

This snapshot was taken about 5:30 this am (note the dark in the window), and the tools from my latest sewing project are strewn about the machine.  I love sitting down and working with it, and when I don’t get a chance to do that, I miss it.

My first machine, as a newly married woman, was a private label nightmare sold through JCPenney. It came with no quilting attachments, no case, a manual written mostly in what I think was Chinese, and a tension dial that was never in balance.  I think that I easily spent more than I paid for it in balancing adjustments….and to think, that’s what I learned to quilt on.  That might explain why I had several early quilts fall apart.

I finally ‘broke’ – me, not the machine – when I took a quilting class and spent more time fiddling with the tension than sewing. I came home in tears…and that’s when my husband said that I had tried my damndest – but I needed a better machine.

He always has been a right tool for the job kind of guy…

Fast forward through the selenction process of the initial machine, and several upgrades to get to this one. It purrs, it’s always in balance,  I love experimenting with the attachments and the feet, and it has a manual in excess of 40 pages written in English, and this one has a button that you press and magically does give you a 1/4″ seam allowance.  The layout is also toddler friendly, in that I can have my granddaughter stay on one side of the machine.

The stitch is beautiful….even, straight, and something that makes me happy to use it.  It’s not the highest end in the line, but it is the one I love.

You’ve bought the book…how often do you use it?

 Like many of you, I’ve been quilting for quite a while – long before we had access to the world of online tutorials, videos, livestreams, and what seems to be my default source of inspiration, Pinterest.  My bookcase is filled with books of various genres, some tutorials, some techniques, something about them drew them to me and my bookcase. While I do see a destash of some sort happening in the next year or so, there are some true friends who have stood the test of time.  Eleanor Burns “Quilt in A Day – Christmas” is one of those old friends I turn to again and again.

It makes sense…you have a new quilter, Christmas and the Quilt in a Day brand – it’s the perfect formula for a book which when I took it out of the case, is well worn and used – like a favorite recipe which comes out at the holidays. I know that December doesn’t start until Saturday, but with the extra week after Black Friday (ugh) and Cyber Monday (yay!) to work with, I’ve started thinking about Christmas.

This book does have a general holiday feel, and it’s got a smattering of recipes as well as projects to work with.  I haven’t made any of the recipes – although my mouth does water whenever I look through it!  I have made several of the projects (some multiple times), and the patterns are always well written and illustrated.  Here are some of my favorites:

This stuffed angel pattern always makes me smile. My older son, Chris (who isn’t big into crafts!) had started a collection of angels for me when he was a teenager. Each of them is different and unique, but this one always makes me smile when it comes out of the box. This project comes from his days as a poor college student, when Mom was adamant that he not spend his money on an angel.  When he came home from college, we spent an afternoon with my fabric box, some bits and bobs, lave, a fabric pen, some straw hair, and a glue gun. She’s the ugly duckling of the crew, and a little older in the tooth, but she’s my favorite one of the group. Chris cringes when he spots it every year, but I’m hoping he someday ‘gets it’.

Another favorite pattern of mine from the book is her stocking pattern. Although I know that my sons have homes and families of their own, I have handmade stockings for everyone here when we gather on Christmas Eve.  The bad news on that score is that I made the original set of 4 stockings (me, Mike, Chris and Andy) before I began quilting – and before I bought the book.  Let’s just say that ‘stocking overflow’ isn’t unusual for the 4 of us. I have used this pattern to make 4 stockings so far, and look forward to making 2 more in the new year using the same ones.  There’s usual good natured groaning that my daughters in law and the grands get the bigger stockings.  This pattern is also easy to follow – and it’s lined! – so it’s a matter of how nuts you want to go with the embellishments.  Three guesses on that one!

This pattern is the one I’ve made the most – largely because it’s made via strip piecing (hello, it’s an Eleanor Burns publication!) and you make 12 at a time. Honestly, I’ve made at least 3 strip sets of these – they are great teacher gifts, package toppers, secret santa presents…this is my potato chip pattern – you can’t make just one!  It’s also not breakable (something with toddlers around, I’m begining to appreciate more today).  And it had a bell on the end – something else useful.

This went onto the tree the other night when we decorated it. I need to move it to a more kid friendly zone!

I’d like to know – what’s your most well loved book on your shelf?

This isn’t a promoted post – but if you’d like more information about the book, it is available on the Quilt in a Day website here.

 

Until next time…

 

Wednesday Words – More options

While my turkey is defrosting in the kitchen, I’ll update you on something that occurred to me as I was posting last week about binding options…you can read that post here.  And why, you may be wondering, am I spending so much time with bindings.

My first question has to do with the size of the project being quilted. All of the quilts shown in last week’s post are decent size…you can get a decent length tail on any of those shown, and regardless of which binding you make, the construction techniques of all of them are the same in that you join them together with a mitred joint.  But what happens if your project is smaller…much smaller?

                                                                                                                                                                      Like a mug rug?  My guild is doing a mug rug style swap next month, and as I pondered the possibilites as I dug through my Christmas scrap bin looking for what would work together – I know you have the same bin!  I wound up with a 4 patch of coordinated fabrics that when sewn together, make a quilt that’s about 7 and a half inches wide. A quick search of binding methods on Pinterest yielded me the perfect solution. In this case, I used the backing of the quilted rug as the binding, simply by cutting it.  This isn’t something I had ever done, but with a small project, I thought this was the perfect application to try it.

It’s pretty straight forward…you layer your top, batting and backing together and quilt it, as you wish – in any way that you would like.  This becomes interesting when you trim the piece – you’re going to trim each of the 4 sides twice. In the first round, after you fold the backing back as far on itself as you can, you’re going to trim the top and the batting flush with one another. Once all four sides are done, you unfold the back, and then trim that, leaving a 1″ margin on each of the four sides.

Once that’s done, you fold the once inch sides on itself, then folding it again onto the top of the piece. This is a great job for wonderclips. You’re going to continue doing all four sides at once, making a mitre on each edge, until you have them perfectly placed. Take the piece to the sewing machine, and then sew around the binding edge once, removing the clips as you go.

 

An hour (start to finish) later, you have one…and then another. I made the second one to test out whether doubling the batting had had an effect on the result…it did (that was option #1). Option #2 has a single batt, and a much cleaner finish.

The red and blue option (Christmas? same scrap pile!) has the single batt, and the cleaner finish.

 

Now, onto the second question – why so much work around binding? I’ve been working on a class in bindings, and I’ll be teaching it at Dragonfly’s Quilt Shop in Bellingham Mass on December 8th.  It’s an all day class, and it’s called The Devil is in the Details.  The fee is $50, and it’s going to cover a variety of the techniques covered in these two blog posts, plus a lot of other techniques for binding your quilts.

If you’ve have a pile of quilts you need to bind and are dreading it, come and spend the day with me and get a new perspective on options you have. Let’s get those UFOs out the door.

Gotta run, the turkey is calling me. Have a wonderful turkey day!

By machine – how easy is this!

More Wednesday Words – Binding options for your quilt…

When I began quilting, ultimately, eventually I encountered the most dreaded words in the English Language – Quilt as Desired.  You could spend weeks – or months – working on a top, only to encounter those 3 words at the end of many patterns, articles and books. I’d even run into that in classes. You barely ever got to binding.

In the beginning, I learned one method, and for over 20 years, I used it faithfully. It involved handstitching, and it was tedious. There was the upside – bringing a binding bag on a vacation was much less cumbersome than bringing a whole sewing machine – but I found myself wondering whether there wasn’t some other way.

There was, and in the past several years, I’ve explored a lot of options out there. Some of them you’ve seen in pieces along the way, and some you haven’t. This will look at several of the techniques from just one point of view.

This quilt is left over from my Island Batik Ambassador days, and it was a paper pieced mini challenge. I wound up using a free pattern from Ellison Lane to work with their softer color palette – and this is truly one of the favorite quilts  I have  ever made.  This one goes up in my workspace on the first day of spring each year. The blog posts from both Ellison Lane and Cotton & Steel have been removed, this is a paper piece kaleidoscope block – same block, just different colorations throughout the pattern. There is a similar block here.

In this, I used a ‘flange’ or ‘magic binding’ technique – all done by machine – to insert a bit of the color into the binding.  I learned that technique that year, and used it  a LOT – it’s completely machine applied on both sides, and it can bring a sense of fun to a quilt.

I always hang my table runners in an orchard, don’t you? Seriously, this was the sample I did for Beth Helfter’s 2018 book, Oompah. I pulled the fabrics together as I was leaving to head out to a retreat – and black goes with anything, right?  I pulled the black colors as an accent, and used it in the machine applied binding as well. This binding technique, involves stitching the binding strips to the front, and wrapping them to the back, basting them with glue, and then stitching in the ditch on the front. It’s clean, it’s easy, it’s done.  Have I mentioned that when I get to the binding on a piece, there’s usually a deadline involved.  And, yes, if you’re wondering…it can also be a bedrunner as well as a tablerunner.

This is Prism, one of my first (2014, I believe) forays into modern design…and it’s a scrap quilt. I wanted to play with this particular layout of flying geese, and straightline quilting. I  wish I could say I thought the binding out as part of the design – I didn’t.

I had gotten as far as putting a plain black binding on it – stitched one side to it, and went blech.  It might have been very loud, and very late at night when I said that – but it didn’t work on any level. I then looked at it, and the piles of scraps on my floor  – and had my answer. This was accomplised by sewing strips together (in the same order as the quilt!), cutting each strip set into 2 1/4″ segments, and sewing them together before applying them by machine to front and back. It brings the quilt to life, and it definitely made me happy once it was completed.

Sometimes, it’s good to step back and take a look at how far you’ve come, doesn’t it?

I have one more to share…this is a very recent finish from earlier. Garden Party was my entry into the Vermont Quilt Festival, and I knew that I wanted to do a color change binding on this one. This is a collage style quilt, designed usign two different colorways of Kaffe Fasset’s Brassica fabric – quite possibly one of my all time fabrics e

ver for quilting in the yellow. Literally, I order more every time I use the last yard of it – and I was delighted to find out it came in more colorways.  Onto my next addiction, I guess.

If you look closely, you’ll see that I used Brassica in both colorways in this machine applied binding – changing colors in two of the corners.  It was actually very easy to do – and again by machine.

There are still techniques I want to try out – I haven’t exhausted my ideas by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact, in next week’s blog post, I’ll be back to give you a way to bind mini mini quilts – things that are so small they can be hard to tackle.

Do you have a binding question – please leave me a comment below.  It’s good to be back!

Linda

Textile Tuesday expanded….

Sharpie-palooza

This post could also  be titled “My Problem and How I solved it”, but I’m going to pull the title from a series I started over on Facebook recently. There are a series  of posts with the #TextileTuesday, and I am using it as an opportunity to talk about my stash – why I fell in love with it, when I bought it, that kind of thing.  The fabrics highlighted (so far) are the ones which I haven’t cut into yet,  I just take them out randomly, and feel the cotton.

inspiration – just needs Tequila

This blog is about taking scraps and actually using them. One of the first posts in the series talked about this piece, which was the Hoffman challenge from several years back, and I cut into it when working on a project at a retreat a while back. The project yielded me some beautiful scraps – some larger than others – and I was amazed how good it felt to actually work with something I loved so much.

What made me buy this color?

This fabric just needs a margarita and a summer beach to go with it…and the world’s brightest limey green zipper helped me take it to the next level.

What else could you possibly use this color zipper with?

So, onto the pile of things that I’d love to work on when I get the time…enter the bag of sharpies at the top of the post. Those are the colors I use when I am doodling my free motion quilting designs in my papers. I found them on a closeout deal at the art store, and I find it does sometimes help me to use multiple colors when drawing. Or sometimes I’m just in a red or a blue mood.

No scrap left behind

So, off to the bin of scraps to see what else I could unearth…and voila…these are here, waiting to play.  Think of this project as a kind of clean out the fridge kind of idea – see what you have to work with, and then just play until you have something you like.

Now, my collection of sharpies has something which makes me smile whenever I look at it, and there are slightly less scraps left to work with (and the larger pieces of the fabric are there to be the source of yet another project.

the perfect home

This is the perfect use for this, and I will be inspired the next time I sit down to doodle.

What is your go to use for playing with leftover fabrics that you love?

Until next time!

Wednesday Words – Pushing past fear

I’m happy with the reaction that I got to the series I’m doing on bright spots in the industry, but today I want to pause that for a second.  There’s more to come (!) on the series, and I’ll come back to that next week.

This blog post is going in a completely different direction, and it circles back to an earlier post I did about Shifts happening – you can read that post here.  This week is the Vermont Quilt Festival, and it’s a show I am consistent about entering quilts in – I even have (truth be told) a spreadsheet in which I keep track of the judges scores and comments for entries over the years, and I can definitely see an upward trend in my pieces on technical skills.  I actually love reading the scores and the commentary that they give me – it’s like a report card of sorts.  I like being scored against a standard .

Meet Garden Party, my entry into this year’s show.  It’s definitely outside of my normal type of quilt…it’s collage-y in nature, and the inspiration came strictly from the fabric, Kaffe Fassett’s Brassica.  I’ve had this fabric – and loved it – for several years.  I’ve even got it in two colorways, as the picture at the left will show.  I just always thought that the fabric would lend itself to this kind of application, and I do love it.

This quilt, however, languished for a long time on the design wall. It’s one time I broke my own (very good rule) to never enter something that isn’t finished into a show.  Every time I break the rule, I remember why I made it in the first place.

The reason it languished was the quilting…and that’s a wildcard here. I even brought it on retreat with me, where I ‘danced around the issue’ but never got around to quilting it. I had a very specific idea in what I wanted to do with it, and I was terrified that I would ruin it.

That fear cost me several weeks – I just worked around it, rather than through it. It got so big that I even thought of withdrawing it from the show – oh you would have been amazed at the mental gymnastics I went through with it.

When I was ready, I just sat down and said – well, don’t ruin it. You know what to do, now DO IT.

And I did – on a practice piece. I worked the kinks out, settled on a few floral motifs and worked them out…and then just did it.  I have to admit, Mike popped in at one point (as I was rounding a corner), and his “You did that??” told me that I was on the right track.  I have no idea what the response from the judges will be, but I made this one for me.

I think this has taught me that there is wisdom in the old adage that you should do 3 things every day that scare you.

Time to go get scared –  more from Vermont to come!

 

Wednesday Words – Not All the News is Bad (Part 3 – After Market sources)

Welcome back to part 3 in the series “Not All the News is Bad”…my take on some bright spots in the fabric industry.  Part one (the link is here) of the series allowed me to explore some of the bright spots in fabric consumption/production… highlights being Jafftex’s purchase of Free spirit, and the purchase of Keepsake Quilting by Steelcity LLC.

Part two gave us guest blogger Beth Ditkoff’s perspectice of living within a self imposed fabric embargo – you can link to that part of the series here.  Beth’s move to her retirement home, coupled with the amount of fabric and UFOs she moved, gave rise to a year of working with what you have…

My premise in this series (based on opinion, and reading tea leaves such as they are – is that we ALL shop

Linda’s yardage stash, circa 2018

faster than we sew.  But with wonderful choices the fabric industry has given us, there is just an oversupply of goods.  I am sewing more now than I was when I was accumulating my stash, but I’m using a lot more of what I have. Here’s why…

This is  my stash, accumulated lovingly over the course of my quilitng career…or most of it. You don’t see what’s hiding in bins, in boxes and in my closet in the UFOs that I have. this is yardage and fat quarters,  which is the lions share of what I have.  It’s a beautiful stash, and I have loved, fondled and petted it for years – i think the technical term is curated.  And for those of you with eagle eyes…the ‘bolts’ on top of the shelving units (there’s another one hidden from view which is books), aren’t full bolts at all – they’re just big cuts of fabrics that I have for backings, and that was the easiest way to store things.

At my rate of sewing, I’ll be set for fabric for two lifelines – and I’ve seen some fabric stashes on Pinterest and websites which make me look like a definite lightweight.  Keeping the fabrics organized like this allow me to truly see what I have – and I have plenty.  Unless it’s plum…that seems to be a small hole in my color wheel.

Now you know where my bias comes from – I love seeing what’s coming out in the shops, and online – and if I get a commission to work with a fabric line, I’m not going to turn it down.  Because, fabric.   But I’ve also become aware of a phenomenon in my circle of friends and guildmates…what happens to our stash when we depart this life?  How do those left behind deal with it?

The After market in the subject line of the blog comes from yard sales, destashes, estate sales, I’ll never sew all of this sales, free tables at guild meetings, you name it.  Quilters today have more options available to them to purchase ‘quilt shop quality’ fabrics – some vintage, some even new! – than just the traditional shops, and I think that shop owners need to recognize this factor.   I’ve also seen messages from quilters who are working through their unfinished projects, and need a particular swatch of a given fabric – it’s amazing the level of detail you can find with a good photo.

I’ve been contacted several times in the past year (as have several of my quilter friends) by people who need to liquidate stashes for family members who have passed, or who have moved into assisted living facilities and can’t take it with them.  If you’re not a quilter, there’s no understanding of the real value of the machines, fabrics, notions which we have accumulated – remember the cartoon about my husband selling the items for what I told them it cost? That’s another blog post.

I’d love to know about what your plans are to pass along your stash – do you have plans?

 

 

 

 

Wednesday Words – Not All The News is Bad (P. 2 Tales from the Inside)

Welcome back to the blog. In this entry, I’m going to give you all a brief update on some of the news that has come to light since the first installment in the series, and then I will turn the blog over to Beth Ditkoff, who is guest blogging for me. Beth isn’t a regular blogger, but a friend of mine who has spent a year on a fabric diet, sewing primarily from her stash.  She provided her insights on this process as a favor to me.

So…some updates:

I never made it to the Keepsake Quilting annual sale last week…I was tempted (and the pictures posted online didn’t help), but I was headed out of town for a personal weekend on Friday, and something had to give.  This morning, on their Facebook page…they announced a warehouse sale (something I’ve never seen done before) on August 23-25th. That one is already in my calendar.

This next update comes via Timna Tarr’s facebook page, concerning the reopening of Valley Fabrics via an article from the Daily Hampshire Gazette.   There’s a nice bit of background behind the story of a reopening of a shop that has been gone a while, and the differences between the shop then and now.

The last update is an additional resource I was to point you towards for Jefftex and Scott Fortunoff.  Scott has been blogging for  a while, and he has a website that he uses to archive the blog posts at www.scottfortunoff.com.  The blog posts cover a wide range of topics, including his efforts to revitalize the sewing industry in a program called #sewrevolution, and more.

Now, onto Part 2 of the series – from Beth Ditkoff…

 

SURVIVING A FABRIC EMBARGO

I found my passion for quilting in the late 1990s. When my husband and I retired in

2016, we followed our dream and moved to Maine. In anticipation of that event, I

“stocked up” knowing that we’d be living on a fixed income. Plus, we’d agreed

upon a budget for my quilting needs. It was and is a fair amount and I generally

did well sticking to it.

First we packed and moved to Maine. I sort of unpacked into my quilting-space-tobe.

Then I packed the space up again while my space received power, lights,

sheet rock, flooring and paint. The room is sunny and bright, and I was quilting

quite happily and prolifically until I realized I kept losing things. Tools, project parts,

you know the drill.

I gradually became aware that using cast off shelves or plastic bins with no larger

organizational plan in place was making me nuts. To improve that, I hired a friend/

handyman. Packing happened again. Shelving was built to fit the space and my

needs. I unpacked yet again and I was finally ready to go. I have a beautiful

sewing room, built to my specifications and I’m a very happy girl.

 

Beth’s studio shelving – new

 

However (there’s always a however) with all of the packing and unpacking and

moving things and losing things, I got more than one really good look at My Stash.

My Stash consists of various parts, mainly in three categories:

  1. Projects in a Box – I have all the parts and have not started the quilt.
  2. Projects in Progress – generally each in its own tote.
  3. The Other Stuff – yardage, collections of things like Civil War Reproduction

prints, Fat Quarters, pre-cuts, plastic totes with scraps cut into set sizes, the

large scrap basket, and more.

Handling all that fabric over and over again made me have an epiphany: it’s too

much. I’ll never use it all. I spent good money on this, I should use what I have

before I buy anything more. And so began The Fabric Embargo. No buying fabric

for a year. My friends thought I’d lost my marbles.

My Embargo started in early April 2017. I allowed myself to buy fabric only if I

needed it to finish an ongoing project – borders and backing primarily. I received a

couple of commissions and bought fabric for those. But otherwise I stuck to

patterns and notions. Really, I really did. Almost.

I did buy a Layer Cake at an auction in Williamsburg, VA. I also bought one yard of

sale fabric from my favorite store. It was $4. It had cute birds on it. But that was it.

I did it, for an entire year. Success was mine. However (another however) My

Stash really didn’t look much smaller. How did that happen?

So I’ve decided to continue my Embargo for another year, but a bit more loosely.

Maine has a state wide Shop Hop every April, with 30 shops participating and lots

of freebies and prizes. I visited only 10 stores, but I did tumble off the wagon a bit.

There’s a jacket pattern I’ve been eyeing for months, so I bought all I needed from

one shop. I bought way too many patterns, another piece of cute bird fabric, and

little bits here and there. We all need to support those Local Quilt Shops, right?

I’m going to try to remain focused, and be really critical of my purchases. Do I

really need it? Is there something in my stash I could use instead? Does this

purchase have a project or plan behind it, or is it just more of something I already

have?

Beth Ditkoff’s work station

 

I’m going to try to use what I have, not buy any more patterns, and make wise

decisions. We’ll see how that goes, and where I am next April. Until then, please

hide all the cute bird fabric.

 

Beth’s working fabric stash

Thank you, Beth for giving us your prespective on what it’s like to work inside a (self imposed) fabric embargo.

Please come back next week to join us when we look at the other side of the equation – stash planning?

Wednesday Words – Not all the News is Bad – Blog post Series

Happy Wednesday. There’s been a lot of  publicity and news lately about the state of the quilting industry, and a lot of the news is negative. I know that’s a shock, but work with me here.  Shops are closing all over, and there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that quilters are pulling back.  While I certainly see the same things that everyone else does, I also see signs of strength and growth in certain pockets (at least here in New England). I’m going to be looking at that side of things  from my perspective in the next several weeks of blog posts, which I call Not All the News is bad.

I’ve watched the news, the emails, the items coming out in social media for the better part of two and a half years, and I’ve seen the notices of shops closing.  And let me start this off with a couple of disclaimers – one, this is my personal opinion, research and observation – this isn’t a sponsored post, and I have no inside information to share (sorry). I am absolutely lucky to have some great friends to call on when needed, but this is me attempting to read the tea leaves.

Two, I admit to having been a quilter for 25 years at least, and while I can shop with the best of them when I am inspired to buy fabric – I haven’t done major fabric purchases for a while now.  It’s partly space issues here, it’s partly because I haven’t been wowed for a long time – trust me, when I saw the Hoffman Orange dream big panel, I pounced.  But here’s the crux of it…I shop a lot faster than I sew (and that’s not changing anytime soon).

I began building my stash as I began quilting – and that coincided with the quilting renaissance. And I always have been a round up to the nearest yard shopper, so my stash is plentiful.  I sew in a room where it’s organized, it’s pretty, it’s color coded – and really, other than solids to go along with my contemporary aesthetic…I’m mostly in a ‘maintenance’ mode unless something comes along that I have to have…and even then, I think about it.

With customers like me (and my counterparts)…is it any wonder that shops are feeling the pinch? That would be the narrative that a lot of us have been hearing…and yet consider these facts:

Earlier this year, on Feb 12,  the quilt world was shocked when overnight, Coats ,  the worlds leading industrial thread company (yes, Coats & Clark thread) announced that effective immediately, they were shuttering both Free Spirit Fabrics and Westminster Fabrics.  Those two entities were the creative home of Tula Pink, Kaffe Fassett, and a whole host of lesser known designers and fabric lines.  Tula Pink and Kaffe Fassett are two of the hottest names in the quilting industry, and if they were gone (with no notice), what did that mean for the rest of us?  A company shuttering that abruptly usually means a company specific problem, not an across the board softening of demand.  Shortly after that, Scott Fortunoff  of Jafftex made an announcement that Jafftex intended to purchase both Free Spirit and Westminster, and that sale closed at the end of April.

Jafftex as a company is a multi generational privately owned entity. Scott’s blog is titled Tales of a Fourth Generation Fabric Executive, and I’ve linked here to the first of his blog posts on the merger.  They haven’t been around that long without knowing the ups and downs of the industry better than most.

The next part of the story involves Keepsake Quilting, in Center Harbor NH.  As a NH quilter, I’ve made several trips (my husband would probably say pilgrimages, but that’s another story) to Keepsake over the years, and a good portion of my stash began there.  Keepsake began as a family owned business, then was purchased several times over by conglomerates and money people, and it slowly but surely began to lose the charm of a quilt shop. It was a sad day for me when on a trip to Lake Winnipesaukee, I skipped a trip to Keepsake because there was no reason to stop – and felt a bit of a pang as we went by. Sadder still when I skipped another trip, went by…and felt nothing.  That made me sad.  I wasn’t the only one…the changes from Keepsake as a quilt shop to a ‘big box’ shop were well documented.

At almost about the same time that the Jafftex sale closed, I woke to a article shared by a friend that Keepsake had been bought by a Steelcity llc, a family owned business from North Carolina, owned by Rick, wife Dot and son Dave. Steelcity is another fourth generation textile company…trust me, when I read that the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. Steelcity had been a supplier of Keepsake Quilting and has retail experience through its company Pineapple Fabrics.

The family’s commitment is to make Keepsake once again America’s quiltshop, and while it will take time to implement changes – they made two right moves immediately.  Keepsake Quilting’s hours had been shortened to a few days a week last fall – and right after the merger, they are back to 7 days a week.  The annual tent sale is always at the beginning of June, and this year…it’s going from 2 days to 3.  I’m so tempted!!!

So what my inquiring mind wants to know is what in the multi-generational ownership story is common to both deals?  What allows the new owners to take on the challenges (warts and all, and they are there) of each deal, and yet believing that both the entities are worth purchasing and adding to their portfolio?  According to Forbes, “…Less than one third of family businesses survive the transition from first to second generation ownership. Another 50% don’t survive the transition from second to third generation…”

I have more evidence of positive signs, amongst all the news of shops closing, there are shops reopening (two of them), and shops expanding…

Valley Fabrics is a wonderful shop in Northhampton MA (I need to schedule a road trip), and they were gone for several years, reopening earlier this year.  The Fabric Garden closed last fall, and reopens later this month in an new location.  Pintuck & Purl, formerly of Exeter, has moved to Portsmouth in a new, larger location.  Those are the ones that I know about and can share…

In part 2 of the series, we will welcome guest blogger (and friend of mine) Beth Ditkoff of Damariscotta Maine.  Beth and her husband have relocated to their forever home in Damariscotta Maine, and in that process, a sewing space was moved.  Beth spent the next year settling in, vowing to clear some of her UFOs and to sew only from her stash.  I thought that it would be interesting to read.  Come back next Wednesday, June 6th for her installment.

In part 3, I’m talking about what how the after market effects our buying options – yardsales, estate sales and destash options.

I’d love to know your thoughts on this.  Many thanks to Teri Lucas for her wisdom and guidance as I sorted this out.  Always a pleasure.