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More Views of Quilt Market

Impressions from a newcomer and a veteran.

Contributed by readers. (November, 2003)

(Note: A more detailed report on the trends and products at the 2003 Quilt Market is included in the 11/03/03 issue of CLN.)

A Newcomer's View.

Having never been to Quilt Market before, I didn't have anything to compare it to, so I asked a few shopowners their thoughts. They believe the traffic was down from previous years, but they were very happy with the number of booths and the fabrics and supplies offered to them.

I was a bit disappointed that I didn't find any show-stopping trend in the fabric area. I remember when animal prints were hot a couple years ago - at HIA they were showing up on everything. Not so at Quilt Market. If I had to pick one thing that was more prevalent, I would say it was bright, fun colors. There were many booths displaying fabrics and quilts in pastel and primitive colors, but brights seemed to appear more often.

Technology was also very evident. There were a few booths showing cross stitch and applique with computer patterns and the sewing machine. Also, computers came into play in quilt design programs as well as printing photos and fabric designs on fabric sheets.

There were numerous quilts that moved away from the traditional quilt feel. They had cats, snowmen, houses, etc., cut out of fabric and appliqued to the quilts. At times the quilts were so full of these images that they depicted quite detailed scenes. I'm more of a traditionalist in this area (Log Cabin, flying geese, etc.), so I was not impressed with these quilts. I recognize and appreciate the artistry, though.

Wearables were in evidence in many of the booths: sweatshirts and shirts with appliqued designs, vests and jackets made out of quilted, pieced fabrics, etc.

It appeared to me that shopowners were very busy placing orders. People in the booths were busy with customers and their pens were scratching away on the clipboards. Shopowners seemed upbeat. The distributor booths (such as E.E. Schenck and Checker) seemed to have the same amount of traffic as the individual booths. It didn't seem that shopowners were favoring distributors over manufacturers or vice versa).

The quilts that were part of the exhibition were fabulous. Some were really "out there" in a modern-art kind of way (four naked ladies on one, abstract faces on another, etc.). There were many quilts from the 1800's on display; they were beautiful and in incredible condition.

One thing that caught my attention in this area: many of the new quilts which used traditional American quilt patterns were actually made by Japanese quilters. Many of the kimonos on display were made by Americans.

The most interesting quilt on display? One made out of recycled Coke and Pepsi cans! The quilter had cut the cans into squares measuring about 1-1/2". Holes for stitching were then punched out along all four sides. The squares were arranged so that they created the American flag.

The buzz at the show? What shopowners were talking about in the aisles was the Locker Hooking offered in the M.C.G. Textiles booth. It's rug hooking with fabric strips - quick and fun.

Well, those are my thoughts and comments on my first Quilt Market. It did make me want to make another quilt, so it was definitely inspiring! - Kate

(Note: Kate is the pseudonym for a mid-level manager at a major industry company. She regularly writes "Kate's Collage," which you can access by clicking on "Kate's Collage" in the left-hand column.)

A Retailer's View.

We spent 3 days at Quilt Market - felt good about all that we were able to accomplish there. We do know that a number of the vendors/sales reps had fewer appointments while there, and that a number of retailers chose not to attend. (Maybe that's why we got so much accomplished.) We saw a lot of nice fabric lines; some vendors were very busy with their new lines - others seemed to have little business. There were a number of new pattern vendors represented, but that is normal for this Quilt Market. Of the vendors that we visited, Maywood, Timeless Treasures, and Moda seemed to really have gone all out with new lines to introduce at this show." - Emma Gebbo, Crafts & Frames

(Note: Emma is an independent retailer in Pocatello, Idaho. She's a member and former president of the Sierra Pacific Group, currently serves on the board of directors of ACCI, and is a member of the ACCI/HIA Merger Task Force.)

View from a Publisher.

Fabrics were a mix of wild and bright, soft and gentle, and reproductions. Redwork, rag quilts, and wool remain popular. Many of the booths had quilts with some dimensional element (folded fabric).

The stores were certainly looking for books that would sell classes, especially classes that could be completed in one session. Hence books in the C&T booth - Ricky Tims' Convergence Quilts, Fast, Fun & Easy Fabric Bowls, and Make It Simpler Paper Piecing - were quite popular.

A PBS television crew shot one-on-one interviews for future shows. The Market seemed busier than recent previous shows - perhaps attendance was up. Each of our informational programs (Schoolhouses) for shopowners were overflowing with attendees, some interested in the huge names in the business from Ruth McDowell to Elly Sienkiewicz, and others for the newest techniques ("Quick-Strip Paper Piecing," "Liberated String Quilts," "Hunter Star Quilts & Beyond," etc.). - Mari Dreyer, C&T Publishing.

Needlework & Quilting.

I have been watching the discussion about stitching magazines disappearing and the generally downward trend of the counted thread/cross stitch industry with great interest. As many of you know, I work in needlework, but I also have a foot in the quilting industry. I have found it both interesting and illuminating to compare and contrast the two industries.

One of the most telling observations I have made concerns the business models followed by many successful quilt designers/personalities. Currently the quilt industry is a much larger, more dynamic, and varied industry than the counted thread segment of the needlework industry. However, even with the many more commercial opportunities afforded by these dynamics, few of the "name" quilt designers are focusing on design alone.

If one looks carefully, it becomes apparent that most are involved in what I call the "Four Ts of Quilting": Teaching, Technique, Tools, and Theory. Many of the quilting world's success stories are involved in at least three and sometimes even four of these areas.

This led me to question the practicality of needlework designers' expectations and their focus primarily on designing.

I do agree that counted thread is currently in a slump and general industry wisdom has it that there are cycles, but I also feel that we as designers may be putting an undue pressure on the structure of our own businesses with such a narrow focus.

I agree that it would behoove us to look for ways to expand and grow the counted thread segment, but we also need to take a good long look at our own business structures. My feeling is that a broader business base can help minimize the economic vagaries of any single area of needlework. - Tink Boord-Dill, Tink Boord-Dill Needlework (http://tinkbd.com), and Following The Thread Internet Radio ( http://fttradio.com)

(Note: Previous columns in Category Reports are available by clicking on the titles in the right-hand column.)



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