I’m a Bit Concerned…

Last year we lost Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine. A publication that was the prototype for all those that have followed. Sadly, it wasn’t the first quilting/sewing related publication to fall off the newsstands in the past few years. AQS has stopped publishing new books, and although they’ve added a fall show in Paducah, they’ve cut others out of their lineup. In the past few years smaller publishers have been bought out by larger ones. Several well-established quilt shops across the nation have closed their doors. Now, we’re losing some of our fabric options as fabric vendors cease operation or are phased out, namely Kona Bay and Red Rooster (see their posting of March 16). Why?

After being told last year by a new-to-me batik vendor that they have to pay for their orders up front, I better understood how challenging, not to mention expensive, it must be to produce fabric. While I rarely cancel an order once I’ve placed it, there have been a couple of times in the past that I felt I had no choice. I have no doubt that other shops may find the need to do so as well from time to time causing the fabric vendor(s) to be “stuck” with excess fabric that they thought was sold. Thankfully, quilt shops are usually given 30 to 60 days to try and sell some of their new fabrics before having to pay for them, but apparently not so for our beloved fabric vendors. It could be that more established vendors might not have to pay the full amount of an order up front, but still. I don’t even want to think of what the bills are for some of the well-established fabric vendors we know and love. Then there are the book vendors, the pattern vendors, the thread vendors, the batting vendors, etc. How are we to help sustain all of these folks in the current economic climate?! Not to mention the current mindset of many quilters (a topic for a future post) based on personal conversations coupled with social media discussions and comments.

“What on earth is going on?” you might be asking. Well, it’s simple really. Ye olde trickle-down effect has gone, or rather has been going, into effect. Quilters aren’t buying as much fabric as they once did, so obviously, quilt shops aren’t buying as much fabric as they once did, at least this shop isn’t. Surely I can’t be the only one out there who has cut back. While I know I’m stating the obvious here, fewer sales to shops, be they online or brick-and-mortar, means less fabric needs to be produced. Fabric groups used to have upwards of 40+ SKUs. One Benartex group several years ago had 72 SKUs! That was a lot of fabric of one type for a shop to add to their inventory for the express purpose of making all the projects for which that line was designed. More recently, some vendors have scaled their offerings back to somewhere between 12 to 20 skus in many cases. This makes it much more feasible for a shop owner to purchase a whole group rather than pick a few pieces from a group hoping all the while that they’ve picked the right few pieces, i.e. those that the customers won’t be able to live without. Vendors ha

ve also gone from requiring we buy 15 yard bolts to offering 10 yard bolts when we buy a whole grouping. That does help in more ways than one.

When I bought this shop back in 2004 I was told that I had a six month window in which to order more of a new group. Back then, some groups that sold well were reprinted in part, maybe even in whole. Once cotton prices went up though that was no longer always true for groups not classified as blenders or basics. Also not long after I bought the shop, Chanteclaire Fabrics was purchased by Jaftex. If I remember correctly, that’s when one of my favorite designers, Darlene Zimmerman, moved to and started designing for Robert Kaufman. Hallelujah!!! In 2010, Fabric Editions, Inc., was bought by Jaftex and Studioe came under their direction. In 2014, Blank Quilting was also acquired by Jaftex and ceased being a stand-alone company. Now, as mentioned at the beginning of my rambling, Kona Bay is closing down its operations completely, and Red Rooster is being dropped from its parent company, General Fabrics. As stated on Red Rooster’s Facebook page, their Spring 2017 designs will be absorbed by P&B. General Fabrics CEO/VP said this was a strategic move,”…given the volatile climate of the current marketplace,” and that the company wanted to focus on their other brands. I can’t help but wonder if they are cutting out Red Rooster because the quality of the fabric is higher, and therefore more expensive for them to produce, than some of the other brands they offer. Where will those Red Rooster designers go whose fabric designs we’ve come to love? One wonders.

Speaking of wondering…I’ve been wondering what’s happened to our beloved LakeHouse fabric that has produced the sweet Pam Kitty Morning prints for the past several years? I hope Miss Holly hasn’t packed it in as well. Nothing has been added to her blog in two years or to Facebook since last November. Maybe she’s doing Instagram. Since I’m not on Instagram I wouldn’t know. Thankfully, the designer behind Pam Kitty, Pam Vieira-McGinnis, is still blogging, and I’ve been told she’s very active on Instagram. That’s a good thing! If LakeHouse is no longer in the picture for her, maybe she’ll go to Penny Rose Fabrics by way of Riley Blake. That would be a good match in my humble opinion. Until we know one way or the other, suffice it to say, I’m a bit concerned.

What can we do? How are we to keep vendors from going under, quilt shops from going under, and keep our beloved quilting community afloat? It was said to be a three billion dollar plus industry just a few years ago. Oh, for just a small portion of that to infuse into this shop! Will we quilters and other creative-minded folks end up with just a couple of places to buy our goods? This was a scary possibility voiced in a lecture I attended a few months back by a well-known fabric and pattern designer. Will it be the proverbial survival of the fattest bank account? Or, will it be survival of the most daring and devious? I’m afraid I don’t fall into either of those categories. I don’t have a huge bank account. Actually, I don’t even have a decent sized bank account. I’m kinda daring but more creative than devious. I’ve been told that I’m a horrible business person because I don’t look at the shop as a business person would, i.e. with an eye for making money rather than for making folks happy. Oh, well. I gotta be me!

The current state of affairs is definitely food for thought. Whatever we quilters decide to do, we’d better get on the ball, or before long I might have to write yet another post that says, “Here we go again…” (~shudder)

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anne L. Kirby
    Apr 27, 2017 @ 14:02:55

    Quilting is cyclical and fabric will never disappear. We will have to make do. There weren’t a whole lot of fabric lines when I started in the mid-90’s but we still made quilts!


  2. Missy
    Apr 27, 2017 @ 17:42:29

    I do not buy a lot of name brand fabric because I can’t afford the fabric. I buy most of my fabric second hand, on clearance, or with a coupon at Joann’s. I love fabric like Pam Kitty’s. I wish there was a way to make fabric more affordable.


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