Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pointing the Way - Members Speak UP!

In honor of National Quilting Month, we asked YOU what you thought about the future of online quilting, and we got some great responses.

"I think the future of the quilting and sewing community is limitless now that we have social media and the internet. I'm constantly amazed at how close I feel to quilters I have never met in person, just by keeping up with their blogs or chatting with them on Twitter.  For someone like me that works full-time and is absolutely crazy busy, being able to connect without having to be physically at a location at a specific time is ideal." - LTDermDVM

The thing that was so interesting to me is that this survey dispelled what I think are the two biggest myths about quilters; first, quilters are all old.  I'm sure I'm not the only quilter who gets shocked looks or jokes when I mention my hobby - and I'm no spring chicken! I'll be 43 in July, but some people still think I'm way too young to be a quilter.  Yet twenty-five percent of our survey respondents were 26-35 years old.

I love this!  My only issues are a) most of us don't have grandkids and some don't even have kids yet! and B)some of us quilters ARE the husbands!

"Whenever I'm working in a public space (like the quilt shop I go to) I feel like a living history exhibit (I'm 30, but I look like I'm still in my 20s). The women in the shop stare at me and stop to ask me questions - hilariously, "are you on spring break, dear?" is pretty common." - KiwiCoral   FemmeFantastic

The second myth is that online quilt sites will never take off because quilters don't use the internet.  (See myth 1).  While the biggest demographic in our survey was quilters aged 46-55 (55%), those who are 56-65 were the second largest group (40%).  Yet 70% of you have a public Facebook page, a Twitter feed, and a blog!  65% are on Flickr or another photo sharing site, and 20% of you have a retail shop like Etsy. 

"Especially while living abroad, it is wonderful to have an online community of fellow quilters and seamsters to learn from. I get braver with every new project I see, as I realize "Hey! That's cool. I need to try that!" - Kate Larson

Since Quilts Inc estimates that 73% of quilters used the internet regularly back in 2010, and spent an average of two hours a day online, I think that myth has also been busted!  It just goes to show that the online quilting community is not a fantasy for the future or a trend for today.  It's here to stay and growing fast. 

"Quilting is here to stay.  It is a wonderful form of therapy and produces something useful." -OhioStar

By the way, it's not too late to reply to the survey.  Let us know what you think!




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Friday, March 30, 2012

Future Quiltmaking: Guesses and Reality - Guest Post by Jaye of ArtQuiltMaker

The following is a guest blog post by Jaye, aka JLapac, of ArtQuiltMaker.  Jaye has also been a guest host on the SeamedUP podcast.

Thanks, Jaye!


I am not a futurist by any stretch of anyone’s imagination. Whenever I think about the future, it is either a clear path in my mind with steps going forward to the future clearly outlined or, what I think of as, wild guesses. I thought about what I have seen in my quiltmaking life coupled with what I see now. I think I can make some fairly confident guess-timates.


Sewing
I am beginning to see people who have not quilted for very long challenging themselves beyond the square. The Single Girl pattern by Denyse Schmidt is an example, and it garnered a lot of attention. The Swoon pattern by Camille Roskelley is another example. While mostly regular shapes, each block has 93 pieces!  I am excited to see people trying curves and odd shapes, using templates, and generally moving beyond their rotary cutter comfort zone.

I have the complete set of patterns from the Kansas City Star and love looking through them to see the crazily shaped templates required for interesting blocks. Above is a Snowball Wreath block that I tried to make a few years ago. I gave up on the templates and did some applique, but this block was great to finish, because I felt like I could do anything. Many of these older and out of fashion blocks can be found in Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia Of Pieced Quilt Patterns , BlockBase, the various Kansas City Star collections, other books and resources. I see people delving into compilations of blocks and ressurrecting them to do something different, or, if nothing else, to have fun looking at the patterns.

A reality check is in the offing as people realize that many, many quilt blocks, techniques and ideas have come before. When something is new, it is very exciting, but I think the crowing about “new discovery” will lessen as people do some background research and realize certain techniques and patterns have come before.

Quilt Industry

The quilt industry is a multi-billion dollar industry and corporate America has started to take note. We will continue to see a contraction in the diversity of ownership of quiltmaking companies. Many women have created successful small businesses that are being sold to private equity firms. Fons & Porter is an example.I believe that companies such as New Track Media and Creative Crafts Group, which are just two of the organizations that have bought up prime quiltmaking businesses, will continue to seek out successful brands and products to add to their suite of quiltmaking properties. As a result of this trend to conglomeration, we will see customer service suffer. Already, anything more complex than simple questions about patterns cannot be answered within the New Track Media Group.

Another result will be the homogenization of tools, products and designs will continue. We will see fewer specialty rulers, radical fabric designs and new products. Better buy them now!

I think the quiltmaking industry will still be a great place for women to start small businesses, but these new entrepreneurs will be smart to realize that they are dealing with much larger companies with significant staff. New entrepreneurs should make sure they know the competition, especially in products such as rotary cutters, rulers, books, etc.

As such, fabric companies and publishers will continue to require that authors and designers have their own PR machines in place. Part of the consideration for hiring someone to design fabric will be the existence and update schedule of their blog, number of followers, Facebook page activity, etc.

Pattern makers will, necessarily, become more professional. They will include the finished sizes of standard units from within their blocks such as four patches, half square triangles and Flying Geese so that quiltmakers can choose their favorite method for constructing those pieces. I guess this is more of a hope than a forecast!

I think that precuts (layer cakes, jelly rolls, etc) will continue to be popular, but pattern makers and book project designers will begin to include cut yardage amounts and requirements in their designs in order to expand their markets.

I also think that eBooks will move beyond stagnant text PDFs. Color, images, and more features specific to the needs of the quiltmaker will become standard. Readers already see some of it happening with Cloth Paper Scissors' Collage in Color app for the iPad. There will be more embedded videos, more images. The challenge, as with online quilt shows, will be getting the eyeballs and the money to follow.  I also think that we will see more self published specialty titles in eBook format.

With the good comes the bad. I also think that text will suffer somewhat in eBooks. People flit from photo to photo and ignore the text of blog posts and magazine articles, as they do now in blogs. I think that behavior will increase.

Guilds

The classic guild model will begin to suffer. Quiltmakers will continue to segregate themselves by age, style of quilting and online vs in person, online vs. not online, day vs. night meetings. While some of these issues are not new, they will become more important as established guilds have to contend with an aging membership and fewer young members. As a result we will see some of the larger guild-based shows stop or lessen and more online shows take their place. Also, established guilds will experience a decline in membership while guilds with a heavy online/social media presence will stay constant and, perhaps, increase.

Social Media

Influencers of the quiltmaking world will begin to shift. Podcasters’ influence, because of their reach to wide audiences, will continue to grow. They will continue to pull designers, teachers and other bloggers in to interview, expanding markets for those designers’ and teachers’ products. Quiltmaking companies have, thus far, mostly ignored podcasters, but that will change as companies see the effects of podcast comments and will begin to acknowledge their reach and influence. As this phenomenon grows, podcasters will feel the need to become more professional in their productions, which could be as simple as learning more about sound, adding an introduction or music at the beginning and end and paying more attention to the “ums” and “uhs.”

Companies, designers and authors that do not have a social media presence will find it harder and harder to increase sales, and will become marginalized. Relationships are important. Quiltmakers are social beasts and Twitter, especially, has been a boon to that desire to connect.

The Internet

It is hard to separate out The Internet from some of the other online issues we have discussed. As you all probably guessed, the Internet as a quiltmaking tool is here to stay. While the catalog of free videos, such as tutorials and how-tos, expands, the difference will become that people will begin to realize that not everything for quiltmaking is on the Internet and that quiltmaking existed before the Internet. They will delve into older books and magazines for something “new and fresh.”

I am certainly not a Luddite who thinks the Internet should go away, but I do get annoyed when people rely on the Internet as the last word in all things quiltmaking. A friend brought an older book (perhaps a Visions or Quilt National catalog?) to a meeting recently and pointed out how modern the quilts in it looked. I was pleased, because it made me think that other quiltmakers will take the hint and go used book shopping for older tomes.  

As part of my day job, I have to constantly remind people that information existed before the Internet and free isn’t always the best. In this case, there is a hybrid happening. Many local public libraries make access to vast databases of all types of articles available free to card holders. These offerings include quiltmaking information. The database aggregator world is still evolving, so many articles do not have pictures, but the information is available to you, from the comfort of your own home, via your public library card. I look forward to more articles and information being made available as people head to their public libraries for additional information and create a demand.

Also, available via the Internet are quilt shows. Many of us are familiar with The Quilt Show, Quilt Out Loud and others. I heard of a new show from Quilter’s Newsletter coming out soon as well. I think that these shows are great, but I think we may be nearing a saturation point with them. I do see room for video tutorials on the basics (e.g. a sampler class in video form) being professionally produced and made available.

The Internet has become less of a village green than a marketplace. The agora of the early years of the Internet still exists, but is slowly being taken over by corporate America. This means that you are the product being sold - what you look at on the web, what you buy, and the comments you make. Jonathan Zittrain, a professor of Internet Law said it well “If what you are getting online is for free, you are not the customer, you are the product.”

Privacy

Internet privacy is always on my mind. I think that further developments in this area will develop with regard to quiltmaking. I think that people will begin to realize that comments put on message boards, forums and websites are available forever. As a result, I think that information will become more uniform, opinions will be toned down and contentious conversations will go private. I think (and hope) that people will become more civil.


Thanks to the SeamedUp Girls for asking me to write this blog post!


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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Learning Curve - Guest Post by Becky of Patchwork Posse

The following is a guest blog post from Becky Jorgensen, aka PatchworkPosse, of Patchwork Posse, an online site hosting sewing workshops.  Becky was also a sponsor of our National Quilting Month Contest and the National Quilting Day Sew-In.

Thanks, Becky!

Thanks Seamed up for asking me to do a guest post! I love to share my 2 bits on anything sewing…anytime.

I have been quilting for around 13 years now—and have been machine quilting for 5 years, and designing patterns for 4 years. There has been a bit of a change in the sewing direction since I have started.  Changes that occur because of trends, new handy notions, and sooo many wonderfully talented designers and fabric!


Starting off in the beginning I followed patterns.  I followed them pretty strictly.  They were mostly of the traditional patterns.  Not much waivering from the traditional blocks and borders.  We have seen this change dramatically in the last few years with the more ‘modern’ style of quilting becoming especially popular.  The loose style and simplicity of the patterns has allowed more beginner sewers to join in and learn to enjoy sewing too!

To go along with the more modern style of patterns—the fabric has changed along side.   The larger prints, the brighter color combinations- even the mix and match of pattern designs –stripes, dots, and flowers are now common in the sewing world together.  The fear of what others and their reactions has taken back seat and we are out to explore, enjoy and encourage others in finding their own sewing voice.   This is truly the fun of it all.