Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a good local quilt shop (LQS). It’s not a high profit business, and it takes far more money than you might imagine to start one. We’ve seen the fabric business, which we depend on for our hobby, dwindle down as more and more of the traditional sources drop fabric from their inventory. Local quilt shops and online sources are now the last outpost for good fabric. Sure, the “big box” stores like JoAnn and Hobby Lobby have fabric, but the overall quality is seldom as good as that found in your local shop.
Quilting has kept the fabric industry alive, but like so many industries it has moved offshore. Fabric, thread, and related textiles are now imported. Factories that made these goods have closed, frequently taking down the “mill” town they were in. The dollars spent on fabrics and thread are now flowing out of the country, contributing to the large imbalance of trade between the US and other countries, with China being the primary beneficiary.
In attempting to level the playing field our president has proposed putting tariffs on a lot of products, including some of the textiles we rely on for quilting. This puts our local quilt shops in peril, as discussed in this article. Good fabric is almost never cheap, and prices will have to rise. Few, if any, quilters are wealthy and the higher prices will almost certainly impact the revenue of these shops. As mentioned in the article, some may have to close.
If your city is large enough to have at least one quilt shop, then there are likely enough quilters that you also have quilting clubs or informal groups. You can help. Ask the owner of your favorite LQS to join members for coffee and a frank discussion. She can tell you what she thinks will happen as a result of the tariffs, and what it will mean for her business. Now would be a good time to buy a little extra thread that you know you will need eventually. Stock up on stabilizers. Get some patterns or kits to work on through the winter months. Summer is a slow time for quilt shops and extra dollars are very welcome.
If the situation is especially dire consider a Save Our Shop (SOS) event within your quilting group. Most quilters may have a small (cough, cough) stash of fabric. This is frequently the source of “discussions” with your significant other, and said other doesn’t know about the stuff you’re storing with a friend. Have a sale within your group, selling off fabric you know you won’t live long enough to use, and give the proceeds to your LQS. There are no government subsidies for quilt shops, so if it comes down to needing a cash infusion to survive, you are probably the last line of defense. Get creative and let your shop owner know that you support her!
Here’s a shout-out to the Quilt Shop of Deland, Florida. We were able to visit them last week and happily left with a new kit and some fabulous fabrics.