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Quilt Market & thoughts on the sewing industry

Quilt Market was intense. It was hard, but gave me a serious education and some food for thought.

On our end, designing, shipping, and building a booth in an unfamiliar city is an incredible amount of work. Our booth was pretty modest, but still, we worked hard on this thing. During the whole market, we were pretty much working from the moment we got up in the morning until we crawled into bed. It was tough.

Our booth came together quite well, though. I’m pretty proud of what we pulled off on a limited budget and even more limited know-how. My experience styling sets for photo shoots definitely came in handy, and I was able to reuse a lot of props and dress things up with pretty supermarket flowers.

I think just looking at it, you get a sense of all the work that goes into something like this. The trips to Home Depot. The trips to Ikea. The hours spray painting. The design of all that marketing material. There is so much to plan and consider, so many decisions to be made.

The best part of Market was definitely all the amazing people I was able to meet. Some of the ladies from Burdastyle, Diana Rupp, Brett Bara, Kim from True Up, many of the incredible retailers I’d only ever talked with via email (including many from outside the US), women who’ve been running shops for decades, and women who are planning to open new shops and sewing spaces. And I was starstruck when I finally got to meet Amy Butler, a definite entrepreneurial and creative hero. She was such a lovely and gracious woman, and her new fabric collection is just as lovely. I love the ikat.

I also gave a little talk to shop owners about my book, and how they could use it to teach classes and inspire new people to sew. Here I am talking while Vanessa The Editor holds up a skirt.

Afterwards, Kenn gave me a red velvet macaron to celebrate a successful presentation. Delish.

What was most interesting from my point of view was the clear schism between “quilting” and “sewing”. I’m using the terminology I heard at market here, where “sewing” was used to presumably mean forms of sewing other than making quilts. There seems to be a considerable gap between the two worlds, and I’d venture to say that the time is ripe for more sewing studios and shops that cater to all forms of sewing, including quilting.

I don’t want to give the impression that I felt excluded, because the response from everyone I talked to was tremendously enthusiastic, and in fact people were extremely kind. But there were many people I did not talk to, who I think were definitely not interested in anything to do with “sewing”.

My impression is that crafty women today (and I include myself) are interested in all kinds of handmade stuff, including clothes, items for their homes (like quilts), food, gardens, you name it. It’s all about bringing the magic of the homemade into every aspect of our lives, of living a life of creativity and meaning, of renewing and reinvigorating a range of traditions. To me, garment sewing is just one part of that, albeit an important one for me.

But from my perspective, I want to help facilitate that creativity, and I recognize that we all have different ways of being creative every day. It isn’t about “garment sewing vs. quilting” to me. They’re all a part of the same need.

And that’s why it makes so much sense to me that there are all of these new sewing shops and spaces opening these days that embrace a real range of handcrafts, from quilting to garment sewing to making toys or anything else with textiles. But it seems like many of the older quilt shops aren’t embracing this approach, because they believe that their customers are only interested in quilting. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but that is their perspective and I’m sure they know their customers. Perhaps “quilters” and “sewers” really do want different things, I don’t know.

What do you think? Do you think of sewing as just one of many creative outlets in your life? Do you enjoy different kinds of sewing, other than just making clothes? I’m really curious if, like me, you love clothes but are interested in the handmade in other aspects of life as well.

Some related posts you may be interested in:

  • Planning our booth: Some of the “before” photos as wel planned and constructed our booth.

Sarai Mitnick


Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.



November 10, 2011 #

I’m with you in that creating something yourself is what it’s about. I quilt, I make garments, I knit and right now there is a pot of chutney simmering away on the stove. But it’s true that in my experience if I need quilting supplies or dressmaking supplies, they generally come from two different shops.


November 10, 2011 #

I’ve definitely know a few quilters in my life who are only interested in quilting, just as I know people who are only interested tennis and not, say racquetball. There are definitely specialist out there who have found something they really like and are sticking to it.

I’m a craft-crazy generalist myself. I love sewing and knitting all the time. Sometimes I get an urge to embroider or cross stitch. Sometimes I’m really into spinning. Right now I really want to make a quilt for my sofa. I’ve dabbling in dying and needlefelting and some wood-working even. I have a garden and can stuff. If you can make it by hand, I’d love to try it.

I’ve got no problem with generalists or specialists, but I often feel that most local fabric shops cater to the quilter market. There are 4 fabrics stores in my general vicinity (Southern ME): JoAnns, 2 heavy quilt-leaning stores and a tiny indie shop that has a little bit of everything, mostly from the designer lines: Amy Butler, Anna Marie Horner, Joel Dewberry, etc. and your patterns :). I often wish there was a more readily available selection of apparel fabrics, but until we start buying it and asking for it, it won’t be there.


November 10, 2011 #

Oh, I can certainly understand why someone would stick to a certain creative outlet, especially if it’s something they love and are really good at.

I do think it’s having the effect of limiting choice for the generalists, though. Lots of women got into quilting a while back and loved it, and all these quilt shops opened to serve them. Nowadays, there are many women getting into all kinds of sewing via the internet or friends, but there aren’t many stores to serve them. The quilt shop owners definitely see this trend, but (understandably) don’t want to risk their existing business.


November 10, 2011 #

I’m definitely also a generalist crafter (after mocking crafters for about 20yrs). I love to knit, embroider, quilt, make handbags, and sew.
The craft shops in Oz always have lots of quilt fabric, but no funky adult fabric (lots and lots of grandma fabric though).
Thank goodness for the internet!


November 10, 2011 #

Interesting, because I met so many lovely shop owners from Australia, and a good percentage of the people that placed orders with us were Australian! But it’s a big country, so of course that doesn’t mean there are lots of great shops per square mile, I guess. :)

It does seem to be growing in Australia in a big way from my (limited) perspective, just based on my pattern sales.

Vicki Kate

November 10, 2011 #

I’d agree that sewing is just one facet of my creativity. It’s certainly the most predominent but then I’m also interested in quilting, making accessories, toys, soft furnishings, gardening, cooking… I like to create to enhance my (or another’s) life as well as having the knowledge both for knowledge’s sake and of the origin of the products I use. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the slow food ethos, but it seems to me that more and more of that ethos is appearing in a greater range of aspects in our lives. What started out with growing and then using your own food seems to be spreading into the many facets of our every day lives. This is a good thing, not just from an emotional perspective (as I do find creating a release and enjoyable thing to do) but also for the planet and quite possibly for the economy as well. So perhaps the traditional quilting shops are a little too narrow in their focus and are missing out on a huge potential customer base, and perhaps expanding their existing customer’s repetoire and further spending potential (being mercenary about it). However, quilting can be very time consuming so perhaps some quilters don’t want to expand their textile repetoir?


November 10, 2011 #

I’m interested in all kinds of sewing and fiber arts. I knit, crochet, sew clothes, gifts, bags, curtains, etc, a slipcover for the couch when I needed it, and took my time hand-sewing and hand-quilting a quilt for my son’s bed over a period of several years because it was enjoyable to do so.

I do feel more at home at the shops where there are more “possibilities” and encouragement to try something new. The only thing that makes me nervous is when it’s not clear which type of fabric might be good for sewing up a Rooibos, for example, instead of an ottoman – and the staff doesn’t seem to know either.


November 10, 2011 #

Brava! Finally someone is speaking up about this ginormous pink elephant in the room. I follow many different blogs and I’ve always noticed how cliques have started forming forming and the gaps between different crafts are only widening.
My background is difficult to explain: Sewing and beaded jewellery are currently my strong points but I also knit, crochet and used to do a little bit of embroidery. That’s why I’m always interested in all the techniques, tips and news from all this areas. It’s becoming increasingly frustrating participating in any sort of debate because I’m constantly pushed aside for being interested in too many things. And I’m supposed to pick a side.
The booth looks lovely and though you said it was done on a moderate budget it does look chic and insync with your overall visual design.


November 10, 2011 #

In a way, it makes perfect sense because blogs and websites tend to be topical. But it sucks that you’ve felt excluded from discussions!


November 10, 2011 #

Your presentation was one of my favourites at Schoolhouse by far. I appreciated how well thought out and articulate it was. I’m excited that the back of my head is in one of your pictures as well! It was lovely to meet you there.

As another first-timer at Quilt Market I agree with your comments about the gap between “sewing” and “quilting”. I think that a large part of this is generational. It’s my feeling that younger women who sew, especially those embracing these skills for the first time in their 20’s and 30’s, don’t put themselves in boxes. Sewing, quilting, knitting, etc are all fulfilling a similar need or desire to make something yourself, and that need seems to be growing. It could be a rebellion against consumerism, an increasing environmental consciousness, or simply the wish to do something creative and make something beautiful after a long day at a boring job.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts – I was really curious to hear about your experience!


November 10, 2011 #

Thank you, Annie!

I definitely see a generation gap, though not necessarily a clear cut one! Because to me, embracing all these different handcraft practices seems like a return to the skills of an earlier generation. My grandmother sews, she’s made quilts, she can embroider, she cooks, she can crochet, she can knit. It seems that we’re seeing a return to this mentality now.


November 10, 2011 #

I agree with you, Sarai. It’s a philosophy and lifestyle to me.

I was invited this summer to a quilting swap meet by a quilt shop owner. She said she wanted folks there with other things to sell. I brought a lot of yarn, Pendleton selvedges, fabrics that could be used for quilts, upholstery and clothing, patterns and notions. Not a LOT of quilt things and I sold next to nothing. One woman stopped by and commented that she used to knit. Kind of a “been there, done that” attitude. And now she quilts. This just does not compute with me. I can see the benefit of focusing on one craft and getting really good at it. But to exclude other crafts…I just don’t understand. I love it all. I’d rather be a Jane of all trades even if I’m not expert at any of them. DIY WFO!


November 10, 2011 #

I wholeheartedly agree – today’s crafter is much more likely to be a generalist than interested in one type of craft.
I came to sewing by way of quilting, but have always found garment making a better way to showcase my skills. I would be very interested in a draping or pattern making class at my local quilting shop, but they never offer them.


November 10, 2011 #

Your stand looked beautiful – all that hard work paid off and now it’s ready for the next show. Personally, I like to try any kind of craft. There are all sorts of small projects you can start without needing to be an expert or devoted to a particular craft. But I know what you mean about a quilting / sewing schism! I don’t know why it exists – a lot of people seem very single-minded about their craft just as they are about the kind of music or books they’re open to.


November 10, 2011 #

I do all sorts of things– sew clothes and home decor items, cook, photography, cat herding and miscellaneous other crafts and activities as I have time (yes, cat herding is an art). I don’t quilt at the moment, but I’m acquiring so many scraps from sewing that that’s what I want to do next! The two are obviously related endeavors. I’d also like to learn to embroider at some point, I love embroidery.


November 10, 2011 #

Haha, cat herding. I should call one of my hobbies “cat photography.”


November 10, 2011 #

First of all, your booth at Quilt Market is gorgeous! Second, I’m so glad that you brought up the sewing vs. quilting mentality. I am a dabbler of many homemade activities: garment sewing, quilting, embroidery, cooking, baking, and even soap making. What can I say, I love it all! I live in the Philly suburbs and I’ve seen a few quilt shops starting to offer beginner garment sewing classes, such as a simple skirt or top, in addition to their quilting classes. These shops are also the “younger” shops–they offer more quilting fabrics than just the standard country-ish prints. I’m glad to see this change in direction as I think quilters can enjoy sewing and sewists can enjoy quilting, and one might not consider the other if they weren’t presented with the option at a quilt shop. The more the merrier!

Lynn Mally

November 10, 2011 #

I sew almost all my own clothes, but I also make baby quilts for friends, tote bags, the odd hat and scarf. Now that I’m retired (I am probably on the old side for your readers!), I hope to learn to knit. I agree that there is a movement toward the handmade in general, and I sometimes wish that quilters would make their beautiful work out of old clothing scraps as in the past.


November 10, 2011 #

As I was reading your post today, I thought you really struck a chord. When I started sewing it was for making clothes. Having a very limited budget, it was a way of creating something useful and more importantly a creative outlet. As the years went by I did less and less sewing and took up other creative endeavors. Now I mostly sew quilts but am feeling the tug of getting back to garment sewing. I guess I’m coming around full circle!

Barbara J

November 10, 2011 #

I quilt and have recently started garment sewing. Both are very satisfying for me and they bring their own set of challenges. Haberdasheries and garment fabric shops are plenty here in Kuala Lumpur but only a few quilt shops.


November 10, 2011 #

I agree with you. I started out with knitting and then added garment sewing to my interests. Now I am ready to try quilting. I’ve always been disappointed that the “sewing” stores in my area are really quilting shops. I’d love to go to a store that has supplies and fabrics for both!


November 10, 2011 #

I do identify myself as a quilter but I don’t think of it being the /only/ thing I do (despite my blog handle :) ). I also knit, crochet, embroider, upholster furniture, and occasionally sew clothes (not really into all that home goods crafting). All skills I started to learn as a small child. W

hat amuses me is that I really focus a lot of my creative energy towards quilting because I got into a rut years ago with embroidery — it wasn’t what the ‘cool’ kids where doing, especially as a ten year old, and the supplies I wanted/needed weren’t readily available. Now I run into the same thing with quilting and sewing clothes.

It’s very hard for me to get supplies in person that I want (in thread or patterns or fabric), even though I live in a major metropolitan area, because I’m not the target audience in most quilting shops or craft shops in general, let alone this area; and I will never be. I’ve come to terms with it, it’s just frustrating to say the least.

Morgane @ Bear, Dolly and Moi

November 10, 2011 #

I am like the previous ladies into everything. I have also noticed the great devide.
I would like to consider myself as a Renaissance Woman in a way renaissance man was described (science, music, littertature, painting, think Da Vinci) but in the world of craft: sewing (quilt, garment, object), embroidery, wood working, gardening, cooking, not as a domestic activity, but as a art form.
Your booth looked great, it had your color and esthetics, and I loved the spool little tables.

Sarah Jane

November 10, 2011 #

I consider myself an “omnicrafter”. I knit, crochet, spin yarn, embroider, quilt and re-starting garment sewing for the first time since the summer of grade 7 when I first learned to sew. I’m very fortunate that there are many crafty shops here in Montreal which cater to some if not most of these activities. One of my favourite being Effiloché which caters quite well to all. Though, unfortunately my mediaeval tastes for spinning yarn are mostly fed from online sources. But that is rather a niche activity and I have an appetite for crazy fibres. ;)

Toby Wollin

November 10, 2011 #

It would be interesting to find a bunch of people who quilt and only quilt and ask them this question: “How did you get started?” I’ll bet for a certain age group, they got started in Home Ec class with the dreaded apron or horrible blouse (which ended up in a paperbag at the back of the closet), and continued to not have a successful ‘sewing clothing’ experience from there (or, who had successful sewing experiences when they were young but as they got older, gained weight, etc. they no longer achieved success). There are a lot of people out there who liked sewing itself but who, for reasons usually formed around fitting issues, never got that experience of making something for themselves that they were satisfied with, that they would or could wear with pride. But they still liked sewing, so they changed to a format where they could sew, where there were no fitting issues, and they could achieve success and that is quilting (and home dec). And this, I think, is a huge issue for the sewing industry because home ec as we remember it, no longer exists; it is very difficult to find local sewing classes and so on. So that whole skill set is becoming smaller and smaller; and we still have fitting issues.


November 10, 2011 #

I think you hit the nail on the head, this is probably a huge factor.


November 11, 2011 #

I have had the same experience myself. I am self-taught (for lack of available instructors where I live) and often I get so frustrated with fitting issues that I put my myriad garment projects aside and “cleanse my palate” with a little quilting or home-dec-ish kind of sewing. I love the colors and prints of so many of the designer quilting cottons (Amy Butler and Jennifer Paganelli are 2 faves) and my five-year-old daughter’s room is an explosion of that outlet. But I always wind my way back around to garment sewing for myself and forcing myself to make the inevitable mistakes that come with learning how to do something that, frankly, is very difficult.

I have to say, the type of shop you seem to envision, Sarai, is EXACTLY what I fantasize about! A place where beautiful quilting cottons and luscious silks and wools live side by side with a great assortment from independent pattern companies, and accoutrements for cooking, crafting, jewelry-making and beyond! Even Joann Fabrics gets the idea— with the cake decorating and craft supplies and scrapbooking stuff, etc…. What I would love to see is a more sophisticated shop and/or website that caters to all these interests.

Thanks for bringing up a great topic!!


November 10, 2011 #

I tend to refer to sewing just as the way of attaching one piece of fabric to another, not distinguishing between whether I’m sewing a garment, bag, teddy bear or quilt. I would say though that at something entitled ‘quilt market’ I would expect to really only see things that are quilt fabric related, something like a ‘sewing market’ would be a better catch all for all sorts of things (and by that I mean other needle-crafts too). I do make a large range of things though, and the family expects handmade presents for Christmas and birthdays.

Looking at the other comments above, the blogs that I see tend to have a lot of kids clothes made from quilting fabrics, and bags/pouches/other quilty things that aren’t just quilts, but I think it depends on what kind of ‘circles’ you end up in, obviously my ‘circles’ are diverse! As for fabric shops, it’s obviously country specific, as we don’t tend to get just quilt shops in the UK, they tend to be ‘fabric’ shops which cover a range from dressmaking to quilting to decor.


November 10, 2011 #

That’s why it’s interesting that our biggest trade show for the sewing industry IS Quilt Market. There is no Sewing Market on this scale, because the whole industry is currently organized around quilting, at least over here.

It’s interesting you brought up the country issue, because I asked several people from the UK about the state of quilting and quilt shops, because quilting definitely does seem like an American thing, because of their historical significance and traditions here.

They said quilting is gaining popularity, which I took to mean that it isn’t as widespread as here in the US. This probably explains why I have so many lovely customers in the UK and Australia… it sounds like the shops are quite different.


November 11, 2011 #

Quilting in the UK is nowhere near on the same scale as it is in the US, though there are websites out there who are quite distinctly aimed at the quilting market. (I kind of think fair enough. Quilting cotton is not necessarily suitable for clothes making and I’d hate to make a dud purchase online.) Our big exhibition (that happened recently) is the Knitting and Stitching Show. I have attended once, a few years back. It most definitely was slanted towards the quilting side of sewing and there just wasn’t enough there to interest me in a second visit. I think this is a huge missed opportunity by the organisers.

On another note completely – I feel exhausted just reading about your beautiful stand at the fair. These things are utterly draining, but I hope also satisfying! It’s such a pretty stand and I’m sure you knocked them dead.


November 11, 2011 #

I went to the Knitting & Stitching Show this year with my school’s Textiles class. It was geared, without a doubt, towards the older/more ‘traditional’ generation of crafters with a focus on sewing more as a passtime and less as an exciting hobby and art form.
And I say ‘traditional’ because I think being a Jack {or a Jill!} of all trades is really the most traditional thing. Like, Laura Ingalls Wilder–she and her family could cook, clean, sew clothes, dolls and quilts, build an actual house, and create a farm and teach. That is proper traditional making to me.


November 11, 2011 #

The “country issue” does come into play, I guess – quilting “exists” here in (western) Europe, but it’s hardly on a showcase. It’s more of an “artform” here, like sometimes there is a quilting exhibition. But I think it is a much smaller community compared to the US; a pretty closed community as well.

I know of no quilting classes in the neighborhood, whereas there are several (apparel) sewing courses at different schools, and they are all full (would be students often end up on waiting lists!). (Semi) self-taught sewists are emerging everyhere, often the “generalists”, the internet plays a big role here! Most of those people read the English-language blogs but their is also a rapidly expanding Dutch/Flemish spoken sewing blog world.

I know of no quilting specialist shops at all in my hometown; there is one large fabric fair (with mainly Dutch merchants – go figure?) which resides twice in my home town, but they have only one (1!) quilting-fabric booth, which sells the precuts and all. All the other stands are apparal fabric.

Also in town itself, I know of several apparel fabric stores, and – and this is interesting! – the smaller “new & hip” ones carry mostly the quilting cottons from the well-known American designers, as well as knitting & crocheting supplies. and (sewing) patterns. Whether their fabric selection serves a quilting-only clientele, I dare to doubt, though; I have the feeling that their customers are more the “younger” generalists (hence the knitting and crocheting). Their displays hold bags, sweaters, scarves, children’s clothing,… They often offer short-term classes or get-togethers, like “sew a skirt in three sessions” or bi-weekly knitting evenings.

The older fabric stores do not carry the designer quilting cottons but have tons and – and tons of all different kinds of apparal fabrics. What I find so odd – and I am speaking for my howmetown only – is that most of those shops that I know appear a little “dusty”, a bit chaotic, a little shabby with some ugly TL-lights for lighting. Their range of fabrics is great, but they hardly classify as “hip”. And another thing is that their children’s fabric choices are really rather classic – more like cartoon figures or tiny flowers in the traditional soft blue/yellow/pink hues. So these shops seem to cater more for a elder clientele, although more and more younger sewists go there as well, because at least they carry apparal fabric of all kinds and not just (quilting) cottons. (*)

So there is a bit of a “schism” here too, shopwise – the apparel fabric shops would not dream to carry the designer cottons (even when they’re used for sewing apparel as well), whereas many of the “newer” shops who do not really focus on quilting but rather on “sewing/crafting in general” carry mostly… quilting cottons as apparel fabric!? (With the notable exception of the new Scandinavian-style knit design companies.)

Which brings me to another thing that I have been wondering about: the fabric types. Many of the well-known (American) fabric designers have (quilting) cotton as their main or even only fabric. Many of the “young sewists” use those cottons for their children’s clothing, for their own clothing, or for bags and purses and lots of things. But cotton is not always the best choice for apparel. However, as those designs are so hip and bright and colorful and playful, they use them nevertheless.
Fabric designers themselves use them for apparel, even – just look at the booth displays or at the clothing patterns some of them publish. And that strikes me as a little odd?

I think it would be wonderful, if more of the afore-mentioned fabric designers would start to design for more fabric types – so that they would cater more to the upcoming “generalist generation” as well. Several of them already do, with lines for corduroy or voile, for example, even if it is at higher prices than the cottons. That way, those fabrics would be more easily/more quickly introduced to the “new sewists” as well, as those are the designers that the newer shops here are looking into.

Anyway think that that non-cotton segment will continue to grow – just like the organic fabrics.

To close this post, I wish to stress that I am aware that I have been generalizing quite a bit, but of course this is no white vs. black story. What I wrote are just some personal observations and musings from the side-line.


November 10, 2011 #

In the last ten years, I’ve seen a definite shift away from dressmaking supplies at the shops in my mid-sized, midwestern town.

I have wondered–maybe it’s just simple economics. If you’re a small shop that’s going to have a few fabrics, a whole lot more quilters will be pleased with a small but carefully curated selection, whereas garment sewers’ tastes range widely, so it’d be tougher to supply them with a small selection of fabrics that would be of interest to lots of folks. For instance: Do you stock jersey prints for kids’ clothes? wool suitings for tailoring? silks and satins for fancy dresses? Sturdy bottomweight twills? Lingerie fabrics? Coatings? The list goes on.


November 10, 2011 #

Your booth is gorgeous! Love the colours and the disposition of areas.

When it comes to sewing, I prefer to sew clothes, but I’m open for that to change in the future. =) I don’t identify myself as a “sewist”, nor a “dancer”, nor a “SCA-dian”, they are all different creative outsources, although filling very different functions in my life.

However, while I don’t believe in schisms (there’s rarely anything to be gained, only lost, by using negativ definitions) I appreciate the quality that can be gained by shops specializing. We have a local fabric shop (Ohlssons) that sells a little bit of this and that – apparel, quilting, home decor etc. And we have a local seamstress (Eva) that sells by the yard of the fabric she has for her customers to chose from. Need I say that her small shop holds more garment fabrics by number than the big store? And it’s a given that the quality is miles and miles apart! Being a fabric nerd, I’ve stopped shopping fabric in the local “All-in-one”store. Whatever project I wish to make, Eva will help me find a perfect fabric for it!
When retailers are passionate about their goods, the goods they sell are usually better. And big all-in-one stores are usually primarily interested in the profit that can be gained, keeping personel that don’t know the craft they’re selling supplies for.

Sorry, long comment here… I don’t want to offend anyone, and I don’t mean that sewing/quilting/knitting etc can only be practiced at different planets! Only that I like my retailers to stock the best, and to have the knowledge to pick the best, and the knowledge to guide me to the supplies that are best for my project. But then I know I’m one of the lucky few outside the big cities to have such a store in town…


November 10, 2011 #

Ah yes, excellent point! I think a wide range of specialty shops is also a good solution, especially for small shops with limited space. There’s definitely room for both.


November 10, 2011 #

I agree with your assessment and wish that there were more complete sewing stores out there. I think the problem is that people, especially beginning sewers, view quilting as the most doable because they can work with simple straight lines and create something great in the end. Learning to sew garments can scare some people off if they don’t have a place to turn for help. I have been grateful for online sites like yours to learn tips about how to construct and fit garments, because I don’t have a store I can run to and ask questions or take classes to learn. Maybe you’re work can be the inspiration for a new sewing trend.


November 10, 2011 #

I agree with you in that I enjoy sewing and creating virtually anything out of textiles. I also enjoy many other crafts (cooking being lowest in my interests). I dislike how the quilt shop closest to me caters almost exclusively to quilting. I’ve made polite requests for certain designers even and she is just not interested in anything but Moda and Lakehouse. She might buy a little Amy Butler, but that’s as “cool” as she gets. But I digress here. It’s really just her attitude toward anything other than quilting. To me, sewing is essential…why box myself in to only one aspect of it? My brain doesn’t work that way. Thanks for your thoughts on the subject and the pretty pics of your Market booth:) I admit I’m incredibly jealous…someday perhaps I’ll get to go too:)


November 10, 2011 #

Actually I think the problem is the same in the uk and can be even more frustrating as I get the impression from the internet that there are far more fabric shopping options in the USA than over here..we have nothing like JoAnnes for a start, and Asda, our version of WalMart would never dream of selling fabric!
So it can be really really frustrating when there is a shop, and yes, usually run by an older lady, that specialises in quilting fabric to the exclusion of anyone else.
A major problem I have found is on ebay, sellers getting hold of beautiful japanese ‘lolita’ style fabrics or american Alexander Henry, both of which I use a lot for garment making when I can get hold of them, and refusing to sell them as anything other than fat quarters ‘because theres enough demand for that I don’t need to’ or ‘they are mainly suitable for children’s quilts’ when I am happy to pay the price they are asking per quarter for a much larger amount, which surely would be less work for them!
One of the fabrics I was not entitled to buy that way I have never seen again and still mourn the loss of occasionally.
It seems such a petty way to do business!

Beverly Miller

November 10, 2011 #

I love all crafts but find I stick to apparel sewing because it’s what I’m best at. I am also currently learning how to crochet and cross stitch but not having much success, heh. I embrace the idea of a home made life but that isn’t always possible. Unfortunately for me, work demands infringe upon my home made life and I find I have little time to partake in these relaxing pursuits. But, in today’s economy and the realization that we don’t *need* big houses, shiny cars, and tons of stuff, I think that living a life of “creativity and meaning, of renewing and reinvigorating a range of traditions” is the new skinny.

On another note, I love the pictures you took and I think your booth looks so charming. I would know it was you as soon as I saw it. Great branding!

Tonya Richard

November 10, 2011 #

I love it all!!! My first fiber related hobby was cross stitching when I was pregnant with my first child. This is all I did for several years. Then I learned to sew children’s clothing and quickly started sewing garments for myself. A couple of years ago, I made my first quilt and have since made a second quilt for my mother, doing the free motion quilting and everything myself. I love ALL forms of sewing. I can’t think of something I havn’t made. I do find I will focus on one thing at a time though. For about a year it was quilting all the time, but since finishing my Mom’s quilt, I have been on a garment sewing kick. Oh, and I also love to knit and crochet lol I would love for the quilt shops to cater to garment sewing as well, but while I have three wonderful quilting shops nearby, my only source for garment fabric is Joann or Hancock’s. While quilting fabric is beautiful, it really isn’t appropriate for clothing unless I am sewing for my small children. Anyway, I see no separation at all, it is all sewing and all wonderful and interesting to me :)


November 10, 2011 #

I hope Houston treated you well.

I think as we move into the largely intangible world of Cyber Space and Information Technology, we crave something concrete. I think this is why crafting, be it quilting, sewing, scrapbooking, knitting, has become such a large industry.

That said, there is a very pronounced craft-segregation, which I think is best illustrated by the average craft-fabric store. Everything is divided nicely into little departments, making your craft of choice easy to find. In my neighborhood, everyone seems to have their own niche, and the contents of your cart identify what sort of crafter you are.

Inevitably, when I mention that I am making a garment I hear, frequently in a strange combination of nostalgia and condesension “I used to sew my clothes, but it is so much CHEAPER to buy.” This boggles my mind. Would you tell a scrapbooker, “I used to scrapbook, but then I decided photo albums were so much cheaper” or a quilter, “I used to quilt, but blankets are so much cheaper at Target.”

Personally, 85% of what I make is garments. I like the marriage of form and function that sewing clothing brings. Sewing has also enabled me to have more control over my personal style. I see myself as an open source seamstress in that I will pick and choose supplies from other “departments”, i.e. using polyclay to recreate vintage buttons or quilting fabric in bias tape, accesories, and sometimes garments. I see this philosophy more and more with the blogging community and etsy. So I think, with time the schism will narrow.

Jennifer S

November 10, 2011 #

I started sewing because I’m tall. Back in the early 90’s, I was teased a lot because ready to wear pants always ended up being floods on me, especially when I sat. So, learning mostly from my mom, then home ec class, I started sewing clothes for myself. It lead to a clothing production diploma course at college. At the time, you couldn’t make much money sewing for people (I had one lady who wanted green satin Scarlett O’hara dresses with black lace for less than $150 all told.)

For a while I got out of sewing clothing for myself, but I’m back in the folds of people who are in awe of me for some of the clothing that I can turn out and back at the sewing clothing game. None of our local or nearby city quilting shops sell textiles for clothing, but it’s a whole other ball game online. Plus the one high end store in the city sells silks that would make you die a happy death.

Anyway, one of my sister’s friends came up with the label for people like us – AADD. Artistic Attention Deficit Disorder. I currently dabble in sewing clothing, baby items, alterations, quilting, tole painting, beading, knitting, cross stitch, gardening, woodworking, the list goes on and on. I may not be 100% fabulous at any one of them, but I love doing them all and it makes me happy. I’d be REALLY happy if I could find a reasonably priced store for natural fibre textiles that I could make clothing with, but I’ll survive.

I do think it’s sad that some quilters, who most likely, as someone pointed out earlier started sewing in home ec, think that quilting is the only thing that sewists should ever touch, and make dozens and dozens of quilts that end up hidden in drawers and attics, because they can’t bear the thought of someone actually USING the item. For me, that is the most rewarding part – my neice, who was two at the time, screamed like she’d just won a spot on the Price is Right when she saw the quilt top I made for her. THAT is what turns me back to my machines again and again – other people appreciating what I can do for something that makes me happy to do it.

Erin O

November 10, 2011 #

I see the bigger schism within taste levels. I grew up making things constantly. When I was younger I knitted, dabbled in sewing, welded, did ceramic sculpture and was always always drawing-all of this before going to art school for interior architecture. What I found the most frustrating about knitting and sewing growing up, is that there were products that catered to my sensibility. At a time when shabby-chic was the rage, everything looked so old lady to me. Either that, or I would enter a yarn shop and there would be all of these crazy and beautiful art yarns, but barely any solid yarns. I’ve never been big on looking like a kaleidoscope so I was always put off. Now that I’ve been home with two babies, I’ve been getting into sewing and knitting again since that’s what I have the time/space for. I’ve seen indie designers such as yourself cater to a more modern sensibility and I feel at home. BUT I see three groups now forming: The older generation with their crazy quilts with a million colors and yarns with a technicolor bits and pieces; the middle ground who are inspired by trends and are incorporating more modern aesthetics into their work; and the people who perhaps have a design background and are pushing the envelope as to what the “craft” movement is all about. And in most cities, I think, the shops catering to those three groups are distinct. But I would still agree that apparel fabric is not as represented.


November 10, 2011 #

Quilting was my first crafty experience. From that point of view I looked as garment sewing as something others do. Now years later after quilting, dollmaking, knitting, crocheting, weaving and garment making I would be interested to see it all at a convention. I guess it depends where you’re at in your life.


November 10, 2011 #

I agree with you completely! What I long for is a life full of handmade, but not just one kind of handmade. I love knitting and crocheting and sewing and spinning and baking and painting and drawing and intend to at some point get into tatting and more DIY home dec sort of things (once I have a home to decorate and not just a college dorm room). I could not be satisfied with just one outlet for my creativity. To think that someone who likes sewing quilts could not possibly want to sew clothes is foolish to me. I personally am not that interested in quilting, but I see its value and the artistry involved.


November 10, 2011 #

I agree that there is a divide between the two and, sadly, the balance of shops still tips in favor of quilters only.

Example: I live in a town of about 40,000. At one time there were 2 quilt shops here; though they are now gone, I can still travel less than an hour to find several. However, there has never been a shop offering quality garment fabrics in this town, nor is there one anywhere in the state. The closest that I know of is over 5 hours away.

I think that quilt shop owners are missing out on a huge market. As a former quilt shop employee myself, I suspect that this is due in large part to the lack of garment sewing ability among shop owners. Let’s face it: properly fitting a garment takes more skill and time than it does to machine piece a quilt top; this is the very reason why I initially gave up on garment sewing and focused solely on quilting and home dec for many years. It was just too frustrating to spend the money and time to choose a pattern, take my measurements, cut, and sew only to find that the darn thing didn’t fit and looked horrible on me.

Thanks to the internet and to independent patten companies such as yours, things are changing. A simple google search turns up multiple sites with quality tutorials on everything from basic construction and fitting to details like bound buttonholes. And a younger generation is embracing these skills and showing us just what can be accomplished by a home sewer. These sewers (and independent pattern companies) have inspired me to attempt to make my own clothes again.

So, though I was once a quilter only, I’m definitely a Jill-of-All trades now. I knit (mainly self-taught, with help from the online knitting community), I sew clothes, I quilt, and I’m learning to approach almost every task in my home life with a new eye for creativity and a desire to produce something handmade.

I think that Natalie Chanin’s books have done a great job of successfully pulling the various “tribes” together: hand-made clothing, aging quilts rescued with careful hand-sewn patches, hand-made home dec, and homegrown, homemade food. It’s a creative lifestyle approach that would benefit the niche shops that still operate under the false assumption that one can only belong to one tribe.

Ali Hallstrom

November 10, 2011 #

I definitely agree with a lot of what has been said, for my part, I am a garment sewer first and a craft sewer second (including quilting) along with many other crafts that I love. In my opinion, quilting and garment sewing are two completely different beasts, and in fact the only thing they have in common is the use of a similar machine to do the sewing. It really bothers me when people try to integrate the two mainly because what suffers is the quality of technique and supplies available for garment sewing. I have purchased electronic clothing patterns over the internet only to discover that the designer used 1/4 inch seam allowance for the entire pattern. This is crazy! I had to adjust the whole thing. Clearly this was a pattern designed from someone who learned to sew from quilting. This is what I find so frustrating, and perhaps why there is such a great divide between the two types of sewing. I happen to enjoy quilting, but I hate how the quilting craze is squeezing out garment sewing. There are so few places to get proper instruction on garment construction and tailoring and all of this “craft sewing” is unfortunately muddying the waters. I guess it’s a case of supply and demand, but it is sad because I know garment sewing and tailoring is a dying skill/art. We live in a world where everything must be instant and it is spilling over into our crafts.


November 10, 2011 #

I enjoy all kinds of sewing but mostly sewing clothes for my little girl.


November 10, 2011 #

Oh I agree with you 100%. I love the magic and meaning of all things handmade from gardening, to making my boys stuffed toys for their stockings to sewing part of my own wardrobe. We have a sewing/fabric shop where I live that is just fabulous because she embraces all those things including the quilters but the rest of us too. There is something extra special when you make an item you use or where that has your time and fingerprints on it.


November 10, 2011 #

I can really relate to what Jennifer S. said, including the part about being tall, just over 6 feet for me.

I think a big part of the quilting mania is that people can start sewing quilts by cutting and sewing straight lines, making quilting easier to get into than fashion sewing. But, I think the biggest enemy of the home fashion seamstress or tailor is fitting. Since we have such difficulty making patterns fit, it’s easier to go around in “floods” and poorly fitting RTW, than it is to put hours into making something that then doesn’t fit either. If we can teach people how to make patterns fit our very unique bodies, I think more might be willing to attempt clothing creation.

Although quilting and fashion sewing are two very different worlds, we can encourage quilters to become fashion sewers as their sewing skills improve by using simple patterns, with few fitting details.

My problem is loving too many needlearts and not being able to do just one!


November 10, 2011 #

I have so many interests that at times I don’t know where my place is online. I love to sew, knit, crochet, embroider, spend time in the darkroom, cook and bake, garden, paint, draw, and take nature walks with my dogs. There are so many other things I want to try as well as I find time. My boyfriend is the same and spends a lot of his free time working with mechanics, woodworking, and more recently, welding. We both find that it’s more satisfying to create for ourselves, especially when faced with cheaply made items in a store.

I am finding that there are more people exploring new things and that some designers of fabrics are branching out to provide other products for their customers. One I applaud is Anna Maria Horner for introducing embroidery products which seems to spark some interest in her fans. I’ve always been a mixed media type of creative and enjoy seeing others explore mixing techniques when I look around on blogs and Flickr.

Miss Crayola Creepy

November 10, 2011 #

I enjoy quilting AND sewing.

I remember when I first started quilting one of the ladies in my quilting class said, “Now you’re not going to want to sew anymore.” Even back then I thought it was a strange comment.

Your booth looks amazing!


November 10, 2011 #

I don’t quilt because it’s something I’ve always felt like I can’t do — like it’s too complicated. And my sister-in-law feels that garment constructions is too complicated. But quilting makes sense to her, and sewing garments makes sense to me. I feel like the two sides of sewing appeal to different parts of the brain.

But I like to dabble and will probably someday quilt something (I did make quilted coasters once!). And I’ve canned food, I knit, occasionally attempt (and fail at) paper crafts. It’s just fun for me to try things out and see what happens …


November 10, 2011 #

First, your booth was lovely, I’m glad it worked out so well for you!

How timely that you’d post this topic, now. At work last night, I was talking about how exciting I find it that there is a renaissance in sewing and so many younger women are taking it (and other needle arts) up.

There certainly is a gulf between quilters and sewers and I think it has existed for a long time. Previously, most women sewed, by necessity. For my mother’s and grandmother’s generations, home sewing was just a fact and women did both clothing and quilting. By my generation (I’m either a late Boomer or early Gen X, depending on who you ask), I could see a divergence. I remember going to the fabric stores with my mom and being able to get just anything you wanted or needed, including some millinery supply. By the late 70s, that was changing. The trend in home sewing was undergoing a massive change.

Ready wear was undercutting the sewing market. My mom had sewed most of our clothes to save money. Clothing became less expensive as patterns and fabric became more so. It no longer made sense to my mom to sew as much as she had. Also, she, like many other women, were working outside of the home and decisions had to be made about how to best use the available time. Fabric stores reacted to this and became more specialized. My mom continued to sew. But, her projects were clothing for special occasions and quilting. Because it was now more about what she wanted to do vs what she needed to. I think a lot of women from that WWII generation and slightly younger saw this shift.

I did a lot of sewing with my mom (clothing) and attended her quilting guilds, too. Many of those ladies considered sewing clothing to be a nuisance, as they felt ready wear was a bit of a gift. They tended to focus on quilting. It seemed to satisfy their creativity and provide a social outlet without having to fuss over fit. I can say from personal experience I don’t have the waistline I used to, so fitting isn’t quite the joy it used to be for me, either :) Among those ladies, there were little sub-cliques. Most of them practiced some other needle art. So, if you expressed an interest in say, embroidery, you’d get a referral: ‘Oh, ask Alice about that. She does that’ sort of thing.

As far as my generation goes, we all had to attend home ec classes. There weren’t many classmates of mine that would have sewed anything if they weren’t forced to. I embroidered and crocheted and I did not have any friends that did. There was a bit of a stigma attached to wearing too much homemade, people were very brand focused. Coming into the 80s, there wasn’t a lot of financial support for a wide ranging fabric store and finding better quality yarn was hard. I’ve always kept up on embroidery, floss has never been hard to find.

I am glad that more women are interested in sewing, again. I love that sewing cafes are popping up and online communities are running strong. I think as time goes on, this gulf between sewing and quilting will lessen. But, the material needs, skill set and vernacular are so different that I think there will always be a sub-set for one or the other.


November 10, 2011 #

This reminds me of how the only real fabric store in my area got rid of all of their fabrics for sewing garments a year or two ago and stopped carrying them. They became a quilting store instead of fabric store which was so disappointing for me. I was surprised that they decided to specialize like that.


November 10, 2011 #

What a great topic and awesome webinar today. I’m so glad you mentioned quilting shops becoming interested in carrying more apparel fabric. My local quilting fabric shop is now starting to offer more apparel fabrics and is also carrying boutique apparel patterns! I really hope this “trend” continues and the lines between being a specialist shop begin to blur. I definitely see this happening in the more modern quilting shops. Awesome!

I agree that there has been a generalist craft revival over the last decade with many people returning to domestic endeavors. I adore cooking projects, baking, gardening, preserving foods, crocheting, embroidering, quilting, garment sewing, making accessories, making housewares, handmade gifts, you know, pretty much everything… and I know I’m not the only one! I want all the skills in my disposal to make anything that sets my heart aflutter!

What has helped me at this stage of the crafting way of life is to break things up into seasons, I like to quilt and crochet in the winter when I am stuck inside and work on embroidery and gardening during the summer. Garment sewing just happens when I get the itch. And yes, always cat hearding! :-)

Some others have mentioned that some people might be turned off with apparel and move into quilting because of fit issues. I can see that. A lot of people have body issues and hangups about clothing not fitting well, that they just throw in the towel with apparel. … just food for though. Thank you for all your fitting tips in the blog, hopefully that will get some people over there fears.. Keep up the hard work, it’s kick ass!

New Ribena

November 10, 2011 #

I started garment sewing again after a 25 year hiatus earlier this Summer. I was so excited to see that there was a newly expanded fabric shop about a mile from my job. To my dismay (and many other’s delight) I was shocked as I entered what looked like a fabric mecca only to discover that they only sold quilting cotton…period…over 8000 bolts. I longed for even a little section of apparel fabrics…


November 10, 2011 #

I really agree with you – creativity isn’t something you can direct only through one outlet. It’s an outlook on life, a way of approaching everything you do. My training and my truest passion is as a musician, but I also cook, draw, knit, crochet, and sew – that’s clothes and other things including quilts. It’s all just one big creative continuum!


November 10, 2011 #

I haven’t been sewing for that long, but one thing I’ve been pleased to see is fabric designers who generally produce quilting cotton branch out into having their prints on clothing appropriate fabric. Although, I do wish there was more poplin and sateen, instead of the trend towards corduroy and lawn. I love lawn, but I generally have to underline it, which makes projects more expensive. Poplin seems like a nice middle of the road compromise.


November 10, 2011 #

also after a bit more thinking on the issue, is that quilt fabric has gone through a modern revival with all these designer names that a lot of people know (Butler, Horner, Baily, ect) that same can’t be said for apparel fabric.
The best quality still comes from big name design houses , but if more cute collections were released for apparel every year (shirting, bottom weight, suiting, ect) i think more people would be sewing garments.

Sorry for the long posts…. I have a lot to say about the textile industry since I’ve been working in it for a while!


November 10, 2011 #

I started out making doll clothes when I was 7 and moved on to me clothes at 12. I started quilting when my first daughter was born (long time ago) and love to both quilt and make clothing. I stopped making clothes for a long time because it was so difficult to find quality fashion fabric in our area. I could buy clothes from cheap fabric for less than I could make them. Now that the internet has come along and fashion fabric stores have jumped on the band wagon I am making more clothes and fewer quilts. We have 14 quilt stores in our area and one small fashion fabric store.

I love all the sewing blogs they give me new ideas and techniques to improve my skills.
I suppose what frustrates me most is making clothing from quilt fabric it really is a waste of time.


November 10, 2011 #

I do both clothes and quilts, along with stuffed toys and home dec stuff, although the quilting thing is fairly new. I don’t really see them as being separate as they definitely share a skill set; though admittedly it’s not a complete overlap. But I can see that all crafts have their single-minded adherents as well as those who do many things. I’m always surprised when a well-known quilter will admit they’ve never sewn a garment in their life (and vice versa) because to me it’s all part of a continuum, mainly focused on fabric and what you can do with it. However, I must admit that now I have both clothes and quilting in my life I’m finding it hard to juggle them – quilting is very time-consuming with projects that can take ages, which makes it hard to change focus and make a pair of pants or a top, so in a way I can kind of see why some people just do one thing – it makes it less of a struggle mentally!

In terms of resources for ‘sewers’, it’s been wonderful seeing the quilting fabric manufacturers shift into making different types of fabric and obviously acknowledging the rise in garment making along with quilting – so many local fabric shops have become quilting only, or have expanded their quilting sections at the expense of clothes fabrics, or have simply gone out of business! I wonder if it has to do with the fact that you can buy a shirt or a skirt for much cheaper than making it, thus removing the main incentive many women had for making their own clothes, whereas nice quilts are less common and even when cheaply made aren’t exactly cheap, so there is more demand from people making their own?


November 10, 2011 #

Great job on the webinar today!


November 10, 2011 #

I think there is definitely 2 groups – I read lots of blogs and rarely do quilting and sewing cross over. I think of myself as a crafter rather than a quilter or sewer. I think I am interested in handmade whatever it is I am making. I live in a pretty small Australian town and there is just no where to buy fabric – there is a big store but it is 100km away and the quality varies so you have to buy online without feeling the fabric so for most people it is just easier to buy clothes.


November 10, 2011 #

Your booth is fabulous! I worked a fancy gift show with a friend in Seattle, and I know how long the hours can be. Thinly carpeted concrete, bright fluorescent lights, being “on” at all times, rinse, repeat. And to think my friend did this many, many times a year!

At the recent Sewing Summit, I definitely felt a bit of a gap between garment sewers and quilters. Don’t get me wrong – everyone was out of this world nice, and there was a lot of mingling & cross-pollination. Yet there were times when it was almost like “what do you sew?” before we can chat. I don’t think it has to be either/or. My mom and I discuss this quite frequently. She is primarily a quilter now, but I grew up with hand made clothes. She worked as a seamstress during the day, and had such an addiction to sewing (and small budget), that she came home and sewed for family at night. She hasn’t given up on garment sewing, but simply happens to be more inspired by quilting now. I’ve made a couple of quilts, and am a hand made generalist overall (paper, jewelry, bookbinding, crochet, furniture….). But at the moment, I’ve been concentrating on perfecting garment sewing. That doesn’t mean I’ll never make another quilt :)

Ali Hallstrom

November 10, 2011 #

I have to say, I am blown away by how many people are saying that they have quit garment sewing because they have fitting issues– this is precisely why you should be sewing garments and perfecting your skills! Presumably, if you are having trouble fitting into a prefabricated pattern, you are having trouble fitting into ready to wear clothing. That is precisely the reason for garment sewing today, we all know it doesn’t save us money, so it stands to reason that you’d do it to fit your unique body or fashion needs. It is so easy to alter a pattern, so many people are intimidated by it, but really with a little know how, and some knowledge about your figure, you can make clothes that fit you perfectly which will make them look better and fit more comfortably.


November 10, 2011 #

Yes, but without a seamstress grandma handy, how does one learn the techniques to perfect those skills? There are a lot more resources out there for perfecting and learning new quilting skills than there are for garment fitting, especially if you want to learn hands-on in a classroom environment. As you point out, you really have to DO it to learn it–but who wants to waste time and fabric on lots of failures with no idea why something has failed? Like many of the others here, I can’t swing a cat (I’ve only got one) without hitting multiple quilt shops, which in addition to offering any quilting fabric or notions you could want are staffed with expert quilters who gladly teach all sorts of classes on any quilting technique. For garment sewing? eh, not so much, especially once you’ve gone past the very basic “pajama pants/a-line skirt/sleeveless oversized tunic” stage and really want to work on learning to fit and finish stylish shaped garments. When people ask for books on fitting, there are a very small number that everyone will point them to. I’m not at all surprised that people eventually give up and just become full-time quilters.

I do hope there will be more expansion in brick and mortar shops, and that it will lead to more classes and so on. The best quilting store near me is now carrying some of the voiles, lawns, and knits from designer labels, as well as a few patterns, but even they seem perplexed about why people want to buy them, and they sort of languish amongst all the quilting and home decor offerings. I overheard one of the clerks explaining to a mystified customer that no, you can’t really quilt with THAT fabric, it’s voile, and it’s really for clothing, and more of the younger women who come into the shop want to be able to make garments sometimes so that’s why they carry it. Still, many of these fabrics end up malingering in the clearance section for now (yay for me!)

As for me, I do–or, rather, attempt–both, but think of myself as more of a garment sewer. Clothes interest me more, but they also have that frustration factor of fitting. Quilts don’t have that, but they can be complex in their own ways and take FOREVER to complete.


November 10, 2011 #

I’ve been sewing and knitting since I was a kid. Mostly clothes for myself, and some for others. My mother taught me to sew and a series of Danish Au Pairs taught me to knit. It is only within the past few months that I began ‘quilting’. Have to admit I previously looked at it as too traditional to be interesting to me. But then I started seeing some ‘modern’ quilts and now I am hooked. But for most of my sewing life it has been a search for apparel or fashion fabric. It wasn’t hard to find when I was in NYC, but here in Southern Maine it is a challenge. I try to stock up when I go to cities.

It does feel like there is a split in the craft world between the traditional and the modern, with modern practitioners being more ambi-crafted. I think the draw of using your learned skills, and your own two hands, to make things for yourself (be they clothes or home dec) strikes a deep chord with many of us tech- weary souls. I also cook and bake and garden, and find that all these pursuits keep me grounded in this fast-paced world.

I see a similar bias in my business where my husband and I sell cookbooks. There are certain women who come in the store and we just know they won’t buy a book. They see cooking as menial, sexist and repressive. They would rather be in the office. I feel sorry for them because they are missing out on a daily act of craft: making yourself and your loved ones a meal. So satisfying. I guess it just comes down to each persons priorities. Personally I’d rather spend my time with people who see the possibilities in any craft, rather than separating themselves from the fray.

Keep doing what you’re doing, you have many like-minded souls out there with you!


November 10, 2011 #

I love clothes and sewing them. Growing up my grandma always sewed us clothes. She had rooms full of fabric! Literally. But she also knitted hats, crocheted blankets, had a vegetable garden, built book shelves…you name it, she did it. I love making homemade gifts whatever they may be. Free motion quilting on a baby quilt is very fun :) I think we need to embrace all forms of creativity. Creating is a beautiful gift that we can encourage one another to give in whatever form we choose to do it.

Lisa Steffl

November 10, 2011 #

How interesting that you bring this to light right now. Just last weekend, my husband and I took a getaway to a charming little town with store after store of delightful goods for our shopping pleasure. I was so excited to come across a fabric store. However, when I walked in and asked the proprietor if they sold apparel fabrics, she looked at me as if I had two heads, and curtly replied, “No. Just quilting.”. I was tremendously disappointed.


November 10, 2011 #

What a lovely booth! I think you all have really outdone yourselves! :)

I, too, have come across quilters who disdain sewing; one even lumped handmade garments as ‘homemade,’ whilst referring to quilters/quilts as fabric art. I completely agree that quilting is a wonderful form of fabric art; however, so is sewing. :)

I really like your attitude, Sarai, about embracing all craft mediums and your goal for bringing these people together. :)


November 10, 2011 #

Congratulations on finishing a big week – your booth looks fantastic – all the colours and styling look fab together. I couldn’t agree more – the divide between quilting and sewing is unnecessary -I enjoy sewing – basically ANYTHING!! I am intrigued by quilts and I’ve made a few, but I would not like to limit myself to just quilting. There are far more patchwork fabric shops that fashion fabric shops – that’s the divide that is unnecessary – I would love to see the quilting shops diversify their fabric offerings to include fashion fabrics – that’s my wish, but it’s not my business and it seems that the quilting side of things shows no sign of waning .. while fashion sewing is slowly slowly building momentum – I guess it’s a big risk for some shops to embrace more variety – even the sewing machine retailers could branch out more – they seem so focussed on machine embroidery and quilting. Anyway, very interesting perspective – thanks!


November 10, 2011 #

I agree with you that there is a breed of us that love all things homemade. I quilt, sew apparel, among other things, plant a garden, compost, make preserves and love all of it. I don’t even think of these things as crafty, just a normal part of everyday living.

Your booth was lovely and I’m glad that you had a great experience overall.

PS I am currently reading though your book.


November 10, 2011 #

Good points! When I first started knitting, I kept reading about this big knitting vs. crochet argument and never the twain shall meet. I didn’t get the divide, and luckily never really experienced it in person. I think for a lot of us, just being creative is what matters.

I do think it’s good for small retailers to focus on a niche though. I know I can rely on one store in my area to have good home decor fabric, while another is better for fashion projects. And when I have questions/need help, I know which one to turn to.

However, I have experienced going into a guilt shop and feeling snubbed because I wasn’t making a quilt.


November 10, 2011 #

Sarai, I hope you had a chance to talk to the folks at Vogue Fabrics, I”m certain they were there…with their fabrics! Anyhow, they’re big on selling independent designers’ patterns. Vogue certainly has a wall of quilting fabrics, but the store is probably more evenly split between garment (dress, sports, etc.) fabrics and home decor textiles…and yet, what’s the biggest sewing show in the U.S.? Quilt Market. You wouldn’t guess it by the clientele at Vogue…mostly garment sewers and interior designers looking at upholstery fabrics. In some respects, I think knitters have more in common with garment sewers than quilters. Knitters are all concerned about negative ease, drape, armscythe, etc…just the way sewing enthusiasts who make their own clothes are.


November 10, 2011 #

I really like what you had to say on this subject! Creativity can encompass so many areas. I enjoy quilting, cooking, home making and, sewing. I saw your book online and ordered it. I am so excited about sewing my own style! I am 52 and do not like what I am seeing in ready wear. I travel with my husband and often visit quilt stores in other areas of the country. One quilt store that sticks out in my memory is one that carried music cd’s and cookbooks! Its like when you go in Antropology and you find kitchen gadgets and cookbooks! Thanks for your inspiration!

Jen Robinson

November 10, 2011 #

As someone who learned to sew almost 35 years ago at age 5, I can say that over the years I’ve made countless trips to fabric stores and I’ve seen the changes that have happened in terms of what is carried in the shops. There seems to be a pattern (no pun intended) to how things go in the realm of homemade. When I was a small child, the emphasis was on apparel fabric. As I got older, I saw the apparel fabrics start to take a backseat to quilting cottons. This happened around the time when the ‘country’ look was popular and it was at that point that quilting started to make a resurgence. People also started used quilting-type cottons for garments (Daisy Kingdom, anyone?).While I don’t mind making garments from some of these fabrics, the quality varies widely and I find myself being a fabric snob when it comes to my garment fabric because I want a good drape and fit along with wearability. The pendulum has started swing back toward the middle now, with the popularity of garment sewing for kids and with the advent of cotton prints which feature modern designs and color combos. Project Runway has helped make garment sewing popular, too.

I quilt and I sew clothing. Big box-type stores like JoAnn’s try to cater to what is popular and give everyone a little bit of something, with the idea that there’s a craft out there for every interest. Consequently there is sometimes a lack of selection in the interest of serving everyone. For me, both sewing and quilting are creative outlets even though the end products serve different functions. I think the real reason to find a common ground between garment sewing and quilting is precisely that: both are forms of being creative with fabric and working with one’s hands.

Jane Elise

November 10, 2011 #

I agree with Amy that in Australia the majority of the store fronts seem to cater for Quilting. I would be fascinated to know who ordered from you because I would be interested in giving them my business!

I wonder if there is a divide because it is hard to cover everything for quilting and garment sewing? There is a great store in Wollongong and also Sydney but haven’t visited there, and they have wonderful quality fabric and haberdashery but it is focussed on quilting and crafting (handbags, beading etc) which I think is wonderful for people who love to do that. For that store to have everything you need for those crafts and also cater to garment sewing would be a HUGE endeavour. So probably rightly so, they specialise. Unfortunately not so many businesses have chosen to specialise in garment sewing needs.

I do think the tools for each is different. There are some crossovers but you use different machine feet, different fabric, different cutting tools…I have just started to try some…I won’t say quilting because I think of that as the sewing that goes on top of a patchwork item…so I guess patchwork and I expressed how I was disappointed in the results and someone said, ‘But you sew! How hard can patchwork be?’ But it is a different craft, I think. But doesn’t mean you can’t do both if you love both!

In Australia I find good haberdashery for garments very difficult to source.

I guess it is market demand?? More people quilt in Australia than people who sew garments?? That’s an untested hypothesis.


November 10, 2011 #

Like many of us, I dabble in most sewing crafts but I have found garment sewing the most satisfing. I appreciate quilts and making quilts, I have made a few quilts but it is time intensive. Clothing is a smaller time investment with a larger return, I can wear it immediately.

I really don’t understand why fabric stores don’t carry garment fabric, it seems like a big miss to me.

I’m a little shocked to hear of your experience Sarai at the show. Why wouldn’t shops want to carry garment fabric and patterns? It’s such a big trend right now for so many right reasons.

Laura Balsley

November 10, 2011 #

I learned how to sew when I was about seven .. first starting with embroidery on cotton dishtowels.. ( with the thin blue stripes on both sides of it) I grew up in a dorm in a deaf school.. and it was required all the girls take sewing until we graduated from the school at the age of 15 before going to “hearing” high schools. We had to make our own white graduation dresses.. and we were SO proud of ourselves!. Now that I am in my late 50’s and I hear schools are not teaching home economics as much as it was back in the 70’s and 80’s. I wonder if it is mostly my generation that knows how to sew? I think sewing is a GREAT outlet. Right now I like making small things– like linen baskets,( stuff I see in “Zakka Sewing” japanese sewing.) and I have done house flags. I would love to improve on fitting– I have a very short waist and I find clothes I make for myself do not look as nice as how I would like to see myself. You are an inspiration and I feel the pull to make things when I read your blog! I love to knit as well. Congrats to putting together a beautiful display at the Quilt Market. The colours are just gorgeous!


November 10, 2011 #

Thanks for bringing this subject up. I am probably one of the few people who don’t like quilting and don’t understand “the beauty” of it. It seems boring and very often looks boring too. But maybe one day I’ll change my mind and give it a try.

Following various handcraft blogs I noticed that quilting is very cultural thing. It seems to be big in the US, Australia, Canada. In Japan, where I live, sewing is way more popular. The first time I stepped into a fabric shop in Tokyo, I was surprised to see how many women of all ages are buying fabric and sewing! There is an entire Textile Town in Tokyo with tons and tons of fabric and supplies shops. Same thing in bookstores: the amount of books on sewing, crocheting, knitting is huge. I’ve only seen few quilting books.

In any case, regardless the culture, handcrafting is becoming a big trend and thanks to the Internet we can find lots of beautiful fabric. Wishing you all inspiration in creating magic!


November 10, 2011 #

I am a very good seamstress. I am a very poor quilter.

The two seem to me to be two very different skill sets. Granted, I’ve only begun quilting this past year and I’ve been sewing garments for over ten years. But still, I would have thought that more would carry from garment making to quilt making and I haven’t found that to be the case.


November 10, 2011 #

This divide is really pretty fascinating. I have sewn most of my life and dabbled a tiny bit in quilting, but it never really “took.” Although both crafts use sewing machines it seems the skill sets are really different. When I make flat Quiltsit seems they lend themselves very well to designs that have nothing to do with the constraints of fitting the human body. Clothing, on the other hand, demands my ability to think in 3-D, and manipulate things in more complex ways.

But, thank God for the quilters or we would have NO fabric stores, sewing machine companies or anything else to do with home sewing. They kept the whole industry afloat for quite some time there. Even the fabric stores that sell apparel fabric, always seem to have quilters as their bread-and-butter customers.


November 10, 2011 #

I am with the majority of posters, considering myself a generalist. I am a maker of things, all sorts of things. I knit, crochet, sew garments and bags, make the occasional blanket or quilt, etc, etc. I do whatever I feel like doing, when I feel like doing it, and I’m never bored. But there is a schism, and it’s so funny to me, because it’s all sewing, right? Many of the same tools and skills, sometimes the same fabrics, but we exist in 2 different worlds.


November 10, 2011 #

I don’t quilt at all, but I do lots else – garment sewing (for myself and for children), knitting, embroidery, some other small sewing projects like small bags or bedding. I also bake and cook and make my own soap (this last I consider more a practical thing like cooking than a craft, especially since I just chop it up in blocks).

I grew up in the US but now I live in Denmark. My personal sewing history has definitely been shaped by the whole fabric = quilting cotton phenomenon. It’s taken me ages to figure out that quilting cotton is almost always wrong when you’re sewing apparel unless it’s for a child, and even then… I’ve never been inside a fabric store in the US that wasn’t primarily quilting cotton.

It’s exactly the opposite here in Copenhagen. There’s a fabric store “chain” that has a little of everything but almost all of it is either intended for garment sewing or home dec. Some of their children’s fabric could be used for quilting I suppose. They typically have seasonal fabrics from designers as well (by which I mean the large fashion houses from Italy and France). The staff is knowledgeable too, and most of them sew clothing. So if you’re making a tulle underskirt without a pattern, they’ll give you a formula for how big to cut the circles and so on. I’ve also been to an independent fabric store which is only garment fabrics (but more exclusive – they’re not going to have generic black jersey, but they will have wool suiting between $60-200 a meter. They also have a special room with their really expensive and delicate fabrics, especially for formal wear. There are also specialty stores for yarn (that are usable for clothing!). Anyway – if you want quilting cotton you need to go to a quilt shop or shop online. Which, if you think about it, makes much more sense than shopping apparel fabrics online, since quilting weight is pretty much the same no matter what!


November 10, 2011 #

I’ve done garment sewing almost exclusively our of necessity ( most RTW doesn’t fit me), persnickityness ( I hate pastels and brown and teal together) and lately as mental exercise ( learning pattern modification and some drafting). When I started it was for the kids and it was more of a creative & moneysaving venture( kids don’t need many alterations).
I don’t know why quilting’s never hit it off to me. Probably because it’s not a practical thing in my mind. I wouldn’t need more than a couple, they take up too much room to work on and would take me forever to finish. At least with garments I’ll be using them constantly and I have a chance of finishing one within a month.
I do like making/patterning plush now and then, – 3D thinking at it’s finest and one of a kind, usually a gift.
Not a knitter either, I have waaay too little patience and want things I can fearlessly toss in a washer.
I think my mindset is this way because my true outlet of creativity is digital art/cartooning.


November 11, 2011 #

I really enjoyed reading this post. I am a ‘sewer’ as opposed to a ‘quilter’ and do really notice the divide. Having said this, the more I sew, the more I become interested in all kinds of ‘craft’ – knitting and crocheting are skills I learnt as a child, but have not done for a very long time. Embroidery is another craft that I am picking up, and one day I really do hope to finish the quilt I began at the age of 5! I also love gardening and baking – to me, they are all linked together as a way of expressing myself…

Baking Soda

November 11, 2011 #

I so agree! I’ve been sewing for years and only recently started quilting, I bake (bread and also sweet stuff) I love to cook, hoard cook / baking books. I don’t do gardening/knitting though.

There has been a down going line in sewing fabric shops here in Holland, I suppose people don’t sew as much as they used to (with all the H&M and the likes out there). Quilt shops are popping up here and there as well but not a combination of both which I would love to see!


November 11, 2011 #

You booth looks wonderful.
I’ve been sewing since I was 12. Now I’m 50. I also love to quilt. What can I say, I love textile. It’s really all the same to me, and I agree with what you are saying. Here in our little town before the “Great Recession” there were 2 stores that sold fabric. One was a “quilt shop” and the other, though primarily cater to the quilting community, sells other various fabrics and notions for the one who “sews.” We only have one fabric store now. I purchase fabrics locally, in other towns I pass through and buy online.
I came across you pattern shop many moons ago and was very happy you started a blog, as I love to follow your tutorials. Thus I was very excited that your book came out and happily purchased it. Maybe one day while driving through Portland, I will have to visit and have you sign it. Thanks for your posts. I enjoy them very much. ;)

beth lehman

November 11, 2011 #

I started sewing with my mom by sewing clothes. For her it was survival, cheaper to make clothes than buy them. And she grew to love it and be very good at it. I sewed in home ec, but never really liked anything I made. Several years ago, I found etsy and watched people making, started reading blogs and fell in love with quilts. If you can sew a straight line you can quilt! So, started quilting, learning and reading and playing and along the way realized there were some great new patterns out there and I have started sewing some clothes, again. I love a finished product – I love what a sewing machine can do – the sounds of all of it – the seam, the straightness, details of good work…. With limited time, it’s hard to devote oneself to both things, but I try!


November 11, 2011 #

This is such a great conversation!! I started writing a comment yesterday morning and I was the 4th- woooot there are now 87!!

I’ll write as a shop owner and teacher, with my limited experience of working in Montreal, Canada and having been in business for 2 years.

So the quilting industry makes it suuuuuuper easy for us to buy collections- super star designers, pre-cuts… really all the marketing is targeted to shop owners and customers! Apparel textile manufacturers however, make it pretty complicated! Most of their revenue comes from clothing manufacturers and designers, so they are one step removed from the retail end of things. And, lets be honest, they are interested in volume! So I think if the apparel industry could market their products in a more retail-oriented way, like take a hint from the Westminster, the Modas, etc… it would be easier for us to manage our purchases and grow our small collection, you know? They are very trade only here in Montreal and while we still have ins, we just don’t get the same level of attention as the big design houses.
Now having said all of that, in our shop, clients who quilt generally feel apprehensive about the steps involved in getting a nice fitting piece of clothing (and all the notions/interfacing choices), while apparel sewists are intimidated with the fussiness and technicality of quilting. Of course there are people in between, who like to balance out complicated projects with easy home-dec type projects.
As a shop owner, I think it’s our responsibility to keep on sewing, both styles and you can see from the amount of apparel weights that are coming from the quilting industry, that craft sewists need new challenges. And that’s exactly where you come in! We need more people like you and BurdaStyle and Liesl to bring apparel sewing back to the masses!


November 11, 2011 #

Thank you so much for your perspective, Emeline. This makes perfect sense. I’m sure the fact that fashion fabrics are very seasonal must be a factor as well. That is, fashion changes constantly, so I would imagine that the mills producing apparel fabric aren’t consistently producing things season after season.

I am glad to see that companies like Westminster are beginning to produce some apparel weights like voiles, though. That is very refreshing and I hope it continues!


November 11, 2011 #

Dear Sarai,
Your booth looked beautiful! I anxiously await bloggers reviews and pictures after each quilt market to see the newest fabrics and patterns.
I have a home business doing alterations, dressmaking and hand quilting. I love fabric and patterns for clothing and quilts, home decor and purses. To me the two areas overlap wonderfully as I have used many “quilting fabrics” for clothing and other projects. I live in a rural community with no fabric stores and usually order off the internet or drive 30 minutes to 1 hour to buy fabric. I would love it if someone local would open a combination clothing/quilting fabric store.
I feel my knowledge of sewing increases with almost every post of yours I read. Yours is always the first email I open each morning! Thank you so much for making learning accessible to rural people like me.

Sara @ Sew Sweetness

November 11, 2011 #

I completely agree with what you said. I “sewed” first and then “quilted” later, but I notice that on a majority of the quilting blogs I follow, they seldom (if ever) work on projects other than quilts. Me, I do everything


November 11, 2011 #

Like you, I love all aspects of sewing—clothing, quilting, making toys. It’s definitely all part of the same creative process for me, as is cooking and gardening (on my modest Brooklyn balconies). I’ve definitely seen this split between clothing sewers and quilters. That said, my mother and grandmother both sew their own clothing and quilt, and love both equally. I wonder if some quilters feel that sewing clothing is less of an art form than quilting? Perhaps sewing clothing, for them, is too close to the frivolity of fashion. I would love to have access to more fabric stores with staff that really knows how to sew clothing, like quilting stores have people that know how to quilt. That’s the one downfall of sewing stores I visit, even here in New York. The boutique fabric stores I visit here are usually staffed by people who are more into knitting or quilting, and not so much into clothing.


November 11, 2011 #

Another really good point. Most people who sew clothing are interested in fashion in one way or another. If fashion doesn’t interest you, there is far less reason to make clothes, and plenty of people are totally disinterested in fashion/clothing.

Stacie Davis

November 11, 2011 #

I was at the quilt festival the following weekend and was so sad you were already gone! I wanted to buy the book and Clover and Peony!

My friend and I attended together and also noticed a divide between quilters and sewers. I don’t know where it stims from. We originally began sewing garments and then began experimenting with quilting when we joined a quilt club consisting of some of my coworkers. Even within that group if we bring a garment project to work on we get a few stares and questions. We mostly get comments that they just aren’t interested. Most of these women are much older than us.

I was talking to my father in law about this. He is in his 80s, and from a historical perspective the women of the baby boomer generation were born to parents that had lived through great wars and sometimes the depression. During that time sewing your own garments was a must if you were poor. Those parents passed that idea on to later generations that poor people sew their own clothes, we buy our clothes from the store. He also said everything old is new again, and we are far enough away from that time that a new generation of women (I’m 31) are starting to want to learn an art that had nearly died off. Maybe quilting just never really died, but the baby boomers still see that as an acceptable art form. The median age at the quilt festival was 62.


November 11, 2011 #

While in college, I worked at Hancock Fabrics. The store was 90% fabric–quilting, upholstery, craft, costume, and the bulk was appearel fabrics. I loved it. It had everything. In the last couple of years the store has become 75% crafts, 15% quilting fabric, and the rest appearel fabrics. To me it’s really sad. The “fabric” store has become a Hobby Lobby or a Joann Crafts and Fabric store. Appearal fabric stores are dying out…at least in Minnesota and Iowa. Don’t get me wrong–I love quilting. I’ve made a ton of quilts. I also, probably more so, enjoy sewing clothes. For me, if I want to buy fabric for a quilt, I will search out a little cozy quilt shop that is out of the way somewhere. Its just fun. If I want to make a dress, I go to the fabric store. Buying fabric, for me, requires all of the senses. Buying appearal fabric online is incredibly tough. Now, I feel lost.

I think a part of this ‘problem’ is the availability of cheap clothing available at Target, Walmart, Kmart… It’s easier (and completely NOT rewarding from a craft perspective) to just go out and buy a new $12-15 shirt when your old one has a tear in it (an El-cheapo). So many people don’t have the time to make a high quality clothing item but they can zip into Walmart to pick something up quick. What this has to do with quilting, is that quilts I think are still expected to be homemade. You can even pick up ultra cheap fabric at Walmart too, make it and still call it homemade. I haven’t shopped at Walmart for 8 years.

Gail Ann Thompson

November 11, 2011 #

I’ve nothing against quilting or quilters. I have in fact made half a dozen quilts, myself. I do feel musceled out and overrun by them!! My primary interest is garment sewing, but the fine fashion fabrics store is practically a thing of the past. I live in a town of over 30,000 people. There is no where, not one store, to buy seam binding, a scrap of lace, or a zipper in this town!! Shame!


November 11, 2011 #

I’m a crafting generalist, and lucky to live in the San Francisco Bay Area, where you can find almost any craft supply you might possibly want!

A couple of commenters have touched on this, but I wonder whether some of the divide between (older) quilters and (younger) garment sewers is that older sewers have memories of sewing as a chore, but think of quilting as an art. Boomer and earlier women had to learn the domestic arts whether they wanted to or not, and I think for some of them domesticity came to represent a lack of choices for women that they wanted to escape. But since quilting wasn’t popular when they were growing up, it might have been a way to be creative that didn’t have any of that baggage. Younger women get to choose whether they can veggies and make their own clothes, which makes it a lot more fun!


November 12, 2011 #

Wow, your booth looks lovely! Well done on putting something together that looks so appealing, I love it.

Personally, I prefer to sew toys to clothes and home decoration but I think that’s more because I have the attention span of a gnat and like instant gratification. They’re not so fiddly, I don’t have to know an awful lot of techniques and I don’t need a lot of equipment to make them. Having said that, I like to make my own clothes because then I get pretty things, in fabrics I love, in colours I’ll wear that should fit me if I’m doing my job well.

I’ve yet to foray in to quilting but cushion covers are on my more urgent to-do list with a couple of cheaters quilts further down. I’ve also got some ideas on eiderdowns and throws that I want to try out so that aspect will be thrown in.

I think you’re correct when you say that most crafty women embrace the whole concept and don’t stick to just one outlet for their craftiness. I know I’m certainly interested in creating as much of my home and wardrobe myself, not only because of the pride and pleasure it gives me once it’s complete but also because of the environmental and financial aspects of it.


November 13, 2011 #

“The attention span of a gnat”. I love that! That is me too – I may have to steal that saying!


November 12, 2011 #

I started quilting in my first year of university, almost 20 years ago. I’ve always wanted to sewing clothing, but I to, felt a big gap in the market between wilting and sewing which is why I am so thrilled about your book (which is in the mail!)

I’m more interested in the creative side and all that encompasses, what ever the medium.

p.s. your book looked great!


November 12, 2011 #


Thank you for the lively topic and the discussion it engendered.

The third paragraph of your blog post said it all for me, esp., ” of living a life of creativity and meaning, of renewing and reinvigorating a range of traditions. To me, garment sewing is just one part of that, albeit an important one for me.”

I am primarily a garment sewist and I am passionate about sewing. I don’t consider myself crafty. It is just such a creative release for me. I also have made quilts as a more quickie pasttime when I need a sewing fix. ;-) Fitting, muslins, etc. take time.

I am in my mid-50’s and live in the San Francisco Bay Area. Although I do hang out with some local quilting folks, the quilt stores tend to have an elderly aspect that is a turn-off to me. Nothing against getting old here (I am!) but I would like a fashionable alternative for sewing release.

There are only 2 large fabric stores that are affordable for me to visit and they are both a good drive away. Hart’s is one of them. I wish more local quilt stores would expand their teaching and classes to include some sort of sewing cafe.

BTW, your booth was lovely and perfectly captured your aesthetic.

Karen L.

November 12, 2011 #

I straddle the divide of quilting and sewing. I started making quilts when my 18 year old was a baby. I evolved from traditional quilts to more artsy ones then to pillows and bags and now am starting to sew clothes.
I think there is a divide. Part of it is due to the whole bit of art versus utilitarian. Personally I think that any kind of sewing is creative but not all agree.


November 12, 2011 #

I’m late to the party here, but I wanted to comment on the sewing vs. quilting issue… my sister sews pretty much exclusively quilts, and I’ve been trying to get her interested in garment sewing for years with no luck. I’ve come to the conclusion that some of the main things I enjoy about garment sewing are the same things that she doesn’t like, namely:

1) Picking fabric. While I love picking out fabrics, my sister does not, and she often buys quilt kits or fabric that comes from the same series. She gets stressed out by trying to put together a fabric palette and just wants something that will coordinate easily.

2) Fitting. One of the major appeals of quilting seems to be that there’s no futzing with the pattern, you just cut and get straight to sewing. My sister doesn’t even like drafting her own patterns and is willing to pay someone else to do it, even though drafting quilt patterns is not too complicated. Many of the older ladies I hung out with at the quilt store in my former city also told me that they used to sew garments when they could make something right out of the package with only minor tweaks, but as their bodies have changed shape and pattern alterations become more challenging they don’t find it as fun anymore. For me, getting clothes that fit better than RTW is one of the main reasons I sew.

3) Gift giving. My sister gives away the majority of quilts that she makes, and unlike clothes (where you need to know someone’s size and tastes), quilts make a great gift. I’m a selfish seamstress and I sew mostly to fill my own closets.

So, it seems to me that we’re looking for very different things out of our hobbies — while I enjoy tinkering with patterns and trying out new techniques, my sister just wants something straightforward to work on in the evenings to relax a bit. Unfortunately this means I’ll probably never make a garment sewer out of her!


November 13, 2011 #

The first point fascinates me. I’ve made only one quilt, and my favorite part was definitely planning it out and picking the fabric. By far.

But I see that collections and pre-cuts and whatnot are quite popular among quilters, so I wonder for those quilters who aren’t interested in the design part of it, what the most enjoyable aspect is? Perhaps the therapy of the process? Or just making something beautiful in the end?


November 13, 2011 #

I think she finds it meditative to buzz through all the neatly organized strips of fabric and watch the pattern emerge. I, on the other hand, find myself wishing for a quilting robot about halfway through :)

There also seems to be a lot more buzz in the quilting community about releases of new fabric collections, similar to the release of new patterns for garment sewists. I’m always amazed when we go fabric shopping together that she knows the designer and season of all these different fabrics!


November 14, 2011 #

Actually, I’ve found that a lot of people who sew children’s clothing seem to follow the new designers and know the collections, particularly those women who do so-called “boutique” sewing. They tend to make things that use lots of different fabrics from a collection, so that they go together but still have a sort of mismatched look. I personally find a lot of those creations too precious (everything seems to be ruffled!) but that’s just my opinion.

For me, making a quilt is both about the process and the end result. I love choosing fabrics, watching the blocks come together as I sew them, then doing the quilting, which is especially satisfying for me. Most people think I’m crazy, however, since I do all my quilting by hand.


November 13, 2011 #

While I and my sisters were growing up, my Mom made much of our clothing out of necessity. We got to pick patterns and fabric. I LOVED it. I started sewing at a very young age so I could make my own clothes (my own fashions). I was VERY surprised the first time my mom told me she didn’t really like sewing clothing. She came from a family of 11 children, a farm family. She was the oldest, so far more likely to get new clothes, but she also had to help sew for the rest of the family. I think she got tired of having to make clothing, and I think that’s where the disconnect is with the older generation. Quilting is their creative outlet, and while the finished product does serve a purpose, it doesn’t seem so necessary to them for some reason.

Personally, I am an all around crafter. My first love was to make clothes, then in junior high I started to draw. I still do both today. When my now senior-in-college daughter was little, I made most of her clothes – and loved it! I like making quilts, but they tend to go in spurts (I like faster projects), and I seem to work on them more in the winter. I also have really gotten more into my art lately, especially now art journaling, collage, and book altering. I can’t imagine sticking to just one thing, but that’s just me. I always have ten projects going at once – I’m definitely a multi-tasker!

I also see ‘quilt’ fabric as apparel fabric, and I think that is difficult for some. But in the last 10 years or so, that market has totally blossomed and become a wonderland for quilters and fashionistas alike. I also like to make quilts and clothing out of unexpected materials (I made a menswear quilt 15 or 20 years ago and a shift dress out of a bright orange vintage muumuu right after my daughter was born).

I think what I’m trying to say after all that, is that the artists and crafters that are in their 20s now are the ones who are going to turn two markets into one. Some of us my age see the possibilities now and use them, but there aren’t a lot of us. It’s going to be people like you, Sarai, that really make the difference.


November 13, 2011 #

Wow, you really made your booth look beautiful, Sarai – well done. It must have been a lot of work to make something look so effortlessly gorgeous.

Re. the sewing and quilting divide, personally I’m not interested in quilting and I’m frankly surprised at just how much stuff there is out there for quilters. So many fabric shops or sections of department stores (in the UK at least) focus on the quilter market. I’m so jealous of all the beautiful designs of quilting cottons available and find it difficult to find apparel fabric in prints that excite me. Also, so many fabric websites don’t say what kind of fabric it is – the presumption is that buyers just want medium weight cotton for a quilt. I would love to see more stuff available for garment stitchers.

Gail Ann Thompson

November 13, 2011 #

It occurs to me that I’ve heard this discussion before, in about 1976.

Then the elder and younger seamstresses were on the opposite sides.

The elders enjoyed and expected a wide variety of fashion fabrics, findings, and notions, both for the everyday and special occasion clothes. IF they made quilts, it was from scraps, old curtains, and left over feed sacks. Maybe they’d buy a few yards of one color of cotton, for sashing or background to their piecework. It had not real importance to them beyond the Make Do.

The youngers viewed quilting as an artform. They had little interest in fine silks and woolens. They hated the cotton blends the elders used for blouses and summer dresses! They demanded a wider variety of 100% cottons for their quilts. Clothing had become cheap, easily accessable and quickly disposable. Who thought of in terms of a ‘suit to last a lifetime’ or the ‘coat or evening gown to pass along to her daughter’? Gone were the days when a good wardrobe was thought to be one of a woman’s most valuable assets.

The ‘fall out’ has been the loss of neighborhood fine fashion fabric stores. Department stores no longer carry those beautiful Pendleton Woolens or Morgashell Linens, complete with all the necessary notions, linings, underlining and trims. High quality notions, like the Dritz bound buttonhole maker are now a thing of the past. The quality of even every day notions, has noticably declined.

Well, ladies, Now the elders have gone on to their reward, and the youngers are the new elders. A new crop of youngers will soon make themselves heard. And Me?? I hope to live long enough to benefit from the now youngers demand for the return of fine quality and high fashion to the sewing scene.

Quilting is a fine hobby. All crafting and art are good creative outlets. But garment sewing, ahhh sewing; Sewing allows one to present herself exactly as she wants herself to be. Sewing allows her to have a ‘wardrobe’ instead of a closet full of clothes. Sewing make each woman an individual. If her bust is too full, or her bum too flat, if one arm is shorter than another, or she is long waisted, no matter. She doesn’t have to settle for wearing whatever the mass merchandisers are selling this season. She can take the higher road.

One other thing…..Over on The Vintage Traveler blog, a week or so ago, she showed a picture of a slanted pocket in a plaid jacket. The plaid lines MATCHED perfectly at every possible point. I venture to say, in today’s ready to wear, that would be an extremely difficult thing to find. I wonder how many shoppers today would even look for it or expect to find such quality?? The garment seamstress can own it EVERY time!!


November 13, 2011 #

Gail, thank you… this was a wonderful, insightful comment.

On your last point, I think that’s one of the gifts of garment sewing: how much you begin to notice.


November 13, 2011 #

Gail, I have a vintage plaid dress that I wore several times before I noticed that an entire square foot of the fabric of the skirt is pieced in! The woman who made it must not have had a large enough piece of fabric, and stitched a couple of pieces together before laying out the pattern. It lines up absolutely perfectly. It’s so amazing to see the skill and time that went into that!

Gail Ann Thompson

November 13, 2011 #

Dear Jessie, One of the pleasures of being over 60 is remembering when ladies, no matter how poor, tried always to put her best foot forward. To present oneself as one’s BEST self.


November 13, 2011 #

Interesting thoughts about the divide between “sewing” and “quilting”. Personally I do both, and adore both equally. My perception of it from people that I know is that msot of the quilters that I know that don’t make clothes seem not to because they think it’s too hard – i can see the logic- while they can be incredibly complex and difficult to make, a quilt is still a flat object, and the prospect of making a 3d object that actually fits them is a bit scary. On the other hand, sewers I know that don’t quilt don’t seem to want to bother with the quilting as they don’t see the resulting item being something that they want/need, which is fine!

Jenn Dumonceaux

November 14, 2011 #

I love to sew but I also love to create. My interest in creativity spills over to sewing clothes and quilts, knitting, cooking, baking… I need more than one outlet! I definitely think there shouldn’t be a line between sewing and quilting. And I love designers that do both like Amy Butler and Anna Maria Horner. Jenn

Jessica :)

November 14, 2011 #

I loved your booth at Quilt Market and was so excited to get a signed copy of your new book! I have been sewing/crafting for most of my life and have been working in this industry for the past several years. There is definitely a division between those who sew clothing/crafts and quilters; as well as a division between those who hand quilt vs. machine quilt (although garment sewist debate on this too ie. hemming, buttons etc). As previous people noted, quilts make thoughtful gifts and don’t need to fit. Most of the ladies I meet around the country started sewing with garments but have switched over to quilting in recent years as fitting becomes a bigger issue as we age. I can see the attraction and will surely follow suit, but in the meantime, I plan on starting the Meringue Skirt this week.

Monica Lee

November 15, 2011 #

HI! I was excited to meet you and receive your book too! I read ALL the comments and think everyones opinions have truth to them. So moving forward…how do we successfully mesh these two worlds? I design fabrics, quilting cotton but have been looking for garment patterns that will drape and fall well with a quilting weight fabric. I personally think that for the “moment” we need (and this is where you come in with your talent Sarai!) more patterns that look good sewn up with a quilting cotton since that is what is heavily produced right now. For store owners…if they see that their audience is making garments I think they will follow the sales and eventually start to carry substrates. I was excited to see Timeless Treasures new contest with 2 categories Quilting and “lifestyle” sewing. Having manufacturers understand their audience is a key too. Sorry for the long response too!


November 15, 2011 #

My local quilt store caters for both sewers and quilters. As they sell sewing machines and the fabrics, I think they understand that their customers are not quilters or sewers but possibly a combination of both (and their is potential in that market to encourage cross-over). Recently they had a fashion parade of children’s clothing showing how fabric and patterns can be used to create trendy clothes and they also sell a range of patterns, books, notions etc. Perhaps some retailers will always want to be specialist stores, perhaps there is a market in that. But I think there is definately a market in ‘homemade’ and that is where I sit. Susan :)

betz white

November 15, 2011 #

Hi Sarai,
I’m sorry I didn’t get to meet you at quilt market. I was busy in my own booth…you know how that goes! Anyway, as more of a sewer than I quilter I can relate to this topic and am enjoying reading through the comments. I did want to mention that there is an event called the American Sewing Expo. I heard about it via Gertie’s blog. It sounds like it’s definitely more for the general sewing population vs. quilters.

Thanks for the enlightening conversation!


November 15, 2011 #

Thanks Betz! I’ve heard a bit about the American Sewing Expo, and maybe I’ll check it out sometime. I considered it last year. It’s just hard to know which shows will be worth the investment!