The Future of Quilting, Part 1

Some recent events have me wondering about the future of quilting. I’ll get to those in the next post.

First I want to ask some questions: will you still be quilting in five years? Do you see your involvement as temporary, or as a permanent part of your life, until you’re truly unable to continue? And if you expect to still be quilting, how do you think your quilting life might change? Will the type of project change, perhaps from large quilts to smaller ones? From “traditional” to “modern” or “art”? Will your purchases change, to much less fabric or books or notions? Or perhaps to more? Or to more quilting services like someone to longarm for you? Or will you buy a dye cutter to reduce stress on arthritic parts?

Another question: do you actively help new quilters learn the craft? Do you teach, or donate fabric to 4H groups, or participate in other nurturing activities? Is that something you would do if presented with the opportunity?

Another: are there areas of quilting you’d like to learn? Are you interested in becoming an appraiser, or learning and/or teaching quilting history? Or are there particular skills you long to try?

One more: do you think that most “new” quilters (those who’ve been quilting less than five years, or have made fewer than five quilts) will still be quilting five years from now? Why or why not?

I’ll start, but please join in with comments. Don’t hesitate to respond to others’ comments, as well.

I expect I’ll still be quilting in five years. Truly I have no idea how many quilts I’ve made in the last decade, but surely it is well over 100. Likely it’s more than twice that, especially if you include all the quilts I’ve helped with but wasn’t the sole maker. So from the standpoint of production, I’m in this. It’s part of my life. On the other hand, it’s possible for me to imagine not quilting anymore. In particular, it’s imaginable that I stop quilting my own projects and pay someone else to longarm quilt for me.

I prefer making big quilts, or at least biggish. But we’ve discussed the issue of having a “market” or audience for our work, and mine is pretty depleted. It might be time to shift to smaller items. Though as I’ve said to someone else, my heart would die if I had to make coasters and pot holders. I did have a lot of fun making my Iowa In My Mind quilt. Perhaps other types of art or story quilts are in my future.

My purchases over the last couple of years have changed some. I am not a big fabric buyer. I never buy all new for a specific quilt, and I almost never buy even partially new before starting a specific quilt.  I prefer to work from stash, but that means having things that are interesting and useful. Recently the ratio of “interesting” to “useful” has increased. Even so, I fill in with tone-on-tones or blenders regularly.

I’ve kicked around the idea of becoming an appraiser, but in truth I don’t want to work that hard anymore. Between my college degrees and professional certification, I’ve taken all the tests I ever want to take. I do enjoy teaching and want to continue to find opportunities to do so.

As for newer quilters, most of the younger modern quilters probably won’t be quilting five years from now. There will be a core of those who’ve found their niche, but the rest will fall away with the busyness of their lives and other interests. Even so, the richness and enthusiasm they’ve added will help to enliven the craft for years to come.

Now it’s your turn. Thoughts to share? 

 

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59 thoughts on “The Future of Quilting, Part 1

  1. Amanda G

    Even though many may think I am part of the modern quilt movement, in some ways I’m sure I am, but I have been quilting for 10 years now. I like modern fabrics, but love more traditional quilting. In 5 years I still see myself quilting, but hope to have little ones therefore I will probably be quilting less. Maybe making more items for my future little ones, despite never making clothes or anything with more than a flat surface.

    Quilting had been my stress relief since college and therefore will always have a place in my life. If I’ve learned anything, who knows where I will be in the world of quilting in 5 years.

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      So true, life can change in unexpected ways. I especially relate to your comment about stress relief. I’ve been known to say that quilting is much cheaper than therapy. 🙂

      If you’ve been reading here for long, you know I have problems with the labels of modern and traditional, and art, for that matter. Really they are quilts, yes? Maybe with different colors or different styles, but good design isn’t dependent on what style is in fashion. I think anyone who makes block quilts could be labeled a traditionalist, and anyone who breaks the grid might be modern! Ah, I see I’ve gone off on a tangent… Thanks for commenting today.

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  2. piecefulwendy

    I’ve been quilting for roughly about 21 years, and I don’t anticipate stopping anytime soon, so 5 years from now I expect I will still be playing with fabric. Not sure if my style will change; it will be fun to see. I’d love to teach some newbies, and I have taught a few. Maybe I’ll get to do that in the future!

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      1. piecefulwendy

        I would agree that my style has changed in some ways and not in others. I think what changes more readily are my color choices. I’m a bit more confident in my quilting skills (although some my early projects were a Double Wedding Ring, Attic Windows, and a Frank Lloyd Wright design, none of which are easy for the beginner). I’d really like to challenge myself to try designing, so I’m playing with that a little.

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  3. tierneycreates

    Great post and food for thought. I better be still quilting in 5 years, I have to get through all this fabric. I am a trainer in my professional work life and I come from a family of teachers BUT I do not enjoy teaching quilting. I worked some with Terry the Quilting Husband but I also sent him to a formal class. I am not sure what it is but teaching quilting takes then fun of quilting away from me. I have toned down my fabric buying and my eventual fantasy is to only buy for specific projects in the future (no more stash building!)

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  4. TextileRanger

    I am pretty sure I will still be quilting in 5 years (barring unforeseen events). I would like to get good enough that I could donate a quilt to a favorite charity and it would actually sell a lot of raffle tickets or go for a lot of money in a silent auction or whatever. I have never wanted to quilt for an income, just for charity.

    I would like to try: using Radiance fabric, having my own fabric printed up by one of the digital companies, and playing with more surface design techniques. But if I only used the supplies I already have, I could dye, print, and quilt for years. I love to help Fair Trade fabric companies by buying fabrics that are handspun, handwoven, hand-dyed, or some combination of the above, and I plan to continue that, and I think that since very different fabrics are available each year, they will determine my other choices as I look for fabrics to accompany them.

    My quilt group gives quilting lessons regularly, but I have not been a formal part of that. I have given weaving lessons to three people and dyeing lessons to one, and I would be happy to do that again.

    It makes absolutely no difference to me about who is or is not quilting in five years. It’s great if people are, but if quilting loses popularity as a hobby, it makes no never mind to me. (Well, except I guess I could pick up bargains as they shed their supplies.) I started as a weaver and people have been saying that weaving was a dying art since way before I started in 1979, and it is still around, and I think it has gotten much more interesting in that time. So I would not predict a demise for quilting.

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      For you especially, the “industry” isn’t as important as it is to some. So the trends and availability of commercial fabric, and the demographics that drive that, won’t have much affect on you. (I would put myself in that category, too.) As to it’s demise, I don’t think that will happen any day soon.

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      1. TextileRanger

        You made me think of something I hadn’t thought of before — if quality fabric were no longer available, then I would give up quilting (once I had run out of my stash). I would weave or make paper or baskets instead. But as long as there is good fabric, I will be using it!
        I am looking forward to seeing where you go with this line of thought!

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  5. knitnkwilt

    Lots to think about. I hope to be quilting in five years, but at 77, I can’t make promises too far in the future. All else being equal, I will be. I have enough stash that I’d need to live to 150 or more to use it up.

    Purchasing. I’ve shifted to more solids, fewer prints, though I still buy prints that appeal to me. I try to keep a full palette on hand. Every so often I check to see what is missing and have a fun shopping excursion.

    Although I enjoy all types of quilting and shift among them, I am gravitating to art quilting more these days. I don’t see getting into dying my own fabric as many do, though.

    I once considered getting into quilt history and appraising until I saw how much knowledge was involved in appraising and dating quilts–I decided to let others do it. I do enjoy hearing about quilt history, though I don’t think I would enjoy the research so much. I was surprised at how much research was genealogical and otherwise learning about people behind names inscribed on quilts.

    I think at least a quorum of present day quilters will continue–hope so, just to keep fabric stores around.

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I wonder about the demographics of local quilt shops vs online fabric purchases. Do younger or newer quilters gravitate to the online stores? Is that why they are so likely to buy up a designer’s line and use only that for a quilt? Either way, demand for fabric will not die, so manufacturers and shops (online or not) will continue.

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      1. knitnkwilt

        I agree that online seems to be winning out–I hold out hope when local brick and mortar stores are also online; maybe that can keep local stores open longer. I don’t think online is the explanation for buying up a line and using only that line in one quilt. I think it is inexperience and marketing, marketing that has produced fans of particular designers. Some local stores also arrange some fabrics by designer. Some online shops have a board for testing combinations–thus promoting mixing of lines.

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  6. just carla

    Interesting post (as always) and one that gave me pause. I had been doing a belated spring cleaning and once again pulled out my grandmother’s threadbare quilt from the 1930’s. Threadbare and badly stained beyond repair, but both my mom and I had kept it. Every time I saw that faded pink quilt, memories of of my childhood flooded back — memories of my grandmother and the hours safe within her handiwork. This time, though, instead of folding the quilt and memories back into the trunk, I was able to salvage eight squares that are now sewn into new covers for two throw pillows on the guest bed quilt. Every time I walk by the guest room, I smile.

    I’m also working on two new quilts for my youngest two grandsons, now in their teens, as their old ones have seen better days. I wondered if someday, my grandchildren or great grandchildren might want to salvage a square or two from these quilts in order to preserve a treasured childhood memory.

    I suspect what I’m trying to say is that we don’t know where our quilts will ultimately land or who they might ultimately comfort or shelter, but guaranteed someone, somewhere, someday, will be soothed or marvel at the artistry.

    Regardless, my observation is that there are a growing number of new quilters, many newly retired, with time to both learn and refine the necessary skills. I don’t think many of us are going to quit anytime soon!

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  7. katechiconi

    I made my first quilt over 30 years ago. Then there was a fairly long hiatus, but now I’m in it for the long haul. I can’t imagine ever stopping. In time, and with a failing body, I think I might adjust the size or process I use; right now, post surgery, QAYG is looking increasingly attractive! But I doubt strongly I’d ever give my work to someone else to quilt. I don’t have a huge stash. I make quilts from roughly 50% stash, 50% new, and I love the idea that I’ve made something beautiful AND useful, so my quilts will always be lap size minimum unless I am asked to make the job smaller. I’ve never been tempted to branch out into areas like appraisal or teaching; I think I still have so much to learn myself that I don’t feel I’m an appropriate person to try and teach others! That said, if I was asked to teach, I’d probably give it a go, if it meant I could bring more people to this hugely enjoyable and satisfying art form.

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    1. jeanswenson

      Ditto on your sentiments 🙂 I was going to post a reply to the main thread, but upon reading all the other comments and then yours, I thought, “well, no need to really post on main thread, as here is about 95% of my answer!”
      As to if quilting will persevere: I am 99.99% confident it will. There is some saying about history being cyclical 😉

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    2. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I’ll bet you would be a good teacher. 🙂 As to having someone else quilt for me, it is important to me that I do it myself. However I can imagine a change in circumstances that would make that much more difficult. In that case I’d look for someone with similar aesthetics as mine, or who could interpret what I want without imposing her own taste. Only time will tell.

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      1. katechiconi

        For me, there’s an added impediment to having another quilt for me, which is the far higher cost of longarm quilting here. While I still can, I will, and when I can’t I’ll quilt by hand!

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  8. KerryCan

    My own quilting is sporadic. I like it but not to the exclusion of a zillion other things I like. So, when a quilting project has special meaning to me, I’ll keep quilting, but not just for the sake of making another quilt. As for the future of quilting, I am confident there will always be quilters. I think it has an ineffable appeal to lots of people and they will carry it on. Quilting definitely goes through trends in popularity, as do crocheting, knitting, etc., but it perseveres. I’m interested to hear why you’re concerned about that future . . . .?

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Yes, I think things go in cycles. Remember macrame? Needlepoint? I think people do less of both of those than they have at times. As to quilting just to make another quilt, that’s what I do. 🙂

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  9. Alice Samuel's Quilt co.

    I have been quilting for only about 2 years now and I am so excited about it that I’d love to say that I’ll still be quilting in the next 5 years and as a matter of fact I had better be! Nevertheless, I am relatively young, newly married and still building a career all of which will impact my quilting intensity one way or the other but the fact is I can’t imagine not doing this at all in one capacity or another. There’s still so much to learn and make, so many people to hopefully inspire to quilt and i’m still a long way from achieving my goal of making Quilting a well known craft in Nigeria. on that note i’m probably not a great teacher but I’d love to give teaching a try. I can imagine spending more money on quilting when I have a bit more of it to play around with especially if it means investing in tools that will make my life easier! I have been making mostly small items until recently when I started working on big projects and I do enjoy making them but until I find a way to simplify that process…i’ll keep getting quick satisfaction from smaller projects. I have found that I particularly enjoy making baby quilts and I see myself making more of that in the nearest future. As for fabric shopping, I buy new fabrics for new projects but I usually end up not using those and they end up in my stash…I enjoyed reading other’s and your thought on this interesting topic.

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Baby quilts are a great size for trying fun things without a lot of investment. I prefer quilts a bit bigger than that. Around here we would call them “couch throws” or big lap quilts. Bed quilts are harder all the time, but I expect I’ll still make them.

      I enjoy your enthusiasm and look forward to watching you grow as a quilter.

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  10. snarkyquilter

    My quilting future is more a matter of pesky aging body issues than my desires. Never say never, but I doubt I’ll ever make even a twin size quilt again. Right now I’m struggling with a 50 by 65 inch quilt for a charity, and I wish I had just sent it out for quilting. I’ve been going more and more toward art quilts and fabric collage, in part because of personal interest. One thing about smaller pieces is they require a lot less fabric. So, that combined with my surface design experiments means less fabric shopping, though more supplies shopping. I still shop for basics like black and white solids. As to teaching, I give periodic talks at my guild. One on HSTs is scheduled for August. While some may not consider it teaching, more and more I’ve been asked to critique work in progress and make suggestions. While I love old textiles, I can’t see myself doing appraisals. As to the future of quilting, I think we’re seeing a changing of the guard right now. Many quilters who were active in the 1990s-2000s are getting on in years and simply not quilting as much as they once did. The modern quilt movement brought in lots of new blood. While there’s some reinvention of the wheel going on, the styles in fabrics and quilts have shifted and the ways the quilting community interacts have undergone a sea change.

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Interaction has certainly changed. We could debate it, but that might be the biggest qualitative change in the field. When I started quilting (after the very first one, in 2003,) I found a few incredibly helpful sites, but only a few. There were no blogs to speak of, and certainly no Instagram or Pinterest. Now blogs are already passé. Videos are the way to learn to quilt, I guess! So we’ve gone back to a medium that is not really interactive, just as books and those old websites were not. That part is sort of a shame.

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  11. norma

    Interesting post & comments.
    I think I’ll still be making quilts. I don’t make the block quilts I was taught to make when I started; I am obsessed with the slow art of English paper piecing and at the other end of the spectrum, with whatever I can make from scraps, old clothing and so on. It’s impossible to say how it will develop for me but I don’t think I will stop.

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Yes, the comments are great! Thanks for chiming in!

      Impossible to say how it will develop — for me, too. I do have areas I’d like to explore, but we all know how a tangent can carry us, sometimes like a current, farther and farther away…

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  12. melfunk

    ” will you still be quilting in five years?” I do plan on still quilting in 5 years. It is my stress relief, so I hope to continue to the end. “Do you see your involvement as temporary, or as a permanent part of your life, until you’re truly unable to continue?” It is a permanent part of my life. If I get stressed, my family tells me to go and quilt. 🙂 ‘And if you expect to still be quilting, how do you think your quilting life might change?” I imagine there will have to be less handwork, but if I can hold a needle, I want to still do my binding by hand. “Will the type of project change, perhaps from large quilts to smaller ones?” I think this has already happened because I just don’t have a need for large quilts anymore. “From “traditional” to “modern” or “art”?” I don’t see my “style” changing as I age. I might be trying new things to see if I like them, but that is not different from now. “Will your purchases change, to much less fabric or books or notions?” I am already making different choices. I have so much to be thankful for, and I would really like to use what I have more than buy more. “Or to more quilting services like someone to longarm for you?” I have my own long arm, and hope that it will continue to be less stressful on my body than doing it on a DSM. “Or will you buy a dye cutter to reduce stress on arthritic parts?” I have a dye cutter, but feel it is fairly stressful on my shoulders. I might have to get an auto one. I’m not sure I like the die cutter at this point.

    “do you actively help new quilters learn the craft?” Yes, I am always answering questions and getting to enjoy the new quilter. “Do you teach, or donate fabric to 4H groups, or participate in other nurturing activities?” I’m a girl scout leader, and try to work some fabric art into the process. I donate mostly to the churches. “Is that something you would do if presented with the opportunity?” I’m thinking about putting together a Girl Scout badge work for girls that want to learn to sew or quilt.”

    “are there areas of quilting you’d like to learn?” I’m trying new things as I find them. I would love to learn to hand quilt. “Are you interested in becoming an appraiser, or learning and/or teaching quilting history?” This has never interested me.

    ” do you think that most “new” quilters (those who’ve been quilting less than five years, or have made fewer than five quilts) will still be quilting five years from now? Why or why not?” I do think that if you are bit by the quilting bug, that it is a long term life changing event. I have not found many quilters that stop after making a couple of quilts. Though, I imagine you can either love it or hate it.

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Your final comment made me smile. After making my first quilt, I swore I’d never make another. 🙂

      You make a point about holding a needle (for your bindings) and wanting to hand quilt. I recently finished my first hand-quilting project and was surprised how much I loved it. But I also found that my hand was quite uncomfortable, sometimes for days when I was between chances to work on it. While I’d love to do more, I’m not sure it will work for me. Guess I’ll need to try again and see how it goes.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  13. Andi

    Since I have been quilting more or less for about 30 years, I think I still will be in another five. However it may not be what I’m doing now, just as what I’m doing now is not what I was doing 30 or 20 or 10 years ago.

    I started out as a hobbyist, using other people’s or traditional patterns, and doing everything, even the piecing, by hand. Then I started machine piecing, machine quilting, designing patterns and teaching quilting classes.

    Fifteen years ago I bought a longarm machine and started quilting for others. I eventually moved my LA to commercial space, added a second machine, and also had a small retail store where I sold fabric, taught classes, etc. A few years back I closed the store and moved one LA back home, so I would have more time to design. And NOW, I’m designing quilting motifs for other longarm quilters, as well as continuing to quilt for clients.

    The biggest change for me is I rarely piece anymore, which means I have also stopped buying much fabric, unless I have a special project in mind.

    The other change I see in the industry is how the availability of information and items on the internet is making it harder for quilting professionals to earn a living. There are so many free patterns and instructional videos out there that many consumers are no longer willing to pay for these. The same applies to fabric shopping, they don’t want to buy at their LQS when they can order it online for less. While the older quilters may not use the internet as much, the younger generation was born with a device in their hand so I think the problem will get worse as the older quilters are no longer around.

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Thanks for the long-term personal perspective. I do think parts of the industry have changed and WILL change for the better. But one aspect has been the rise of the internet. While I occasionally buy fabric online, my preference is to find it in a shop where I can see it to understand the true scale, colors, and values, so I can feel it, and so I can walk around the shop with it to check next to other fabrics that might work. That’s just not possible in the same way online. Thanks again.

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  14. Neame

    I regularly read and enjoy your posts. Thank you for that. And thank you for not abandoning blogging in favor of newer technologies.
    I’ve been interested in quilting (a woman’s art form) since I was a girl feminist back in the late 60s. Mostly, I had only the time and energy to read about it, purchase a small piece here and there. Now, an elder, with time, and for the last 6 years, I’ve attempted to participate. Slow going, not for lack of interest. But I’ve produced a few things large and small. And I hope for another 10 years or so of learning and doing.
    Is my case unusual? I think maybe not. Was a time when quilting and sewing and other “womanly arts” were central to the survival of humankind. Not so much now. Now quilting along with lots of other things becomes an enthusiasm later in life when time and money allow. It waxes and wanes but is always there. And here I’m talking about crafty/artful quilting, not Art quilting. I think Art quilting will grow, but will only ever be practiced by a few with incursions by the craftier quilter who wins at state fairs and local guild shows and maybe goes/grows from there. (Art. Craft. Hair splitting.)

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I like hair splitting… 🙂 It’s hard to know where that line is, isn’t it? That’s a whole lot of other blog posts, though! No, I don’t think your entrance into quilting at a later age is unusual. I think we spend an awful lot of time and energy in our younger years on pure survival — okay, maybe not that dramatic, but working and raising families or communities. There is little left for creative expression of any kind. A lot can get freed up when we are older, and then the NEED to express becomes more insistent. Welcome to the club.

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  15. Quilt Musings

    I started quilting almost more than 20 years ago, and I do not anticipate stopping any time soon. That said, I took quite a long break from quilting in there, when my life and work just became too busy and other interests filled the little time I had for hobbies. I don’t anticipate that happening again, but you never know! I think my fabric buying goes in spurts, so it is hard to say if I am actually buying less than I used to. I am not as easily attracted by notions as I once was, and though I was going to say that I do not buy as many books, thinking back I have bought at least 3 quilt books in the past year, so scratch that. As far as my quilt style, I think there are certain elements that are consistent, but I could certainly learn new skills and fall in love with new styles of quilting, or at least dabble with them for a time. Fabric choices will certainly change, if the past is any indication. I will continue to quilt my own quilts as it is an integral part of my enjoyment. I mostly make lap-sized quilts, but I probably will make more wall hangings, if nothing else because my apartment is filling up! I would love to make art quilts but I’m not sure my admiration can actually translate into creation.

    I have on occasion shared how I make quilts with others, hoping someone might want to learn, but so far, there have been no takers. I would be happy to help new quilters, but don’t see myself as an appraiser or teaching quilt history.

    I would think that the majority new quilters would be fairly similar to ourselves. Some will make one or two quilts and move on to other hobbies, some will catch the bug and continue throughout their lives, perhaps with breaks when other responsibilities take priority. For some it will be a major focus of their lives. With all the emphasis on monetization of quilting (which seems more widespread to me, and I suspect increases the number of quilt-related ‘businesses’ compared to previous decades), I do wonder how many of the younger quilters who are currently prominent online will continue with the business side of quilting. It is a new business model for quilting (at least the online portion), and most new businesses fail even in traditional models where the parameters are better understood. To the extent people are seeking to make their living through sponsorship and links on their blogs, fabric designing, online classes and the like, I would think many will drop off over time. We may see a landscape that includes some physical stores and centers where people gather to buy and learn, some major online business including both online fabric sales and smaller number of individual quilters who teach/design/sell enough to make a living, a number of other sites with a rotating population of quilters trying to make some money out of their love of quilting, as well as people using whatever social media is popular at the time to share what they make and connect to others doing the same.

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Thanks for your thoughts. This: “I have on occasion shared how I make quilts with others, hoping someone might want to learn, but so far, there have been no takers.” Yes, I frequently offer to teach people how to quilt, and no one has taken me up on it, either. Whether they are not really interested (likely) or they don’t want to find time in their lives (likely, too,) or they don’t want to impose (…) I don’t know.

      As to your expectations that the monetized bloggers will fall away, I think that is likely. At a point it will be too much of a job to keep sponsors happy, and they will choose to do something else. I read a famous “modern” quilter/author/teacher the other day, saying that if she could increase her social media numbers she might be able to get a second book contract. Her first book came out more than a year ago and still ranks high on Amazon’s sales list. Inarguably her book is a success, and whether or not she can get a second contract depends on pushing up her social media numbers? Ridiculous! Who needs that? Well, some do, apparently, because they’re willing to play that game, but it sure wouldn’t be for everyone.

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  16. Sue

    Will I be quilting in five years? Maybe.

    I have been sewing since I was about 5 and am now 66, so the desire to make things out of textiles has been an enduring feature of my life. I have made different things out of the textiles in different seasons. In the late 60s when I was at university, I wanted more than anything else to study textile design, but at the same time the budget was cut substantially and the UC system cut the textiles program at Berkeley severely in favor of the architecture and landscape design programs.

    I got mad and quit college and did a trade school course in pattern drafting, tailoring and clothing design instead. Then came marriage, children and a long career of nearly 40 years in a field completely unrelated, with the sewing stuffed into the random odd times when I had a few minutes.

    Now I am retired and have the time to resume my textile work. I was drawn back to quilting, but find I am not interested in making big quilts so much any more. I have joined an Art Quilt group in my area, and am more focused on producing smaller and more individual work.

    The “NEED to express”, as you put it, has indeed become very insistent with me. It is all I think about, some days. I have to force myself to do other more mundane things.

    I still am trying to figure out how I can create design ON textiles, as well as WITH them. I don’t want to do it for a living, particularly, been there, done that.

    I don’t usually buy new fabrics at all, and very seldom do I buy online, as I am fortunate to be a volunteer in a donation fabric store which satisfies my stash-building tendencies very cheap. I don’t care much about or really know about the names of all the modern designers or their lines, or what the Pantone people are saying is the color of the year. I like improv quilting because it is freeing not to have to follow any rules. Sometimes it comes out looking good, and sometimes not.

    I’m terrible at FMQ, and don’t enjoy it much, mostly because I am too impatient to practice it enough. This makes me feel like a misfit among “real” capital “Q” Quilters. Some of my work is pretty messy. I’m not a perfectionist.

    I do not really know or care who thinks my work is good, bad, indifferent, modern, traditional, or art. I’m doing it for the love of using my hands, love of the colors, love of the feel of the goods and the way it all goes down, and have no compulsion to influence a movement. I do think that the current quilting hyperbole will die down eventually, but I think there will always be people (women and men) drawn to the medium. I think it is wonderful that men are doing this kind of work, nowadays. I am not jealous or suspicious of them.

    I’m perfectly happy when asked to assist people with questions or instructions, but I don’t want to teach as a routine thing. I’ve been there, had a hard, responsible, stressful daily job, and now I need to not do that!

    I would like to teach young children to sew…that is one fantasy that appeals to me.

    I’m not trying to prove anything by making quilts. I guess I’m not a quilting missionary but I am really enjoying seeing what others are doing with this medium, and seeing what I can do. I’ll still be using my hands until the arthritis takes over completely. I think, judging from my mother’s progress, that I have maybe another 10-15 years left before that happens!

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Melanie, and thanks to all the commenters, for your input, it has been a very interesting read!

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Yes, the comments have been delicious! Really enjoying them and I’m so glad I asked. Thanks to you, too, for your answer.

      I think the key is this: “I’m doing it for the love of using my hands, love of the colors, love of the feel of the goods and the way it all goes down, and have no compulsion to influence a movement.” We NEED to express, we’ve found a medium that allows us to do so in ways that are satisfying. If others enjoy what we do, all the better. But lucky us, we’re not dependent on that! Thanks again.

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  17. Sue

    P.S. Melanie, you will never have to risk the health of your heart by making potholders, because, of course, you do not “have to” make them. But sometimes making a perfect little thing the size of a potholder (and which might be used for one) isn’t the worst thing that your day can bring!

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  18. twallisstone

    Greetings Melanie!
    Good questions!
    Will I be quilting in 5 plus years?? Probably so! I am a “project” sort of textile person: If there is a need for a quilt, then I will make it. My philosophy is that I will keep on making quilts until I get it right. Knowing my track record, it will be a while….
    I am not sure about the market of large traditional quilts. There is definitely a place for both art and traditional quilts – just depends on one’s style. Technically, smaller quilts (lap quilts) are easier for me to make because of space available and time to construct. Smaller “quilts” such as pocket prayer shawls can be just as fun and challenging too.
    As far as venturing out into the different worlds of quilting, I am happy enough to keep creating quilts and other textiles.

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      It sounds like you’ve found your niche. For me, I enjoy the big couch throw size best, but I do make bigger and smaller, too. As to “market” for bed quilts, I just mean all my close relatives already have at least one! No more need to make big bed quilts, at least until each of the grandchildren graduates from high school. It’s easier to make and to give away smaller ones. Thanks for chiming in.

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  19. thimblesandteapots

    I fully intend to continue quilting. Still so much to learn!! Yes, full time jobs/diy/husbands all get in the way of the quilting but there are lots of books and online classes for those of us who don’t have lots of time. And epp patchwork is great to pick up when you only have a few minutes to spare! As for the future, I would love to teach new quilters and run classes. Sewing is good for the soul 🙂

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      You’ve hit on a couple of important points here. First, the portability of something like paper piecing is very attractive to a lot of quilters. Not only can you work on it for just a few minutes, but you can take it with you while waiting for kids to finish school or activities, or while waiting for a doc appointment, or other waiting times. Second, the rise of online classes is relatively new way to teach/learn quilting. In some ways it’s probably more rewarding than real-world classes, and in some ways it might not be. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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      1. thimblesandteapots

        I love attending classes where I can spend a whole day (blissful!) sewing but I often find that classes are held during the week so I’m not able to attend. Online classes are great as you can access them whenever you have a bit of time. I do think that it’s assumed that quilters are retired folk who have lots of time to dedicate to quilting but I’d love to see a book/more publications for those of us who only have a little bit of time but who are still very keen…

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  20. Pingback: Creating… – tierneycreates

  21. 2 Yips and a Yap

    I love to do Halloween quilts, because I love the jewel tones of fall. I’ve plans for lots of geeky quilts. In 5 years I’ll have a strong diversified business, and appreciate other quilt types more.

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  22. annwalsh2015 Walsh

    Thank you for visiting my blog and liking my post https://annwalshquilting.com/2016/08/05/music-montage/. Your post here provoked some interesting responses! I don’t always leave comments on blog posts, but this sounded like fun 🙂

    I’m one of the newbies; I started free motion quilting not quite a year and a half ago. I fell into it unexpectedly, which is a whole story in itself, and was immediately hooked. The changes I’ve experienced so far are going from basic open edge to edge designs to intricate variations and border work, to wildly quilted whole cloth projects (my current favourite!). I’ve been told that I discovered a natural talent; I really can’t explain how I know how to do what I do, I just sit down and do it, so teaching others isn’t really in my plan because I don’t see myself being an effective teacher, other than perhaps showing someone the basics and giving them some hints.

    I love it, and I’m grateful I found this hobby; it’s my therapy and my entertainment, and I certainly hope to still be doing it five years from now. I generally make lap quilts or baby quilts rather than bed sized ones. Since starting my first quilt, I have completed over 90 quilts – many have been gifted, several have been sold, and I now do custom quilting for others as well. So I guess my hope for the future of my quilting would be that I would continue to sell my quilts and do custom work.

    I’m not interested in becoming an appraiser or even participating in competitions. For me, the most fun part of all is the quilting process itself, and I piece only to have things to quilt, so intricate piecing patterns don’t appeal to me at all, even though I can always appreciate the work others have done on them. I’m not a real fabric stasher, beyond having a few basic things on hand so I don’t run out of things to make. I do enjoy seeing the new fabric lines as they come out and I do tend to shop within collections to save myself time and energy so I can give more of that to actually quilting.

    I think every quilter finds their own particular joy within the scope of this hobby, and whether or not people who start out keep going for years doesn’t matter to me. Sometimes a hobby fills a void in a person’s life for a reason and then they move on, and sometimes it sticks for many years. That’s what is so great about crafting – the creative spirit is in us and it comes out in different ways throughout our lives 🙂

    Thanks for giving the opportunity to think about things from this perspective by asking good questions 🙂

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Thanks for reading and commenting! It’s so fun to learn more about other quilters. Thanks for sharing some of your journey. As to why the FMQ clicks for you, I’ll guess you have a way of seeing the surface that is a little different than most people. Your perception of empty/negative space may simply be a bit keener, and your instant imagination for filling that space a little more active!

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  23. myquiltprojects

    Right now quilting is at a high. Very trendy. I presume with the deaths of many baby boomers, their wealth in fabrics will flood the markets in estate sales and craigslist ads and the quilters ecomony will take its sweet time recovering. I also think because the baby boomers are nearing their end, that the teachers of the craft will take much wisdom with them and so we may have knowledge but less wisdom in the craft. I hope I am wrong.

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Demographics are against the craft, at least for a time. The members of my local guild are mostly several years older than I am. In my small group of 9 women, I am the youngest by about 10 years, and most of them are about 20 years older than I. Combine that with the “younger generation” of crafters, most of whom will find other pursuits, at least for a time. Thanks for reading and commenting today.

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  24. melissabluefineart

    These are interesting questions and I can apply them to painting. For myself, I see painting right to the day I die, even if I have to tape the brush to my hand. I hope you continue to make large quilts. New markets can be found online. I have a book by Cory Huff entitled, “Selling Your Work Online” that is full of good information. One of my strategies is to paint small canvases I can knock out fairly easily and offer them for low prices. This often leads to larger sales from the same collector a year or 2 down the road.

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  25. pamelapandolfi

    I am an avid quilter as well! I have gone through the process of achieving my NQA Certified Teacher Program. However, the organization has disassembled before I could present my dissertation. I love teaching and sharing my knowledge as well! I see that quilting is moving towards the “slow” movement. Where hand quilting is making a comeback. It will never go away completely. I feel people are always going to continue to quilt.

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I agree that “slow” is one of the trends we’re seeing now. That’s a positive in a world where everyone wants patterns for FAST and QUICK and quilts in a weekend! Sure, I can make quick quilts, too, and occasionally do. But my satisfaction isn’t primarily from speed. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  26. 1quilter

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I have thought about what I’d like to do with my quilting and am trying to learn more to make that happen.
    I started quilting when my children were young. Self taught and not fully understanding some quiltingnot musts, I made mistakes. Stopped after about four years. Life changes and I did not return until I was retired. What a change in the quilting world.
    Now I’m trying every technique out there to see where my real interests are hiding​. Having fun and learning a lot.

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