Category Archives: Quilting as a Business

How Much Does It Cost?

Two things quilters often hear are “how long did it take you?” and “you should sell those!” Of course, the two thoughts are related, as we often place value on things (consciously or not) based on how long they take. What is the value of having your furnace repaired? Do you determine that based on how long it took the furnace tech to fix it, or on whether or not your home gets increasingly colder?

Time has value, and expertise has value.

I’m in a Facebook group focused on longarm quilting. The members range from experienced professionals to raw rookies, quilting for their own pleasure. From both ends of the spectrum, questions arise about how to value their work. Recently a member asked how to price a queen-sized quilt, which someone had asked her to make as a commission. Another member suggested using a simple formula of charging three times the cost of materials. In other words, if materials cost $100, you should charge $300 for the quilt.

Let’s do that math and see how that works out.

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More on Tariffs and Quilting

I wrote the other day about upcoming tariffs and their effects on the quilting industry. The main point of my post was to define terms — what is a tariff? and what is a trade deficit? — and to note that the proposed tariffs are targeted to consumer goods, including fabric and other craft goods, from China. You can find a list of the targeted goods here.

A great new source for information on tariffs is this podcast with a trade law expert named David Gantz. It’s about 35 minutes and is presented by Just Wanna Quilt, the research project led by Elizabeth Townsend Gard from Tulane University.

A primary concern to quilters is woven cotton fabrics. From what I could learn, approximately 30% of imported woven cottons are from China. (There are a number of woven cottons on the linked list, starting on page 125.) Of course, woven cottons include lots of different things, right? There are denims and broadcloths and dress fabrics and flannels and decorator fabrics. Lots of things, including quilting cottons.

There is some good news about quilting cottons. Though I can’t find any stats on this, according to Abby Glassenberg’s new Craft Industry Alliance post, “The majority of premium quilting cotton sold in independent quilt shops are imported from Korea and Japan and will not be tariffed.”

If you look on the end of a bolt, it shows country of origin. People who’ve looked in quilt shops seem to be saying that this is true, the majority show Korea or Japan as the source. However, as reported by Abby Glassenberg, there are quilting fabric companies who have recently started having digital printing done in China. A source of mine says digital printing allows better color control and smaller batches. I’ve been told that the ink toners for digital printing are more environmentally friendly than screen printing colors. These factors make digital printing an attractive alternative, and China, apparently, does them well and cheaply.

This doesn’t speak to the proportion of quilting fabrics at Joann’s and other big-box stores that are from China. I don’t know anything about these numbers.

More importantly, I don’t care. To me, it doesn’t matter if Joann’s buys all of their fabrics from China and “quilt shops” buy all of their fabric from other countries. Other than pure intellectual curiosity, I don’t care.

Here’s the thing: as long as I’ve quilted I’ve heard people say “I’d never shop at Joann’s” and
“I’d never shop at Walmart for fabric.” There has always been a “good fabric comes from quilt shops” and “I don’t buy fabric from Joann’s because it’s icky” vibe from a lot of quilters. But you can’t tell what’s good or bad by where you buy it. What’s important is how it looks and feels and holds up to the purpose. I’d love to set up a blind test for those who think they can tell the difference.

It would pain me personally to see an increase in quilt snobbery. I’d hate to think that, because I can afford to shop at a quilt shop, I shouldn’t care what happens to those who shop at Joann’s, either because that’s the only store around or because that’s what they can afford. It reminds me of those who don’t care about food deserts, where people have their gas station quick mart to get groceries and not much more, and then make opinionated remarks about how those people should just buy better quality food. This issue of tariffs makes me concerned that same style of snobbery will show itself even more than usual in quilting.

Let’s not be like that. Let’s be supportive of quilters and other makers, regardless of where they buy their materials. Let’s look at the issue of tariffs and how it will affect quilting, not how it will affect ourselves personally. Quilters are generous. We give quilts, we teach, we share. Let’s be generous with our attitudes, as well.

Tariffs and the Cost of Quilting

Have you paid any attention to the new tariffs imposed on goods imported to the US? I’ll tell the truth: there is so much chaos in the political news all the time, I haven’t keyed in on this as much as I should. However, yesterday I saw two articles on the tariffs and the cost of quilting. The issue in total is worth understanding better, and if this is our entry into that understanding, so be it.

The first item to clear up is the term “tariff.” A tariff is a tax or duty paid on a class of imported goods. (Alternately, it could be imposed on goods being exported, to be paid before they leave the country.) The importer pays the tariff. If the importer re-sells that good directly, they will need to increase the price at which they sell, in order to recoup the expense of the tariff. If they don’t increase the price, their profit will be reduced or wiped out. If the importer is a manufacturer, they may be able to cut costs elsewhere to reduce the impact of the tariff. However, that will have a different effect, perhaps on the other suppliers they buy from, or on labor, or on the end buyer of their goods.

In July, the Trump administration announced that new tariffs would be imposed on the import of $34 billion of Chinese goods coming into the US. The intention was to make Chinese goods more expensive for American consumers, so we would import less Chinese product as compared to the amount of US product we export to China. In addition, American businesses would theoretically be “protected” from foreign competition, allowing them to increase their sales.

A trade deficit is the amount by which a country’s imports exceed its exports. According to the US Census Bureau, at the end of June, the US had a trade deficit with China of $185.7 billion for the year to date. In other words, we imported $185.7 billion more from China than we exported to China so far in 2018. In 2017, it was more than $375 billion for the year as a whole.

So far, that sounds reasonable, right? If we want a different balance of trade, we should (preferably) export more, and possibly import less. Tariffs would be a good way to import less. (There are a lot of economic reasons this may or may not make sense at all. Way beyond the scope of this little post.)

The hitch in this plan comes in with retaliation and escalation. As soon as the tariffs were announced, China declared their own set of tariffs on incoming American goods. And in return, trump has set in motion more tariffs against China, as well as new ones against Canada, Mexico, the European Union, and Japan. A wide range of goods from all over the world will be more expensive for Americans.

So how does this all affect the quilting industry? After August 30, another $200 billion of Chinese goods will be subject to tariffs that could be from 10-25% of value. In 2017, the US imported $6 billion worth of fabric of all types. Not all of that was from China, but from what I can gather (a variety of somewhat confusing sources,) about 30% of woven cottons are from China.

It is reasonable to assume that the prices we pay for fabric will go up, on average. Fabric companies will have to cover the tariffs as they import, and that cost will need to be covered by the consumer to maintain their profits. Small retailers (local quilt stores) may not be able to pass on the price increases to their own customers, which could lead to more shops leaving business.

In addition, textile machinery, including sewing machines not made in America, may have increased prices. (Which “domestic” or regular sewing machines are actually made in America these days? Any?) Tariffs on goods coming from the European Union and Japan might hit that market. Parts for repair of your older machine could face the same hurdles. Many gadgets and notions are made in China and may have higher prices, too.

I don’t have the answers on this, but I advise you to pay attention. Some retailers, including JoAnn Fabrics and Dharma Trading Co. have already notified customers that tariffs may affect pricing.

Here are the two articles I saw yesterday. One is from craft industry expert and reporter, Abby Glassenberg. Mostly, it explains that she is researching the issue and will be reporting on it soon. Sign up for her newsletter for notification on this concern, as well as other great stuff on the craft world.

https://whileshenaps.com/2018/08/on-embracing-the-unknown.html

The other item was from Quartz. It gives another brief summary of the upcoming changes.

https://qz.com/1365978/the-all-american-pastime-of-quilting-is-being-tucked-into-the-trade-war/

Updated to include a link to this article in Bloomberg:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-08-21/retailer-joann-calls-on-crafters-to-oppose-trump-s-tariffs

Update 2: As said below in comments, ‘My post is NOT about the politics of this, from either side. As I mentioned, there are economic arguments in both directions. And this is not a question or post about “is it worth it.” It is ONLY to let people know this is an issue they should be aware of. If there are more comments on the politics of it, I will delete them.’ I have very strong opinions on the politics of this. As a retired investment professional with degrees in finance and economics, and many years experience in the field, I also know a few things about the economics of it. I WILL NOT DEBATE those issues here, and I will not allow for others to do so, either. That, again, is NOT the point of the post. Thanks for your respect on this.

Expect to see more on this soon. If enacted, these tariffs have the potential of affecting every part of the quilting industry.

 

 

 

 

Design Theft or Outright Scam

UPDATE: THESE SITES ARE SCAMMING!

See my new post with a better update, including links to more information and how you can report the scamming ads and pages to Facebook.

There seems to be a never-ending succession of sites popping up, often advertising with photos in Facebook. Those who have tried to order are reporting that the product is never delivered. Complaints to Facebook haven’t been going anywhere, according to those commenting below and other comments I’ve seen. Facebook claims that the ads don’t violate their standards. There are 3 things about this that are illegal and/or unethical: 1) they are stealing money from people who order products in good faith; 2) they are stealing information from people, including name, address, credit card number, etc.; 3) they are stealing photos of quilts and presumably other items to show as the items for sale.

If you see these ads in Facebook, please comment to warn others that the ad and site are a scam. Thanks as always for reading here.

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Some of you are aware of the quilting-and-copyright research project called Just Wanna Quilt. I wrote a little about it here.

Besides the website with interview podcasts (including mine!), there is also a Facebook group linked to the research. The lead researcher, Elizabeth Townsend Gard, is using the group as a way to learn more about the culture of quilting. You can join, too!

Because the research focuses on intellectual property, Facebook group members post interesting items on the topic. Recently there was a post about a company that, apparently, steals quilt designs and prints them on low-quality blanket material. Or perhaps, what they’re doing is using the designs to collect orders, with credit card information, and then not delivering on the order. Whether it is phishing or scamming or stealing designs, it’s kind of horrifying that they are making money on the backs of talented designers and quilters.

Here are three of the companies that are involved with this. I’m not going to add active links, but you can check for yourself if you’re interested. Company names include
ustrendygear.com
greatbuyaz.com
usgearviral.com

A friend tagged me with a link to a picture of a great “quilt blanket” offered by one of these companies. The price of the supposed blanket was $49.95. It was NOT a quilt. And again, without trying to make a purchase, who knows if there really is a product, or if it is a phishing scam?

I looked up the quilt design the friend showed me. It was an elaborately appliquéd quilt, pattern by McKenna Ryan. You can find the pattern, as listed for sale by Ryan’s own site, here. The image below is a linked image from Pine Needles, Ryan’s store. As you can see, this is NOT a cheap blanket. It’s not a $50 item. The actual value would be in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars, based on all the time required to replicate it in appliqué.

McKenna Ryan’s pattern And On That Farm, https://www.pineneedles.com/And-On-That-Farm-s/1920.htm

Here is the product description from the scammer company page (NOT McKenna Ryan’s company.)

And here is a screen shot of the “returns policy” for the scammer company.

I clicked through the link my friend gave me, and on that original post, I said it was McKenna Ryan’s design, and the company appeared to have stolen the design to print it on cheap blanket fabric. Soon after, whoever originally posted it removed the link.

Have you seen this type of Facebook post? You’re welcome to share my post with friends or your online quilting groups, if you’d like to warn them of the scams.

Just Wanna Quilt

Have you heard about Just Wanna Quilt? It is a research project on quilting, with the ultimate focus on copyright and intellectual property issues of the quilting industryElizabeth Townsend Gard, the lead researcher, law professor, and a quilter herself, is going full-immersion into quilting to understand the subject better.

The long-term goal for the project, as summarized by Abby Glassenberg of While She Naps,

is to create two bodies of work about intellectual property as it relates to quilting … The first will be intended for the hobby quilter. It will include “everything you need to know about copyright and intellectual property when it comes to quilting. Just simple. So that we can get everyone on the same page on things they don’t understand.” The other will be a more in-depth work for people in the quilting industry. “Every single person in this field is using materials and you should feel confident in what you do with them so that you don’t get in trouble, or if you get in trouble you do it deliberately,” she says.

In a lot of academic research, the initial stage is a review of the existing literature. In quilting, there is very little formal (academic) research existing, outside of quilting history. Elizabeth’s project includes surveying the whole landscape to create a basis for the research product. To do so, she’s initiated a series of podcasts, interviewing dozens of participants in the quilting industry, from corporate leaders, entrepreneurs, fabric and pattern designers, and hobby quilters.

You can find those interviews here. I’ve barely scratched the surface listening to them — there are dozens, and more being added all the time. Most of them run between about 30 and 60 minutes. They’re the perfect thing to listen to while you’re working on a project. Elizabeth’s interview style is very conversational. She comes across as charming and funny, and the focus is always on the interview subject and their part of the quilting world. It’s so interesting and I’ve already learned so much.

And here is a fun thing — she’s just posted a podcast interviewing ME! Click on this link to find the recording. It’s 52 minutes, on the long side. We talk about how and why I started quilting, what medallion quilts are, how I see green quilting and our responsibility as quilters to make the Earth a better place, and more.

In truth I’m not sure how this helps the research, but I had so much fun sharing my quilting world. 🙂 Thanks in advance if you choose to listen. Either way, check out the long list of podcasts available. If you love quilting, you’re sure to find this fascinating, as I do.