Recession can’t unravel quilters’ upsurge

“Let’s All Spring Forward,” a quilt made by Rosalie Baker of Davenport, Iowa, won best of show and $2,500 in the 2010 “Celebrate Spring!” competition at International Quilt Festival in Rosemont, Ill. Baker used hand-dyed fabrics, hand applique, machine quilting and hand painting in her quilt.

Karey Bresenhan, president of Quilts Inc.

Nancy Puentes, executive vice president of Quilts Inc.



If you’re a fan of the written word, as I am, the latest fabric collections should appeal to you. Text seemed to be the trend at the International Quilt Market’s trade show last month in Minneapolis.

Moda introduced a line titled “Punctuation” by Sandy Klop that’s full of @ signs, periods, exclamation points and semicolons. Ampersands and text, along with argyle designs and hearts are part of “Pure” by Sweetwater, a Colorado-based company near Fort Morgan. That’s just a couple of examples.

Other trends are:

Continued interest in apparel sewing for adults and children.

• Rickrack as embellishment.

• Zippers, some with bling.

Machine embroidery.

• Retro Christmas fabrics.

I also discovered three new items recently that are intended to make quilters’ lives easier. I haven’t tried them personally, so no guarantees, but they appeared to be worthwhile.

1. Hang It, Dang It made by Innovative Solutions of Laramie, Wyo. It’s a lightweight rod for hanging quilts, from 21 to 63 inches wide, that uses a powerful magnet in the center. The rod itself is hidden from sight, is self-leveling, requires only one nail for hanging and holds up to 40 pounds. Retails for $40–$50.

2. Steady Betty, keeps fabrics from slipping, works as a design board and pressing surface for uniform and straight seams. Two smaller versions are available as a no-slide surface for your machine foot pedal and a Ruler Betty to wrap around and secure a ruler when rotary cutting. Prices are $65 for a big board cover, $28 for the foot pedal version and $2.99 for the ruler version.

3. Heat Press Batting Together, 1.5-inch cloth tape on a 10-yard roll; the soft fusible allows quilters to adhere small pieces of leftover batting to form larger pieces for projects to be hand or machine quilted. One roll completes additions for three large quilts. Retails for $7-8 per roll.

The numbers are in, and the powers that be in the quilting industry could not be happier.

A Quilting in America 2010 survey shows that quilting enthusiasts spend almost $3.6 billion annually on their passion.

Even in the face of recent economic challenges, their spending has increased by 9 percent since the last survey results in 2006.

Karey Bresenhan, president of Quilts Inc., admits she was concerned the news “might not look good given the economic realities.”

“But as a fifth-generation quilter myself, I should have known better. Nothing keeps quilters from enjoying something that allows them to explore both their talents and their creativity,” the Houston resident says.

Quilts Inc. produces the International Quilt Festival for consumers and the trade show International Quilt Market. The company, along with Quilters Newsletter magazine, sponsored the independent survey.

Numbers were up from 2006 in other categories as well. The number of U.S. households with a “dedicated quilter” (one who spends more than $600 a year on quilting supplies) is up 13 percent with a little more than 1 million. And the average yearly expenditure is up by 10 percent at $2,442.

While dedicated quilters continue to indulge their hobby, the survey found that the total number of quilting households declined by 14 percent to 16.38 million.

This downturn is attributed to casual quilters whose interests encompass other crafts, and casual quilters are less able or less willing to commit funs to a hobby, according to survey officials.

However, the average yearly expenditure among all quilting households is up a healthy 27 percent.

“Although the total number of people quilting in the U.S. has contracted, I think that the rest of the results are a positive sign given overall economic conditions, says Tina Battock, vice president, Group Publisher of Creative Crafts Groups (publisher of Quilters Newsletter).

“The core group of quilting enthusiasts retains its relative affluence and ability to direct discretionary spending toward its interests,” she says.

Adds Bresenhan: “We’ve also seen factual growth in the industry at International Quilt Market.”

At the spring event in Minneapolis in May, the total number of exhibitors and total number of booths both increased by an average of 20 percent over last year’s trade show.

Quilting in America 2010 is the sixth in a series of studies since 1994 with the intent of measuring the amount of time and money quilters spend on their hobby and profiling key segments of the market.


For their outstanding longtime contributions and support of the art of quilt making and quilt appreciation in both the United States and abroad, Bresenhan and Quilts Inc. Executive Vice President Nancy Puentes each received an Outreach Award in April from the Colorado Quilting Council.

The presentation was made during the spring International Quilt Festival in Chicago. They were nominated for the award by Bobbie Aug of Colorado Springs, author, teacher and quilt appraiser.

“Because of their experience, guidance and dedication to quilters worldwide, they have enriched the lives of thousands,” Aug said.

The International Quilt Festival in Houston was founded in 1974.

In a joint statement, Bresenhan and Puentas said:

“This incredible art form has taken us both on an amazing journey over the years, and the excitement of being involved in such a creative industry inspires us every day.”

The Colorado Quilting Council is a nonprofit statewide organization that encourages a high standard of excellence in quilting.

The group also publishes newsletters, sponsors workshops, shows and retreats, and trains quilt show judges.

With dedicated quilters leading the way, we can only hope the rest of the nation’s economy follows such a positive pattern.

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