Spring Quilt Market took place this past weekend (May 18-21, 2017) in St. Louis, Missouri. Quilt Market, organized by Quilts, Inc., is a credentialed trade show that occurs twice a year. The location of each spring Market changes (next year will be in Portland), but the fall Market is always in Houston. Quilt Market is held in a convention center with hundreds of exhibitors in a traditional trade show format.
In addition to the trade show, Quilt Market begins with Schoolhouse sessions on Thursday. Sessions are workshops for quilt shops hosted by exhibitors. Thursday evening is Sample Spree – the first opportunity to buy new fabric lines as precut bundles before it is available to the public. It is meant as a way for quilt shops and pattern designers to buy the fabric to make samples in time for when the fabric is released.
This was my first time attending Quilt Market! I did not attend any Schoolhouse sessions, but did attend Sample Spree and all three days of the show.
The crowd at Sample Spree.
The line for Sample Spree started to form four hours before it started! Since I was not attending the Schoolhouse sessions, I was able to join the line early. Everyone in the front of the line had made prioritized lists of what fabrics they wanted to purchase. Groups of two or more divided their lists and double checked the map. Once the doors opened, everyone raced in, and it became clear almost immediately which companies were the most popular! The Moda table was by far the most crowded and fabric there sold out quickly. Even though Sample Spree was very crowded, everyone I encountered was friendly and patient.
Friday morning, buyers and industry professionals converged on the show floor. I decided to walk the entire floor the first day. The show was visually overwhelming, and I quickly had to decide to skip booths that didn’t catch my eye right away in order to get through the entire show. There were booths for every niche within the industry – reproduction fabrics, modern fabrics, thread, wool, handwork, batting, domestic machine quilting, longarm quilting, traditional patterns, modern patterns, small notions, furniture, lighting, etc., etc., etc. I made notes of booths that were busy and ones that I wanted to spend more time at another day. Saturday and Sunday I was able to focus more on my own business goals and met with several exhibitors for both networking and business opportunities.
Just Add Sugar is a new collection by Simple Simon and Company for Riley Blake.
I purposely stopped to engage in conversation with all types of exhibitors throughout the show. Every exhibitor would immediately look at my badge to see if I was a buyer or industry professional. Although this would immediately change the tone of the conversation, by far the majority of exhibitors were kind, encouraging, and positive. There was an undertone of “it takes all of us for the industry to thrive” in every conversation.
Rifle Paper for Cotton + Steel.
On the flip side, attendance was low. Every exhibitor commented on the lower than usual buyer attendance (even though spring Markets usually have lower attendance than Houston, most said this was the lowest they had seen). Aisles were often empty, and lunch time nearly cleared the floor completely. Many exhibitors commented that the buyers that were there were definitely buying, so they were encouraged by that. Still, the vibe of the show was positive and everyone was looking forward.
When looking for trends, one thing stood out: fabric substrates meant for clothing. Rayon, knit, lawn, and even corduroy seemed popular in every fabric booth. Most designers were even wearing handmade clothes.
Tim Holtz’s booth for his new Dapper fabric with Free Spirit Fabric
There were two noticeable themes throughout the show – llamas and cats! Several fabric companies had fabric lines featuring cats (both traditional and modern fabric lines!), and there were multiple quilts showcasing llamas. There were animals of all types on every aisle.
As a first time Market attendee, I left feeling very encouraged! I was able to network with other industry professionals, clarify my own business goals, and it was exciting to be a part of the hype and launch of what is new in the industry!
Laura Piland is a quilter, pattern designer, and homeschooling mom of two boys. She’s also an ex-math teacher. Catch up with her at Slice of Pi Quilts.