While the official numbers are not in it is pretty clear that this market was lightly attended which is always a worry for both vendors and Quilts Inc. itself. Teachers including myself reported greatly reduced class numbers which from a quick look at the offerings was not due to subpar content but to the overall lower numbers and shop owners with thinner budgets once again this season.  And yet the vendors I spoke with said that those who were there were buying, maybe not at much but they were placing orders.

Those orders are a good sign for a Market that was plagued by not only worries from the Houston floods earlier this year but also due to the challenges brought forth by the exuberant and often inebriated joy of Houston Astros fans flooding downtown for a little yearly sporting event called The World Series.  As luck and baseball would have it the Series landed on the very same week in a town that already stretches itself to accommodate sewing industry professionals each late October.

As always there was a tremendous amount of eye-candy to be had. You would have to have been not looking to have not picked up at least a little bit of inspiration from the gorgeous booth displays that while maybe not as “over the top” (read as – tedious and expensive to ship-in and set up) as they have been in some years they did a great job of helping to tell the story of the fabric lines and notions that need to be on everyone’s shopping lists this season.

New this year was “Demo-Alley”. A full row devoted to a revolving series of brands using this dedicated space to show how their products work. I have to admit this seemed an odd choice given that the day before was a full day of School-House sessions devoted to the same concept but for those shops without the budget to come in for that extra day this was a time to get up-close and personal with new products they might not know about.

I feel safe in proclaiming this – The Market of the Sloth – with a quick second going to a whole parade of cat themed fabrics as well. Colors continue to be hot and deep and while not gone I did not see as much ‘low-volume” (pale) colorways as we have seen in the past few markets. Clothing and embellishing continue to gain strength with a rise of machine embroidery once again on the horizon. I was excited to see even more diverse substrates such as Bark Cloth, Cork, Hemp and even faux-furs.  Quilt shops will need to step up their educational offerings and project specific classes to help consumers sew with these great new options.

Of course, Quilt Market is more than just quilts, a strong Cos-Play vibe was in the air with many shop owners crowding around the booth for Sew Much Cosplay looking for ways to embrace and woo this quilt shop warry customer and learn about this often misunderstood new force that is sweeping through the industry. With many products being offered to meet their needs it is clear that turning a blind eye to this trend will be akin to leaving money on the table in the coming years.

While the business of quilting can be serious if I had to pick a single word for this market I would use the word “whimsy”. From fairies, to gnomes to happy colors and light-hearted design it seems that the industry is answering the need for some happiness in a time that feels rather dark to a lot of people therefore opening the potential for sewing and quilting shops to create a safe and happy refuge from the world around, if only for an hour or two.

Of course, those with a heart for traditional design, hand stitching and wool were not out in the cold. Lots of classics still abound but possibly fewer than in years past. Now whether this reflects the industry as a whole or the fact that brands and designers have more effective and less costly ways to keep in contact with their customer year-round rather than investing in Market will play out over the coming years.  The classic offerings were impeccable with everything from Sue Spargo’s use of bright happy wool to the very quiet but intensely detailed work of Japanese’s Quilting legend Yoko Saito.

For shop owners and industry professionals Quilt Market affords the chance not only to talk directly to each other but also BE with each other in a way that just does not happen via text, Facebook or even Facetime. So, while I could make a LONG-list of the parts of Quilt Market that I think are a total fail in this digital age I do think there are legitimate reasons for us to gather and spend time face to face building a better and more supportive industry.

Things I saw and loved!

1)    Sewing on the go with Fat Quarter Gypsy’s new Thread Wallet

2)    Sue O’Very’s  In The Hoop Projects

3)    Love Bug Studio’s new independent line of fabric die’s for diecutting

4)    Lots of cute sewing for kids

5)    Textural quilt embellishment – Chenille-It Blooming Bias

Maddie Kertay is the founder of BadAss Quilters Society, wife, mother and eater of raw cookie dough when no one is looking. Her passion is to the bring a greater since of voice and inclusion to the quilt and crafting world.

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