Friday, July 10, 2020

Quilting and Covid-19

Today's post is a bit unusual for me, as it's not full of pretty quilts or a helpful tutorial. Instead, I'm pulling out my crystal ball to view the state of quilting, or any business for that matter, during the Covid-19 pandemic.

crystal ball surrounded by hands

So here we are, 4 months after my county became the first to issue stay-at-home orders, shuttering businesses and laying off workers. The immediate impact was astonishing, with long, masked and social distanced lines of people attempting to acquire basics necessities to live. And yes, there were shortages, some of which have recovered, and some that have still not. 

So what's this have to do with quilting? Many quilters turned into mini factories, making masks for those who had none. Some, with new found time on their hands, dusted off the sewing machine and are learning to quilt. From my fellow bloggers, many find this a chance to finish those UFO's, start projects that have been held in waiting, and use up what's in our extensive fabric stashes.

But eventually, we're going to run out of fabric, thread, batting, etc. Really? Is that possible? We've already seen it with elastic for masks becoming a scarce commodity. So, yes, there will come a time when there's not enough of some supply to finish a quilt, and we'll need to go shopping.

Which brings me to: Have you been to you're local quilt shop or fabric store lately? I visited JoAnn's two weeks ago in search of a few greens. And this is what I saw: 

half empty fabric aisle in JoAnn fabrics in June 2020

another half empty fabric aisle in JoAnn fabrics

a lot of empty shelves, and bolts still in plastic wrap. I'm not sure if the plastic was due to lessening contamination, or if there just wasn't enough staff to unwrap them. Visits to other quilt shops, or any store for that matter, reveal their shelves are also becoming bare, with expected orders delayed. It is a disheartening site.

Now, if we think about this, country-wide shutdowns happened in March. Which means manufacturing of new goods was halted, as were deliveries. Stores that were allowed to stay open used or sold what they had in stock. If they received ANY new stock, it was most likely from what was held in a warehouse.

With no or curtailed manufacturing, the warehouses are now becoming depleted. This affects not just the quilting industry, but many others as medical supplies are once again becoming scarce. Manufacturing has not fully ramped up in order to restock the warehouses. 

Which brings me to: Have you tried to order fabric (or anything) online? I have, and have been met with 'out of stock - provide your email and we'll let you know when it's back in', to 'out of stock - expected delivery mid-August'. With shut downs happening again, who knows if and when deliveries will happen. A massive snowball is just starting to form: if there's no manufacturing, there's no deliveries, translating to no sales, and worst case, more out-of-business signs.

The supply chain is not looking good, and I'm concerned about what we're going to see 6 months to year from now, not only in the quilting industry, but other goods too. I truly hope it does not get worse, and that our country can get back to work, and our economy humming again. 

As quilters, we'll make do with what we have, as is the history of quilting. And if we have to return that UFO to the pile, then so be it. It will get finished eventually. As for new projects, who knows?

I'm sorry for the distressing view from my crystal ball. A year from now, I want to look back at this post and say that my prediction was wrong, along with a more positive, uplifting view of the future. But the way things are headed, my prediction just may become reality - consider this a heads up. And if it does, we will find a way to cope, as humans have done for thousands of years, in even more dire circumstances than now. 

We will get through this.


  1. I haven't been to JoAnn's since before Covid but I have shopped at a local fabric store 3 miles from my home. Their shelves are full, from fabrics to notions. I don't know what the difference is but I certainly hope there's no fabric shortage. I do know that I have been trying to use from my stash and not run to the store as much. I've never been one to order online, I want to actually see and touch the fabric before purchasing.

    I know I'm going to can and freeze more food this season than I normally do. We've also got a beef lined up for butchering in November. And every time I go to a store that has tp, I buy a package. This isn't hoarding, there's plenty of tp left on the shelf, I'm thinking ahead!

  2. Haven't been to JoAnn but Walmart looks much more bare in our area. My LQS still has fabric but she ran out of a lot of solids, especially black. She said orders are delayed at times. I try to shop there the most (masked) to help keep the family business afloat.

    I hope you are wrong but. . . . As an aside, one of my sewing machines stopped working. When I went to my local repairman who is awesome, they were so backed up with repair orders that machines covered all the counters. I went back a few days ago and there is still a backlog. He said he might catch up in August. They also are a BabyLock dealer. Machines costing less that $2500 were gone. They finally started to get some machines back in to sell this week.

  3. I personally have not gone anywhere since March. Hubby shops for groceries and we buy other things online. So the delivery services like USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc. are still going strong. I have purchased a few items from online quilt shops. People are upcycling and recycling more than ever in the sewing world. As both a bag maker and a quilter, I have seen FB groups show items made using shirts, skirts, jeans and shower curtains. What most lack is interfacing. I have been collecting fabric (and using it) for decades, so I have more than enough to keep me busy. I also have tons of thread and hardware and notions. Yes UFO's are getting done and new projects too. Without all my supplies to keep me busy, I would go crazy and get depressed. I do think a lot of businesses have and will close for good, but with all that has happened, it brings up new opportunities if you are a go-getter to create new businesses because of what is going on. Lots of businesses have died in the past because newer things have taken their place. Remember 8-track tapes, Cassette tapes, then CD's and iPods and we have apps for everything. I predict we will see new items and new business crop up in the ruin of others. Big box business has been dying as have shopping malls anyway, so maybe this Covid 19 is just the last nail on the coffin? We have the means to educate all grades from elementary through college with online courses. No it's not the same as being in person, especially with the youngest, but it can be done, and I wonder if it will be the new norm being schooled at home online? And a lot of businesses can work from home, so why don't they continue work from home? We have seen how much cleaner our air has become without all the traveling and polluting the world over, so if more can stay home to work and school then that would reduce traffic, pollution, crime, accidents, etc. Maybe there is some good coming out of all of this? Humans do have short memories though and if we don't take steps to prevent more of the same, we will once again be repeating history as we have done before.

  4. I continue to keep stocked up with food,non food and quilting supplies - I say get it when you can and keep stocked - I have a feeling the whole year is going to be like this. I keep having trouble with my sewing machine and no place close to take it so I am ordering another as soon as I can - I think things will be worse towards winter

  5. For the first time since March I was in Joanne’s and noticed the same. Actually, it was the first time I as in a store other than grocery or drug store! I hardly ever shop there, but they are near the vet’s office so it was good to pick up a few things. Yes, empty shelves and I hadn’t thought about it. Predictions are hard to make. I know my local stores are getting shipments daily, but like many things, there were huge delays when China shut down and then each subsequent country. I do hope you are wrong and I am trying to stay on the optimistic side of things and hoping it all resolves sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I will wear my mask and do what I can to support to local businesses.

  6. I just got two bolts of fabric (black and whte solids) dropped shipped from Northcott (bought through a quilt store). Took two months from orderinng to get them but it has given me some hope.

  7. Interesting look at Joanns!! I ordered things from there for curbside delivery and they had everything I was ordering... our quilt shop has been great at having stuff - and the two fabric orders I placed came immediately... I had no idea others were having a hard time!!

  8. fabric store was very disappointing, so i went to
    goodwill outlet. (goods by the pound !!) found old table linens and plenty of men's shirts in beautiful colors. neckties too. keep an open mind, let go of perfection and create!!

  9. It will be a while before I use up all my stash. The only thing I will run out of is batting. I rarely shop at Joann's. We are (at least for now) blessed with 5 good quilt shops within a 40 minute drive. One of them has been regularly showing photos on Instagram of new fabric coming in. Yes, some of that was being held in the warehouse, but Benartex and Free Spirit are showing fall fabric lines with release dates in October. There will no doubt be shortages from time to time and I'm sure some of the shops will wind up closing, but it looks like there are a lot of new quilters and sewist who may keep demand up, so I'm going to try to be hopeful. What I find more depressing is the number of people including in hotspots who still refuse to mask up. They are the ones who will keep the virus going. So I'll be staying home, although New York is doing very well at the moment.

  10. I'm glad to hear there are a couple others out there who haven't been anywhere since March. I've just started this month getting caught up on my doctor appointments that were put off. Either by telemed or going in for necessary tests. I processed an order for marine vinyl from my local JoAnn (western NY state) for DH. My order showed he could do a curbside pick up but he didn't want to do that. So I had it shipped. It came from Mississippi! And folded instead of rolled. So he had to contend with wrinkles. Oh well. His decision!

  11. I fear that your crystal ball is pretty accurate. This is our new normal - masks, lack of goods, etc. But we will get through!!

  12. Our Joanne store looks very similar to yours!! Our local quilt store has remained open with limited hours and limited # of people entering at a time and so far, they have been able to keep their shelves stocked.
    Personally, I try to use as much from my overwhelming stash as possible with all the masks and scrub caps I've made. Now that schools are requiring them for teachers and students, I'll be vamping up on making masks again. UGH! I was so hoping to actually SEW or QUILT for a while.
    Don't worry about distressing news from your crystal ball. I think it is 100% accurate!

  13. I share your fears. Items becoming scarce seem to be the norm , life is really changing

  14. I have successfully ordered (and received) thread, fabric and batting from online stores. Visited Joann's after months and they seemed well-stocked. Yes, elastic was scarce but it is plentiful now.
    Our systems were designed for efficiency, not resilience. Our supply chains are meant to be economical not sustainable. The pandemic has only highlighted these issues. And unless we control the infection rates any attempts to revitalize the economy will be in vain.

  15. I don't know if any of you are familiar with Pink Castle fabrics which had a storefront presence and a lively on line presence. They are going out of business. Pink Castle had a unique voice in the world of fabrics unlike any other. I will miss them so much.

    This is just one result of the covid impact. Each time a store goes under, our choices become more limited. The fabric houses behind Pink Castle's unique voice will have one less outlet for sales perhaps causing their bankruptcy.

    I am afraid we are going to end up in a world of Wal-marts and Amazons which have their place in our lives but OH! what a limited world we will live in.

    I agree with Preeti we must control infection to have any hope.

  16. OH well, bottom line - after all Clay and I have been through the last 6 1/2 months, the Virus is nothing to me.

    I learned that things happen for a reason.

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