The Cost of Cotton. Ouch.

My absence in blogging this past week has not been due to me being glued at my sewing machine, sewing away till my fingers bleed. Really, it’s been because I have been laid up with whatever disgusting virus this is and the mere thought of sitting up makes me tired. Unfortunately my company has this weird rule that if you miss three days of work, you need a doctor’s note. Instead of being in bed, where I should be, I’m at work, hacking up a lung and wishing someone would put my wheezing self out to pasture.

I don’t know about you out there in Sewing Land, but here in Southern Maryland, I’ve noticed fabric prices are starting to climb. Luckily, I have a very scary fabric stash that keeps me from buying too much new fabric, but on the occasion that I need something specific, I’ve noticed fabric prices everywhere from $4 a yard for a solid cotton to $10 a yard for something designer-branded. And let me tell you, I swoon for some of that $10 a yard fabric, like Timber.

Material Girls Quilt Shop in La Plata posted this great article “What’s up with Cotton” published in American Quilt Retailer. In the article, industry leaders responded to the rising costs. A reminder in the first response by Richard Gross of Avlyn, Inc. is that cotton is a commodity. With flooding in Pakistan, the cotton supplies are short and at the same time, there is speculation of hording. More demand, the more they can ask. Prices are fluctuating between $1.25 a pound and $2.00 a pound for immediate delivery. Marcus Fabrics president, Stephanie Dell’olio, says cotton prices are 100% higher than what they were last year.

Other reasons float throughout the commentary include the weakening of the dollar, labor shortages (and greater demands for fair labor), global economics and instability, and the cost of energy.

While I dislike the increase in costs, I’m all for supporting those who work in the fields and mills so they are adequately paid. I’m also for encouraging our economic friends into using greener energy to produce the goods we like. If prices must go up to support those reasons, then so be it.

One commenter, Jason Yenter, president of In the Beginning Fabrics encourages us to forget the cost of fabric. “Last year it may have cost $100 to make a quilt – this year it might be $115 – $120. I do not think that increase will keep most quilters from quilting. I do however think, now more than ever, that store owners and employees can soften this blow by being even more helpful to customers, welcoming them into their stores, and really pushing quilting as a fun and friendship building activity – customer service is truly what will keep quilting healthy and alive during these challenging economic times and help to keep customer’s minds of the price increases.”

I strive to shop at the local stores, where I tend to pay $8-$10 a yard for cotton, rather than some of the other chains (though admittedly, I will run to Joanns when I know that’s where I can get a certain product or if it’s convenient. Hey- don’t judge, gas prices are high!). I also try to buy patterned fabric that is woven, not printed. Keeping those local businesses open is vital. Like Yenter says, it’s friendship building. The service I get is special and they are willing to sit and talk about projects, machinery, or whatever. And I appreciate the stores that offer programs like “buy X amount of fabric and get a yard free,” like Olde Towne Stitchery in Leonardtown. That keeps me coming back.

So while I don’t know where prices are going (besides up) maybe we can see a return to textile production here in the US. Maybe it’s wishful thinking. Maybe we’ll see more re-use of fabric, like when quilts were made of old shirts and other clothes…those beautiful old scrap quilts. Maybe we’ll be hanging onto our snippets of fabric a little more, or holding fabric swaps (I’m all for it!) But where ever it goes one thing I hope to see is people not abandoning the art of sewing (side note to that, and not using synthetics, BLEH).



Filed under Crafting, fabric, sewing

5 responses to “The Cost of Cotton. Ouch.

  1. esposetta

    As someone who just started sewing, this rise is kind of depressing. But I know how much I pay for things retail, and if I can learn a skill, I may as well shell out the $10 and get what I really want.

    Also, this is really a coincidence, but you came up on my little Tag Surfer thing and I live in Silver Spring! I used to live in Chesapeake Beach when I was a kid. I’m not sure how things are in Southern Maryland but up here it’s hard to even find a JoAnn’s or Hancock’s, much less a local quilt shop that carries Moda, Michael Miller and Amy Butler. So depressing! I hope you’re having more luck than me :)

    • arguinglulu

      But you have G Street!!! I love G Street Fabrics and when I get up there, I spend SO MUCH MONEY! I don’t know if you’re like me, I’m extremely tactile…but a lot of places do online purchasing (like Material Girls in LaPlata). I have difficulty with buying even 100% cotton online! But sometimes when a pattern is so awesome, you take the plunge!

      Remember to hit the thrift stores, people donate fabric that they don’t use, hit yard sales (another great resource) and cut up what you already have! T-shirt mods are a lot of fun.

      Keep me updated with what you sew! It’s way better to have something you love and you made yourself rather than the same ol’ that’s off the rack! Good luck!

      • esposetta

        Maybe I’m missing something that everyone else loves about G Street, but I’ve been to the Rockville and Falls Church locations and have never left happy. It’s disorganized, no one’s ever around to help and they’re always out of all the notions. Maybe I’m just picky! The biggest problem I have online is matching colors if I don’t want to stay within one designer’s line. I just bought some fabric yesterday and I’m hoping they’ll all go well together, because if not, I’m screwed.

        Thanks for the support! I’m hoping to get more creative along the way but right now I’m sticking to patterns and going from there. I sewed until 11:30 last night and it was extremely relaxing…until I messed it up royally and had to call it a night.

  2. arguinglulu

    I have to have patience and a bottle of water when I go. But they have SO MUCH. It’s overwhelming but they have things that are higher quality than some of the other stores. But if you make it down to Charles County, Material Girls is LOVELY. I can’t stress that enough. You can order online, but their store is great.

    Did the fabric you bought match? I’d love to know. And I’d love to see what you sewed! Congrats on sewing till 1130…I know those nights (and when you throw the seam ripper across the room and say foul words. I know those too. I had one yesterday).

    • Emily

      I think that’s it–I can’t deal with how overwhelming it is, especially because I always go alone. If my mom or a friend were there, I’d have better luck because I could talk it out with someone. I’m just now starting to venture into the world outside of quilting fabrics, so it’s incredibly intimidating. I haven’t been to southern Maryland since right after I left–six years now? Wow–so I should probably head down at some point. It would be a nice way to spend a Saturday!

      I’m still waiting on the package with the fabric that may or may not match. Here’s hoping it does! But my first project went well (I even blogged about it!) and I plan on at least starting another this week. I have the fever!

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