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).