Is Computerized Quilting Killing the Local Quilt Show?

This weekend is my guild’s quilt show. Quilt shows are big deals for guilds. For most, it’s how they make their money to offer more classes and programs for their members.  Each year, attendance at quilt shows seems to decline. Not just ours, but others I have talked to indicate attendance is down on their areas as well. And shows I have attended year after year, seem less crowded.

So in discussing this with my husband, I asked him why he thought attendance was down. The economy is always a factor, since people whose disposable income is down won’t travel far, or spend as much. Understandable. But to me, the decline seems steady over the last 15 years or so.

So I asked my husband, as someone who is on the fringes, why he thought attendance wad down. Over the years he’s accompanied me to many quilt shows, but he doesn’t quilt, and he is careful with his opinions because he likes sleeping in the bedroom.

His opinion: computerized quilting. The results of computerized quilting machines is now so perfect that the gap between professional and hobbyist is a gulf. And hobbyists can’t compete. Yes, they can “quilt by checkbook”, if they can afford it, but then the finished product is not fully their work, eliminating a sense of pride that the hobbyist feels when they see their own creation from start to finish.  And even those hobbyists who create some marvelous pieces cannot be as prolific as the computerized quilter.  So shows are full of two very different levels of quality.

So, I don’t know. I see a lot of merit to my husband argument, but I’m not sure if that’s the whole story or not. What do you think? Is the traditional quilt show coming to an end?  And is computerized quilting the catalyst?


7 thoughts on “Is Computerized Quilting Killing the Local Quilt Show?

  1. I go to as many local quilt shows as I can. I”m missing one of my favourites this weekend, since I’m out of state. As for long arm, vs done yourself, I just think our guilds need to add extra categories, so that there is a better chance for those of us that don’t quilt with our checkbook (yes, I’ve done it, too).

  2. Cheryl, Do you believe local quilt shows are on the decline, though? If so, guilds need to look at the causes, or quilt guilds may begin to lose money on quilt shows. Most shows have added extra categories–although usually only separating long arm, not necessarily computerized. Most shows I’ve been to of late have 75% or more of the entries in the long arm categories.

  3. I know my attendance at quilt shows can be a number of reasons. One being the advertisement. There is one in San Antonio this weekend that I just found out about because I called the Gammill dealer to get help on a tension issue. I live here and did not see anything about the show ahead of time.
    Another reason is lack of time. I do think we are too busy with life. That causing us to have less free time and less desire to get out and do something else.
    The last few I’ve been to, the cost of entry was high. If you want more people and people to spend money at the vendors, then the cost of entry should be reasonable.

  4. I try to explain to my husband the differences of the quilting styles; domestic sewing machine, computerized edge to edge or custom quilted. We both agree that we do not like the computerized edge to edge designs. It usually detracts from the piece work. I love to look at the long armed pieces that are custom quilted. As a “novice” domestic machine quilter, I have great admiration for the beauty they create with a long arm.

  5. I currently attend far fewer quilt/sewing shows than I did in the past…but not because of computerized quilting. If computerized quilting really does negatively impact quilt show attendance, perhaps quilt show promoters should focus on attracting new, (younger?) less biased attendees.

    My reasons to attend quilt shows have been reduced.
    1-take classes
    I’ve attended a lot of wonderful classes over the years. Unfortunately, most advertised class offerings seem like “repeats”… time and money wasters for me. (eliminating this as a reason to attend)

    2-see others’ quilts (the prime reason I attend now…when I choose to attend)
    I do like to see what won, but I’m often disappointed by the judging. (my bad)
    Regardless of the method or a combination of methods used, I’m always fascinated by how design selection/placement, fabric pattern/color, thread color(s) and tension, etc. contribute to a quilt’s overall look …good or bad. Quilt show entries can inspire my imagination.

    3-see what new and tempting items the vendors were offering
    The need to pare down a large clutter of unused sewing notions makes buying seem counter productive…except for that special, new, necessary notion…lol! So vendors’ goods don’t appeal to me as much as when I was accumulating sewing stuff. (minimizing this as a reason to attend)

    Regarding money…negative
    Do the quilted displays warrant the cost of a 1-day’s admission charge? (usually)
    Paying for parking is a real negative …especially if most sites aren’t conveniently located and you have to compete on a work day to find space.

    Regarding quilting innovation:
    There was a time when a real quilt had to be “Hand sewn”. Self-appointed “Quilting Police” believed that machine piecing was inferior and not acceptable as a real quilt. (cheating, maybe/)
    Today, whether machine and hand pieced…it’s a quilt…judged in it’s own separate category.
    Computerized vs. hand guided quilting is quickly becoming a non-issue too. (more talent/creativity to appreciate.)

  6. I also dislike seeing the same quilt patterns and quilting at quilt shows. Although quilts lacking imagination might never win ribbons, recreating someone else’s vision might be the only non-scary option for those proud makers who might otherwise be reluctant to enter a quilt show…but one’s workmanship is important too. (Some folks lack the ability to make decisions…so they purchase pre-packaged quilt kits.)

    Bottom line…quilt shows need quilts to display…and one boring entry might lead to many future entries…that ultimately shine with creativity.

    Something to consider…maybe an abundance of cookie cutter quilts makes those custom works shine even brighter by comparison. (a reality that likely is not much consolation for the average attendee)

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