LQSs & Quilt Guilds, Part 2

As I mentioned yesterday, I visited my LQS (again, an acronym for "local quilt shop") for the first time in years. My head is still dancing with visions of fabrics, patterns, quilting designs, brightly colored threads and teeny-tiny quilting betweens! From that one visit (about an hour long - had a sick hubby waiting at home for me - I was being good! I had to go across the street to buy flu medicine and it was just a quick stop ...) I feel rejuvenated creatively, spiritually, mentally and emotionally. And I plan to go back SOON! :)

But what I didn't mention is the benefits of visiting your LQS - as opposed to making all of your purchases online, via mail order, or worse for your LQS, your local fabric store chain (JoAnn's, Hancocks, Walmart, etc). Here's a few good reasons to venture out to your LQS the next time you're in a shopping mood:

Last time I checked, when you're shopping online, you're not actually being social (nope, raving to your Quilt Inspector about a new fabric line at your favorite online store doesn't count as being social). And if you're not talking to other quilters, you're not getting creative feedback. The worse thing for your creative spirit is to exist in a vacuum. While I'm sure your family will give you input on whether or not that blue goes with that red, they're simply not going to be as enthusiastic as another quilter about your color scheme - nor are they too likely to give the feedback you're looking for. Now, I understand that many of us are blessed with supportive family members (my family is exceptionally supportive), but it really won't be the same.

Getting tactile.
So far, neither the fabric companies, online quilt shops or even Jobs or Gates has figured out a way to give us online fabric shoppers the gift of touching what we see on our screens. Until then, all we can do is guess and cross our fingers that that lovely mauve print has a nice hand and body.

It'd be nice if the looks of a fabric was the only important criterion in creating a quilt, but as anyone who's ever tried to quilt genuine feedsack fabric or done trapunto can tell you, the weave, hand and body are important, too. Too tight a weave, too stiff of body and you're going to have a difficult time appliquing, hand-piecing or hand-quilting it! And believe it or not, even with the famous, quilting-focused fabric companies, I've experienced stiff fabric that was almost too difficult to hand-quilt!

Dark blue or black?
How many times have you ordered fabric only to find that it wasn't the color you thought you were getting?? Dark blue and black are often the hardest to distinguish ... and no, it's not likely the fault of your eyes.

So many variables are present when presenting a digital image to different monitors. First, how precisely was the swatch scanned? An off-calibrated scanner can muddle any color, much less the most difficult to discern. Next, let's approach the limitations of your monitor. Some monitors can only display 72 pixels per inch, while newer ones top off at 96 pixels per inch. And how about that limited palette? When an image is saved for the web, it's color palette is "condensed" - meaning, as opposed to the literally 64 million + colors that our eyes can distinguish, it's knocked down to a palette of anywhere from 216 to 256. Heckuva difference, isn't it?? And even then, unless YOUR monitor is calibrated decently, your chances of getting exactly what you THINK you're getting have gotten even slimmer.

For the record, I'm a graphic artist. So's I know about computing hardware, color and stuff. And I can tell you, I calibrate my monitor every day, and even then, I'm still surprised by color issues with fabric that I purchased online fairly often. Remember, it's not just MY monitor that can affect what I'm seeing!

"Walmart syndrome."
Now picture this: a nice lady opens up a lovely quilt shop in your neighborhood. She offers fabrics at the lowest possible price that she can - and still be able to operate. But ... uh-oh, the online quilt shops (some being only online shops - pretty much operated out of someone's basement or garage) are able to offer their goods at 10-15% lower (seeing as how they have lower operating costs). Before you know it, there won't BE a LQS. Now, how does that affect the quilting "food chain?"

No LQS = no local classes.
No LQS = no local meeting place (other than a quilt guild or YOUR living room).
No LQS = no jobs for those who depended on the shop for employment.
No LQS = (could) mean less local vendors at YOUR quilt guild's quilt show.
No LQS = less opportunities for those interested in quilting to get information, meet people, and get help purchasing their quilting needs.

The bottom line.
I've lived in several cities and I've seen quilt shops open and close - and the quilting community in my areas felt it. We suffered for their loss. We lost a valuable source for classes/learning, places to relax, get creative feedback, find and learn about new notions that can make our creative process & execution easier, and oftentimes, lost friends.

Even if it's only for an occasional purchase - one of those "I have to have this NOW!" sort of item or yardage, make an effort to support your LQS. If every quilter in your community does their part in supporting their local merchants, there will be greater chances of the wonderful art of quiltmaking passing onto the next generation!