Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Online is Ethical too

I consider myself a part of the modern quilting industry... even though I don't attend market or write printed books or aspire to design fabric.  I make my own kind of small contribution as a teacher and blogger.  It's one that permits me to stay home, creating on my own terms and darn well enjoying it.  So, when several reputable online fabric shops decided to exit the fabric scene this fall,  I noticed.  And I wondered.

At the same time I often hear from readers and friends who are making plans to open new online fabric shops.  And indeed, there are so many, many shops to choose from already.  Perhaps the market is overcrowded?  Maybe it's cost-competing itself out of sustainability?  Or it could be that this much change is a normal, healthy status?

Kona love!

I don't know.  What I do know, from personal experience, is that retail is a hard, hard beast to tackle.  In any retail market there are lots of competitors, particularly when you're selling something that's not "your own" product, so anyone can carry it.  In lots of ways, the internet has made retail harder.  And, in the fabric world, I think we exasperate the challenge by implying it's better to shop a local fabric shop over one online.

There are definitely good reasons to shop locally.  I'm not saying there's not.  But I also think that online fabric shops bring important benefits.

no. 1  Selection  Because the overhead costs for an online shop are significantly lower than a physical one, these shops are able to stock larger ranges of fabric.  For example, not many physical shops can stock all the Kona colors.   Online shops are giving us access to the huge breath of art being printed on quilting cotton these days.  I'm thankful.

no. 2 Style  To survive, a physical shop must cater to the tastes of its local market.  If you have a very modern style, but live in a conservative area, your local shops probably offer little that excites or inspires you.  That's my situation.  If it weren't for online shops, I don't even think I'd be sewing.  Literally.  Online proprietors are much more free to buy fabrics that reflect their personal style, without equivocation.   There are shops online that match your style, my style... any style.  Online shops provide an environment that feels like home.  I'm inspired. 

no. 3  Convenience  There is definitely a convenience to visiting a physical shop, selecting fabric in person and going home with it.  Again, I'm not pretending that local shops aren't great in their own way.  But, there's a different type of convenience with online shops.  How else can I search out the right fabric during the in-between moments of my day, while baby is napping or I'm up at 3 am?  How else can I indulge in chocolate, pajamas and fabric all at the same time, at the end of a hard day?  I quite like not dragging the kids into a store, waiting on someone to cut my fabric and waiting again at the cash register.  I'd rather wait on a package in the mail while I go about living my  life.  That's just me.

no. 4  Collaboration  Have you benefited greatly from tutorials, inspiration and camaraderie that social media has brought to your crafty life?  Again, I might not be sewing and certainly wouldn't be quilting if it wasn't for this bloggy world.  Online fabric shops have been supporting our fun all along the way.  How many free online giveaways or fun mosaic challenges or friendly sewing competitions are sponsored by online stores?  Or, how many of your favorite bloggers are supported by those stores?  Yes, they are involved to drive traffic, but they're also involved to promote sewing.  Period.  They give again and again creating possibilities, and in so doing they collaborate with your creativity.  I believe we're all on the same team.

no. 5 Values  Many of us in the handmade movement value small business.  We love to support women hoping to make a creative living doing something they love.  We'd rather shop with a person than a scaled out corporation.  Folks, that's online stores.  They are almost always smaller than you think.  Most of my sponsors are one-woman shows.  Lots of them cut and ship fabric from their homes.   Even big stores like Pink Chalk or Sew Mama Sew (when it had fabric) have just 5-7 employees.   When you shop online, you're often supporting a woman, a mother, someone who originally was "just" sewing and decided to try to make her passion her job.  Shopping online is definitely not selling out.

If we value this set of benefits, we oughtn't feel shy about shopping online, and we oughtn't pressure others to shop local, if shopping local doesn't fit their lifestyle or their actual options.  Let's be loyal supporters of all independent quilt shops, whether brick-and-mortar physical shops or home-basement online stores.  Let's all be on the same quilty team.

the fabric warehouse at Pink Chalk Fabrics, photo by Kathy Mack from A New Direction blog post

Thanks, online shops, for all you bring to our community!

p.s. To hear more about the challenge of running an online fabric store, listen to this interview of Kathy Mack and Kristin Link at While She Naps.  That interview inspired me to share these ideas.  Enjoy!

61 comments:

  1. Having done both and now both together... I can say from experience that running an online shop is not that much cheaper than running a brick and mortar. For me it amounted to about the cost of two collections of fabric a month. There are a few larger online shops that are owned by corporations (like the biggest online retailer) but most of us are small businesses with employees that depend on us. Supporting small business is important to me so I have decided to put my money where my mouth is and support my locals and other small business owners online. Thanks for the thoughtful post, Rachel.

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    1. Julie, I don't order online very much, because I like to support my LQS in Australia, but when I do go online, I love shopping at The intrepid Thread!

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  2. I saw there were lots of shops closing too and wondered what was up. I shop both ways. If you are looking for something specific and didn't find it locally - on line is the way to go. Also, the on-line options gives me the benefit of waiting to think about my purchase a day or so, before I just make a dumb impulse buy and then wonder what the heck I was thinking. Plus who doesn't like getting something in the mail besides bills? But I am still so thankful there are local shops for real life inspiration and wonderful classes.

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  3. I buy from both online and local quilt stores. You are right about wanting modern fabrics and living in a conservative area (or vice versa). I would hate to lose my local shops where I can have a chat and take time to consider the fabrics. I like to handle the fabric and see the true colour.. and yet, the online stores mean I have access to thousands more ranges. I love getting the packages and often with great service. Thank you to both.

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  4. I live in Italy and if it weren't for online shops I would have no way of getting quilting cottons - modern or otherwise! I was sad to lose those shops too.

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  5. I love this post- it seems so "pc" to tout, "buy local only." But you added depth to the other side of the coin. I really can relate to #2- I moved West from the Northeast- expecting that the locals shops would be better than what I came from- but the selection is even worse. I also don't appreciate that so many of the traditional shop worker bees think nothing of insulting my children and/or my taste- I think every "modern" quilter can share at least one story of being treated unkindly at brick and mortar fabric store. It's not very sexy- but what it comes down to for me is price- I want the most for my money and seek bargains- the prices online are so much better and they're not trying to push Art Gallery from 2003 for $12 a yard.

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  6. I have not had the best of luck with local shops. I am a beginner which means a new, unknown face to owners and I have felt snubbed and ignored on multiple occasions. I have even been made to feel substandard because I don't sew on a high end machine (likely a brand they sell in their shop). I want to support local businesses but I get better service online! Most of these shops write a note of thanks or even include a freebie. I enjoy knowing they appreciate my business and I know that I will be coming back to them. I am happy you wrote this blog entry because I am glad to know that I am still supporting small businesses online and they appreciate my patronage. I don't get that warm and fuzzy feeling from LQS.

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  7. I never feel badly about shopping online. Almost all of the time when I'm buying fabric and notions from online stores, I know exactly who's selling it to me and I feel invested in wanting them to be successful (just as much as I do for the local businesses in my community). I don't really get the warm, fuzzy vibe from the local places I shop, so when I want help or need to find something specific, I turn to the online community. The owners of these shops are the same ladies that I sew with in bees and QALs, that encourage me through social media, and also share my love of fabric. I feel like shopping online is supporting my community. :)

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  8. I couldn't agree with you more, Rachel, on every single point! I also would not be in the sewing frenzy I am these days were it not for online quilt shops and blog land quilters! I live 150 (!) miles from the nearest "local" shop....online proprietors every bit as local for me!!! (I just posted some of my fave Etsy shops on my blog today, so we must be on the same supportive wavelength!!) xo

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  9. I shop primarily online because I have very limited resources locally. I agree with all you've said and have enjoyed every online fabric buying experience. Without them I wouldn be sewing. However, I do miss the tactile aspect of shopping locally. Sometimes I'd like to touch a new line before I commit to buying, especially if the designer or manufacturer is relatively new on the scene, ie. C+S.

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    1. I miss the tactile aspect when I shop online too. I would love to have a local quilt shop to support as well; but in this neck of the woods, there's nothing that has the type of fabrics I buy. Maybe someday I'll have both!

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  10. I'm sure on line shops are great, especially for those isolated and who cannot visit a local quilt shop. However, I like to feel my fabric before I buy! But the main reason I don't buy on line is that I want to support my LQS. I hate to think what would happen if it closed. i love the shop, teaching there, gathering with others who like to quilt. It is like Cheers only better.

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  11. Amen to that! Particularly to shopping online in pyjamas with chocolate!! I am happy to support my LQS and my favourite online places. Great post!

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  12. I shop mostly online due to disabilities, I do support my LQS when I have to have something right away or there is a very good sale but I have to do it when my husband has time to drive me, I've also felt the snub of not being a regular. I've never gotten bad fabric online and it is nice to have a hand written Thank You note in the box.

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  13. I visit local quilt shops because I enjoy seeing fabric in person. I typically buy online more often than locally because that's where I usually find what I'm specifically looking for, as well as finding the type of prints I generally like. Not all of the fabric manufacturers are sold among the quilt shops here. When a manufacturer's fabrics are sold, the shops don't carry all of the collections or only partial collections of what they do. I'm not going to buy locally just for the sake of buying local if it's not what I want or need. I'm happy to support local businesses financially but my finances take priority. If there is enough of a save, then I'll support what's typically a small business online. They are local businesses somewhere else even though they may only sell online. It's not like they are owned and operated by non-people in a virtual world.

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  14. I shop online because my LQS doesn't carry fabric I like. I know the lines I want, since the manufacturers post them online now (not the case in the not so distant past, when I relied on whatever my LQS got in). My perspective is a little different, since I spent about 5+ years not quilting (I took up running, and a t-shirt quilt made me hate quilting). I got back into it after a running injury and was astounded by the videos, etc, I found on line. And you know what? They made me want to buy fabric. I've finished 13 quilts so far this year, my most ever. Has my LQS benefited? Sure, I've bought some fabric, thread and other items from them. But the truth is they would have not gotten my business if it weren't for the online stores doing their thing. They do have a symbiotic relationship, like it or not. Generating buzz and interest is good for the entire hobby.
    Great post on this subject!

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    1. Kathy, it's so true that generating buzz and interest is good for the entire hobby. I guess that's what I mean by being on the same team. That's a phrase my father often used growing up. It means that instead of looking out only for our own, we can look for ways that our mutual interests benefit the entire community. I try to do that as a blogger for sure.

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  15. I love what Melissa above me says about online shops: "It's not like they are owned and operated by non-people..." Owning an online-only fabric shop myself, I can promise you it's run by 2 very real women! :-)

    For me, this issue is not so much about supporting local businesses as much as it's important to support independent businesses. The 2 often go hand-in-hand, but I'm okay if they're aren't in my community. Independent businesses are usually run by people who are passionate about what they sell. I'm supporting people who chose to pursue a dream. It doesn't matter to me if they're from Fredericksburg, VA or from New York City.

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  16. Thank you for your post - I shop at both kinds of quilt shops. I'm fortunate to have five local stores within a twenty mile radius and many more within an hour's drive. They all carry something just a little bit different. Yet there are times when none of them have just what I'm looking for, and other times when I'm exhausted from work and just want to place the order and wait for it to come to me. I'm sorry to see anyone have to close their shop - whether online or brick and mortar.

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  17. Well said! I'm lucky to have lots of options locally, but I appreciate all of the online options, too - so I hope the fall's shop closings isn't becoming a trend for this market.

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  18. I shop both LQS and online. I have five LQS within an hours drive and will shop there if they carry what I want but I will also shop online when I see a great sale or fabric that my stores don't carry. Both types of shops are run by people trying to make a living at what they love so I try and support both.

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  19. This is great. When I lived in LA I could walk to Sew Modern from my house and I loved shopping there. But now that I live in San Diego, there isn't a shop here that meats all of my needs. I have tried to develop relationships with a few different shops and those are the ones that I shop with. Even though it isn't local, it's still supporting a small business.

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  20. Oh thank you for this post! You bring up such good points! I think there's room for both online shops and 'real' brick and mortar shops. They each have their own terrific characteristics. I speak from experience having managed my own online shop for six years.... and I just opened a real brick and mortar shop in my hometown a few weeks ago. Living in both worlds is really wonderful and fulfilling in so many ways.

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  21. I love shopping online for fabric! There's one LQS by me where when you walk in no one acknowledges your presence. I think they only look for their "regulars" and cater to them. It was my first time in the shop. I didn't buy anything and felt really uncomfortable while in there. I haven't gone back. So much for trying to shop local! On the other hand, I've had really great service, good prices, and beautiful fabric come from online shops. They are my go to place when shopping. In brick and mortar shops it seems like customer service is a lost art. The online shops seem to pride themselves on service so my business goes to them. I'm sad to see some closing but I can imagine how hard it is to compete on such a high level with all the great fabric shops. Great subject matter. I sure hope we don't see more closings.

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  22. I have to say, my very favourite thing about shopping online is being able to whittle down that shopping cart according to my budget, *before* they cut it. The most frustrating (for an international buyer) is being limited by shipping costs. Having the shipping cost jump from $25 for 10 yards to $50 or so for 11 yds is a bit sad. Or not being able to just by the yard and a half of something you need. So my shopping local is usually for rotary blades, thread, and small bits. And sewing advice - my local lady, who mostly sells brown and maroon and fabric with vegetables on it, is so generous with her time and lovely to my kids. :)
    Thanks for a different voice, Rachel. I always appreciate one that doesn't just advocate guilt and blame.

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    1. I really identify with the advantage of whittling down one's shopping cart online. I tend to think it over and check my stash before I complete any order, sometimes even adding things after taking a fresh look at what I need. That's a big advantage, when it comes to avoiding wasteful purchases.

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  23. I'm giggling over Jodi's comment about brown, maroon, and fabric with vegetables on it. That's pretty much the way I felt about the shop closest to me. It has closed since then. I'm dashing out the door without time to make a serious comment here other than to say how much I agree with all you've written and I really appreciate your thoughtful comments and insight to this 'predicament' that quilters seem to find themselves facing.

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  24. I was saddened to hear that Pink Chalk Fabric was selling down their entire fabric line - their service was amazing - this is the only on-line shop I had bought from. So sorry to see them go.

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    1. If you need more shops to buy from Pink Castle, Hawthorne Threads and Intrepid Thread are some of the others I've used and loved.

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  25. " let's be supporters of ALL independent quilt shops . . . "

    AMEN

    Great post!!!!!!!!!

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  26. I'm blessed to have a very, very local quilt shop that is very close to my personal style, with friendly helpful service. And even I still shop online. And I've had conversations with the LQS owner about where I shop online -- and where she shops online. Thinking that one shop and one shop alone can provide all your fabric needs seems a little short sighted. What about all the oodles of gorgeousness you could be missing out on?!???

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  27. Rachel, I agree with you 100% and order approximately 90% of my fabrics online. There are no quilt shops near us, except for Joann's and I purchase my fleece and flannel from them, but even the flannel is not what you would find in the local quilt shop, but given that I am on a limited budget, I am limited to what I can purchase either from shops or online. Thanks for this great post.

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  28. What a great post! I try to shop local when I can, but the internet offers me choices that I cannot find locally. I have felt guilty in the past for my on-line purchases, but not lately, and not anymore!

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  29. I shop for quality fabric, never buy fabric at the big box store, and have owned a quilt shop back in the day. Lately I buy more online bc of selection. I live in a rural area with one small shop. While they have a very nice inventory, they can't carry everything I like. No one in my entire state carries Denyse Schmidt, for example! I have bought online and been surprised that the colors were not like the picture, so that is one downside. I've quilted since the late '70's and thought I had made everything on my bucket list until I started following some of you awesome bloggers and got inspired by modern quilts, low volume fabrics, and new designers. Everyone contributes. Shop local, yes, go there first but then hit the online shops. Local shops will have to adapt in terms of price and figure out something new to offer us if they want to keep our business. I'm in Utah, there are lots of quilters here, but people are very sensitive as to price. I'm retired and my budget is more limited. In order to buy the quality of fabric I want, I have to buy selectively. Isn't it ironic that the photo of the online shop you choose to show us was Pink Chalk Fabrics, and they are one of the ones going out of business? I say just buy fabric! Keep the designers and manufacturers and shops in business so we can all keep making quilts. I am totally addicted to quilt making. Fabric is a healthy addiction, wherever we buy it, just like chocolate... I only buy the best chocolate and I only quilt with top quality fabric. Because I deserve it!

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  30. I wish my LQS was nice, but it isn't. I've tried shopping there three times--I had a woman walk away from the counter just when I reached it with fabric. Another time, they took my stack of fabrics and said in this mean and snotty tone, 'Are you really putting these fabrics together? Would you like some help matching?' !!! I'm still not over that--no, the fabrics didn't matchy-match perfectly, but a) I'm an artist who understands color and b) It's possible to work on more than one project at a time. Sheesh.

    I gave up after that. I don't need a twenty-something to sneer at me, thanks. Also, like another poster, I'm disabled. Shopping online lets me be painfree and take as much time as I'd like. It's wonderful, and the online shops I've dealt with have always been super kind to me. Personal service, good prices, what more could I ask for?

    I'd like to note that some fabric shops online offer a 'swatch service'. Organic Cotton Naturals does, and I'd like to see that offered more. For 96 cents they'll send you a small patch of that fabric so you can test it and touch it before buying. Mostly clothing-fabric shops do it, but I think it's an idea whose time has come, especially for big projects.

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  31. I shop both online and local, but confession time: when I shop local, I nearly always go to Joann's instead of my LQS, for the same reason the commenter above me (Vom Marlowe) mentioned. My handful of experiences with my LQS have not been good. They do carry some fabric I like, but their service is very poor.

    The final straw was a year ago, when they poked fun at my sewing machine when I took it in seeking a repair. It was the machine I learned on, and heck yes it was a beginner machine purchased at Walmart. I am not ashamed of that, but didn't appreciate their snootiness at all. I haven't been back since.

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  32. I am lucky and blessed to have several wonderful brick and mortar shops in my area. I love shopping at them, and rarely need to turn to the internet (usually only when I want something very specific like a designer quilting fabric). One thing about local vs. internet in a high cost-of-living area: Your local independent fabric stores will have high rents and they will have to pay their employees more. You will also pay high sales tax, and in general, overhead is high. So LFSs may not be the "best deal" if all you care about is price. But if you want them to stay in business, you have to keep shopping there. If you are lucky enough to have local independent stores, shop at them! If your only local options are JoAnns or the like, then support independent online businesses! I think my soapbox is more about supporting indie fabric stores, local or online, than it is about shopping local at all costs. I love me some Etsy! :-) But remember, your local shops are supporting not just one person, but usually a whole group of dedicated employees who love to assist you with your projects, and that's pretty dope too.

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  33. Yay. Thank you for your opinion on this. I love supporting all the shops, on line and local. Better choices is the reason I shop on line. But sometimes, you just want to see fabric in person, so local works.

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  34. Thank you for your very thoughtful consideration of the issue. I'm glad you found the podcast informative. My two cents: When it comes to shopping for fabric or anything else for that matter, I will try to support small businesses WITH A SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS MODEL. I'm looking for businesses that are licensed, paying taxes, hiring employees, have well-thought-out policies, aren't undercutting prices, and are easy to contact. Obviously you can't always tell at first glance if someone has written a business plan, but I do look for quality websites, contact information, realistic shipping and return policies, and prices that aren't far below the competition. I won't buy from co-ops and I won't buy from shops that are consistently selling below full MSRP because I know that's not sustainable. They're not doing themselves, the industry or the economy any good by trying to make a buck off a yard of fabric. Anyway, thanks again for your continuing the conversation about this. xo Kristin Link sewmamasew.com (for some reason it is saying anonymous with my openid)

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  35. Wow, Rachel, I'm glad you mentioned this comment section in your post today or I would have missed this interesting discussion. I have had the same experiences as some of your other readers. The fabric selection at our LQS is abysmal. Also, I have been treated rudely and as someone else mentioned, they are extremely intolerant of kids. My children are very well behaved, but it's like they think we're in a library. I don't even want to support business owners who treat their patrons disrespectfully, local or not!

    So I do most of my shopping online and it is very much a mixed bag regarding what I will receive, especially the color of my fabrics. So often the color is not accurately depicted which makes me crazy! I like to shop with Etsy shops as well as at Hawthorne Threads, but I do also shop at Fabric.com if I am ordering several yards of fabric and can only find it all there - rather than placing a bunch of different orders. I prefer to support independent businesses when possible.

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  36. My 35 yo daughter still speaks painfully about having spent her childhood waiting to have fabric cut. :-). I am a VERY experienced sewer, I've been doing it in one way or another for 45 years and I absolutely feel intimidated and out of place in many LQS's, particularly as someone mentioned earlier, in the northeast. They are also few and far between. I have had such wonderful service from Etsy sellers - it really is my first go to place. I would love to shop local, but the location, the selection, and yes, the atmosphere, don't make always the best choice for me. And, well, yes, I do like shopping in pj's!

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  37. Great post - I have an online fabric shop AND I love local quilt shops. I live in a city with one quilt shop, that is on the other side of town, and I don't love her fabrics. I think there is room for all of us independents or, as Kristin says, if we all practice fair pricing and don't undercut each other with deep discounts there should be. I don't want to nudge anyone out of the market, I just want to earn a little bit while pursuing a hobby that gives me great joy.
    I try to make the online experience feel personal, engaging and real, and I hope my shop is always a happy destination for people at the end of their day to look for ideas, inspiration, indulgence, and entertainment - whether they buy anything or not. Just like a bricks and mortar shop.
    Thanks for your note!

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  38. Wow! I'm stunned by the number of people who have had such bad experiences at local shops. I'm from the pacific northwest, and have access to quite a number of quilt shops (in fact, each June the Western Washington Shop Hop has about 60 shops between Vancouver, WA and the Canadian border that participate). I've never experienced anything but supportive and friendly service from any shop. Maybe you all have to move west :-)

    Having said that, while my first choice is to support my local economy, I do shop online as well. As others have mentioned, the variety is terrific, and shopping in my jammies is very relaxing. But, I would hate it to be my only option. Guess I'm spoiled.

    Thanks Rachel, a great discussion thread.

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  39. Great post! I have an awesome LQS, but it's way more expensive than buying online. Fabric in Australia is very expensive compared to the U.S. and so I often buy online, purchasing several yards at a time to maximise postal charges. When I do shop at my LQS, the service is brilliant and they are more than willing to spend time answering my questions. One time, the owner spent one and half hours with me, working out yardage and helping to plan the design for my second ever quilt. I tend to buy online to add to my stash. When I can't shop from my stash for a particular project, I'll shop locally. The best of both worlds.

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    1. Ha, ha... should have said - to minimise postal charges.

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  40. Like others, I have had several unfortunate experiences with my LQS and have determined that I will go to Wal-Mart before I walk back into that shop again. The first time, the two employees continued to chit-chat totally ignoring that I was standing there wanting to ask a question. The second time, I reached out to feel the fabric and was rudely told "all fabric feels the same, please don't touch." The third time, I bought an Accu-Quilt die, not realizing until I got it home that it had been opened, used, and the foam was coming apart. They would not let me return it accusing me of damaging the product. If the LQShops want our business, they are going to have to clean up their act. I have never had a problem with any of the online shops I have purchased from. The products usually arrive on my doorstep within the same week in which I have ordered them and always in good condition. I enjoy the little give-aways and have actually won a few. When I win something, I always go back and purchase something from the sponsoring shop. I still wish I could feel the fabric before purchasing, but since I can't do that at my LQS, I guess it doesn't really make a difference.

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    1. I'm sorry, but the notion that "all fabric feels the same" is so absurd that I'm laughing right now. Laughing. How can they even say that with a straight face? I'm very sorry you had such bad experiences. But then I'm chuckling again at your last line. My goodness!

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  41. Thank you for listening to my podcast interview with Kristin and Kathy. I'm so glad it's inspired this post and discussion. One of the things I wanted to bring out in the interview was that these were two amazing women who were running online fabric stores. Supporting them and supporting my local quilt shop are equally good things to do.

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  42. I am suprised to hear all of the negative experiences with local shops! I have two kids, take them to the fabric store frequently, I worry about them around the silks but everyone is wonderfully kind and engaging with them! I get great service (of course, I joke that I singlehandedly pay their rent, so I should get good service, hahaha), and I love those ladies. I've been to stores that are more snooty, but they are the exception. These days, it's so hard to keep a fabric store in business, you'd think they'd realize customer service is critical. My local places are wonderful. If you've had a bad experience, I would urge you to tell the management, or at the least, write a Yelp review. Maybe these businesses are struggling and they don't even know why?

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  43. My LQS is wonderful but TINY! I buy as much as I can there, but it's just not possible for me to buy everything there. I agree that supporting online shops is every bit as ethical as shopping local, especially for someone like me who has very limited options locally.

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  44. I love this post! My quilting habit was born online (I learned to sew from all you wonderful bloggers) so it's only natural I shop online too. And what's up with all the unfriendly LQSs? Mine is the pits, too. I love the Intrepid Thread & Fat Quarter Shop and downright am astonished at their generosity through giveaways and sponsorships. I shop at others too, but the two stores I mentioned deserve mucho kudos!!! And did you mean fabric.com? Since they were bought by amazon I stopped shopping there. Amazon already gets enough of our budget;)

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  45. I am fortunate enough to live in an area that has some amazing LQS. These businesses are family owned or sole proprietor or owned by partners and they are small businesses. It is necessary for us to support them also. Online shopping is just another option in the quest to purchase fabrics and comes with its set of conveniences. But LQS also offer their set of conveniences too. You get to see, touch, feel and yes fondle the fabric. You get advice and conversation from the salespeople. You get to run into other quilters and have meaningful discussions and there are classes where you are in the company of others who share your interest.

    Online shopping is not a replacement for LQS but an additional source. I know that I am lucky to be surrounded by so many wonderful LQS (Janie Lou, The Quilted Fox, Jackman's Fabrics) and they have delightful people working there. For those who do not have the option of LQS, online is the place to be.

    There is shopping room to support both avenues.

    tushay3(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  46. I like my LQS, and take my machine to be serviced there, but they have terrible lighting and not very many modern fabrics. So I buy from two or three or four online shops regularly for many of the same reasons as Rachel--shopping in my pjs at 11 pm is much easier than dragging my daughter over on a Saturday. And truthfully, the prices tend to be better online.

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  47. What an interesting discussion. I shop both at my one LQS and online. While many of the fabrics at my local shop aren't my style, they have plenty of fabrics that I do love to keep me coming back. I have received great advice from the ladies at our shop, and they are super sweet to my two kids -- visiting with and buying Girl Scout cookies from my daughter and oohing and ahhing when I bring my baby in. Even though I don't shop often these days since my baby keeps me from sewing much, they still remember me by name every time. So if anyone is ever in College Station, Texasw, check out Lone Star Quiltworks. :)

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  48. I'll support local when and only if the business has great customer service, has the items I want or can order them, has reasonable profit mark up (anyone can find wholesale cost online before shopping), and isn't snobbish about discount store items. Very few local businesses get my money.

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  49. I would shop local here in Port Orchard, but the only shop has decade old fabrics. Nothing new in years. Thank you for a wonderful read!

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  50. I like how you mentioned that its important to have both kinds of shops. Each has its strengths and weaknesses and balance each other out. One thing I thought to mention, many people begin their teaching careers in local shops before they get enough of a following and experience to branch out to larger venues. I know this is not true of everyone- especially those in the modern movement- but it is a stepping stone for people who want to teach quilting.

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  51. Thank you for this post. I always felt guilty about preferring to shop online, and this post made me realize that I had no reason for it. I too, don't love the aesthetic at my LQS, to put it nicely. But I tried to be supportive and bought thread and notions and she does give good technical quilting advice. One day, on a whim, I asked her to special order me a gallon of Best Press. I was getting the smaller bottles from her and I didn't want to pay the shipping for a gallon container online. Stupidly, I didn't think to ask her how much it would be. When it came in, I was charged $60! I could have had it online for $36, so paying that really irritated me. Now I realize I can shop online where I can find what I love, check and recheck what I need, and get it for a competitive price as well.

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  52. I appreciate what you've written here Rachel because you are so well thought our, and articulate, too. I will say that I always try to shop my {quite conservative} local quilt shop first for a couple of reasons. 1) She is a small business trying to be successful. 2) I am a teacher and local tax dollars are oh-so-important to my salary. As you mentioned the LQS has to carry fabric that appeals to the majority of our local quilting community, which does not always match my taste, so then I move to shopping the wonderful online shops. Thank you for drawing attention to this Rachel. You often challenge us to think about what we are doing, and that's a great thing :o)

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