Felice from Sew Scatterbrained has lots of ideas for how to introduce sewing to a whole new generation of quilters. As a young quilter herself, Felice jumped in to the sewing world in a big way, writing patterns and sharing her latest sewing via her blog and Instagram. Felice even has a new fabric collection for Windham Fabrics coming out in Spring 2016! Learn more about Felice in her introduction.
We’re interested in your thoughts on introducing the world of quilting to young sewists. Are you new to quilting too? Have you passed your love of quilting on to someone younger? Is your local guild, quilt group and/or fabric shop open and welcoming to all? What are effective and positive ways to invite everyone to share creative expression through sewing?
When I visit quilt shops, I’m used to being the youngest one in the building. At 24 years old, I’m an outlier in the quilting community. It’s no secret that the age of the average quilter is increasing. Fifty years ago sewing was considered a basic life skill, but today there is little need for young adults to touch a sewing machine. Even at my guild, the Houston Modern Quilt Guild, where ages skew younger than the average sixty-four year old quilter, there are only a few of us Millennials. The quilting industry is booming, yet I find myself worrying about what state it will be in when I’m in my sixties. So how do we get more Millennials interested in quilting now? Thanks to a combination of research findings and personal experiences, I have a few ideas.
Don’t wait for the baby quilt.
When I ask women the story behind their first quilt, there is one response that overshadows them all: I made a baby quilt for my first child. Research shows that American women are waiting longer to become mothers than they used to, and increasing numbers are opting to forgo motherhood altogether. As a woman without children, I often joke that selfish sewing is just regular sewing for me. Instead of introducing young women to quilting through the lens of motherhood, we should focus on the would-be quilter herself. A class on making a baby quilt might spark little interest in a single twenty-something woman, but a class on how to make a modern mini quilt to hang on the wall may prove more relevant.
I encourage shop owners to offer classes and project demos that cater to the sewist herself such as modern throw quilts, home decor items, garments, bagss and accessories.
Let them mooch a little.
Quilting is an expensive hobby, and the startup costs for a first time quilter can be a big barrier to entry. As if that weren’t enough, Millennials face more financial hardships than previous generations thanks to student loans, unemployment and lower income levels.
I learned to sew on a hand-me-down machine from my mother, and I eventually persuaded her to let me keep it. When I first started quilting a coworker generously gave me grocery bags stuffed with large designer fabric scraps. My first cutting mat, rotary cutter and ruler were all Christmas gifts. If I had to purchase these things on my own, it’s unlikely that I would have ever made a quilt.
When I upgraded to a new sewing machine, I held onto my old one with the goal of making it a loaner machine for any friends who voiced an interest in learning to sew. I’d encourage other quilters to do the same. Loan a spare machine to a friend who wants to learn to sew, or invite them over and teach them to sew on yours. Sacrifice a charm pack or a jelly roll for their first quilt. You don’t have to be their sugar mama, but subsidizing that first project can open the door for a new quilter. Besides, there is no shortage of free patterns for you both to work on.
It’s not uncommon for shops with classes to offer machine rentals at a fee, but perhaps they could waive the fee for a student’s first class. Gaining a new customer will pay off in the long run.
Introduce them to the world of designer fabrics.
I believe my generation is more visual and design conscious than previous generations, probably due to social media and other image-sharing websites. Discovering the world of designer fabrics ultimately motivated me to make my first quilt. I wanted to play with all the adorable prints!
Marketing research suggests that Millennials expect a large product selection to choose from and value self-expression and creativity highly. Designer fabrics satisfy those desires pretty darn well, and they make it easy to find your style niche. Young ladies who are fans of Anthropologie will find the same air of rustic feminine elegance with Art Gallery Fabrics. The H&M shoppers seeking bright, bold colors will have a great selection with Free Spirit Fabrics. ModCloth devotees will probably recognize prints from Michael Miller and Robert Kaufman used in their quirky novelty dresses.
Let the internet be the teacher.
If you want to introduce a Millennial to quilting, you don’t have to be Mr. Miyagi. The DIY movement exploded as Millennials started using technology alongside their hobbies. Youtube videos, tutorials on blogs, and sites like Sew Mama Sew, Pinterest and Creativebug are all tools that can help make quilting more accessible to young adults. Quilting may be a traditional hobby, but be sure to let Millennials know that quilting has kept up with the times! Curate a selection of online tutorials and resources that they can refer to whenever they need help, and watch them take the reins.
Use social media to get them engaged with the quilting community.
Anyone who’s seen a Millennial has probably noticed our unwavering love for smart phones, tablets and computers. A 2010 report by the Pew Research Center found that 75% of Millennials had at least one social media account. In comparison, almost every single quilter I’ve met under the age of 30 has an Instagram account. (Angela Mitchell does a nice job of explaining the app’s popularity in her article for Craftsy.) Instagram is a great platform for young quilters to connect with one another. The bonus is that your Millennial is probably already addicted to it.
Do you have additional ideas? Let’s hear them in the comments!…