This is not a scientific poll. In fact, it's a poll of one -- me. No, no, I don't think that I'm the expert on this thought. It's just that..."My Thought on the subject of fabric departments". And this is my thought. I think that the current popularity of quilting has hit its peak and is on the downside of the hill.
When most of us began quilting umpteen years ago, quilting was just beginning its new popularity. Quilting had been a big thing in the 1930s. It's rather odd that so many quilt kits were available in those years, for many people didn't have the funds to buy such kits. So along with the vintage quilts from kits, we see numerous 1930s quilts that were made from scraps...applique butterflies, double wedding ring, grandmother's flower garden, etc. There were a lot of quilters in the 1930s. A quilting friend said she learned to applique at a work camp where her family had moved to work as migrant workers in the fields when jobs at home disappeared. The women of the camp swapped fabrics for their butterflies. My friend kept her applique blocks until just a few years ago when she set them together in a quilt. She still had the paper pattern that was copied from someone else's paper pattern. Even though the Depression had its grip on the country, women were quilting. Some fabrics were feedsacks that were purchased at the local feed store when the chickens needed fed. But other fabrics were new at the store. Vintage quilts of the 1930s are plentiful.
The war years (the 1940s) brought quilting to a quick decline. Yes, you will find quilts and quilt tops made from vintage 1940s fabrics (and presumably constructed during those years), but the major focus was now on rationing nearly every commodity on the market in order to provide the resources needed to keep an army in supplies. The government put in place certain restrictions that limited the amount of fabric that could be used in commercial garments. Skirt lengths were regulated as well as the amount of fabric at the hem. Along with the rationing, many housewives were now, for the first time, engaged in employment outside the home. My sister-in-law, then a petite 95 pounds and with flaming red hair, was one of the first women welders in the shipyards in California. With all those men working, she soon learned to keep that red hair covered with a bandanna to avoid unwanted attention. For various reasons, quilting - that is, fine quilting - declined during those war years. Nobody had the time.
The popularity of quilting began its resurgence in the early 1970s. You will find a lot of rather ugly (just my humble opinion) quilts of that time made from polyester double-knits. Admittedly they make warm covers, but their beauty would have to be rigorously defended. LOL. My first quilt for which I purchased all the fabric at one time was in the mid-1970s. I picked a Kansas City star pattern from a quilt book and drafted it onto cardboard. The cotton fabric came from the dress fabric in a locally owned store and today you might think my selection was rather unattractive. However, the fabrics were the ones suggested by the pattern (a solid brown, a red calico and muslin) and I was new enough to quilting to "follow directions". LOL. Not much variety was available. Later a few calicoes came on the market, aimed especially at quilters. We were so excited to see something "new".
Then, fabric companies began their multitudinous lines of coordinated fabrics....tons of companies....tons of fabrics....toooooooo many choices. LOL. We quilters bought fabric as if our lives depended upon it. I'll bet for every quilter who says she buys only for the current project there are 99 others, who like myself, bought on spur of the moment, bought on sale, bought just in case. Our closets overflowed. We bought rubbermaid containers and stashed. We built shelves in our closets and stashed. We renovated the basement or the spare bedroom and stashed some more.
I don't know about all of you, but I've tried cleaning out some of my stash by giving fabric away and by making charity quilts. I STILL have TOO MUCH fabric in my house. More than I will ever need. I can't remember the last time I went to a quilt store and bought fabric for quilting. It's been a long time. Fabric at $9 a yard is toooo expensive for a person who grew up in the 1950s and had to watch her pennies to purchase sewing needles in the 1970s. My frugal nature doesn't allow me to spend $9 a yard on fabric that will sit forever in my closet.
Somehow my quilting passion has died a slow death. Yes, I still sew....a little. It now takes me forever to complete a quilt that five years ago would have been one project amongst many completed in one month. And my quilting has become more simplified. I am no longer motivated or enticed to construct some elaborate, complicated pattern.
In my personal quilting career (which extends back to the 1970s) I see that my quilting will never again be the frantic focus of my life that it once was. I'm almost grateful for that. And relieved. LOL. I used to think that I must make quilts for all my kids, my DGKs and DGGKs so they would all have an "heirloom" from Gramma. Nope. Not anymore. If they end up with one of my quilts, fine. I hope they love it and enjoy using it. But I am no longer concerned that one of my quilts outlive me. LOL.
I'm venturing forth to say that I'm guessing I am not the only quilter who has gone through this grand experience and come out on the other end thinking "that was fun, but I'm glad I'm no longer addicted". If I'm right in thinking that, then I'm right in thinking that the demand for ever more fabrics is now entering a decline. Fabric companies and distributors will be on top of the trends and they'll follow the trail to profit. The next generation doesn't have the time nor sewing expertise to get heavily involved in quilting (not to mention the expense of mega-bucks sewing machines and other equipment)...they've turned to knitting, crocheting (who would have thought) and beading. They like to felt wool and make rugs or purses. They are into the crafts that we all left behind in the 1970s. Next thing you know, they'll be crocheting doilies for every surface in the house. LOL.
Life flows on.