Big Business

By the early 1980s, quiltmaking had become a multi-million dollar business.  Today, according to the 2010 survey by Creative Crafts Group, quiltmaking in the United States is a $3.58 billion industry with 21.3 million quilters over the age of 18.

Collecting antique and contemporary quilts was part of the thriving business. In 1982 the Wall Street Journal made note of quilts selling at auction in the tens of thousands of dollars.  Companies and individuals developed collections.  Museums added to their collections as part of the preservation movement, and the promotional use of these collections has prompted new discussions about reproducing objects, authenticity, and cultural identity.

In the late 1960s and 1970s, as people turned to quiltmaking, the industry grew to meet their needs.  Magazines, instructional books, classes, new products, quilt shops, quilts shows and exhibits were all part of this new industry.

Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine, which was one of the longest-running quilt periodicals until it shuttered in 2016, began as a small black-and-white publication in 1969. The industry has introduced quilters to tools, fabrics, sewing machines, and software. Quiltmakers like Jinny Beyer and quilt historians like Barbara Brackman team with fabric companiesof which there are now at least 90 specializing in fabrics for quiltersto design fabric lines with contemporary, traditional, reproduction, and international designs. 

Quilting is on television, in films, and on the internet.  The industry provides space for a new generation of professional makers, instructors, and historians.

Small quilt shows held at the local level had long been part of exhibiting one’s talents.  The 20th-century revival in quiltmaking inspired a new industry.  Karey Bresenhan and Nancy O’Bryant Puentes, after opening a successful quilt shop in Houston, Texas, joined with their mothers to found International Quilt Festival in 1974.  In 1979, they opened Quilt Market, the first quilting trade show around which the industry has grown.  The contest portion of the show, sponsored by some of the leading companies in the industry, includes significant cash prizes and fame for winners.