21st-Century Professionals

Identifying oneself as a professional in the quilt industry in late 20th- and early 21st-century America is becoming common even though needlework and quiltmaking skills are not passed down within families as often as in the past. This has led to a new era of professionals in quilting, first as teachers and authors, later as professional quiltmakers.

In the 1960s and 1970s, people interested in making quilts realized there was very little in the way of how-to instruction available. Those with the ability to teach or to write began filling the gap. The how-to quilt book industry has exploded in the intervening decades to include pattern books, basic quiltmaking methods, and advanced techniques. According to the 2010 Quilting in America survey, dedicated quiltmakers bought 4.4 books on average each year and subscribed to the same average number of magazines, citing learning new tips & techniques as one of the primary reasons.

Quilters who had a little bit of know-how established another group of professionals—the teachers.  Teachers often specialize in a design method, construction technique, or particular type of quilt. They teach at quilt shops, guild meetings, quilt shows, and retreats. Some are local experts; others are nationally-known. Television and online programs are alternative teaching arenas. The National Quilting Association, established in 1970, has even developed a Certified Teachers Program in basic quiltmaking.

Skilled quiltmakers have created businesses for every stage of production. Quilt shop owners are the nexus of the industry as a physical location for enthusiasts and professionals.  There are certified quilt appraisal programs and certified quilt judge programs. Pattern design, custom quilt, and long-arm machine quilting businesses have all created profitable niches. These professionals find that custom-producing quilts and quilting for others allows them to build at-home businesses with flexible work schedule. Jeannie Spears began publishing The Professional Quilter magazine in 1983, eventually launching the International Association of Professional Quilters, a resource for professionals that includes a magazine, classes, and seminars.