Armageddon in a Sewing Basket

Posted on December 01, 2016 by A Piece of Cloth | 11 comments

I have been musing on some of these concepts for a while now trying to work out how I felt about them and if anyone else has thought the same.

What has bought this blog post (rant) on is the 'New and Exclusive' Liberty of London range being brought into Spotlight Stores in Australia. A few of us have been discussing it today and its brought up a few thoughts.

For those of you who don't know what Spotlight is, its a large chain store that is craft and homewares. Perhaps a bit like crossing JoAnn and Bed Bath and Beyond together with a smidge of Home Depot thrown in.

Spotlight has a bit of far reaching grasp in things and likes to try and dominate in all areas they trade in. Craft, fabrics, home goods etc. And they do it via price or constant rolling sales. They have buying power based on their size and can bring in their own products where they have the ability to undercut. On price and quality etc. They have their own home brands that they can do this with and compete against smaller businesses. Its the same adage of the big store squeezing out the competition.

But buyer beware, the quality of many of the fabrics and products they sell cannot be compared to the quality you can get from an independent supplier. It is not same same...it is different. Be it on thread count or fabric width. So yes it is cheaper but it is not the same. So please don't compare one 'homespun' to another 'homespun' they are not the same weight. This is threads per inch. And another selling method is narrower widths. This is seen in current range of knits in stock, they are 112 cm wide instead of the 150cm wide you can get from other suppliers.

So that brings me to this curious Incident of the Liberty in the Spotlight... Its going around in social media land that low and behold you can now get Liberty fabrics in Spotlight. Now, its not Liberty Tana Lawn. So its not the same quality. So again, no apples with apples here. It is also narrower. Tana Lawn is a generous 135cm wide and retails for $60 per mt or so. Now, this one is 112cm wide, not as fine a quality and retails for $50. So for a start, it you do the square math on that, you are getting less on 2 fronts. Quality is everything in this game and you only get what you pay for. So pay your hard earned fabric stash dollar to the shops who sell the real good stuff.

So this comes to market share. And how our small market is set up here in Australia. Yes we have a smaller population to the USA and Europe. We have a handful of fabric shops in our capital cities and a few in regional areas. They are shrinking all the time. Be it to competition or changing market influences. We loose some and we gain some, but we tend to not have growth in this area.  Along side our independent fabric stores, and they are a mix of ones that cater to dress making or ones that cater to the quilt and craft market we have 2 in the 'major' sector. Spotlight and Lincraft. Spotlight being the much larger of the two. Add to this online sellers and we have a reasonably good mix and good choice.

The problem with the marketing strategy of the majors is its prone to crushing the competition. We have seen this over and over again with chains coming in and then we loose the smaller grocery stores, hardware stores and now office supply stores with the mega store concept. Do we want to see this happen to our independent fabric stores and businesses? I don't. (I'm biased here, I am a small independent fabric business).

Liberty was one of those fabrics that was only ever available at the independent stores. It was a hard to obtain fabric that used to be carefully placed into shops to keep its exclusivity and to have a good mix of sellers. In the last 18 months that has changed with a new wholesaler who is allowing more on sellers of Liberty. So now most independent fabric shops are selling Liberty. Its a big thing for a small independent shop to put Liberty in. It's very expensive and you have to outlay quite a lot of dosh to get your orders in. Trust me. I used to be a Liberty stockist. But when it became available to the whole market, I had to stop stocking it as I couldn't place the bigger orders the more established shops could. I couldn't offer the range to my customers in the same way the others could. So this is a very small illustration of how this works. Now, think of this happening on a much bigger scale. Spotlight v's all the independent shops. The ones who have paid up front COD for their orders of Liberty. And you also have to wait a few months to get your orders as well due to the packing and shipping from the UK. To give you a quick illustration, A bolt of Liberty (10 to 12 mts) will set back a retailer between $250 to $300 per print. If they are stocking a range of approximately 50 bolts to give you choice thats between 12 to 15 K worth of risk sitting on their shelves.  Its a lot of cash for an independent business to outlay. I imagine the major stores have 30, 60 or 90 day payment or sale or return. Thats what major retailers I have worked with in the past in the fashion industry have, its a very un-level playing field.

So if you then go and decide to buy from a large major store who doesn't have the same ordering or payment conditions and also doesn't carry the same level of risk, or even the same comparable product, the wheels start to get a bit shaky....shaky in terms of it hurting the smaller retailers, but it also gets shaky on the other front of this once lauded quality and divine fabric is getting dumbed down and schlepped out....sigh.

So the rant continues. Is this yet another sign of the fast fashion model meeting the quilt and sewing world?

Now I'm not someone who goes to fabric shops that often as I have one in my own house. I got plenty and then some. But hey, its vintage. But there is a few things that are making me shake my head and ask a few questions.

The rate that new ranges are released. I don't know about you, but can you keep up? That's a lot of fabric being milled and printed and shipped around the world. Its also a massive load of cotton being grown, water being used and energy being consumed to grow, weave, print and distribute all this fabric.

A light is being shined on the detrimental effects of the fast fashion industry but I am seeing many parallels to the quilt and craft industry. Its producing at a very rapid rate. The number of ranges is growing. The marketing is getting more aggressive. We are seeing more fabric, more patterns, more suggestions to consume. I know I can't keep up and i'm not even in the main stream of the industry.

I worked in the clothing industry as a graphic and textile designer for 15 years and when the fast fashion business model took hold it was a whole other ball game. So many corners were cut to get it to low price and quick delivery. It was more about supply that product. I am starting to wonder if a bit of this is happening in the quilt and craft market.

The other concept is sustainability. Sustainability can be more than just resources. It can be ideas as well. One of the things I studied in university (I am a degree qualified graphic designer) was the concept of the originality of ideas. Or the provenance of the idea. Enmeshed in this was the rule of plagiarism. Def: 'the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own'. As a student and then as a practicing professional designer, you know that plagiarism or its buddy 'appropriation' are a no no. Its a big fat no go zone. As a student if you got caught you were thrown out of your institution and never allowed to return. If as a designer you were caught you would be blacklisted and have a lot of difficulty getting work. As you would be seen as a future risk of legal action or a copyright breech. We also learned how to credit our research, how to cite our references and to give credit where credit was due.

Note - Plagiarism is different to copyright. Thats another discussion. Copyright is legally wrong, Plagiarism is morally wrong. However, acts of plagiarism or appropriation can constitute a legal breach of copyright, and vice versa.

There seems to be a bit of a thing where 'designers' in the quilt and craft industry are using past or vintage designs and having them copied under their own names but with no cited credit to the original design or textile, or not being cited as reproductions. Their names are on the ranges as the designer. Now to me a 'designer' is someone who actually designs the print or pattern. Actually creates it. Their own original idea or work. This can also be work that is researched, credited or referenced to a period or style or influenced by. Not someone who selects a range of existing designs from the past and has them reprinted and takes credit for them. I know that many of the fabric prints in the market place today are reproductions but they are marketed as such. You as the consumer are being told that they are reproduced. You are not being marketed that they are new and innovative works by a clever designer. I have to say I feel cheated when I am marketed something that is meant to be original and I find that its a copy or a fake or a rip off. Should we be expecting more, that if its a designer range that it is actually designed by them and not a series of fabrics from the past copied and re-marketed?

I keep a reference library of original fabrics from the 1890s to the 1960s and time and again I see these fabrics being copied and reproduced. Legally it is ok if the design is out of copyright. Morally? But It is still cited as a copy. That it is a referenced work. What I struggle with is the ones that are copied and claimed to be that persons own work. That is where its a bit of a grey area. Should we be applauding these people and giving them credit where its not their work, or they are not acknowledging the source?

In terms of the sustainability of ideas, we must keep moving forward and have the impetus to create and grow. Copying and not moving forward is not growing or learning. We can reference and re-interpret ideas and concepts. We can learn from them and create from them, but in each generation we should be moving forward both creatively and intellectually. If we don't as a society we do not grow. We stop questioning and the desire to learn is dulled. Can this be paired with a cheaper version of Liberty in a chain store?

I would love to know what you think about this too. There have been quite a few murmurings about the place about quilts and or quilt designers not referencing or citing the origins of the works. Or works being slightly modified and not having the original source being acknowledged. It also filters into the use of antique or vintage methods or designs being claimed to be newly designed. It is a bit of a grey area but I do feel that if we cite references, give credit to the past and current practitioners of our craftform and be respectful and professional in the practice of our craftform and all those participating in it we can have a constructive discussion about it all.


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Posted on August 18, 2016 by A Piece of Cloth | 1 comment

I have decided to stop using the word 'busy'.

I don't like being busy. I do however like being active, engaged, interested, happy, productive and effective.

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The Black Dog

Posted on December 10, 2015 by A Piece of Cloth | 2 comments

Its not often that I blog. I really only do it if I feel I have something worthy to talk about.

Last night on the 7.30 report on the ABC there was a story about the exporting of greyhounds to Asian countries. You can watch this via ABC i-view online - 7.30 report 09/12/2015.

I cried.

I had to look away.

I blocked my ears.

I am crying still.

For so many reasons I cannot fathom this. I cannot understand how this breed of dog is singled out and treated how they are. I know its because of $$$. I know its because racing and gambling are allowed.

If it was a Labrador or a Pug i'm sure the outrage would be greater??

Is it because we perceive this breed differently as the last few generations in this country has only seen them as racing dogs?

And because of this they are treated as 'livestock' - they are classified as that by law. This needs to change too. They just need to be dogs. Happy, normal pets. Simple.

But its not simple.

Also the loop hole about exporting dogs needs to be closed.
It is a simple change to legislation.

But I want to tell you a simple story about a black dog and a girl.

His name is Fritz. He is a big black lazy greyhound.
He came to me 18 months ago. I waited a while to get him as I wanted an ex blood bank dog. Why, my last dog needed life saving surgery to remove a tumour off his pancreas and survived with a blood transfusion from a dog like Fritz. I wanted to return the favour and save a dog who gave blood.

But Fritz was far more important to me and my recovery.

I fell apart a while ago. A few very tough things happened and I couldn't cope. It was like the straw on a camels back and I broke.
Things that were once very simple became very hard.
Being an adoptee is not an easy thing and some issues with family and finding my biological father came to breaking point.
Add to this running my own business and wearing far too many hats things just got too much.
Something had to give, and it ended up being me.
Chest pains and panic attacks and enough was enough.

My recovery was a mental care plan and treatment for acute anxiety. Weekly visits to a therapist and lots of sleep and making big changes to my life. Letting things go and making things simpler. Learning how to cope and learning how my brain worked differently on medication. Big changes. But positive ones. Unfortunately not everyone in my life thought so, but thats more about them than me. I learnt how to say no. Its good.

No more bad clients, no more fighting to get paid on design jobs, no more doing work that was sole destroying. Just me and my fabrics and my love of travel. No more trying to find my biological father as the trouble that comes with it is not worth it. I still think i'm Bon Scotts long lost daughter but thats another story.

Coming to terms with the fact that my biological mother hates me and blames me for ruining her life. No more dealing with shitty suppliers who rip me off. No more listening to people who are only out for themselves. Not knowing how to ask for help. That kinda stuff. Just my shitty luck that it all happened in the one month. Not fun.

Fritz came along and his big, gentle quiet presence calmed me and made me smile.
He knew I was sad and not quite right. He would stay close to me and rest his head in my lap. I found it easier to leave the house with him by my side. He made me feel a whole lot better. He's goofy, funny, lazy, affectionate and perceptive.
We bonded and he is my shadow.

I have two black dogs, one is my anxiety and the other is Fritz.


You can help lend your voice to stop the export of greyhounds to Asia by visiting www.animalsaustralia.com.au and you can find the details of your local politician.

You can email Senator Barnaby Joyce direct here - http://www.barnabyjoyce.com.au/Contact-Our-Office/

Facebook: Barnaby Joyce

Twitter: Barnaby_Joyce

Phone: 02 6761 3080

Toll free: 1300 301 839 (within New England electorate only)

Fax: 02 6761 3380

Electorate Office: Shop 5, 259 Peel St, Tamworth, NSW, 2340

Post: PO BOX 963, Tamworth, NSW, 2340

 If you need help with anxiety you can contact Beyond Blue https://www.beyondblue.org.au/

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Why do I bother

Posted on May 25, 2015 by A Piece of Cloth | 6 comments

I have been asked many times since I started my business 'why I bother'.

I find this a very hard question to hear for many reasons. I also find it a very complex question to answer.

I love what I do. It also challenges me on many levels. I get to indulge in something that I love but also I hope I create a small amount of change or to provide an option to mass produced fabrics and to foster and interest in the history of fabric and design and to find beautiful and unique fabrics for people to love and create with.

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