This is the content of a newsletter item that my friend Isa at Creative Quilting sent out and it's worth a read by anyone and everyone who loves fabric!
I usually very much enjoy writing my newsletters, telling you about all the new things we are doing, the new fabrics and the up coming shows. However, this time, it is with a very heavy heart that I am writing this one. I have been thinking about it for a long time but I have now reached a point where I need to put my neck on the line and shout loud and clear about it!
I am talking about the cheap copies of fabrics. The quilt show at Sandown last month was the last straw for me. Walking around and seeing copies of fabrics sold for £5.00 per metre when we have the original at £12.00 was enough to make my blood boil. I am really angry!
I am angry for a lot of people and a lot of reasons.
First of all, I am angry for the designers who spend time and effort designing beautiful fabrics and have their designs ripped off. They are not getting paid by the people who copy their work. No royalties coming their way! No repeat work for them. How are they supposed to carry on designing fabrics and supplying the patchwork industry when this happens?
I am angry for the manufacturers who pay the designers. They invest a lot of time and money in these fabrics, only to have the rug pulled from under their feet by unscrupulous people.
I am angry for us, the patchwork shops that take time and care to choose ranges of genuine fabrics that we hope you will all like. We pay a lot of money for those fabrics. We spend time making samples to inspire our customers. We care so much about our fabrics and our businesses. We care deeply about our customers and our staff. How are we supposed to stay in business?
I am angry for the shops who have bought those fabrics (oh yes, these people don’t just retail the copies, they also wholesale them!!) thinking they were genuine, original prints. You may wonder “how come they don’t know they are copies?”. Well, they are SO many fabrics manufacturers around that it is impossible to know all the fabrics. I, for instance, don’t stock Moda and honestly, I don’t think I would know a Moda copy if it hit me in the face! I do however buy a lot of Robert Kaufman and Makower and I can spot a copy from a mile!
But you know what? Above all, I am angry for you. Yes, you! The customer! Because when you look at those cheap fabrics closely, what do you discover? Poor quality cotton, poor thread count, poor quality printing, a lot of stretch and distortion. And do you know kind of quilts you get when you use those kinds of fabrics? Yep, it’s right: poor quality quilts! And that, above all, is what really really really annoy me! What is the point of putting all the time and effort into a quilt when the raw material is substandard?
Don’t get me wrong though, I am not blaming you. Not in the slightest. I know how expensive fabrics are. I remember when I took the business over about 10 years ago, our most expensive fabrics were at about £9.40 per metre, we are now flirting with the £15.00! The cost of cotton and freight are the main reasons for this hike.
I can perfectly understand that between fabric at £5.00 per metre and at £12.00 per metre, the choice could apparently be easy. After all, they look pretty much the same. Well, that’s the problem… it’s the “pretty much” that makes all the difference! The people who sell these substandard quality fabrics do not care one hoot about you or your quilts. They are here to make a quick buck, that’s all. They are just jumping on the bandwagon of the sewing revival; the minute something else comes along, they will jump on that.
So by now you are probably thinking, “well, that’s all very well, but how I do I know whether a fabric is genuine or not?”. That’s a fair enough question… let me give you some pointers:
-Feel the fabric. Check for the stretch and look closely at the quality of the printing. The copies always seem to be a little “blurry”. The colours are not as bright and the outline not as sharp.
- If possible, check the selvedge for a copyright sign. The substandard fabrics tend to not have anything written or very little information (they haven’t pushed the boat out to the point of copying the legal mention from the original fabric because that would make them counterfeit goods. And that would a different legal ball game! Oh yes, they are clever!)
- Ask where the fabric come from. Genuine shops know where goods come from. We all buy from reputable wholesalers and we know where the fabrics are printed.
- Ask yourself “is it too good to be true?” if the answer is yes, you could well be looking at one of those substandard fabrics.
Just to make things absolutely clear, I am NOT talking about traders who sell end of lines, remnants or overstock. These people are absolutely genuine and offer good quality fabrics. The fabrics are usually a bit dated and come from manufacturers who just want to move some stock and clear their shelves for the new collection. Nothing wrong with that at all. We have all been in the situation of needed 5 metres to put on the back of a quilt, I wouldn’t go for the £15.00 per metre fabrics for that either, believe me!!
You are probably wondering “why aren’t the manufacturers/copyright holders doing anything about it?”. Well, good question. But honestly, I can see it from their point of view… the cost of legal action against copyright infringement is seriously high and the outcome very doubtful. The scale of the problem is not large enough for anyone to take action, which is a shame because there is nothing to stop these people from carrying on and even stepping up their operation. This is extremely frustrating. However, I will give credit where it’s due: Makower UK seems to be taking the matter pretty seriously and to be trying to protect us the shops, you the customer, and themselves against these guys. They seem to be a lone voice at the moment.
The show organisers are not really interested either as they are not responsible for goods sold at their shows.
Quilt shop owners can’t do anything legally as we are not the copyright holder of those designs.
So who can do something about it? Unfortunately it’s YOU… yep, I know, it’s not fun! It is sadly down to you, the customer, to ask questions and find out about the fabrics. Don’t be shy, ask the questions!
The problem is not new but it is growing bigger and is becoming more visible. A lot of my colleagues are getting pretty rattled about it but so far no one has really taken to bull by the horns and shouted about it. Well, actually, that’s a lie… because Anna from The Eternal Maker in Chichester did write an amazingly brave article on her blog back in November 2014 (http://goo.gl/MCzHQu) followed by another one in December 2014 (http://goo.gl/cXIaCW) . I agree with every single word. Why “brave”? because it’s never easy to talk about money, because to all intend and purposes, this is what it comes down to. It is all about money. It’s about your money that you may be wasting on poor quality fabrics, it’s about the money the designers, manufacturers and wholesalers are not getting, and it’s about the money that us, the shops, are not getting to allow us to remain open and keep running classes, workshops and employ competent staff. So Anna, my hat off to you for being brave and gutsy enough to have done it. I am sorry it has taken me so long to follow you. Let’s hope I won’t be the only one. (As Dumbledore said: “there is a time where one needs to choose between what’s right and what is easy”, well, this is MY time!).
As for you, our customer, who are reading this, please be assured of one thing: although we are trying to protect our business, ultimately, it is YOU we are trying to protect. Because YOU ARE our business and without YOU Creative Quilting (and the Eternal Maker and all the others) would not exist.
So next time you are walking the aisles of a show or go into a shop, keep an eye out and ask lots of questions! Genuine traders won’t mind, the others… well I’ll be interested to know what they say…
Till next time, happy sewing!
If you agree with Isa and want to add fuel to the fire, just go to her Facebook page and 'like' - she has already had over 10,000 responses so this clearly hits a cord with many of you.
Here is the link: Click here:
BTW: Isa just won the Best Independant Retailer award for products and gifts for Embridge Borough Council!