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Staying in business through the pandemic

Pandemic

Times may be strange as the world faces a pandemic for the first time in over 100 years, but many people are going to pick up new hobbies with all of this extra time. Quilt retailers across the nation can fill the creative void by providing craft tools in new ways.

Changes to make during a pandemic

Sales don’t have to decrease; you just may have to evaluate how you’re going to get your product to your customer. This may mean making an online store for the first time ever, or offering door-to-door delivery. Consider offering lessons through video conference calls, or create a virtual class through Facebook.

Be sure to let your customers know of your new services through increased marketing. Go live on social media, increase the frequency of your email blasts, and have employees reach out to loyal patrons through phone calls during the downtime in their work day.

And speaking of reaching out, remember the quilt community is the only community some of our customers have. Look into offering classes in public areas (while following social distancing guidelines), or a virtual quilt show.

Evaluate ways to save

Many of you have already had to make tough decisions; like which employees should you keep working and which will you have to layoff (even if it is just temporary).

If you don’t already, now is a great time to look at budgeting apps for your business’s finances. These apps will list what reoccurring payments your business is currently making that you can do without during the pandemic.

Another way to save money is to talk to your credit card holder or mortgage lender to see if your payments can be adjusted. We often view these expenses as fixed, but as the world isn’t operating normally right now, exceptions can likely be made.

Hang in there American Quilt Retailer community. By working together and sharing ideas, we can keep each other afloat.

Inspiration for this post comes from this article written by Gwen Bortner.


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For Your Community: A resource for quilt shops making face masks

Homemade face masks

Being in a global pandemic has thrown countless variables in the air. Last week $5 trillion were wiped from the global stock market alone. Businesses have seen growth slow to a trickle as they’ve been forced to shut their doors and lay off employees. Families are stuck inside their homes, afraid to be in public for fear of either getting or spreading the coronavirus. But, one fact remains true: quilters are helping their communities.

Even with doors closed, quilt shops are filling a void in this nation by making much needed face masks for both the general public and medical personnel.

That’s why American Quilt Retailer started For Your Community. This Facebook page is designed to be a one stop resource for quilt retailers across the country leading the DIY face mask movement.

Face Mask Patterns

If you plan on making face masks for a specific hospital, make sure they will accept the face mask you are making. For Your Community includes different patterns that the American Quilt Retail community has used.

Different patterns call for different supplies, but the quickest and most widely accepted face mask that we’ve seen used is one layer of quilting-quality cotton for the outside of the mask, one layer of flannel for the inside, and 1/8″ elastic for the straps (1/4″ elastic works as well). Note, you don’t need to pre-wash the fabric. If elastic is in short supply, you can make fabric straps, or buy hair ties and use them as elastic. Extra large work best as they are a little longer. And keep in mind that male first responders will be wearing these masks, too.

We’ve heard of some folks lining masks with vinyl for extra protection, but some nurses have said that makes it harder to breathe. Likewise, we’ve seen patterns with an open side to allow a filter to be inserted. This makes it harder to wash the masks, so check first to see what type of mask your recipient prefers.

Face Mask Distribution

We have heard of instances where a hospital won’t accept the masks to distribute to nurses, but if a nurse brings in a homemade mask they are encouraged to wear it. Therefore, you may need to distribute the masks to nurses directly. We’ve been able to contact nurses and have had a nurse run out to our car to pick up a batch of masks. Other hospitals are more flexible and you can bring them right in to the ER. Check before you deliver.

Those in need of masks are encouraged to post in the page so they can be paired with a local quilt shop.

Mask Kits

Some quilt shops, like this one in St. Paul, MN (check out that line!), are making quilt mask kits that include a printed pattern and supplies. A half yard of cotton, a half yard of flannel, and 4.66 yards of elastic can make 12 masks.

And this mother/daughter pair helped to sew over 20 masks for donation! Talk about a great way to pass the time (and not to mention, some bonding too).

Protect Yourself and Others

If you’re going to collect masks, we recommend having a daily deadline so people know when to drop masks off by. To continue social distancing, leave a bin outside your work place. And lastly, encourage donors to leave the masks in a ziploc bag to ensure they remain clean.

And of course, maintain six feet of distance when delivering face masks. Fight the good fight, but remember the burden is still on all of us to flatten the curve.


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Self Quarantine

Quarantine

Times are strange right now aren’t they? The low hum of menace is everywhere, anxiety is plaguing our minds during this quarantine as much as the coronavirus is infecting the globe.

Misinformation is rampant and nobody knows what to do, how to feel. All we know is every time we leave the house we are either threats to somebody, or at risk of developing a serious illness.

You don’t need someone else telling you what you already know; to stay home and not to leave unless it’s absolutely necessary.

But with the nation self-quarantining, we all finally have something we’ve constantly been asking for: time.

And with this added time, it’s easy to reflect on the past few days. What could I have done different? Why didn’t I take this more seriously sooner? While reflecting on the past, it’s easy to transition to thinking about the future. What will happen to my business? What will happen to this nation?

Some things we do know; America (and the world for that matter) won’t be the same. Nobody alive has ever been through a pandemic, so there’s simply no way to tell how this will coalesce. But one thing I’m trying to do is live in the moment. This proves to be much easier said than done (any one else having adult acne for the first time?).

But when will the next time come around that I get to watch a movie every day for a week? Or do something that I love but haven’t been able to do for years, like paint?

We’re all struggling with how to articulate what we’re going through, and in that camaraderie I hope we can find the courage, and solace, to make the best decisions for our society in the coming weeks.

Godspeed American Quilt Retailer Community. In solidarity, we can curb the spread of the coronavirus together.


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Coronavirus

Coronavirus

That’s right; American Quilt Retailer is jumping on this band wagon. Knowledge is power and the more you know about the coronavirus the less your business will have to deal with it. After all, you never know where your customers have been traveling so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

What you can do

Hand and respiratory hygiene remain two of the most important things we can do to protect ourselves and others from the spread of the virus.

Hand Hygiene: Keeping your hands clean is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Wash your hands with liquid soap and water and rub for at least 20 seconds. Then rinse with water and dry with a disposable paper towel. If hand-washing facilities are not available, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol is an effective alternative. Avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes with unwashed hands, especially after coming in contact with public fixtures (like handrails or door knobs) or after coughing or sneezing. 

Respiratory Hygiene: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing or coughing. Dispose of soiled tissues in a trash can and wash your hands thoroughly after. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands. 

Social Distancing: Avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms. Maintain at least a 3 foot distance between you and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. When in doubt, decline handshakes or other physical contact when meeting others. Consider alternatives to face-to-face meetings while conducting business when possible.

Increase Store Clean Up: Provide disinfectant wipes and pay close attention to cleaning high-touch areas (keyboard, countertops, workstations) at the end of the work day. It isn’t clear yet how long the coronavirus can stay on surfaces, but promptly disinfect any surface you see a customer or employee cough or sneeze nearby, or on.

Resources

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, shortness of breath or other difficulty breathing. If you have any of these symptoms seek medical attention promptly.

To stay up to date on areas restricted for travel, check out the CDC Travel Advisory Risk Assessment List. Or for more information, check out the CDC’s website.


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Environmentally friendly options

Environment

The environment seems to be on everyone’s mind these days. Whether it’s politics, the news, social media, or word of mouth, there’s no doubt that taking care of the planet is a popular topic.

Corporations are taking note too. Laurence D. Fink, the founder of the world’s largest asset company, addressed it in his annual letter to CEO’s. Not long after the letter was released, Delta announced their plan to become carbon-neutral, Amazon announced it’s Climate Pledge to run on 100% renewable energy by 2030, and Microsoft announced it’s goal to become carbon negative by the same year.

If you care about taking care of the environment (or your customers do), check out these environmentally-friendly quilting companies and products.

Products with the environment in mind

Honeybegood is an eco-friendly fabric company that curates not just fabrics but also hard-to-find organic cotton batting, buttons, thread, and more.

Another company with the planet in mind is Organic Cotton Plus, a cotton company that started with 100% organic fabric but has since expanded their product offerings to include knits, notions, and more.

Last but not least, check out Quilters Dream Green batting, batting made 100% of recycled plastic bottles.

Little changes done every day can lead to big changes long-term. If you don’t have access to these eco-friendly options, consider buying digitally printed fabric over screen printed fabric.

In a 2018 study by the FESPA, 40 billion liters of water were saved globally by switching from screen-printed fabrics to digitally-printed fabrics. Further, fabrics printed digitally use 10% less color than screen-printed fabrics.

Check out more about this in the free digital fabric magazine included with February’s American Quilt Retailer issue.

Other ways to be eco-friendly

The best way to take care of our planet is to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Consider adding a bin to your store for customers to bring in scraps of material they never plan on using. Or add a quilt-donation box to take to shelters when customers have quilts they no longer want or need.

When in doubt, it is better to use recycled materials than to buy new. Follow the lead set by other corporations and provide more options for your customers with the environment in mind.


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Quilting and Community

Quilting and Community

We know this is a blog for quilt retailers, but this week instead of providing inspiration or business ideas we’re going back to the basics.

Reflect

Think back to the first quilt you ever made. Who helped you make that first quilt? Do you remember why you wanted to try quilting? Do you remember the feeling you had after your first quilt was done? Hopefully that same feeling returns every time you clip the last strings off a completed quilt.

There’s something about working with your hands and the process of turning nothing into something. It may be therapeutic for you, or exciting, or even nostalgic. There’s probably a few other people you know who share in your love for quilting as well.

Surround

Think of the fellow quilters in your circle. How did they start quilting? What do they like about it?

Across the country, quilters just like you gather in community spaces every month to make quilts. On the surface, these quilters share the same skills, but on a deeper level they share something much different. Likely, it has something to do with community mindedness, and the bond that creating art with a group can bring.

Act

Have you thought of ways you can create that sense of togetherness in your retail space? How can you create a space that encourages story telling, learning, experimenting, and all the other adjectives that end with -ing that quilting produces?

Every quilt has a story. Making a quilt is a part of that story too, and by getting at the heart of why you love quilting, and why your community loves quilting as well, you can spread the community of quilting farther than you ever imagined.


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Common quilting mistakes

Quilt mistakes

Learning a new skill can be both fun and challenging, but making mistakes along the way is just part of the journey (and part of the fun too). Check out these mistakes made by both beginning and experienced quilters alike to help you become an expert quilter in no time.

Take your time

Someone very wise once told me haste makes waste. This is true for all things in life, but whether you’re working on your first quilt, or your 50th, you can still make very basic mistakes by working on a project too quickly.

Along with taking your time, it’s also important to plan ahead. Planning your quilt in advance can save time later down the line. Make sure you have enough fabric and plan your piecing beforehand to make sure your project is executed seamlessly (no pun intended).

Basic mistakes

One of the largest and most noticeable mistakes beginning quilters make is cutting incorrectly. It’s important to be precise on every quilt, but especially for quilts with a lot of piecing.

Another common mishap is not back stitching. Back stitching is important in securing the ends of pieces, and can contribute to blocks not squaring away.

Two common things beginning quilters get wrong are batting and marking tools. If you’re unsure what batting would be best to use, seek assistance at a fabric store. Also at fabric stores are machine washable markers perfect for quilt projects; buy several so you always have multiple at hand.

Fabric mistakes

Common fabric mistakes include pressing too hard and not buying enough. Again, when in doubt consult an employee at a fabric store if you’re not sure how many yards of fabric you’ll need for a project. Also don’t forget to prewash that fabric once you bring it home from the store, especially if a quilt is going to include colors by white material.

Last but not least, follow pattern directions. Some new patterns are harder than they seem; stick to the directions to make sure the quilt turns out as it should.

What are some things you wish you knew when you started quilting? Quilting is a life-long journey and an ever-evolving art; making some mistakes along the way is just part of the fun.

Thanks to Create with Claudia for the inspiration behind this post.


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Manage your phone habits

Manage your phone habits

Our cell phones have become a central part of our lives. They’re the first things we check in the morning, we never leave the house without them, and we can’t even sit on the toilet without scrolling through a timeline.

Even if using your phone less isn’t on your radar, check out these tips to see if 1) it should be and 2) how to get some time back in your day.

Turn off notifications

Do you pick up your phone every time you see you have a new notification? Not only is this incredibly disrupting to the task you’re working on at hand, but constantly checking social media can contribute to feeling like you’re always missing out (in other words, FOMO). You’d be surprised how turning off notifications can help you check social media less. After all, out of sight means out of mind.

Limit phone time

Most phones have a system setting that shows how much time you’re spending on your phone and on what apps. This setting will send you a notification every week so you can track your progress. It can even show you how often you pick up your phone, and for what notifications!

Another way to limit phone time is by switching your display settings. Studies have shown that changing your display from color to black and white really does take the enjoyment out of scrolling, which means less time spent mindlessly scrolling.

Time equals money

What would you do if you had an extra hour in your day? As it turns out, you don’t need magic to make this happen—with some determination (and lifestyle changes) you can add more meaningful time in your life.


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Keeping healthy workers

flu

Flu season is upon us; check out these tips to help ensure that you, your employees, and your customers can leave your business happy and healthy.

Prevent the spread

  • Encourage your employees to get their flu vaccine. Set an example by getting one yourself! This is the best way to prevent the flu.
  • Review the sick leave policy with employees. Encourage them to stay home if they’re sick without any fear of repercussions at work.
  • Look into a family sick leave policy. If someone is sick at home and they still want to come into work, encourage them to check in with any signs of symptoms and to take off early if they start to feel bad.
  • Look into automating certain features in your business, i.e., soap and towel dispensers, sinks, etc. At the least, make tissues, hand sanitizer, and waste baskets available for customers to use.
  • Post fliers (available from the CDC) around your store.

What to know about the flu

The flu is a respiratory illness that is spread by touching infected areas. An area becomes infected anytime someone coughs or sneezes on or near an object. Washing your hands frequently is the best way to make sure you don’t get sick as touching a surface then touching your eye or face is the number one way people become infected.

If you catch the flu and go to the doctor in the first 48 hours, you can get medicine that will shorten the time you’ll be sick. Even when you begin to feel better, remember you can still be contagious for up to 24 hours after your symptoms subside.

What steps does your business take to make sure everyone remains healthy? Nobody wants the flu, see what your business can do to minimize the possibility.


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Winter Weather Worries

Winter Weather

Groundhog’s day may be around the corner, but don’t wait for Puxsutawney Phil to make the call; make sure your store is ready for winter (even if the groundhog predicts spring will come early).

1. Inform

Do you have a way to inform your employees if the weather is too bad to stay open? Take into consideration where your employees live; would you be willing to pay extra if they still want to come in? If you have a system in place (i.e. a phone tree, back up employees, etc) make sure everyone is privy to the system before the weather takes a turn.

What about informing your customers? Utilize every tool possible to let them know the store is closing by posting on social media, changing the voicemail, and leaving the closed sign on the store door.

2. Budget

Some businesses have a slush fund in their budget that incorporates the possibility of snow days. If you decide to stay open, consider rewarding customers with a sale or deal you’ve been on the edge of executing. And if you haven’t already, it’s a great idea to invest in snow removal. What’s better than arriving to work on a snowy morning to see the sidewalks already clear?

3. Clean

One often overlooked duty that comes with winter weather is the extra cleaning that comes with it. Consider placing extra rugs by the entrance, and make sure to keep those rugs clean throughout the day. If the rugs stay wet, place fans at the entrance to help keep them dry. Having a clean store is a big part of having a presentable store, so put in the time and effort to ensure your store stays that way.


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