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Virtual Blue Bag Continued!

Virtual Blue Bag

No need to miss Spring Quilt Market when we’ve made Virtual Blue Bags. Check out the continued list of products from last week below, or check out a full list at our website.

In addition to Virtual Blue Bags, we have a special offer for subscriptions going right now. Plus you can receive a free digital copy of the April 2020 issue by using code April2020 at checkout.

Now, check out what’s new this season.

Collections

P&B Textiles has released 13 Collections this Spring. For bright colors and designs, check out Butterfly Dreams by Robin Mead. For the cutest collection—perfect for baby quilts and clothes—(expected to release this Fall) check out Little Creatures by Robin Roderick.

Windham Fabrics has the perfect collection for any spring-themed project you may working on with the Posy line by Annabel Wrigley. Also Spring-related is the Jane Austin at Home line by Riley Blake Designs.

Videos

C&T Publishing has an entire page dedicated to Quilt Market. Check out their Trunk show, Schoolhouse videos, and more content from your favorite authors. JoAnn Hoffman Designs also released a video of their 2020 designs.

Products

Stay tuned—the next Virtual Blue Bag event will be held in July.


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Virtual Blue Bag

Virtual Blue Bag

Have you been following our Virtual Blue Bag posts on social media? We’re all bummed spring Quilt Market was cancelled, but you can still join in on the blue bag-fun by searching the #virtualbluebag hashtag on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook.

What’s inside?

Revealing new fabrics are one of the best parts of Quilt Market. Not only are suppliers revealing new designs, but creators are experimenting with them too!

One Sister Designs used a mix of fabrics and design elements from Plant Kindness and Completely Crazy to create one beautiful finished product.

Natalie Barnes pays tribute to her mother, Norma Rose, in this bright and happy palette by Windham Fabrics. Norma’s favorites—including cabbage roses, seedlings, and hand-written recipe cards—can be found throughout the collection.

If you’re interested in browsing more Spring fabric lines, check out these links below.

And of course, we’ve got the latest products that will make all of your quilting and craft projects so much easier.

Patterns and Products

Inspiration can always be found. Stay tuned for more Virtual blue bag goodies in next week’s blog. You can also find a full list at our website.


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Re-Opening: What have we learned?

Appreciation

To wrap up our re-opening series, we thought we’d conclude with some reflection. And upon reflecting, we kept coming back to one word: appreciation.

The impact of COVID-19 is far from over, and as we re-integrate back into society we will be learning a new normal. We appreciate the lives we had. We appreciate and understand community in a new light. And, we have a new appreciation for our work.

How community has changed

Community has taken on a new meaning. During this time, community means staying away. Community means learning new technology to stay in touch with those you loved.

One thing we’ve noticed through staying in touch digitally are the new routines. At the end of virtual classes or quilt-alongs, do you leave time for sharing? Time for friendly faces to take the screen wearing their familiar smiles? That sort of community seems to make things feel normal again.

A new appreciation for work

All of us have had the confirmation during this pandemic of what we already knew; quilters are essential workers. How many masks have you made? What (or who) are you thinking of while you’re making those masks? How many frontline workers are made safer because of the skills you have and the effort you put in?

As you think about those “when this is all over I’m going to…” ideas, also try to think about what sort of lessons you’re going to take with you. There’s no feeling quite like lending a hand during a time of need.

American Quilt Retailer sees the work that you’ve done and feels the stress of what you’re going through. We will continue to be as much of a resource to you every step of the way.


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Re-Opening: Frequently Asked Questions

COVID

If you still have questions about operating your business during these times, check out these COVID-19 frequently asked questions posted by the CDC.

What should I do if an employee comes to work with COVID-19 symptoms?

COVID-19 symptoms include a fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If an employee starts to present these symptoms during the work day, they should be immediately separated from other employees.

Employees should not be allowed to return to work until they have met the criteria to discontinue home isolation, and have consulted with their healthcare provider. Employees should not be required to be tested or provide a doctor’s note in order to return back to work.

What should I do if an employee suspects or confirms to have COVID-19?

In most cases, you do not need to shut down the facility. However, you should close off any areas used for prolonged periods by the sick person. Wait 24 hours to clean the facility (to decrease the exposure to the persons cleaning the facility) and open as many doors or windows as possible to increase air circulation. Cleaning procedures should follow the guidelines outlined by the CDC.

Employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure. The CDC recommends those exposed to take extra precautions.

If an employee has been exposed, but is not showing symptoms, should I allow them to work?

Being exposed is defined by the CDC as coming in close contact (6 feet or less) with an infected person for a prolonged period of time. If the employee has symptoms they should self-isolate. If the employee does not have symptoms, they should self-quarantine for 14 days and practice social distancing. All employees should monitor for symptoms during this time.

Cross training all employees to be able to perform all functions is especially critical in the case your staff is decreased from coronavirus infections.

What should I do if I find out several days later (after an employee worked) they were diagnosed with COVID-19?

If it has been less than 7 days since the sick employee used the facility, clean and disinfect all areas the employee used. If it has been more than 7 days since the sick employee used the facility, additional cleaning is not necessary.

We will continue our Re-Opening series to provide as much information as you need. We want the quilt retail community to feel safe as you re-integrate your businesses to their normal workflow.


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Re-Opening: How to protect your employees

Protecting

Over 30 states have loosened their shelter-in-place policies. If you’re looking to re-open your business (or already have) below is what the CDC recommends to protect your employees.

Establish a COVID-19 Coordinator

The COVID-19 Coordinator should start with examining the company’s sick leave policy. The policy should be flexible and non-punitive and should encourage employees to stay home if they feel sick (or to care for family members who are sick). Review this policy with your employees.

Next the COVID-19 Coordinator should determine shift schedules to enforce social distancing. Work from home should be done whenever possible.

Essential employees and business functions should be determined as well. Business continuity—if there should ever be a disruption in the supply chain—should be evaluated. Explore how you can continue business operations if further disruptions occur.

Lastly, establish an emergency communications plan and clearly communicate all of the above to your employees, along with whatever expectations you may have.

Below are other tips the CDC recommends to protect your employees.

Protecting the health of your employees

  1. Encourage sick employees to stay home. Your sick leave policy should reflect this encouragement as well.
  2. Ask your employees about their concerns. Some employees may have underlying illnesses.
  3. Develop flexible scheduling. This should also include flexible time-off for sick family members in need of care.
  4. Talk to your suppliers about what they are doing to protect their employees.
  5. Plan to minimize face-to-face contact between employees.
  6. Provide supplies for proper hand hygiene. This includes no-touch trash cans, kleenex, soap, water, paper towels, and hand sanitizer.
  7. Keep travel to a minimum.
  8. Routinely clean high-touch areas. This includes phones, counters, keyboards, work stations, and doorknobs.
  9. Provide education, training, and clearly communicate expectations.
  10. If an employee becomes sick, separate them and send them home immediately.

Next week we’ll cover the frequently asked questions small businesses have when operating during the health crisis, including what to do if an employee is exposed and finding out an employee tested positive several days later. Stay safe and keep hanging on AQR community; we are all in this together.


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Re-Opening Your Business

Open

Each state is responding to the coronavirus differently, and that includes when businesses are allowed to re-open.

Within the next week, 20 states are loosening restrictions—with most attention going to Georgia—as they have had the most aggressive re-opening response. Cities and counties within these states can differ on their re-opening to, so pay attention to your local news to get the most accurate information on when restrictions will be lifted in your area.

Deciding whether or not to reopen your business ultimately comes down to you and your employees. Safety should remain the highest priority, and maintaining a feeling of safety for your employees is also critical.

If you do decide to reopen, here are some things to know.

Reopening requirements

Each state is going to be different, and some states have specific requirements. As a rule of thumb, make sure your employees wear masks at all times, and make masks to provide to your customers to wear while shopping too. Cloth masks should be hand washed after each use, and don’t let your store get so full your customers can’t adhere to the 6-foot social distancing rule.

Store cleaning should be increased too. Consider adding wipes, towels, or cleaner by the door so patrons don’t have to touch the surface. Find ways to sanitize your payment options; wipe the pin pad after a card transaction or provide a stylus to be cleaned after each use. Other surfaces and countertops should be frequently cleaned throughout the day as well.

If someone coughs or sneezes on a surface, clean it promptly. According to the CDC, you should wipe the surface first with soap and water, then clean the surface again with a disinfectant. Soft surfaces, such as fabric, will need to be washed. Don’t shake out contaminated soft surfaces, as that can spread the virus as well. Gloves should be worn while cleaning these surfaces, and you should wash your hands after removing your gloves. Lastly, if you allow patrons to use your restroom, clean the room after each use.

These steps will help prepare your location to re-open. Next week we’ll cover how to keep your employees protected, and what policies to change to provide them peace of mind.


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Stitchin’ Heaven Owners Named Dallas-Fort Worth Small Business Person of the Year

Stitchin' Heaven

Owners of Stitchin’ Heaven, Deb and her son Clay Luttrell, have been named the District 2020 Small Business Person of the Year by the Dallas-Fort Worth Small Business Administration.

Deb founded Stitchin’ Heaven—the largest quilt store in Texas—in 1996 and has since grown the quilt shop into a multimillion-dollar business. They’ve expanded their offerings to include online sales, projects, education, and group travel. Clay officially joined the Stitchin’ Heaven team in 2017 and facilitated the opening of a new location. The 17,500 square-foot store opened October 2019 in Quitman, TX (population 1,800).

Like many quilt retailers across the country, the pandemic has forced Stitchin’ Heaven to close its retail doors. Many factors went into the decision to close up shop before the state-mandated order. The safety of employees and customers as well as the fact that Stitchin’ Heaven is a destination attraction were among these reasons.

Stitchin’ Heaven is known for remaining relevant during ever-changing times. They’ve started hosting weekly quarantine quilt alongs on Facebook live and maintained their Block of the Month program.

What Stitchin’ Heaven is doing to help

Sewers across this nation are proving to be essential workers by providing essential supplies, like face masks. This rings true with Stitchin’ Heaven when they sent a customer going through a tough time supplies to make masks. This customers sent some of these supplies to her sister, who made 25 masks for her local health care facility. Now, her entire extended family are making masks that go as far as Arkansas and Tennessee.

“It starts as a little flicker,” Deb said. “And now we’re at bonfire level. If you have an idea, act on it, don’t wait. You never know when you act what other things will happen.”

Deb’s piece of advice during these difficult times is to remember that everything your business does should be done with the customer in mind.

And of course, Deb is grateful for everyone who helped along the way.

“Clay and I would like to thank all of our loyal customers who have been faithful to the business, our dedicated employees who work hard every day to provide exceptional service, our family who have played such a key role in the success of Stitchin’ Heaven, and the City of Quitman for their continued support. We have big plans for 2020 and beyond and can’t wait to continue growing as a household name for quilters around the country.”


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COVID-19 Check-In

COVID-19

Much of the nation has been quarantining for a month now, and the seriousness of the COVID-19 situation we (and the world) are in is fully realized.

The uncomfortable part of quarantining is likely over. We’ve become used to leaving the home for only the essentials, we’ve fallen into a new schedule. But this doesn’t mean that the way we feel during this crisis is any different.

Things have been hard, and nobody is enjoying themselves. A survey on a friend’s Instagram story proved this to be true with 80 percent of respondees saying they are not enjoying this strange time.

Sitting and thinking about friends in nursing homes, essential workers, people who have lost their jobs, and vulnerable family members is enough for the spiral of anxiety to begin again. We are being confronted with a sense of powerlessness every day, and with every new piece of information.

What can I do?

And yet it’s thinking of these people that make me realize how good I have it. It inspires me to turn the feeling of powerlessness into action. Send a card (or two), continue sewing face masks, donate to local charities and businesses, reach out to loved ones to see how you can help.

What if it’s not safe for you to leave your home? Bake cookies, write a letter, put a sign of encouragement in your window, or call a friend instead. Because at the end of the day, all we have is each other and a new day will come soon.

What has helped you the most during the COVID-19 quarantine? Leave comments below with what you’ve been watching, listening to, or doing.


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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.


If you’re looking for more information to guide you in owning a retail business, subscribe to American Quilt Retailer today. Already a subscriber? No worries—join our Facebook group for insights and dialogue from industry specialists like you.