When a friend suggested that Mary Dell Memering create an online presence for her business, The Stitching Post, her response was: “Not in my lifetime!” Yet, six months later, she did it, and it’s been an undeniable success.
“We started an online catalog about 10 years ago,” Memering said. “We have secure transactions and have shipped to more than 36 foreign countries. We have a lot on there. I’m getting close to 9,000 items online.”
She and her staff explained that fabric is so expensive overseas, it’s more cost-effective for people there to order from the states. They’ve filled orders for customers in Israel, Saudi Arabia, Spain, England, South Africa, Germany, New Zealand, Canada, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brazil, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, and most other European countries.
She said international customers aren’t the only ones that order online. Items have been shipped to all states and U.S. territories from the Main Street shop, as well. There are nearly 24,000 people on the customer list.
Memering said the bulk of the online items is fabric. To ship within the United States, she primarily uses flat-rate shipping through the U.S. Postal Service, which is $5. Internationally, the items ship at whatever the cost is for the package’s weight.
“Some order in large quantities, but I’d say the majority will go in a flat-rate envelope,” Memering said. “We can get 10 yards in one of those.”
Some of the fabric ordered from The Stitching Post has been used in interesting ways and places. The company putting together the opening ceremony for the Vancouver Olympics ordered fabric for use in the ceremony, but The Stitching Post ladies weren’t sure how it was used. One woman living in Saudi Arabia when it was bombed during the first Gulf War told them her husband was carried out of their devastated apartment in a makeshift hammock of The Stitching Post fabric.
But the shop’s focus is quilting. Memering said most of the fabrics can be used for other things, and people will sometimes buy it to make items like clothing, diaper bags and nursery decor. By far, though, The Stitching Post — the storefront and its online presence — is a quilter’s heaven. The store carries 10,000 bolts of fabric, quilt stencils, squares to embroider and make into a quilt, iron-on transfer patterns, quilter’s labels, books of quilt designs, and some notions.
Memering said she carries many types of fabrics, but the business tagline is “Your country quilt store,” so she tries to stay in keeping with that and, for instance, doesn’t carry many Oriental fabrics.
“It’s almost all 100-percent cotton,” she said. “Out of 10,000 bolts, I probably don’t have 200 pieces of blend. Most people who’re into quilting today don’t want blends. They want 100-percent cotton.”
The Stitching Post website has brought foreign shoppers into the store on Washington’s Main Street. Recently, there were shoppers from Australia, Germany and Britain in the same week.
Rather than launch her own website, Memering uses a site called quiltshops.com that hosts several quilt shops in one spot. People looking for quilting supplies, then, can find The Stitching Post that way — a plus for both Memering and the quilters.
If that seems a little high-tech for an ages-old art, it’s not the only way quilting has been modernized and kept alive.
“Quilting has never been dead, but it’s made a comeback,” Memering said.
The resurgence may be due to new tools and techniques. It’s not necessarily the time-consuming, meticulous skill it was when all quilting was done by hand.
“You used to have to cut a piece at a time, but now rotary cutters make it easier,” Memering said, explaining that strips of fabric can be cut and sewn together, then cut crosswise, and the quilter already has squares sewn together.
Once a quilt is pieced together, the quilter can use a stencil to trace a design and stitch over it. Iron-on transfer designs also are available for the same purpose.
“A lot of people are using machine quilting,” Memering said.
There are kits available, including some fashioned by The Stitching Post staff, that have everything needed to make a quilt. With those, the squares are already cut and the pattern is included.
“We’re finding a lot of people like to do those,” Memering said, adding that it’s a less expensive way to create a quilt, as well as being easier.
But taking the easy way doesn’t mean today’s quilts are plain and simple. The newer time-saving conventions, allow serious quilters to create some very beautiful and original future family heirlooms.