Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Curate this, buddy

Over the past couple years a couple craft shops (mostly quilt shops in the area, but I think Patternworks tried it briefly before expiring altogether) went to what they called a "curated" model:

Instead of selling raw materials for a craft, they only have kits. So if you want to make a sweater, instead of taking a pattern from your library - or buying a pattern from them - and then picking out the yarn and the color you want, you can pick from a small set of patterns, a small set of yarns FOR those patterns, and (I presume) not more than 10 different colors of that yarn.

It annoyed me because as a kid of the 1970s and someone who grew up reading "The Woodstock Craftsman's Manual" (the local public library had Vol. 2, which had quilting in it, and that's one reason I got interested in quilting - and many years later I bought used copies of BOTH Vol. 2 and Vol. 1) and who grew up with parents who were born at the end of the Great Depression and had a grandmother in a small rural town who was used to using what she had on hand....well, I like to make stuff to be distinctive. I don't want the same quilt or sweater or whatever that hundreds of other people have.

So I stopped shopping at the "curated" places.

I worried the trend would spread. (It still likely will, because economics, as I'll note next)

I had an epiphany about it today: The reason stores are doing this is NOT because there's a huge cadre of crafters demanding it (most of the quiltmakers I know want to pick their own fabrics, use some stuff from the stash with new stuff, etc.) but because it's cheaper.

When you have "a curated collection of kits," you don't need nearly as much staff - or, really, you don't need ANY skilled staff who do the craft in question. In a good quilt shop, you have employees who quilt themselves. They know how to match colors, they can give advice. They cut fabric. (That's another thing: you have to be willing and able to do that).

With a "curated collection of kits," I presume you can either (a) buy the fabric pre-cut or (b) hire people in a sort of independent-contractor way (certainly not full-time) and make up a ton of kits, and then sell them off.

Heck, your "store" could be a big vending machine where quilters insert their credit card, punch a couple buttons, and the pre-cut-and-selected yardage and pattern plop out of the machine for them.

I really hope my "economic argument" is wrong (because given a lot of pressures in the world today, I could see MORE quilt shops going to that model then). It's kind of like the darn Panera bread where you have to punch buttons on a console to get your sandwich. (Kind of like Skinner's pigeons, now that I think of it).

But yeah. I wondered about that "curated collection of kits instead of actual yarn or fabric yardage" thing because I was all "Am I out of touch, is this what crafters want?" but I think the genuine answer is "No, it is the stores that are wrong."

At any rate: the "you can choose any one of these eight kits we are offering this year" model is spinach, and I say to Hell with it.


Judy said...

Compare the cost per yard for precuts to yardage. 42 charms is a 26" piece of fabric @ 42" wide. 42 strips in a jelly roll are just under 3 yards. I refuse to spend twice to three times per yard for fabric. It's all about profits by people who don't actually sew/quilt.

With all that said, I rarely buy fabric anymore because I'm still trying to use up all the fabric I inherited from my mother, as well as my own collection.

purlewe said...

I agree with you, it is spinach and I don't want it!