Quite a while back, I posted about Block-of-the-Month (BOM) programs and encouraged you to comment about your like/dislike of them and share some experiences.
Wow...did I ever open a can of worms! Because I have been involved in administering a couple of these programs since then, I decided to wait a while before posting further on this topic.
I don't own a quilt shop, but I do work part time at one. Our shop, like many, offers BOM programs...2-3 at a time. I designed a quilt for a BOM about 6-7 years ago...wrote all the patterns, administered it, taught the class each month (technique and history), and did the kitting. It was called "Quilting Through America" and the blocks all represented different decades/quilt styles in America, even including a "whole cloth" hand quilted eagle in the middle (hard to see in this picture...). It incorporated broderie perse, whole cloth quilting, piecing, redwork, applique, string piecing, crazy quilting/embellishing, charm quilting, and all techniques were taught in addition to the history of the era. (I made this sample, hand quilted the center, and the rest of the quilt was custom machine quilted by Marilyn Lange, Ypsilanti, MI).
Since then, I have administered a couple more BOM programs, working with two other people of like mind...one program was "canned," offered by Marti Michell through Maywood Fabrics ("American Beauty"). This employed her "Perfect Piecing" template system, included great patterns, and just concluded in the spring. (Mary Jones made the sample shown below and it was machine quilted by Rhonda Loy, Dexter, MI).
Currently I am kitting and administering one that we developed from the Nancy Halvorsen book, "Count On It!" with the same two other people...both of whom are just as wacky about things being right and true as I am. Together, we designed the outer border using previous Halvorsen designs. We called it "Most Wonderful" and it was made entirely from Halvorsen fabrics (Benartex). The sample was made by Mary Jones, custom machine quilted by Rhonda Loy, Dexter, MI. There were directions to write and lots of fussy little pieces to kit.
I have tried to sum up the comments I received from the previous post below.
Why do people want to do block-of-the-month (BOM) quilts? Lots of good reasons:
1) Some just like the quilt.
2) Some like working on something where the design and fabrics are all picked out...NO DECISION-MAKING.
3) Some are new to quilting and decide that this is a good way to learn new techniques.
4) Some don't have a "stash" and like the variety of materials offered.
5) Some like the pressure (or lack of pressure?) of working on one block at a time. (some of you just collect the blocks, and you KNOW who you ARE, LOL!).
6) Some want to meet other like-minded people and take the journey together.
7) Some of you use these programs to get an INCREDIBLE amount of quilting done in a timely manner (have you visited Yvette of the BOM Quilter blog?? OMG! She works on SEVERAL programs at a time and gets them DONE - beautifully!!).
Why do quilt shops offer BOM programs?
1) They provide steady, predictable traffic into the quilt shop.
2) Some customers prefer paying for a quilting project a little at a time, one block or section a month.
3) Great way to encourage customers to have success.
4) Good way to introduce new techniques and/or tools to customers.
5) Don't have to make the entire quilt kit at one time...kitting is time-consuming and this spaces it out over 6, 9, 12 months.
What are the chief customer complaints about BOM programs?
1) The pattern has mistakes or is just unclear/not enough detail or pictures...not sure which fabric is used for what part of the block.
2) There is not enough fabric to make the block/section featured.
3) One or more of the fabrics in the kit have been substituted - not like the original, which you fell in TOTAL love with the first time you saw it. Sometimes the substitution is good...sometimes, well, it's just plain hideous and looks like an after thought.
4) Once you add up the total cost of the kits, the quilt is more expensive than if you just bought a pattern and picked out some fabric.
What are the chief shop owner complaints about BOM programs?
1) Some quilters just collect the blocks to start the quilt LATER. Then at this later date, if there are problems, or if the customer makes a cutting mistake, the fabric is gone from the shop and is no longer available.
2) If the quilter's sewing room is unorganized, pieces of the quilt can get lost or separated. Then, the shop may not have the fabric anymore when a replacement block/section is requested.
3) Customers sign up, kits are made, shop resources are committed, then the quilter drops out or stops coming to pick up blocks. Partial/incomplete BOM blocks are difficult to re-sell. This costs a shop a lot of money.
4) BOMs require buying a lot of fabric up front, then it can take up to a year to sell all the kits and recoop that initial outlay of money. Then, the fabric needs to be stored, out of the general inventory, until it is cut for the kits.
5) Unless the shop owner plans ahead and CUTS OFF or LIMITS ENROLLMENT, later participants don't end up making the same quilt as the sample due to fabrics becoming unavailable (especially Moda fabrics...they rarely reprint fabric lines...once that initial shipment of fabric is gone, it is almost impossible to get more). This keeps the fabric selection fresh, but means shop owners really have to plan ahead.
6) These BOMs are labor-intensive due to the time it takes to calculate, cut and package the kits. This is why they seem pricey. The labor cost has to be figured into the price of the program.
It makes me completely crazy when the BOM experience is flawed by multiple, repetitive mistakes in the patterns or fabric amounts. I have an obsessive/compulsive personality, so I tend to check and recheck too much when it comes to calculating yardage and cutting/packaging kits. My friends and the shop owner give me a hard time, but I know that if I were doing a BOM, I would want to know that care went into every step of offering me a quality project.
I also have high expectations of the customer...I put names on kits and hold people accountable for finishing what they start. I want to do everything possible to assure the participant will have success in completing the project. I love quilting, and I want EVERYONE to love quilting and have a successful experience.
Not everyone who runs BOM programs thinks like I do, and I am sure there are places for me to improve how I approach the ones I take on. Today, one of our favorite customers was in the store and we were all thinking and commenting about BOMs. She has a delightfully wicked sense of humor and came up with the perfect disclaimer that should be included in some BOM programs we've seen. Thank you, M.D. - you made our day!
(Disclaimer: I want to share the following with a sense of humor...if you have had a bad experience, I am sorry...I am in no way making fun of your particular disappointment...)
"This is an opportunity for creativity...not everything you need is in this kit. You are not securing a dream...you are buying a nightmare. Have a nice day!"
(I will be away from civilization this week...I welcome and appreciate your comments...I will respond to each and every one when I get back...).