We're sharing how to help your local quilt shop and small business owners during this time, how to de-stress and gain back control using sewing, and if you’re one of the lucky parents or grandparents who are watching kids during this extended spring break, we have tips for squeezing in more time to sew when your whole family is under quarantine.

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How to Support Quilters During a Pandemic

This episode is going to be a little different than usual – no interviews, no chats with our staff about tips and tricks. Today, we want to focus solely on the coronavirus and what we can all do to help each other and keep ourselves safe. It’s crazy times right now – our offices closed, so editor Lindsay Mayland recorded this one alone in our tiny podcast room.

Help Your Local Quilt Shop

The coronavirus is a serious situation we’re all having to deal with now, and for many, that means staying inside your home and social distancing from your family, friends, and favorite local quilt shop. But now, more than ever, local businesses need our help to stay afloat. Here are a few ways we can offer support during this pandemic:

Shop online. If your local quilt shop has online ordering, continue to do your usual shopping through their website.

Call in an order. If your local quilt shop doesn’t have an online store, consider calling them and placing an order for pick-up (or asking if they’d consider shipping it).

Buy gift certificates. If you don’t need any fabric right now, consider buying a gift certificate to the store.

Take store credit. If you were signed up for a class, workshop, or lecture, it may be canceled to keep attendants safe or you may personally choose to cancel to protect yourself. If this happens, consider taking a store credit instead of a full refund.

Suggest an online class. Not all owners may be willing to do this or may not have the technology available, but if you’re friends with the owner, suggest turning an in-store class into an online class.

Spread the word. Follow your local quilt shop on Facebook, Instagram, and any other social media sites they may have. “Like” their posts, “share” if you like what they’re posting, and “comment” your support.

Rate or review the store. Take to Facebook, Yelp, or Google to rate the business.

Reach out. This is a very stressful time for small business owners. They’re financially burdened, worried about the success of their business, and unsure what they can do. Give them a call, shoot them an email, or message them on social media to see how they’re doing.

Volunteer when needed. Some stores may be dealing with staffing shortages. If you’re heathy and don’t mind leaving the house, consider volunteering your time to the store owner.

Some of these same steps also apply to online sellers. Many quilt designers rely on sales of their own patterns and products and even fabric kits to support themselves. In times of crisis, people tend to hold their money a little closer and avoid purchases of unnecessary items, so don’t forget to support your favorite designers, as well.

Support Yourself and Reduce Anxiety

Now that we’ve covered how to support small businesses, let’s talk about how to support yourself. This is a time of uncertainty and high anxiety. So, we need to all do our best to stay healthy, reduce stress, and gain control over our lives. When we take steps to help ourselves, we’re strengthened to help others and our communities. Besides washing your hands and practicing social distancing, we have a few suggestions on how to do this!

Keep sewing. This seems obvious, but many times a change in our routines means we forget to do the things that bring us joy. Or if your families are home from work and school, you may not have as much time to get into your sewing room. As a creative person, you probably use sewing, knitting, or stitching to relax and gain life balance that might be missing otherwise. How many times have you heard (or spoken) the phrase “quilting is my therapy”? Whether we are consciously aware of it or not, we experience cathartic and therapeutic effects from working on creative projects and doing handwork. Studies show it is a great way to quiet the mind. People who do handwork receive a wide range of benefits from their craft: relaxation and happiness, relief from stress and anxiety, a sense of accomplishment, and a connection to tradition. Don’t forget to make time for yourself to work on a project, start something new, or do handwork in the evenings while watching TV.

Beware of information overload. If you’re like us, you’re glued to the TV and your phone trying to stay up-to-date with the latest news, but it's easy to get overwhelmed and feel a sense of helplessness and doom creep in. Get the information you need, but don’t get sucked into hours of negative updates. Try to limit your social media usage and set specific times to check the news. Instead, follow social media accounts that are posting positive and inspirational messages and photos. This may be a fun time to follow some new quilters on social media, so you see beautiful photos of quilts in your feed instead of only stressful news. Or spend some time on Pinterest, pinning future projects and fabrics you love to gain a little respite from the day. You can find us on social media by searching for American Patchwork & Quilting if you’re interested!

Get organized. If you’ve been listening to the podcast for awhile, you know Lindsay is obsessed with decluttering and organizing. But, we promise, this will actually make your feel better right now! When things feel out of control, having your space organized and clean can give you a sense of incredible calm and focus. You don’t have to spend hours cleaning and organizing. Focus on one small area in your home. Maybe it’s the table you had to carve out as your work-from-home office. Maybe it’s one shelf of fabric in your sewing room. Maybe it’s the junk drawer in the kitchen. Taking concrete action that will lead to a visual improvement gives you a sense of satisfaction, accomplishment, and control in these crazy times. So if you have the extra time, get in your sewing room and pick an area to tidy up! 

Help others. It’s hard to know how to help others when we’re not even supposed to leave our houses. But luckily, we’re quilters! Start a quilt for a charity – Quilts of Valor, Project Linus, and Quilts for Kids are some popular charities. Check their websites for specific details on quilt sizes and requirements. You can even join in our One Million Pillowcase Challenge and make pillowcases for those in need. You’ll feel great to use your talent to benefit others and we’re sure the charities will appreciate the extra support, too.

Catch up on your projects. Being stuck at home is something we may not want, but view it as an opportunity. Use the extra time to work on that large stack of UFOs or unfinished objects. Finally cut into that fabric that’s been sitting in a pile waiting for you. Always wanted to learn how to free-motion quilt? There’s no time like the present! Do you have a bucket list quilt? This is the perfect time to start it! View this time as a special moment to cross off some items on your quilting to-do list. It will feel so good to finally get to the things you’ve always wanted to do!

Connect with friends and family. This is a time where people are feeling isolated and lonely. Make sure you’re reaching out to family and friends to check in on them and connect. This is a time when technology is wonderful! You can use FaceTime or Skype to video chat, or just a phone call or text to send life updates. And don’t forget your quilting buddies! Because many quilters fall into the higher risk category, they may feel more isolated than many. There are many quilting Facebook groups, too, so if you’re missing your connection with others, we have a larger UFO Challenge group where you can join to share pictures of your projects and chat with thousands of quilters from all over the world.

We hope some of these tips help you feel a little more grounded during this time and also help to reduce your anxiety.

Make More Time to Sew

We’re ending the show today with a few tips for making more time to sew. Some of us may be blessed during this pandemic with more time to sew and more time to work on our hobbies. But many of us are at home with the kids, the grandkids, and the rest of the family, and have more responsibilities than ever to keep things functioning throughout the day. If you fall into that camp, we have some tips for carving out some time for yourself in your sewing room.

  1. Keep your sewing machine, supplies, and work in progress out. That way, you can sneak in even just five minutes of sewing between other activities. Just get into your room, shut the door, and accomplish a little bit. Maybe it’s just cutting for 5 minutes. Maybe you can sew a block together. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in a short period of time when you have everything out and ready to go!
  2. Turn to a handwork project. You can work on an EPP, embroidery, hand-piecing, or hand-applique project when you can. Have it handy and ready to go, so you can pick it up while the kids are eating lunch or while the family is watching a TV show. Having a little time to work with your hands during the day will bring a sense of calm.
  3. Wake up earlier or stay up later. Try setting an alarm 20 minutes earlier each day and getting some sewing time in or do a little bit of sewing right before bed. Sacrificing a little bit of sleep for some "me time" in your sewing room will make you feel refreshed. But please don’t sacrifice your health and lose sleep if you’re not getting enough.
  4. Schedule your sewing time. If you’re working from home or have kids at home, you may have a strict schedule of to-dos and activities. Add sewing time into your schedule. Can you sew during your usual lunch break time? Can you schedule sewing time while the kids are working on math worksheets? Make a plan to sew when it works for everyone and you’ll be more likely to make the time for it!
  5. Lose the guilt. You can’t be expected to be there for others 24/7 during this time. If needed, sit the kids in front of the TV for an hour or tell your partner to handle dinner or order out from a local restaurant so you have a little extra time to sew. You can’t be there for others if you don’t take time to fill yourself up, so don’t feel guilty for needing a little space for yourself.