Technology and Quilt Magazines: How Far We've Come

WARNING: This is word heavy! But, there are a lot of pics, too.

As many of you know, I was an editor with Quilt Magazine for 14 years and enjoyed seeing hundreds of my quilts and close to 1,000 articles on "how to make . . ." published in those years. My editor, Jean Ann Wright, was the editor for 20 years and we both "got the boot" in 2007 with the publisher's quest to try (in vain) to become relevant in a fast paced technology/internet fickle world.

Harris Publications published Quilt Magazine and several other quilting titles for 25 years. They also had a few dozen hobby magazines. At one point, we were churning out 17 quilt magazines A YEAR! That's one every 3 weeks! I was like a hamster on a wheel, but the more I published the more I got a check. And the beauty of working with Stanley Harris was that he was NOT stingy. I even got a $250 bonus for every single magazine cover I had (and I had 24 covers in those 14 years). Yes, I learned to sew for the camera. They paid well, on time, and it put my oldest 2 daughters through college.

Here are a few of the magazine covers I graced:

My Carpenter's Wheel on the cover of Big Block Quilts
My Tasty Leftovers on the cover of Small Quilts
My Hearts on Fire and Asian Kamon on the cover of Quilt Almanac
My Girl Friends Quilt using RJR fabrics in Quilt Magazine
Now, why am I writing this blog post? I got a very interesting email from Jean Ann the other day when I discovered that there was NO MORE online. Zero. Zip. Nada. The magazine/publisher closed the doors last August and 75 full time support staff got the boot. But the web site was still online until recently.

That web site was secret for the first two years in 1995-1997. Jean Ann and I decided that it was IMPORTANT to have a quilting presence online and we put up the first quilt magazine site! She billed Stanley Harris for 2 years under a different line item before he decided he wanted a web site! We knew it was important and I was the web master for those 2 years. We enjoyed a decade of awesome activity after that.

Then, as you are aware, magazines (and a lot of print media) would come to a crashing halt because advertisers would take their business to the internet and not the expensive printed page.

Back to my story. is gone. And here is what Jean Ann said to me that I found fascinating. Technology is both our friend and a potential enemy. Depends on what side of the aisle you are on.

"The internet is definitely devastating the magazine industry in America. The truth is, more jobs are lost to technology than to moving them overseas. Just think that when I first became editor I printed out all of the text, sent it to NY via FEDEX and they sent it out to typesetting shops that were located all over lower New York City. Hundreds of people did the old fashioned typesetting for magazines, books and newspaper. Also the messengers that took copy and text back and forth between typesetting shops and publishing companies were out of work. 

When text came back, art directors laid it out and pasted it up on big boards, those big boards were sent to printers via FEDEX.

Now everything is laid out on a computer, text, art the works. And don't forget the color photographs. To have color they used to do a process of separation with 4 glass plates required for each color photograph. These were sent to printers. Now this is done on a computer. FEDEX also loses out because everything is sent via email. I used to send a FEDEX to NY almost every day. That ended with the internet.

So while people are complaining jobs are going overseas, the truth is, most jobs are being lost to technology. But we complain about jobs going overseas because we don't dare point out it is both the internet and jobs going overseas. 

It is the technology revolution taking over in our time just like the manufacturing ended so much cottage industry 200 years ago. We won't be around to see what replaces the technology revolution."

So, what do you think? In some ways, I am very glad I was let go from the magazine staff in 2007 instead of 2017. I had to "reinvent" myself. I'm very good at technology. I mean, I used to build web sites using RAW html code!

Here are a few of my favorite quilts published in Quilt over the years. Jean Ann was very good to me. She published just about everything I made once I learned to sew for the camera (good contrast). Stanley Harris paid me well and all this began by me answering an AOL bulletin board ad back in 1993 asking for someone to sew quilt tops for publication. Big WOW!

I developed a technique I labeled Cookie Cutter Applique in early 2003. Here are a few of those designs:
Cookie Cutter Trees in a holiday issue of Quilt Magazine

Bread Quilt using my Cookie Cutter appliques

Cookie Cutter Butterflies
Cloissone Diamonds, also included in my book: Supersize 'Em Quilts
Hexagon Bullseye
I have hundreds of photos and of course, lessons and patterns from those days. The beauty of working with Harris Publications was that they were never interested in buying all my rights. They just paid me for "first North American publishing rights" and after that, the copyright belongs to me. That was an incredible gift they gave me as I went to other publishers who tried to sign me for "all rights" for a pittance. And NO ONE ever offered me a bonus for having my quilt on the cover. Fons and Porter offered me 2 copies of the magazine, though (ha ha). McCall's did the same thing. I was the FIRST book author with both American Quilter's Society (2004)and Martingale (2007) who even asked for digital rights once the book went out of print. No one had ever asked for that. I had to write that into the contracts. It was a mystery to them. I own ALL RIGHTS TO EVERY SINGLE THING I HAVE EVER PUBLISHED. Whew!

Back to technology and quilting. Those of us over 50 still have a love for a printed magazine. But, those days are fast coming to a close. We can pull up Pinterest and Instagram and Facebook, etc and look at beautiful quilts. And get free patterns. And never leave our home. Why bother with a magazine (even though they're very cheap).

OK. If I haven't lost you here, I hope you found what Jean Ann wrote fascinating. The world changes whether we want it to or not. I'm old and not interested in reinventing myself anymore. I like what I do and now am trying to figure out a way to protect everything I've ever created from being stolen and used after I'm go to that great quilt shop in the sky.

I think I'll show more of the quilts I've had published over the past 25 years. I think it would be fun to see the variety and maybe help me catalog things!


  1. And progress so to speak marches on. I'm not sure how some people can make a leaving now days. I love the computer, but I find if I'm not careful it will still my whole day. I adore the cookie cutter purple and white quilt. Enjoyed the post as ell.

  2. I've been quilting since the mid 70s and have bought many magazines with your quilts in them. I enjoy blogs but I still like to have my hands on a magazine. Thanks for all your good work.

  3. I still buy magazines, but not as many as I used to. If you look at all the patterns I saved online, plus my magazines and books, I'm never going to live long enough to make them all! I'm a sucker for a pretty quilt pattern! Oh yeah, a book I ordered came in the mail today. Sigh ...

  4. I like to buy magazines but it does annoy me that so many of them are now sealed so you cannot see what is in them, quite a few people I know agree with me so on principle we will not buy those though on lady I knows opens them and then decides if she should buy it or not

  5. I still love a paper magazine but I also have a hard drive full of patterns. I've been known to waste hours on Pinterest. Like you I was around long before rotary cutters, mats and even the thought of a computer. I wonder what is in store for the next 50 years?

  6. Your quilts enticed me to try different things. I loved looking forward to those magazines each month and subscribed to most of them. I still sub to some, but not a lot anymore. I still have old ones here I have salvaging things out of that I will one day make. lol Yeah, right, but the dream is there.

  7. I like your thoughtful and provocative essay here. I believe the answer is to be flexible enough to retool when necessary.

  8. I don't subscribe to any magazine that has a note in small print informing me that the subscription will "automatically renew at the current rate". No!! I control my money, not the publisher. There is a quilt web site that does that too. Cancelled that one also.

  9. Although I enjoy clicking a button and up comes a pattern on my computer, I still like sitting down at night and reading articles from the magazines. I read books on Kindle but also still enjoy holding that paper book to read. There's something about holding the magazine or book in your hands that makes things much more enticing. and enjoyable. I love it when I go thru old magazines and see your patterns pop un on the pages.

  10. I will say that I still get many quilting magazines. I discontinued a few when I found I didn't care for what was in them or got tired of all of the ads. That being said, I have printed many of your patterns that you put on the blog and have them in a binder in my sewing room. It gives me a choice of what I want to print. I took a class with you many years ago and loved it. The project we did got finished and I will have to take a picture of it and send it to you. Thanks for all you do. I love your patterns and your teaching.

  11. Debby, you have taught me, challenged me (in classes) and inspired me once a week at least. I am a better person and better quilter for having met you. I work in Technology but firmly believe in copyrights. Technology is a tool and should not be used to steal things. I try to teach others that as well. I am very amazed at the html code part. Not many would do that today. You are amazing in all that you have accomplished!

  12. Yes please show us more. That post is resoundingly true.
    Beautiful cover girls you made.

  13. Yes please show us more. That post is resoundingly true.
    Beautiful cover girls you made.

  14. Things do change. Some for the better and we will eventually adjust. Just think 100 years ago, how many people had cars? Now, what would we do without them? I do see your point. You were very smart to be able to use all the digital data from all your previous work. I use both the computer and magazines. I am a magazine hoarder! I have stacks of them - for when I need some ideas or inspiration (I too like the hard copy to read sometimes.) Pinterest fills in my spare time at work, when I need something of interest to look at. I usually like to use the printed patterns (bought patterns or books or magazine patterns) when making a quilt. Thanks for a very interesting quilt blog!

  15. I've drafted my own patterns since the 70s, with occasional quicker projects from magazines--although I still have a ton of magazines and still buy more. I remember thinking 20+ years ago, "I'd really like to meet this Debbie Kratovil." Hasn't happened yet--and I'm still making quilts when I'm not at my paying job!

  16. I always liked you and your work...Then you came to Charlotte...such a great thing. You are right in your article.. I just saw a news clip, that the government should not worry about Coal jobs, they should worry about Kohl things are changing right and left. I just realized myself that I never go shopping anymore..just order everything online..faster, cheaper, better selection...that is the new life...but I do say, that old me does like to hold a magazine...thank you for all you do.

  17. Your comment about "RAW HTML code" got me laughing. Back in the early 1990s, I taught an "HTML 1" class! People loved that scripting language because it didn't have to be compiled. Instant results!

  18. Thought-provoking. I've been, in my own thoughts, comparing our times to the times of the mechanical revolution and thinking I'm in danger of becoming a Luddite. LOL I LIKE the feel of books and magazines that I can thumb through over and over and over, even if the electricity goes out or the battery dies. I read books on my kindle, but I don't like reading magazines there or on the computer. Or quilt books with lots of pictures. I like seeing the full-color, shiny photograph n front of me. I know programming is done by the very young, and what their brains think is logical is often completely ILLOGICAL to my brain. Life will be completely different, not in 100 years, but in just a decade or two. I STILL do my own website with my own html and CSS, and I do my blog the same way, not on the template tabs. I want the control that gives me. That's what I see us losing - control of how WE want something to look or be. It's inevitable, but those who never had control won't think anything of it.


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