Aurifil Threads…Scandalous?

I wasn’t planning on writing this post today.  But I’ve been reading a few posts in blog world that have popped up the last couple of days that call into question the advertisement practices of Aurifil Threads and the main face of the company, Alex Veronelli.  One of the posts is by Abby of While She Naps and the other is by Florence of Flossie Teacakes.  I found both blog posts to be well considered and thoughtfully written by the authors and they raise a point about the “scandalous” behavior or perhaps sexist behavior that they have observed through social media of Alex as the face of Aurifil Threads.

Their main concerns are the tweets and/or facebook jokes that Alex posts are that undeniably racy, the #aurigirl photos that were taken at quilt market this sprint, and a previous “hey girl” caption competition that apparently was held last year.  I won’t belabor their points here.  I think that they raise some concerns that the company can look at and decide how they want to handle what seems to be a common reaction of dismay and/or disgust at these things.  I read their posts and every single comment on each earlier today…there were over 100 comments on each I believe with LOTS of opinions thrown in there.  I’m seeing chatter on IG and I felt I had something to say in response.  I’m honestly not trying to fan the flame or deny that people could well be offended by the things they have seen.  Not everything is to my taste either.

What I WILL say is that I have long been a fan of this company for their unfailing generosity to the blogging community.  So if you have read the blogs or go read them now and think that is the whole story, please consider otherwise.  Integrity is a big thing to me.  HUGE.  And I wouldn’t post this if I didn’t honestly feel as though in spite of what some feel are tasteless practices, that this company is doing things that others are not.
This company has been sponsoring blog hops and sew alongs and competitions for years now.  Constantly.  Continually.  With Generous prizes to multiple winners.  And not all of these have been for big blogs or big names.  They simply have supported the blogging community since they entered the scene with unfailing generosity.  I would challenge many of you to reflect and think back over how many giveaways you have entered where Aurifil threads were a prize.

You may consider that all marketing and oh of course they would do that.  But let me tell you…NOT all companies do that.  In fact, I’d venture to say that most do not.  I see a lot of individual shops who support bloggers well, but getting the big companies themselves to support a blog hop is far more rare.

They also support all bloggers who use their thread by sharing literally hundreds of quilts and projects via social media as well from those who have used #aurifil on their photos.  I have had exposure daily to new people and their work because I follow Aurifil on Facebook and see all of these shared photos.  These are not Sewlebrities who have been given the thread or who will advance the face of the company.  These are photos of what all of us are doing, on every type of quilt imaginable.

Here is a photo of my personal thread collection….

Aurifil Threads...Scandalous?

I took a quick photo today of what it looks like.  As you can see, there are Aurifil threads and there are Coats and Clark and Gutterman and goodness knows what else.  I like thread. 😉 I like different types of thread.  So I own different types of thread.  In full disclosure, I HAVE been given thread from the company, but the main purpose of that was for my book.  And the reason they gave it to me was out of generosity AFTER I asked them for it.  And they responded quickly and professionally.  It was a gift that allowed me to create the 16 quilts I needed to make without going into crazy debt.  And I am grateful for that.  But my personal story aside, I chose to request thread from Aurifil BECAUSE I had seen how supportive the company is of bloggers.  I made that decision after years of being impressed by their generosity throughout the blogging community.  As I said before…not all companies do this.  I’m not going to defame anyone else, but you should know that this generosity of goods is simply not true of all companies and certainly not true for the little blogger.So please, make up your own mind about the practices of the company and their products.  You may love both, you may hate both.  But I encourage to reach out and communicate to the company (any company for that matter) if you are displeased with their marketing.  And of course to see if you are seeing a portion of the truth or all of the truth.  Perhaps you only need to see a portion to make your decision, and I respect that.  But I couldn’t read what I had and the responses without knowing in my heart that there is so much more to this company and this man.

68 thoughts on “Aurifil Threads…Scandalous?”

  1. Oh Angela…I love your blog, your work, your honesty and even your bringing awareness to the other side of this situation. So far, I don't see anyone commenting on this post, but I bet that's because you have a lot of them to approve of before they get published. Once these posts do get published, I am certain that I won't be the only reader who is deeply cynical about this "generosity" — offering threads as prizes or in exchange for a credit in a book unquestionably generates some effect on the reader, from brand awareness to full-on wantiness. I participate in giveaways and contests as eagerly as anybody else, but those threads are not given away out of charity — giving them away in a public forum, even a small one, is a marketing strategy. It doesn't mean anything to a non-blogger like me. Well, actually, it makes me realize that for every spool I buy, someone else is getting one for free. I'm paying to cover the promotional costs of the spools that are given away. And the photo-sharing gallery reads, to me, as a tool to create a sense of community (or clique) for those who use the threads. It's great that you have discovered new artists because of it, but ultimately, the company is still the greatest beneficiary.

    I think Auriful has certainly been engaged with the online community, and that in itself isn't a bad thing. But if you think about it, suppose for a moment that they didn't currently have the status of producing the best threads in the world (or whatever) — would you excuse this behaviour from a producer of lower-quality threads? I would be wary of excusing sexism from a company simply because we feel that we "need" their product.

    (Probably writing this too hastily, but I'll just reiterate that I totally respect your work and your post, and that I don't intend to point anything in my comment squarely at you, Angela. I have to shut down the computer now! Look forward to seeing what happens.:))

    1. Hi Carmen,
      Thanks for your honesty. I appreciate it! For the record, I never approve of the comments people make on my blog posts prior to them being shown except after 1 week of the post date…and that is simply to keep out the true SPAM comments. So you simply are the first to state this opinion…though I doubt the last one.

      I'm well aware the Alex's tactics or the company's have at times been in poor taste or at least not to my taste. I'm not a person who wants sex to sell anything. And at the very least, the suggestive comments on Alex's twitter feed have fed that.

      I personally was at Quilt Market this past spring when these #aurigirl pictures were taken and I know that it was not premeditated nor was it done by people who meant to demean women. You can argue that they still did and I will respect that opinion, but as a person who saw the pictures taken, I know that not the initial intent. I also think that the company's willingness to remove these pictures speaks to their concern that they listen to their clients and their thoughts on these matters.

      But really, I wasn't trying to argue the point that anyone should think other than they do about the events talked about in the other blogs. I merely wanted to point out at the very least another truth: and that truth is that I believe the company to be extremely generous. You may choose to believe that it is all worth it to the company to offer free items etc, but I am here to tell you that other companies are not doing it. Other companies are not creating a culture of "belonging" by sharing the photos from their products. I may well be naive but I see a bigger view here…that this company is succeeding where others are not. You may not share this truth but I respectfully offer mine and respectfully see yours.

    2. Hey Angela,

      Thanks for taking the time to reply to everyone here!

      You're right; I wasn't at Quilt Market when the photoshoot occurred, so I appreciate that your experience is first-hand. Still seems a little bit "hrm" when compounded with some of the other anecdotes, but I know you care very much about integrity and you've said that some of the other incidents have made you feel less than comfortable too. Anyway, you wrote in a comment somewhere below, "Here's hoping that they can find a marketing technique that appeals to a broader audience." Hear hear!

      And BTW, as a former film studies nerd, this kind of reminds me of a discussion I had in my first-year tutorial. We had watched Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, which is about the escalating racial tensions between an Italian-American pizza parlour owner and the largely black community in the neighbourhood who worked for him, bought his pizzas, etc. As a class, we got to wondering — who is actually in a position of power there? Is it Sal, the owner, who provides wages and food for the people, or is it his workers and his customers? And I suppose there isn't really an answer in real life, but I think the ideal one would be the workers and customers. Hopefully the Aurifil situation won't get quite so bad, haha;)

    3. some of the designers involved in the aurigirl thing said that they were asked in advance if they'd sit on his lap. That does make it premeditated.

    4. Wendy, they were asked in advance of the picture, not in advance of quilt market. It was a spontaneous idea that born in a spirit of fun, though is understandably generating some concern from people out of the context of the moment. I think when they say that people were asked before hand, it is simply to say that no was put on the spot and told "here, sit on Alex's lap for this photo". I believe that this was to give women a chance to say if they were opposed to the idea privately and not feel the pressure of the moment.

  2. I have much love for Aurifil. Their thread is beyond awesome, the company is so wonderful, and Alex is such a great spokesperson. And I'm speaking as a person who has a PR background. I've heard the same chatter but I honestly think that they (and Alex) know how to have fun and everyone needs to stop being so serious. Pretty sure no one's putting a gun to anyone's head to sit on Alex's lap. Having said that, everyone's entitled to their own opinion.

    But I'll say this… I loved Aurifil even before I knew about Alex, and I've continued using Aurifil simply because it's my favourite thread. I just find Alex hilarious 🙂

  3. Interesting read… and the comment above mine; however I must admit that each is entitled to their own opinion and if someone is not happy with how another person handles themselves, simply walk away and go elsewhere. Others are ok with it and do not view things as everyone else… sometimes I do believe our world can be so sensitive to things that aren't a priority and de-sensitizing themselves to the real other issues.

    No matter which way you look at it, in this day and age, every company SHOULD be Marketing themselves… why wouldn't you? Are we saying that now we are all paying for the commercials on our TV programs because they advertise new products and/or savings, etc. for us to be aware of? To really get down the niddy-griddy… we are all paying for any advertisement any company makes (I am partner in running a construction company) as that is cost of any overhead and profit that is already put into the price of any product, materials and labor.

    In the end, you can go by how you wish to handle an individual, but an entire group (company) should not be sacrificed for one persons actions… if anyone does not like or appreciate, then you have your right to go another route.


    1. thank you for your comment Megan. I don't know as much about marketing and the like as I would like…my background is not in business. However I know when I am being marketed to and how I feel about it. My husband and I have a running joke about commercials because I have very strong feelings about them and who must have written them. With each new commercial we see I tell him whether it was written by a man or a woman. My evidence is only anecdotal of course, but we find great amusement in pondering who the target audience is and who produced it. lol

  4. Aurofil is a quality product, and as Flossie Teacakes mentioned, prominent in most quilt shops. I seriously doubt those posts are going to effect sales at all, nor was it Flossie Teacakes intent. But I can't say I liked the advertisement method they were using, so hopefully they'll listen. I think that's all they were trying to do.

  5. Thanks, Megan!

    I wrote a whole long thing and then lost it. But I did want to point out that if Alex's comments had been racist or homophobic, the backlash would have been far more severe. But joking about women as giggling girls, nagging wives or bunnies who sit on a guy's lap is equally wrong and shouldn't be tolerated. What does it suggest about the women who have to report to him?

    And yes, companies can and should be marketing themselves. I love giveaways, but i wanted to throw some cynicism (or reality) into Angela's defense of their generosity (respectfully).

    Okay, gotta go — for real this time!

    1. I respectfully hear your cynicism and throw a little back at you. HAD he been making comments like you are suggesting I know MANY strong women who would refuse to work with him. But he was not. And we should not extrapolate that he would.
      The women I know who work for him are strong, independent and have self respect. I also don't believe you can suggest that those who work for this company are otherwise based off of the marketing of one person.

    2. I don't think Carmen is saying that he would make homophobic or racial jokes. She's saying that his treatment of women is equally appalling and yet we let it slide because it's not one of those first two hot button issues. I also wonder about and feel bad for the women he works with if they do not share his sense of humor.
      I would argue that this whole marketing campaign of theirs – the tweets, IG posts, FB posts, and yes, giveaways – is representative of both the company AND the man, because they are posted both from personal and from company accounts. Some of it is good, some bad. But all of it represents the company, whether they want it to or not.

    3. Wendy, I believe the only jokes that he said were about nagging wives. I think I took exception to the assumption that people are making about the women being treating like playboy bunnies. That was NOT something that I ever heard from anyone in the company. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    4. Allison, I DO agree that what has been has reflected on the company for good or for bad. However I do not think that we can say his treatment of women is appalling. You may disagree with me, but jokes on his facebook account are sometimes not to my taste. I did not have a problem with the aurigirl photos (though there were a great many of them and that got a bit obnoxious) and I think you really need to ask the women involved if they felt demeaned in any way. We cannot speculate on the feelings of people based off a single picture…or we can but it doesn't make it true.

      But seriously. I encourage you to contact the women who work with him to find out if they are unhappy with their treatment or how they are portrayed.

  6. I love that you always speak your mind Angela, it makes for some thought provoking reading and challenging dialogue – please don't ever stop!
    Personally I think that "female hate" is demonstrated in a million different ways. Having women sit on his lap and cracking jokes about his wife and women in general all stinks of a misogynist view of the world. If he wants to joke privately and intimately with his wife about his girlfriends (his comment about her bringing home "cuties") or her lingerie that's between the two of them. But when he shares it with the rest of the world it seems extraordinarily disrespectful to his wife… Especially because we don't hear her retort.
    If he doesn't respect his wife, the woman he should hold above all others, then I seriously doubt he respects women – period.

    1. I'm pretty sure that most of the comments he makes through facebook/twitter feed are comments he has found elsewhere and is copying. I'm not sure how many are his original thoughts and how many he chooses to share that are jokes he has read. I find some of them funny and others over the line. I agree…not all are to my personal taste. I've been following him for a long time on facebook and have seen many people encouraging his comments, all women. They enjoy it.

      I do know that the aurigirl idea was not his, but yes, ultimately he agreed to do it. So you can't take all "blame" away. However you may see the light hearted side of that which unfortunately did not come off when the group was posted as a collection. It was begun with a sense of fun and now is not seen with that. I respect that opinion because how else can we see something other than through the avenues of information we have. I am simply trying to offer a bit more information…that perhaps it is not as black as it all appears and the company indeed wants to promote the success of women in particular. Here's hoping that they can find a marketing technique that appeals to a broader audience.

    2. having seen and copied the "jokes" he makes is not a defense. So what if he didn't make them up? He posted them. Would it be OK for you to repost a racist joke so long as you didn't invent it?

  7. Well said! I love the company and their products. They've been nothing but supportive to me an my business, and their threads sell extremely well in my store because they are a quality product!

  8. I have to say that my overwhelming reaction to the pictures of all of the fabulous (female) bloggers and quilters/designers sitting on Alex Veronelli's lap at quilt market was one of disgust and dismay. It threw me right back to the early eighties when guys thought that that was cute. What it really is is demeaning. It seemed to me that several of these very talented women were very uncomfortable with the situation. I would be, too. however, I feel that the taking of the pictures and their dissemination were both in bad taste, but do not reflect on the quality of Aurifil thread or on the company as a whole. I had imagined that someone had spoken with Alex and chastised him for a blatantly sexist act, and that he would, quite simply, not do it again. I felt that the Quilteratti who sat on his lap probably, for the most part, did so because he is in a position of power. I am sure they did not suggest lapsitting as a photo op that would demonstrate their talent and drive and celebrate them, thus.If one of them did suggest this particular arrangement, and it wasn't Alex, I stand corrected.

  9. What a great post, thank you for sharing your opinion. I first learned about aurifil threads through giveaways and used it for the first time after winning one. Without the giveaways and their social media presence, I would have never tried the thread. I love the quality of the product and it is a wonderful thread. I just hope that the people who say they will never buy aurifil do not enter to win it either.

  10. I agree that this is a far more complicated issue than it might first appear and that the company and Alex himself are about a lot more than two sets of offending photos. I am glad that there is open dialogue about the concerns, and given the quick response of the company to remove the photos, it is just too bad that it took so long for the issue to be discussed. Hopefully now quilters will speak up quickly when they are offended so that mistakes made can be corrected without delay. After all, this is quilting and it is supposed to be fun.

  11. Well said. I cringe at the #aurigirl lap pics, but that's all. Having lived in Italy for a short time I feel like Alex is fairly genuine about his own personality. Italian men are smooth with a touch of scumminess. LOL. In my experience (with Italian men) they'll say just about anything you let them get away with… but once you say "stop" they back off. I guess that's not the most respectable way, but it's just a slightly different cultural thing.

    All that aside, I have never once had a problem with the quality of Aurifil thread. Not once. Gutterman? Multiple knots (as in two pieces of thread tied together) – in multiple spools. That's not acceptable so I won't buy their product.

  12. Thank you. I am so tired of people judging a company based on one aspect of a key person. (Firefox and Eich come to mind). I am thrilled that you feel this is a very good company. Since I recently discovered their thread and I LOVE it. There is enough stupid going around the world these days. I have no time for the antics of a very Italian man behaving in a very Italian way.

  13. I do find Aurifil quite generous in that I always see them offering prizes in give aways, though I do think Carmen brought up a good point that someone somewhere has to pay for those prizes, and the higher price is a mark up for that lost profit. I do disagree about the project sharing you brought up though- for the most part, I see their shares as mostly blogs that already have larger followings. Yes I have seen smaller blogs showcased, however the majority are already from fairly known bloggers (this isn't specific to Aurifil though, other community social media sites do this too).

    I only came across those posts this morning and also read through all of the comments. I admit when I first saw the lap photos I looked at them with a raised eyebrow, however I figured all parties involved agreed to them and from my observation of reading blogs, it looked like a bunch of people who knew each other so it's probably an in-joke thing where you "just had to be there". I don't understand the comments of Alex being a person in "power" who forced or "scared" people into sitting on his lap, because what on Earth would Aurifil then get out of shunning a designer/store for disagreeing to a lap photo?! Nothing! Some of the opinions about the photo make it seem like he wasn't wearing pants or had his hands in places they shouldn't be.

    A couple of things bothered me in those posts — I don't like that it became a "name and shame" post which absolutely vilified Alex V. In the post written by Abby, she mentioned a few times that she had only come across these photos and posts within the last few days. I understand she's posting about her first impressions but I think her post was jumping the gun a little bit. As someone who has worked in retail and dealt with customer complaints, I have much more respect for someone who contacts the business directly over plastering it all over the internet in a hot-headed rage. To me, I think the posts may have come across better if the reasons for the offence were stated, along with advocating for everyone to contact the company directly also, with a statement she had also done so, rather than becoming defensive about how she didn't because naming and shaming is okay because it's the internet; a place to share. (I do apologise if I mix up the two authors/posts).

    A lot of the comments remind me a lot of the scene from Beauty and the Beast when Gaston is on a rampage to "kill the beast". Making sexist comments is not okay, but vilifying and bullying someone over the internet is not okay either!

    I've never seen the #aurigirl tag to be sexist in a 'play boy bunny' kind of way. I've always thought of it as a SUPERGIRL kind of way: these women have their own businesses, design their own fabric and work with great thread to make a product and support each other in business when they would also be competitors within the business market.

    1. I think you have mixed up the posts. She did contact them and they basically said "so what".

      you say "As someone who has worked in retail and dealt with customer complaints, I have much more respect for someone who contacts the business directly over plastering it all over the internet in a hot-headed rage. " I'm sure you would rather people didn't slag off your company! However we don't live in that world. I've made complaints to companies before, and when I was ignored or shrugged off, I named and shamed them on the internet. That is not "vilifying" someone or something, it's telling the truth and giving an honest opinion.

      I actually don't have an opinion on this marketing stunt, I just don't care enough, but I do find the comments very interesting and revealing. I'm seeing that it's Abby that's being vilified here. Bullying? What??!?!

    2. I'm not looking to discuss the nature of the other two posts. I wanted to be upfront that this is where my post was coming from. But I'd rather not debate whether they were done perfectly or not. Here I want to talk about another side of the company that I see…not about the bloggers who raised concerns.

  14. It's great that they put the time and effort into participating in our quilting community and it has paid them back well, I would suppose. Otherwise, I would guess they would stop doing it. About the Alex issue, it is hard for me to get offended by something like that. It's in the zone of tacky but not line crossing. It won't affect my thread purchases at all. I like using their thread for real reasons: it is thin and strong and doesn't make much lint.

  15. I don't understand why we can't expect the company to be generous to the blogging community and for Alex Veronelli to not make sexist jokes on his twitter / facebook. I'd like to live in that world please!

    1. I don't think that is unreasonable…and it looks like the company is taking steps to do that. However, I think that what people have a problem with is widely a matter of taste. I know many who ARE offended and many who are NOT. I think it's safe to say that the company has listened to the complaints and will take them into consideration. I suggest you contact them personally for more information on how they plan to handle things.

    2. is it? I've been following the discussion on the blogs you mentioned and the only comment from Aurifil I saw was a very rude defense from a lady called Kim.

      I personally don't use Aurifil as it snaps as soon as you look at it.

    3. I suggest you contact Kim personally. I think she was quite taken at the accusations and some read her comment as rude. Kim is in fact a delightful person who is quite kind.

      Your choice to use Aurifil because you are unhappy with the product is a separate issue in my mind. That has not been my experience with the thread but all of our machines are so different. And that is why there are a lot of options out there for us.

    4. Whether you might find the jokes funny is a matter of taste but they are sexist jokes none-the-less.

      As marketing goes it's a bit of a disaster for the company though. As a beginning quilter I had never heard of Aurifil. Now I have through your blog and Abby's blog. Now their name is linked to this which leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

      I'm glad that company is taking steps to fix the situation.