Tag Archive for business

Own a Fabric Store: Q&A with Pink Castle Fabrics

Today we’re excited to welcome fabric maven Brenda Ratliff, owner of the popular online store Pink Castle Fabrics! If you’ve had the pleasure of meeting Brenda at Quilt Market, attending one of her Camp Stitchalot sewing weekends or interacting with her in blogland, you know that she’s pretty fantastic.

If you’ve ever thought about running your own fabric store, you’ll be interested to hear from Brenda how she got started, where she researches fabric trends and some surprises that come along with running a creative business.

Brenda, we’re excited to have you at Craft Buds to chat about owning an online fabric store. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you started Pink Castle Fabrics?

Thanks Lindsay! I’m pretty excited to be here! A long time ago I went to college and studied Sociology and Marketing. During and after college I worked in a lot of fun sales positions including cell phones and mortgages. I did pretty well in sales and I enjoyed it. I took some time off work when I had my son over 3 years ago now and it was my first time not working since I was 16. I decided to learn how to quilt in my new found free time. I kept seeing all the beautiful modern quilts online and I was really inspired. I couldn’t find any of the amazing modern fabrics that the bloggers were using at any local quilt shops. I figured I would just buy a few bolts that I liked and sell the extra fabric online. I had no idea that there were so many other quilters out there that wanted the same fabrics!

Since you’ve been in business, what have you learned about owning an online fabric shop that might surprise people?

In business you think of other shops that do the same thing you do as competitors. In the fabric world I’ve actually found most other shop owners, both online and local shops to be very friendly and open. I appreciate the willingness to help each other out as a community. There’s room in the industry for a lot of fabric shops to be successful. The more we can work together to teach our crafts to new people the more business we will all have.

I’ve been really impressed by your innovative approach to fabric retail, from the Stash Stack Club to all the pretty collections and bundles you’ve curated. How do you ultimately decide what fabrics to stock in your shop and what’s going to sell like hotcakes?

A lot of what I decide to buy for the shop are fabrics that I would like myself. I’ve learned that not everyone has the exact same taste as I do so I read a lot of blogs and tweets and Instagram and Pinterest and try and get a feel for trends and what future lines people are excited about. It’s fun to see what fabric at market gets the most photos and buzz. It’s certainly not always a good indication on what quilters are going to buy (Likes on Instagram are free!) but it at least points me in the right direction.

Stash Stack Club was born when I realized that my personal stash was filled with beautiful focus prints and really cute novelty fabrics but I never bought myself any blenders or stash builders! I usually get project ideas late at night after I start relaxing and now that I have a full color wheel of stash basics I can easily start something without having to wait to shop. I’m really happy that this club is doing so well and that there are others out there like me. We are finishing up our first full year and it’s going to keep on going starting over with the first color again.

Photo: Made by Rae

The retreats you’ve hosted look like they’ve been a lot of fun! What was your favorite part?

Camp Stitchalot has been fun! I really love getting to know the other campers. We have had two so far and it’s so nice that it’s a small intimate retreat (only up to 36 people). It really gives me a chance to sit and talk to everyone during the weekend. Everyone becomes good friends by the end of the weekend. And I love the supportive atmosphere we have had in the past. Campers are helping each other and oohing and aahing over everyone’s projects. We are all lucky to be a part of such an amazing community.

We also get a lot accomplished. Jan who owns the Inn we stay at cooks all the meals so there’s a lot more time to sew. I know in my life it’s hard to find a good stretch of uninterrupted sewing time and it’s so nice to leave with finished projects.

We will be doing two more camps this year and four next year. I’m really looking forward to all of these camps!

How do you find a balance between running a business and your personal/family time?

It’s tough to find time for everything when you are beginning a business. I’ve sacrificed a lot of personal engagements to make time for work and my family. It’s hard to let down my friends when they invite me to do something fun. I have some very supportive friends who understand and have helped me with my business as well.

What is your advice for someone who wants to branch out and start their own business?

Set goals is my big advice to budding entrepreneurs. Knowing where you want to end up is the best way to figure out how to get there. There are a lot of great blog posts online and business books that spell out the best practices of goal setting. I was taught the SMART method in an entrepreneur incubator I was a part of here in the Detroit area. It’s easier said than done. I’ve found myself getting off track and having my goals written down is a great way to allow me to prioritize my To Do list.

It seems some days like all you are doing is putting out small fires and it’s easy to get down on yourself. Then you get a “thank you” email from a customer or you see a project that someone made with fabric you sold them and it makes it all worth while. Stick to it and remember your end goals! If the path you are on isn’t leading you to where you want to be, change it.

What’s next for you, Brenda?

The next big thing for Pink Castle Fabrics is our new Brick and Mortar location. I’m a little nervous but like with any new endeavor it will take some time to find my rhythm. We have a nice space here in Ann Arbor with a big classroom. One of the things I love about quilting is the community it can create. I’m hoping to give some of that community a home. We have a lot of talent here in Ann Arbor and a young audience of quilters that are eager to learn. I’m glad to be able to share my store in person now!

I will also be coming out with a line of quilting patterns this year. First in PDF form and then in print. Of all the fun things you can make with fabric, quilts really are my favorite. I’m excited to share quilting with more people and teaching new techniques in patterns is a great way to do that. They teach confidence and skill building and at the same time you get something beautiful at the end!

Sale Alert!

Brenda is clearing the shelves for her summer sale to make room for lots of new fabric coming out this July!

Head on over to check out the deals.

Video: How to Write Sewing Patterns

If you heard the big announcement, you know that we’ve been working to launch the new Video Chats at Craft Buds series! We are excited to kick off the series today with a chat on How to Write Sewing Patterns with our fun and informative panel of experts.

How to write sewing patterns with an expert panel
Jessica Abbott, SewSet and Me Sew Crazy
Andrea Pannell, Go To Patterns and The Train to Crazy
Heather Valentine, The Sewing Loft

In this Craft Buds Video Chat, I interviewed Jessica, Heather and Andrea on the basics of designing sewing patterns, including:

-How to find and record inspiration
– Sewing a prototype
– Design and formatting of patterns
– Marketing and selling your patterns
– Legal issues and more!

Just a little background: I met these ladies in Salt Lake City this October while I was in town for Sewing Summit and the Jo-Ann Fabric & Craft Stores Girl’s Night Out Blogger Get Together, organized by Jessica. It wasn’t long before I learned how each of them is a true master of their craft, writing fabulous sewing patterns for children’s wear, women’s wear, accessories and home decor.

In addition to having truly great and inspirational DIY blogs, Andrea and Jessica have each developed online communities for sewing pattern creators, which you’ll hear more about in the video. I love what these ladies are doing to help celebrate and support independent pattern makers!

Heather’s background is in pattern drafting in the fashion apparel industry, and you can watch the video to see where her patterns will appear next. She would hate for me to say this, but she’s kind of a BIG deal! I definitely learned a lot from these ladies, and I know you’ll love what they have to say.

The video chat is about 40 minutes, so feel free to turn it on and let it play while you’re in the sewing room or while browsing Pinterest in the next window. We don’t mind. ;)

If you have more questions that we didn’t cover, please leave a comment on this post, and I’ll be happy to reach out and get you an answer from one or more of our experts.

Related Links:

Finding Inspiration for Your Handmade Business

Hi, I’m June, and I blog at June Bug’s World. When I signed up to do a guest post on “Inspiration” for Craft Buds, it didn’t occur to me that I would have trouble writing the post because of a lack of inspiration. That’s irony for you. But being stumped really helped me to see the biggest issue I face when it comes to finding ideas. There are just so many cool ideas out there it’s hard to distill down to that one project you just have to try.

pinterest

We’ve heard about Pinterest, Etsy treasuries, bookmarking your favorites, “liking” craft pages on Facebook… but have you ever counted up all the sources you’ve marked? It can get overwhelming. There’s not enough time in the day to look at all the creative talent out on the web.

So this is how I (try to) keep it simple. I bookmark pages, “like” things on Etsy, but first and foremost… I use my brain. If I see an image or hear a song or have an idea I will trust that if it is brilliant, it will stay in my brain. If it doesn’t, then it wasn’t a strong enough idea to work out as a real project for me. If it doggs me, keeps me up at night, pops into my head whenever I sit down at the computer, then I know it’s important enough for me to turn into a design.

Etsy treasury

Then I pull the picture into my design folder. Or sketch it out. Or let it fill all my thoughts until it solidifies into a real project. A project that I can pick fabrics for and start cutting. Most of the time I’ve thought about it enough that it comes together just as I hoped. Sometimes it doesn’t, but always it’s something I really enjoy doing and can feel really proud of.

For example, with my Swooping Solids Pillow, I saw this picture on one of my regular blogs (elsie marley):


And I just COULD NOT get it out of my head. I kept going back to that post, over and over, until I decided it would be my next project. It fit all of my prime design criteria: curves and color. The fact that it was all laid out in “blocks” helped too. So I went and picked out some fabrics and started cutting away. I didn’t sketch anything – I kept it all in my head – and I made some modifications along the way. In the end? A design of my own, inspired by art:


And while this project was a little too time consuming for me to use it in my Etsy shop, the basic idea stuck and turned into some very marketable items:


And I think that’s the best way for inspiration to flow – from an image I found all the way into a signature item that I can use to grow my store inventory.

Things that help?

  • Pick your favorite 5-7 craft blogs, and visit them regularly. More than that is too much. Less and it’s feeling like not enough sources.
  • Enter contests. Visit those linkups and browse around. Comment on other people’s posts that you love. But remember that “it’s gotta stick” is what matters.
  • And I try really hard to only work on 1-2 projects at a time. Because for me, completion is what counts.

Blogs I like to visit for inspiration:
Noodlehead
Grosgrain
Stitched in Color
Elsie Marley
The Long Thread
I am Momma Hear Me Roar
Pink Penguin

Contests and Linkys I love
Bloggers Pillow Party
Quilt Story Fabric Tuesday
Sew Modern Monday

What is your favorite way to find inspiration for your handmade business or personal craft?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...