Tag Archive for creative 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.

Q&A with Modern Yardage + Giveaway!

Have you heard about Modern Yardage, a new fabric design, manufacturing and retail company? Owner April Cobb and her team have just launched the business in March, printing fabric on-demand from their offices in Utah.

Modern Yardage offers designs from new and untapped talents who are professional designers. What is also fun about this new company is that the fabrics are based on 44″ designs, but they are printed on 58″ wide fabric, so the additional space in the margin is filled with fun extras!

I was excited to chat more with April about her launch of this creative business including the biggest challenges and what she hopes for the future. Read on, and be sure to enter the giveaway if you’d like to try out Modern Yardage fabric for yourself!

April, what is your background in, career-wise, and how did you become interested in modern fabric and sewing?

I have an advertising/marketing background. I worked in large ad agencies in New York City and Washington DC then after receiving my MBA, I worked in marketing and communications for the Intel Corporation. But I have been sewing seriously since High School (sort of freakishly, actually) and have always loved it. I spent hours as a teenager making my own prom dresses, bathrobes, and costumes. When I started staying home with my kids, I started a little business where I made tote bags and sold them at craft fairs and farmers markets. One day I walked into Pine Needles, a little modern quilting shop in the Salt Lake City area, and my life changed. I fell in love with modern quilting fabric. I hadn’t seen it before that moment. My bags became more beautiful because of this great find. This led to my designing a perfect, comfortable headband called the Macy Jayne Reversible Headband. From the beginning I used beautiful modern quilting fabrics as part of the design and people just wouldn’t stop asking where I got my fabric. The headbands became so popular and sold so well that I was going through fabric like crazy. I started looking into getting fabric wholesale, which got me more involved in the industry. Before long I was designing sewing patterns with Joel Dewberry and then started licensing my sewing patterns to Riley Blake.

Can you tell me about when the idea for Modern Yardage first started simmering? How did you create your plan of attack?

Through being a part of the industry and learning a lot from our friends and experiences in the industry, my husband and I became aware of the shortcomings of the fabric world. We recognized that there is an enormous lag time of 6 months to 1 year before fabric gets from the designer’s completed product to the arrival of the actual printed bolts of fabric into fabric stores in the US. This makes for a lot of speculation on trends. We recognized how from a fabric line, there are winner prints and there are loser prints. No one knows for certain which will sell and which won’t. So there are often too many bolts that get discounted and the designers, design companies, and the retailers lose money. Then the designs that do very well are in short supply and sewists and crafters can’t get them when they need them. Retailers miss out on the opportunity to sell those designs when they can’t get enough of them in time. Additionally, there are so many talented designers who don’t get the opportunity to get their designs on fabric. Traditional design companies cannot afford to give as many talented designers as they would like, the opportunity to work with them because their financial risk is too high and they often don’t even have warehouse space to house anymore lines of fabric.

My husband, Jay, and I were aware of the capabilities of digital textile printing and had learned a few things about it. I am not exactly sure how all of this came together into one brilliant thought. I only know that one morning, less than a year ago, Jay walked down the stairs and said, “I know what we need to do.” This is when he told me about his inspiration and his plan. I knew immediately that his idea of printing modern designs onto fabric, on-demand, had to be the way of the future. We leaped into bringing our vision into reality immediately and just 5 months later, modernyardage.com was live on the web. We have added to his original vision and have innovated to showcase our technology and unique use of our tools. It has all come together extraordinarily well.

We scouted out talented designers, created a vision for the branding of our company, built a website, ordered and built equipment, then rented a space for Modern Yardage to call home.

What were the practical barriers that you had to overcome in order to start your business?

We were fortunate enough to have enough money to start our business so that we didn’t have to share equity and could keep full control of our company. We have had some challenges in staffing. The roles we needed filled from the beginning were few, but it was critical that we found people who could contribute to our vision and carry it out effectively. In the end, we have taken on more ourselves than we should because it is too early and formative of a time to put others in the position to create the path to fulfilling our vision.

When we approached our first 5 designers, we had a resounding YES! from each of them. We felt very blessed to happen upon such a great group of people who believed in our vision, supported our efforts, and had patience with us. Cindy Lindgren, Heather Dutton, Emilie Daly, Dana Morgan, and Katie Schrader all had enough faith in our big idea to sign an exclusive fabric contract with us before we even had a logo or equipment. None of them had ever even met us in person. They just recognized early on that what we were doing had to be the way of the future and provided a great opportunity for them to be pioneers with us. As far as legal issues go, we approach legalities very seriously because Jay is an attorney as well as an MBA. He is able to work brilliantly with licensees to make agreements that are beneficial to them as well as to Modern Yardage.

The technology has been challenging. It took us and our operations manager a while to get the hang of it all. We are still learning all of the time and have certainly had moments of frustration and have even shed a few tears. At this point we have the operations well under control and we are now focusing on leveraging our technology to bring some new, never-before-seen innovations to the fabric world.

What does your typical day or week look like? How do you find a balance?

Oh dear! I don’t know how I pull it off sometimes. I get up early and get my kids off to school then go to work. I answer countless emails from hopeful designers, fulfill requests from our current designers, and I answer questions from customers. I work on strategy with staff concerning marketing and operations and manage priorities and schedules. There is always work to do on our website and products to add. Fortunately we now have a great team at Modern Yardage that works well together. The commitment of everyone and support that I get from operations and marketing keeps me going. I leave to pick up my kids from school in the afternoon and then take time off until they are all in bed. Then I stay up too late tying up details and writing more emails.

I still have piles of laundry to fold each week that often don’t get folded and soccer practices and swimming lessons to go to with my kids. I have to figure out what to make for dinner each night and try to get my kids to where they need to be on time. I am like all working moms, but since I am in charge, I can create my own flexibility. I never want my children to feel like I am not paying attention or that they aren’t important to me so I have to keep things as separate as possible. Jay and I really enjoy working together and talking about Modern Yardage and our goals for the business. Like our children, our business also brings us closer because it is also our baby. I don’t have great balance in my life, but I am not sure I ever will. I just make the best of things, set my priorities and keep a positive attitude. Somehow things usually work out.

What is your vision for Modern Yardage, and how does this tie in with what you believe is the future of the textiles business?

Our vision for Modern Yardage extends far beyond where it is now. We think that what we offer now is great, but we do have some tricks up our sleeve. Over the next year, new features will be added to our site that will allow more customization. These options will blow the minds of our customers. In a few years, we plan to expand in a way that will entirely change the way that people buy fabric. We are building strategic alliances so that our fabric becomes more readily available. Jay’s main responsibility is implementing our strategic plan, which includes building key alliances and managing critical research and development both with our equipment and our user interface. We think that before long, as technology improves and becomes more affordable, digital textile printing will take over. The old fashion way of screen printing fabric and importing it from overseas will be obsolete and the possibilities will be endless in textile design. Imaginations will soar and the industry will never look back.

Giveaway!

Modern Yardage is giving you the chance to win 2 yards of fabric of your choice! To enter to win, fill out the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

How to Sell Craft Patterns

How to Sell Patterns
This week, I met one of my 2012 crafting goals and released my first PDF sewing pattern. Because many of you are interested in writing and selling your sewing, quilting, knitting, crochet, or other craft patterns, I thought I’d share my experiences and some tips I learned along the way!

Write

The first step to making a pattern for sale is to create a unique product. Do your research and make sure that your idea is not already out there in the creative marketplace.

Sarai Mitnick, author of The Colette Sewing Handbook, shared about her pattern-making process.

“We start with some basic ideas about an overall look, combined with requirements about what kinds of patterns we need in the overall collection. Once we have several sketches and ideas, Caitlin and I discuss them and narrow it down to the few we’ll finally release.”

Once you’ve determined that your knitted goatee or infant messenger bag, for example, is a unique design, it’s time to create your prototype. Photograph each step along the way and take notes, so you can go back and write a complete pattern later. You might want to include your photographs of each step, so make sure you take high-quality photos in good lighting. Alternately, you might turn your photographs into digital sketches using a simple graphics program.

When you are finished with your prototype, take some time to consider your process. How many skeins of yarn or rows of beads did you use for each step? Is there an easier way to complete certain steps? Take some time to consider you overall project as well as the final product before sitting down to write you pattern.

Gather all of your notes, and write down your step-by-step process for making the product. Refer to photographs you snapped earlier, and pay special attention to measurements. Don’t forget to include your list of supplies and any techniques you use that others might not find obvious, such as ironing your fabric between steps.

Design

Whether you are creating a digital pattern (PDF download) or a printed pattern, you’ll want to format the text and photos using page layout software, or a desktop publishing program. Some examples are Microsoft Publisher, Adobe InDesign, or Quark. These programs are specially designed to create attractive and easy-to-read publications. Technically, you can make PDFs in Microsoft Word, but you’ll be severely limited as far as layout and working with graphics.

You may also wish to design a cover image for your digital or printed pattern. Make sure to include the name of your pattern, the size of the finished product, and a hiqh-quality photo of your finished item. Save both your cover image and pattern file as a PDF (Portable Document Format), that’s ready to go to your pattern testers. Save your cover image as a JPG file as well, so you can use it in online listings later.

Refine

“Pattern Testers? Why do I need a pattern tester?”

Because you will be sorry if you skip this step. Pattern testing is simply the process of refining a pattern before its release. If you have crafting friends, offer to send them a copy of your pattern in exchange for their advice. Ask your pattern testers to make the quilt top or crocheted teacup following your step-by-step instructions. They should jot down notes when they have questions, or suggest different wording to help clarify your process. Getting this outside opinion from one or more people will be invaluable, even if you have made the item several times on your own!

Incorporate your testers’ suggestions into the pattern file, and save again as a PDF. Print off a copy, and give it several more looks before the release date. Tip: You may need to lighten or darken photos so they look good on screen and when printed.

Price

“What should I charge?”

Patterns come in a whole range of prices, and some are even released for free. For example, digital sewing patterns typically range from $4 to $10, and printed sewing patterns may be a few dollars higher. When considering what to price your pattern, look around at comparable patterns and make sure you’re within that general range. You may have spent 40 hours or longer creating your crocheted wallet pattern, but the buyer is likely going to find many free patterns online and you don’t want them to pass on yours based on the price. Also, think about future patterns you’d like to release and how you might price those. Don’t sell yourself short, but do remember that the buyer will still have to spend money for supplies!

Anna Veach of Urban Stitches sells patterns by other designers in her modern fabric shop. “With digital patterns, I personally think you should price it under what a printed pattern would cost by a couple dollars,” she recommends.

Sell

If you have your own craft blog, that’s a good place to start selling your pattern. You can host a free storefront via Big Cartel or Meylah and link to it from your own blog or Facebook page. Both services offer free and paid versions, depending on how many patterns you decide to sell from your shop. Meylah is unique in that it offers buyers a free digital download of your product, so you don’t have to worry about sending them a PDF after they check out.

Two other popular craft marketplaces are Etsy and Artfire.

  • Etsy charges sellers 20 cents per listing, plus a 3.5% transaction fee, which comes out to 48 cents on an $8 pattern.
  • Artfire is a monthly fee of $12.95, so this would be the better choice if you plan to sell 27 or more patterns per month (at $8 a pattern).
  • These fees do not include PayPal merchant fees, which could be another 53 cents on an $8 sale (2.9% transaction + 30 cents).

In summary, if you sell a pattern for $8 on Etsy and use PayPal to process the funds, plan to receive $6.99. Although they take fees for selling patterns, Etsy and Artfire offer the advantage of built-in traffic and potential customers via their online marketplaces.

  • Pattern Spot is a site where designers can sell their digital sewing patterns, and the designer earns roughly half of the sales.
  • You Can Make This is another site that spans all types of crafting tutorials that may be submitted and sold through the site via a profit-sharing model (author keeps some, website keeps some).
  • Craftsy is an online community that just unveiled a pattern marketplace for all kinds of crafts, including paper crafts and jewelry. They do not charge fees to sell your patterns.

A number of online shops might be willing to sell your digital or printed pattern for a fee of around 50%. You benefit from the exposure to their customers who may find your pattern while browsing for fabric or other craft supplies. The shop owner typically sends the pattern to the customer for you, and sends you a commission on your pattern sales each month.

Printed patterns may be marketed to retail shops, and a new service called Patterns Gone Digital markets pattern cards or covers in local craft shops, which buyers can redeem online with a special code to download the actual pattern.

Polso Pouch Pattern by Studio Kat Designs

Polso Pouch Pattern by Studio Kat Designs

It might be worth trying more than one of these services to see which generates the most business for your patterns!

Summary

If you are meticulous and love the challenge of teaching someone your craft, pattern writing might be the business for you. It also helps to be friendly and personable with your customers, provide prompt delivery for digital and printed orders, and to be willing to market yourself a little bit.

Do you have any tips or questions about making your own patterns? Please share them in the comments!

Related Articles:

Winner: The winner of the Modern Fabric Studio giveaway is lucky #126, Nancy’s Couture!

Review: The Colette Sewing Handbook + Winners

Colette Sewing Handbook Cover

After interviewing Sarai Mitnick of Colette Patterns fame, I was so excited to get the chance to review her new book. The Colette Sewing Handbook (F+W Media) is both a project book and teaching tool for sewists, meaning it does include 5 sewing patterns that the reader can make and feel proud of. However, the basis of this book is actually on explaining the techniques needed to sew clothing with a great look and fit. This includes how to choose fabrics, read and alter patterns, how to care for garments and so forth. Quick, someone give this book to Project Runway winner Anya!

Colette Sewing Handbook excerpt

As a self-taught sewist that mostly works with quilting cottons, I was excited to read about how I should actually be sewing things. For instance, did you know that pressing a garment is different than ironing? I didn’t! I was also intrigued by the concept of ripping fabric from the bolt instead of cutting, which is actually the preferred method to get a “trued up” (even) edge. I also learned the many ways to transfer a pattern from the original to the fabric, using markers and chalk pens (and why each one is useful).

Colette Sewing Techniques

The book also reviews some techniques I use regularly, like gathering, hand-stitching and inserting facings into a garment. Still, no matter how many times you’ve installed a zipper, you might find yourself referring to this book’s helpful step-by-step photos as a reminder.

Colette Sewing Handbook Fabric Types

Did I mention that the whole book is just really pretty? I’m going to bookmark the pages on fabric selection, because I know this will come in handy time and time again. Sarai details the qualities of fabric (What fibers is it made from? Woven or knit? How does it drape or reflect light?) and explains which fabrics are better for which project. Brilliant!

Colette Sewing Handbook Fabric Drape

Overall, Sarai encourages sewists not to rush into their projects, but to take time selecting fabric that is right for the garment, pre-washing and ironing the fabric, prepping and altering the pattern and making a muslin (inexpensive trial run) of the garment. All of this comes before cutting into your pretty fabric. This technique helps you to get a great fitting dress that you’ll actually want to wear, which saves money and time in the long run. And once you’ve altered the pattern to fit your body, you might want to make the “Truffle Dress” in six different colors. I do.

Colette Sewing Handbook Truffle Dress

Techniques aside, one thing I took away from this book is the desire to think thoughtfully about my wardrobe.  Sarai’s patterns have a cute, vintage-infused style that can be personalized with fabric choice and thoughtful details (like including or omitting a bow or fancy hem, which she gives the reader full permission to do). She encourages sewists to find their personal style and use clothing as self-expression. If you have a fabulous fitting garment in a fabric that complements your skin tone, you’re going to feel great in your clothing.

Colette Meringue Skirt

For my first project from the book, I’ve decided to conquer the “Meringue Skirt.” So far, I have gone through Sarai’s tips and selected my fabric: a textured, matte, wool-based gabardine. (Can you tell that my sewing vocabulary has increased tenfold since reading this book?) I’ve also cut the pattern pieces and adjusted for length (since I’m shorter than the model). Next, I’ll be ready to make my muslin and check the fit before starting on the skirt. Although I am pretty thrifty and don’t like to “waste” fabric, I liked Sarai’s explanation of making a wearable muslin. This means I might use a fabric that I’m not in love with, but it echoes my actual fabric choice, so I could still potentially wear the skirt if it fits.

The Colette Sewing Handbook is an invaluable tool for the sewist that wants to learn more about making garments. Although I probably won’t make all of these patterns for myself, I am definitely excited to sew two of the five, and I could see myself making more than one of each.

Winners

Out of 261 comments, the winner of The Colette Sewing Handbook is #101, Margie! We’ve sent you an e-mail with more info. If you didn’t win, why don’t you join my by signing up for the free webinar Thursday all about choosing fabrics? Participants will also get a discount on the book.

Free Webinar
Out of 636 comments, the lucky winner of the Epic Letterpress Combo Kit chosen by random.org was #90, Jessie Prince! Congratulations and Mary has sent you an e-mail with more information.

For everyone else make sure you check out the Lifestyle Crafts blog where they’re doing some amazing giveaways! This week you can enter to win a dream craft workspace worth $800 just by following their blog. For additional entries you can tweet or blog about the giveaway (and don’t forget to mention that Craft Buds sent you!).

The Colette Sewing Handbook Q&A + Giveaway

Sarai Mitnick Headshot

Today I’m excited to share this inspiring interview with a woman who left her corporate job to carve out a niche for herself in the creative marketplace.  Please welcome Sarai Mitnick to Craft Buds!

Sarai runs a successful sewing pattern business working out of her beautiful studio in Portland. Just take a gander at the lovely sewing studio photos she shared below! She also blogs at The Coletterie and recently authored The Colette Sewing Handbook (F+W Media).

Sarai Mitnick Studio - Fabric Scraps
Sarai, can you tell me a bit about your transition from a corporate job to owning your own creative business?

The biggest challenge was uncertainty. I had a pretty great job in the corporate tech world, and it can feel like you’re a little crazy for wanting to leave a stable, prestigious, well-paying career for something that’s basically a huge question mark.

But when it came right down to it, I knew I wasn’t happy. I felt bored and tired, and a worst of all, like I was wasting my time and creative abilities. It’s not a good feeling to be stuck in a pointless meeting and realizing that your life is passing by. I liked my job in theory, but in practice working for a big company was really not what I was suited to.

I’m pretty careful about money, so I spent some time saving up so I could fund the business myself. That really helped. But there were other things I would miss, like proper health insurance and tons of other perks. My employer gave us free meals, for goodness sake! But we made a go of it and I must say, it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I love being in charge, I love the creative flexibility, and I love the people I get to work with. It’s hard work, but the freedom is such an amazing gift. I am very grateful that it’s worked out.

Sarai Mitnick Sewing Studio
What’s your process for writing a new pattern?

We start with some basic ideas about an overall look, combined with requirements about what kinds of patterns we need in the overall collection. I factor in things like skill level, separates vs. dresses, and season.

Once we have several sketches and ideas, Caitlin and I discuss them and narrow it down to the few we’ll finally release. We then draft the pattern digitally, and make up many samples and muslins. The number really depends on the type of garments, with pants taking the most test runs. I think Caitlin sewed over 10 muslins to get the fit exactly right for our new pants pattern! I’d say that more typically, there are 3 or 4 muslins. Often times, little design changes have to be made as well as fitting changes, since things do look different when made up much of the time.

At this point, there is the grading and instructions to do, which is another very long process, and finally the photo shoot. It’s fun, but it takes a long, long time.

Sarai Mitnick - studio sofa
I’m excited about your new book, The Colette Sewing Handbook. So, how did it come to be?

I had a vague idea that I wanted to write a sewing book when the publisher approached me. My original concept was quite different and more specific, but my wonderful editor encouraged me to think a little more broadly and write more of a teaching manual of sorts.

My concept was to build on the sewing fundamentals that are so often overlooked. I think experienced sewists will tell you that things like understanding fabric and getting a nice fit are the keys to making the sorts of garments you daydream about. But no one seems to emphasize this when we’re starting out! So many of us just learn as we go, which is fantastic, but sometimes it takes us a long time to realize that we should pay attention to things like fabric quality. I know it was this way for me.

So my book focuses on five things: planning your sewing, using patterns, understanding fabric, getting a good fit, and finishing techniques. I suppose I wished that someone had come along years ago and said, “hey, slow down, enjoy the process more, and pay attention to this stuff and you’ll make some really cool things.”

I did enjoy the book writing process, because I truly love BIG projects. I’m a planner. And I like figuring out the best ways to communicate ideas, be it an anecdote or a tutorial. So writing a book was a lot of fun for me. It was a ton of work though. Like a lot of things worth doing, it wasn’t easy, but it was still an amazing experience that I wouldn’t trade.

Sarai Mitnick Sewing Desk
Do you have any tips for someone who is looking to launch a creative business?

Don’t be afraid to do something different! There are a lot of mediocre products out there that try to appeal to the masses. Instead, look for the niche of people that you can really do amazing things for.

My other advice is just to be kind. If you are generous, helpful, and thoughtful towards others, it’ll make you a happier person and it will come back to you in spades. I guess it sounds like a cliche, but the more you think about how you can help other people, the more help will come your way when you need it.

Sarai Mitnick Studio Thread
What’s next for you, Sarai?

Some time off! We’ve got new patterns in the works for the Spring, of course, but I’m planning to make next year a little easier. I do have some ideas up my sleeve for some crafty stuff that’s not purely sewing pattern related, but it’s just an idea at this stage. In the meantime, I’m taking a little trip to Argentina and slowing down to think!

Sarai Mitnick Bookshelf

This is the first stop on Sarai’s blog tour for this book. Check out the full list of participants, so you can follow along!

Nov. 1: The ColetterieIntro and giveaway
Nov 2: Craft Buds – Interview and giveaway
Nov. 3: Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing – Lace insertion tutorial for the Licorice dress
Nov. 4: Sewaholic – Book excerpt
Nov. 7: COLOURlovers – Sarai’s favorite prints and patterns
Nov. 8: Flossie Teacakes – Interview with Sarai and book review
Nov. 8: A Fashionable Stitch – Book excerpt and review
Nov. 9: Pink Chalk Studio – Book review
Nov. 10: Craft Gossip – Interview with Sarai and giveaway
Nov. 11: Bolt Fabric – Book review
Nov. 14: True Up – Fabric Fives with Sarai
Nov. 15: Frolic! – On styling the book’s photos
Nov. 16: Whipstitch – Book review
Nov. 16: Honeykennedy – Styling ideas
Nov. 17: A Dress a Day – Interview with Sarai
Nov. 18: Not Martha – Book review
(break for Thanksgiving week)
Nov. 28: Casey’s Elegant Musings – Project Planning, book excerpt and Casey’s thoughts
Nov. 29: MADE – Giveaway
Nov. 30: Sew Weekly – Book review
Nov. 30: Oh! Fransson – Elizabeth’s version of the Taffy pattern
Dec. 1: Sew Mama Sew – Guest post from Sarai on grainlines

Free Webinar: Sarai is also hosting a free webinar on November 10, and she’ll teach you how fabric is made, how to speak the language of textiles, how to choose appropriate fabrics for your sewing projects, and more. Register today, because seating is limited. There’s also a book discount for all webinar attendees.

Giveaway!

Giveaway now closed. Congrats Margie! F+W Media is generously giving one reader the chance to win a copy of The Colette Sewing Handbook by Sarai Mitnick! To enter to win, leave a comment on this post telling us one thing you’ve learned from this interview. (U.S. entries only.)

We’ll announce one winner on Wednesday, November 9.

The Colette Sewing Handbook


Business Tips from Jennifer Paganelli, and her book Girl’s World

I had the privilege to interview fabric designer Jennifer Paganelli, the business woman behind Sis Boom. She’s a crafty mom who seems to do a little bit of everything!

Jennifer’s creative work includes sewing patterns and juicy, vintage-inspired fabrics (produced by FreeSpirit). We got to chat a little bit about her journey as a creative business woman, as well as her first book, Girl’s World, with 21 projects made for little girls!

honey child border
Jennifer, congrats on your first book, Girl’s World. Can you tell me a little bit about how this project came to fruition?

JP: Well I’ve always wanted to do a book for years and it just took time to find the right fit. I also am not a great sewer so I wasn’t certain I could do a how-to book, but then I found Dolin Oshea who is the technical writer and illustrator for Girl’s World and it was a marriage made in heaven!

How have you enjoyed the process of working on Girl’s World as compared to working on individual patterns or fabric lines?

Girl's World by Jennifer Paganelli Girl’s World is an incredible platform for me. Until now the vision I had set forth for Sis Boom had really never been seen. It’s colorful but decidedly vintage, and I wanted that to be the principle factor. The book coming to life reveals the sensibility that Sis Boom is all about. It’s about color, but also draws back to a simpler time.

What’s the general theme or idea behind Girl’s World?

The general theme is how to create a pretty room or dress for a certain occasion, all the while being inspired by that cozy nook in your home. I love that these dresses are all cotton and washable, not fussy or demanding.

Do you have a favorite project in this book?

I love the Josie dress. I love that it can be used as short or long and I love that it can be worn to the beach or fancied up for a wedding.

Sis Boom sneak
Aside from the cute Bosco Bowtie, can we look forward to any Sis Boom patterns for boys?

I love this question, and yes you will see more! Don’t forget the Sis Boom Louey Boxer as well as Carla Crim’s own collection of Scientific Seamstress items for boys.

You are an inspiration to moms who dream of having their own creative business, while balancing work with family life. Can you tell us how you’ve made it through the tough times?

You know I love highlighting other women and giving them a chance to shine because it can be so competitive out there and I think we are coming into a new time of more cooperation and sharing. Coveting keeps us lonely and isolated. Sharing is really the better route to a successful business. I have amazing and very talented women that work with me and pursue their own visions and dreams and they need to be supported in that.

Sis Boom sneak peek
What’s your best advice for an aspiring designer or handmade author?

Never give up! Don’t quit before the miracle and always count your blessings! There is room for everyone and you are right where you are supposed to be.

What’s next for you, Jennifer?

I am super excited about my next book Happy Home, to be published by Chronicle next year. I love my fabrics for fall, Crazy love and Super Fly! And I am so grateful to everyone for their love of Girl’s World, because it’s just the beginning.

honey child border

Thanks for the inspiration, Jennifer! You can check out the book here.

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