April 2009 Archives

The Fabric Maverick goes to Italy almost!

April 23, 2009

lady.jpgI am so excited that we are offering a trip to Italy. I do not expect it will be exactly like "Under the Tuscan Sun" but who knows! Life is an adventure. Since I cannot go on the trip, the next best thing is to talk to Alanna Nelson from Tactile Travel.

 Fabric Maverick: "I understand that you are a sewer. Do you have a particular sewing interest? How did you start sewing?


Alanna: "My mom taught me the basics of sewing when I was in Junior High. Not all projects were successful ( I particularly remember the polyester pink plaid wrap around pantsuit) , but somehow I just kept going. This spring I finished my first trench coat and unlike the pantsuit, I'm really pleased to wear it. Since the early 90's, I've been a passionate quilter. Patchwork was a great way to meet people when I lived in Italy and Italian fabric really impacts my quilts.


Fabric Maverick: "Alanna, I think that we all have a pink plaid pantsuit story in our past. It is the defining moment as to whether we will continue sewing. When did it occur to you to combine your love of travel with your passion for sewing?"


Alanna: "My Master's degree in Tourism Planning (go Aggies!) certainly kept this in my brain for a long time. But I didn't put this into action until 2006 after we moved back to the United States."


Fabric Maverick: "For customers who are not experienced travelers, can you give them some tips about what to pack for this time of the year, what to expect from security, medicine? Would it be helpful to know a little Italian?"


Alanna: "Early October weather in northern Italy is quite pleasant with temperatures in the upper 60's. Layering is the key! While on the ferries, you may need a jacket or shawl, but while lounging on a terrace after lunch, the sun is warm and lovely. Always be ready for rain!  As for security , remember that scissors are not welcome on board flights, so keep them checked in your bags. A package of dental floss goes through without a problem, however, and that can take care of cutting thread on board."


Fabric Maverick: "I would never have thought of that. I'm glad I asked."


Alanna: "You're welcome. Don't forget to bring your prescription medicines with you. A copy of the prescription is always helpful in case of chaos! I scanned copies of my eyeglass prescription, passport, driver;s license and credit cards and emailed them to myself as attachments. If I need copies, then I can just print them off my email!"


Fabric Maverick: That's a great tip. It is good to be prepared for an emergency."


Alanna: "Also If you don't speak Italian, don't worry. One of the best ways to communicate is with your body language. Whenever you walk into a store, it's polite to say 'Buon Giorno (good day) or Buona Sera (good evening... used after 4:30 or 5 PM). Grazie (Thank you) and 'Arrivederci (good-bye) are also important. Italians are friendly and you will find that simple greetings and a smile go miles. Of course, on our Trek, I'll teach you some vocabulary that will help your fabric shopping as well!"


Fabric Maverick: "I think that I'm getting a little jealous of the winner already! I notice on your itinerary that you mention workshops. Can you tell me a little more about the workshops? Is their any preparation needed?"


Alanna: "For the Textile Trek, I have a personal coach give a workshop about creativity. I encourage everyone to stop, look, listen and remember all of the time, even after they go home! The workshop encourages you  to observe yourself as well the world around you. During our Italy trips, each person has their Tactile Travels journal to record memories, images, or store bits of interesting  things they find along the way. I hope the experiences learned on the Trek follow you home, as well as your journal!"


Fabric Maverick: " Is there plenty of downtime for exploring, good food and ,of course, vino?"


Alanna: "We combine the structured time with free time during the week. I encourage people to use their free time in a way that suits them. For example, you have an all day Lake Como ferry pass to use as you wish. Some people fit four towns into one day and others sit on the balcony overlooking the lake and sew! As for dining, we are in Italy  and I love food and sampling wine! Menus try to focus on specialties of Lake Como and Piedmont for the fall!"


Fabric Maverick: "What is the most unusual thing that has ever happened that you might want to share with us?"


Alanna; "In 2007 I visited Civita di Bagnregio with an Italian quilter in preparation for last year's Quilt Umbria. To reach this isolated hilltop city in northern Lazio, you walk about 500 yards on a footbridge over a deeply eroded valley. It was June and we'd left Rome without an umbrella. After all, it doesn't rain in Rome in June without plenty of warning. We noticed clouds and decided that this was a good enough reason to have lunch overlooking Civita. Scattered showers punctuated lunch (the terrace was covered) but it looked clear as we headed onto the footbridge. About halfway across the bridge, it started raining. We ran to the city walls and found shelter under the arches until the rain stopped. After visiting the town, we meandered back to the entrance and decided we better walk quickly. We really need to sorint, because this time we were treated to a torrential downpour! Totally soaking wet were the two quilters when they reached the car. After that the sun came up and we didn't see raindrops the rest of the day...but we did see several rainbows!"


town.jpgFabric Maverick: "I don't think I would have liked being on that footbridge!. You know I could be persuaded to go on this trip if you can guarantee that I will meet George Clooney (George Clooney has a house at Lake Como). I don't imagine that will happen. I don't know about anyone else, but I believe that there is a trip to Italy in my future!"


The Fabric Maverick says...Aimee Pflieger Dolby is my kind of designer!

April 16, 2009

Thumbnail image for 10th_logo.gifFor those of you who do not know, Aimee is the designer of Betsy Ross Patterns. I picked Aimee as one of the designers I woud like to interview because Aimee embodies the spirit of our customers. She has a "Can-do" attitude. She saw a need for something and plugged away at it until it was a reality. Here is what Aimee said in our recent interview:

''A few years ago, I decided to put the sewing machine I received as a graduation present to use. It had been gathering dust for awhile and I was getting sick of spending too much for skirts that I knew were easy to make. I bougnt a few patterns and some cotton fabric and set to work. While I gained some confidence using simple patterns, I was still confused by the instructions and iillustrations. Sewing felt like a club that had a secret handshake I couldn't master. Eventually, I tried to tackle some pants but ended up swadding the tissue paper into a ball and went to bed frustrated.

I took that experience and set to work creating Betsy Ross, one of the first independent sewing pattern businesses. Instead of trying to follow seasonal styles, I set out to create basic designs that can be used repeatedly, but in different fabrics for different looks. The possibilities are endless and Betsy Ross patterns are for wardrobe items every woman needs- simple skirts, pants, tops and functional bags.''

I asked Amy if she had any formal training in pattern design?

She responded "I have not had any training in pattern making. I do the designs and someone else makes the pattern itself. I am pretty much self- taught when it comes to sewing. My mom taught me the basics when I was little, but my technique is pretty much a mix of new skills I've picked up since then and improvisations."

This struck a chord with my experience with patterns. I am sure that some of you have had the same experiences that Aimee has had.  Betsy Ross patterns are designed to be simple and clear. If you can make a straight line, you will have no problem with most of these patterns. Most of her patterns are designed for miminal sewing experience and will guide you in fabric selection and fit. To make her patterns, the simplest tools are needs:

a needle

fabric shears

paper cutting scissors

an iron

straight pins

marking pencil

sewing machine.

Here is a photo of one of my favorite patterns: the apartment pants.

bed color.jpgThese are for lounging around the house or sleepwear.

For more information about Aimee Pflieger Dolby check our her website.

Part 2 Sandi Henderson on Roller Skates!

April 10, 2009

Thumbnail image for Sandi Henderson.jpgSandi is back with us today to give us some of her secrets.

Fabric Maverick: "Where do you get your inspirations? I love your color palette."

Sandi Henderson: "Oh, my inspirations come from life. I'm inspired by furniture, gardens, vintage fabric, new fabric, music, crayons. But I have found that my greatest inspiration comes in the title of my fabric collection. With both Ginger Blossom and Farmers Market, I had the name figured out first. I have to nail down the feel I am going for and having the name is a huge factor in that for me. The third collection that I just finished up, I didn't have a name until about halfway through. I was struggling so much with the collection until the name came to me and the rest just flew out of my hand. I think it's because I've come to enjoy including a few novelty prints in my collections and that plays off the name. In Ginger Blossom, it was the Water Lilies. In Farmers Market, the cherries and apples. I haven't sent off the third collection to the mill yet, so I'm going to keep the name secret a bit longer, but I'll drop it soon enough!'

Fabric Maverick: "That is fascinating!  By the way, how is it to work with Michael Miller Fabric? Kathy Miller seems like she would be a barrel of fun!"

Sandi Henderson: "Kathy is fabulous. She has become a great friend and has been a wonderful mentor. Many hours have passed on the phone with her simply educating me about the fabric design process. I value her input greatly and will forever be grateful that she took a chance on a no-name dewy-eyed girl one afternoon in May. Michael (her partner) is equally wonderful and a great male chum for my husband to goof off with at the Quilt Market. It makes me smile to see them snickering in a corner. And the rest of the Michael Miller crew! They are so fun to work with! The entire company has a family feel to it and I'm so pleased that I've landed where I have."

Fabric Maverick: "I know what you are saying. It is important to have that family feeling. Stephen Friedman has made our company feel like a family also. I know that you have the most wonderful patterns, but do you quilt also?"

Sandi Henderson: "Oh, thank you. Sandi Henderson does quilt! I try to have at least one quilt made up for each fabric collection. I am more of a 'make it up as you go' quilter. I've tried to create a plan for the quilt I'm working on, but they just come out better when I wing it!"

Fabric Maverick: "I was surprised when were 'talking' that you actually buy fabric from Fabric.com? I guess I thought that designers would use their own fabric. So what do you buy and what do you do with it?"

Sandi Henderson: " Oh yes, I think Fabric.com was the first place I ever ordered fabric online from. I think my first order consisted of Amy Butler Charm fabric. I buy a lot of fabric actually-I felt really guilty about it for a while since I do get some of my own fabric for free. But I don't feel bad anymore. It's good to stay on top of what you do and love! Buying fabric and patiently waiting for it to arrive in the mail reminds me of the joy of sewing. And I love to mix and match designers' prints. Right now I'm working on my daughter's Easter dress which is a combination of a Jennifer Paganelli print, one of mine and a couple of pieces of vintage fabric. It's going to be beautiful! I always buy some of Amy Butler's collections and I love Anna Maria Horner's style. There is a lot of Heather bailey on my shelves and a lot of Joanna Figueroa. You will also see Joel Dewberry, Jennifer Paganelli, Camille Roskelly and Michael Miller in the mix. I tend to flock towards the designers that I know in person the best because it makes sewing with their fabrics so much more fun! I recently went through a crazy pursuit to track down every print in Denise Schmidt's Flea Market Fancy collection. I think it came out around the time I was designing Ginger Blossom and I just didn't have the time to look at other fabrics. So two years later and I really got a good look and fell in love. Of course it now out of print, but I found some of everything I wanted. My current favorite is Wonderland by Momo."

Fabric Maverick: "Are you working on any new collections now? I loved both Ginger Blossom and Farmers Market!"

Sandi Henderson: "I just finished one up! It is slated for hopefully a summer debut. I hope it makes it because it so suited for summer sewing!"

Fabric Maverick: "If you actually had a day to do whatever you wanted to do, what would you do?"

Sandi Henderson: "Oh wow...hmm..I would spend it somewhere fun with my family. Nothing quite brings me more joy than seeing my kids at the end of a fun filled day looking content and loved. We're going to Disneyland at the end of April, so that will pretty much be my perfect week. If I were to spend a day alone with my husband, I would definitely go fabric shopping. And to the bookstore. And then to a really good lunch- I had a seared tuna last week that was divine. And then hiking somewhere and to the movies to finish up. My sweet husband has the habit of rubbing my feet about 4 times a week and I'm completely spoiled in that aspect so that would probably be the nightcap."

Fabric Maverick: "That sounds pretty go to me except I do not think I could not accomplish half of that. I would need a pair of roller skates to keep up. I don't suppose you would be willing to rent Dustin out? Thank you for sharing with us today. We will be patiently waiting for your new collection to come out!"

The Fabric Maverick says...You need roller skates to keep up with Sandi Henderson! Part 1

April 9, 2009

Sandi Henderson.jpg As soon as the salesman showed me the "Ginger Blossom" collection, I knew Sandi Henderson had a winner. For our 10th anniversary, I thought it would be great to interview Sandi and see what is going on in her world. Sandi was very gracious when I contacted her. She is truly a charming person, but very hard to keep up with. She is working on a new collection which will be out soon. I promised not to tell the name until all the changes have been worked out.

Fabric Maverick: "Sandi, your website is called Portabello Pixie. How did you come up with that name?"

Sandi Henderson: "Portabellopixie (one word) came about when I was trying to come up with a name for my custom made boutique clothing business. I wanted it to be original, something very different that would stand out in people's minds. Portabello comes from Portobello Road, which to me stands for all things eclectic and vintage. Pixie is fun, cute, playful. The combination of the two really seemed to describe my style! I changed the spelling of Portobello to make it truly my own."

Fabric Maverick: "I agree. Your style is one-of-kind. Do you have a family and how do you manage to design with your family? I know that I struggle to keep everybody's life in order."

Sandi Henderson: "I do have a family! An incredibly supportive husband, Dustin, and two great kids, Eliza and Ethan. How do I manage to design? Hmm...I would certainly not say that I've got it figured out but I've found that everything else falls into place if I just take care of my family first. I don't ever work if Dustin isn't around to take care of the kids. My daughter attends preschool during the day, and I have my son alone during that time. I use the time to play with him, run errands, be a mom. It can be tempting to use that time to work, but I'm so much happier when I wait until I have truly taken care of all my family's needs before sitting down to work."

 Fabric Maverick: "Have you always been a designer?  If not, what did you do before?

Sandi Henderson: "I have always been creative, but for the majority of my life it was just for my personal pleasure! I didn't decide to design for the masses until about 6 months before I contacted fabric manufacturers. I also had a stint in health employment. I was a phlebotomist for a while. (A phlebotomist is the person who draws your blood.) So if someone needs a blood draw at Quilt Market someday, I guess I'm the one for the job!"

Fabric Maverick: "Are you able to design full time?" I have read about several designers who have a full tine job and design in their free time."

Sandi Henderson: "I don't have a job outside the home. When I decided to do this, everything just fell into place for me."

Fabric Maverick: "It feels like you burst onto the quilting scene with your collection "Ginger Blossom", but I know that this is not generally the case or is it?"

Sandi Henderson: "That's pretty much how it happened. Again, I have been so fortunate! From the time I signed on with Michael Miller to the time Ginger Blossom debuted, I want to say it was about 5 months! And that really was my big debut as a designer. It's been a whirlwind ride in the last 2 years from when I signed on with Michael Miller. We've put out 2 fabric collections, a new line of sewing patterns, a collection of gift boxes and home storage and I just signed a book deal. Yay! I will say I was writing my blog before the fabric happened and I think that probably helped get my name around. (Is my name around? It really doesn't seem that way to me, it it's very surreal to see my designs in random places.)"

 Fabric Maverick: " Sandi, your name is around in a very good way! I love to open a magazine and see Ginger Blossom or Farmer's Market being used!" Here are pictures of a few of Sandi's patterns:

  Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Analise-150.jpg Cupcake-Pincushion-150.jpg Sandi Henderson 2.jpg Dear readers, stay tuned for Part 2 of Sandi's interview tomorrow! You will find out where her inspirations come from and where do designers go to buy their fabric??  Also what is Kathy Miller really like!


Check out Part II of the interview!

Notes from Gadget Corner: Quilters' Block Butler

April 7, 2009


This month I experimented with the Quilters'  3' x 3' size BlockButler. This is a design wall that allows you to mix and match your blocks to find the design that best suits your project. The BlockButler is a self-sticking surface that holds without tape or pins. It is made of a tacky material on both sides that does not leave any residue on the mounted surface. I wondered if it would really stay where you put it so I tried it for a period of several weeks on the wall of my sewing room. It was easy to apply to the wall surface, you peeled off the green backing a little at first so that you could get lined up straight, then peeled the rest of the green backing and I pressed it on to the wall. My BlockButler has been on the wall for the entire winter so I have to say that it stays where you place it.  

Placing and rearranging blocks is a snap with the BlockButler they stick to the surface easily and can be moved around without being pinned. I however found that if I attempted to leave the blocks hanging for a few days that they did let go and if there are a lot of seams to the blocks then it would release quicker. I found that if I replaced the film over the blocks that are on the BlockButler this helped to keep them where I left them. I understand that it is washable and when dry will hang on the wall. I have not needed to wash mine yet so I will have to add that experience in the future. Let me know if you try this item and how you like it. That's all for now, see you next month. Try the Quilters' Block Butler, I give it a thumbs up.

If you would like to ask questions about this product, contact the Gadget Lady at kathy@fabric.com.



Ten Years and Still Clicking!

April 2, 2009


10th_logo.gifIt all started as a "going out of business" sale that quickly turned in to a "starting a new business" tale. After many humble years (see Stephen's story) and plenty of elbow grease we are proud to reach this milestone. What better way to celebrate than thanking our customers for making this possible!

So come on...Let's party like it's 1999!

Can I please join the winner of the fabulous textile trek along the coast of Italy? A laptop and a $500 Fabric.com shopping spree? Seweet!  And that's just the beginning. We are having huge sales, free pattern downloads, special guest bloggers, and much more. Also be on the lookout for special "goodies" added to your fabric orders.

The party starts now and lasts all year long!
"Sew" visit us often...Hidden treasures abound!
Now Go Sew!!


We thought you might like to see some pictures of our staff and facility.

Here are some pictures of our hard-working but fun-loving staff:

Leslie from Customer Service: leslie.jpg

Our merchandising staff headed up by Kristl Pelz: DSCN4417.JPGOur warehouse: DSCN4406.JPGLast but never least the man who has made all of this possible, Stephen Friedman: Stephen2.jpg
Thank you for making us successful!

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