Talking Out Loud: Drygoods Design….

Talking Out Loud is where I talk to young entrepreneurs and artisans about their careers, the path of how they got there and what lies on the horizon for them.  It’s their thoughts, their words and their journey…….

This time around, I was lucky enough to talk with Keli Faw, owner of the Seattle-based fabric and craft store, Drygoods Designs.  I was introduced to Keli and her store through mutual friend and fellow interior design, Beth Dotolo.  Nestled in the historic Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, Drygoods Design is unlike any fabric store I have entered.  Sparkling wine is chilling in ice buckets for harried patrons to sip and while their children play in a designated kid’s area.  Fabrics are displayed along side jars of old-fashioned candy; a riotous explosion of print and pattern that is actual eye candy for the textile soul.  And in the center of it all is Keli……

Keli Faw_DrygoodsDesigns

Why opening up a fabric store? There are so many different types of retail stores to open, so what was it about the Seattle landscape that promoted you to open a retail fabric shop?

The retail storefront turned out to be a byproduct of my online shop. I started an online fabric site in the spring of 2011 because I wanted to grow my small line of handmade goods which were carried at some local shops. By the beginning of 2012 I was growing out of my small office space and had several local customers that wanted to come and see the fabric, pick up and have a more personal experience but my tiny office wasn’t working. I no longer had time to make my line of goods but was now helping others find fabrics they couldn’t find easily in other parts of the globe, the US and even Seattle. While some of the local fabric retailers carry some assortment of modern motifs, there’s never been one that felt edited. My customers seemed to like the online experience and so my goal was to make that happen in the brick and mortar version as well. Now that we opened the sewing studio, the focus shifts to not just what people want to make but how to make it too.

Did you have a previous career before opening up Drygoods Design? If so, what was it and has it helped you with the current business?

I come from a background in business, PR and communications. You’d think that I would be really proficient at promoting my business, however, almost all of our retail business has been by walk-in and word of mouth. I didn’t want to promote it until I felt we were really ready as it’s not a traditional type of place. I think what’s helped me most is trying each day to think about our customers. I try to approach my business by thinking about what I most enjoy in a shopping experience and service versus what’s the most profitable or cost-effective. It’s important it makes business sense, but I’d rather have gradual growth born out of customer care versus rapid and impersonal.

What is it about fabric that interesting to you? What intrinsic or aesthetic qualities about the material/medium drew you to it?

About six years ago I inherited an old sewing machine and taught myself how to sew and in doing so discovered that there were some affordable and modern fabrics out there. I became addicted to not only making things but the search for beautiful fabrics. I am a stickler when it comes to the hand of fabric – how it washes, drapes and feels. We are touched by cotton everyday and that is what I love most about it. You don’t have to like to sew or craft to appreciate textiles or be drawn to them.

drygoodsdesign-65

Where do you get your fabrics from for the store? What criteria do you use to select fabrics to present to your customers?

While the majority of the fabrics we carry are deemed mid-weight or quilter’s (for its ability to shrink equally on the warp and the weft) cotton, we also stock home decor, apparel and outdoor fabrics. For almost all I work with the manufacturers or their reps, but some I have to find brokers or “jobbers.” I typically buy by color versus collection as I want to have different prints work across all the companies I carry versus people be locked into buying from one collection. Almost all the fabrics we carry have to be either a customer request or something that I truly love before it comes into the store. You hardly ever like all the songs on an album and to me fabric is very similar, so I try to edit down each of my buys into the best of the best. It’s really hard since there’s so many amazing options and I can’t carry everything. For example, I would love to carry Marimekko but at $40+ a yard and Crate & Barrel carrying it, it doesn’t make much sense. I try to tame my wish to carry more by also stocking complimentary products like packaging, gifts and cards that work well with the fabric.

In your opinion, what makes a “good” fabric? Has there been any fabrics that has made you stop in your tracks recently and say “wow?

While it depends on its use, I think ‘good’ fabric is a textile that invokes an emotional, almost visceral (in a good way) response. Sometimes it’s merely the weave or the texture that can have you smitten but most often it’s the motif or print that draws us to one print over another. Color is a huge factor as well. Novelty fabrics certainly have their place but just like anything, I love fabrics that don’t hit you over the head with their intended use or theme and let you draw that out or shift it by your eye deciding how you want to live with it. The second part is the quality of the base cloth. It has to feel right and drape in a manner that lets you see the possibility of what it is on the bolt. My current loves are illustrated geometrics and a return to the combinations of yesteryear with tight florals and geometrics playing off each other. We stock Liberty of London Tana Lawns and seriously, it’s like they were woven by angels. I have some Japanese fabrics headed in that I ordered at least five months ago and they will definitely have the wow factor.

liberty

How would you say living in Seattle has informed your selections for the store?

While I have lived in Seattle almost 10 years, I still don’t consider myself a local. A great deal of my influence is probably from living outside of the Northwest. I believe though that being in Ballard, the old Scandinavian fishing village/neighborhood of Seattle, definitely impacts my responses when I see vintage Scandinavian, viking motifs and subtle nautical prints. And we probably don’t focus too much on resort style prints given that it’s nice about three months out of the year here.

So you own a fabric store, so it begs to be asked…do you sew? If so, what is your favorite thing to sew?

Thanks to the opening of our sewing studio, I am sewing more now than I have since I opened up the shop, which is a great deal of fun. While I am starting to really enjoy sewing apparel – my favorite sewing is for those I know and care about. Being able to envision the person(s) using what I make, it’s truly what it’s all about for me. Those projects range from baby goods to accessories that they can use and enjoy.

zipperbags

If money was no object, is there fabric that you would go out and buy for yourself?

More Liberty of London Tana Lawns to keep, original supina ikat, more vintage fabrics.

You opened up what many would say is a non-traditional retail store and have succeeded quite well with it. What piece of advice would you give to a budding retailer who is looking to open up his or her own store?

Thanks for the kind words! It’s all about knowing that no matter how hard people might tell you it is and how much work it will be, you have to know your own limits because until you’re in your own experience you won’t realize it’s even harder than one could imagine. I don’t regret my choice but it is not for everyone. You have to love, I mean really love, interacting with all kinds of people and working around the clock. I am still in the thick of it as it appears I like to add a new layer every six to eight months:). My husband and two kids definitely sacrifice for this to build up and I can’t wait to repay all of their support.

Fabric is often used as a metaphor to describe the interwoven qualities of life. As a fabric retailer, your products find themselves in the most intimate aspects of your customer’s lives – from their children to their homes. What would be the highest compliment you think you could receive from a client who used on of your products?

That’s a great question (and so hard to answer). I feel really lucky to have the online and in-store customers that we have. Until we opened the studio, it was the feedback around customers feeling taken care of and cared about when they shopped, both online and in-store that really made each day. Now with the studio, it’s really amazing to see people learn and grow confident in their own ability to make things. That injection of creativity and community is truly incredible and I pinch myself that I get to be a part of it. It is a derivative of a ton of work but worth it all.

Thank you Keli for sharing your insights with us!  I now need to learn to sew so I can put all the beautiful fabrics from Drygoods Design to use……

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Windsor Smith Riad On Discount…..

I am not one to gossip, but when something this good happens I have to share it with my friends.  It comes as no surprise that I love bold graphic prints.  They speak to me — they are my siren’s song — they tell me “BUY ME. LOVE ME.”  And none of these prints speak louder than Windsor Smith’s fantastic prints:

Photo: Studio Ten 25

The Riad print (as seen on the chair above) makes me laugh, makes me happy, makes me want to  be a better person.  Unfortunately, it typically runs for over $50/yard which makes me sad, depressed and want to eat raw cookie dough.

After a failed attempt at trying to create a similar fabric on Spoonflower, I had pretty much given up hope.  But I am never one to give up the faith, so I searched the internet daily in hopes of finding it on sale.  Well, a few weeks ago I stumbled across a site called BuyFabrics.com which was advertising a fabric called “Riad Doon Lattice Drapery Fabric”.  Intrigued I clicked on the link and saw this picture:

Photo: BuyFabrics.com

Could it be?  Could I have found my FAVORITE fabric in the Dune colorway?  Could it be also only be $16.95?  So with my heart pounding and sweaty hands, I bit the bullet and ordered a sample. When the envelope for the sample arrived, I ripped it open like it was a stay on my execution and was surprised, shocked and delighted to see the Windsor Smith Home copyright:

I dashed upstairs and compared it to my memo sample of the Riad fabric I received from Kravet.  The weight of the fabric, slub and design are the same in my opinion!  I will be upfront and say I could be wrong and this could be a masterful hoax to flood the market with fake Windsor Smith fabric to drive up demand and ruin the economy.  I doubt it and am willing to take my chances.

I promptly ordered 5 yards of the fabric from BuyFabrics.com.  The fabric arrived last week and I could not be happier with the purchase.

<INSERT HAPPY DANCE>

I honestly have no idea what to do with it yet, but I feel better for simply having the fabric in my collection.  So on this Monday morning, I give you the gift of discount!

The fabric is available at BuyFabrics.com and is listed on the site as the Riad Doon Lattice Drapery Fabric (SKU 22077).  Go forth and buy!

Spoonflower Give Away Winner….

So the winner of the Spoonflower fabric give away is……….

So that means Bri from the awesome blog Me, You & a Wiener  is the winner!   Knowing Bri’s track record of creating awesomeness, I am excited to see how she works her mojo on the fabric!

However, for those of you who didn’t win, remember that I have ANOTHER give away going on right now!  Be sure to enter my drawing for an awesome modern/vintage tea set.  I am a giving machine this month — all you gotta do is enter…..

Results from Spoonflower Project & Give Away

A few weeks ago, I entered the realm of trying to create my own textiles with the help of the online textile site Spoonflower.  I received the results of my endeavor and lets just say that it was not the look I was going for…..

Spoonflower "Fat Quarter" of Design

It isn’t bad – actually I think the moorish tile design I created is quite cute BUT…….I was trying to create a design that was similar to Windsor Smith’s Riad pattern.  Looking at the designs side by side, you can see I am WAY OFF in color and scale…..

As you can see, there is no comparison.  My design pales in comparison, but I think it can be saved with some tweaking to the repeat and scale.  Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to do another go around since this “experiment” took over a month to get back to me from Spoonflower.  That would be my only compliant — the normal turn around time for a sample is over a month, so you need to budget at least 1.5-2 months to get your custom fabric plus time to have it made into whatever you intended.  I know you can pay for expedited shipping, but at a month’s duration, it is almost not worth it from the stance of downtime.

So I am switching direction and going to stencil the fabric with the same trellis design from my living room accent wall.  It is very similar in scale and shape of the Windsor Smith fabric plus I can do it at a fraction of the cost.  If my estimates are correct, I can get 6 Ikea linen panels for around $200 and the stencil is $50, plus fabric paint and the total cost should be under $300.  On the flip side, purchasing the yardage I need for the Windsor Smith fabric would set us back $1400-1800 – so not in the budget.

However, since I am not going to use the Spoonflower remanent, I am going to give it away.  Leave a comment below as well as a way to contact you.  The give away is through May 10 midnight.  Hopefully one of you crafty and glorious folk turn my mistake into a prize!

Houston, We Have a Problem……

The more I design, the more I realize that a large portion of my new career is solving problems of various sorts.  Things I thought were a “slam dunk” aren’t and those “easy projects” are quickly becoming multi-step endeavors. However, it’s this type of problem solving and thinking that drew me to the field and keeps me on my toes. 

Case in point is the chair I am looking to recover in my master bedroom.  I thought I had found the perfect solution in the form of a zebra-print linen fabric.  It was bold, graphic and masculine; it would have been the perfect choice to transform a ho-hum chair into a statement piece.  If you can’t tell, I am using the past-tense to describe the chair and the fabric.  I talked to the upholsterer this weekend and was informed that my remanent piece was not large enough to cover the front of the chair as I assumed.  The original plan was to cover the chair’s front in the zebra print and the back in a contrasting fabric.  However, it would now appear that I would need to cover the chair in 3 different fabrics to cover it completely – not the look I was hoping to obtain, so it was back to the drawing board.

After running some errands, I stopped by one of my favorite discount warehouses in San Francisco and rummaged their racks.  I can across this fabric, which I think is a strong contender to replace the zebra print:

It’s a large-scale plaid linen weave with metallic gold thread running through it.  While it isn’t my beloved zebra-print, the large-scale of the pattern makes a statement of its own in the room.  The gold thread speaks to the metallic thread in the upholstered headboard as well as the gold/bronze accents in the room.  An added bonus is that there is more than enough yardage to get the 3 yards the upholsterer says I need to cover the chair.  And did I mention that it is only $12.95 a yard? So for $40 I could solve my chair issue.  So I bit the bullet and bought it and am quite happy with how it looks on the chair:

This unexpected change in my plans does have a silver lining as it allows me to bring in an accent fabric I have been sitting on since it found it on sale for $3.97 a yard.  The accent fabric is a grey linen with gold polka-dots that will be used to make a lumbar and accent pillows.

The fabric picks up the colors in the new bedding (which I will show y’all tomorrow) and brings in a smokey grey color that I think may be the basis for the wall color.  One final benefit of this fabric change is that it allows me to keep the fabric currently on the x-benches at the foot of the bed.  I originally thought I would need to change the fabric when I intended to use the zebra-print linen but now with the new palette, I am actually liking everything together:

Overall, while I am still disappointed that I will not be using the zebra-print in the bedroom, my little problem afforded me the opportunity in the end to find a new fabric I love, to use fabric from my stash and save money by keeping the same fabric on my x-benches.  So in the end, my little problem may have been a blessing in disguise.

Do you have a story on how a design “problem” became a design “blessing”? If so, shoot me an email or leave a comment! 

Have a great Monday!!

You Could Be a Textile Designer…..

Have you ever thought about designing your own textiles?  I know I have especially when I am digging through racks of fabric swatches in hopes of finding the pattern that I have in my mind’s eye.  Wouldn’t it be easier (and less stressful) if you could some turn that mental image of the perfect fabric into reality?  Well the folks over at Spoonflower were reading my mind (so to speak)….

The concept behind Spoonflower is pretty straight forward – anyone can upload a design and have it printed on fabric for your own use or for sale. You can buy sizes from 8″ samples to full yardage.  Spoonflower gives users several fabric options from quilting cotton to upholstery-grade cotton twill and even silk crêpe de chine.  Prices range from $18-$32 depending on your fabric selection with the silk crêpe de chine maxing out the pricing structure.

One note of caution before diving into designing your dream fabrics – there is a small upfront cost due to the fact that you must purchase samples of all the designs you create prior to them going into production.  Fortunately the cost is minimal since you can order up to 8 samples for $20.

For myself, this opens up a WORLD of opportunities regarding curtain and drape treatments especially since they have a linen/cotton fabric option.  I am always at a loss finding cost-conscious fabric options for curtains that are stylish and in the color palette I am using.  Even better is that Spoonflower offers a 10% if you order your own design and a 20% discount of you order over 20 yards of your design.  And did I mention that there is no required minimum yardage order?  So order 1 yard or 100 yards – you have total control.

Thanks to Spoonflower, I can now add “textile designer extraordinaire” to my résumé…. (not really but I can day-dream).

I Struck Out But Then Hit a Home Run……..

Sometimes in the game of life, you strike out but on rare occasions you hit it out of the ball park with a home run.  Well yesterday was one of those days.  For the strike out, I received the zebra print fabric sample from Warehouse Fabrics.  I was hoping to match the remanent zebra fabric that I bought for a steal at my local fabric store.  The remanent gives me just enough fabric to cover the front of the chair I intend to upholster.  That leaves me the back that I would have to do in a contrasting fabric.  The thought of contrasting fabric isn’t bad but I was hoping  I could score with the Zebra line from Premier Fabrics.  I was wrong…….

Zebra "brothers" from another mother.....

They SO don’t match.  The slub on the linen is different and the color of the zebra stripe is off – my version is black-brown while the Premier Print version is truly brown.  Oh well – I am out $2.50 but at least I now know……back to the drawing board.

However, as I was moping about the fabric, I received a package in the mail from my Aunt in New York.  When I went back in December, I was lamenting that my jerk chicken never tasted as good as what my Aunt made or I bought in the Bronx.   She told me that the secret was this particular brand of bottled jerk sauce that I could not find out here in California.  Well, I got this in the mail…..

Aww yeah baby!  HOME RUN!  Outta the mutha freakin’ park son!  Going….going…..GONE!

I so did a happy dance in the kitchen when I realized it was the prized sauce.  This totally made  up for the fabric! 

Guess what I am making this weekend???