If you saw my recent blog post about drafting my own skirt, you’ll know that The Village Haberdashery is a pretty exciting new UK online resource for hard-to-get fabrics. I was intrigued to find out how someone goes about setting up a business like this, and Annie was happy to indulge me. Find out about curvy pins, trade fairs, web design and Annie’s thoughts on the best quilt cotton dressmaking to be seen on the web!
What is your background with crafting and how did it lead to setting up The Village Haberdashery?
My mum insisted I take a sewing course when I was 14, but I was mortified at the time and didn’t appreciate how valuable those skills would be to me later in life. I’ve also dabbled in knitting off-and-on for several years, but it was around the time I moved to London three and a half years ago that knitting and sewing became a big part of my life. I credit blogs for this – once I discovered sewing blogs through a friend I was completely inspired and addicted. And once I realised that it was hard to get a lot of the fabric in London that I saw and coveted on American blogs, the idea of the shop was born. Over time I put all my ideas together into a business plan and now, finally, here we are!
What were some of the challenges of setting up a new business? Did you have any formal training in business planning and website launches?
My background is in PR and I have helped companies launch, so the ability to apply what I know to my own business has been a thrill. But I won’t lie – there have been a lot of challenges and there continue to be new challenges every day. For example, I had some very specific ideas about how I wanted the website to look and how it would be organised. I have done a lot of work with e-commerce companies and the business and psychology of online shopping fascinate me. Plus I shop online a lot! I knew what I wanted. So I sat down to build myself a shop using Magento, with no web design or development skills, and thought I could achieve it in a week using basic shopping cart software. Suffice to say I was close to tears by hour three! So I hired experts and it was well worth it. It sounds cliché, but I learn something new every day and I love that.
How did you decide which supplies to stock? I’d love to hear about what led to the decision to stock the unusual velveteens.
The velveteens were actually an easy decision! I’m a huge fan of the designer, Anna Maria Horner. She’s incredibly popular in the modern quilting community and was one of the first fabric designers I discovered. Anna Maria introduced velveteens with her previous collection, but they weren’t available in the UK. When I found out Loulouthi velveteens would be available here I placed an order straight away!
In general, though, when it comes to fabric there are a few ways I figure out what to stock. One is by reading blogs and seeing what people are talking about and sewing with. Another is by going to the largest fabric trade show in the US – Quilt Market – and shopping. My own personal taste comes into it too. I usually stare at fabric until it tells me what it wants to be. If there isn’t a project I want to make with it, how could I inspire others to buy it?
Where do you stand on the quilting cotton/dressmaking debate? Would any of your quilting cottons be suitable for clothes or dressmaking?
I’ve seen a lot of really pretty garments made with quilting cotton. Modern quilting cottons are beautiful and many are both light and crisp – perfect for loads of dress, skirt and top patterns. At Quilt Market, to show the fabric’s versatility, many designers dress head to toe in their fabrics and look amazing! Quilting cotton doesn’t suit every pattern but I’d just say don’t rule it out completely, or assume every collection is going to have the same hand and drape. For some great examples of quilting cotton used in dressmaking, just look at Tilly’s Autumn Maples Skirt or the cute one-shoulder top House of Pinhiero made recently!
You have an extremely good eye for prints and how to use them. (I’m thinking specifically of your beautiful Turn of Events Dress and the Chevron Sorbetto.) Do you have any hints or tips for readers working with prints?
The Turn Of Events Dress
For me it really comes down to my personal taste. I look at fabric every day and when a fabric really appeals to me, I try and think about how I see it being used. I make lots of different kinds of things – garments for me, childrens’ clothes, quilts, aprons, cushions, but if I see a fabric and just desperately want to wear it, I start browsing around for patterns until it feels like the right match.
I have never made a quilt but would love to try one day. What design would you recommend for a beginner? Any other tips?
It is a fabulous time to start quilting! There is a really beautiful modern aesthetic emerging in the quilting community. There are a lot of great patterns out there for beginners, but I’d probably say that a strip quilt is the easiest. Try this tutorial by Ashley at Film in the Fridge. As for tips, I have two practical tips; the two things no one told me when I made my first quilt, but made all the difference when I made my second. First, get a walking foot for your sewing machine. A walking foot lets you feed your “quilt sandwich” from the top and bottom, which makes a huge difference to your stress level (if not your quilt!). Second, get proper curved basting pins. Straight pins won’t cut it! Some people prefer to use a spray adhesive to baste, but I’ve never tried it. I like taking photos of my pins in my quilt way too much! I have a blog post here on quilting if you’re interested in reading more.
Thanks so much, Annie! I, for one, found it really interesting to hear about the renaissance in quilting and the range of fabrics available to us all now for quilting or dressmaking.
What I particularly like about Annie is that she’s a business woman in the crafting industry who also blogs about her own projects, sharing the same journeys – with all their triumphs and pitfalls – that we’re all making.
Do you have any quilting tips to add, readers? Or other thoughts to share?