Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My Favorite Shops

Being a kinda-sorta small business person, I pay a lot of attention to how other (real) businesses work. Turns out most of them do not use my "hope money miraculously shows up in my mailbox" method of self-marketing. (I still think that might pan out for me someday.) After writing about the difficulties many people find shopping and working at one of the big chain fabric stores, I wanted to counter that with something a little more positive, and I thought I'd tell you about some of the places where I buy fabric and why I like them so much.

I would love to shop more at local quilt shops, but the two that are nearest to me just don't serve my needs well. For one thing, they don't have The Avengers running on a continuous loop over large screens all over the sales floor. (Yes, I need that to shop—don't judge.) But they are also clearly serving a different target market and don't carry the kinds of fabrics I like, and they don't tend to move the fabric they do have very quickly. I went into one shop last year around this time and again just recently, and found the exact same fabrics, and discovered many bolts from lines that are 2 or 3 years old at full price mixed into the color walls. I suspect that the fabric that moves well in these shops are batiks and who can tell when there are new batiks? They're lovely, but it's not exactly an event.

So, online shopping works well for me, plus I can do it with no pants on while eating cheese popcorn. Honestly, I shop at a lot of different places, depending on what I'm looking for and price, but for this post, I wanted to focus on online shops that also have a brick-and-mortar storefront. It seems to me that these days, in order for a store to be competitive, they have to extend their reach as far as possible, and these three are all doing that in different ways (at least different ways that I have seen). They also all three have very friendly and responsive service, and our recent conversation shows just how vital that can be when trying to stand out in a crowd.

And this is the first time I have ever reached out to any businesses to see if they wanted to offer readers a little something to go along with all this love, and to my surprise they all said yes! I was pretty sure they were going to back away quickly when they saw it was me, but no! (This list was made well before I asked and would not have changed even if they had said no.) I'm not going to question that any further; I'm just gonna go with it. Each store has offered a coupon code for readers, so check the bold type at the end of each listing for the details. (Each one is a little different).

1. Fabricworm: Advertising Works

Fabricworm was one of the first online shops I took notice of when I started quilting, and that was because even back then, in 2008, they were advertising everywhere. So many blogs had that cute little worm somewhere on the sidebar, so of course I clicked on it. Back then, as I recall, Fabricworm was an Etsy shop, and they specialized in creating custom bundles of fabrics from different collections that worked well together. This was a big deal for a new quilter unaccustomed to choosing her own fabrics beyond what came in a collection. It wasn't long before Cynthia opened a brick-and-mortar shop, called Birch Fabrics,  and moved the online store from Etsy to a stand-alone site. Continuing her juggernaut, in 2009 she started her own line of organic quilting cottons, knits, and other fabrics, also called Birch Fabrics. Birch fabrics are freaking gorgeous and well worth the cost.

Seven years later, Fabricworm is still going strong and they have not let up on advertising, which I think is a very good thing. Back in 2008, after making my first purchase from her Etsy shop, I offered Cynthia an ad on my blog (even though nobody read me back then) and she eagerly took it, because even a free ad on an unknown blog will get seen by somebody. Fabricworm still advertises all over the quilternet, making sure they stay visible. (I am a big proponent of advertising, based on my experiences as the manager of a small, boutique business some years ago.) I recommend getting on the mailing list for them, as that is how you will get notice of their frequent sales and specials. Their selection is truly outstanding, and the sale fabric section is a great place to scout out some stuff you may need to complete a collection, especially when there are extra specials going on.

Fabricworm is offering $5.00 off a purchase of $25 or more with coupon code stitchb until December 15th! Big thanks to Andrea and Cynthia at Fabricworm!

2. Sew Modern: Kona, Kona, Kona - Sale, Sale, Sale!

Sew Modern's shop is located in Los Angeles, and pictures always show a bright and airy space that looks utterly inviting. Sew Modern is where the LA Modern Quilt Guild meets and so is really Fabric Central for the heart of the modern movement (heh, heh - movement). I first looked up Sew Modern when I heard that they stock every single color of Kona solids. Every. Single. One. I use a lot of Kona solids in my quilts and nobody around here carries much. Searching online for a specific color gets frustrating, especially if you need several colors and find yourself having to buy them from different places. With Sew Modern, I can get them all from one spot. And they are so fast!! I have never yet placed an order that wasn't shipped out the same day, and if they are low on a color, they let me know right away and work with me to get what I need.

After I discovered the Kona, I found the sale pages. Tons of great fabrics at great prices, with new stuff added all the time. This is where I go when I need to beef up a certain color in my stash. (Which reminds me, I'm always low on red for some reason.) Again, getting on the newsletter mailing list is a must because there are frequent sale codes and they are worth using.

And speaking of sale codes, Sew Modern owner Lauren Hawley is offering my readers 20% off until September 30!!! Use the code BITCHY20 at checkout to receive 20% off your purchase. Thank you so much, Lauren!!! Seriously, go check it out—you're going to love them. And remember the Laughter Quilt? Well, here's where you can get some Kona White to make your blocks. Now you have no excuse.

3. Quilter's Square: Social Media Masters

Quilter's Square is located in Lexington, Kentucky and from what I've seen in pictures, it's a biiiig shop. Quilter's Square first came on my radar when I realized one of the owners, Kela Curtis, was also a reader of mine and she friended me in real life on Facebook. Shortly thereafter, I began following Quilter's Square on Instagram, and this is where things got interesting.

Instagram, for those of you not familiar with it, is a social media app for phones and tablets (it also has a web-based interface) that is based on photos. You post by uploading a photo, which you can then say something about, and people who see it can "like" the photo or comment on it. If you are a quilter, I highly recommend jumping down this rabbit hole, as the quilting community there is active and very, very friendly. Many swaps and bees have sprung from Instagram relationships (a current Dr. Who-themed swap is called Make A Dalek - Make  A Friend).

I quickly noticed that Quilter's Square posts a LOT on Instagram, and many of those posts are about new fabrics that have just arrived, or they contain coupon codes (and they are sweet ones, let me tell you), or they might highlight some aspect of the shop such as CUSTOM JELLY ROLLS. Yep, want a selection of solids in a jelly roll, maybe in a specific color palette? Kela will pull the fabrics for you from Kona and Bella solids, photograph the pull for your approval, and cut your strips for you. Did I get one of these? Oh, hells, yes I did, in my favorite purple, blue, teal combo (along with a few other goodies):

Kela has been asking questions on Instagram and getting feedback and just generally using social media like a boss. In fact, her efforts paid off to such a degree that they were able to afford and purchase a POS system for the shop, which means they can now put their whole shop online! Woo hoo! Kela often does transactions through Instagram—tell her what you want and if she has it, you give her your Paypal email and she invoices you.

I really, really love Kela and her shop and if the physical store were anywhere near me, I'd probably move in and there would be cops involved and things would get ugly, but the depth of my love would be clear. They have both modern and traditional fabrics, though they mainly push the modern online. But don't be afraid to ask for what you are looking for—they are super helpful and if they don't have it, they often know who does.

Quilter's Square is also offering readers a coupon! Use code whatastitch to get 25% off your purchase from them until this Friday, September 19. The online shop doesn't show all they have (and they have a TON), so if you are looking for something specific don't hesitate to call or email or contact them through Facebook. Thank you, Quilter's Square!

Did I miss one you love? Tell me about your favorite place to shop in the comments.

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