In case you haven’t already heard, there is a new online fabric shop based out of Vancouver! It’s called Blackbird Fabrics and its proprietress is the Caroline, the skilled seamstress with a warm smile who you will probably recognize as a regular contributor to the Sewaholic blog.
Blackbird Fabrics specializes in high quality fabrics for garment making. The shop carries a gorgeous selection of carefully curated prints and solids as well as an excellent variety of unique textures (check out the quilted knits!). There is also an ever-growing collection of quality dress-making tools and supplies including really nice high quality interfacing which I find difficult to source locally.
When Blackbird Fabrics was launched, I promptly emailed Caroline to introduce myself and congratulate her on her new shop (it was a great excuse to make a new sewing friend in B.C!). Caroline is super friendly and has kindly taken the time to respond to my long-winded questions about her new shop. Get ready for a great behind-the-scenes peek at the Blackbird Fabrics Studio! And…make sure you read to the bottom of the post because Caroline has generously provided a 10% discount to her shop for all Thread Theory readers 🙂
Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions Caroline! First off, can you introduce yourself and your new fabric store to our readers?
Of course. My name is Caroline – most people know me as Caroline from Sewaholic! I’ve been lucky enough to work with Tasia over the past few years, but up until a couple of months ago, I was doing it while working a full time job! I recently left my job of 5 years in the fashion textile industry to set up Blackbird, my new online fabric shop. I’m based in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. My online shop carries fashion fabrics and my favorite dressmaking supplies and tools.
What are your current goals for Blackbird Fabrics (i.e. what fabric types do you plan to emphasize, what tools do you dream of stocking?).
The emphasis will always be on garment fabrics. I’m working hard to find new suppliers so that I can have a diverse selection. Right now I’m focusing on finding more knits and woven prints in natural fibers. I’m also excited to add new fabrics based on customer feedback! The goal to begin with was to fill a hole in the market. So I’m definitely taking requests and suggestions seriously and keeping them in mind when I’m sourcing new fabrics.
I’m SUPER excited about your fabric store as I know that there is a dire need for online garment fabric resources in Canada and I love how local you are for me! From your experience so far, have Canadians been your main customer or have you been selling your fabric mostly internationally?
I was actually really surprised when I launched, to see that there were lots of international customers ordering! So far it’s primarily Canadians, but I get plenty of US orders and a good chunk of international too. It’s super exciting to see people on the other side of the pond interested in my fabrics!
What does a typical day at Blackbird Fabrics include?
I’m lucky that I work from home, and my studio/sewing room/inventory storage is in a separate room within my apartment. I’m not exactly an early riser, and I’ve learned not to fight it as much anymore. I usually wake up at around 8am, make breakfast, and answer e-mails for both my business and Sewaholic. Some days I work on a blog post, other days e-mails and other computer work takes up most of my morning. Lately I’ve been working on finding new suppliers, which can take a lot of digging!
If I don’t have any errands to run, I spend my afternoon/evening in the studio packing orders, and sometimes photographing products for the shop. Some afternoons I’ll focus on Sewaholic, so I’ll cut and sew samples for new patterns we’re developing.
Honestly though, so far, no day has been all that typical! Ask me again in a year I guess, haha. I’m still finding my groove, and trying to balance my business work and contract work. It’s been a lot of late nights! No complaints here though – I’m truly loving every minute of it.
You must be very knowledgeable about fabrics after working for Telio! Can you explain how this career in the fabric industry has aided you in launching your own business?
It’s funny, because when I was in school studying fashion design, I never thought I would have a career focused on fabric. I got an internship at Télio in Montreal right out of school, and over that summer I fell in love with textiles. After that, I worked for a year in the merchandising department, building the line, developing color stories, choosing and recoloring prints. I spent lots of time putting together trend reports for the sales reps, and working on graphics for the website. That year really shifted my focus. I learned so much about fabric resourcing, and what makes a cohesive and sellable collection. Not many wholesalers do it as well as Télio does! Then I heard about an opportunity to open a showroom in Vancouver, and I decided to go for it. That’s what brought me to the west coast! I set up the showroom, and spent the next 4 years developing business out here and working directly with clients. I think my experience in merchandising and then sales really gave me insight into what types of fabrics people truly love to buy and work with. I’ve also bought a lot of fabric over the years, for myself, so I’ve had the chance to test out different qualities and I really have learned what to look for in a great quality fabric.
Of course, you have been a big part of Sewaholic over the last year and I hear that you plan to remain so! You guys are single-handedly making Vancouver into a super sewing destination! What plans do you have for working together with your businesses? Have you established a few tricks for juggling two jobs? (I think Matt would love to hear any you might have! :P)
I’m thrilled to continue to work with Tasia! She has been a huge inspiration for me because she is a business superwoman. Personally, I’ll continue to do what I have been doing; sewing samples, customer service, and weekly blogging.
As for our businesses, I think they compliment each other really well. We’ve tossed around the idea of doing a pop-up shop together in Vancouver, and so far the feedback is great so we might try to plan that for the spring.
Right now I think the most exciting thing is that I’m going to work on stocking lots of the fabrics that we feature on the Sewaholic blog. Often we get those fabrics from Télio (a wholesaler that is not open to the public), and we don’t always have a retailer to direct readers to. This way, it will be easier than ever for readers to get their hands on those fabrics, because they’ll be a click away in my shop!
On juggling two jobs… I think the most important thing is to know when to take a break. Working too hard can only lead to a burnout! So I try to take time during the day to get fresh air, make a nice lunch for myself, or go to a yoga class. I also find that I get the most done when I compartmentalize. If I need to spend an afternoon focusing on Sewaholic, then I step away from everything else and try not to get distracted by e-mail or instagram or whatever. Oh yes and lists! I’m a list fiend, I write everything down. Recently Tasia and I started using Trello to organize our to-do lists, and it was pretty life changing. I use it for everything now.
I’m really excited for your store’s blog to start up! What sort of content do you hope to include? I see Blackbird Fabrics is on Facebook and Twitter. Where can customers connect with you the most?
I’m excited about the blog too! I’m going use it to feature new fabrics, show some behind the scenes peeks, and I’ll write about my own sewing projects too! I’d also love to feature customers’ finished projects sewn with Blackbird fabrics. I’m hoping to have the blog set up in the next few weeks, so I’ll definitely announce it on social media when it’s up and running. Speaking of social media! I’ve personally caught the Instagram bug – I just love it – so that’s probably where you’ll see me the most. But I try to stay active on Twitter and Facebook as well. You can also sign up for my newsletter on my homepage, I’ll be sending out shop updates every so often and I’ll give advance notice of any upcoming sales!
Thank you, Caroline, for taking the time to chat with me on the Thread Theory blog! And, of course, thank you for offering Thread Theory readers a discount to your store! To receive 10% off everything at Blackbird Fabrics, enter the discount code “THREADTHEORY10” upon checkout. The code is valid until this Sunday, November 9th 2014, midnight PST. Happy shopping!