Behind the Scenes December Edition

I thought this might be fun to start and admittedly I love reading Tasia’s posts on her burgeoning business every month. I’ve always found posts like these interesting because I really do want to know what its like to own a small business and make ends meet with it. So now that I’m adding a new perspective to the table – owning a brick and mortar fabric store – I thought you all might want to know more about what goes on and how things are run here at A Fashionable Stitch.


the Space
I like to think of our little shop as a fabric boutique because, yes it’s small. We are not a Hancock or Joann and honestly, that’s good because these chain stores do have their place and they do provide things that we really don’t have the room to provide. For instance, we don’t sell buttons currently. After a lot of thought about this too, I don’t know that we will sell buttons because buttons can take up quite a bit of room and eat up quite a bit of capital. And our shop’s physical location is right in between a Hancock and a Joann, so we have to have a different focus when it comes to what we are going to sell. We rent a location that was once a little house. The property has been commercialized and we have our own parking lot and such. The upstairs area is dedicated to the retail space while the basement is dedicated to the classroom (which we’re in the process of revamping) and the online shop storage area.

Owning a business is kind of like owning a house, especially in respect to the maintenance of the building. It’s been snowing quite a bit this December and sheesh! I have to keep on top of shoveling and having ice melt on hand so that people don’t fall and break their neck! Yup, as a business owner you have to worry about these things. Just one more hat to wear!


Keeping afloat in December
I’ve noticed this trend with my online shop as well as with a brick and mortar. Also my dad was self employed growing up too (lawyer) and it was murder! December is the worst month of the year as far as revenue goes. I would be totally lying if I didn’t say that I was a bit disheartened this past month as this was my first month as a brick and mortar shop owner and seeing the bills that need to be paid and the money that’s come in is quite tight. I think it really comes down to the idea of gifts during December. And this involves changing your entire idea about merchandising for a month or so (probably starting in November really) and you have to start thinking in terms of, “Well, if I were a spouse/significant other looking to give a gift to my sweetheart, then I need something shiny and all put together.” These are things that definitely need to be re-considered and brainstormed for next year, but I will say that we have some really exciting things planned for next year. Now, off to write them down and put in a place that will not be forgotten!

Buying fabric for a shop
Probably the number one question I receive about my online shop is, “Where do you find all these notions and supplies you have here?” Sometimes I don’t know if people really want to know or if its just a passing question, but I will say that finding suppliers/sources is hard work. Oh. My. Goodness. Part of buying a fabric store is buying the suppliers list. People do not share this information. They protect it with their lives! So I am glad to have a suppliers list to start with. I’m also growing my own list and its been interesting. I have to keep on top of the needs and wants of the shop. I want so many different options for the shop and yet, there are needs that have to be maintained like having a selection of bridal fabrics and laces (we have a lot of weddings here in Utah year round!) and things like cotton batiste and specific colors of silk shantung and dupioni all have to be in stock and ready for purchase. Then there is a growing list of wants. I want all these different types of fabrics and what’s worse is to be perfectly candid, I could care less about wedding dress fabrics! Ha! So I become torn by things that I want and things that I have to have. Sometimes its definitely about selling items that you don’t care to sell. Strange, but interesting.


Out with the old, in with the new
One of the main focuses of December for the shop has been getting rid of the merchandise that’s not selling. You have to be creative when you are up against things that don’t sell. My mother instilled in me the idea that much in life is about presentation. And to be honest, this is sooooo true. Sometimes when items aren’t presented well they don’t sell – so true in so many facets of life! I’ll give you a few examples. With the purchase of this shop came the acquisition of what seems like 5 billion really old trims and ribbons. I had worked at Yellow Bird Fabrics for over a year and had never seen these trims move. Ever. The trims aren’t necessarily bad, they are just rather project specific and as such they rarely get bought. One of the first things I did when I took over was to go through all the trims and fish out all the ones that really needed to move and hadn’t. Cut those up, put them in 3 yard bundles with a few other colors of ribbon and Voila! Instant color and cuteness by the register. And they are usable! They aren’t just junk. They can be used in clothing or as gift wrapping ribbons and trims.

We also decided to get some fabric moving too by cutting several of the bolts into remnants. One of my ladies said that she used to work at a fabric store that had a marvelous remnant rack and it’s something that we’ll be utilizing too. The majority of the remnants are at least 2 yards, so they work well to actually make something out of. No 1/2 yard or 1/4 yard remnants here!



Additionally, we had a roll of rayon that had not sold a single yard. Such a pretty rayon too – great for a dress. But it was cream colored and well, boring. I dyed the yardage (with good quality dye, mind you) into two different colorways. The end result was really cool actually as the zig-zag stitching took the dye more than the rest of the fabric. Again, just a presentation/vision thing really, but it makes a big difference in seeing the potential in something that you hadn’t considered before.

I think that’s it for December’s Behind the Scenes. Gosh, I can’t believe December is already gone! I’ll admit, this has been hard. I’ve been very much consumed by this whole entrepreneur thing (as I should be, I think) and that’s been both good and bad. I sewed but a very little bit in the last part of December and that’s something that has to change. I love sewing and I don’t want to just give it up because I’m a shop owner. So I’ve actually been sewing quite a bit in January. Almost finished with a jacket (which I started January 1st)! Yay! Priorities have to be set. If you never make time to work on the things that you enjoy, you never will. I could work on the shop all the time everyday, but its not what I want to do all the time. So setting limits and parameters is very important. I’m learning that bit by bit.


50 thoughts on “Behind the Scenes December Edition

  1. Ok, (big sigh) maybe this daydream of owning a fabric shop will only be a daydream. It sounds like fun and hard work and creative in a whole new way. I did subscribe to the Sewaholic’s blog so I can live my this dream vicariously through Tasia’s cute shop. I wish her all the luck and next time I am near her neck of the woods I will scope it out. I always hunt down the boutique fabric stores when I travel. Thanks for the hook up.

  2. This was such a great post, I was really curious to see how the shop looked from the outside, ha! I am happy for you, you are doing what you love, bliss! Good luck in 2014!

  3. Thanks for sharing! I love reading these type of blogposts!

    Also, the idea to dye that rayon yardage is genius, and I love the way it has come out.

    Good luck with the venture and all the best for the new year! I’m looking forward to keeping up with it all! 🙂

  4. Congratulations on your brick & mortar shop! It sounds challenging but also very rewarding. And rewarding in the creative sense as well! I’m looking forward to the next time I get to SLC – I’ll definitely be stopping by. 🙂

  5. I love this post! I work/teach in a small sewing shop, and I have been getting a serious education on how these places work. I’ve always wanted to have my own shop one day. Until then, I am soaking up as many point of views as I can, and taking notes along the way. Your transition from online to brick and mortar has been such inspiration, and I wish you all the best.

  6. This is such an interesting post! There’s so much that goes on with owning a business that I’m sure you wouldn’t think about until you own one, so it’s really cool to read your perspective. Wishing you best of luck! It sounds like you’ve got a really smart approach to building your business– I’m excited to see where this takes you!

  7. I was hoping you would do recaps like Tasia’s! This is all so interesting, though it sounds so hard. The co op idea is a neat one, and I’m not surprised you have a dedicated team. I hope you find more balance in your life soon, but this is all so new still! I’m sure a year from now you’ll be sewing up a storm 🙂

  8. Interesting post! Ever thought of ‘twining’ with a similar fabric shop that’s recently set up new but in another country- sort of like a sewpal rather than a penpal? Might be a way of exchanging ideas etc without compromising your market.

  9. I’ve always wondered about the supply lines as well, but I’ve also wondered if it’s possible to ask a sewing shop if you could order a bolt of fabric through them. I don’t know if it’s a stupid question or not…

  10. This is a really interesting post ! Although I do not intend to work in a shop or anything like it, I like reading Tasia’s posts and I am glad you will have them too. I agree that presentation is very important in a shop and making your little pre-assorted ribbons selections seems to be a good idea !
    In Paris, where I live (and in other shops I’ve been to accross France), the remnants are always 3 meters (3.2 yards, apparently). And I wouldn’t buy a remnant smaller than 1.5m (except if I have a very specific project in mind that calls for less), so I think the way you sell larger remnants too is great !
    Keep up the good work !

  11. I read every word of this interesting post, and all I can say is that you really, really deserve to be successful at this new venture of yours! I wish you days filled with buying customers – and time to sew, too!

  12. If anyone can do this, its you. Once the chaos of a fresh start is over, you will be able to sit back with a cuppa tea & enjoy the fruits of your labour. I wish you every success & rest assured if my travels ever bring me to your neck of the woods, I will pop in.

  13. Very neat! It’s interesting to me to hear about a more boutique fabric shop, since I live in a state that literally only has JoAnn’s. I’m so glad you’re going to be continuing with the online shop too, since that means that I can still support you while living across the country! I love how you’re utilizing the stock you already have and re-imagining it to actually sell.

  14. I’m so excited you’re going to do monthly posts, too. I love reading Tasia’s, and I know I’m going to love reading yours as well. I’m sorry December was such a hectic month, but I think you’re spot on about what people focus on buying at that time of the year. Sales do seem to be important to lure people in, so perhaps some pre-packaged gifts (fabric, pattern, class bundles; notion bundles; etc.) and a good sale will make a difference? But, really, every new start has growing pains, and it sounds like you’re way ahead of the game!

  15. I really enjoyed your post Sunni–your ideas for presentation are awesome. I wish you much success.
    My small town only has a Hancock Fabrics and some quilting shops. I spend a fair amount of money at Hancocks, so I started working there to offset my spending (and get a discount). It may not fit the focus of your shop, but what sells like hotcakes in December is fleece. Many people make no-sew fleece blankets as gifts, and we sold tons and tons of fleece.

  16. Cheers to you and your little shop. It sounds fantastic. I know you will have a great time because it is something you love. Being a former small business owner for 36 years, (different type of business and now retired) I know it is, also, a lot of hard work. All the best to you.

  17. Fascinating!! I really enjoyed reading your post and I hope you continue the Behind the Scenes feature. To you, it’s everyday life, but to readers, customers and aspiring entrepreneurs it’s really fascinating stuff. Your business is so different from mine, but still very interesting to read your thoughts even as you just get started! I liked your insights on presentation being important, and December being slow even though we think of it as a big shopping and gift-buying month. Very interesting that your staff works for fabric-buying credits.
    And this – “If you never make time to work on the things that you enjoy, you never will.” is exactly me right now! The deadlines take priority because they have to, but our own personal sewing projects are important in our own way because they keep us in love with sewing.
    Also – exciting to see your big new sign! If I’m ever passing through again I will be sure to stop by!

  18. Fascinating! I wish you lots of good luck with the shop. I love that you run the shop as a co-operative, there can’t be many fabric shops where that is the case. I look forward to keeping up with all your plans and changes, and hope business picks up after Christmas.

  19. Oh this is so interesting! Owning a fabric store is something I’d absolutely love to do one day, and it’s so fascinating to hear stories from people who really do it! I hope January picks up – I can’t wait to hear more!

  20. I have to say, I’m really impressed at some of the creative ways you’ve come up with to sell or improve upon merchandise. Dyeing fabric and thinking about how people really want to use trim and such? Really shows how much you care about your business and your clientele. 🙂

  21. What a great read. I too would love to own a shop like yours; maybe one day.. Would you believe that n here in Sydney, Australia good material shops are very hard to come by? Do you ship overseas? Or do online orders?

  22. I really liked this post – interesting to read how you came up with ideas to sell stuff that’s always been there but nobody noticed!

  23. Your shop is gorgeous, and I love the behind the scenes glimpse, especially as you are so honest and open! I wish you all the luck in the world, well done for going for your dream


  24. I really enjoyed reading this post…I loved the behind-the-scenes glimpse into things I had never thought of . And my husband is totally the “buy a pretty package of neat sewing things as a Christmas gift” kinda guy, so I love that idea for next year. I am hoping you continue to expand the online shop as well because it is nice to find nice notions AND quality fabrics in one spot, since I pay high shipping costs for items to canada. Great job and best of luck

  25. I’ve been quietly reading your blog for a couple of years and I think this is my favorite post! This was a fascinating look behind the scenes, quite different from any behind the scenes I had read before. Thank y0u so much for sharing…and best wishes!

  26. I’m sorry I’m not closer. I’d be over in a heartbeat. I love everything you do to promote sewing and what I like to think of as “sustainable fashion”. Wishing you all the best in 2014!

  27. Your brick and mortar shop is so cute!!! I so wish I lived close and could shop at your place – great article – very fascinating! Wishing you the best in your business and that you get more sewing time 🙂

  28. I wish you every success with your new venture. Loved the ideas for selling bits and bobs that weren’t moving. Just wish we had someone like you here in my part of the world.

  29. I have to say that I’ve been away from sewing blogs for a little while, and while I’m excited that you’ve got a brick-and-mortar shop, seeing this behind-the-scenes post actually makes me less likely to want to order from you again, or even stop in if I ever happen to be in Salt Lake–I’m already (as a minimum-wage Hancock employee) painfully aware that working in a fabric store is only really economically viable if someone else is supporting you or you’re the management, but the fact that you don’t even pretend–that you think a business that makes you money is something that other people ought to volunteer for–is incredibly distasteful. Yes, these wealthy ladies who are working for you would spend their whole paycheck in the store, but there are plenty of younger and poorer people who are out of a job, and would be qualified to work for you, but could never take a job opening that paid in kind, no matter how much value they get out of it.

    In true employee co-op, people get profit shares on top of AN ACTUAL WAGE, not just an employee discount. (We do still get those at Hancock.) I always thought it would be nice to move from a retail chain to a locally-owned business, but not if the locally-owned business is more about doing right by rich ladies in the community who need bridal silks than by her own employees.

    So I suppose that’s the biggest disadvantage of buying the existing business–all the previous owner’s poor business decisions become your problem. Hopefully your merchandising skills plus the online part of the business will mean you’ll be able to turn it around, maybe hire a girl and pay her an actual wage?

    In the meantime, I won’t be buying anything from you that I can find elsewhere.

  30. Hi 🙂 BEST WISHES for SUCCESS with your fabric shop 🙂 YES, December is SLOW 😦 I sew for a living 🙂 90% alterations with some custom jobs here and there 🙂 December is SLOW. January is SLOW 😦 THEN.. February HITS and I am BUSY until December again 🙂 YAY!!!!!!!!!! Just get your mind-set into the MODE :)Bank the extra cash to get you through Dec and Jan. USE Dec and Jan to CLEAN your house and VISIT your friends and take a vacation 🙂 It’s difficult at first to get into this CALENDAR but work WITH it rather than AGAINST IT and you will be happier 🙂 Good Luck from Cheryl 🙂

  31. I know the idea is to make money, but how about a contest with a certain fabric that doesn’t sell? They have to buy the fabric still, but if they win the contest out of what’s won, they could get there money back, or even a gift certificate. I bet you’d sell that fabric pretty fast and they’d all come up with an idea as well to try to win.

    You could use that same principal on a “grab bag” also.. Or, offer mystery bags even.. Everyone likes a surprise. 🙂

    It’s just some thoughts on what you can do with items that are not selling.

  32. Hello, I read your blogs on Bloglovin.
    I’ve been sewing when I can for the past two years, i work in a full time job (as a Secretary which can be very demanding and stressful so when I do get free time sewing is my therapy. I love sewing blogs and I’ve never really had the courage to leave a comment on someone’s blog without feeling like a bit of a wally! The reason why I’ve bit the proverbial bullet and leaving comment is because I was shocked by the message left by Eleanor. I’ve worked in a lot of temping jobs (I’m a secretary like the owner of this blog was – sorry I forgot your name!) & the majority of them were minimum wage. I still managed to get good material, supplies etc. from local retailers – these items were brought from my own pocket & no one else’s.
    If the women who work for you didn’t like their job they would’nt be there. Trust me, as I said before I’ve done a lot of temping jobs & they were to gain experience working in a office so I could get into the NHS (National Health Service) I’m English by the way! : )
    What you have done is amazing and if I ever won the Lottery I would do it too just for the sheer hell of it! We only have one chance at life so live it doing something you love not what you hate!
    I think Eleanor needs to chill out a little and stop & smell the roses once in a while!

  33. I really appreciate your candidness – I hope you keep it up. I have also been a fan of Tasia’s behind the scenes posts. Because you have a brick & mortar, I think your perspective could give sewers a window into the real world of keeping a tiny, hardworking business afloat, where some readers might just view all owners as ‘rich’ or solely money-driven’. It’s really a breath of fresh air – for myself that is.

  34. Really interesting post, Sunni. I think owning a shop is one of those things that many of us think would be so wonderful and fun (both of which are probably true) but we ignore the hard work and the tough decisions that go with it. Love seeing your insights.

    And, I had to comment on the post about your co-op arrangement. Incredibly out of line. And shows a complete lack of business sense. As if giving up potential profit (discounts or fabric) is not worth real money to the shop owner or recipient. Sure, it not an arrangement for everyone but if the women didn’t want to work there, they wouldn’t. There are a lot of jobs I would like but don’t take for whatever reason – that’s my choice. And the insinuation that somehow it’s a negative thing to be a wealthy woman working for a discount on fabric? How judgemental is that?

    Anyway, keep at it and we’ll keep following your progress!

  35. I’m close to two different businesses, and know only too well this is exactly how they run. One is directly retail and so her December was a typical December in which she had good sales. The other an independent fabric store and their sales like yours were a little slower, but they pick up the instant the New Year starts – lots of proposals during the holidays.

    I really appreciate your efforts and hope you find a real niche in your market, as, like you, I believe there is a real need for fine fabric stores and following your passion may surprisingly bring you more than you suspect, but one thing for sure – it brings a lot of light to your eyes!

  36. I love these little sneak peaks into your new world of brick and mortar ownership! I currently a tailor and custom clothier shop in a small down in Indiana. Part of my 5 year plan is to expand to open a fabric store with a garment focus similar to A Fashionable Stitch which will also house a classroom. I’d love to chat sometime if you’re up for tossing around some ideas!

  37. Just a short note to wish you all the best in your new venture. I grew up in an entrepreneurial family and I am fully aware how difficult it is to just keep the door open – let alone pay wages and earn any profit. The taxes in some states really challenge the business owner. I appreciate the information you’ve generously provided on your site and Craftsy. As for individuals who are jealous or dissatisfied, in the words of my father “This is America and competition is good. Go to the store across the street”. Perhaps not the smoothest in customer service, but practical. Happy 2014!

  38. I came here meaning to finally comment on your “defense” post, only to find it gone.

    Regardless it was a good reminder for me to come in and pick up some new fabric. I’ve been so involved in my new job that I haven’t had time to sew much lately.

    Running a small business is incredibly difficult, but know that there are people in Salt Lake who appreciate having a place to go for really beautiful fabric.

  39. I didn’t get to read the defense point, but I did want to reply to the post left by Eleanor. First of all to compare John Hancock, JoAnnes Fabric or any other large fabric chains is entirely unfair. Running a small business is extremely hard, and should be supported and not vilified. Every situation is unique, and I applaud the courage and dedication it takes to run a brick and mortar. I love the idea of a co-op. Why? Because the ladies who choose to support and help run the store, are dedicated and passionate about what they do. It is a WIN WIN. They get the opportunity to learn from each other and support a business that they care about and in return they are able to pick up some high end products. It is a fair trade of goods for services. Economics 101. The fact of the matter is that those “rich” ladies probably work harder to keep those doors open then someone only interested in a paycheck. People who are invested in the success of something they love look towards the future as they receive joy in what they do. Unfortunately, there are many prospective employees who have the attitude that working is only about the paycheck. They aren’t passionate about what they do, and work half as less and wonder what they are going to get out of their job. Keep your business and take an economics course.

  40. There was a little brick and mortar boutique in Denver, CO called D’Leas years ago that was one of those places that I would go to because it just made me happy. And I didn’t even sew. It was an “upscale” fabric store in a more exclusive part of town. The fabrics were more expensive but the staff was so warm and welcoming, there were garments made up and creative ideas everywhere. I loved that place and still miss it. I started sewing because of this store and still own some of their fabrics. I usually had to save to buy something, but oh it made me happy. I still support a lot of the smaller businesses in my area. I know that sometimes I can find the exact same fabric cheaper online, but I want these places to stay in business. Best wishes on your store and if I’m ever in your corner of the world, I’ll definitely stop by.

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