Meet the Sponsors: Sew Modern

Welcome to the latest installment of our Meet the Sponsors series! It’s my pleasure to introduce you to Lauren Hawley, owner of Sew Modern. Lauren’s shop is both online and brick and mortar — her Los Angeles, California shop is a haven for modern quilters, becoming a popular destination for touring designers and authors. In such a crowded market, I think it’s a testament to Lauren’s hard work and vision that she has managed to create a name and a strong brand identity (every color of Kona cotton!) in a very crowded market in mere 12 months.

On the occasion of this interview, Lauren and Sew Modern is giving away a fat quarter bundle of Art Gallery Fabrics’ Summerlove to one lucky True Up reader today. Just comment on this post, and I’ll draw the winner randomly this Saturday, March 24, around noon central U.S. time. Good luck, and a huge thanks to Lauren!

Also, use code TU10 for 10% off all fabric yardage (excluding sale items and pre-cuts) at Sew Modern now through midnight, March 27, 2012.

 

Where do you live? What is the textile/crafty scene like there?

I live in Los Angeles. I’m originally from NY but have been in LA now for 10 years! I can hardly believe that. LA is a pretty crafty town, and seems to be getting more so all the time. I think a lot of people here were closet crafters/quilters/sewists and it has now become kind of geeky-cool to come out about it. For quilters, that is due in no small part to the Modern Quilt Guild, which has gone seriously viral in the last 2 years.

Some big fabric manufacturers/distributors are located nearby like Robert Kaufman, Alexander Henry, and Seven Islands which is great because if I have a big order I can pick it up in person. Plus they come visit ME sometimes!

 

How and when did you start selling fabric?

I opened Sew Modern a year ago as a brick and mortar store. I wanted to be able to see and feel fabrics before purchasing and most of what I liked online I couldn’t find locally. I also wanted a place to create and hang out with like minded fabric addicts!

 

What surprised you most about the business?

Not much has surprised me about the business, except maybe how many people want private sewing lessons for themselves and their children.

 

Is this your full time job? If not, what else do you do to pay the bills?

This is my full time job, but as it’s only my second year in business, I don’t even take a salary yet. My husband is lucky enough to work as a writer for television and film and that keeps me and my rather large family sustained.

 

How would you characterize your shop?

My shop is just what it says it is: Sew Modern. I suppose we are quilt-leaning, though we teach all kinds of classes and have a variety of fabric types.

 

What are your hot sellers right now?

Solids are totally hot. Kona cottons (we sell all of the colors) as well as Kaffe Fasset’s Shot Cottons, Moda’s Cross Weaves and Art Gallery’s Pure Elements. Japanese stuff is pretty big too, including minimalist designers like Yoshiko Jinzenji and Nani Iro. Oh, and linen. Robert Kaufman’s Essex Linen is a blend that quilters love!

 

{ A faithful customer on Sew Modern’s in-store longarm quilting machine }

Did the online store follow the brick & mortar, or vice versa? What are the challenges of juggling both?

The online shop followed as a way to keep things moving more quickly through the store so that there are always fresh items. Juggling both has been fairly easy so far, as our POS system and the online store are one … so if we make a sale online, it pops up at the shop and the inventory is taken out. Myself and my employees cut and pack up all the orders during regular store hours.

Tell us about your staff!

My staff is awesome and I couldn’t do any of this without them.

Liz is my manager and she just totally rocks. She is a FIDM graduate in fashion design. She teaches, organizes, makes samples, and basically keeps everything on track. She’s my right hand.

Ariga just joined our staff full time and she is also a FIDM graduate and can sew like the dickens.

Lisa is part time, but totally essential as she has made it her personal mission to know and love the long arm quilting machine. She teaches others to use it and is also our in-house quilter for those who just like to do the piecing. She also knows a buttload about sewing machines in general and teaches free motion quilting on home machines as well. She can make and teach anything, really.

 

{ Anna Maria Horner pays a visit to Sew Modern. That’s Lauren in the boots, Lisa behind them, and many L.A. Modern Quilt Guild Members! }
How do you deal with the challenges of the current economy, the increasing competition in the retail fabric business, and the other challenges of being a fabric merchant?

Honestly, I feel like Sew Modern has filled a gap. There aren’t many brick and mortar shops out there like ours so we are doing pretty well. However, business online is more challenging. Shops with less overhead than mine can sell fabric a bit cheaper, sometimes, than I can. We are still doing well because we carry a lot of items that not many others do. And having a gigantic selection of solids means you can always get your coordinates in one place and not pay all that shipping. Our SALE section is always rocking too, because we really want to keep things moving!

What’s your personal stash like?

My personal stash is really eclectic. I have things like vintage cuts of chenille from Ebay to 70s style corduroy to the latest designer quilting cotton collections. Despite all of that, I don’t see my stash as too big. Maybe that’s wrong?

96 Comments

  1. Barbara19 says:

    What fun to get to know the people behind the fabric!

  2. Wehaf says:

    What a great store! I’d love to shop there.

  3. liz f says:

    I love that she has the brick and mortar as well as the online. I can’t wait to drive through LA sometime soon!

  4. Jeannie says:

    gorgeous fabrics – delicious colours. I’d love to use them in a project. Thanks for the chance to win!

  5. Addie says:

    Thank you for the informative and entertaining interview. Sew Modern is definitely on my visit list the next time I am in LA. Thanks for the giveaway.

  6. erin jewell says:

    We need a shop like that near me, I have to travel pretty far to get my fabric. I love the look of it, beautiful shop

  7. Lynn says:

    Looks like a fab shop, wish I was closer.

  8. Maria do Carmo Pezzuto says:

    Quero der vizinha dessa loja.Venha abrir uma filial na minha rua…Que é uma loja de tecidos de enlouquecer e sonhar.Eu estou falando sério.Obrigada pela oferta.DEUS ABENÇOE O SEU SUCESSO.Beijos.tiacarminhapezzuto@gmail.com

  9. Rose says:

    This shop sounds wonderful. I like all of the modern quilt fabrics and the new modern quilt patterns. Will check this shop out often.

  10. Ivete says:

    Love. I wish I lived over on that coast so I could visit this shop in person! Will browse the virtual shelves instead until my next trip across the country ;)

  11. I’m glad Sew Modern is having such success! I dream of having a sewing/fabric shop someday, and it’s good to see that it can work!

  12. Katrin says:

    This looks very frsh and inspiring! The shop and the fabrics.

  13. Paige says:

    I feel a need for a road trip coming on! so happy to find a “real store” less than 100 miles away.

  14. Pat Anderson says:

    Art Gallery fabrics are my current fave! I’m working on an Urban 9-Patch (Sew Kind of Wonderful) and making it scrappy with Art Gallery and solids. Love it! Anxious to check out this web site!

  15. Adele says:

    Wow! Wish I lived closer because it sounds like a great place to shop. Thank goodness they are also online.

  16. Emma says:

    My friend has visited this store and LOVES it, can’t wait to shop in person myself, until then online shopping at Sew Modern will have to do!! Best of luck!

  17. Jo says:

    I have shopped on line with SM and just loved the selections. I didn’t even know there was an actual shop! Sounds like it might be road trip time once the weather warms up. Thanks for the info and the chance to win.

  18. Nancy says:

    Very beautiful fabrics! I’ve been quilting for 20 years and would love to try a modern quilt pattern.
    Thanks, Nancy

  19. Ellen says:

    Your store is perfection. I would love to have a store like yours one day. We have a nice store in a town near us, but it couldn’t be considered modern by any stretch of the imagination. There is a lovely wool/book store in a town about 35km away but not much else. I’m not sure this area (central Ontario Canada) is ready for something so delicious as your store. I wish I had the courage to try though. At least I can visit your store online!

  20. MarciaW says:

    Wow! to be able to see a color wall of Kona solids most days would be inspiring. Thanks for the virtual road trip with all the photos. Thanks also for a chance to win a prize from sew modern.

  21. Michele says:

    Those look like absolutely gorgeous fabrics. I would love to add them to my stash. If I get to that area next summer like I am hoping to, now I will have a terrific shop to check out in person.

  22. Patty says:

    I love the fabrics, especially the orange!!

  23. Kimberly Woods says:

    Of course, I love looking at all quilts because I truly appreciate the time and effort put into each and every one, but I like the modern take on quilting. I find myself really drawn to blogs and shopping online because there are so few modern options anywhere in my area.

  24. No fair! I want a shop this cool near me! :)

  25. Lisa P. says:

    Wish I could come and check this all out in person. Sounds great! I’m thinking I need more solids in my stash.

  26. Heidi says:

    I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Sew Modern in person, and it really is a fantastic place. I dearly wish I lived close enough to stop by more often!

  27. Jodi G. says:

    Great post and interview and gorgeous fabric! I’m in northern California but next time I’m down south I’ll have to stop by. Looks like a neat shop.

    Thank you and Sew Modern for a generous giveaway and a chance to win a gorgeous fabric bundle.

    usairdoll(at)gmail(dot)com

  28. shannon says:

    shucks! i was just in west l.a. last week! i wish i had known about the shop! it would’ve been a definite stop on my list! next visit to l.a. i’ll catch it! :) for now, the on-line shop will be great!

    what a generous giveaway! thanks for opportunity.

    so lucky that lauren was able to open this shop!!! inspiring!

  29. Binks says:

    I still haven’t visited this shop and I live in LA. The west side is so far from me (sorry about the LA stereotypical complaint). But I definitely will make a plan to go.

  30. Kate E. says:

    Its probably a good thing that I don’t live close to that shop because I’m pretty sure I’d be broke from shopping there all of the time. What a fun place!

  31. Sue says:

    I love these fabrics and would love to win this bundle!

  32. Christine Himelspach says:

    I wish we had a shop like this here. They have so many fabric options. :)

  33. Diane says:

    Love Patricia Bravo’s new Art Gallery line.

  34. Jen says:

    Such beautiful fabrics. I could spend all day in that store!

  35. Alli says:

    I so wish that shop was near me! I don’t think there are any modern fabric stores on the island. :(

  36. Lucinda says:

    It’s a great store! Wonderful selection of fabric.

  37. Sarah says:

    I wish I were in LA…I really do…thanks for the chance…Sarah

  38. debra says:

    That octagonal wall quilt is so stunning and inspiring…what a fab store!

  39. Leslie says:

    Wow, I wish there was a shop like this near me. Have a great quilting shop nearby, but a sewing focused spot would be fab.

  40. Cindy A says:

    Lauren’s shop looks awesome. Maybe someday I’ll get a chance to visit CA and check it out. Thanks for the chance to win.

  41. Michele R. says:

    Totally love the octagon quilt behind the couch. Lots of great eyecandy in this post!

  42. Lauren says:

    Oh my, I’m a little verklempt reading all of of these lovely comments about my shop! Thank you all so much and please do stop in and say hi if you’re in the hood. Thanks to Kim and to all of you for helping to make Sew Modern a success!

  43. SewLindaAnn says:

    That was a nice interview. I like getting to know the people I buy from and I do try to spread it around:) It’s a nice shop, all fresh and inspiring.

  44. Ramona G says:

    What a fun interview! I’d just love to visit her shop. Thanks for posting!

  45. Kimberly says:

    Love this shop! I am so lucky to live so close. The staff is fantastic. Super helpful!

  46. Brenda says:

    Ahh, a bright and sunny fabric shop, so pretty. Another good reason to visit California. Love the giveaway fabric too.