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. Jennie P. says:

    Oh look at all the glorious fabric! I love Summerlove. I’m kind of into orange right now.

  2. Kate Erbach says:

    What a great color palette! Like having fresh cantaloupe in the morning!

  3. I wish the Sew Modern shop was in my neighborhood! The photos of your shelves of fabric are so beautiful.

  4. Kathie L says:

    You almost make me want to move to LA!! It looks inspiring.

  5. Kasia Boslaugh says:

    Such a cute shop! Love boutiques of fabric but wow, I don’t think I’ve seen so many solids! Amazing…fun to read your story too. Best of luck. Thanks for the chance to win this gorgeous collection.

  6. Garen says:

    I’ve been planning a trip to down South, Sew Modern has just been added to the itinerary.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    I was lucky enough to go to Sew Modern in early Feb and spoke with Lauren for a bit (and Liz!). Wonderful store and staff…I’ll be back on my next visit to L.A.

    Thanks for the chance!

    lwghosts@yahoo.com

  8. Kerry Hitchins says:

    Such a beautiful shop – what a pleasure it would be to visit every day!!

  9. Becky Greene says:

    What a great interview! Thanks fo rthe chance to win such a great bundle, too!

  10. Nina Tovish says:

    Fat Quarters! Yum!

  11. Pip says:

    We have great shops in South Australia, but one like this would fill a bit of a gap. Thanks for the chance to win the FQ bundle.

  12. Melissa says:

    What a sweet store! It’s my dream to have my own little fabric shop and just surround myself with beautiful fabrics! Thanks for the giveaway!

  13. DianeY says:

    I have to make it a point to get there on my next LA visit=which happens pretty often due to some wonderful grandchildren!

  14. Wendy says:

    Looks like a great shop!

  15. Jennyroo says:

    I would love to have a few hours kid-free inside Sew Modern. I could do some serious shopping therapy there!

  16. KathyH says:

    Beautiful store!

  17. Holly says:

    Great profile of an amazing-looking store! I hope I get a chance to visit sometime! It’s so cool that they have their own longarm quilting machine right in the store!

  18. Diana says:

    I wish the Sew Modern shop was in my neighborhood! The photos of your shelves of fabric are so beautiful.

  19. Diann Cornell says:

    Interesting to read about the shop. I wish it was in my neighborhood!

  20. Suzie says:

    I have browsed through Sew Moderns ranges online. I do wish I could visit as it looks so inviting.

  21. Jen A. says:

    Look at all those gorgeous solids! I wish I could drop by just to stare at them in person!

  22. Such a beautiful store! Wish I lived closer :)

  23. Tamie says:

    I wished I lived nearby so that Sew modern could be my LQS. Great giveaway.

  24. carrie says:

    love the summerlove fabric!!

  25. Emily says:

    Oh how I wish I had a store like Sew Modern near me! I will have to settle for ogling its wares online!

  26. kathy says:

    Bee-u-tiful fabric! Wish I lived closer to the store!

  27. Ginger Komiskey says:

    Beautiful fabrics. I would love to win some. I’m a beginner at quilting but have been sewing since I was 10…a l-o-n-g time ago!

  28. Kelsey says:

    Looks like a gorgeous shop! It makes me wish (even more) that I was in CA instead of NY!

  29. Phyl says:

    I am SO visiting this shop when I’m in SoCal visiting my family at Christmas!

  30. Bettina says:

    Wishing Lauren all the best with her fabulous shop- I wish I lived nearby and could drop in, I bet it would be wonderful to take a class with your talented team!
    ibs102(at)hotmail(dot)com

  31. Helen says:

    What an inspiring interview! Thank you.

  32. Cheri V says:

    Long live brick and mortar. Wishing you continued success.

  33. kim says:

    I would love to stop if I ever get there…

  34. Tiffani says:

    I didnt realize she had a store in LA as well as the online store…I’ll have to stop there next time Im in town!

  35. Liz says:

    I feel so lucky to have a store like Sew Modern in the neighborhood!

  36. Sherry says:

    I am a lucky local shopper at Sew Modern…LOVE the store!!
    Great interview!

  37. Shannon says:

    I have ordered from Sew Modern before and they are great! My items came super quick and their selection is awesome! It was so fun to learn more about them. Thanks!

  38. Doris says:

    Wow, I wish we had a space like that for our MQG to meet! What a fun, right store…

  39. Nurseli says:

    I love Sew Modern. I am so lucky that I only live 2 miles away. It’s really a fabulous store! LOVE IT.

  40. Kris Nabholz says:

    Why can’t I live in LA so that I can visit this brick & mortar whenever I want?? Sew Modern is inspiring for sure—even for a seasoned quilter! I am on my way to the online shop now!

  41. Margaret says:

    How I envy sewers with access to a fabric store! Sew Modern looks like everyone’s dream come true.

  42. Lily says:

    It looks beautiful. I am sorry that I can not visit your store in LA coz I love to see and feel fabric – for me it is much more fun than online-shopping.

  43. Jill McKenzie says:

    Looks like a cool place to hang out and be inspired. Thanks for the giveaway!

  44. julie soden says:

    every colour of Kona; my goodness. that I would love to see! Love all Art Gallery offerings.

  45. Deirdre says:

    Lovely bundle & a lovely shop. :-)

  46. Allison says:

    Congratulations, Lauren, on the success of your beautiful quilt shop. Thank you for sharing with us today and for the fabric giveaway. Best wishes.

  47. carol kelley says:

    Really great idea and I love these fabrics. I collect and use all of Art Gallery fabrics in my quilts

  48. Carmen Wyant says:

    Thanks for the heads up about the Kona solids at Sew Modern. It is nice to know that they have all of the colors in stock. I have ordered from them before and the service was very fast. Thanks to them & you for the opportunity to win this luscious stack of fabric!

  49. Shanley says:

    If there was a shop like that here, I’d have to just sign over my paycheques.. great spot – nice work!

  50. Mary says:

    What a great interview and a beautiful shop. I love these fabrics & would love to win them. I’d find something to make for sure.