Tales from a Fabric Designer: Stuff I Don't Know

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

By now you've likely heard the shocking news about Coats pulling the plug on Free Spirit / Westminster. As a fabric lover, my morning was derailed when I heard the news. I was texting everyone all my fabric friends piecing together the story and trying to get answers. After watching Tula Pink's livestream today, it sadly looks like she was just as blindsided as the rest of us. I also picked up on something else from watching the comments from other viewers: ...a lot of consumers don't really understand what the scope of a fabric designer is.

I field a lot of questions from fellow fabric lovers through Instagram, email, etc. that I don't always have the answers to. Sometimes I get annoyed because I'm thinking, "Why do they expect me to know this?" Then I remember that most people don't know what the don't know. And what they don't know is the boring, unsexy behind the scene details of being a fabric designer.

So think of this like an a FAQ that is completely useless! These are all questions that fabric designers (i.e., me) are frequently asked, but probably won't be able to answer.

Stuff I Don't Know

  • Where can I buy your fabric?
  • When will your fabric be available in stores?
  • Is X shop going to carry your fabric?
  • Is X collection still in print/available for wholesale? 
  • Will there be precuts available of your fabric?
  • I live in X country. Is you fabric sold here?

Why I don't know this stuff

 As a fabric designer, I license my work to my manufacturer. That means I provide them with artwork, and they handle the rest. They pay me a royalty to use the artwork on fabric that they can then sell. They do not print it "for" me. I don't work for them and they do not work for me. We're two independent business with our own duties.

My duty is to make the artwork...and that's about it. Anything else I do is pretty much a bonus. I design patterns, sew projects, photograph my look book, and attend Quilt Market because I want to, but I am not required to do any of that.

My manufacturer's duty is literally everything else. They work with the mill to print the fabric. They coordinate production, manage the warehouse, take wholesale orders, ship the fabric to stores, etc. I don't have a hand in that.

So you know when you ask the teenage employee at the movie theater why a large popcorn is $15 and they shrug and say, "I dunno, man. I just work here." Well, I'd say the same except I DON'T EVEN WORK HERE. That would be like asking the director of a movie that's being shown at the  theater why the large popcorn is $15.

So when you ask a fabric designer a question about anything other than their artwork and they say, "I don,'t know," it's not because they're clueless. It's because it's probably a question for our manufacturers!