stories from my red thread life

What’s it really like to run a handmade business? Five things makers want you to know

Three years ago this week, as I was preparing for Toronto’s One of a Kind Show, I wrote my most popular article ever: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Craftspeople (but were afraid to ask). I received dozens of emails from artisans I didn’t know, telling me that they felt I had expressed what they wanted to say to their customers. So even though I can only share my own perspective, I hope that this article will also represent my fellow makers. We’re a diverse group, but we share a lot. And this time of year is an intense time for us. As we dive into the winter craft show season, meeting the public and sharing our work, here are a few more things that we’d like you to know: Yasmine Louis hard at work in her silkscreen printing studio in Toronto (shared with permission of the artist) 1. We put a lot of thought and work into designing and making our products. This may seem obvious, but when you ask us “How long does it take you to make one bowl/ dress/ guitar/ bracelet?” the answer (if we answered the way we would like to) might be something [...]

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A Studio Tour

I’ve been running Red Thread for 11 years now, and am very excited to announce that I have finally moved it out of my house! The endless bolts and rolls and bins of fabric? Gone. The piles of paper patterns? Gone. All those racks of clothes in the living room? Gone. (okay, there’s still one, but I’m working on it) My new studio is a bright second-floor space on the Danforth that is bursting with colour. My studio mate Catherine of Sailorgirl Jewelry has been there on her own for years. I am ecstatic that she decided to share with me. Wanna see? Come on in! At the studio entrance there is a small lounge area for hanging out or enjoying a refreshing snack.   This is the left half of the studio (my half) as seen from the lounge area at the front. The cutting table is where the work begins! That’s Catherine hard at work assembling jewelry on the right.   The fabric is all in one corner. I am still bringing fabric (and clothing) in and figuring out how best to organize it, but it’s shaping up nicely. This photo was taken from Catherine’s workspace, behind her bead/assembly [...]

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Summer Sewing: Notes from an unconventional camp

Now that school is back in full swing and the leaves in Toronto are starting to change (just a tiny bit), summer seems like a distant memory. Mine was full of craft shows, outings with my girls, and during the last week, a very special project: sewing camp! In my little house I held a full-day camp for ten kids aged 7-12 who really wanted to sew. Over five packed days we learned to embroider, hand sew, use a sewing machine, tie dye, and cut a pattern. We made book bags, zippered pouches, drawstring bags, superhero badges, stuffed creatures and pyjama pants. It was a blast; both thrilling and exhausting, an explosion of creativity. At the end of the week the kids decided that we should keep sewing through the year with short, project-focused classes: “Sewing Sundays.”  I will announce these days shortly and you are welcome to join us! Here are some photos (and feedback) from our week. I hope you enjoy them. Practicing some embroidery   My youngest student was just seven, and his quick mastery of the sewing machine was astonishing.   “My daughter loved every second of the camp.‎ She came home each day eager to [...]

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Why are Americans going crazy for Lilly Pulitzer at Target?

Shopping for Lilly Pulitzer at Target? Definitely not this relaxing. (photo: Lilly Pulitzer for Target)   Do you remember the Cabbage Patch riots of 1983? For some still unfathomable reason, Cabbage Patch Kids were the must-have doll of the moment, but demand exceeded supply; customers lined up by the hundreds and surged into stores, causing chaos and injury. It was munchkin mayhem. Yesterday, April 19 2015, Target launched a collection by designer Lilly Pulitzer. Not designed by Pulitzer herself of course, as she is no longer with us, but created by her eponymous company. Target has done very well with its many designer collaborations, and it seems reasonable that this one would be no different. This strategy, of having a high-end designer create a collection for a lower-end store, with a very limited release (selling out very quickly), is a recipe for retail frenzy. Cue the stampede! Lilly Pulitzer is the line that Red Thread is most often compared to, as it is also known for its vibrant floral prints in juicy colours. I appreciate this comparison because the celebration of colour and pattern is central to everything Red Thread. But Lilly Pulitzer is a prestige lifestyle brand, perhaps best [...]

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Bursting at the seams

Have you heard the quote “Do one thing every day that scares you?” It sits alongside so many other aphorisms designed to inspire us, to get us off our asses to act, to “Just Do It!” (thank you for the kick, Nike). Ten years ago I started a business. That in itself is a leap of faith; it exposes you to failure and requires that you gain the support of others, while drawing on every skill you have, including a few you didn’t know you had. I set out to create a strong, cohesive and appealing brand. It worked — when I put my first children’s dresses out into the world, people liked them! Those people became customers, and then loyal customers. The line grew. Stores started to carry my clothing, both close to home and far away. And ten years later, I feel grateful to be able to continue to do this work for an appreciative audience. Over the years Red Thread has maintained its focus on vibrant prints and simple shapes.   A few years ago, my customers’ requests to “please make something for me!” started to grow into a chorus. My usual response was to feel moved, [...]

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