Back in August Katy, Tacha and I paid a visit to the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham,UK.
The quilts were great, the company wonderful but the more importantly the shopping was amazing! While trolling the stands I came across Eternal Maker, a UK fabric shop with the most amazing array of fabulous modern fabrics and super friendly staff.
You can find out more about them and look at their gorgeous selection of fabrics at http://www.eternalmaker.com/ and I caught up with Anna once she had caught her breath after the show and found out a bit more about them and the interesting building that the shop lives in!
How was Eternal Maker born?
The Eternal Maker came about kind of by accident really. I had just quit my job in London and moved back to Chichester at about the same time my mum was looking for new premises for her company - The Button Company. Although she was looking for a warehouse, the cheapest place she could find had a shop front, and she asked if I would like to run a shop from there with her. It had to be something that went with buttons - and as I have always been into fabrics and crafts, it was a logical next step. Looking back I realise we went into it quite blindly - without really knowing anything about the industry, or how to run a shop, or what we needed to stock. It was a lucky accident though, as I wouldn't swap my job for anything - compared to my last job, it's a dream, although I would love to have the salary I had in my last job too!
Tell us more about the building where you shop lives and how having such an interesting building came about.
We were evicted from our old shop as our landlord wanted it for something else, and at the time it was a huge blow, as we had just re-done a whole part of it. We spent several frantic weeks looking for new premises but nothing was right - we couldn't afford town centre prices, but we wanted passing trade, and to be easily travelled to. We needed parking, and we needed the space for both companies. Finally, after weeks of driving around the area looking at all sorts of weird places, with me saying 'no' one too many times my mum pulled over the car and said - that's it. If we can't find somewhere, we'll have to shut down. She asked me what exactly I wanted, and I said 'a cross between a fire station and an old brick warehouse' (ok, I like to aim high, I realise that) and she said some words I won't repeat and drove on. And then, maybe 100 yards down the road, there it was. An old lorry depot, covered in black diesel, but underneath, beautiful brick walls, high ceilings, and shutter doors. It had it's own parking, was next door to the cinema, and 5 minutes walk from the train station - it literally ticked every box. But, it was a huge mess. It took 5 weeks from start to finish, and we pretty much did it all ourselves with our staff - painting, building, laying floors, the works. It was definitely a labour of love for all of us. From the start I had a dream of it being like a fairy tale place - things to look at everywhere and outsized things (we have giant coat hangers hanging from the rafters above with our display quilts on them). So we painted super-sized haberdashery items on the walls, and brought the outside inside with our trees, amongst other things. It makes us laugh that when people walk in for the first time, there is regularly an audible gasp as they take in their surroundings.
Do you have a mission statement? What is your aim?
I'm not sure if we have what you would call a mission statement, but my ethos is this: if everyone else has it, why would I want it too? I want people to find with us the things they never knew they wanted until right now. Or those things they've been looking for forever. Or even sometimes nothing, but have come away feeling happy. We are a small team here, but we all love what we do, even though we are always super busy. I would love to say we are super professional, but that would be a big lie - we constantly refer to other shops as 'real' shops, while ours is just like playing shop - but we all have a passion for what we do, and I think that makes a huge difference to how the customer feels at the end of the day. We work in chaos, but it's a very happy chaos.
You have a fabulous range of fabrics that really caters for the modern sewer. How do you decide what to stock?
The decision of what to stock is easy really - I just have to love it. The vast majority of the fabrics I stock I totally love. I'm lucky that my taste has always been fairly eclectic - I love bright colours, but I also love the more 'boring' end of the colour spectrum - grey is one of my favourite colours. I love big prints, but I also adore the little ditsy prints too. I have always been a huge fan of modern Japanese fabrics, and we buy in huge collections from various Japanese suppliers. I sometimes refer to our fabric selection as feeding my fabric habit, as if I buy it once for the shop, sometimes that means it doesn't end up in my stash at home too (this works only some of the time). I spend a lot of time researching fabric suppliers, and my only wish is that I had more money so I could buy from some of the other suppliers that are on my 'when we can afford it' list!
What do you like to sew yourself?
We always joke in our shop, that Rachael (my shop manager) buys fabric for pyjamas, and I buy it for skirts. When I get the time, a skirt is my go-to project, but I also make quilts, bags, and all sorts of other things. Usually the fabric 'tells' me what it wants to become, and I just hope my skills are up to it(that sounds weirder than I mean it too - I hope other sewers feel this way...)
You also run classes. What kinds of classes do you run?
We run classes in all sorts of things, quilting, basic dressmaking & more simple sewing courses. We also have a papercraft area in the shop so we do cardmaking and other things like that. As I write this, there is a freehand machine embroidery course with Lara Sparks going on, which is one of our most popular courses.
I suspect that owning a fabulous fabric shop is the dream of all crafters. Do you feel that you are living your dream?
This is pretty close to living my dream. When you think about these things in advance you don't always think of the realities - the fact that you have to pay for all the fabric, rent etc., that you don't get paid wages yourself, you work all hours of the day (and sometimes night), and that you are nearly 30 and living in your mother's attic (yes, that's me.) But I think when you really, really want to do something, things like that shouldn't get in the way, and hopefully one day I'll get paid to do my dream job!
What’s next for Eternal Maker?
I've learnt not to predict the future - I would never have said 3 years ago I would be here, and even 18 months ago that we would be where we are. I see new things every day that I want to do and bring in for the shop. The main thing you can expect from us is more of the same - beautiful fabric, different fabric, and lots of other exciting things to go with! Oh, and we are re-launching our website in the next couple of months so watch out for that!
Anna has really generously giving us 2 little fat 1/8th bundles of Echino fabric to giveaway.
If you'd like a chance to win one leave us a comment and we'll draw 2 names on the 17th October. Good luck!!!