moms in the mommyhood - cynthia mann

we've got a new moms in the mommyhood today!  i'm super excited to bring this series back and to start off 2012 with the uber-talented lady behind both fabricworm and birch fabrics - cynthia mann!  this wife and momma of 2 is a super busy multi-tasker running both fabricworm - an online fabric shop, and birch fabrics - her organic fabric line and brick/mortar fabric shop of the same name! wowsa!  seriously...this is one talented and amazing woman.  it's an honor to have her as one of our luvinthemommyhood sponsors and as our newest mom in the mommyhood!  so excited for you all to read our fun little interview - cynthia is truly inspiring and it's been so great getting to know her. so grab a cup of coffee, put the wee ones down for a nap and let's all get to know cynthia!

You opened Fabricworm before you created your 100% organic fabric line Birch Fabrics and opened your brick/mortar shop of the same name.  How & why did you go about creating Fabricworm and do you have any tips for others looking to start an online fabric shop?

I created Fabricworm mainly because I was finding it difficult to find great designs in fabric online, and I when I did find one, it always seemed to be sold out. I would go on mad hunts for particular hard to find fabrics to sew things for my boys, like pajamas, bedding, etc. It was at that time that I decided that it would be a great business to start. However since I started Fabricworm the internet has completely changed for fabric buying. Modern fabrics are now dominating the craft scene and there are so many more options for buying these fabrics than ever before. For someone interested in starting their own fabric shop, I would recommend starting on Etsy or even better start small by buying a few bolts and cutting yardage at your local swap meet. In fact I just thought of that, and it’s a pretty great idea!

 I love the name of your online fabric shop. What's the story behind the name Fabricworm?

Aw, thanks Shannon! The story behind the name Fabricworm is that I truly consider myself a fabric addict. I was struggling to come up with a catchy name. I knew I wanted fabric to be a part of the name, and I started considering what other people that are addicted to particular things call themselves. The term “bookworm” immediately came to mind. I realized, it’s a shame there isn’t a term for fabric addicts or sewing addicts, since it seemed like there should be, I gave it my own name “fabricworm”. I think it works great!

My favorite thing about your fabric shop is that you carry modern quilting fabrics, Japanese import fabrics, retro fabrics and contemporary fabrics as well as notions and trims.  I drool all over my laptop whenever I visit it.  What led you to focus on this area of fabrics?

Modern fabrics and especially Japanese import fabrics were really the driving force behind why I started an online fabric store and a brick and mortar store. I’ve never been able to find Japanese import fabrics anywhere in my local shops and I was always drooling over them online. That’s when I decided to sell them both online and in my shop.

I respect and value the creation of fabric lines such as yours - Birch Fabrics, that is a 100% organic fabric line printed with low impact dyes.  What was your thought process when developing the creation of Birch Fabrics - and what led you to its creation?

Thank you so much! Birch Fabrics actually was almost immediately in the works after I opened The reason was that I was so passionate about organic fabric, and I was trying desperately to find any printed organic fabric that was 44” wide for baby clothes, blankets, etc. to make gifts for friends and clothes for my children. Since I had a fabric shop, I was hoping I would find them and be able to carry them, but also use them in my own sewing projects. I asked all of my reps and they all had the same answer. They just didn’t exist. I started researching beyond the manufactures that I was buying from and started researching organic fabrics globally. That’s when I discovered that I could produce them myself. It took me about 1 year to get my first collection in stores and we’ve been working hard at it ever since. We’ve now produced 6 successful collections and have 2 more on the way in February, 2 more in March, and another in June. We expect to produce about 7-8 organic collections a year.

What was the hardest part for you in the development of Birch Fabrics?  What roadblocks if any did you encounter and how did you overcome them?

The hardest part was the getting over the initial investment. I had to put everything that I had in to Birch Fabrics, and it was a huge risk. I have been so fortunate to have a family that supports me and never second guessed what I was doing. Their faith and belief in me, is why I get to do what I love today. There were a few roadblocks, but these exist in all forms of manufacturing. Colors not being exactly what you expected, or major delays in shipping. These can be frustrating but are a part of the process that I’ve become much more comfortable with now.

commute by birch fabrics
Where do you draw your inspiration from for Birch Fabrics?

My inspiration really comes from all around me, but mostly nature and my childhood. I love mid century modern design, and always find myself gravitating toward retro and vintage styles. I’m always inspired by Japanese fabrics and I my palette is almost always garnered from my childhood. I was looking at commute the other day and realized that it was the same colors as the wallpaper in my kitchen growing up. When I was young I had all of the crayons colors memorized. I’ve just been into color as long as I can remember. My mom was a great help because she new the names of every color for every shade, and I must have got that from her. I remember asking her “what color is this?”, “what color is that?”

Birch Organic Crib Bumper Woodcut Floral
You've also created a line of organic crib bedding called Birch Organic!  What prompted you to develop these as well as the Birch Fabric Line? 

This seemed like a natural evolution for the company to take. In our store in Paso Robles, we have a lot of young moms coming in that love the organic fabrics and would like to have crib bedding, but don’t know how to sew. We also felt that since it was so hard to find cute organic fabrics, it’s probably hard to find cute organic crib bedding.

Ok...spill the beans...are you are a morning, afternoon or late night sewer?

Jason, Keaton, Anderson and Cynthia
I am an all day sewer! I am the type of sewer that can’t leave a project until it’s finished. Usually that means if I start at 2pm, I’m still sewing at 1am. Hence I don’t get to the sewing machine much anymore. It’s kind of sad, but my boys are older now, and home made clothes by mom aren’t the coolest thing. I sure wish they were!

I'm sure we are all dying to know how in the heck do you balance running Fabricworm and Birch Fabrics at the same time as well as being a mommy to Anderson and Keaton and wife to hubby Jason?

It is tough at times, but things are a lot better now than they were. In this past year I've hired more associates, and handed over a lot of my daily tasks for Fabricworm to my newly promoted Manager, Andrea. Likely if you buy from Fabricworm, you've.had the pleasure of emailing or speaking with her. Jason is a huge help also. He manages all the website updates for Birch Fabrics and helps with advertising graphics, and of course also helps me design many of Birch Fabrics' designs.

I love to crank the tunes while I'm sewing do you sew listening to music, tv or just languish in the silence? If music or tv what are your top 5 to play? 

I love to listen to music and sew, these would be a few favorites: Death Cab for Cutie, Pheonix, Grizzly Bear, Band of Horses, Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeroes (too many favorites to list, I'm not even sure if these are the top 5!)

next stop by monaluna for birch fabrics

If you could design your dream fabric what would it be and what would you make with it?

This is a tough question. I would really like to design a whole collection around my 2 month backpacking tour through Europe, but it’s just a much to broad concept for a collection. If I did, I’d use the fabric to remodel the inside of our vintage trailer. I’m excited for our Next Stop... collection by Monaluna coming in March though, because it’s going to make great fabric for this purpose!

circa 50 by monaluna for birch fabrics
You're fabric lines have a definite retro vibe with a bit of this evident in your own home and styling’s as well?  How would you describe your own personal style? 

I would describe my own home as mid century modern with contemporary touches. It s a 1960 ranch house, but we've given it a lot of modern day upgrades.

Who is your design icon?  Who do you find the most inspiring at the moment in this wonderful creative community of ours?

It's really impossible for me to pick just one. I guess if I had to it would be Lotta Jansdotter. When I was living in San Francisco and working at Anthropologie about 10 years ago I used to walk over to her studio on Polk St. It was only open on Weds from 1-4pm as I recall. She was so sweet and just working away in this tiny little studio selling her silk screened tea towels and painted ceramics. I remember just thinking, "Wow! She is the coolest little lady"! and of course her artwork was stunning! She has just recently launched her first fabric collection, and of course it's a huge hit.

But I also love and admire the works of Alexander Girard, Charley Harper, Shinzi Katoh, Etsuko Furuya, and of course Monaluna and Dan Stiles!

storyboek two by birch fabrics
 What tips do you have for other moms looking to open their own businesses and go after their dreams?

I would tell them to talk to family and friends about their ideas, but don't get discouraged if they aren't as positive about your ideas as you might be. Don't let it get you down. The most important thing you can do is your research. I spent several months researching my field, and had 10 years of history buying fabric online. I didn't let anyone discourage me, because I was confident in what I knew and had researched.

I love shopping for fabric online.  Do you run across customers fearful of ordering fabric online?  What is your advice to them to have a successful online fabric shopping experience?

it's interesting, my surprise has really been the confidence in our buyers. We rarely come across a customer that is afraid to purchase online. We get an occasional phone order, but for the most part our customer base is made up of frequent online fabric buyers.

How has the fabric business changed for you now operating a brick/mortar shop as well as an online one?

Having the brick and mortar store has changed the business in the fact that we now get to physically see and touch our customers projects, for both me and my associates, this had made our business feel much more personal and more accomplished at the same time.

What has been the most enjoyable part so far of owning your own brick/mortar fabric shop?

Seeing customers projects and learning about what they are sewing. Also getting to know my sweet staff. I've made a lot of new friends and I love every bit of what I do!

 What is your favorite thing to sew and why?

My favorite thing to sew is baby pajama pants, the reason is because it’s the one thing that I  can sew in less than 20 minutes. And I never get frustrated:)

I named my sewing machine Poppy & will admit she is like my 3rd child....what kind of sewing machine/serger do you use and does yours have a name too?

Ive never named my machines.  I grew up sewing on a 1960 avocado green Sears Kenmore, Japanese made and was a great machine. I only recently gave it back to my mom. I now sew mostly on a Hello Kitty Janome that I bought because the Pfaff I bought intimidates me too much. I'm still just a novice sewer, even though I've been sewing for 20+ years.

thank you so much cynthia! it's been such a pleasure!  i can't wait to get sewing this year with all your wonderful fabrics and of course, buy them from your wonderful shop!  you are just so inpsiring my dear!!!  you guys can find all things cynthia below:


birch fabrics:

if you are new to the mommyhood, our "moms in the mommyhood" posts feature a new mom who currently has their own business (doesn't matter what kind). we try to sit down and have a virtual cup of coffee and ask them all the fun, little questions that we are dying to know. we also try to get a glimpse into their lives and what it's like to have your own business and be the boss of your kids at the same time. we are always on the lookout for new moms to feature. if you know someone or you would like to be featured in this spot, please send us an email at don't be shy - we can't wait to meet you!