Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Welcome my new assistant Kate!

What a summer it's been! I had such high hopes for a weekly blog, but got involved in all the day-to-day intensity of running a fast pace Fabric Store. Please join me in welcoming Kate, my new assistant and creative collaborator! I would love to share her wonderful experience that she had last week. I promise to resume with more stories from our industry and the fun of running a fabric store...kindest regards, Suzan

Kate Ruddle recently wrote:

Last Saturday, I went to my first real fashion show and what a treat it was! Sandra Betzina was showcasing her pattern line – “Today’s Fit” for Vogue. To my delight the “program” was a collection of about thirty patterns that the audience got to see made up in beautiful fabrics and wonderfully finished garments worn by Canada student volunteers.

It was very inspiring to see the fabrics that Betzina chose to go with her patterns. A real stand out was a velveteen skirt with leather piping ! She started her talk by saying how lucky we are to have access to such wonderful fabric in the Bay Area and later in her show recommended StoneMountain and Daughter’s denim in 12-14 oz for her cropped jean pattern (Vogue 1034).

Coats were a real highlight, Sandra Betzina said “ When you look at fashion magazines…Its all about the coat, the bag, and the shoes”, and indeed, my friend and I were particularly taken with her coat patterns. As Sandra encouraged us to get most most mileage out of our sewing skills for this Fall, I perused the program to choose the most wonderful Betzina coat pattern.

I loved pattern 1147 with its long sweep and my friend loved the shorter and more versatile Vogue 1198. I also was inspired by Vogue 1097, her raincoat pattern. It was a short swingy number that transformed with fabric choices: Betzina had made it up as a fun and useful Bay Area raincoat and as second coat in the same pattern as an elegant silk coat.

After the fashion show, Betzina’s gave a half hour lecture demonstrating many wonderful techniques from her new upcoming books. She has so much new knowledge to share that she is releasing two new books – Power Sewing Toolbox 1 and Power Sewing Tool Box 2. She started out with techniques that complement her patterns: rolled hems, fusible thread techniques, and sequins which will be hot for Fall !

I imagine that her lecture will be preview of your evening in October at StoneMountain and Daughter and so I also wanted to share it. There was a continuous collar that seamed on the back instead of at the collar points – a very discrete detail. She also showed a technique to line a wool ribbing pant with tricot that was easy and elegant, and finally a fast and super easy cut away seam for a bulky jacket that gets laid on a ribbon and feather stitched !

Oct. 14 – 6:30-9:30pm $30. Come to an evening of fun -–space is limited so please sign up early– see her samples and learn her new techniques. You will get to see how Betzina intends her creations in the fabrics that she uses and it will inspire your creativity.

You will also want to order Power Sewing Toolbox 1 and Power Sewing Tool Box 2 soon to get the first publishing, which you will receive for the Winter Holidays. The second publishing will be available in January.

~ Kate Ruddle

Friday, August 6, 2010

Where have all the Fabric Stores gone?...continued!

So what happened to all the family run, independent fabric stores in every town? Our old-world fabric industry has indeed undergone huge changes in the last 3 decades. Stores have closed, factories have closed, women are working more, fashion styles have changed, sewing is not being taught in our schools and current trends toward on-line buying have all contributed to this wave of change.

From my perspective, the initial assault came from those within our own industry. The large chains like House of Fabrics and then WalMart came in to crush the mom-and-pop store and build their own customer base. They would discount 70% off fabrics and patterns constantly until the shops around them all closed. I saw this happening around us and in every community. To make it worse, my own suppliers, such as Vogue Patterns would give these chains lower costs making it impossible for ANYBODY to compete and try and stave off the inevitable...the loss of our customer base. All through the 80's and 90's fabric stores lost their financial grip and closed leaving the large national or regional chains supplying the fabric needs of most areas.

I remember when House of Fabrics bought the regional chain of New York Fabrics. The first thing they did with that amazing store in Emeryville was to take out the nice carpet and put in linoleum. Of course they could never maintain the high quality of fashion goods and brought in their version of fashion fabrics. It was actually a good thing for us at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics because we continued to carry fine wools, silks, cottons, knits and linens. House of Fabrics was super aggressive in it's discounting of fabric, patterns and notions all across the country. Many wonderful stores did not survive like we were able to do.

This trend toward large retail outlets contributed to the downfall of Retail Fabric Stores and was quickly followed by a shift in other industries such as Book, Music and Video stores.

So while a great shift was happening in the lives of the home seamster, chain stores were devouring up the indie stores in every community. Then as soon as they shut down their competition, they stopped carrying high quality fabrics and notions! This has left most cities and towns without access to good fashion fabrics, like those available at Stonemountain & Daughter in Berkeley. Now in all fairness to these chains, like WalMart, it's hard for to rationalize carrying fashion fabrics. It really is not a very profitable part of our business and we know what we are doing! It's super hard for a minimum wage staffer with no sewing experience to really sell quality silk and wool at the chains. I see why WalMart is closing down it's fabric inventory in some of their stores. Our staff at Stonemountain have many skills to help our customers and it's still difficult!

There is so much more to talk about in my next blogs...on a positive note there is Stonemountain & Daughter along with many other great independent fabric stores across North America! Check out a fantastic group of indie fashion fabric stores at I am passionate about the survival of the independent fabric store and have the privilege of being director of this group!

I truly appreciate any comments you have and thank you for your time in this "conversation"! Now it's time to go get ready to hear some music tonight at the Greek Theater! Happy Sewing!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Where have all the Fabric Stores gone?

Back in 1981 when my dad, Bob Steinberg, decided to move his 750 sq. ft. store, Stonemountain Fabrics from the cozy town of Pacific Grove, there were so many stores already around Berkeley and San Francisco. I recall people saying that Berkeley did not need another Fabric Store. Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics began as a spunky 1000 sq. ft store near downtown Berkeley. Just down the street from our little start up was Kaufman's FabricLand and the inspiring Poppy Fabrics. Close by were small shops featuring authentic Japanese Fabric and another selling Guatemalan. New York Fabrics was the most amazing family run "chain" of fabric stores ever and they were close by in Emeryville and Oakland. Home Yardage was on Telegraph and many other stores as well. It was a thriving time for our fabric industry. People were sewing garments; kids were being taught in school; fashion fabrics of all types were easily available in every community across North America.

Fast forward to 2010 and we are now living in a new time. What happened?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Back in the Store!

Wow what a weekend we had here at Stonemountain & Daughter! Lots of customers from all over were in and checking out all the great new fabrics. I had a great weekend mostly staying around my home enjoying the nice sunny days in the East Bay. Spent some time learning more about how to run my website and what SEO means and how to update photos so I can keep it all fresh and inspiring. There is so much to learn! Since the beginning of our web page back in the mid 90's I have been working with various people to run our website and now it's time for me to take a more hands-on approach thanks to new software and systems.

Tomorrow I am going to the Mac store for some one-to-one training to learn how to update my other website at is a collective of independent retail fashion fabric stores who all advertise together in Threads & Vogue Magazines together. A few years ago, we also added this great website for fabric lovers all over to send out an email to all our member stores looking for specific fabrics! I became Director of this group and really enjoy helping our entire industry become stronger.

So some of you may be wondering where our name came from. Our family name is Steinberg and that translates to Stonemountain...and with it being my dad and me, it became Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics. In 1976 my Dad opened up Stonemountain Fabrics in Pacific Grove until 1981 when he moved to Berkeley. You can read more of our history here.

Well back to the busy store - Going to send out a postcard this week. Hope you all are enjoying our e-newsletter that went out!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Well here goes! I am not sure how I got here today, but it seems to be happening! Sometimes the spontaneous way of doing things is the best way to jump in. I will figure it out as I go, but it seems right and easy so far. I have been working on learning how to manage my own website and it seems like laying down some of my experiences and thoughts in a blog makes sense.

I think I have the best job in the world. Really. Who wouldn't want to buy every single pieces of gorgeous FABRIC...gorgeous silks, wools, rayons, linens and tons of knits...and of course cottons! Cotton is and has been King since the 70's. I grew up in my father's first store, Bob Steinberg's Fabric Emporium which opened in 1967. It truly was the first Hippie, Counter Culture Fabric Store selling Cotton - not polyester double knits!!! He bought from Alexander Henry, went to school with the Hoffman's and Kaufman's!

Our store is no accident. When my Dad opened up here in Berkeley, people were saying that Berkeley did NOT need another fabric store. So many have closed and we have grown steadily serving our community of Fabric Lovers in all kinds of original ways!

I have been working with my father for almost 30 years (anniversary is February 2011) and so amazed and filled with gratitude that we get to still keep making Stonemountain & Daughter a fabulous place to shop and work in.

I guess I do have stuff to say and look forward to sharing more of our family history, the great fabrics that come in everyday and some personal stuff from time to time.