Take a long journey with me. I promise I will eventually get to the point. Or past it — whatever!
A Detour or Two
Going back a few months… When Reece from Happy Okapi invited me to get involved with this Canada Day 2016 blog hop, the intention was for me to showcase a pattern from a Canadian designer. I fell in love with a Jalie pattern for the lacy version of the Bella Fit & Flare dance dress — because I still have hopes of strapping on my suede soled shoes and returning to the dance floor one day.
And as with most of my plans, they went astray. (Or they took a little detour, if that sounds less random.) Just as I was printing and taping my pattern pieces together, one of my foster cats bit me and it turned into a painful infection of my right hand. Then 3 days later “someone” dropped a 25 Kg rock on my left hand. Right there was the end of any aspirations I had for sewing between May and July.
Fortunately — for me, and I hope for her too — we were able to recruit Michelle of Michelle’s Creations to cover for me with Jalie. I’d say everyone benefitted all around because she did a bang up job with her Jalie cami & panty set. If you haven’t seen Michelle’s sexy underthings yet, go read her post here.
Now, I might have incapacitated my sewing self, but I could still type with one hand. So I set about grilling Beverly, the owner of Bra-Maker’s Supply — who, by the way, makes the most delightful heroine in any story — for a post that didn’t involve cutting or operating dangerous machinery. It’s a good thing I suited up with some of her under-armour because… Reece had another quest to send me on.
Welcome to Camelot
One sunny Tuesday afternoon, I said goodbye to my village and set out for Camelot. I’m sorry to disappoint, but Lancelot, Galahad, Arthur and Guinevere were nowhere to be found because, well, they’ve been dead for centuries. There was no round table either, but depending on how much you love fabric, there might have indeed been a Holy Grail.
Public transportation schedules being as inconvenient as they are, I had the choice to arrive at Camelot either 25 minutes before or 5 minutes after the appointed time. I opted for the former because, let’s face it! when you’ve been summoned to court, you don’t get to use Societé de Transport de Montréal (STM) as an excuse.
Norma, the sweetest, most professional receptionist ever, greeted me at the castle gates and welcomed me despite my being too early for my appointment. And while I waited for Claire Haillot, the Marketing Director and resident blogger, to come and collect me, Norma let me fondle some of the display fabric bolts. I may or may not have drooled on a few of them, but that’s strictly between us. And while I was poking about in the entrance display cases, look what I found! Janelle, you sure get around!*
Once I started the tour and chat with Claire, I was overwhelmed to be honest. I had no idea which angle to take with my post. There was so much! They had history; they had stories; they had incredible people; oodles of talent; social conscience, award winning staff, and some of the nicest damned fabric I’ve ever been allowed to feel up. I finally figured I’d focus on their foreseeable future. That and the warm work culture that made me very nearly consider dusting off my moldy résumé. Nearly, I said!
More than 12 years ago, when father and son team Max and Steve decided to buy the floundering Eugene Textiles and modernize it to appeal to the emerging quilters’ market, they had vision. (Coincidentally, it was at the same time that Claire opened her quilt shop, so destiny was already at work.) Montreal’s once flourishing textile and garment industry had started to sink along with the flounder, and most companies were bailing. These guys saw something the others didn’t see so they took a chance and Camelot Fabrics emerged from the mist. In March of this year, Claire closed her quilt shop and joined formidable forces with Camelot.
During the interview, when I wasn’t shoving my hands into bins of fabric or gawking in awe at the finished bags, clothes and quilts they have on display, I wanted to know what life was really like inside those castle walls. I had barely got the question of group dynamics out of my mouth before both Claire and Cinzia pointed to the hanging on the wall of Cinzia’s office: Synergy. Everything else I saw there backed up their claim. We popped in and out of people’s offices saying hello and waving like royalty.
Despite their commitment to keeping their new and longtime employees happy (some have been there nearly 50 years), this year, the company has found itself in the unique position of having outgrown its staff. Yup! They have been hiring more and more staff in just about every department with plans to add a few more by the end of summer. They do need all the extra people to handle the increasing popularity of their fabrics, but I think they also need fresh ears to listen to the old-timers’ stories that start with, “In my day…” (“You guys are so spoiled. In my day, we didn’t have trucks and all these fancy machines to move the bolts from here to there. I would push my shopping cart of fabric down the street…”)
Speaking of happy — and apparently absent-minded — employees, how many times in your working life have you been so engaged in your work that you didn’t hear the announcement that the building was closing up and it’s time to go home? Hah! Most of us would be out the door and merging into traffic before the announcement was finished. But that’s exactly what happened to Cinzia, who also works in the marketing department with Claire. Cinzia is an award-winning, internationally published, quilt designer who joined the team just this past February. But I digress, though not as much as I usually do…
Cinzia told me the story of how she was so absorbed in her work and grooving to her music that several hours later when she looked up, the whole office was dark. She tried to leave, set off the alarms, called Max the owner, and was eventually rescued from the building by Jason the guy who works in the unit next door.
(Now, I didn’t pry but I wonder if she was happy to be rescued. I guess it all depends on their respective relationship statuses, attractiveness of Jason coz Cinzia is pretty cute, and how much she was looking forward to spending the night in a deserted building.) I’m inclined to think this Knight-in-shining-armour Jason dude was the direct descendant of Sir Galahad, but nobody asked me!
And then there was the other locked-in story of what happened after the Christmas party, but you’ll have to infiltrate the ranks to hear about that one. My lips are sealed with plastic wrap!
Where was I before that last tangent? Lost, I suppose, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone. Oh! The future! Right… So some of the pretty cool stuff I saw in the works and slated for release soon:
- Disney licensed colouring fabric (you colour it yourself)
- Specially designed fabric markers that don’t fade in the wash
- Scented fabric (Releases delicious smells when you scratch it, and it last up to about 30 washes.)
- Lots of new modern quilting prints, of course!
Oh gosh! I’ve been going on and on about quilts, but doggonit! their fabric prints look simply amazing in bags, kid’s clothes, women’s wear and my personal stash. If I only had a shopping cart, I would have had to push a few bolts down the street myself. Look at some of these lovely creations!
What’s not quite working for them yet?
The website that isn’t quite up to snuff. Frankly (was there ever a Sir Frank at the round table?), I was confused by the site. I couldn’t figure out how to get my hands on their fabric unless I became a retailer. It turns out that they do have many retailers around the country (Canada) and also in the US, but each store is responsible for adding themselves to the list of locations. They haven’t. Bunch-a slackers! I’m sorry but Club Tissu has no excuse for not getting this done! Smaller quilt shops, yes, it might be on the harried owners’ to-do lists but dammit! I want to know where I can buy all this yummy goodness. While we’re waiting for the website to catch up, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask them for a list of stores in your area.
The site isn’t all bad though. Claire writes a pretty awesome blog daily, with giveaways on Wednesdays.
Really, I can’t possibly tell you all the great things I learned about this company; at least, not in one post. (I’m verbose enough as it is.) The main thing I can tell you is that they do have some excellent modern prints in both quilting cottons and double gauze. (Thanks for explaining double gauze to me, Claire!) They are accessible and cost effective for Canadian sewists, especially with the savings on exchange rate, customs duties, and shipping costs. It’s also a super deal for US sewists because their dollars go so much farther here.
Maybe all or most fabric manufacturers do this, but I was blown away that they support local sewists by placing their products on display and for sale. You know like restaurants that decorate their walls with works from local artists so their patrons can buy them and support the artist. Yeah, just like that! Plus, they tag the articles with the name of the pattern and the designer. So cool! … Ok, but seriously though, did everyone else know about this and didn’t tell me?
I’ve got to wrap up this post, but man! I could go on and on about my audience with King Arthur and his court. However, I’m running this risk of boring you to the point of driving a lance through your Guinevere for recreation. I suppose I’ll have to write one or two more posts to finish paying fan-girl homage to my holy grail of fabric.
Happy holiday weekend, everyone!
PS. I did warn you it was going to be a long trip.
* Janelle MacKay is, in my opinion, Canada’s premier handbag designer, hardware supplier, and Craftsy instructor. Besides being supremely talented, she’s also funny, generous, helpful… (Would it be too humiliating if I were to move back to Alberta and entreat her to become my best friend?)
Canada Day 2016 Blog Hop Schedule
Be sure to visit each of these brilliant blogs this week for more on our
outstanding Canadian designers and suppliers:
June 24: The Tour Starts HERE at Happy Okapi
June 28: Nicky guest posts on Seam of my Pants
June 30: Michelle @ Michelle’s Creations
Canada Day–June 31**: Ula @ Lulu & Celeste
July 2: Marsha @ Seam of my Pants
July 3: Keshia @ Sand Dollar Design Studio
July 4: Wrap Up @ Happy Okapi
July 6: Giveaway winners announced
** Yes, we know! I’m personally trying to avoid “Moving Day” in Quebec.