An interview with Alexia Abegg of Green Bee Patterns
I’m so excited to share an interview with Alexia Abegg from Green Bee Patterns, one of the hardest working women in the business! Alexia and her family are just about every where you look at the moment – her first range of sewing patterns for quilts, accessories, women and girls just hit shops, her husband, Rob Bancroft, has a new fabric line from Cloud9 called microMod that will be available in the next few weeks, and she has a new book coming out early next year.
Read on to find out about Alexia’s exciting background, learn what Green Bee has in store for us in 2013 (knitting patterns too!) and see photos from her studio and booth at Quilt Market! Then, pop over to Blueberry Park, where we’re giving away a Green Bee pattern of your choice with Karen this week!
The Village Haberdashery: You just launched Green Bee at Spring Market. Tell us about it!
Alexia Abegg: Getting to market was amazing!!! I know it may sound cheesy, but it really was a dream come true! I love sewing and quilting and along with my mom, Michelle, have long dreamed about how to share this passion and create a business to do so. Thanks to the support of an amazing community my mom, my husband, Rob Bancroft, and myself were able to take Green Bee to market for the first time in the spring. It was a challenge to design a booth that would be memorable, but affordable, and have the clean aesthetic we are attracted to. My husband actually sewed our backdrops. Mom and I, along with some help from my friend Carrie and my sisters, Jemina and Pierrette created MANY samples. We even got Singer Sewing Machines to donate a singer to give away that we embellished with buttons! We showed our line of 14 patterns, 12 of which shipped this Fall, with the remaining 2 to ship early December. We definitely felt the love at market!
We had a successful first market, there was a lot of interest in the line and we signed up many new Green Bee stockists. We had to be patient this summer as we waited for our printed patterns to arrive but when they finally did we were thrilled! We have worked hard over the last year to create a line of patterns that are simple, yet up to date in style, with clear instructions, and an approachable difficulty level. It was important to us to print on a nice, durable weight paper, perfect for tracing off patterns, include all sizes in one pattern envelope and package it all in a way that is easy to store. All of the things I wished for in patterns I used over the years as a sewer I tried to remember as we were developing our plan for Green Bee.
TVH: What was it like to go through the process of funding on Kickstarter?
AA: It was nerve wracking, but incredible! Kickstarter gives creatives like me access to funding that would never be possible otherwise. It was so amazing to see the sewing and quilting community online help spread the word about our project. It really came down to the wire, as I think we were fully funded two days before the deadline-the way Kickstarter works is all or nothing funding, so if the goal had not been reached, we would not have received a dime. I think one of the more difficult parts of using Kickstarter is coming up with the magic dollar amount to raise. There are fees for both Kickstarter and Amazon that decrease the dollar amount that you see on the project page, so keeping that in mind we basically tried to cover the market trip and booth expenses with our goal. I am so thankful for our backers!
TVH: Tell us about your background. What led you to the craft industry and how did you get your start?
AA: I have schooling in fashion design and fine arts. I have tried a lot of creative jobs, the highlights being Photography, Costuming, Production, Custom Design and Sewing. But, when I found a job at a local fabric store, Textile, in Nashville (one that I had shopped at for years with my mom) I really started to see all that was possible in the sewing world. Customers came in daily with amazing projects. I saw everything from costumes for Dolly Parton and many other Nashville celebs, to beautiful handmade quilts, wedding gowns, bespoke menswear, the variety was so inspiring! I started school for a degree in fashion design. My third year of school I decided to take time off from school to work in NY and maybe finish school up there. So my husband and I moved up to Brooklyn. I got a job at The City Quilter, an amazing little quilt shop in Manhattan and it really was a turning point. They ran amazing classes daily, had an incredible variety of fabrics yet were such a niche shop compared to the Mood style fabric store I had worked at in Nashville. I started making art quilts, and painted more there than I had in years. I applied to art schools there to finish my degree, I was accepted to Parsons into the painting and fashion design programs. I drafted the first few Green Bee patterns. And then it all clicked for Rob and I, we could take all of this inspiration and move back to Nashville where we can afford to do something about it! So we packed it up and moved back. I started helping Anna Maria Horner part time, and started teaching classes locally. About a year later I opened STITCH sewing school and studio and really began to push forward with Green Bee.
TVH: Your husband Rob Bancroft is also part of Green Bee and his first fabric collection is coming out from Cloud9 very soon. Your Green Bee samples have shown this line to be really versatile.
AA: Thank you! Yes, Rob’s line, microMod ships this month from Cloud9! I really love the collection. I think the scale, combined with the coloration really does make it surprisingly suitable for a wide variety of projects. I envision so many quilts to create and clothing to sew, but then again, I also want to plaster my entire home in the Arches and Seaweed prints…I love it all!
I think one of the things that makes Rob and I a good match, creatively, is that I bring the sewer’s perspective and he brings the design. We give each other feedback on all of our work. To be honest though, my input has been pretty minimal with his design, I think his work translates well to textiles. He and Michelle, the creative director of Cloud9, really did a great job with the line.
TVH: You also have a book coming out called Liberty Love. Tell us about the book and how you’ve managed to balance all of these amazing projects!
AA: My book, Liberty Love, comes our January 16. I was inspired to share projects that use classic Liberty of London Tana Lawn in combination with modern quilting and fashion fabrics. Some of the projects use only a little bit of precious Liberty, and some use a lot. There are quilts, I think my favorite is pictured on the cover, the Mad Plaid quilt, clothing for the whole family like the Little Pearl dress or the Dustin shirt, accessories like the His and Hers device cases, or the Queen Bee Tote bag, there are 25 projects in all. I shot the styled photos for the book, and illustrated it as well. I am so thankful to have had such a heavy hand in the final look and feel of the book. What I hope is that the book will inspire people to cut into their Liberty and use it- whether it is their hoarded special piece or their first purchased Liberty!
It’s been a crazy year, that’s for certain! I am so thankful to have a supportive husband, family and friends. When I was staying up nights, writing and sewing into the wee hours, Rob took care of everything. My mom and sisters helped me in the studio. Friends and family let me draft them for modeling, and didn’t get mad at me for having no social life last year!
TVH: You showed your first Green Bee knitting pattern at Fall Market. What can knitters look forward to seeing from you?
AA: Ooooh, we are REALLY excited about this. I am so excited to share our first knitting pattern, the Sophia Cowl, as a free download on our website on November 16th. My sister Jemina helped out with the development of this pattern and let’s just say you’ll be seeing more from us in the knitting category.
TVH: What else is coming up for Green Bee in 2013?
AA: We are launching some new patterns Late Winter/Early Spring, one of which I have shared some sneak peeks of on Flickr and Instagram, the Frances Shirt Dress, I am excited that this one will be for our widest range of sizes yet, from girls to womens sizes. Of course there are projects I can’t quite talk about yet, which is so difficult! I just want to spill it all, but I will be good!
Thank you Alexia!