Pattern for success: Mebane company makes you a fabric designer

By Laura Smith/Times-News

MEBANE – Obtaining one-of-a-kind fabric to make overalls for a child or to design a purse for a friend’s birthday gift may not be as hard as it seems anymore.

Spoonflower, a design-it-yourself fabric-printing business located in downtown Mebane, is owned by Stephen Fraser and Gart Davis. Fraser began the company around nine months ago after his wife, Kim, who loves to sew, got the idea.

Having previously been the marketing director for Lulu.com, an online self-publishing company, Fraser was familiar with Internet self-design.

“One of the things about the Internet is that anyone can create a blog,” he said. “We made publishing a book as easy as publishing a blog through digital printing. For fabric, we took the same idea.”

Customers upload any image or photograph to the Spoonflower Web site, arrange it how they desire on a template and send it in. The design is placed on cotton fabric by being run through either of two large printers, transported from Korea and worth roughly around $50,000 each. The fabric is then run through a hot iron that heats up to about 300 degrees.

Soon after Fraser began the project, former Lulu president Gart Davis stepped down and joined Fraser in his new endeavor to give crafters and sewers the ability to create their own fabric.

In May 2008, the two owners launched a test Web site out of Fraser’s home and soon after, already had thousands of people signed up, Fraser said.

In August, Fraser and Davis moved the company to an old sock mill at 200 N. Fifth St. in downtown Mebane and in October, Spoonflower.com was opened to the public.

Today, Fraser, Davis and their wives work together on different aspects of the business.

Spoonflower prints around 200-250 yards of fabric a week and gets about 30 orders a day. Customers can order fabric for $5 a swatch or $18 a yard. Spoonflower’s goal is to print within four days and get the fabric to the customers in two weeks.

The fabric is 100 percent quilting weight cotton from Moda, and the ink used is pigment ink, which is more eco-friendly, Fraser said.

Most of Fraser’s customers are crafters and owners of microbusinesses. They take the fabric they create to make kids clothes, dolls, bags, pillows, and more.

“It’s always interesting to see the different audiences you get,” Fraser said. “People are very passionate about fabric.”

Fraser and Davis are hoping to expand the awareness of Spoonflower even more. They want to increase the number of choices for fabric and give people the ability to sell their designs through Spoonflower.

“It is democraticizing the power of the Internet,” Fraser said. Beautiful design is something almost everyone is capable of.”

Fraser and Davis are satisfied with the popularity the business has gained and the people they are able to work with.

“Our community is all about individual creativity,” Fraser said “It’s great to be able to see what people are doing … We’re seeing firsthand the creativity of people all over the world.”

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