Fabric-on-demand firm flowers online

SPOONFLOWER COLOR CHAIR is a new addition to the Spoonflower business office. It is upholstered in fabric designed from the color charts used to calibrate the digital textile printers.

Kim Fraser likes to bake and sew. When she wanted new curtains for her home, the young wife and mother wished she could make them from fabric printed with her own design.

Fraser voiced her wish in a conversation with her husband, Stephen, a self-professed Internet geek. Before long, he had nurtured this seed of an idea into a blooming online enterprise that rivals Jack and his magic beanstalk.

Stephen Fraser and a former colleague, Gart Davis, founded a fabric-on-demand printing service in May 2008 that operates in Durham, N.C.

Their business and website is called spoonflower.com, named after an endangered species of wildflower native to North Carolina.

It allows crafters to design their own fabric, often through Photoshop, upload their images and send them to spoonflower.com, where a one-of-a-kind product is printed on large- format digital textile printers. The cost runs from $18–$32 a yard, and a variety of fabric is available.

The designers, mostly women, use that fabric to make personalized curtains, quilts, clothes, bags, furniture, dolls, pillows and all other manner of crafty items, Stephen Fraser says. They also can sell their fabric through the website, which counts 100,000 individuals among its community.

The overwhelming response, Fraser says, comes from women such as his wife, “a new generation who have rediscovered sewing, knitting, gardening and baking as a personal hobby.”

“They have a passion for making things and sharing them with others (online).”

I first heard about spoonflower.com last summer at the annual Alegre Retreat for art quilters in Gateway, where Jane Dunnewold of San Antonio was lecturing on her surface design techniques for art cloth.

Dunnewold uploads images of her creations, sends them to Spoonflower, and the business ships one to 10 yards of her own designs on fabric, “delivering it to my door in 10 days.”

She recommended the process, saying she found it so rewarding that it has “become a seductive game” for her.

“We certainly owe Jane Dunnewold many thanks for all that she has done to spread the word about our company,” Fraser says.

Mostly, the business has grown through what he calls “the craft blogosphere,” a supportive online community of people with a passion for making things.

Spoonflower also been featured on the “Today” show on television and in House Beautiful magazine, the New York Times and several other publications.

Spoonflower also can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Twenty-five percent of its business is foreign, from such countries as Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, Fraser says.

The website includes plenty of instructions on how the process works, frequently asked questions and videos. Fraser maintains a blog with the latest happenings, such as the popular Fabric of the Week contests.

In a year-in-review entry, he noted the top 10 fabric designs that had the most page views in 2010. Birds, especially owls, and woodland patterns ranked high.

Fraser says the Spoonflower staff has grown with the business, but his wife, Kim, remains the crafter in chief and handles half of the customer service inquiries from home.

She has her own storefront on the website, and “provides invaluable feedback on what we do from a quilter’s perspective,” says the guy who admits he can’t sew a button on his pants when it falls off.

Together, though, the Frasers make a great pair ... by design.

E-mail Sherida.Warner@ gjsentinel.com.




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