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From quiet rural roots in New Maryland, New Brunswick, Homespun Treasures now markets their whimsical collection of patterns to twelve countries across the globe. Designer Debra Quartermain has made the transition from crafter to CEO of her own pattern company by exhibiting in international trade shows. Success lay in realizing that with a small product, she would need to wholesale large quantities in order to stay in business and that would require bravely looking past the borders of Canada.
"My best business decision was to take a chance and step right into an international show. exhibiting a ACCI in Chicago. On the first day of the show Homespun Treasures was picked up by two distributors, one from Austrailia and one from the UK. They took a chance on us. I didn't even know what a distributor was at that point. I've had to be a very quick learner this past year."
For the past thirteen years Debra has always enjoyed designing projects for her retail craft business. In addition to selling her finished products, Debra also shared her designs while teaching craft classes. Discovering shaggy plush felt took Homespun Treasures to a new level as Debra spent hours experimenting with the felts. Soon she had a collection of bears, each with its own character, which she called the Beary Patch Family and Debra discovered her greatest love was designing. It was then that she decided to start her own pattern line, so that other people could enjoy producing their own bears from her patterns. "My passion in my work is designing. To have a quiet day with yards of soft fabrics is heaven."
Debra creates her wonderful designs in a country setting with her business attached to the far end of the house. "The design studio is very Victorian with lots of lace and flowers. It is filled with my favorite mementos as well as patterns, fabrics, and bears for sale. It's bright with lots of windows. Below the studio is the shipping area where pattern inventory is kept and orders filled."
Homespun Treasures are known for their appealing designs, and easy to follow instructions. The directions include step by step instructions and many diagrams. The large clear picture on the front of the pattern cover serves as a visual guide. In addition, general tips for working with the shaggy plush felt are included so one can create "a great looking bear". All bears are string jointed which is very easy to do by following the simple instructions.
"I wanted to add some little extra touches. With my bears the faces speak to me, they bring a smile to my heart. the most important part of their face is the eyes, so I include a set in each pattern." Debra felt that the bears had such personality that they needed to have their story told. Debra's oldest daughter, Amanda is a talented artist, she created the drawing of each bear and Debra wrote each bears' story. The little story book with birth certificate is also included in each pattern. Many of the bears and rabbits have little friends and they are all members of the "Beary Patch Family".
Debra feels that the success of her patterns is in the charm of the bears and bunnies which really do bring "a smile to your heart" when you look at them. Equally important, her clear and thorough instructions make it easy for anyone with basic sewing skills to complete their creation and enjoy the process.
When asked what she would do differently if she were to do it all over again, Debra stressed "I would seek out more professional advice earlier on. Especially in the business areas of marketing and creating a business plan. Also, I would encourage others to think more long term. It is so easy to get too busy in just the everyday running of the business."
Debra belongs to HIA which keeps her abreast of the industry happenings, and she reads Craftrends and Craftlink. The investment of exhibiting at international trade shows like HIA, ACCI and Quilt Market has enabled her business to expand beyond her wildest imaginings. Having an attractive colour catalogue and making it readily available to distributors and retail stores has also been very helpful in marketing the line of patterns.
After thirteen years as a crafter, Debra decided to take her business in a new direction. "It was scary but I took a chance and the past year has been wonderful. People in this industry are very helpful and giving of their knowledge. I see expanding my business to include having our own website, continuing with new patterns as well as books and other related products., I would also like to work with other companies as a product designer."
As she looks at what she has accomplished, Debra is quick to add "I am also very fortunate to have two daughters who are involved in the business and very proud of their mother. My own mother and brother have been very supportive as well. Three of my very best friends work with me in my business. I enjoy a great working environment and get to do what I love!"
Debra's advice to other craft
business owners is two-fold.
On the practical side:
Present a professional image with business cards and brochure.
Pick a consistent look and choose colours that you carry throughout all your business materials and your displays.
Seek expert advice in areas where you need to, it will save you time and unnecessary mistakes.
On the personal side:
Follow your heart, do what you truly love.
Keep informed on styles and trends but always express your own personal style and product.
Make your mark, create for yourself and for others to enjoy and give of yourself...to make a difference. BRING A SMILE TO EVERY HEART
Debra Quartermain of Homespun Treasures is definitely a designer with heart!
Check your local retailer for Homespun Treasures:
Wineberry Fabrics, Surrey, BC
Snip&Stitch Sewing Centre, Nanaimo, BC
Fanny's Fabric Stores - Alberta
Mary Maxim Store, Paris ON.
Ruffle Elegance, St. Jacobs, ON
Atlantic Fabrics, Halifax NS.
To view the complete line of patterns, check Homespun Treasures on their distributors website at: www.checkerdist.com (note: this website is for wholesale only)
20A Kimberley Street, New Maryland,
New Brunswick, E3C 1E3
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