Industry icon, Eileen Roche, founder of Designs in Machine Embroidery, better known as DIME and her colleague, Gloria Cardoza of My Fabric Designs, take us on a journey to the world of true personalization. Learning how to create custom fabrics at the touch of a button is just the beginning of what awaits you in this engaging conversation. Eileen shares her history, her connection to Sew Powerful but also looks in her crystal ball to predict a resurgence in all things sewing.
Intro to DIME and My Fabric Designs with Eileen Roche and Gloria Cardoza
IN THIS EPISODE
Designs in Machine Embroidery, DIME, Eileen Roche, Gloria Cardoza, My Fabric Designs, custom fabric, Nancy Zieman, Sewing with Nancy, Sew Powerful, blog
Designs in Machine Embroidery (DIME) https://www.shop.dzgns.com/
DIME Blog https://blog.dzgns.com/
My Fabric Designs https://www.myfabricdesigns.com/about.html
Custom Carryall for a Cause, blog post, February 3, 2020, https://blog.myfabricdesigns.com/?s=sew+powerful
Sewing with Nancy https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnJfaHpW64CECS_SEp57jwg
ABOUT THE SEW POWERFUL PODCAST
The Sew Powerful Podcast shines a light on the people behind the mission to keep girls in school and create purposeful products in Zambia. Join us every week for a new 30-minute episode to meet new people, hear inspiring stories, and learn how you can join us in this global movement. Whether you sew or not, make purses or not, you will find something to enjoy in every episode. Listen today.
Host: Jan Cancila
Guest: Eileen Roche and Gloria Cardoza
Jan Cancila, Host 00:06
Welcome to the Sew Powerful podcast. This is your host, Jan Cancila. You know the sound of my sewing machine means it's time for another episode. So, let's get started. Today we are joined by two guests who together are going to educate us about an intriguing website and two companies that will be of great interest to Sew Powerful purse makers everywhere. First and I am so excited to say this. We have Eileen Roche, who is the founder and creative force behind the very well-known company 'Designs in Machine Embroidery', also called by its acronym DIME. The company focuses on machine embroidery education, but it does so much more. In just a minute I'm going to have Eileen tell us all about Designs in Machine Embroidery, including her blog. Now, if you don't do machine embroidery, don't go away. We have something for everyone today because I also want to introduce you to Gloria Cardoza. Gloria writes a very popular blog but she writes for Eileen's other company, 'My Fabric Designs.' Wait till you hear about this company, oh, my. A few months ago, Gloria's blog post about Sew Powerful sent a boatload of her My Fabric Design readers to the Sew Powerful website to grab the free purse pattern. Gloria's official title is customer service, but she wears so many hats, I don't think we could keep up with everything she does. Welcome to both of you. It's an honor to have such industry influencers on the Sew Powerful Podcast today.
Eileen Roche, Guest 01:51
Thank you for having us, Jan. It's a pleasure to be here.
We're really excited to talk with you. Eileen, if you would start, could you please give us an overview of Designs in Machine Embroidery, or I guess we should call it DIME, and then Gloria, you chime in and give us the same sort of overview about My Fabric Designs.
DIME was started really as a thought on how to inspire other machine embroiderers. I am just like my customer, I most certainly started out just like my customer. I was teaching in a local dealership how to make home dec items when the first home embroidery machine was released to on the market. And that sewing machine retailer in Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania said to me, ‘Well, why don't you teach a class on this?’ And I said, ‘Well, I don't know anything about it.’ He said, ‘Well, neither does anybody else.’ So, I started to figure out how to use the machine, how to place embroidery in a location that you really wanted it to be because placement was a huge hurdle back in the day. And I started a newsletter on that first home embroidery machine which was made by Janome. I was invited by Janome to teach their dealers and so forth. And that's where I met my business partner of today, Gary Gardner. And we started the magazine, Designs in Machine Embroidery, in 1999. And that's what really was our very first product. And with that I was giving a guest appearance on Sewing with Nancy, you know, public televisions, very popular program. And you know, from there, that's what put DIME on the map, I would have to say, that national exposure. And as I continue to really be who who my customer was by stitching every day and understanding the hurdles and challenges that she faced, I started to develop product and of course, publish that magazine. And then, you know, though, just a little over 20 years ago, you know, and so I most certainly had an experience with Nancy Zieman that was unlike any other professional relationship that I had. We became dear friends and I appeared on Sewing with Nancy seventeen times. And that really did give a lot of validity to the category of machine embroidery, and also to our product and brand name. So, it's been a wonderful ride for sure.
Wow. Well, and you have a number of products, and we'll hear about that in a minute. So, Gloria, you tell us about My Favorite Designs.
Gloria Cardoza, Guest 04:26
I was so excited when I found out that I could be a part of this great company where people who wanted to have custom printed fabrics done for their projects could actually get them now. You know before if you wanted something like this, you would be printing, or you'd have to print like 500 yards with some factory in China. And that's just that's just not ideal. You know if you want to be a crafter, you know you're printing in small increments and the fact that we can do that is amazing.
Wow, that's fantastic. And so, you have a very easy to navigate website where the average person the hobbyist can can go and design their own fabric or pull from something that more professional designers have already made, is that correct?
Correct. We do have a whole shop page where, again, like you said, where we have pre made designed by freelance designers; they're beautiful pieces, or if you really want something specific for your needs, you can create your own stuff, you know, with your own editing software, you can use ours; we have our own built into the website. You really do have a wide variety of options.
I have to say the website is it is a lot of fun. And I didn't realize I'd spent an hour and a half last week on it, and I and I designed the world's ugliest Christmas fabric, but I was having so much fun doing it. And then I mean, I knew I wasn't going to be saving this, but I was just trying to use every feature possible. And it is really it's really flexible and really fun. So.
It's addicting, Jan. It really is.
It is, it is.
I love to design fabric and and you get better with practice, like any other hobby or interest for sure.
And well. And so, I what I liked was you have something that's been professionally designed by, by people who know what they're doing. But I could also upload a family photo and you could turn that into what what it just like a yard of fabric is that how it would come out.
You can print smaller designs, so I have a lot of people who want to make pillows or quilts. And so they'll print like 10 or 15 Family Photos and 10 inch sizes over a yard. And now you have a bunch of photos that you only pay for one yard of fabric for, and you have 1, 2, 3, 4 different projects.
And you have different fabrics that we can select from, is that correct?
Yes, yes, we have quilters cottons. We have apparel knits. We have lightweight upholstery for some, you know, pillows, curtains, tablecloths. We have a great variety.
And I'm kind of a matchy matchy person. So, I love the idea that I can make a handbag and one of our heavier substrates like maybe premium cotton or cotton twill and then make a matching scarf in chiffon. I mean, you just can't do that. You can't find that in retail anywhere. So, I think that's awesome.
I think so too. And I'm glad you brought that up, because I guess that wouldn't have occurred to me. But yes, I love that idea.
Yeah. So many of our Sew Powerful purse makers know that our girls in Zambia, and we call them our girls, the schoolgirls who receive the purses, and I'll just sort of give a quick overview here. We have volunteers from around the world who get the free purse pattern from the Sew Powerful website, make a purse. It gets sent to the Sew Powerful headquarters just outside of Seattle. All of them are bundled up and they go to Zambia. At the same time, we have the moms in Zambia that we've hired and trained and pay a living wage and they make the reusable feminine hygiene pads. We also have a soap cooperative. So, inside each purse when it arrives in Zambia goes, feminine hygiene pads, the shield that our moms have made, the soap our soap cooperative made, and then underwear for the girls, because we discovered that each girl usually only owns one pair of underwear before we gave them more. Anyway, that goes in the purse it's a gift to the girl; it's a pledge to stay in school while she's on her period, which is very different than culturally or just economically than they've been able to do before. So, I say all that because our purse makers are always looking for new fabrics, new ideas, new ways to make purses. Our goal this year is 20,000 purses, so.
That typically means each person makes more than one purse. So, you know I have a fabric stash, but I always want new fabric. And I presume that happens with everybody too. Gloria, you have a background in sewing and embroidery as well, don't you?
Yes, I do.
Well tell us about it.
Well, I guess it started when I was about, well I just graduated high school. I had my best friend call me up and she was asking, I had no idea, no sewing knowledge by the way at this point. She was like, you're a creative person. Help me make this. And of course, I was young, and I was like sure, sounds fine, sounds easy, we can figure it out! And I was hooked. I mean, I haven't stopped sewing since. I got so in love with sewing that I actually went to school, and I went and got a fashion degree in pattern drafting. I went and learned how to do sewing and first year embroidery. I worked at a shop where I helped people learn how to use their machines for machine embroidery, serging, sewing, all of it, digitizing.
And so, I really learned a lot in my time there. Well, yeah, it was a really great experience. I really did learn so much that even I didn't learn in college, there's there's just only so much to learn. And you're I'm always looking for a new outlet to learn the next thing.
So Eileen, what about what about you? What was your background is sewing before you ended up helping this shop?
Well, it's interesting because I never learned to sew until I was married and had a new home, new to us that had bare windows and needed draperies. So, I was 27 years old when I took a class at a local sewing machine dealer in the Philadelphia suburbs. And that's how I learned how to sew and boy, I just loved it, absolutely loved it. And like Gloria, you know, I immersed myself, as best I could, of course, I already was through college at that time. But you know, there was no internet; there was no Google. And I learned by watching Sewing with Nancy, how to sew, I really did. And then she became my dear friend. So you know, we always used to joke that she taught me how to sew, and I taught her how to embroider
Oh, that's right. The student becomes the master. How wonderful.
You talked a little bit about starting your business. But was there one moment where you said, I've got to do this? And you started with the magazine? Right?
I did. We started with the magazine. And I met my business partner of today, Gary Gardner at a trade show. And without that meeting, I don't know, you know how far this would have gone. But at that time, I was publishing a newsletter, quarterly. I knew nothing about publishing. I made it as difficult as possible for people to order a copy, you know. And when he saw what I was doing, he said, "Why don't we put out a magazine?", And him and I looked very innocently at each other and said, "Yeah, let's do it!" I mean, literally after like a handshake and breakfast the next morning, you know, we embarked on this endeavor together. And it's been, you know, quite a ride. Not all of it really wonderful, but most of it absolutely great, for sure. And it's been fascinating to watch the industry grow. I mean, I remember having to teach people how to hoop, literally how to put the inner ring into the outer ring. And today, you know, people their skills have really risen. So, you know, we continue to raise the bar on what we can teach them, you know. They're able to and the machines, do so much more now.
Sure. Well, even people who make purses, a lot of us embroider, and we're going to get to the purses that Gloria made. But Gloria, you chose the intermediate pattern. But if you use our beginner pattern, there's that big, empty flap that just cries out for embroidery, and I love to embroider everything. So, we do a lot of embroidering, when we can, you know, it's just been fun. So, what are some of the challenges you face as a business owner in today's environment, and you know, we're recording this in what I call the time of COVID. So how has that impacted you and your business?
Some of the challenges that we face as a business in our industry is playing fairly with all machine brands, and servicing all of our customers both the consumer and the sewing machine retailer. And you know, making sure that we're not crossing boundaries that hurt one or the other. So that, that is always been something that we take to heart and consideration. COVID has been changed, or the face of our business, in the sense that we no longer gather in the office, all 30 people every day. And we miss that camaraderie. We always used to call these hallway meetings, literally we would have some brilliant ideas in the hallway just passing one another and you know you don't have that now. Zoom has been a godsend because we're able to connect at least visually, and we do it often at least once a week if not several times a week and with you know large groups and smaller groups. It has also changed how we do business with retailers because previously to COVID we had five educators on staff who go to sewing machine retailers across the country and present seminars, and we do over 150 events per year. And now we do them virtually over another platform kind of like zoom but more broadcast platform. And it's been very successful, and it has absolutely helped our retailers also because it's their audience, their customer and so forth. So that's been a great gift, you know, lemonade out of lemons, right?
Absolutely, absolutely. That's very impressive. Well, why don't we take a break and when we come back, I want to talk about the mask making option that's available. And then we're going to talk about your connection to Sew Powerful. So, let's take a quick break and we'll see you on the other side.
Have you gotten the second edition of the we are Sew Powerful book? This updated version of the original bestseller, 4.9 out of five stars, by the way, is again authored by Sew Powerful co-founders, Jason and Cinnamon Miles. It is available on Amazon in paperback or for your Kindle reader. This latest edition is packed full of moving stories about how Sew Powerful came to be, the volunteers who make it happen, and the way this small movement has grown into a global mission to break the cycle of poverty, through education and the dignity of work. And don't forget, when you place your order if you use smile.amazon.com, and designate Sew Powerful as your preferred charity, Amazon will donate a portion of your purchase right back to Sew Powerful. And now back to our podcast.
Welcome back. We've been speaking with Eileen Roche and Gloria Cardoza. They are two very impressive businesswomen that have a lot to teach us about not only machine embroidery, but custom fabric too. And Eileen's companies, DIME, Designs In Machine Embroidery, and My Fabric Designs, are just so innovative and we're so delighted to have them here today. You have added a new, I presume, new or relatively new feature where people can custom design masks on the My Fabric Designs website. Can you talk about that?
So what we're noticing a lot, obviously, as you said, COVID time is everyone's trying to take a step towards, you know, protecting themselves in the, you know, and their family. And one of the ways that we've seen that happening is people making custom face masks. And we were getting a lot of questions about you know, how do I make the placement, how do I size this? What do I do. And just another way for us to contribute to, you know, becoming a safer society, I guess you could say, is making it that much easier for our customers by making these templates. And it's just what it is. It's what I said, It's a template. You can go; you can click on it; you can put your picture, our pictures, solid colors, words in there. And then you get the fabric, it's printed, you cut it, you sew it. All your lines are there. It's just so easy.
So the pattern pieces are the templates. That's what you're talking about. They're preprinted on the on the white fabric. And then I played around with this. I can pick a different color for every mask piece on there. And you can make what about 20? Or how many masks on a yard?
For the two piece it's 20 masks. Eileen, can you clarify on the other one?
I'd have to count.
Well, that's alright. But you know, some.
More than 20 on the pleated mask.
Yeah, it's probably 30. Yeah.
But I mean, I love the fact that you could make each one different. And I could upload the logo for Sew Powerful and make a Sew Powerful mask or, you know.
Whatever I wanted to do.
Which really you know, was the whole impetus behind My Fabric Designs is for customization really, for businesses, you know, to put their branding, on aprons and T shirts, you know, types of napkins, tablecloths that they would use at a restaurant, that kind of thing. And so, for the mask, I like to say here in the office, that the mask is the new t shirt. I mean, people, you know, we're wearing it; it's kind of shouting out whatever we want to shout out, right. And it's a place that you can put personalization.
So Eileen, you also have software called My Fabric Designer. Now that's, that's a piece of software. It's free for me to use your website, but the software is a purchase. What is the difference between the two?
Well, I don't really like to use web-based programs. I like, I often in work, it really started because I worked on airplanes a lot traveling all over the country. And now I'm not doing that, but anyway, it allows me to work on my desktop or laptop without an internet connection. It's easier for me to save files to, curate files, and it also helps me build a palette that I find that's more challenging to do on you know, the, the web-based platform, on the web on the site and I am not an artist. So I think I need the help of a software program that kind of, you know, I can hover the mouse over a tool, and it will tell me what I'm selecting. And you know, it just gives me some real cheap, cheap, you know, tools that I appreciate.
So is the software program different than the, I mean is the content different than what you see?
It's a little bit different. And it also has a great quiltmaker like a cheater quilt maker program in it that allows me to select from over 2500 different quilt blocks, color them, or add, you know, fabric from the library, like, a repeatable pattern into each little patch. I can customize it with a large photo of let's say, you know, the wedding couple, and then the blocks around it would be, you know, coordinated with their home. So it's just, it's a little bit more robust, yet user-friendly.
Cool. Very cool. So as a hobbyist or for a one-off design, easily go to the website. If I need to do this frequently then buy the software.
I would think. Yeah.
Okay. Well, Eileen, you directed Gloria to write a blog post on the 'My Fabric Designs' blog site about Sew Powerful. And can you give us a little background about how the meeting came about with Sew Powerful and why you were inspired to have her do that. And by the way, we appreciate it very much.
You're so welcome. And she was it. Just last year in 2019. In August, I was in St. Louis vending at our partner, you know, our associate Baby Lock from the St. Louis area. And that's a convention that brings all Baby Lock retailers across the country together under one roof for training. They have a vendor mall, and I was doing a live Facebook Live broadcast doing what we call the vendor walk where I go and interview each booth and chat with them and show the audience what's new and exciting. And Sew Powerful was a vendor and of course they had this wall of handbags. And that's always intriguing to someone. So we stopped and chatted and I was very impressed with the charitable work that they're doing and their drive and mission. And they had it well defined. And they offered this program to the Baby Lock retailers to then sew these purses in their store, and I just thought that was fabulous. So when I came back, I told Gloria about it. And you know, really unbeknownst to me, I mean, we are across the hall from each other, you know, a couple doors down, but she just went took off at 100 miles an hour and made a bag. So I was very impressed.
Well, she didn't make a bag; she made three at least that I know of. They're on the website. So, Gloria, what did you do to research your blog article because it was so well written and so right on target?
Well, I mean, as soon as I heard about the project, I, like Eileen, said just dove right in. I looked up your all's program. I pulled up your web page. I go through every single page that you guys had to offer. And you just you guys did so well on, just give me a wealth of information and to tell what your all story is. And it was just really inspiring. I loved every moment of it and being able to take a part in it. It was it was wonderful.
I have to say that you know, sewers as a community, are so giving and charitable work just comes second nature to most sewists as we like to call them. So, see this new drive and this new reason to get out your machine and to sew and to help women, young girls across you know the world who are so stricken by poverty and loss of opportunity. Imagine missing school for a week because of a very natural occurrence is it's heartbreaking to all of us, I think. So, it's a natural fit for our customer. And even myself, you know. You just want to help; you just want to help.
Yeah, absolutely. Well, and Gloria, you selected some of your fabric from the website, right?
Yeah. So what I wanted to really do that, besides highlight your all's great program really also take advantage of something that was already out there, which was the great fabrics on our shop page. These fabrics are made by freelance designers. And when they're uploaded to our page, those designers do get a royalty; they get a commission for the work that they do and the beautiful art pieces that they've made. So I did want to highlight some of those designers that have put these beautiful art up there and use that.
And do you remember the names of the ones you picked?
Oh no, I'm so sorry. I don't.
That's all right. Well, wait, I have it here because I was very impressed Stockinette Stockinette Stitch. Am I saying that right? African pattern? Kuba Kuba Rust Black Ivory and African Kuba. So, they I love them because the girls tell us their favorite color is orange. And so there were a lot of oranges and orange tones in those purses. I know that they'll be very popular, and have you mailed them in yet?
I will say no, I'm so sorry. It when I when I finished the blog, it's my habit to hold on to stuff like that just for last minute photography that I didn't get. And then COVID happened, unfortunately. And it's, it's in a box and it's ready to ship out.
Well, what we've started doing, we have unboxing parties and when the purses come in, we do our founders, Jason and Cinnamon Miles do it a live Facebook episode. And they unbox the purses and thank the person who submitted them. So yeah, so if you do that, the next one is in August, and afterwards, I'll email you the mailing address to be sure you'll have it. But if you send it in, then we'll mention your name and pull out your purses. And everybody will know they're from you.
That's great. I would love to take part of that.
Yeah, that would be fantastic. Can you look in your crystal ball and tell us where where is your business going? Where's the industry going? What what should we be on the lookout for?
On DIME or My Fabric Designs?
Either one, either one? Both.
Well, I think that I think that COVID is changing the face of the sewing industry. It is attracting more customers that are new to the hobby or are coming back to the hobby. They're pulling that machine out of the closet and using it and finding the joy of sewing that maybe they have missed or never known about. So I do think we're seeing growth that will continue to grow in increments. And I think it's our job as executives in the sewing industry to keep that new customer engaged and give her more reasons to sew. When she gets done doing that, she should go on and do purses for Sew Powerful.
And what about anything that's on the horizon for My Fabric Designs that you can reveal?
Well, I think that the mask template was just a brand-new release. And I know that we are always open to new ideas for templates and so forth. People do seem to like that kind of application. It makes it easy to do custom pieces without you know, being an artist. And that business is has really expanded during COVID because people were not able to get into fabric stores and so forth. And you know, we have always firmly believed in the power of personalization. Today's consumer wants her product or his product to be unique and offer it to either for their own personal use, their family, or for sale. And so we continue, you know, we're clicking the sky's the limit there. That's what we're hoping
I want to thank you both for your time today. And I mean, we could go on for hours and hours and there's so much there. But if you're listening right now I would I would ask you to visit My Fabric Designs website and Designs in Machine Embroidery websites, subscribe to both their blogs. Eileen, I know you do some online education with is it Blueprint is that the organization?
I have, I've done two classes with Blueprint. They are now coming back to the name of Craftsy; they were originally Craftsy. So you know there's been some changeover and ownership there. But I do a Facebook live every Thursday at one o'clock central time. That is at least a half hour, or you know it can be longer of embroidery education that's free anyone's welcome to join there. And I also post a blog that really kind of directs people to the Facebook videos now because they're meatier and we seem to get a stronger following there. But there is a wealth of information on my blog, which is on the Designs in Machine Embroidery website.
Absolutely. Well, our podcasts drop on Thursday as well, early in the morning. So listen to our podcast in the morning. Watch Eileen in the afternoon. It sounds like a great way to spend a Thursday.
Thank you both so much for your time. I appreciate it. And I look forward to talking with you sometime in the future.
Thank you Jan for having us.
If what you've heard today inspires you to want to make a difference, I urge you to explore the Sew Powerful website at www.sewpowerful.org that's SEWPOWERFUL dot ORG. The website has great information about the organization. It's where you can download the free purse patterns or even make a donation. We hope you will join us again next week when we bring you another Sew Powerful story. Thanks for listening. Now, go out and have a Sew Powerful day.
ABOUT THE HOST
Jan Cancila has been making purses for Sew Powerful since 2014. She serves the organization as Director, Global Volunteerism, the Area Manager for Shows and Events-Mid/South USA and as the Houston Regional Coordinator. She was a public speaking major at Hanover College and holds an MBA from Our Lady of the Lake University. Jan had a 25-year career with The Coca-Cola Company before owning and operating a linen and party rental business in Houston. She is married with two grown sons, a lovely daughter-in-law and two remarkable granddaughters. Jan’s published work includes more than 100 online articles for Examiner.com. Reach Jan with comments or suggestions at email@example.com.