One door shuts and another door opens!

Yesterday was the last day of the 2014 Row by Row Experience – Sew a Season. What an event! Looking back it is hard to imagine what transpired from July 1 through September 2, 2014.  I have NEVER worked so hard in my entire adult life! FabricPlates™ took on a life of their own. It is incredible how a shop owner in NY and a designer in Baltimore made such a HUGE impact on 1250+ quilt shops in North America with a simple idea and a silly replica of a common license plate. Both Janet Lutz and I have gotten emails, texts, calls and notes  from shops coast to coast how the program boosted their sales to record levels. They expressed how they had customers from all over and how locals who have not been in their shop for years returned. That is amazing! How did this all happen? It was done with a simple pure intention and the power of social media.

The intention was simple. Janet’s original intention three years ago was to get customers back in the brick and mortar shops. My intention of the Fabric Plates™ was to provide a FUN affordable novelty item. How did the word get out? Facebook. The power of social media is daunting. As the 2014 Row by Row closes I have to say WOW!

Janet and I have the theme for 2015 firmly in place. It is top secret and will be announced at Houston Market at the end of October. I just finished up the fabric line for 2015 RxR. I have to say I am very excited about the fabric. Last year’s fabric was good but it was a take off of the logo at the very last minute. This year the fabric is really my creative voice! Very exciting! Also the Fabric Plates™ for next year have a new twist! All fun things to look forward too!

Boy has Zebra Patterns grown and learned this summer! Most shops are totally fabulous but like with any group there were always a few that made our lives miserable! Most shops knew this whole FabricPlate™ craze was an enigma. Who knew? If shops knew they would have ordered more plates from the get go. No one knew. As I said most shops were amazing! Do you know we produced over 1,000 CUSTOM pieces of art, had them custom printed, hand cut and packaged in 4-5 months? My husband has worked in the custom packaging industry for over 30 years and said that his huge shopping bag company could not have put out that amount of CUSTOM orders with a huge staff! Imagine 34 states and Ontario with different plates. Each of the plates has a unique phrase. It was nuts! We have systems in place for orders – but we did not have the sophisticated systems in place for that volume and for reorders and reorders and more reorders! Some of the unforeseen hazards were shop names and customer errors. Do you know how many shops have similar names? Let me tell you there are a lot of Front Porch Quilts and The Quilted Crow across the country! Also not only were many shop names repeated – the phrases were duplicated across state lines and were similar within the state.  Here is examples of just the letter “S” – SEW SIMPLE. SEW EZ, SEW FUN, SEW FABULOUS, SEW WHAT, SEW AND SEW, and SEW ON! LOL. Put the names of shops and the plate phrases together and you get SEW CRAZY!  We also did not anticipate the 5-10% of people who have NO IDEA how to place orders on line! We spent a lot of time hand holding through that process. We were shocked. We thought the check writing, phone orders and manual entry ship had sailed a few years ago! Apparently there are still a few shops out there that are just not computerized. That took and incredible amount of time and ate into our production time. That became the source of several errors. Some shops once they entered their order changed their minds! Or worse yet swore they did not submit the order as written! REALLY? So all that taken into consideration we are responding at Zebra Patterns to be even better in 2015.

What will be different? First we hired more people! Zebra Patterns is a BIG GIRL company! LOL! Secondly we have invested in a sophisticated ordering program. Third we have the experience of this year to better set start and cut off dates. As mentioned earlier – we had hundreds of positive responses. Most shops fully understood as they were dealing with the same situation in their own store! Yesterday we had a call that a shop in MD has estimated she has handed out and kitted over 1,500 rows!  YES! That means over the summer she had OVER 1500 people in her shop in 10 weeks! DANG! So next year the turn around times for plates to shops will still be 28 days. That will never change with a custom product. Each one is 100% different, and hand packaged. However with better tracking through our in-house order entry we can better track and order that may come through. We will have a division of labor. Once we have more people the jobs necessary can be divided and be more efficient. Overall – I know Zebra had a huge amount of happy customers. I also know that many of our customers had and overwhelming amount of happy endusers. Our intentions were met. The Row by Row program brought in lots of business to quilt shops in North America and we all had to do a lot of hard work but it paid off in record breaking shop profits and record breaking amounts of happy endusers!

Just when you thought it was safe to come out of the water – WHAM – Post Card Party is here! Wha hoo! More fun! Another door opens!  This is a real chance for quilters to go to some of the great shops they visited over the summer and take mini workshops and then SWAP their postcards with quilters across America! Shops sign up for Post Card Party on September 21, 2014. Ask your shop if they are in?

Oh and I am sure you are hoping for a hint about next years theme…… you really want to know right?…… just a hint….. a small nugget….. something to ponder….

Well…. okay…. – Ugh – can’t do it! LOL! October 2014 at Houston – the theme will be announced! Now go start quilting something!



11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sandy Lynch
    Sep 03, 2014 @ 14:26:45

    What a great idea you ladies had. I only managed to get to 6 shops but had a fun time doing it., And watching the great quilts show up on Facebook was loads of fun. Looking forward to the Post Card’s.


  2. Tiffany Sherman
    Sep 03, 2014 @ 14:39:08

    You guys are awesome! I have nothing but positive things to say. Given the craziness of this event, I’d say we all did a FINE job!! Thanks to you, your staff and Janet!!


  3. Mary W
    Sep 03, 2014 @ 14:47:25

    I had the best time with the whole experience. I live in Illinois, had 5 shops first day.
    Went across border to Wis one day, went to three shops. Then in July went on major road trip through, Michigan, Ontario, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana. I got to stop at shops along the route my husband had set. I picked up rows at 26 shops. I am loving this experience. There was such a variety of rows and techniques. So fun. Thank you for a great experience.


  4. Zebra Patterns by Debra Gabel
    Sep 03, 2014 @ 15:01:56



  5. Nikki DeRamus Moshier
    Sep 03, 2014 @ 15:20:58

    I loved it! Good for you for such a novel and wonderful idea. So simple in concept but so complicated in execution….I can’t imagine! I followed along thru FB and loved seeing the rows and the completed quilts. So much positive energy. The few people I met in person were having a great time! Thanks for what you did.


  6. Barb
    Sep 03, 2014 @ 23:17:36

    I went to several shops in CT, MA, NH and then off to North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia in conjunction with the AQS quilt show in Charlotte, NC. ! Lots of fun and great shops to visit!! Went to Quilt-ish on the Cape!!!

    Thank you!


  7. Robin Jones
    Sep 04, 2014 @ 01:06:18

    Congrats! Could you consider putting the date “2015” on your next year’s plates? More of a reason for people to come back year after year. Thanks!

    Robin L. Jones

    Cottontail Quilts, Inc.


  8. Madelyn
    Sep 04, 2014 @ 11:00:27

    My quilting pal and I had a ball traveling through NJ, PA and DE. We are thrilled with all our plates. I’m looking forward to making a quilt out of the plates once I receive them all.


  9. JRHerold
    Sep 04, 2014 @ 23:13:21

    I love meeting all the terrific quilters and their friends and family! Deb: So many customers have relayed good feedback that you and Janet might want to consider for next year. Have you both thought about putting up a facebook page for the national experience to solicit ideas for improving the experience? I think the shops will have good ideas, but I’m always humbled and stimulated by what customers think and do! I would love to see a free exchange of ideas. Also, I’ve been getting phone calls from all over the country to get the kit that Quilt-ish of Cape Cod offers. It would be great if there was a page that listed all the shops nationwide that are stilling offering kits so that people anywhere can call to order them. The demand is very strong. Or what if we all donated unsold kits to some kind of one-time charity fundraiser? My two cents! In gratitude, June


  10. Debbie Koekebacker
    Oct 28, 2014 @ 20:51:41

    The hint for next years Row By Row was mentioned in your Sept. 3rd blog — third paragraph from the end … you are so devious Debra … :Just when you know it’s safe to come out of the water – “


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