Meet and Greet – Annie Unrein with TWO Giveaways!

This is another post in a continuing series called “Meet and Greet”. We’ll be sharing the results of interviews we’ve conducted with fascinating folks in our niche, that you either know of already, or will want to know more about. 

Annie Unrein

I met Annie Unrein at Spring Market in Salt Lake City and I liked her immediately, maybe because we have quite a bit in common. She started her internet pattern business in 2001 with absolutely no formal training in design or computer programming and has extended her reach into product development with the successful launch of ‘Texture Magic‘ and more recently, ‘Soft & Stable‘. And here’s the deal… Annie is so pumped about this post that she’s generously offering TWO free giveaways PLUS a week-long discount on Soft & Stable. We’ll give you the details after we talk to Annie a bit…

1- I know you had a career prior to starting your on-line business. What was your former job like and how did you get started in business on your own?

I majored in accounting in college, taking and passing the CPA exam the month I graduated.  I worked as a CPA for a number of years, mostly preparing financial statements and income taxes.  It’s been a wonderful background to have as a small business owner.

In the early 1980s, my husband and I homesteaded a 160-acre parcel of agricultural land in Southeast Alaska.  We built roads and bridges to get into the property, cleared land for fields, and cut down and milled our own lumber to build our home and outbuildings.  I got pregnant a month after we moved there — which was not at all in the plans! 
We planned to farm and raise livestock, but quickly learned that farming in rainy, remote Southeast Alaska was not going to pay the bills.

Fortunately, we were located less than 10 miles from the headquarters of Glacier Bay National Park, so we decided to open a country inn.  We built a beautiful inn and eventually added another lodge and charter boat business to take guests fishing, whale watching, and sightseeing in Glacier Bay.  We operated that business for over 10 years, with up to 17 employees and 40 people for dinner at night!  We sold the business when our children were in middle school so that we could give them different exposure and opportunities than they would get living in the Alaskan bush.
The next several years were full with raising children, ranching and farming, and working with my husband to rehabilitate a number of properties.  In between all that, I made time to join our local quilt guild, becoming active in guild activities and developing my quilting skills. 
I was looking for a little extra income to pay for my quilting habit and because I’m organized and (I confess) a bit anal (it’s the CPA in me, I guess), love to quilt and sew, and enjoy working on the computer, writing patterns seemed like a logical choice.  It was something that I could do at home that wouldn’t take a big investment of money or space. . . in the beginning anyway! 

I also was fortunate to be friends with Heather Purcell (Mother Superior of Superior Threads) and she offered to sell my patterns if I’d make samples for her booth.  It was a win – win for both of us and my relationship with Superior Threads has opened many, many doors for me.
2- What inspires you?
I find inspiration everywhere!  I keep my eyes and ears open all the time for ideas for patterns and products.  Many of my patterns came about because I needed an organizer for my supplies, a new purse, or a quilt for a gift. 

Mother Superior (Heather Purcell) is also a great source of inspiration for me.  Many of my quilt patterns began in her amazing head.  She often comes up with an idea for a quilt.  We’ll sit down at the computer (I use EQ software) and play with designs until we come up with something that we both like.  Then I print a rough pattern for her.   Heather makes the quilt, keeping notes as she goes, and then finds someone amazing to quilt it.  I finish the pattern and test it.  She provides a photo of the quilt and I publish the pattern.   Superior Threads has a beautiful, unique quilt for their booth and I have a beautiful pattern.   Win – win! 

3- What do you do or where do you go to seek inspiration for your work?
Our annual trip to our island home in Alaska always provides me with great inspiration.  The library in Sitka, Alaska, has the best selection of quilting and art books that I’ve ever seen.  I always “fill my well” during my time there.   The peace and quiet and time to reflect surrounded by the beauty of Mother Nature always inspires me.  You may enjoy reading my blog post:  Mother Nature Is A Quilter.  LINK:
4- Tell us what a typical day is like for you.
These days it seems that I spend most of my day in my office, filling orders, answering emails, and taking care of paperwork.  So, it’s usually evening before I get to all the tasks that I’d hoped to do that day:  sewing, writing patterns, etc.  I am very much a night owl, so I can do a day’s work after dinner.  (Sleep tends to be very low on my list of priorities!)
5- What is your work space like?
I’m fortunate to be able to work at home in a beautiful large room that has great views of the city and mountains.  My husband built me a beautiful custom desk and tables for my sewing machines, so one side of the room is computers and office and the other side is production/sewing.  He made me a wonderful cutting table with wire basket storage units underneath for fabric, too.  I am a lucky girl.  
6- What are you most excited about right now?
I get to go to Hawaii on Monday!  I’m teaching at Superior Threads’ School of Threadology at Quilt Hawaii and then we’re taking a few days off to relax on the beach.  I am SO ready!  I’m also excited that my next shipment of WHITE Soft and Stable will arrive this week.  (Unfortunately, it got held up along the way so won’t arrive until after I leave for Hawaii, so my helpers will have to take care of it and all the backorders while I am away.  I will owe them BIG time!)
Here’s a little more info about Soft and Stable:
I developed Soft and Stable last year because I was looking for something that would give good body and stability to my purses without making them heavy or stiff or hard to sew. 

Several years ago, I noticed that my favorite designer handbag was made using a foam stabilizer rather than batting, so I went looking for something like that to use in my projects.  I found and used a foam-type product for several years, but it had a number of drawbacks.   It was stretchy and not very stable; it had fabric only on one side of the foam, so I had to be careful when sewing; and I couldn’t buy it at a price that I could sell it to wholesale customers.  I got yelled at by more than one store for calling for a product that they couldn’t offer!

I finally decided to find someone to make the product that I needed so spent several months working with various manufacturers and testing and re-testing products.  I introduced ByAnnie’s Soft and Stable in black at Fall Market in Houston last fall to great reviews.  Customers are loving it and many pattern designers (such as StudioKat Designs!) are adding it to their projects as well.

Due to popular request, I recently added white Soft and Stable to my product line as well.  You’ll find lots more info about Soft and Stable as well as a number of video tutorials on my website.

So, if your customers want to make purses, bags, totes, or home dec items that look like they BOUGHT them (not like they MADE them), please ask them to give ByAnnie’s Soft and Stable a try!

7- Do you have a secret hobby or pastime?
Can’t say that this is a hobby or pastime, but I just created a Facebook page for my business.  So far it’s a secret because I can’t figure out how to let people know about it!   I’m going to have to look for a “Facebook for Dummies” book to read while I’m lazing on the beach in Hawaii. . . Please “Like” me or “friend” me or whatever it is you do on Facebook!

Flash Card Questions
1- Who is your hero?  My husband:  He is always, always there for all of us and is a great counselor.
2- Tell us something on your ‘bucket list’. I have lived an amazing, full life and have had many, many wonderful experiences.   I love what I am doing and where I am and have to say that I’m pretty much satisfied with the here and now. 
3- What is your favorite color to design with?  I was never a big orange fan, but I have to say that orange really adds something to a quilt! 
4- What is your favorite TV show (current or in re-runs)? I very rarely watch TV these days, but I used to love West Wing and Boston Legal.
5- What book are you reading right now? I need a good book to take to Hawaii. . . better find something tomorrow.  Not reading anything right now, but do enjoy Harlen Coben’s books.  Read “Caught” while in Alaska.
6- Something or someone who can make you smile, even on the worst of days.  My kids, Havila and Casey, each of whom has a charming wit and terrific sense of humor combined with wisdom beyond their years.  My daughter’s words of advice to me (as I was losing it big-time when she was a teen):  “Possess thyself in patience, Mom.” (I still try to remember that!)  And, when asked how they’d cope with us when we get old, my son said, “Oh, I’ll just say, ‘Hey, Mom, will you make me a quilt?’ and you’ll disappear into the back room and we won’t have to deal with you!”  Oh, I hope I can continue to quilt all the days of my life!

Here’s where you can find Annie on the web! 

And now for THE FUN PART…. 


Annie is offering a generous sitewide 10% discount for ALL READERS!  (how cool is that?)

To receive your discount: Type KAT in the discount code box at checkout  (discount offer expires on 7/24/11, so don’t delay)

  PLUS- TWO lucky readers will receive these 2 FABULOUS giveaways! 

  • a Prissy Purses” pattern plus white Soft & Stable
  • a “Necessories” pattern plus black Soft & Stable;
So what do YOU have to be a winner?  It’s SIMPLE!
Just leave an answer to the following question
in the comment box below.

What do you do, or where do YOU go to seek inspiration for YOUR projects?

Annie will choose two winners from amongst the comments rec’d by Friday (7/22) at 7am. Please leave at least your first name & last initial with your answer. Anonymous commentors cannot be considered. The winners will be announced in a future post.

Did you enjoy this post? I’m sure Annie would love to hear any feedback 
you might have for her along with your giveaway answer, 
and please feel free to pass this post along  to friends and family in anyway you see fit.

29 Comments So Far, You're Next!

  1. I enjoyed this post. I asked my LQS to order some of the purse stabilizer I hope arrives soon as I have 2 purses cut and waiting.

  2. I like when something – anything catches my attention. It might be some trees or a sunset and I’ll sketch out something as an idea. Or if I see a purse or bag that someone is carrying, or a photo of one I like and I’ll try to remake it in my head with the features I like.
    Melody J

  3. My inspiration comes from many places…the internet, looking at fabrics in local shops, local craft fairs, or out of need for a certain item. I enjoyed this post quite a bit…and the pic of Annies’ table that her husband built has been the inspiration for MY husbands’ next project! LOL.
    Eileen Theroux

  4. I have written several comments. Cannot retype all the info now. Blogger will not let me sign in. Love her patterns and can’t wait to try the stabilizer. Carla Finley dollartistcarla at aol dot com

  5. Great interview with Annie and I can’t wait to check out her blog. My inspiration comes from everywhere it seems. Lately I get more inspiration from the internet and then sit on my deck watching the river for more ideas.

  6. Inspiration can come from anywhere, really! I can’t say it just comes from one source. THe internet really helps too!

  7. I have to say that I use to get my inspiration from magazine and books. Now it seems I get more from blogs, since you can find interesting and fascinating stuff on the web. When I visit blogs I can be sure to come across a new technique, a new notion or an interesting story. I really enjoyed this post and learning about Annie and her products!

  8. Most of my inspiration comes from the blogs I follow: quilters, photographers, gardeners, and watercolorists. (I had to delete my previous post because I forgot to follow directions!
    Barb C

  9. I get my inspiration from other purse designers, blogs, the internet (searches for purses, handbags and bags) and listening to others of what they are looking for in a purse.

  10. I asked the owner of the quilt shop where I work to order some Soft & Stable. It just came in and I’m cutting out a purse to try it out.

    Inspiration comes from things I photograph, magazines, ready-made retail items, a need, the internet, a request from someone, a happy “accident”, classes…so many sources!

  11. I love browsing through quilting magazines for ideas, or attending a quilt show! I always find so much inspiration in the work of others!

  12. I can’t wait to get some of the Soft and Stable to try.

  13. I get my inspiration from the look of the fabric & that very first “what if” moment. Then I have too many what if’s & get bogged down with decisions – so my what if’s then get put on the “one day” list LOL.

  14. Nina from Norway

    I have order a pattern and the Soft and Stable and are exsaitet to try
    it .All the best Nina from Norway

  15. I find inspiration when I attend local quilt shows. It
    seems there is always something that just “clicks” with me and I want to go
    right home and start sewing!

  16. My local quilt shop mainly, because I have so many friends there, and we are always working on projects together. I also get inspiration from quilt shows because I see things there that I’ve not seen before.

  17. Inspiration comes from Quilt books, Magazines, Patterns and lots of quilt sites on the internet. Annie’s will be a great inspiration along with Studio Kat. Keep up the wonderful projects, ladies. Mary S.

  18. I get my inspiration from quilt blogs, magazines, quilt shops, and from the fabric itself. I’ve been known to run my hands over the same bolt of fabric several times. Fabric can speak to me, ya know? Thanks for sharing your talents!

  19. I look through the many ideas I’ve tucked into notebooks. If I can’t find it there…I go to the internet and sites like yours!

    Susan in San Antonio

  20. Sally in Saudi

    When I need inspiration, I turn to my computer. Whenever I see something I like, I save it. When I need inspiration, I browse through the pictures for ideas.

  21. I’m inspired by many things, just walking in a quilt shop or taking a trip can inspire me with more ideas than I have time to work on, so I save some things in a journal for later. When my husband and I take road trips, he always drives and I like to observe the world going by, sometimes finding inspiration or studying landscape elements needed for a quilt. Sometimes a challenge inspires me and some of my patterns were inspired by local shop owners requests or needing help with fabrics that weren’t selling because quilters didn’t know how to they could use them.

  22. Kat, I am pleased that you include other creative designers in your blog. When you are unable to attend sewing shows, it is not easy to discover what is new in the field. I have Annie’s new “notions” on my shopping list for next month as well as your ebook and some patterns. My mind is filled with possibilities using texture magic.and some fabric I purchased in Hawaii.

    Yesterday, I was shopping at Macy’s with a friend. In a large area filled with purses, I could not find one that pleaded with me to take it home, very sad. Not to mention the prices. Somehow, I find it difficult to spend $100 plus for a fabric purse in a so so design and so so print. Thank heavens I can sew! Now, if you would come up with some designs that work for lightweight leathers, hint hint….

  23. I am most often inspired by need – real or perceived! I enjoy a varity of hand-worked crafts, including sewing, and I always have a project ready to travel with. Creating a custom fitted tote to organize the tools and supplies enhances the pleasure I get from my projects. And I really like tote bags!! lol. Donna M.

  24. Obtaining inspiration for projects can vary, but most of the time I see a
    pattern,purse,or garment somewhere and think– I’d like to make that !!
    Then the creative juices will start to flow! The next thing i know I have
    pulled fabrics and started planning etc.
    thanks for sharing with us. Jean R

  25. I have a day job thats ok but I would love to be a full time Sewer, Quilter, bagmaker among other wannabes. I do all my projects at night and weekends when I make time. I look thru crafts books, websites, quilting stores, quilt shows, craft shows and friends for my future projects. I have a cabinet of projects to do when I retire but every now and then I really get inspired to sew awhile especially totes and purses.I have a thing for bags.

  26. Kat, enjoyed your interview.
    Sometimes when I wake up early my mind is racing and I get up and write my ideas in my notebook. I like a quiet place, usually my favorite spot in the house. Later, if I need ideas I will look in my notebook and surprise myself. Inspiration is all around us, you just need to look.
    Enjoy your site and handbags, lindarr,

  27. I, like all the others, have found inspiration in so many different ways. Something I have seen on TV, a craft magazine, my friends newly purchased purse, people watching, and just recently I bought a “Wall Art” on clearance to use as a baby quilt pattern. Blogger won’t let me sign in. Connie H.

  28. I find inspiration in my quilt groups. Somehow getting together with other quilts really gets me going on what I want to do.

  29. I get inspiration from catalogs that I look through and blogs that I read. There are so many wonderful ideas in the blogs I read.

    esterling1923 at gmail dot com