Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Story Behind Five & Dime

Five & Dime Fabric for Penny Rose Fabrics by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

My first fabric collection, Five & Dime, comes out this month through the wonderful people at Penny Rose Fabrics. It seems like a million years ago now that I made those first sketches on paper for what would eventually become a happy set of prints centered around a 1940's dime store.

Five & Dime Fabric for Penny Rose Fabrics by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

This collection comes from my deep love of vintage style and design, much of which was instilled in me by my parents and grandparents. Even though I was born in 1977, I grew up surrounded by movies and music of the 1930's, 40's, and 50's. I was enthralled by musicians like the Andrews Sisters, Glenn Miller, Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald. My favorite movie stars included Cary Grant, Doris Day, Katharine Hepburn, John Wayne, and Bob Hope. And every afternoon, I was glued to our television set to watch Zorro, the original Mickey Mouse Club, and classic sitcoms like I Love Lucy or The Dick Van Dyke Show. My grandmother collected antiques, and she often took my sister and me along to visit her favorite shops in Southern California, always giving us each a few dollars to buy a vintage "treasure" of our own. Most of my hours, though, were spent buried in books from the town library and our own family shelves. I read voraciously, including favorites like the original Boxcar Children books and every copy of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys that I could get my hands on. So when it came time to work on my first fabric collection, I knew that I wanted it to be an illustrated version of this time period that I had come to love so much. 

As I was developing Five & Dime, I was specifically inspired by two of my favorite classic movies The Best Years of Our Lives and Sunset Boulevard, both of which feature scenes in drug stores (including the famous Schwab's Pharmacy featured in the latter). Drug stores and dime stores weren't the same thing, but there's a similar feel to both establishments. Technically speaking, the prices listed in my designs are not all historically accurate, since prices began to go up in the 1940's when stores had to raise them in order to make a profit. 
There's actually a vintage five & dime store building in Fredericksburg, TX which is still in operation -- at higher prices, of course! -- and my daughters loved visiting it with me as part of my research.

Believe it or not, I even put together a music playlist while I was working on this collection:

Sentimental Journey by the Les Brown Orchestra with Doris Day
Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home by Jo Stafford with Billy Butterfield (V-disc edition)
Song of the Volga Boatmen by Glenn Miller
Sweet Lorraine by Frank Sinatra
Opus No. 1 by Tommy Dorsey
It’s Only a Paper Moon by Ella Fitzgerald & the Delta Rhythm Boys
Straighten Up and Fly Right by the King Cole Trio
Tico Tico by the Andrews Sisters
On the Sunny Side of the Street by Benny Goodman & Peggy Lee

The links above will take you to recordings of these songs on YouTube. Every one of these titles is from the 1940s, and I listened to them constantly while I worked on this line. Nothing transported me faster to the time period than the music of these amazing artists!

It's been so interesting to approach fabric design as a quilter. I wanted to create the sort of prints that I look for in a collection when I purchase fabric. Color is always important to me, and I wanted to be sure that my collection included a full spectrum of colors (my color scheme was actually inspired by the cloth bindings of vintage books in our family library). I love text prints, low volume fabrics, and designs for fussy cutting, so I tried to include all of those options as well. Keep in mind that the fabrics shown in this post are all strike-offs, so the final colors will be slightly different in a few of the prints.

Five & Dime Fabric for Penny Rose Fabrics by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

I did lots of research into the dime store phenomenon as well as 1940's packaging before I started illustrating. Vintage packaging absolutely fascinates me. I can't get enough of the colors, the styling, the typography. My illustrations hardly do them justice, but it was so much fun to immerse myself in artwork from authentic merchandise before I started sketching my Packaging print. 

Five & Dime Fabric for Penny Rose Fabrics by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

I wanted a stripe of some kind for binding, so the Diamonds print was born, partially inspired by one of my favorite childhood movies, Bringing Up Baby with Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. It prominently features an old song called "I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby" containing a line that says "Diamond bracelets Woolworth's doesn't sell, baby." Woolworth's, of course, was the most famous dime store chain in history.

Five & Dime Fabric for Penny Rose Fabrics by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

I am constantly using lists to keep myself on top of things in my personal life, so I had to include a Checklist print. It makes a wonderful supporting basic for the collection, and I know I'm going to be using this one in lots of upcoming projects.

Five & Dime Fabric for Penny Rose Fabrics by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

The design team at Penny Rose suggested that I create the Merchandise print, so I spent an afternoon sketching out little groups of items that you would have found in a dime store. This was another print created with fussy cutting in mind, and I loved drawing these tiny sewing notions, toys, greeting cards, books, toiletries, and candies.

Five & Dime Fabric for Penny Rose Fabrics by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

My first steady job when I was 17 years old was working at Howie's Market, a little grocery store in my home town of Sierra Madre, California. A gentleman used to hand letter all the written price ads in the store windows, and that was part of the inspiration behind the Price Tags design. I also modeled this after the hanging price signs in the drug store scenes of The Best Years of Our Lives (such a wonderful movie, by the way -- I highly recommend it). I absolutely love this print, especially in pink. Wouldn't it make the cutest reusable shopping bags?

Five & Dime Fabric for Penny Rose Fabrics by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

It was so fun to put together the details on the Receipts print, coming up with stories behind each of the customers and their accompanying shopping list. This design was definitely inspired by my love for vintage paper ephemera. All the handwriting on these receipts is my own.

Five & Dime Fabric for Penny Rose Fabrics by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

I had originally planned to do a colored floral print on a white background, but I when I started playing with the colors in Adobe Illustrator, I found that I loved the crisp look of white shapes on a colored background. You'll notice peaches, pears, and bluebonnets sprinkled among the flowers -- all a nod to my new home state of Texas.


This collection was an absolute delight to create and so very personal for me. Just for fun, I tucked the names of all four of my husband's and my grandmothers into the packaging and receipts prints. Jeanie Doll, for instance, was my grandfather's special nickname for my grandmother. It gives me so much joy to know that she's a part of this collection even though she's no longer here to see it.

I'll be adding a Fabric page on this blog soon and would love to include shops that are selling Five & Dime. If you're a shop owner who'll be carrying it, please email me or leave a comment on this post so that I can add a link to your website. And if you're sewing with Five & Dime, please be sure to tag me on Instagram @fabricmutt, using the hashtag #fiveanddimefabric. I am so excited to see what you make with these prints!

Thanks for letting me share with you today, sweet friends. Happy sewing!

35 comments:

  1. I love this! I worked at Woolworths when I was a teen & these prints really take me back! Congrats on your awesome collection

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  2. Love hearing more about your line!! I'm a vintage soul too and I love bringing up baby 😉 Can't wait to see more of your sweet fabrics!

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  3. Can't wait to sew with your beautiful fabric! I live in San Antonio so surely local shops will carry it???

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  4. Great playlist. You need to add some Woody Herman though! :-)
    (Love the fabrics too. Especially the receipts).

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  5. I love it all! I know Howie's Market. My aunt lived in Sierra Madre and my grandparents lived in San Gabriel. Many happy memories.

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  6. I'm pretty sure I will be hoarding this collection.

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  7. Love the backstory and the prints! Brings back many happy memories of my own childhood

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  8. This collection is gorgeous. I love the diamond print and the check marked boxes. Congratulations on your fabric line.

    FYI: It's KathArine Hepburn. I should know...Katharine is my wife's name. Two As. Her mother used the spelling of Hepburn's first name.

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  9. I loved reading the story behind your prints, Heidi! It's so fun to get a glimpse into the inspirations and the reason for each print and colour. And I love that you included family names. What a sweet touch :)

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  10. I really enjoyed reading this post. The fabric is lovely, I can think of things I would like to make with it already! I watched all of those shows, but not all of the movies, so I'm adding those to my list. I have memories of Five and Dimes when I was a kid, not only Woolworth's but others that we would visit. They are fond memories for me. I still crave the Woolworth cheesecake now and then . . .

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  11. Love your fabrics and your stories! My mom's nickname was Mary Doll! When we went marketing and to the bank and to pay bills in the local town we always went to Woolworth's! You've brought back some very fond memories. Looking forward to sewing with your collection!

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  12. I love it, wonderful collection! And thank you for sharing what motivated you.

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  13. Thanks for this peek behind the scenes, Heidi! I absolutely love this collection. The receipts and checklists are my favorites, and it's so touching that you included your ancestors in the design : )

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  14. Such a wonderful collection. My birthday was two weeks ago and in one of my cards was money tucked in, "for that fabric collection five & dime that you are so eagerly awaiting"👏😀 Congrats on your first collection.

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  15. Your new fabric line is so super cute - and so vintage special!! Love it!

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  16. I'm so excited for you! I can't wait to sew with your new fabric, Heidi! I love hearing about your inspirations behind the illustrations. Now, I'll be singing I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby all day. That's good though :) Congratulations friend! ��

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  17. Oh WOW! Words simply cannot express how much I ADORE this fabric. Guess I'd better start working some overtime!!! I have a new fave to look out for. xoxo

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  18. I love these fabrics! I hope they will be carried by some shops here in Canada. I can see them in pouches or purses.

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  19. I've been eagerly awaiting your fabrics since the first sneak peek you gave so long ago! I don't think I've been so excited about a line, or been so happy for a designer, in such a long time. Congratulations, my sweet friend! You hard work is paying off in spades!

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  20. Oh these are such sweet prints! I still remember the five and dime of my hometown and the creak of the hardwood floors, and the unique conveyor system they had to get merchandise from upstairs to downstairs. I also miss Woolworth's in my current "home" town. There is a vintage five and dime like you describe, a couple towns away from me now, with "current" pricing.

    I wonder if Westwood Acres Fabrics will be carrying your fabric bundle? I'm on a fabric diet but I'd love to purchase this line.

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    1. Lol "fabric diet." Love that term. Yeah I'm on a "fabric diet" too as I sort through and reorganize my fabric stash. But, just like my food diet, I keep getting derailed by some of the "yummy" new fabric lines being served up!

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  21. Such a cute line! I used to go to Woolworth's when I was in high school with my girlfriend. We'd shop and then have lunch at the counter. And don't forget W. T. Grant's! I hope my LQS will be carrying your line. Much success!

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  22. What a wonderful article!! I got my love of this music from my parents and Gram and passed it along to my own kids. Can't wait to use this fabric line!!
    Loved reading this, thank you! :)

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  23. As a child of the 50's, this brings back fond memories of visiting Woolworths and Winns and also getting ice cream at the soda fountain in the drugstore. Soooo many fun things to look at and occasionally buy with a few nickels and dimes. And since I live in San Antonio I often visit the five and dime in Fredericksburg. Such a fun stroll down memory lane. I just adore your new line and can't wait to get my hands on it. You should be extremely proud of your homage to this era and to your ancestors.

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  24. I have been waiting for this line for so long! Ever since you posted a pattern on your blog with the sewing machine and other items on it I have had a post a note on my computer to start looking for the fabric. Thank goodness it is finally here. Now to find a shop I can get it from. Will you be selling the pattern I am talking about? I sure hope so. I could go on and on about all the things I love in this line!

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  25. What an inspiring story Heidi! Your fabrics are personal to you on so many levels. But they will also appeal to a wide audience. While I'm not American and we don't have five and dime stores here, I can really relate to the films and songs you mention. I learnt a great deal about America from movies and listening to your music. I hope I can find this locally. If not, I may just have to order it online!

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  26. Such a fun line Heidi!! I'll be looking for it in my favorite shops. I love the stories you told about how you designed each of the fabric prints. I can't wait to sew with it, and I can't wait to see what you sew with it!!! Hugs, H

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  27. This is absolutely delightful! And I love your playlist. :)

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  28. Dear Heidi,
    Wonderful post of your fabric lines and very well written descriptions of the "story behind the styles". I just learned today that we share a favorite movie: "The Best Years of Our Lives". I am so glad that I'm related to you! And proud of you.
    Love, Mary

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  29. I'm new here, AND i'M TOTALLY IN LOVE WITH YOUR COLLECTION! I love how you have carefully thought out and even have music be part of this fabric design. Absolutely wonderful. I'm so hoarding this whole collection. I'm from Singapore so it will be harder for me to get the fabric?? Please let me know

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  30. Thank you for sharing this awesome story! Love it, and the fabric!

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  31. Hi. First of all, Love the stories behind your line. I have the same memories plus more cuz I was born in 1957. Old B & W movies and photos were and are part of my life. You are a WONDERFUL story teller and your fabrics are Everything! ❤��

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  32. I have been waiting and waiting for this line. Dime stores I always loved them. We had a great one in this town for a long. Please tell me where I can buy the line.

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    1. Thanks, Barbara! Check the My Fabric page on the blog for a list of shops!

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  33. Do you know if any of these locations, which have an online shop, are carrying a fat quarter bundle of all 21 pieces? I noticed one of them only had a bundle of 10; can't remember which place though. I just looked at a random few.
    Thank you.

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Aren't you the sweetest!! Thanks for making my day by leaving a comment!

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