Today I am talking to Megan who is the owner of the online fabric boutique Dolly Henry. I first came across the beautifully curated fabrics of the Dolly Henry boutique when my lovely friend Rhiannon bought some of the fabrics for my Birthday. I was amazed that I had never come across the quilting fabrics that Megan curates and so my love of this little boutique began!
Hi Megan. I very much appreciate you taking the time to join me on the blog today. Can you please tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
Hi Alana, Thank you so much, I am so excited and delighted to be here! A bit about
me…right! I’m a young designer, blogger, maker and business owner. I live on a farm in Queensland, with my family and (many) pets. My adventure into the creative jungle started in my late teens with a handmade clothing business which took a different turn last year when my health could no longer sustain the demanding hours required of a fulltime seamstress. I opened a fabric destash shop on Etsy to help pay the bills and one thing lead to another as it so often can, and before long I was the owner of a little online fabric shop!
Who is ‘Dolly Henry’ and how did you come up with this catchy name for your
Hmmmmmm….well it seems I have a knack for naming things after the animals around here! They have such funny personalities and are a big part of my life so I guess that might be why my last business was named after my pet chicken of all things. This one is a little dearer to me though. Dolly Henry was the name my sister (also a young blogger/maker) and I chose when we decided to try having a handmade label together. However, because we were already running our own businesses on top of that, and had just opened a popup shop, Dolly Henry kind of just remained in a box, waiting to be rediscovered. That happened late last year when I was trying to come up with a name for my blog to share my new creative adventures and as we had already registered the domain name for Dolly Henry I just went with that….it was a very casual decision! The name itself comes from our two dogs we got them together as puppies. Mine is called Henry and my sister’s dog is called Holly, but is so often called Dolly. They are little shih tzu crosses and are probably more ‘furbabies’ than dogs…pretty sure Henry thinks he is a people!
How has your business evolved over time?
Oh it’s always evolving and going places that I never expected. For me, one business has lead to another….not sure if I have a problem there or not lol! It started off as a very creative market stall based business, which developed into my more serious fashion label which in turn, out of necessity, became what it is today a small fabric shop and creative blog under the new name Dolly Henry. I have had different business names throughout time, but this one really feels right to me because of it’s namesake. The funny thing is, I feel like I am doing a full circle right now and am coming back to where I started…and at the same time, have a real sense of finally being in the right place, with the right mix of things. I am very passionate about creativity, it’s so important and the world wouldn’t even be the teeniest bit the same without it. Small business is an adventure you have to be prepared to evolve as your life and customers change, otherwise you are in danger of becoming a bit of a dinosaur…and we know how that worked out!
You find the prettiest fabrics Megan! Do you have a method for curating your
fabrics or do you follow your heart?
Oh thank you so much! Is there a method to my madness…hmmm.. Lol. Yes and no and maybe all at the same time. If you mean method by being super organized with a notebook beside the bed for capturing late night ideas, inspiring mood boards dotted on the walls and a daily appointment in front of the computer to do Pinterest and coffee….then no. It sounds good in my imagination but in reality, my head is in a constant spin cycle and I hardly write or sketch anything down. I am prone to making split second decisions so I guess I am a very much go with my heart type of girl. I definitely try to stay to my taste because while I am aware that everybody has different tastes and you need variety, I have had a lot of experience buying/patting/stashing/staring at fabric and I kind of know what will be popular now. It makes sense I guess to buy a whole collection of fabrics, but I don’t often do this because you can guarantee there are prints that just don’t sell that well. So as a small business in particular, I prefer to be really choosy about what I do get, stay very true to me and my colours. I do try and make sure my range coordinates and I have a ‘brand’ idea for Dolly Henry revolving about somewhere in that scatter brain of mine that I do try to adhere to. There is something for everyone out there, so I try to remember that all I need to be is me because there is always someone, somewhere who will share your taste in style!
Now I could talk about pretty fabrics all day long so I must ask what is currently
your favourite fabric?
Oh gosh!!! That question is SO hard. There are just too many amazing designs and styles out there and on any one day, it can be different. I confuse the buttons out of everyone I know because one day I’ll be Vintage, then next Nautical, then Geometric modern…and so on. Consistently, I love tiny florals, mixed with naturals like linens. I love gold, pink and aqua as a rule and it shows up most often in my decorating/colour choices. I also love Bambi deer! But really, I just love any fabric that is done really well and the colour combination is on point. I am really fussy about colours going together well!
You are also a seamstress, which makes complete sense considering you curate gorgeous fabrics. What sort of things do you sew and do you sell your makes?
I know…it makes so much sense, right? (cue more excuses for hoarding, I mean stashing a few nice fabrics) I sew everything from the fun to the practical. The practical being when I had to whip up some pouches quickly for an abandoned wallaby joey we found in our paddock. I am just dabbling in patchwork type items and I know it’s obvious, but it is such a different way of using and putting together fabrics than when you are garment sewing. The two are poles apart and I have started making little projects not only because they are quick and relaxing but I also realized early on in the fabric shop adventure, that while I had garment knowledge downpat, I really needed to understand how people use fabrics in quilting so I could help my customers in the right way, and also curate the fabric accordingly. What is dreadful for a dress can be just perfect in a hexagon and vice
versa. Personally, I still really enjoy designing and making the little girl’s clothing I
just don’t get the same thrill from patchwork that I do from creating a sweet outfit.
As I mentioned earlier with the whole ‘full circle’ thing, I am in the process of designing a party dress line for little girls, which I will sell through an Etsy shop. This time I am going to focus on creating more high end, one of a kind pieces that are really special. I spend a lot of time trying to get the tiny details right and everything perfected, so it makes more sense for me creatively to make more exclusive pieces than running myself into the ground again producing a clothing line that really requires a whole factory of people!
What social media platforms do you prefer for connecting with other creatives and customers?
Instagram! Need I say more? I encourage anyone who is in the creative way of things to get on there. No it’s not just for selfies, teenagers, celebrities and hashtags incase that’s what the word conjures up for you. It’s got some seriously talented, amazing, and generous crafty people on there and it’s such an easy, inviting little platform to not only connect with others but show off your own makes. You can connect and chat with customers, make new friends, participate in craft swaps…heaps of amazing stuff. Get onto it if you haven’t!
What has been the greatest challenge since starting your creative business and how have you overcome that obstacle?
Is it undignified to say the financial end of things? Would Lady Violet from Downton Abbey tuttut? Balancing time and money are probably some of the biggest obstacles we all face in small, creative businesses. It requires ingenuity and many, many hours in the think tank. It’s definitely been an obstacle to me, but I might be crazy but I don’t really listen to the ‘no’ word. I turn it around and around in my head until I can come up with a solution and I give things a go. I honestly still have no idea how we managed to hold a popup shop! And if I can’t afford to do it, I start working on ideas as to how I can work with what I have, to raise the funds to eventually get to my goal. Strangely, it’s quite fun when I leave the stressful part out. It’s exciting and satisfying to really have to work at something and develop ways to defy the odds. I do make sacrifices, I don’t go out much, buy much or have holidays but I am actually really happy as long as I can create, so it’s not a hardship. You choose a small business because you want a different life, so trying to fit into the nine to five conventional system while being very unconventional just seems pointless to me.
Describe a typical ‘Dolly Henry’ work day?
Typically, I get up around seven, I try to avoid touching a digital device until later in the day so I have a cup of tea and take Henry for a walk or help feed the chickens. I might pet a calf or two along the way. Then back inside around nine/ten and often I cook a breakfast/lunch before continuing with the day. If there are orders to pack, I get them done ready for the post office run in the afternoon. If I am having a ‘free’ day, I might do some creative time in the form of crochet or sewing, dreaming up a blog post or two. I also might make some new fat quarter bundles. The afternoon is usually a good time to take some photos outside on the verandah, I normally batch do them for instagram or my blog post as it’s more time efficient. Somewhere in my day I have checked and replied to emails and posted/socialized on Instagram, and I try to do some blogging when inspiration strikes. Honestly, there is no typical Dolly Henry day, every single day is different. Recently, because I was feeling so overwhelmed with trying to get it all done, I cut back on my social media time and got stricter with my email routine it doesn’t take that long when you just get on and get off. I also wrote out a weekly schedule, not because I think I will be able to adhere to it life on a farm can be quite unpredictable but I have found it has helped me not have to think about what I should be doing and just do it! At the end of the day, I have a sense of getting something accomplished. I have done the fast and furious way of business and then spent months upon end burnt out. These days, I have a plod along approach, getting it all done but in a more consistent, sustainable way bit of tortoise and the hare scenario. I’ve also just put a ‘maker’ day into my schedule where I DON’T even turn on my iphone, emails or Instagram all day or at least until the very end of the day. I don’t get disrupted by notifications this way and get a lot more made/done. It took a bit of reasoning with myself to do this, but in reality, no-one is going to have to wait more than a day for a response from me anyway, so it’s been a good move!
You can find more Dolly Henry at:
Instagram (for personal/blog): @dollyhenrymakes