*Note that the sound quality is not as crisp as usual in this interview. Carolyn is a fantastic guest and I hope you’ll stick with it nonetheless.

On today’s episode of the Craft Industry Alliance podcast we’re talking about elevating haberdashery with my guest, Carolyn Denham.

Together, Carolyn and her husband Roderick Field are the owners of Merchant & Mills, a fabric, notions, and patterns company based in the UK. Carolyn founded the company in 2010 with the intention of bringing style and purpose to the overlooked world of sewing. Merchant & Mills products are stocked in retailers all over the world and the company has collaborated with London’s V&A Museum and with Alexander McQueen. They’ve published three books (affiliate link) that aim to enable and inspire more people to find the satisfaction of simply making. Carolyn has a degree in fashion design and has worked in New York, Italy, and London.

We begin by talking about Carolyn’s career before she began Merchant & Mills. In the early 2000s, when she initially came up with the idea for a company that would sell sewing patterns, everyone told her it wouldn’t work so she didn’t pursue it. A serious health crisis several years later brought the idea to light again and helped her to realize that it was indeed her dream.

Merchant and Mill 10" scissors

The Trapeze by Merchant and Mills

The Trapeze

We talk about the very deliberate branding and packaging that makes Merchant & Mills products so distinctive. Carolyn explains the often very slow process she goes through when deciding to bring a new product to market and the risks and rewards involved in choosing to only release classic products with timeless appeal.

Merchant and Mills Spanish Lace Pins

Miyoshi Indigo from Merchant and Mills

Miyoshi Indigo 

Carolyn and Roderick work from the Merchant & Mills shop and warehouse in Rye, East Sussex and they’ve recently added a teaching space so that customers who make the trip from London to visit Merchant & Mills are able to have truly memorable experience. It’s not very far by train and would make a great day trip!

And, of course, I ask Carolyn to recommend great stuff she’s loving right now. Carolyn recommends:

  • the gardens at Great Dixter (these are nearby Merchant & Mills)
  • photographer Saul Leiter
  • collecting natural materials, such as goose feathers, to for artistic play

Keep up with Merchant & Mills on Instagram and shop their products at your local fine sewing shop or online at merchantandmills.com.

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Hello Atelier Podcast

Today’s show is sponsored by Hello Atelier, the podcast that takes you inside the artist’s studio. Join host Betsy Blodgett as she sits down with quilters, textile artists, ceramicists, painters and more – many in their very own studios. Further immerse yourself in creative worlds by visiting www.helloatelier.org to see photos from our studio visits and links to each artist’s work. Then, sign up for the Hello Atelier newsletter for bonus interviews with makers and entrepreneurs – past guests include Craft Industry Alliance’s Abby Glassenberg!

Hello Atelier is available on your favorite podcast app. Check out our most recent episode, an interview with quilt designer Luke Haynes. If you like what you hear, please subscribe and give us a rating.

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You can listen to this episode by clicking on the green arrow below, or subscribe to the Craft Industry Alliance podcast on iTunes or on Stitcher so you never miss an episode. If you enjoy the show, tell a friend about it! Thank you so much.

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