17 December 2013

A Day in the Life of The Village Haberdashery

Do you guys know The Village Haberdashery? Run by the lovely Annie Barker, this shop sells an exquisite selection of fabrics and sewing patterns both online and from its bricks and mortar place in West Hampstead, London. Annie set up shop while working a full time busy job and now juggles business management with motherhood of her gorgeous little boy Harvey. How does she do it? And what's in her sandwich? Read this month's A Day in the Life to get a peek behind the scenes...


"Harvey wakes us up around 7am and we start the day with a cuddle. Then I get our breakfast ready so we can all sit down together to eat before Ed heads off to work. After breakfast I play with Harvey until his morning nap, when I have a little time to get myself ready and tick off some housekeeping chores like laundry and dishes.

When I launched The Village Haberdashery online in February 2012 I was working full time and running the business from home in the evenings. I was still working full time when we opened our bricks and mortar shop in West Hampstead last December so until Harvey was born I could only open the shop at weekends. Now, we’re open every day! After Harvey was born I hired an assistant, Caroline, who comes in four days a week. She handles most of the orders that come through the website, helps me with Harvey and makes it possible for me to take a day off once in a while – usually Sundays.

The shop is just a few minutes’ walk from our flat so I pack Harvey up in a sling and leave right before 10am when we open. Harvey has come to work with me nearly every day of his life and he loves it in the shop. He is delighted by the customers, especially the children, and greets everyone with a huge smile. I opened the shop when I was pregnant so sometimes people stop in just to see him! I know it will be difficult to have him in the shop when he starts crawling, but we’re taking each stage (and its challenges) as it comes.

Once we’re in the shop I catch up on email and then dive into my to do list. I choose every one of the thousands of products we have in the shop so a big part of my job is meeting with distributors, talking with designers, conducting customer surveys and reading blogs to get ideas so I can make good decisions. Since we opened the West Hampstead shop classes have been a really important part of our business, so I spend time working with our teachers to develop new classes and plan our schedule. I also handle all of our marketing, which includes liaising with bloggers who create projects and tutorials for our website, writing our weekly newsletter, blogging and sharing day to day updates on Instagram and Twitter. Throughout the day deliveries of new fabric, patterns, notions and trims arrive and I add them to our product catalogue as quickly as possible.

Harvey can usually be found playing on a quilt at my feet and I take short, frequent breaks to make sure he’s occupied and happy. We have lunch around 12:30. Harvey is eight months old but he still just fits into his Bumbo (a funny little baby chair) so I feed him on our table in the shop which is pretty entertaining for any customers who pop in around lunchtime! I usually just have something quick, like cheese and crackers. On Saturdays I treat myself to an egg and avocado or peanut butter and bacon sandwich from The Kitchen Table, the amazing cafĂ© next door.

When Caroline is in the shop I have a bit more flexibility so I try to plan meetings and errands for those days. For example on Tuesday I dropped Harvey off with Caroline in the shop at 10 and then made a quick trip to pick up last minute party supplies for our first birthday party. When I got back I met with a new teacher who proposed a class on printmaking and went over the details so we could book it into the schedule in February. After lunch I finalised our newsletter, which goes out every Wednesday. I usually try to include a piece of good content as the newsletter lead, like a project tutorial, free pattern or designer interview, so it’s something our customers look forward to receiving. Next, I met with a fabric distributor who had a surplus of gorgeous fabric he wanted to show me – normally we place orders months in advance but I was so taken with this collection of soft, textured cotton that I bought it on the spot! Finally, Caroline and I went over our schedule for preparing and shipping December’s Village Stash Society bundles – part of a stash-building club we designed for quilters.

Caroline and I take turns staying late when we have evening classes or our Thursday knitting night. When it’s my turn, Ed picks up Harvey at the shop as soon as he gets off work and puts him to bed. If I’m not staying late I leave at 5pm so I can have a bit of playtime with Harvey before we start his evening routine, which involves dinner, bath and bed by 6:30pm. I read out loud to him from the New Yorker or Vanity Fair while he’s in the bath – the only time I usually have for reading! Once Harvey’s in bed I get dinner going for Ed and I, or if he’s home early enough he’ll do the cooking. Mexican food is my favourite, so we make fajitas or tacos at least once a week.

After dinner it’s back to work answering emails, updating the website, writing a blog post or catching up on bookkeeping. Ed writes a popular football blog, so we can usually be found side by side on our laptops. There is always more work to do but we usually try to say “tools down” around 10pm and watch a show together – Homeland, The Newsroom, Mad Men or whatever our current favourite is – with a big cup of mint tea. After that it’s bedtime and if we’re lucky Harvey doesn’t wake us up until morning!"


Keep up the good work, Annie! Readers, if you fancy visiting The Village Haberdashery, I'll be teaching my evening class for absolute beginners, Learn to Sew: Tilly's Bow Belt, on Thurs 16 January (only one place left so get in quick) and Thurs 27 February (just announced so should be lots of space). Hope to see you there!


  1. Tilly...what a great series. I love to see women making a living at creative enterprises like Annie's! Annie's shop is so pretty, too. Happy Holidays to you both!

  2. Really interesting, thank you! It sounds like a lot of hard work but I would love to be able to do something similar one day :)

  3. I love reading these day in the life posts and it's great to see you sharing your extensive readership with other businesses. That looks like a lovely shop for a browse and over-excited purchasing session!

  4. Phew!! That was a busy day!! With all that energy and stamina she must be still in her 20s!?
    Glad I don't have that frenetically paced life anymore, it is hard to maintain. Hopefully Annie will be able to employ another assistant soon and get some more family time and Annie-time.

  5. Phew!! I'm amazed Annie manages to get all that work done on a daily basis! Hats off to her and all the working-mom-small-business-owners out there!

  6. What a lovely boy! I live in SW London, but will try to get up to your shop in the new year. Always pleased to see another fabric shop opening,.

  7. Lovely blog! Glad I stumbled on here today and teaching others to sew is a great idea too. One of these days I will need to learn to sew properly!
    May x
    PS: 'Walking In May' is running a 1920s inspired *GIVEAWAY*, find out more or enter: http://www.walkinginmay.com/2013/12/giveaway-happy-3rd-blog-anniversaryand.html

  8. What a lovely post Tilly and really helped you see how much work goes into making a wonderful fabric firm work - what a delightful baby, he is a gem just like his Mum. Your post made me smile Tilly thanks so much
    Big Christmas hugs

  9. I'm a fan of Village Haberdashery and a member of their brilliant Stash Society :) This was fascinating to hear about all the work that goes into running it all - I don't know how Annie does it!


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