7 August 2011

A Day in the Life of Rachel Hart - Ray Stitch

Have you ever dreamed of running your own haberdashery? Sourcing and selling beautiful fabrics and dreamy notions? Rachel Hart did, so she opened online store Ray Stitch - one of my absolute favourite websites to browse. If that isn't enough excitement and achievement, they're now about to open an IRL shop in Islington, London in September. "But how many coffees does she drink in a day?" you cry. Lucky for us, she's going to tell all in this month's A Day in the Life...


"For the last couple of years I have been running Ray Stitch from the house where I live with my husband and 3 daughters. My husband Marcus is an architect and we built our timber-framed house 10 years ago. For a while it was able to generously accommodate the business as it grew but now we are bursting at the seams and it’s time to move out. The plan was always to have a proper shop for Ray Stitch and after many months of searching I have found the perfect one. So my typical working day at the moment is not typical at all, it’s a unique and very exciting time planning and fitting out the new shop.

I get up at 6.45, wake the children at 7.15 then spend a crazy hour making breakfasts and packed lunches and generally bossing people about. My working day begins after waving goodbye to Marcus and the girls at 8.15 and greeting Michelle and Sam who arrive at 8.30.

For the first year or so I ran Ray Stitch on my own, getting help from sewers, stylists and techy people when needed. Clearly I had to build the business up before it could support full-time staff but I was never completely happy working on my own, I like a buzz around me. Now I work with Michelle who manages pretty much everything to do with the online shop and Sam who is a recent addition and is planning and organising the cafĂ© we’ll have as part of the new shop. It great to be able to share the load - Michelle is amazing, she is brilliantly organised and is constantly having good ideas. She also has an excellent eye for lovely things borne from her years at Selvedge Magazine. Sam is a man! – a bit flummoxed by the world of sewing but very at home in the world of delicious food.


First thing we all snuggle down with our emails. At the moment I’m dealing with Michael the web designer who has recently upgraded the website and is now doing various other unfathomable things with it in cyberland, Nik the joiner who is overseeing the team of electricians, decorators, plumbers and joiners (it feels like I’m building from scratch!) at the shop and Jane, the graphic designer who has designed the new shop front, the packaging and bits and pieces for the shop display. I have fairly firm ideas about the look and feel of Ray Stitch but will never cease to be impressed by the broadness and clarity of thinking that seems to be characteristic of graphic designers. Jane has come up with lots of clever little packaging ideas, so simple I should have thought of them myself but sadly never could.

Michelle puts all the orders together at the moment but I’d like to start doing them again soon. I love gathering up the bits and pieces people have chosen for their project, combining fabrics and trims in really well thought out ways, it’s great to see. And when we get into the shop I’m particularly looking forward to cutting fabric on our brand new, 3 metre long, solid oak cutting table with inlaid measuring rule!

Lunch times have been fairly fun lately. Sam has had us testing out sandwich fillings and sampling the wares of various bakeries and patisseries we might use to supply the shop. He prepares a ‘smorgasbord’ and Michelle and I mmm and ooo and chomp away, neither of us are very discerning testers - we like everything. Sam and I had quite an experience recently going round all the different coffee roasters to taste coffee and choose a supplier. We’d down 3 or 4 cups of super fresh coffee whilst listening carefully to all the ins and outs of various beans and blends then come out so zinging we couldn’t remember a thing we’d been told or which coffee was which. Sam was so caffeinated on one occasion that he fell off his bike! In the end, we had to take my friend who is an expert coffee drinker with a very sophisticated palate, she asked all the right questions and chose us an excellent coffee from a very friendly local roastery, Climpson and Sons in Broadway Market. Our coffee machine arrived at the shop last Saturday and tomorrow we’ll all have a full day of barista training - I’m really enjoying learning about coffee, it’s a fascinating art.

Normally in the afternoon I’d have a photographing session if we have new stock, or tweak the website, or order new stock or deal with paperwork. Sadly, I rarely get time to do any sewing these days. If we have things made up as samples we ask Ana to do it, she’s brilliant and super-fast, she can copy anything and will just take away a pile of fabric and return it the next day all made up into clothes – it’s like The Elves and the Shoemaker! When we move into the shop, we’ll have a big sewing room downstairs for classes and workshops so I’ll get back into then. The list of things I want to make is very, very long.

At the moment I usually go over to the shop in the afternoon to see how things are progressing. I must say it still looks like a bit of a building site to me and it’s hard to imagine us moving in in 6 days time but the ever-positive Nik assures me that all is on target and will come together beautifully at the last minute as these things do – I love him! At times I’ve found the whole thing completely nerve-wracking but Nik has taken on the job with all it’s last minute changes and mad ideas without a flicker of negativity, he’s the jolliest joiner in the world.

So, I’m very close to realising the dream. I started Ray Stitch because I always wanted to run my own business and because as a keen sewer and knitter I was frustrated by the lack of inspiring high street shops selling the kind of things I wanted to buy. I decided to create my own and now I’ve almost made it happen, my typical day is about to change big time, I really cant wait!"


We can't wait either, Rachel! I think a blogger meet-up at the new shop will be in order - what do you think, readers?