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Homemade: Emma One Sock

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I believe that life experiences combine to create a set of skills that shape you into the person you’re meant to be. In my own life, I have a combination of photography, writing and sewing abilities that molded Madalynne into its current state. In Linda’s case, owning a children’s clothing line and being a musician made her a fruitful business owner. I first placed an order from her company, Emma One Sock, over the holidays. Ava Geraldine is a wool knit that came from their stock. When I clicked to follow EOS on Facebook, I discovered that their home base was near me – less than an hour away. We finally met on the last day of February, and during our two-hour talk, it was clear that Linda was the type who deeply cared about her business, even after 20 years. She has a passion.

your_story

I grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, and I was always interested in art, music and dance. I was an anomaly in my family, but my next door neighbors were a family of artists, musicians, poets, thinkers, and I probably spent most of my early childhood in their house. They were a big influence on me. I taught myself to play the piano at their house because we didn’t have one until I was 9 or 10-years-old. It was the most exciting day of my life when my parents purchased a baby grand piano to decorate our living room. To them, it was a piece of furniture, but to me, it was a turning point in my life. The piano became my instrument, and I went on to to get a BA and an MA in Music/Piano Performance. During and after college, I taught piano, ear-training and music theory, and did a lot of studio accompanying for voice teachers, etc. Basically, I cobbled together a living as a classical musician. All along, I always made things. I am a self-taught knitter and crocheter. I did a little bit of sewing, a lot of drawing, some painting, macramé, weaving, etc.

After 10 years of making a very modest living as a musician, I took a break from the music world. It was during that time I met my husband, Eric, and started a new life and a family. When our kids were young, I knitted sweaters and made clothes for them. People liked them, so I started a business making handmade children’s clothing that I sold at local craft shows. If memory serves, it was my niece who actually came up with the name Emma One Sock. It is named after our daughter Emma, and our son Aaron, who as a baby, was always pulling off one sock (both are in their 20’s now). The business grew, and being totally self-taught, I started to think that although I had a lot of design ideas, professionals could do a better job. So I found a wonderful patternmaker that graded all by hand, the old-fashioned way! I also found a machine knitter who had a farm in West Virginia, and cutting/sewing contractors in the Philly area. I had sales reps all over the country, selling to little upscale children’s boutiques, and the business kept growing until our house was more of a warehouse storing hundreds of coats, sweaters, dresses, outfits, etc. In the beginning, I just made clothes for infants and toddlers, but eventually went all the way through pre-teen sizes. I designed two collections each year, and it became a TON of work. I had a designer friend who was a huge help in finding fabric and contracting resources, and for 6 years, I ran the business out of our house while Eric was working as a software developer for various start-up companies. Emma One Sock was profitable for the sales reps, and for the children’s clothing stores, but for me, it was an enormous amount of work, very expensive to produce, and it took over our house. After 6 years, I decided I’d had enough and just stopped.

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Every small-scale designer knows how difficult it is to find fabric resources. Often, you have to buy a lot more than you need to meet the minimum fabric quantity for an order or run the risk of making samples out of a fabric that is no longer available when it’s time to fill orders. So when I closed Emma One Sock in 2000, I had a ton of expensive European fabric left over. I began selling it on eBay, and found that there was a very good market for these better fabrics that were not available in local fabric stores. Eventually, I began buying more fabric just to sell. I had all the fabric suppliers in place already so it was easy. Suddenly, Emma One Sock was an online fabric store! I kept the name as it has a lot of sentimental meaning.

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mentor

Although I am self-taught, I have learned a lot from others. Kathryn Brenne, who writes tutorials for our website, is a fountain of knowledge, creativity and skill. I’ve learned so much from her. I also learned quite a lot from Shannon Gifford, a sewing educator who wrote Sewing Guides for Emma One Sock until about 2009 (she passed away in 2010).

I signed up for a sewing retreat a few years ago with Susan Khalje and Kenneth King and it was a fantastic and inspiring experience! It got me sewing again when I hadn’t been. After that, I took a few private lessons with Kenneth in NYC, which was a lot of fun, and that further propelled me. But I do have a “lone wolf” personality and the attitude that I would rather figure it out myself.

As far as running a business, my father was a businessman, so I think it’s in my DNA to be entrepreneurial. As far as running a successful business, Eric has been key – he built EOS into a smooth-running, successful business, has extremely good instincts and tons of experience. He also has developed a management system that is so custom-tailored, and he just keeps tweaking it every day. Just when I think he can’t possibly come up with something to make things even better, he does!

owning-your-own-business

The hardest thing I learned about owning a business is that to be really successful, I had to give up some control. I have a very particular vision of how I want EOS to operate and how I want to take care of my customers. It took a lot of convincing for me to hire people and train them to take over some of my tasks. Eric was instrumental in this.

employeesAll together, there are six of us – Eric and me, and then four employees. We have a fabulous staff and we feel very lucky to have found such intelligent, talented, competent people.  Working in a small studio filled to the brim with fabric, cutting tables, outgoing shipments, etc. it’s important that we get along, and we do! We try to celebrate everyone’s birthday, and I’ve been known to cook lunch for the staff on occasion (I do love to cook). Because we value them so much and want them to stick around, we pay our employees very well. We provide health care benefits and even profit sharing.

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background

I think that my talents combined with Eric’s have synergized to create a unique business. I think that we have a lucky combination of skills and talents that we were either born with or have developed over our lifetimes. We’ve each done a lot of things, and been involved in a lot of different entrepreneurial endeavors.

sourcing_fabrics

I’ve been in this business for a long time and have developed close relationships with many of my suppliers.  The fabric business has taken many twists and turns over the years, and the internet has changed all the rules, but still, I’ve managed to ride these waves of change in the market successfully and hope to continue to find great fabrics for my customers. I have suppliers all over the country and I import from other countries, and I get tons of samples every week to pick from.  (We donate the old samples to your alma mater, Madalynne!) I do go to New York quite frequently as well, as there’s no substitute for scouring for gems in the Fabric District.

machine

Yes, I sew as much as I can! I make most of my clothes these days, and I have an old Pfaff that I would like to replace. I have a Juki serger as well. They are both over 20 years old and still cranking away!

still-want-to-learn

I really want to learn pattern making. And I would like to be able to knock out a lined coat or a jacket with lots of detail without having to reference instructions. I also would love to perfect a basic pants pattern for myself! My body doesn’t seem to want to cooperate. That’s the holy grail for me and is still eluding me.

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38 Comments

  1. Reply

    AJW

    EOS is a great source for distinctive fabrics and provides EXCELLENT customer service. Wonderful to read this story about the start of the business.

    • Reply

      maddie

      I agree! EOS is a rare kind of retailer in today’s industry. I feel honored to have met Linda.

      • Reply

        Liz Runciman

        Thank you so much for providing the profile of Linda! What an inspiration she is! I was so excited to discover her website several years ago as EOS is such a wonderful resource, especially as fabric shops have all but disappeared in Australia. Her descriptions of the fabrics, notes on their care and suggestions for combinations are way above what other online fabric stores provide. One can feel completely confident when ordering online.

  2. Reply

    Lisa Weitzman

    I feel privileged that my children were the recipients of some of those first EOS sweaters and outfits!

    • Reply

      maddie

      I’m sure they were fantastic!

  3. Reply

    Linda

    I’ve been sewing all my life, and while I fit standardized pants patterns when I was young, fitting pants was always an issue until Threads magazine ran an article on drafting a pattern. It was amazingly easy to do!
    http://www.threadsmagazine.com/item/22794/draft-your-own-pattern-for-pants-that-fit

    • Reply

      Linda Podietz

      Thank you Linda, I’ll try it out!

  4. Reply

    Sally Dalrymple

    Thanks, for letting us have a peak into Emma One Sock. She has a fascinating background. I spent time exploring your blog and page and have bookmarked it for further reading. I think I could spend hours reading your site. How fun! I live in a very rural area, but with modern technology and writers, such as yourself, I am able to be anywhere in the world that I desire.

    • Reply

      maddie

      You are too sweet! Thank you!

  5. Reply

    fashiondiva18

    Love your blog Madalynne, very interesting, inspiring and informative postings and articles! I am a big fan of Emma One Sock. Thanks for the article about Linda. I could tell, simply by being a customer of EOS and the excellent service there, that Linda is someone special!

    • Reply

      maddie

      Linda is a very special person – unique, ambitious and passionate.

      • Reply

        elledechene

        Let me just echo what others are saying here. Wonderful article, and I’m glad that Linda brought you to our attention. I’ve subscribed. Also, let me add that on top of everything else, Linda is patient. I’ve dithered over the years, asked her advice on whether a fabric would go with an intended pattern, and it always feels as though she has all the time in the world to help me. Obviously, she’s a very busy woman! Her taste in fabric is superb, I always know that I’ll love what I finally decide on.

  6. Reply

    Liliana

    I love these glimpses into other people’s studios and to hear their stories. Thank you for providing them so often!
    I’m also fascinated by how Linda just stopped her old business and started something new. I’m sure it must have taken a lot of courage to do that!

  7. Reply

    Jacqui

    Wonderful to fill in some gaps all about Linda – I love her fabric and when the exchange rate is ok (NZ here ) I treat myself.

  8. Reply

    Meg Kundert

    I’m a big fan of EOS and purchase the bulk of my fabric from them. Linda has a great eye for beautiful colors and textures.

  9. Reply

    sewtherapeutic

    EOS has fueled my return to sewing. Linda is the best!

  10. Reply

    Linda Podietz

    Maddie, thank you so much for taking the time to come out and meet with me and for the blog post! You have a great website—clever and unique, and extremely appealing visually! Maybe I’ll take one of your pattern making classes someday…

  11. Reply

    Lynn

    Lovely website, just beautiful presentation, colours, photos etc. You have quite an eye for design, obviously. Also, I am a huge fan of EmmaOneSock, having been a customer for many years. Linda really is an exceptional business woman and her service means so much to my quality of life (living as I do on a large island in the arctic). Thank you for the added insights into Linda and EOS!

  12. Reply

    Karen

    Thank you for a delightful article! So glad EOS shared it. Bookmarking your website.

  13. Reply

    Phyllis Grode

    I live in Europe for three months every year and can’t find the selection and the cost that Linda offers here. After many years, I buy exclusively from Linda. I love the business she has created…she’s an inspiration!

  14. Reply

    Maris Olsen (@sewmaris)

    Thanks Maddie – wonderful article. I am a committed EOS fan! If only my stash wasn’t overtaking my house…..:-)

  15. Reply

    Helen Gorsuch

    EOS always has the most beautiful, high quality fabrics and Linda provides customer service to match.

  16. Reply

    Carolyn Webb

    I have been shopping at EOS for a long time and for me Linda is simply the best. Her customer service cannot be beat. Every now and then I say I am going on a fabric fast – then Linda posts some new fabrics and my husband laughs because – yes another order – beautifully packaged is on it’s way.Thank you for such awonderful profile of Linda!

  17. Reply

    Valerie

    Very good interview. (I came here from Emma One Sock). I love buying fabric from EOS and I live in Australia. She’s tops.

  18. Reply

    Canadian weaver

    Thank you for this very interesting article. I live in a rural part of Canada and have a wonderful collection of fabrics from EOS, my favorite store. Linda has the best fabric, the best website, the best customer service and I am a TRUE FAN.

  19. Reply

    Lorraine Soderberg

    I am not exagerating…. I love everything about EOS! No other online fabric business compares, maybe no other fabric source period! You have spoiled me!

  20. Reply

    Mary Ann Morton

    This sewer has benefited from a ‘relationship’ with EOS for several years now! The fabrics continue to be outstanding in quality and color and always more beautiful than I imagined. The customer care and communications are a pleasure and offered with a genuine personal ‘feel’. The Maddy blogs are delightfully informative and I hope to garner enough time in the near future to explore it all. I am a (semi) retired seamstress who specialized in one-of-a- kind wedding gowns and special events’ garments for several years but lessons from others always provide new pearls or ideas to expand upon. Thank you!!

  21. Reply

    Louise

    What a wonderful article on EOS. I’ve done business with Linda for many years now and always been so very pleased. I check her site regularly (probably too regularly….). It’s fabulous to read more about her background and business journey. Thanks so much for putting the spotlight on a fabulous business and another lovely person in the sewing world.

  22. Reply

    Linda Podietz

    Thanks everyone so much for your kind comments!

  23. Reply

    Lydia Ross

    Emmaonesock is just the best. I visit your website nearly every day. When my parcels from you arrive, they are all so beautifully folded and packaged. A lot of love and care obviously goes into what is a normal part of your working day, and is appreciated . Lydia

  24. Reply

    Carolyn Roemer

    EOS is my favorite fabric site. Mostly because the colors on my old Macbook are so true that I don’t have to order samples. Additionally the fabric descriptions are on the mark. It’s hard knowing the fabric will probably be gone before I can order from Oregon if I wait for samples. Thanks EOS

  25. Reply

    danvillegirl

    Great article. EOS is my favorite fabric site. I am visiting the site at least 3 times a week. The fabric is always top quality and I have not been disappointed in my purchases. When I have had a question about a certain fabric and whether it would work with another I had purchased, Linda was quickly sending me a few samples to help me select the right fabric.

    This was a super article to learn about her background. Very enjoyable read.

  26. Reply

    Anne Scanapico

    This was a most enjoyable article. I loved learning about Linda’s background which I can relate to as I too was a self taught sewer until I took a tailoring class that inspired me to go to college and take some pattern drafting classes. I love EOS, too.

  27. Reply

    angel b

    I love EOS. Thank you so much for Linda’s bio. I’m on a very tight and limited budget, so whenever I purchase a piece a fabric, it will become a very special future item in my wardrobe.

  28. Reply

    Margaret

    I have just joined your group and found out about Emma One Sock. I went to the store when i was in Oakland a “few” years ago. I am sorry to hear that it has since closed but I understand. I still have the fabric i purchased there. I havn’t found just the right thing to make from it. You know us sewers- whoever dies with the most fabric wins. I have goals. I am glad to see that you have embarked on another course and continue to use your talents. I will continue to watch this site.

    • Reply

      Linda Podietz

      Hi Margaret,
      Thanks for the feedback, but I think you have me confused with someone else! I never had a store in Oakland…!
      Best,
      Linda

  29. Reply

    Firecracker

    Great article! It’s fun to learn about the experiences behind one of my favorite fabric stores!

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