Timtex, where have you been?

Recently we announced that Timtex will be returning to the market. I thought you might be interested in an abbreviated behind the scenes story of how this came to be. Thanks to Stacy Sews for the mention and for giving me the idea to post about this.

Travel back in time with me to the year 2003.

Before fast2fuse was introduced, most quilters and crafters used Timtex to create a variety of dimensional projects.  Then in October 2003 Linda Johansen wrote a book titled, Fast, Fun & Easy Fabric Bowls published by C&T Publishing. Along with the phenomenal success of the book, customers were asking for Timtex with a fusible on it to make it faster and easier to create fabric bowls. So, we started searching for a fusible product that was similar to Timtex. In October 2004 we introduced fast2fuse to quilters and crafters everywhere and it was a big hit.

What you may not know is that Timtex and fast2fuse standard weight were the exact same thing. Both were manufactured in South Carolina on the same piece of equipment. The only difference between the two products: fast2fuse came in 28 inch width and was coated on both  sides with a fusible agent so that you could press fabric to it easily without adding a fusible web to your fabric beforehand. In addition, fast2fuse was available in two weights: standard and heavyweight, while Timtex was available in only a standard weight.

Both products sold well and were quite successful in the craft market, especially through quilt and fabric stores. In fact, the success of these products spawned other companies to bring forth competitive products. Quilters and crafters, however, preferred the unique quality of Timtex and fast2fuse for projects ranging from fabric bowls, boxes, vases, ATC cards, fabric postcards, art quilts, garments, bags and so much more.

In the summer of 2007, we got some bad news. The plant that produced the base stock was being sold and the giant equipment that “blended” it was being dismantled. How could this be?

The plant advised us that we would have two months to place any remaining orders. OK, we had plenty of stock, but we placed an order a few days later. To our surprise we were told that the equipment had already been dismantled and scrapped and they would send us all remaining supply they had left. We were upset.

Some of the samples we received

I started calling every contact we had in the South trying to locate a plant that could produce this base stock. Timber Lane Press was doing the same. We received numerous samples from different sources and each and every time the base stock was flimsy and had no stiffness to it.

We learned that production of this type of material (polyester/rayon blend) was primarily used as filtration fabric and that it was being outsourced to China. It was not profitable for companies to continue manufacturing the product in the US. The US factory could not compete with their outdated equipment and high labor costs.

We were getting low on existing stock of fast2fuse with no viable source to resume manufacturing. I decided to call the owner of Timber Lane Press to find out if she was having any success finding a source and learned that they were in the same boat. I also learned that Timber Lane had no desire to devote the time and resources necessary to locate the material outside the US (which appeared to be our only choice).

So I made a proposal to Timber Lane. Let me locate a new source for the base stock. Let C&T take over sourcing and distribution of Timtex. C&T will find a reputable manufacturer who can create a quality base stock. We will import the product and handle all the marketing, sales and distribution of the product. In exchange, we will pay Timber Lane a royalty on all sales of Timtex.

Timber Lane liked the idea and over the course of a few weeks we put together an agreement that worked well for both parties. Now all we had to do was find a source for the product and this proved to be a very big challenge indeed. As I mentioned before, we had already spent 4 months scouring the US for a source with absolutely no success. No company in the US was producing this base stock any longer.

Our first real lead came from a colleague in South Carolina who knew of a machine in Mexico that could create the exact product. So, I made a number of phone calls and found that this was not a viable option. To reset their machine to run a base stock to our specs would require a minimum order of 100,000 yards. Next.

I phoned a dear friend who does business in China, and he put me in contact with a man in the China textile trade. We spent two months searching for a source with him. You can imagine the language barrier in trying to find this product. I would send samples and talk to my contact on the phone trying to explain what Americans did with this material. He just didn’t get it, and after two long months I had to abandon this option and start over.

China Reject Sample

At this point we were out of stock on fast2fuse, and Timber Lane was sold out of Timtex. Determined not to give up, I phoned another business contact I had in China and explained my dilemna. I rushed a sample to him and got word that he could source this for us. While I waited for his sample I continued to discuss the issue with one of our suppliers in the South (US) whom was also working on finding a source through her contacts in China. There was still hope of bringing this product back.

I received two samples the next week. The first arrived from my contact in China and the sample was terrible. It was cheap and flimsy—a complete failure.

On Thursday another sample arrived. This one from my colleague in the South. I opened it and found two samples—both made in the USA. This was surprising. One had a fusible coating on it and one did not. The sample with the fusible coating was very close to what we wanted for our fast2fuse product. It was slightly thinner than the original fast2fuse but the stiffness we wanted was there. It was 100% polyester.

The other sample (without the fusible) didn’t have the stiffness that we wanted for the Timtex brand. What we learned was that when the plant put the fusible on the base stock it made the product stiffer. I sent the sample to Timber Lane Press for their opinion, and they agreed that the sample without the fusible was still not stiff enough.

So we asked the plant to thicken the base stock slightly and placed an order for fast2fuse. But we still had to find a stiffer base stock for the Timtex brand. fast2fuse was back, but Timtex was not.

About one month later I received an email from my colleague in the South. They had opened an office in China and had found a viable base stock for Timtex. She overnighted a sample to me and said, “I think you will be happy.” Two days later I opened the package and was delighted to find a sample that was uniform in thickness, the correct thickness, and the stiffness we wanted. The product was also 100% polyester.

I sent a sample to Timber Lane for approval and they loved it. Success!

On September 22, 2008 we placed our initial order for Timtex. It will be sold in 10 yard bolts x 22 inches in width. The product will retail for $9.99 per yard. We expect to begin shipping to stores in early December 2008.

We hope you like the new blend of Timtex and that you find new, fun ways to use it in your sewing and craft projects. We realize fast2fuse and Timtex aren’t perfect for every interfacing use, but we would love to hear about how you are using them in your projects.

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