Sunday, May 3, 2015


Finding the perfect fabric to fit your needs can be difficult these days with back orders, shortages, and dropped patterns. You’ve probably seen that many designers are beginning to create their own fabrics and soft furnishing products. If you have ever thought about designing your own fabric we have the perfect course for you!
Learn the basic skills needed, resources required and processes you must master to bring your designs from fantasy to reality. Jackie Von Tobel is an award winning product designer who produces her own signature fabric line, The Jackie Von Tobel Collection She will walk you through the design and manufacturing process step by step and help you to formulate a plan for creating your own unique signature fabrics that will enhance your business and help you to grow your brand.
A downloadable pdf handbook will spell out the details covered in class and give you a source list for private label fabric printers,  software providers and online education sources, as well as many other essential contacts and information so you can move forward on your own towards achieving your goal of producing your own fabrics.
Sign up today!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Quick & Easy Thanksgiving Table Setting Ideas


With only a week until the big day we thought you could use some quick & easy Thanksgiving table setting ideas.  Exercise your creativity and use the resources you have on hand to put some of these lovely ideas into action to create a beautiful table for your family.

First up is the star of the event your table centerpiece.


We love these bare tree branches because they are dramatic yet you can still see the person on the other side of the table and they don't interfere with the conversation.


Your produce drawer is full of beautiful colors and texture that you can arrange into a lovely centerpiece.  Throw in some paper leaves or other decorations and you are ready to go.


These colors are so rich and they are a nice break from the traditional color motifs of the season.  Who says it has to be orange and brown?


When all else fails go with gold!



This simple idea is a new twist on the classic orange studded with cloves.  Just think of the creative designs you can quickly carve into your citrus and there is the added plus of that great smell.


Raw wood rules supreme this year with these simple log cuts arranged in a tiered display topped with mason jar candles.


Place Cards set the mood for a more formal affair and give your guests a sense of belonging.  There are many easy ideas that you can throw together to make them all feel at home.


Small log cuts with a groove sawn into the top make cute place card holders.


Larger log cuts can serve as dramatic chargers.


The lowly walnut can serve as a quick name holder in a pinch.  Spray them with metallic paint or glitter to dress them up.


Put those Fall leaves to good use as place setters.

Candles light the room and add warmth and a sense of calm to your table as well.  Avoid scented candles that will clash with the wonderful aromas of your dinner.


Jute string secures these mini pilgrim corn cobs around a simple glass votive.  Add a strip of sticky tape around the jar to be sure everything stays in place,


Burlap ribbon has a million and one uses at  this time of year.


More pilgrim corn around a large candle


Fresh vegetables are a nice addition to any table.


Fruit illuminated in water is both beautiful and aromatic.


Hollow out small pumpkins and gourds for votives at each place setting or as a grouping in the center of the table.


Use those leftover apples that Grandma didn't put into the pie to hold some tapers.  If you don't have fancy candle spikes just bore a hole in the center of each apple for the candle.


Small twigs can be hot glues to the side of small votives for a rustic charm.

Table Runners are an easy way to dress your table .  Here are a few fun ideas for DIY projects.


Fall leaves are great if you've got them.



If you are like me and live in an area where the leaves don't turn then improvise with stencils or stamps.


Burlap by the yard makes a great runner.  I love the way they tied the end here.


Upholstery strapping can be woven into runners or individual place mats.


Put that left over trim or ribbon to use to embellish your runners, place mats, or napkins.


The bottom line is that we are all very busy and sometimes the holidays can sneak up on us but with a little imagination you can put together a lovely table for your family.  Just don't take it too seriously and have fun with it.  At the end of the day it's really about giving thanks and enjoying  our family and friends and no one will remember if your table was set perfectly.

Wishing you and yours a fantastic Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I've been hard at work creating new patterns and products for a reboot of The Jackie Von Tobel Collection for Spring 2015.  We will have a whole new website and a new line up of gorgeous fabrics for you to go crazy with! 

I can't wait to show you all of the new goodies so stay tuned for some sneak peaks and the website reboot  date. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

DESIGN EXPERT STATUS ~ Who Really Qualifies?



Over the past couple of years as we have worked hard to redefine the design industry and carve out new niches and business models  an alarming trend has emerged.  Individuals of questionable levels of design education, experience, training, and practice are claiming EXPERT status in an attempt to differentiate themselves from the pack.

Claims are wide ranging and are worded to place the person behind them at the very top of an ever growing pile of competitors. 








The problem with these claims the use of one little world – THE .   These individuals are not just claiming that they are experts in a segment of design or design in general, they are claiming that they are THE TOP EXPERT, THE KING OF THE MOUNTAIN, THE BE ALL AND END ALL OF KNOWLEDGDE AND EXPERTISE.



The definition of EXPERT is:  A person who has special skill or advanced knowledge in some particular field.

The definition of THE TOP EXPERT is:  A single person who has more special skills and advanced knowledge than anyone else in a particular field.

While there are many levels of expertise in any given subject there can only be one top spot.  The problem that I have with using this verbiage to describe your individual skill level is that there is no way for anyone to vet your skill level and it is easy for anyone to make a similar claim.

In his book The Outliers, Malcom Gladwell illustrates that exceedingly successful people who become top leaders in their fields have spent on average, approximately 10,000 hours of totally immersive study and practice, over at least 10 years honing their skills and perfecting their craft.

At the very least I think we can all agree that it takes many years of  education, study and practice to become proficient enough at anything to become and expert at it. Attending one lecture or online course, or reading a pamphlet on a subject is simply not enough to certify a person with expert status. 

Today it is very easy for anyone to find information on any subject online and reword it as their own hard earned knowledge and many people seem to be taking this shortcut to set themselves up as the go to source for a particular niche.  The problem with this scenario is that without doing the hard work themselves they are merely putting out borrowed information that they don’t truly understand and calling it expert advice at the same time. 

I have seen some really unbelievable example's of this online lately from misleading blog posts to  lectures full of inaccurate information at trade shows and industry events, to “advice from the EXPERTS columns” in leading shelter magazines that are giving out incorrect information. 

As an industry of professionals it is vital that we have industry standards and best practices that have a basis founded in legitimate expertise and experience so that the quality of service, workmanship and product has a level of excellence and  consistency that the buying public can rely upon. 


In addition to this self appointed, top of the pile “EXPERT STATUS” some individuals are also handing out their own private brand of NICHE CERTIFICATION  to other designers who frequent their websites or blogs, attend classes given by them or buy self published booklets they have produced.  This is unaccredited certification for sale to anyone and it is a potentially dangerous trend that will undermine legitimate accreditation and weaken our industry.

Certification is defined by Wikipedia as:   The confirmation of certain characteristics of a person. This confirmation is often, but not always, provided by some form of external review, education, assessment, or audit. Accreditation is a specific organization's process of certification.

There are very few professions in which members can appoint themselves as certifying bodies and hand out official certifications to their peers.  A lawyer cannot grant another person a certification stating that he is an expert in law.  That person must go to law school, pass his Bar exam and become legally licensed in order to call himself a lawyer.  In the area of design we have many legitimate organizations that provide the education and guidance necessary for an individual to garner certification on a variety of niche topics.




Certification usually consists of the following component's:

  1. Intensive, scaled, and targeted education provided by instructors sanctioned by the certifying body.
  2. A standardized test of your skill level administered by the certifying body.
  3. Continuing education to keep your skills fresh and current as a condition of continued certification.

My advise is to leave certification to the legitimate licensing bodies.  Don’t fall for false and empty certification scams.



Certification vs A Certificate of Attendance, Participation, or Achievement.

An alternative to an official certification that can be a benefit to the individual designer is a Certificate of Attendance, Participation, or Achievement.  This type of document certifies that a person has participated in or attended an educational event.  This is a legitimate document that anyone providing educational content or events can award to their attendees without crossing the blurred lines of official certification. 

Any designer can proudly display such a certificate without any doubt to its validity.


I would advise anyone that if they are seeking out advanced or continuing education in design that they do some homework and at least Google the individual or group offering that education to see if they are truly legitimate.  Here are a few guidelines to follow:

  1. How long have they been practicing in their particular area of expertise?   Is this a new niche for them?  Do they have a history of providing education in this niche or are they just now jumping on the bandwagon?
  2. What type of formal education do they have in this niche?
  3. What type of certification do they have in their particular field? 
  4. Are they affiliated with professional organizations or associations in their field?
  5. Are they recognized by their peers as an industry expert or are they just tacking expert onto their name?
  6. Have they published books or professional articles on their subject of expertise? If they are advertising themselves as authors do they have a legitimate publisher or are they selling self published material.  The term author is historically reserved for professionally published writers and as the author of 4 books for the trade it is a distinction that is very hard to earn and one that I cherish as such.  That being said, self published material can be very well put together and full of real expert education and information – just be wary of the “fluff”  that some people are generating right now.
  7. Have any of your peers taken any of their classes or purchased educational products from them?  What was their opinion of the material?

Experience vs Education

Education and Certification do not always trump life experience. There are many individuals who have honed their skills over years of practice and have become true experts in their fields and excellent teachers in their own right.  Most of the time they will have well documented proof of expertise on their websites and a long history of practicing their craft that you can easily track. 


The educational landscape in Design is getting more crowded everyday and there is an increase in competition for every dollar being spent and every open slot at educational events. Unfortunately there is no easy way for you to know who is legit and who is faking it. So it is up to you to do the research and make the judgment call on whether or not the person in question has some real substance and good information.  If you do take some time to vet the people who are offering you their services you should have no trouble finding great educational opportunities. 


Jackie Von Tobel is an award winning interior designer who attended the Interior Design Institute of San Diego. She ran her own successful interior design firm, Plush Home in Las Vegas for 20 years before writing her ground breaking series of books The Design Directory of Window Treatments, The Design Directory of Bedding, The Power of Marketing, and Slipcovers ( Gibbs Smith publisher) She is an award winning product designer in the categories of Drapery Hardware, Home D├ęcor Fabric, Quilt Fabric, Gift, Garden, Home Dec Accessories, Tabletop,  and much more.  Jackie has been teaching  her fellow designers subjects relating to design on an advanced level at the leading design trade shows and furnishing markets in the US and abroad for over 10 years. She is a founding partner of Soft Design Lab an online think tank and center fr education on soft furnishings.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Upholstery Nail Heads - The Ultimate Source Guide




Decorative Nail heads are one of the oldest forms of decoration used in the construction of furniture.  Dating back as far as to the Iron Age, craftsman have created a decorative head to the lowly nail to make it beautiful.   Today we are seeing more and more ingenious and elaborate applications of nail heads in all areas of decoration.



From the traditional application


to the sublime


the options are endless.  

The key is to be able to find the right product for your particular application. So we are helping you out by putting together:

The Soft Deign Lab Ultimate Source Guide for Decorative Nail Heads

We have compiled the most complete directory of decorative nail head manufacturers, distributors and sources available to the trade as well as a few retail sources for DYI’ers.


First up is the big player in the Decorative Nail Head biz



There are only a few key players in this industry and D.A.D.S. is one of the largest and well recognized manufacturers. They  have a huge range of style, sizes, finishes, and novelties nail heads available at wholesale.  They are sold by the box at full put up.  If you want small quantities from these manufacturers you can purchase them through to the trade reseller and distributors or retail outlets which we have listed below.



At D.A.D.S. they  have hundreds of styles and most are usually in stock and ready to ship.  There are downloadable catalogs and sample boards available for purchase.


Next up is Heiko Direct.  They are also manufacturer and they have some unique styles available in many finishes styles and sizes.  Their website is a bit hard to navigate but they have catalogs and sample boards available.  If D.A.D.S.doesn’t have what you are looking for chances are that Heiko will have it.



I love this Greek Key design and they have many other unite shapes and finishes.

Raised StarBraided_Anvil_Br_4d2dbee999e3d

One of their specialties are two pronged decorative nails.  These are great for corners and They work great anchor points in your designs that you can connect with less expensive standard round nail heads.  They look particularly good on cornice boards.




D’Kei is a distributor for D.A.D.S to the trade.  If you don’t want to open an account with D.A.D.S. you can purchase through D’Kei.  You still have to purchase by the box though.   However in my experience I have never had a situation where I didn’t need at least a couple of boxes and you always want to have extra on hand.


D’KEI has a great tool that allows the user to attach any nail head directly to loose fabric as a decorative element!  The STARLOCK tool applies a locking washer to the back of the nail head that locks in place allowing you to clip off the nail portion of the head.  This tool and others like it have really expanded the possible uses for decorative nail heads in design.  Now you can use nail heads as trim on draperies, rugs, linens etc.  Imagine the possibilities!Jeweled-Flyer-Webv

They also have a button back application for their Jeweled nail heads which adds a button shank to the back of the nail head. 


Diamond Head

Diamond Head Upholstery tacks where dreamed up by a friend of ours Bree who is as beautiful and sweet as her products.  These fancy tacks can be nailed in, screwed in, or can be fitted with a button shank for a variety of uses.


You can purchase directly from Diamond Head or go through a distributor such as Rowley Co.


Diamond Head Upholstery Tacks



Direct From Mexico is a great source for rustic upholstery tacks and larger sized decorative nail heads that can be used as clavels on doors, cabinets, cornices, etc.


They have a great range of interesting shapes and sizes but they come in a limited selection of colors.  I have used these and painted them with Rustoleum spray paint as a base coat and then finishes them in my desired finish and they have turned out beautifully.  The advance here is that large size.


The clavels with a center hole are a favorite of mine and I have used them for lots of interesting applications. 


On a separate note if you’ve read my books you will know that I LOVE gate hardware as decorative ornament!  This is a great source for flat hinge elements and gate hinges that can be used in a variety of interesting ways.  If you need inspiration check out my books,

The Design Directory of Window Treatments


The Design Directory of Bedding

Nail head Trim By The Yard  is a great way to go if you are doing it yourself.  This great product is just what it claims to be; an endless link of connected nail heads that is sold by the yard that is applied by nailing in individual nail heads at regularly spaced intervals along the yardage.  It takes the guess work and much of the labor out of application. The downfall here is that upon close inspection it is obvious that it is not separate nail heads as the links can be seen.



Beacon Fabrics and Notions is a great source to buy this product at discounted retail. 



This popular post from Design Sponge shows how versatile this product can be when used creatively on this DYI ceiling pattern. 


Beacon Fabrics and Notions also has a few exclusive style of regular nail heads as well.

beacon fabrics

DIY Upholstery Supply LLC  is another great source for nail heads by the yard and D.A.D.S. products at retail and in small quantities for the DIY’er.     




The Rhinestone Guy  is a source for heat set faux nail heads for those applications where you need to apply tight to the surface without nailing in.  This great for soft furnishings such as drapery panels, pillows, table linens, etc.  They are washable but be sure to provide replacement pieces in case they do come loose or fall off in the wash.  They come in a variety of sizes, shapes and designs and there are a lot of other interesting products available on this site as well.





Van Dykes Restorers  is one of my favorite places to go for everything you need to restore or refinish furniture but they also sell this ingenious product. It is a clear plastic track with holes in the center of each circle so you can easily place your nail heads in a straight line without a lot of measuring labor.  The only downside is that it only works for 3/8” nails.  That is the most commonly used size however so chances are that might be just right for you.


Van Dykes offers  Wholesale pricing on their exclusive products.



If you don’t want to open a wholesale account with  the manufacturer and buy your nail heads by the box for the full put up you can buy them in small quantities from these distributors. 


Rowley offers D.A.D.S. nails at wholesale and also sells nail head placement guides and application tools and they offer a free series of instructional videos that show some different techniques of application and how to use there tools.


Chervan offers nail heads along with replacement furniture legs and feet if yours are worn out.


Lees has a huge assortment of goodies and is a source for D.A.D.S. nails in small quantities.


Kast Fabrics  offers the entire line of D.A.D.S. products at wholesale to the trade as well as great fabrics and trims.


Deb and I hope you’ve enjoyed 

The Ultimate Source Guide for Decorative Upholstery Nail Heads


Look for other fantastic industry source guides from Soft Design Lab in the near future.