By Hand London Takes To Kickstarter To Craft A U.K. Print-On-Demand Fabric Design Community

U.K. based startup By Hand London, whose current business involves selling its own sewing patterns, is looking to expand into an online community for custom on-demand fabric printing services.

In the U.S. one-off fabric printing services have been around for a while — from the likes of Spoonflower, for instance. But the market in the U.K. and Europe lags North America and is just starting to gather momentum, hence the opportunity the London-based startup reckons it’s spotted.

“Print-on-demand services for the home sewist, crafters and DIYers have existed in the U.S. for a while and is gathering momentum incredibly quickly in the U.K. and Europe, with about four small companies starting up in the U.K. since January of this year,” co-founder Charlotte Hintzen tells TechCrunch.

“What makes what we are trying to do really stand out is that we are not aiming to simply become a manufacturer and so are working on setting up a community of designers, illustrators and artists to create a curated gallery of exclusive designs for our customers. As well as approaching particular people we’d like to collaborate with, we will also be holding Threadless-style ‘open-to-anyone-and-everyone’ competitions voted on by our community.”

By Hand London is looking to raise £35,000 via Kickstarter to buy a single Mimaki TX2-1600 digital textile printer, which it will use to fulfill customer requests. “Building up a bank of these smaller machines is the ultimate aim for us,” adds Hintzen.

The crowdfunds are also required to build a website and apps where users will be able to upload their own digital fabric designs — with the ability to tweak aspects such as the size, contrast and tiling, and request a custom print.

The startup says it’s aiming for its print-on-demand service to support very small minimum orders (as small as 46cm x 56cm — aka a ‘fat quarter’ in quilting terminology), with no limits on the numbers of colours that can be used per design.

The community aspect of the plan involves crowdsourcing fabric designs by drawing in independent designers so users can choose from a curated selection of fabric designs, as well as making and uploading their own.

By Hand London says it intends to run design competitions to locate fabric designs to offer on the site, and will also be paying both an up front fee for any designs it uses and an ongoing royalty per 500m of ordered fabric — to incentivise designers to submit artwork and keep promoting its use.

It’s a neat concept that fills a gap in the maker/craft market here in the U.K. — as well as tapping into the trend of wrestling more manufacturing processes away from the mainstream tracks of mass production. How affordable the custom fabric ends up being, remains to be seen. Update: By Hand London says it’s started printing short runs of one design on a medium weight cotton poplin, and is charging £14 per metre for that fabric.

“We will branch out quite quickly into a range of fabrics, but are using that as our starting point, at £14 per metre (150cm / 60″ wide fabric) excl. VAT,” adds Hintzen.

At the time of writing, By Hand London’s Kickstarter campaign has 10 days left to run — and they still need to raise just over £10,000 to hit their target.