interview by Georgia Sparling
Dot and Army founder Jennifer Zamudio comes by her fabric obsession naturally. At age 8 she got her first sewing machine from her mother—a seamstress who made all of her kids’ clothing—that is, until they revolted. (“We kind of looked like dorks because we were all matching,” Zamudio jokes.)
In those early days of sewing, Zamudio made pillowcases, purses, and other small items. As an adult, she became a teacher but always sewed as a side business and for her family. Inspired by both frugality and creativity, Zamudio decided to use some of her fabric supply one day to make cloth napkins.
“We decided we weren’t going to use paper any more. It was a way to save money,” says Zamudio.
The simple squares became something of an obsession for the wife and mother of two young boys. She started giving them to everyone as well as selling them at farmers markets under the brand Dot and Army, named after her beloved maternal grandparents.
Then, almost four years ago, Zamudio and her family relocated from San Diego to the Georgia coast. Along with the change of scenery, Zamudio decided she also needed a change of career. “I started to get disillusioned with teaching,” she says. “I was starting to think I might turn into one of those teachers you don’t like.” The napkins had already gained a following, so Zamudio went “full force” into building a business around them, from mix and match sets to classic seersucker bundles (pictured above) to more refined linen serviettes edged in contrasting thread. It wasn’t hard to find an audience.
“You put all this time and energy into the meal and you put it on the table with a paper napkin? You just want to add that last touch of making the meal complete,” says Zamudio.
Dot and Army became a popular destination on Etsy, and Food52 also picked up Zamudio’s work. She launched a napkin rental option on her website to add an extra touch of class to weddings and other special events as well as designing custom linens for restaurants.
The quality of the material has always been a priority for Zamudio. “I love to feel fabrics,” she says, “make sure they’re soft and they wash well. I also love to take simple, beautiful linen and edge it in different colors.”
Just as she’s done since she was a kid, Zamudio welcomes the opportunity to branch out with new projects, which is why we were so excited to partner with her in creating our own signature apron.
All of these products were made in Zamudio’s home until recently. “It was taking over our house,” she admits. While it was nice to work from home, the time had come to move to a workshop, which Zamudio did in June. The new space, not far from her house, is equipped with four industrial machines, a cutting table, a packing table, and space for her ever-growing supply of fabric.
“It’s been so busy now that we have hired someone,” she says. Zamudio’s husband also sews 20 to 30 hours a week for Dot and Army, and her boys help clean up the shop, when they’re not busy playing.
All in all, the change of careers has paid off for Zamudio, who loves the opportunity to design new color combinations for her growing customer base.
“It’s a job, but it’s something I really love doing.” www.dotandarmy.com
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