Behind the Scenes at Zebra Patterns

Long before I met Debra Gabel friends were telling me that I *needed* to meet her. They told me how interested she was in quilting, and what a talented artist she was. She is that, but also so much more!

Debra Gabel of Zebra Patterns.

Debra and I live ten minutes apart, and I’ve probably known her now for about ten years. It’s hard to not use superlatives when describing her as she is a ball of creative energy. She’s well known throughout the quilting industry for the patterns and pre-printed panels she designs for her company, Zebra Patterns, as well as her roles as Creative Director of the Row by Row Experience and fabric designer for Timeless Treasures.

Fabric Plates™ by Zebra Patterns, available at many quilt shops during the Row by Row Experience

Debra started her business from the ground up. In the beginning, about the time I met her, she had just two patterns and was teaching at local quilt stores. Her enthusiasm, artistic ability, and business savvy soon led to her business growing by leaps and bounds. Let’s take a look behind the scenes at Zebra Patterns’ headquarters.

Debra and her husband Gary run the company from their home. Their basement has become an amazingly well organized warehouse of the products they ship worldwide such as Debra’s line of CityStamps.

Washington D.C. CityStamp ©Debra Gabel
A quilt made from Zebra Patterns National Parks line.

Having visited the Gabel home before the business took over, I can vouch for the fact that previously it was a lovely finished basement where the kids could hang out comfortably with friends. Just look at it now!

Just a portion of their inventory. I have a vague memory that perhaps this area used to store the kids’ sports equipment.
The hardwood floors are lovely. Gary shared that they took out the carpet and replaced it with wood to increase efficiency as the rolling carts didn’t work very well on carpet.

The amazingly popular Row by Row fabric license plates in their native habitat!

Quilt stores in the U.S., Canada, and Europe commission fabric license plate designs from Zebra Patterns. They’re available during the Row by Row Experience.

The Gabel’s have two full time employees and a cadre of independent contractors who work for them as fabric cutters. Here’s Gary at the company “Control Center”. This was originally Debra’s sewing and quilting studio.

Gary Gabel at the command center.

As the business grew, Debra needed more room so a few years ago the Gabel’s built what they call “The Barn”. The lower floor is a spacious garage, while the upper floor houses a studio space. (This is where all the company business was done prior to taking over the entire basement of the house.) As soon as it was complete, Debra’s studio became a meeting spot for several local quilt groups. These pictures don’t do justice to how well thought out and organized a space it is. I should note that Debra is also a very talented art quilter, though right now her business interests take precedence.

A long view of the studio. I was standing in a cozy seating area to take this photo. Note the zebra patterned accents throughout the room.
Debra at work in her studio. You can see some of her fabric designs on the wall in front of her. Much of the furniture is on wheels, so it’s easy to reconfigure the space to make room for gatherings of 20 to 30 quilters.

I know I’ve been super gushy here and I’m obviously one of Debra’s biggest fans, but I can’t write this post without adding that above all else Debra is a very kind and generous person. With all the talk of upheaval in the quilt industry, I’m glad that her business is thriving and that we have folks like her making positive contributions to the industry.

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