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Conversational Threads

Fabric Stores

GailAnn | Posted in Talk With Us on

Miss Autumn, Miss Spicegirl1, and Miss Ralphetta have “hit the nail on the head” with their posts about the dirth of fabric stores.  What has happened?

On Line shopping is not the correct answer!  I just recieved 4 of 6 pieces, I had ordered on line.  2 had been sold out, but I wasn’t alerted of that until I recieved my order.  Of the 4 that I did recieve, 2 were exactly what I had expected, but the other 2, I probably would not have purchased if I had had the opportunity to see and feel it in person. 

I really want a decent fabric store catering to dressmaking goods.

I live in a metropolitan area of upwards of a quarter million people!

We’ve gone from 4 nice reliable fashion fabric stores to only 1 left, about half the size it once was, now dark, dirty, dingy, with agressive unfriendly staff. 

Those 4, now out of business fabric stores, didn’t even include the major department stores which all once carried, mainline brand name fabrics such as Pendleton wools or Moeshegal Linens.

While I’m on this tirade……Why does Jo-ann’s and Hancock’s feel free to lable an entire table of fabrics “LINEN” when all that is there is a polyester and rayon?  Linen is a real fabric made of flax, grown in the earth!  How deceptive!

Has anyone even seen a Singer Sewing Center in years?  Our little Singer Sewing Center in the Antioch Mall was a gathering place where we could find not only sewing machines and fabric, but notions, lessons, encouragement and fellowship.

Maybe THREADS could publish a survey with addresses as to where we might write to bring fabric stores into our cities, towns and communities.  Gail

Edited 12/1/2007 8:46 am ET by GailAnn


  1. Crazy K | | #1

    This is a question many of us ask.  Martha Stewart keeps saying there is an 'unprecedented upsurge' in sewing...........so WHY are all the fabric stores closing?????  I don't get it..........

    I live in a metro area (Mpls./St.Paul, MN) and there are fabric stores but not the quality for fine dressmaking and certainly not the experienced staff.  Around these parts, I do find that Hancock Fabric has staff that are better able to help than JoAnnETC.  There are quilt shops with cottons galore (lots of eye candy) but not the good shops with Pendleton wools, fine cottons, etc.  I don't do any of the fancy sewing so the warehouses work for most of my buying and I can muddle through Joann and Hancock to get other things but I feel the pain of those of you who make and wear the finer things.

    I guess we can yell and scream and whine all we want but if the fabric stores (the independents with the fine fabrics) can't make a go of it, they won't be there.  There was a shop in Rochester, MN for years that handled all the finer fabrics (rows of Pendelton wools, etc..........drool!) and was a thrill to visit.........older owners retired and the store closed.  We drove down this fall looking to buy and found it not there.  It was a sad day.

    I agree that on-line shopping, while convenient, is not the best way to buy fabric unless you know what you're going to get.  I ordered some scrub fabric from Denver Fabrics a couple of years ago and got exactly what I thought I would.  I was happy and the price was very fair.  That was a good experience but mostly I like to 'see' the fabric with my fingers!!  Feeling the hand of the fabric is so important.

    O.K.......there is my rant...........

    Happy Sewing!


    1. Ralphetta | | #2

      After a lot of thought I've decided that all these sources that cite an upsurge in sewing are just basing it on the number of machines sold.  It's true that there is a big interest in embroidery and quilting and those people are buying a lot of machines.  I think that Threads readers mean people who do garment sewing when they refer to "sewers."  It would be interesting to know what percentage of this BIG increase in sewers are primarily interested in garment sewing.  Someone, somewhere, must have determined that it is small or the fabric stores wouldn't be closing. I'm like one of the previous writers, I want to touch the fabrics as I choose.  It's one of the joyful parts of sewing.

      1. GailAnn | | #3

        Knitting, crochet, quilting, and embrodery are wonderful crafts, I enjoy each of them.

        Dressmaking is something fine and on a different plane.  To compare it to cooking, "Dressmaking kicks sewing up a notch!"

        It is my first love, Gail

  2. SewistKitty | | #4

    I do quite a bit of online shopping because in our city of 2 million people we have Joann's, Hancock's, lots of quilt stores and one quality fabric store. It has been suggested that you get samples of anything that you are considering buying. I have often done this and have seen how different the colors of the fabrics are on my monitor compared to the actual swatches. The hand of the fabric is an unknown unless you have samples to touch.
    Several months ago some of us listed online places that we have safely used to buy fabric. I also gave many tips of how to check out the site.
    I wish that all of the garment fabric stores would come back but I don't think that they will. Most of us are surrounded by quilters. The fabric stores have responded by stocking quilt fabrics galore.

  3. leslee | | #5

    We are fortunate to have at least 4 great independent fabric stores in our area, yet I still go online to buy fabrics too. Louise at Cutting Corners has a great selection of interfacing. (fabriccollections.com) Anne at Apple Annie has the most wonderful Italian fabrics at a very reasonable price. (appleanniefabrics.com) I get my rayon Ambiance Lining Fabric from The Sewing Place (thesewingplace.com). All of these places are friendly and helpful. I get samples from Apple Annie and Cutting Corners has an "interfacing kit" of samples. I only go to JoAn for thread. I try not to waist my time on cheep fabrics. It is not worth it. PS I do not quilt. -L

  4. SueV | | #6

    Hi. I just joined this forum today and noticed the discussion about the dirth of fabric stores. A home economist at our local Hancocks told us that the home dec dept. pretty much supports the rest of the store which loses money. (And Hancock has been in bankruptcy.)

    It's sad to say but women in the US don't really want to sew that much anymore. At least not enough to keep fabric stores open. Younger women say they don't have time. And home ec is no longer taught in school in case one's mother didn't teach one to sew. Instead, these women want to do crafts.

    Plus, everyone dresses so casually these days that people don't desire well fitted suits, woolens that need dry cleaning and other items that cost more but last longer.

    And considering the three rounds of trade treaties that the US govt has signed within the last decade, it's no wonder clothing is so very cheap these days.

    Manufacture of clothing is a very early and important activity a third world country does to pull itself up economically. Mostly done by women, of course, many of whom are illiterate. But women tend to be wiser with the money they make (which is why microbanks prefer to lend to women) and spend it on the betterment of their children. Nothing wrong with that, to my mind. The world is flat these days. But it does make for cheap clothing prices and tough times for fabric stores.

    My suggestion to those of you whose stash is depleting is that you go to estate sales, garage sales, flea markets, postings on Craigslist, and occasionally visit a very large city like NY or LA or even SF or Seattle to rebuilt your depleted resources. LA has a fun garment district but kind of narrow in selection. NY tends to have really great dives that sell wool and silk at huge knock-off prices. But you have to have a NYer who sews show you where to go.

    I must admit I feel vindicated for my fabric buying frenzy this summer for which I was criticized, not by my beloved husband but by my dressmaking friend who used to work at Britex. I found a guy in San Francisco who just wanted to get rid of a room full of what looked like musty old fabric. Sold me exquisite wool and silk and cotton for $10 a box. I got to pick and choose for two hours and brought home 300 yards for $50. I fully realize that this stash may have to take me through the next XX no. of years.

    Good luck to all of you on your hunt for fabric. It's out there. It's just no longer displayed like it used to be when I was a child and visited large department stores that all had fabric departments.

    1. GailAnn | | #7

      Yes, yes, yes.  I love fabric and clothes to the point that I can tell you exactly what I wore, and where I bought the fabric for nearly every major (and many minor) events of my life.  For instance, I know exactly what I wore the very first time I ever went to my boyfriend's parents' (now deceased in-laws) house, 40 years ago.

      My grown daughter, on the other hand, treats clothes almost as if they were disposable!  She doesn't mend, rarely irons, and if she changes weight, the thought of even a tiny alteration, sends her shopping at the mall. 

      She throws caution to the wind when doing laundry!  If something shrinks, fades, or pulls out of shape, or is otherwise ruined, well, to her "it's just the cost of doing business" -- and --  out it goes.

      I think she has way way too many clothes of inferior quality.  I've encouraged her, since her teen years, to maintain a wardrobe of fewer, better things. 

      "Maintaining a wardrobe" is not on her agenda, or even a part of her vocabulary!

      Funny thing is, she seems happy with that!  It would upset me to no end, if it were me.

      It's not me. 

      I always want the best I can possibly afford, and wear my nicer things for YEARS on end. 

      Only two "quality" items seem important to my daughter: a "real" comforter, meaning down with a duvet cover, and a "real" peacoat, meaning hefty, navy, melton wool.


      Edited 12/8/2007 6:41 am ET by GailAnn

      1. jane4878 | | #10

        I agree with you--I've always liked nice clothes and I'm far too tight to throw stuff out! I did hand mending for the longest time until I recently bought a sewing machine and started to learn how to sew.My two teens (16 y.o. boy and 13 y.o. girl) are quite conservative with their dressing. My daughter would spend her life in tees and jeans if she could, but she wears what I buy and make for her and she's very conscious of dressing, shall we say, not like a sleaze. I'm lucky there. I buy her nice adult clothes because the teenybopper stuff is cheaply made and slutty. My son is extremely conservative--I can't even get him to wear nice jeans! He picked out a nice wool peacoat as his winter jacket. I grew up in a family of five that didn't have a ton of money, but my dad in particular, raised us to appreciate simplicity and good quality. He would joke that the stork dropped us down the wrong chimney. My little one (7) would wear anything pink and sleazy! I just dress her and she's happy with what I get for her. I may have a fight on my hands when she hits the tweens though.There's 3 fabric stores nearby that have fashion fabrics. Two are just O.K. and one has beautiful, expensive fabric. I hope it keeps going. We need to support the good stores. The rest are all quilting oriented and there's a ton of them. I was told when I bought my machine, that no one was interested in sewing clothing in N. America, and the stores reflect that--all home dec and quilting cottons. I've done O.K. with on-line shopping. Had some surprises, but I just use the fabric for something else if the weight wasn't what I expected.

      2. scrubble4 | | #12

        Hmm this is an interesting discussion.  I live in Canada and have long appreciated the joys of internet shopping and before that fabric shopping by mail.  Most places will send you samples if you ask.  Sometimes you need to pay but they often deduct this cost from your purchase.  One time Threads carried an article on mail order fabric stores.  Through that article I discovered what has become one of my favorite fabric stores "Josephines Dry Goods" in Portland.  We travel in our motorhome a couple of times a year to the Oregon coast and I love stopping at this store.  I have also had good luck on ebay (believe it or not) mainly from sewers getting rid of stuff.  I just ask a ton of questions.  I have even had samples from ebay.  Colour is the main challenge for me in buying off the "net.

        I am a principal, and the buy and discard approach to clothing is taught to many children from their parents as they grow up.  Every 2 - 3 months I cart off about $1000 worth of clothes to the women's shelter near where I live.  I take the items home, wash, dry and fold them before I take them in and I am always amazed at the quality and beauty of these discards.  The children's parents don't send the children back to school to find their very expensive jackets, sneakers, jeans, backpacks etc. as well as mitts, toques, scaves.  I put notices in our monthly newsletter, I let parents know I will be bundling them up, I put them along the school hallway for 3 days before I bundle them up so parents and students can see them, but no one seems willing to pick up an item.  Although this school is in an area of expensive homes, I have taught in other socioeconomic areas with the same cast away experience. 

        We do live in a flat, global economy world.  I have read that India and China have more graduates in the top 5% of intellect and achievement than all North America graduates. I worry about the success of our children competing with their skills and knowledge on the global market.  The buy and discard rather than cherish and mend attitude could have disastrous consequences a few years down the road for our children as they may not be able to get high paying jobs and they may need to learn to take care of things.  Not having learned or observed these skills in their life, I think they may find the transition difficult. 

        Okay I will hop off my band wagon and say thanks for once again bringing up topics that touch my heart.

        1. Dinna | | #18

          Hi,  I also live in Canada and we go south  in our motorhome.  Can you tell me where Josephine's is and how easy it is to get to and park in a motorhome.

          Thank you.

          1. scrubble4 | | #19

            Hi Diana:  I am inserting the path to their site.  I don't do the driving or parking so I am not a good person to answer your questions.  However, they moved from their downtown location a few years ago for which it was very hard to find a spot to park the motorhome.  Now, my husband can usually find a parking spot right on the street in their new spot.  Here is their path http://www.josephinesdrygoods.com/  They have even sent me samples when I have described what I would like.  I always enjoy the experience of visiting their store and have never left empty handed. 

            I just did a quick search of the magazine index to see if I could find the issue the original article was in, but I didn't have any luck.  thanks for asking Scrubble4

          2. Dinna | | #21

            Thank you to scubble4  and artfulenterprises for the helpful info on the sewing stores.  I look forward to shopping at both stores when travelling through Portland.

            Happy sewing,


          3. User avater
            artfulenterprises | | #20

            Dinna, if you are going to stop in Portland you should also make time to check out The Mill End Store. This store has evolved as a mill end resale shop from Pendleton woolen mills into one of the largest fabric stores I've ever seen with an incredible array of fabrics. Definitely worth the time to visit.Flagship Store (the biggie) Beaverton Location (haven't been here)
            Portland Location 4955 SW Western Ave
            9701 SE McLoughlin Blvd Beaverton, OR 97005
            Portland, OR 97222 Tel: (503) 646-3000
            Tel: (503) 786-1234
            Fax: (503) 786-2022
            Email: [email protected]
            URL: http://www.millendstore.com

    2. solosmocker | | #14

      SueV you have written a thought provoking post. I live in way upstate NY in the boonies and there is not a good fabric store, ANYWHERE! I travel to New Hampshire almost monthly to see my daughters there and have the good fortune to be able to shop at a store where the owner makes biweekly trips to the garment district and brings back fabulous rolls of sample fabrics, designer cuts, etc. Nothing in the store is over ten dollars a yard other than some to die for beaded pieces. His cashmere's are ten dollars a yd and silks run 6-10. It is Nirvana. His clientele come from all over the Northeast, like myself to have this quality fabric at great prices. You just can't touch fabric on the internet so its not my cup of tea so far. Checking Craig's list is a great idea. I will have to try that. There is also Freecycle.com too. Many times I have gone to good will to buy large suits as I am a petite, and took them home to cut up and redesign or use in pieces for more artistic wear, etc. It is a great resource. The Good Will I frequent has a day at the end of the month where you can get a bag of stuff for two dollars. They do it just to clear things out. I have bought garments just for the buttons or lace that is attached. We fabric lovers can be pretty resourceful. I do miss the days of my teens when I could spend the afternoon cruising the fabric depts of several Dept stores along the main street of downtown. Now its the mall and no fabric. Great thread!solo

    3. Pattiann42 | | #15

      One thing about being able to sew, if push comes to shove, we will have clothing and the crafters will have to wear scrapbooks!

      Just a joke.............crafters, do your thing.  It leaves more fabric for those of us who like to sew.

  5. PattyG | | #8

    I love to sew but am also having trouble finding good,fashionable fabric.  Why should I waste my time and energy on fabric that is just so-so.  I live just outside of Kansas City, MO, and except for Joann's and Hancocks, there is only 1 fabric store in the upscale Plaza area that is very expensive and time consuming to get too.  I subscribe to Threads magazine and read all of the advertisements of the fabric stores  throughout the country plus the mail order companies.  Has anyone had any luck ordering fabric through any of these companies?  As a sewer, I know that the personal look and feel of a fabric is very important before purchasing.  Thanks!

    1. GailAnn | | #9

      Hi Neighbor!  I'm in Liberty, Mo.  I have all the same complaints as you do.  I have taken fabric shopping vacations.  I find the unnamed fabric store on the Plaza to be only about 1/2 the size it once was, now dark dirty and unpleasant.  Gail

      1. PattyG | | #11

        Have you ever shopped at the fabric store in Lawrence, KS, that was mentioned in the Home section of this morning's KC Start newspaper?  I got on their web site and they have sewing classes for clothing in addition to quilting classes, so maybe they have a nice array of fashion fabric too. 

        Every time I go out-of-town, I google for fabric stores too! :)  If you're ever in the St. Louis area, I have a shop for you to visit, Sew it Seams...rather small but have some neat fabric.  The last time I was at the Plaza, I went to the fabric store and thought that it seemed smaller but thought it was my imagination.  I hated to see Cy's close at Crown Center, he really had some beautiful fabrics!

        You have some neat quilt shops in Liberty, love that city...it's fun to visit and shop!  I live in Harrisonville, MO, but work in Leawood.

    2. SewistKitty | | #17

      In the past post number 6909.1 began a discussion of where sewers buy fabric online. There are many suggestions there. I have also posted a number of times about how to buy safely online but of course, I couldn't find it this evening. If you need or want more info. on buying safely online please tell me and I can repeat what I said before. Hope this helps.

  6. lself | | #13

    It seriously looks like all us dress makers are going to have to find alternatives.  One source of fabric that no one has mentioned is the Good Will store.  A friend put me on to this idea.  Whan she needs fabric, she goes there and looks through the extra large sizes.   Sometimes you can find some nice fabric in an outfit that is large enough to cut a smaller size from.  It's an even better source for inexpensive fabric to use for trim.


  7. sewingdeb | | #16

    Hi Gailanne,

    My Dad used to be a District Manager for Singer back in the 50's. We moved to a couple different towns in So Minnesota and them back to Minneapolis. Now all those stores are closed.  Dad quit Singer in the 60' because they started making machines with plastic parts.  It's too bad many machines are not as good as an old Singer.  My sister has my Mom's Feather Weight she bought back in 1938.  My Mom bought another Feather Weight and I now have that.  I learned to sew on my Mom's machine when I was nine. 


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