As I wrote in my last post, four years ago things were changing quickly and I was feeling very lost. While walking down a street in Narberth, Pa., I felt compelled to enter Cloth & Bobbin, even though I hadn’t picked up a needle for years, and I didn’t know how to use my new sewing machine. I walked out of that fabric shop with a few yards and a burning desire to get to work.
To me, fabric stores were always a means to an end. Growing up, I had been to impersonal and florescent-light washed Jo-Ann Fabrics and to cramped upholstery warehouses with rolls and rolls of heavy brocades stuffed every which way.
That first visit to Cloth & Bobbin was a comforting experience in itself. I can be nervous and shy in unfamiliar places, but this shop felt immediately welcoming with its warm and cozy atmosphere. Plus, the wooden shelves reminded of somewhere I always feel at home: bookstores.
The owner, Johanna, stocks her store with gorgeous prints from Amy Butler, Kaffe Fassett, Riley Blake, Free Spirit, Timeless Treasures, Robert Kaufman and Michael Miller, and other designers. Not that I knew anything about different designers or quilting weight cotton when I walked in. What I knew could be summed up thusly: “Ooooooooooooh pretty colors.”
I didn’t really talk to Johanna during my first visit to her store because I felt very, very silly compulsively buying fabric for an as-yet-unplanned future project that would require a skill I didn’t yet possess. Had I actually spoken to her at any length, I would have found out that she’s friendly and helpful.
I was particularly attracted to the novelty fabrics. Novelty prints depict actual things, instead of just interesting patterns. I had no idea about the wide world of crazy, goofy, wonderful, beautiful novelty quilting fabrics available. If you can think of it, someone’s put it on a fabric. Sometimes it’s awesome. Sometimes it’s really cheesy. Johanna’ s taste is impeccable, though. On that first day, I picked up prints featuring very realistic-looking apples and raspberries. It must have been before lunch.
Since that first visit, I’ve been back many, many times. I love to wander around and dream about new projects. I’ve also discovered that I’m not just a fabric looker-atter. I must touch the fabric. It’s part of the whole browsing, dreaming, buying process. (I know I’m not the only one. Fabric touchers of the world, unite! … Just me? Oh, never mind. Um, I’ll just be over here. La-la-la.)
There’s a discount table at Cloth & Bobbin. In my head, I call it the vortex of doom, since I dare not look at it, lest I get sucked into its delightful trap. Johanna doesn’t stock anything other than gorgeous high-quality fabrics; Therefore, the sales table always features gorgeous high-quality fabrics.
Which is great, but this scenario messes up my normally sound math skills: “You mean this nice fabric’s almost half off? Why then, I’ll take three times as much!”
For those with commitment issues, there are neatly folded fat quarters (quarters of a yard of fabric) tantalizingly tucked in shelves and baskets all over the store.
At least once a month I show up at Cloth & Bobbin, usually when I’m feeling a little blue. I look at the new fabrics and browse the possibilities. I leave with some yards and a little creative adventure to look forward to.