Browsing the Possibilities: Cloth & Bobbin

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.


Cloth & Bobbin has an old-fashioned wooden screen door that makes a satisfying old-fashioned wooden screen door sound.

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.

It's like a candy store!

I like any store that manages to be very tidy and organized in a casual, it’s OK to touch the stuff sort of way.

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.”

Ooooooooh. Ahhhhhhh.

Ooooooooh. Ahhhhhhh.

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.

Turns out, Johanna gives private sewing lessons and teaches group classes.

Turns out, Johanna gives private sewing lessons and teaches group classes.

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.


Look closely, and can you find some sock monkeys, grazing sheep and the pattern of Charlie Brown’s shirt.

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!”

In my head, I call the discount table the vortex. I always get sucked in.

Evil table. Bad table. Wait, that orange and pink is festive. Four yards, please!

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.


The fat quarters are the little wedges. But see that super groovy bubbly fabric on the skinny shelf? Right after taking this picture, I marched that bolt over to the cutting table and got myself a yard.

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.

Sure, I just dropped by to take some pictures for the blog. But clearly, this tree yards hard to come with me.

Sure, I just dropped by to take some pictures for the blog. But clearly, these three yards had to come with me.

2 thoughts on “Browsing the Possibilities: Cloth & Bobbin

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