Swanson’s Fabrics in Turners Falls finds niche in passing on unique textiles

  • Owner Kathryn Swanson with some fabric for sale at Swanson’s Fabrics at 106 Avenue A in Turners Falls. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Greenfield resident Jayna Rubin shops for fabric at Swanson’s Fabrics at 106 Avenue A in Turners Falls. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • At Swanson’s Fabrics in Turners Falls, all fabrics cost $4 per yard, no matter where they came from or how much they would have sold for originally. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Swanson’s Fabrics, at 106 Avenue A in Turners Falls, is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Swanson’s Fabrics owner Kathryn Swanson folds fabric in her shop at 106 Avenue A in Turners Falls. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Since opening in August, Swanson’s Fabrics owner Kathryn Swanson says her stock of secondhand material CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Swanson’s Fabrics, at 106 Avenue A in Turners Falls, sells secondhand fabrics that have never been used.

  • Swanson’s Fabrics, at 106 Avenue A in Turners Falls, sells secondhand fabrics that have never been used. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 11/26/2020 8:32:35 AM

TURNERS FALLS — Swanson’s Fabrics grows out of a flaw that all people who sew have in common — they always collect more fabric than they end up using.

Everything at the store is secondhand, but it’s all unused. It comes from collections whose owners may have been overly ambitious in buying fabrics to sew with.

And there seems to be no shortage. When the store opened in August, at 106 Avenue A, owner Kathryn Swanson stocked it from a few large collections she had recently acquired. Since then, the stock has only grown, she said.

All fabrics cost $4 per yard, no matter where they came from or how much they would have sold for originally. The point is to get people to use them, Swanson explained.

“My idea is, I’ll collect too much fabric for all of us,” Swanson said. “And if we all share it around, then we can all have access as a community to this really amazing and inexpensive stash.”

Growing up, Swanson’s mother was a costume designer. Swanson learned to sew with secondhand fabric from the costume shop her mother worked in.

The idea of using secondhand fabrics for a store came to her earlier this year. In a personal sewing project, Swanson was making rugs that incorporated lots of different fabrics. She needed a big, diverse stock of materials, but didn’t want to buy it all new.

Searching online, she found a retired Broadway costume designer who was whittling down her collection.

“Broadway has the best fabrics,” she added.

So, in January, Swanson drove to New Jersey to meet the woman, and brought back as much fabric as she could squeeze in her car.

“And then, suddenly, we had to make hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of masks,” she continued, referencing the March onset of the COVID-19 pandemic locally. “And I had all this fabric ...”

The store’s goal of making sewing accessible has other aspects. Swanson and other staff members offer sewing consultations, custom mask making and remote shopping appointments, whereby an employee video chats with a customer to show them items in the store that would suit particular projects. The store is available as a workshop space Sunday through Tuesday, when the store is closed.

Since opening in August, Swanson said, the store seems to be popular. Customers are both older people who have been sewing for years, and younger people who are just learning. And the stock of fabrics continues to grow.

“The reason people collect so much is that they don’t want to throw it away,” Swanson noted. “They want to pass it on.”

Swanson’s Fabrics is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday. For more information, visit swansonsfabrics.com.

Reach Max Marcus at mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-930-4231.


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