Sunday, September 03, 2000

Colorful fabrics hard to find

        When quilter Betty Smiddy thinks about all the fabrics she cannot find in Cincinnati, she recalls the yarn-covered walls at H&S Pogue, the former downtown Cincinnati department store.

[photo] Betty Smiddy can't find the fabric she needs for her museum-quality quilts in Cincinnati.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
        A former art needlework buyer for the department store, Ms. Smiddy remembers how shoppers wanted to see a huge spectrum of color on the wall. Still, they usually purchased only off-white yarn.

        It didn't make sense to carry such a wide variety of yarn when people wanted only vanilla, she said, and fabric is the same way.

        “I think we're behind some of the other cities,” Ms. Smiddy said about the area's fabric selections. “But knowing what sells here, it doesn't do any good to stock anything that doesn't sell.”

        So Ms. Smiddy, who has had her quilts displayed in museums and featured in Better Homes & Gardens, orders at least half of her fabrics from catalogs. And that's a lot of fabric — Ms. Smiddy has been quilting for 30 years. It is not unusual for her to spend $10 a yard for fabric and to invest $150 in a quilt's facing.

        But she doesn't see her problem as one of retailers failing to meet her needs. She said too few Cincinnatians share her tastes or wants to justify local merchants carrying the fabrics.

        “If I could find it locally, I would,” she said. “It's just that it isn't here, and we really don't have that many fabric stores for the size of the city.”

        Sitting in her West Chester sun room, she pulled out bolts of fabric with Byzantine designs, vibrant gold trimmings and Egyptian patterns. Quilting is important to Ms. Smiddy not just as a craft, but also as therapy for fibromyalgia. She was diagnosed with the illness, characterized by musculoskeletal pain, fatigue and multiple tender joints, in 1989.

        The manufacturers of Ms. Siddy's fabrics, Alexander Henry and Hoffman International, are a tough sell in Cincinnati, she said.

        “They say, "Sorry, we just can't sell it in the area. It just doesn't move well,'” Ms. Smiddy said. “The smaller (stores) may stock some Hoffman and some Alexander Henry. They just can't stock all these.”


— Lisa Biank Fasig

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