Piper Tupper started learning to sew when she was eight, but even in her 30s she felt intimidated in fabric stores.
“I’d feel uncertain of my abilities, or even be ignored because I wasn’t in a certain age group or sewing a certain kind of project. So when I bought Esther’s Fabrics a year ago, I aimed to make the store the exact opposite of that experience.”
There are no stupid questions at the Bainbridge Island store, originally opened by Esther Fox in 1959, and the carefully selected fabrics and sewing notions are meant to inspire creativity no matter your skill level. Alongside Piper are a handful of dedicated staff, some experienced sewists who’ve worked at the store for many years and some new sewists whose enthusiasm and questions help the store stay welcoming for all.
“We have regular local customers, and also meet a large number of tourists visiting from Seattle, or even stopping by Bainbridge before embarking on a cruise. There’s something here for everyone,” Piper says.
Sewing classes for all ages and abilities
Esther’s Fabrics has offered classes before, but one of Piper’s goals as owner was to have a full and varied class calendar so the offerings were more consistent. She’s enlisted five guest instructors to help accomplish that goal, and offers classes for all ages, skill levels and time schedules.
“Beginner classes are usually a single session, and participants get to walk out with a completed project at the end. More advanced sewists can sign up for a series of classes to master a new skill, and of course you’re always welcome to stop by the store if you’re stuck on a project,” Piper says.
Find a full list of classes at esthersfabrics.com/classes. Esther’s Fabrics is also a proud supporter of Bainbridge Island’s Art Walk, and is always looking for new ways to get involved in the community.
Removing the intimidation factor
Piper says some of her regular customers hesitate to call themselves sewists because they say, “all I make is napkins.”
“But they love fabric, and share their creations with loved ones. In our beginner classes we make pillowcases, zipper pouches and other simple projects with fun fabrics, so they walk out feeling excited and confident.”
The price of fabrics at independent stores will never be as low as prices at big box craft stores, but Piper is mindful of affordability when ordering for Esther’s Fabrics. Sometimes that means bundling to save on shipping costs, or choosing quality basics that are both inexpensive and well-made.
“We’ve all seen gorgeous fabric and said, ‘it’s so beautiful, I could never cut it.’ So I like to have a balance of beauty and basics that you’re not afraid to sew.”