When you think of reasons for visiting Portland, Oregon, your list might include majestic Mount Hood, the breathtaking Columbia River Gorge, or the enormous Powell's City Of Books. But if you sew, you most definitely want to add the awe-inspiring Fabric Depot retail store. Located on the southeast side of the Rose City, this is the fabric store sewers and quilters travel around the world to visit. Let us be your travel guide for a quick trip through their 40,000 square feet of floor space – literally an acre of fabric and notions.
People flock to this store at 700 SE 122nd in Portland because they know whatever kind of fabric they need, they are likely find it in stock and at a great price: From high-end designer brands to exotic silks and batiks to fun flannels and a whole zoo of faux furs. And of course there are the quilting cottons, thousands and thousands of them. Gazing across the store, It seems like there's no end to your choices.
"We never run out of the basics"
The store has a reputation for always having what you want in-stock. This is a legacy directly attributable to its founder, Tony Bosboom. Born in Holland, he emigrated to the U.S. in the 1950s and began his fabric career with Portland's legendary Jantzen Swimwear Company. He married Oregon girl, Marie Newman, and together they opened their own fabric store in 1968. With their knack for knowing what the sewing consumer wants and a lot of hard work, they were able to expand this first location into the Fabricland chain of stores, which at its height numbered 92 locations across the west!
At the age of 68 they sold the chain, but not before they'd decided, in 1992, to follow one more of Tony's dreams: to open the ultimate single-location fabric store – Fabric Depot was born. To ensure it could be the largest, best-stocked store on the west coast, they selected a 70,000 square foot building, which had formerly housed a local grocery/variety shopping center. 40,000 square feet was devoted to the sales floor and the remaining 30,000 to warehouse the fabric and notions.
Tony understood that one of the biggest frustrations for a sewer, quilter or crafter on a shopping trip was discovering the fabric she/he wanted was out of stock. So he devoted a whole section in the warehouse to stocking the most popular "basics" from the major fabric lines. Barring a major catastrophe, Fabric Depot will always have hundreds of these in stock.
Continuing this legacy is Tony and Marie's daughter, Trudy Parry Shurts, who is company President. Her daughter, Elaine Love (Tony and Marie's granddaughter) is Operations Director. They are assisted by 130 employees, many of whom have been with the company for decades, such as Senior Buyer Georgia Granato, who has worked with the Bosboom family since 1978.
L to R: Elaine Love, Trudy Parry Shurts, Georgia Granato
Having a staff this experienced is extremely helpful when you have questions about fabrics, notions, or a project you're working on. They're also familiar with the store's inventory, which is really important when you have so much to choose from.
The store has a large education center where you can attend sewing classes and demonstrations most days. Garment sewists travel hundreds of miles for the week-long Palmer/Pletsch workshops. But Fabric Depot also holds more basic classes several days a week. About once a month, notable sewing and quilting authors will have special presentations. Local guilds hold their sewing days here. And then there are the popular "open" sewing classes where you just bring in whatever project you're working on in order to get a little personal help.
Next to the classroom, reputable local sewing machine dealer Montavilla Sewing Machines has an annex store where you can shop for three major lines of machines (including our fave, Janome!) and accessories. Truly a one-stop experience.
The vast selection of fabrics might be what gets you into the store, but it's Fabric Depot's terrific discounts that will get you filling your shopping cart with bolt after bolt until you can't see where you're going.
They always have some kind of special going on and store-wide discounts of 25% - 30% aren't unusual. But on those special weekends where everything is 40% off, it's like being inside a busy beehive. You can feel the creative enthusiasm in the air.
Linens and taffetas and batiks.... oh my!
From the beginning, Fabric Depot has stocked high-end designer fabrics from the New York and European fashion houses, like Herme's, Valentino, and Dolce & Gabana. Normally, up to several hundreds of dollars per yard, Fabric Depot offers them at substantial discounts, giving everyday seamstresses the chance to work with these gorgeous, "runway-ready" textiles. In addition, their full Bridal Department has amazing luxury fabrics and accessories to create one-of-a-kind special occasion gowns.
At the other end of the spectrum is their Warehouse Sale Center. It's a discount store within the store that carries special deals and closeouts on all kinds of fabric and notions.
Then there's everything in between! From laminates to home décor to fashion and more. Fabric Depot prides itself on having the best selection of the classics as well as the latest trends.
Two full-time seamstresses make samples of décor, garment, and quilting projects. You'll find ideas and inspiration down every aisle.
Here at Sew4Home, we're proud to be working with the team at Fabric Depot to create projects that present various fabric selections in new and interesting ways, as well as step-by-step tutorials on useful notions. Check the list of recent Sew4Home-Fabric Depot projects at the end of this article.
A mix that's uniquely Portland
Part of what makes a visit to Fabric Depot so fun is their diversity of customers. Of course their 11,000 quilting fabrics draw a lot of quilters. But Portland also has a very active community of younger sewers who are boldly trying new things in fashion, bridal, and décor.
The store is welcoming to beginners, but also draws established designers – several of whom have been featured on TV's Project Runway. These professionals love to stop in to see the latest fabrics and get supplies for their current endeavors.
The mix of shoppers on any given day is as diverse as Portland's growing east side. And of course, this being Portland, you can bring your dog into the store with you (normal pet owner courtesies apply).
If you have someone with you who's not really into fabric (how can that be?!), he/she can sit in the "TV Lounge." There you'll find comfortable chairs, newspapers, a big screen TV - usually tuned to a sports channel, and even free Wi-Fi.
How to plan your visit to Fabric Depot
Many people schedule sewing vacations where they come to Portland to take a Palmer/Pletsch course, shop 'til they drop at Fabric Depot, and take in some local sights. (You can check their website for class schedules.) You can fly, drive your car, or make the trip in your RV. The store has a large parking lot so RVers won't have trouble finding a spot.
For your visit to Fabric Depot we suggest wearing comfortable shoes, bringing a friend or two, and making sure your cell phones are turned on. On our last visit we saw a woman who had to have her friend paged over the public address system in order to find her again. With so much room to wander and so many things to look at, it's easy to get separated.
But the most important plan is to simply explore this beautiful world of sewing and craft supplies. However far away you live, Fabric Depot is worth the trip. It's the most fun you can have when not in front of your machine.
Visit them on the Web
If you can't make it to the store in person, you can shop via FabricDepot.com. They have over 10,000 fabrics and notions on their new website. Though e-commerce has their own dedicated warehouse space, they can also get you fabrics from the store. And if you can't find it on the site, contact them and they will help create a special-order for you.
They also have a shipping policy tailored to the project-based sewer: they only send complete orders. After all, what good is your trim fabric if you can't get your main color? In the rare event they don't have your whole order in stock, they will contact you to make arrangements and/or substitutions.
Just like the store, you get a huge selection and great customer service at FabricDepot.com.
The Official Stats
700 SE 122nd (at Stark)
Portland Oregon 97233
Hours: Monday - Saturday 9:00AM - 9:00PM, Sunday 10:00AM - 7:00PM
Closed for Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas