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Fabric Shops From Days Of Yore ~ Around The Frame

Last September, Jeff visited Born Again Quilts to inform me that Marceille had passed away a couple of months ago. Although I was unfamiliar with her name, when he told me I purchased fabrics at her garage sales on Old Trail Road, I knew exactly who he was referring to. I went online to learn that Marceille Janell (Keplinger) Shelley had passed away on July 15 at the age of 93 and that she was born in Zanesville, married Carl “Bill” Shelley in 1953, started a family and built a tri-level home in Waynedale, Indiana where she lived out her years. Her friends and family adoringly referred to her as the “Mayor of Waynedale” as she may very well have been the only true and honest politician out there.

Jeff visited me that day to ask if I would take custody of Marceille’s fabrics, a request that I gladly accepted. As he unloaded six boxes of fabrics, I could tell I was going to have a field day going through them, as the fabrics spanned from the 1950s to present day. You can tell a lot about fabric lovers by their fabric choices and how they stored it. In her fabric stash, Marceille had many fabrics still in their brown paper bags, some with their thread, zipper, bias tape, pattern, and receipts intact. Many of the receipts were handwritten where the clerk wrote the month and day, but not the year. Some of those, however, had Simplicity or Butterick promo sheets for the upcoming school, or holiday fashions accompanying them. This narrowed down their timeline to a couple of months prior to the event. One Sear’s bag commemorated its 75th anniversary that dated its contents back to 1961.

Looking at the paper bags brought back memories of fabric and department stores of decades ago that no longer exist, or no longer carry fabric. Growing up on Fort Wayne’s southside, my mom and I would frequent Southgate, where fabric could be found at JC Penney’s, Grants, House of Fabrics, and Stillman’s. There was also Wolf & Dessauer/ L.S. Ayer’s and G.C. Murhpy’s downtown, and Kmart and Mr. Wiggs out south. Some of the paper bags held fabric from stores I had never heard of: The Boston Store “Your Home-owned Department Store” that used to be on the spot of the Lincoln Tower’s drive-up, Northern Woolens on Lima Rd, Scherer Fabrics at Maplecrest Plaza, and Donels at Anthony Wayne Plaza.

These paper fabric bags brought back memories of fabric shopping with mom. We didn’t just go in and buy the pattern, fabric, and notions. Often my mom would use the cutting space to lay the pattern out on the fabric to get the saleswoman’s opinion as to whether the pattern could be laid out differently than what was suggested to see if a quarter yard of fabric could be saved and often, they could! These saleswomen knew their stuff: no deer in the headlights looks from them when you had a sewing challenge!

Marceille went through phases where she would purchase a certain type of fabric. One of them was colorful Hawaiian/tropical prints. I found yardage of several of pieces all boxed together and nowhere to go. Perhaps it was fad that faded, or she lost interest in making them.

The quilting community suffered a great loss with the recent closing of Roanoke’s Fabric and Friends with its 10,000 + bolts of fabric and quilting merchandise. Their closing left Edward’s Sewing Center (NE Fort Wayne), The Chocolate Thimble (Huntertown), Red Barn Quiltery (Monroeville) and Born Again Quilts on South Wayne Ave. as the only quilt shops in Allen County. Will there be a resurgence in sewing and crafting, or will these stores go the way of the video stores? Only time and customers will tell.

One thing that I can tell you is that Marceille had a real love for Waynedale, its people, and her fabrics!

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Lois Levihn

She is the author of the "Around the Frame" quilting column. She is a graduate of Wayne HS. Quilts have always been important to her, she loves the stories surrounding them, the techniques used in making them, & restoring them. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer