Walking into the Eastport Fabric Emporium, a kaleidoscope of colors and patterns greets the eye. True to its name, the Water Street store stocks all manner of fabric and fiber and caters to those who love or seek to knit, crochet, quilt or do another form of needlework.
“Empowering creativity” is the aim of proprietor Karen Benn, who warmly welcomes customers into her shop and strives to find them the right materials and provide expert help whether it’s puzzling a dress pattern or showing how to close the toe on a wool sock.
“I’m a one-woman army,” she said.
A blown-up black-and-white photo of a bespectacled old gentleman counting stitches on a knitting needle graces one of the emporium’s walls. Nearby, soft, vibrant skeins of hand-dyed Malabrigo from Uruguay and other natural and non-synthetic yarns glow like gems from shelves.
Shoppers can peruse a wide selection of fabrics ranging from Robert Kaufman’s contemporary Figment line — a dragonfly-patterned series catches the eye — to Moda’s glorious wildflower line. Every imaginable hue of thread flanks a wall.
Opening her business this past spring, Benn was motivated in part by the fact the closest fabric store was 100 miles away in Bangor. She also sought to create a place where crafters could source their supplies, but also learn new skills and draw inspiration from each other.
At age 6, Benn learned how to sew from her grandmother who taught her how to fix the hem in her pants. Like her own family, she would like to pass on skills that have stood her well and enriched her life.
Before moving to Maine, Benn made women’s dresses and other period clothing typically worn during the mid-1800s as part of an educational program to bring alive the way of life and customs of that time.
The fact that sewing and home economics are no longer taught in schools also motivated her.
“Eastport is rich in women who do fiber arts, but we need to pass them on,” Benn said. “If you know how to quilt, then you know how to hem your pants.”
With that in mind, Benn created a spacious working space at the rear of the year-round store where free classes can be held. She also is tapping local talent to teach such as June Russell, who will offer a beginner’s knitting class on Sept. 16.
By providing a place for learning, Benn hopes new crafters will find mentors within the community.
“People here are really cool,” she said. “Whether they’re from away or local.”
In addition, the Eastport Fabric Emporium hosts a “Happy Hour” on Thursdays where people can relax, sip wine, converse and work on a craft project.
“I think every hour in a fabric and yarn store is a happy hour,” she said.
The Eastport Fabric Emporium is located at 52 Water St. in Eastport. For more info, call 214-9280, email [email protected] and visit www.eastportfabricemporium.com.