Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Colorado Fabrics trip report

I've posted some of these pictures on IG, but wanted to put down my impressions about the rebirth of Colorado Fabrics in their new home at 4042 S Parker Rd, Aurora, CO 80014.  I have no affiliation with them, but a great deal of loyalty as I've shopped with them for 29 of their 30 years in business.

Even before I moved from Berkeley to Boulder, I had heard about both Tattered Cover Book Store and Denver Fabrics.  They were the premier stores in the time zone and among the best in the nation.  Legendary would not be an understatement.

Did you know that National Jewish Hospital in Denver began as the National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives?  Jewish girls and women who worked in the garment industry in NYC were especially susceptible to consumption both due to crowding and inhaled fibers, which weakened their lungs.  National Jewish treated the sick, without regard for ability to pay.  Jewish organizations raised money to send the sick out to Denver and to pay for their medical care.

The women and girls who recovered founded the garment manufacturing industry in Denver.

All this is a digression to say that there were a lot of garmentos in Denver with links to the NYC and LA garment trade; one family founded Denver Fabrics.  The array of top quality old stock designer stuff sold on rolls at DF was amazing.  As .the. fabric store for the outdoor-obsessed Rocky Mountain region, they also stocked a room full of outdoor recreation fabric.  Add their bridal and home dec departments and you had one stop shopping.

Oh, if you joined their DF Club (mailing list) for $15/year, they gave you 30% discounts on all patterns and books and loaned sewing VHS tapes for free.

Denver Fabrics moved from Denver to bigger quarters in Littleton, but then had to downsize a few years later (but in the same location.)

Times changed.  Amazon arrived.  Joann's perpetually marked patterns down by 40%.  Manufacturing moved overseas and designer dead stock was harder to source.  People quit sewing garments and moved to quilting.  Times were so lean, the former owners sold the name, Denver Fabrics, to Fashion Fabrics Club in STL.

Some long-time employees of DF bought the store from the founding family and are trying to reinvent the sewing store.  It's a totally different time and I have to be careful to not lament what I miss.

The biggest change is that they moved from Littleton to south Aurora and doubled the floorspace to 40,000 square feet.  It's cavernous.
Plenty of parking and you'll need it to get to suburbia.

Panorama from the front entrance.

New NY Designer stuff on near right racks.  Older stuff on shelves to left and behind.
The aisles are wide.  The store feels empty.  However, an employee told me that they do have 1.25 the fabric as the Littleton store and 2.00 the floorspace.  I hope that, over time, they can add to the fabric so the place feels less cavernous.

This is the place to shop in Denver if you need to make a wedding or special occasion dress.

The depth of the silk selection is impressive.
Their large stock of quilting fabric rivals a standalone quilt shop.  I didn't get a photo because quilt fabric doesn't thrill me as much anymore.   I was impressed by their longarm studio.  You can pay someone to quilt your top, or take a class and rent time on the machine to DIY.

Longarm studio.  Rent time or pay someone to quilt for you.
 They stock an array of backings and battings at fair but not bargain prices.  That pretty much sums up their pricing strategy.  I hate places that mark stuff up and then have phony sales.  CF treats the customer respectfully, and prices realistically considering their overhead.
Batting sold at realistic prices every day (not Joann's mark-up or internet bargain prices.)
 I also like the convenience of having aisles and aisles in the center devoted to a plethora of notions.  You want to sew bags?  They have patterns, findings/hardware, interfacing and materials all in one place.  You want to sew couture?  Outdoor?  Home Dec?  They got you covered.

Bag findings, patterns and material all in one place.
I found it a bit exhausting so I just purchased some specialty notions from the center of the store and then cruised the bargain area.

Oops, did I mention that they had a well-organized bargain fabric area?  CF is also an odd-jobber of fabrics.
Bargain fabric ($3-$5/yd) is organized by color in a rainbow.
 Yes, it's a rainbow.  The moderate and lower quality stuff is in this back area--all $3-$5/yd.  The higher quality odd-jobber stuff is in the front and costs more.
Also bargain flat folds.  Not pictured, the bargain silk remnant area.
Refer back to the panorama to see the wool and knits sections.  They are each roughly the size of the special occasion silk section.

I ran out of steam and did not explore the Home Dec or Outdoor area last weekend.  They sell high quality pillow inserts at reasonable prices.  They're much better than stuff I ordered off the internet or found at IKEA and only slightly more expensive.

You'll have to imagine the thread and zipper selection.

I was disappointed in the button selection because I remember the wall of a la carte buttons in the old, old store.  It wasn't quite like Britex, but maybe half the selection.  Today's CF selection is kind of pedestrian in comparison.

They sell machines and have a classroom and a meeting room (in addition to the longarm studio.)

The staff is very helpful and knowledgeable.  They are the best part of shopping at CF.

It's almost 41 miles each way from Boulder.  (With each successive move, they get further and further from Boulder.)  I had to make IKEA and LL Bean runs, which are sort of in the south Denver area.

South Denver is undergoing explosive growth.  Roads are congested and constantly under construction.  People drive way crazier in Denver than in California.  I almost got t-boned by a jacked up Jeep that was cutting in and out of gridlocked traffic.  How he could have not seen a minivan is beyond me.  I arrived at CF so shell-shocked, my pulse did not go down to normal after a full hour of stroking fabric.

I stroked this silk crepe de chine remnant while walking around the store.  It came home with me.
It's not really worth it to drive 82 miles round trip to visit CF when I have Elfriede's Fine Fabrics (EFF) literally right around the corner from my home.

EFF is a jam-packed jewel box of a store that has a surprising amount of what I need (and didn't even know I needed.)  In fact, I found that CF didn't have the French grosgrain that I wanted.  I know that EFF stocks it.  It's in a drawer and you have to ask, but they have it.

Additionally, Boulder has a Joann's and Fabricate.  Then I have The Fabric Store, Mood and SAS in my neighborhood in LA.  There are also many other great fabric stores in LA in areas that I frequent less often.

I've decided that everything is much farther away in Colorado but traffic moves (somewhat) faster.  Overall, CO means more time spent driving than LA!

I did found out that the light-rail H line comes within 2 miles of CF.   I can bike to bus rapid transit (BRT) from Boulder to downtown Denver's Union Station, bike a mile through downtown Denver traffic to the light-rail station, take it to 9-mile station in Aurora, and then bike through Cherry Creek Reservoir state park to the store.  It can take 2 hours each way if I time it just right.  Or I can just shop local.

If you are flying into Denver, CF is off I-225, due south of the airport.  You can land, pick up a rental car, and shop CF on your way to the mountains.

Colorado Fabrics is having a grand opening on Saturday March 4, 2017.  It sounds like great fun.  I hope you check out the store because I hope they stay in business a long, long, long time.


  1. That silk is lovely. I hope to find a spare day for fabric & thread shopping there around a conference in a couple of months!

    1. Which conference?

    2. If you are in downtown w/o a car, you can easily get to Fancy Tiger and Fabric Bliss by bus or bike share (or a long walk.) They are small and much smaller respectively, but well curated.

  2. "People drive way crazier in Denver than in California... I arrived at CF so shell-shocked, my pulse did not go down to normal after a full hour of stroking fabric."

    been living in S. Denver for 21 years, it was a pleasant quiet little suburban backwater for some of that time. Now it's basically LA-by-the-Rockies, bad fast aggressive drivers and lots of them.
    I go home and get some fur therapy by stroking my faithful spaniel..

  3. I've been wondering what the new store was like so enjoyed your review. I worked at DF for awhile; that's where I built up my stash. Yes, traffic in Denver is horrible. I've been rear-ended 3 or 4 times & once saw a young woman driving with her hands through the steering wheel, texting, steering with her arms.

  4. Does CF sell online?

    1. They do not have an online store yet but they will ship anything in the store to you. Call the store or use the contact form on their website (use the Home pull-down menu) and tell them what you are looking for.

  5. Anonymous14:11

    Thanks for the review. When I lived in Denver, Denver Fabrics (at the old location on Federal near the now defunct Loretto Heights College) was my go-to spot. That and D'Leas. Now that I have moved to California I still try to make the pilgrimage when I am in Denver visiting relatives. I've been worried that Colo Fabrics would not weather the changes in the brick-and-mortar fabric market, but it seems they are.

    As for the traffic, I agree. People pull stuff in Denver that you would never in your right mind consider on a California freeway. I think it's because in California we've had traffic for so long it's part of life. Everyone knows we're all going to get where we're going eventually.

    1. I miss the old Federal location. It was so much more convenient; I bought fabric and Asian groceries and had real Asian food for lunch once a month in one easy trip.

      I miss D'Leas. She has the most amazing stuff.

      I went to a traffic computer modeling seminar. The researcher says that they have different parameterization constants for driver behavior. One for CA and one for the rest of the nation. He says that drivers in CA drive faster AND with fewer accidents than the rest of the nation b/c of more cooperative behavior.

      Cooperation => we reach our goals faster and more safely than 'Every man for himself.' Hmm. I wonder if that works for things other than driving?

  6. Anonymous16:12

    Thanks for the traffic modeling fact - my observation is grounded in fact! You made my day.

  7. Please new address?


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