Our Quilt Shop Spotlight continues with a visit to Cool
Cottons in Portland, Oregon. Owner Marie Ritten was kind enough to share the
story of how her shop got its start, how Cool Cottons fits into Portland's DIY
scene, and what unique fabrics and materials she carries. Read on to learn more about Cool Cottons.
Thank you so much for taking the time to be interviewed. Can you tell us about how Cool Cottons came to be?
Cool cottons has been in business for four and a half years now! We are
located in a 100-year-old house (which showcases fabric beautifully) on SE
Hawthorne Blvd in Portland, Oregon. The sewing and crafting community in
Portland is so vibrant and a real DIY attitude rules. We've got new moms and
dads outfitting their baby nursery or making their first quilt, expert sewers
looking for the newest contemporary fabrics for garment sewing or intricate
piecework, and a lot of "collectors" who just need to have a piece of
the latest beautiful Japanese fabric to add to their stash. We are extremely
fortunate that Portland crafters love to shop local and really support small
I have always loved fabric, crafting, and sewing. I started
quilting when I needed some handwork to occupy me while I was working in a call
center for an airline. Seventeen years later, a transfer across country, and
dozens of quilts later, I was offered a buy-out that enabled me to move to
Portland and open Cool Cottons. Originally I started with a business partner
(who I have since bought out), we wanted a place that was a bright happy place
to be. That is one of the best parts of this business; it's hard to be in a bad
mood when you're surrounded by such fabric goodness. It's not a bad way to
spend the day.
What fabric lines, items, and products do you carry in
Although our emphasis is on contemporary prints (Free
Spirit, Michael Miller, Moda, and Westminster) we do have almost all of the
Kaffe Fassett shot cottons and a large selection of fabrics by Robert Kaufman, Northcott,
and Kona Bay solids that modern quilters use to such great effect. Japanese
fabrics from Kokka and Yuwa are also well represented (from gorgeous Nani
Iro double gauze to the cotton/linen lines from Echino and Heather Ross). I
recently ordered the Lotta Jansdotter line "Echo" from Windham.
What sort of classes and events do you have?
Since the rise of several sewing studios in Portland we no
longer offer much in the way of classes. There are five studios that have
opened in the past two years within five miles of us and between them they do a
great job of reaching every age and skill level and offer more variety than we
as a small shop could ever hope to. We get a lot of new customers from their
referrals and in turn we send folks their way. That said, we do have a Block of
the Month Quilt Club that has proven to be popular with both novice and expert
quilters. For some it's about learning new techniques, and for others it all
about the social time.
Is there a short story or anecdote you'd like to share
about your store or your customers?
When you open a fabric shop you expect to get the
quilters and garment sewers in. What surprised me is also what the rest of the
world is doing with fabric. We've had book binders, people knitting with fabric
strips, costumers, doll makers, photographers looking for back drops and lots
of sewers and non sewers alike making curtains. We've even rented out our
fabric for a photo shoot!
What plans do you have for the future?
No particular plans for the future. I love what I do so
I hope to be able to keep on doing it. Hopefully the fabrics I love will be
what my customers are looking for...so far so good. I don't have as much time to sew as I once did, but my
favorite part has always been playing with different fabric combinations, and
now I get to help other people do it too.
To learn more about Cool Cottons, visit coolcottons.biz
Photos by Marie Ritten