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Former national lacrosse star reopens Valley Fabrics 8 years after closing shop

  • Francesca DenHartog, owner of Valley Fabrics, left, prepares an order for customers Isabelle Kopack of Amherst, center, and her mother Natalie Baxter Strange of Amsterdam at the Northampton business. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • An assortment of children's prints are available May 29, 2018 at Valley Fabrics in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Francesca DenHartog, owner of Valley Fabrics, center, talks with customers Natalie Baxter Strange of Amsterdam, left, and her daughter Isabelle Kopack of Amherst May 29, 2018 at the Northampton business. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • An assortment of Art Gallery fabrics are sold at Valley Fabrics. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • An assortment of brightly patterned Kaffe Fassett fabrics are sold at Valley Fabrics in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Patty Normand of Holyoke, right, looks around Valley Fabrics. At left, quilt pattern samples by DenHartog are displayed. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • The exterior of Valley Fabrics is shown in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Fat quarters, which are quarter yard cuts, are displayed in a basket May 29, 2018 at Valley Fabrics in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Patty Normand of Holyoke, left, and Valley Fabrics owner Francesca DenHartog work together on a baby quilt May 29, 2018 during open sew hours at the Northampton business. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Patty Normand of Holyoke works on a baby quilt May 29, 2018 during open sew hours at Valley Fabrics in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Jennifer Samolewicz of Florence works on a table runner that will be a wedding gift May 29, 2018 during open sew hours at Valley Fabrics in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY



@mjtidwell781
Sunday, June 03, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — After an eight-year hiatus, Valley Fabrics is back — but upholstery and traditional fabrics aren’t the soupe du jour at the shop’s new Northampton digs.

In March, the fabric store reopened its doors at 881 N. King St., which formerly housed Pittsburgh Paints. The brightly colored exterior of the paint shop remains, now matched by vivid swatches of cloth inside.

“People have seen the sign and come tearing in on two wheels,” Valley Fabrics owner Francesca DenHartog said.

After a five-year run, Valley Fabrics first closed its doors in 2009 when DenHartog saw the economy “tanking” and felt it would take a long time to recover. With two kids to think about, she decided to work elsewhere and shuttered the fabric store at 271 Pleasant St., next to Northampton Coffee and the Oxbow Gallery.

A Harvard lacrosse record holder, former player on the U.S. Women’s National Lacrosse Team and an inductee to the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, DenHartog coached field hockey and lacrosse at Northfield Mount Hermon for the duration of the Great Recession. But after her youngest child went off to college, she knew she wanted to get back into the fabric game.

“The pieces all came together in a way that was really positive,” she said. “Now, I’m coming back to the business a little bit wiser.”

She said she “grew to value exponentially” the community the fabric shop created the first time around. This time around, she’s determined to be a strong businessperson to keep the shop operating for that community. She’s also expanding to offer online sales.

Coming back into the fold, Valley Fabrics is open to a whole new generation of quilters, seamsters and seamstresses and fiber artists or “sewists” — artists who create art with needle and thread. According to industry studies, DenHartog said the average quilter is 64 years old, college educated and nearing retirement.

“But because we’re in the Valley, we also have a great younger DIY population starting to discover us,” she said. “We’re a very modern fabric store. We were way ahead of the curve the first time around.”

DenHartog said the store is unique because it doesn’t offer many “traditional” fabrics that people associate with quilting or sewing. The store leans toward bright, bold colors and a “modern” selection of quilting cottons, knits for garment sewing, and, coming in September, linens as well as yarn dyes.

The store will also offer new sewing kits, patterns created by DenHartog and training to use the store’s 12-foot, long-arm quilting machine.

She said she saw a need because many other area fabric shops have closed in recent years.

After 14 years of selling sewing machines, fabric and quilting services, A Notion to Quilt in Shelburne Falls closed in August 2017. The Yellow Quilt Shop in Hatfield opened in 2016 to fill the void left by the closing of the Southampton Quilt Shop.

The offerings at the Yellow Quilt, the Textile Company Inc. in Greenfield and Quilts & Treasures Inc. in East Longmeadow differ from those of Valley Fabric, DenHartog said.

“I don’t think we have a single bolt in common,” she said. “We complement each other.”

She said the new location is perfect for the shop because it is right on the Hatfield town line, is visible to drivers on Route 10 and has ample parking. And, she said the former paint shop’s “giant rainbow striping” on the exterior suits Valley Fabrics.

“We’re back. We’re back in full form. If you come into the shop you’ll see the vibe is just bright, colorful and light,” DenHertog said. “Our strength is how we put fabrics together in a new fresh way.”

M.J. Tidwell can be reached at mjtidwell@gazettenet.com.