By Sharon Challenger
While combing through Haddam and Killingworth pages on Facebook, I came across a posting by Irene Hatch. She is in the process of starting up a new, local low-priced fabric business, and was reaching out to let the community know about her new venture.
She kindly agreed to answer the following questions for Haddam-Killingworth News.
Q: What was your inspiration to start your fabric thrift online business?
Hatch: Last year I discovered a woman on TikTok who has a fabric thrift store in northern Massachusetts. She started during Covid, selling fabric out of her house and within a year had worked herself up to a profitable storefront in her town, offering low-priced fabric, sewing, and needlework supplies, as well as business workshops, crafting and guest artist classes, etc. She bills herself as “the no-kill shelter for all your unwanted fabric.” I thought, “I could do that too!” There is so much “orphaned” fabric in the world, and so few reasonably-priced retail options. Plus, the quality of new fabric is just not the same – the weave is inconsistent and it’s almost all synthetic and non-compostable. A lot of it is manufactured unethically and creates tons of waste along with human rights and labor abuse! By rescuing orphaned fabric, I can help keep it out of landfills and provide lower-priced, better-quality fabric to everyone, making sewing accessible again. I’m in touch with the woman in Massachusetts, as well as others in California who are working on the same type of sewing thrift store setup.
I plan to start with online sales, pop-up/tag sales (likely during the Middletown town-wide tag sale in September) and maybe a booth at craft fairs, cosplay events, etc. Eventually I’d love it to be a legit storefront.
Q: When did you develop a love of fabric, and the art of sewing?
Hatch: I started sewing when I was 10 – over 40 years ago (which is amazing since in my mind I’m still only 30). My mom taught me. I guess I was one of those kids who just found their passion early on, because by the time I was a senior in high school I was making nearly all of my own school clothes. (We had a dress code and had to wear skirts or dresses.) Plus at the time, sewing was much cheaper than buying clothes in a store. I went to college to get an English degree, but because I knew how to sew I ended up with a work-study job in the costume shop of the Theatre Department. It was like I found MY PEOPLE. From that point on I spent as much time as I could in the costume shop. I loved absolutely everything about costuming – the history, the construction, the design process. I went on to get an MFA in Costume Design from Indiana University, and pre-kids, worked freelance in Michigan, New Jersey, New York City, and finally in Connecticut. My first Connecticut jobs were over hire draper (patternmaker) positions at Goodspeed Opera House and Long Wharf Theatre. When my girls were tiny, I took a break from theatre, but as they got older, I started working a bit (stitching for Roberta Hamelin in Durham who builds all the female chorus costumes for “Hamilton;” teaching and designing as an adjunct professor at WCSU). Since the big Covid shut-down, I’ve been trying to create my own “place” in the sewing and design world. I’ve been digitizing vintage patterns so they can be printed at home, sewing them out of thrifted fabric, and now I feel like all the unloved fabric in the state is calling my name! I love sewing and fabric. I’ve loved it nearly my whole life. I also love teaching and I want to spread this love of sewing and fabric to others. It’s a great skill to learn!
Q: Do you plan any online instruction, i.e. YouTube videos?
Hatch: I’m not sure if I’ll be doing any online instruction since it’s not my forte and it’s tricky to correct/guide people when you’re only doing a video. Fabric and sewing are such tactile activities. I’d love to eventually have a storefront with a workshop area so I could offer small group classes i.e. Basic Sewing Machine Use, How to Alter Thrifted Clothes, Make an Easy Skirt in 2 hours, Quick Quilting, etc. My daughters plan to help me set up my own TikTok and Instagram feeds, however! And I already have the business Facebook page set up.
Q: In the future if you do find a place to open a store, where would you like it to be?
Hatch: Since I feel like foot traffic would be very beneficial for this store, probably Middletown would be my best bet. One of the side streets between Wesleyan and Main Street would be dreamy! But…..since this is essentially a thrift store, rents around Main Street might be prohibitive. I’ve been told that “If you build it, they will come” – and that people will find me wherever I end up. But since I live in Middletown, I’d like it to be semi-nearby.
Q: What sort of items are you looking for?
Hatch: I am currently taking anything sewing- or fabric-related. Patterns, thread, sewing tools, interfacing, fabric (apparel, quilting, decorator – whatever!), buttons, buckles, rulers, measuring tapes, snaps, etc. It needs to be clean, odor-free, and smoke-free. I am not really taking fleece because there is just too much of it in the world, it is difficult to sew, and well, it just sort of makes me crabby. I will eventually take yarn, crochet, and needlework supplies too, but since I know sewing and fabric the best I want to start with those.
Q: If someone has fabric to donate, do you have a minimum yardage requirement?
Hatch: I don’t have a minimum yardage requirement, since smaller pieces could become craft bundles or be cut into squares for quilt kits. Larger yardages are great too! But I’ll take everything right now.
Q: Are there any fabrics or items which you do not want to work with?
Hatch: As I mentioned above – fleece. Blah. That’s mostly it. Maybe burlap or stuff like that which is made more for decor purposes?
Q: How can people reach you?
Hatch: They can text me at 860-917-0652 or e-mail me at email@example.com. I’ve also got a Facebook page; it’s called Time Warp Textiles and it has a red poppy fabric logo so you can spot it.