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Racks of fabric at ThreadBear

Quilters and knitters responded to a single Neighbors Facebook post about a new addition to the Las Cruces fiber arts world withMichael and Ann Siewert in their store, TheadBear. more than 9,000 views and 100 shares. It’s obvious there is a groundswell of excitement in welcoming ThreadBear owners Michael and Ann Siewert to their new home. When the store was located in Las Vegas, New Mexico, quilters traveled from smaller towns like Deming and even our biggest city, Albuquerque, to shop the distinctive selection of fabrics. Quilters from the Duke City and El Paso have already found their way to the store’s new location, along with plenty of locals — appropriately masked, of course.

Quilt fabric and yarn

What is causing all this attention? There are other stores where quilters can purchase fabric, but quilters are compulsive collectors of unique and beautiful fabrics, always searching for something that can’t be found elsewhere. In addition, until their arrival, Las Cruces no longer had a shop that offered high-end yarns and knitting supplies, with the closest full-service yarn store being The Yarn Emporium in Deming. I’m one of the many knitters thrilled to be able to visit a LYS (local yarn shop) to touch yarn before buying. As Michael explained, “I’m very tactile, so I pay a lot of attention to the way something feels. A reason we carry yarn and don’t shop online is that you can’t feel it, you can’t tell what the color is really. It just can’t speak to you in the same way from a screen.”

While both Ann and Michael are knitters and indulge themselves — and the rest of us who knit and crochet — with their yarn corner, Michael said, “Our niche is the fabric. It’s where our reputation lies and our passion.” He pulled bolts of high-quality organic cotton fabric produced by Birch and featuring distinctive designs by Charley Harper, a long-time illustrator, to make his point. The Western and bird motifs made this non-quilter want to create something. Michael explained they offer many organic fabrics because some people react to the chemicals often used in growing cotton. In addition, he said, companies that use organic cotton often use simpler, more natural dyes.

Quilt spelling out New Mexico

Quilting is Popular

Quilting has a long history. While creating a lovely quilt has always been an art and often a group effort — and a reason for isolated farm women to socialize, quilting was a way to use scraps of fabric or re-use good parts of worn clothing. “It was economical,” Michael said, “Today the motivation is different. It’s about creating and sharing and giving.” Quilt shows, such as the one hosted by Las Colcheras Quilt Guild, provide quilters the opportunity to share their accomplishments. To that end, rather than using pieces of cast-off clothing to create quilts, today’s quilters are looking for the nicest fabric they can find to create fiber art that will be cherished for decades.

The process of selecting a collection of fabrics to create a quilt is an exciting endeavor. “We place a lot of emphasis on choosing fabrics,” Michael said. “To get them the best we can offer, it’s not uncommon to spend an hour and a half with a customer.” With about 2,500 bolts of fabrics in the store, it can take a while to pull together a perfect assortment, but Michael and Ann love the process and are happy to invest the time in helping customers.

The fabrics at ThreadBear aren’t restricted to becoming quilts. Quilting-weight cottons are washable, colorfast, and reasonably durable, Michael explained, and can be used for clothing, bags, napkins, and home décor. They also offer linen/cotton blends, which are a little heavier and more durable, and lighter fabrics such as knits, rayon, double gauze, and cotton lawn that can be used for clothing, and plan to offer more in the future.

Classes and workshops

Another huge plus is their classroom space, which is about 30 by 70 feet, with electrical outlets every few feet to accommodateLogo of bear tangled in thread quilters bringing their machines for classes or quilting bees. While in the pre-COVID days they could have hosted large groups working on projects together, such as Project Linus’s monthly meetings when “blanketeers” create quilts and afghans — Project Linus is currently using ThreadBear for monthly drop-off and pick-up of quilts and supplies — they are now developing small-group, socially distanced classes. Their first offerings in Las Cruces were a quilting class using a special tool to make perfect Lemoyne stars, and another on a clamshell tool for another quilt design. They also taught a beginning knitting class for five people — which filled almost immediately — and a slightly more advanced class on making a scarf with simple lacework. Each month, Michael and Ann will share their talents with different options on the class schedule. “Ann doesn’t even know how good a teacher she is!” Michael bragged conspiratorially.

Since they focus on fabric, ThreadBear doesn’t sell sewing machines and Michael and Ann plan to “complement, not compete” with other fabric stores in the area. The store does have a long-arm quilting machine and offers the service of quilting what the customer has pieced together. Before you ask, no, they won’t repair your old family quilt. I tried!

Space for knitters

Knitting area of storeThere’s a cozy corner near the yarns and other knitting notions where folks can bring their WIP (work in progress) and visit or get help with a project. Michael said they aspire for the store to become a “third place,” that spot where you gather that isn’t home or work, but another place you feel welcome and comfortable. A goal is to establish some evenings when the store will be open later to accommodate relaxed small group gatherings, as they did in Las Vegas.

Michael and Ann followed a circuitous path to owning a fabric shop in Las Cruces. Michael majored in art history and architecture, lived in Washington, D.C., then worked at various bookstores for many years. He was offered the opportunity to manage a store called Tome on the Range in Las Vegas. Ann, who came to quilting through a love of fabric, invested a small inheritance from her father into that passion and opened ThreadBear. When the bookstore closed, Michael joined her at her store. Fortunately for us, in March they moved the store to the larger city of Las Cruces, where Ann’s parents had lived. The community has certainly given them a warm welcome.

If you’d like to explore the artistic side of fiber, visit ThreadBear:
2205B S. Main St., Las Cruces
Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Written and photography by Cheryl Fallstead
Originally published in Neighbors magazine

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