Rainbow Fabrics Crafts & Things

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Business of the Week: Rainbow Fabrics

Making Memories and Finding a Pot of Gold
By Robin Collins | October 12, 2010
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What do they offer?

At Rainbow Fabrics you may find that elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Step inside and you will see a store literally bursting with items for sewing, knitting, jewelry-making, quilting, and crafting. A few examples: fabrics in cotton, denim, satin, silk, velvet, batik, wool felt, oilcloth, and net. Yarn, knitting needles, feather boas, "fat quarters" used for quilting, felt squares, beads, hats, crochet hooks, trims, ribbons, buttons, zippers, thread, you name it. If it relates to sewing, knitting, jewelry making, or crafting, they've probably got it. Plus, find out how to use all those things with all the how to books.

Who are they?

Owner Rose Taber, who has lived in Fairfax since 1965 and was an OR nurse at Marin General and Children's Hospital in San Francisco, walked in to the original store one day in 1978 and decided, overnight, to buy it.

Taber says she's never been adverse to being "in the moment." So her decision to purchase a fabric store was not a total surprise to her family. Besides working full time as a nurse, she had her own children, and with her "fantastic and supportive husband" was foster parent to teens.

A breast cancer survivor who is strongly in favor of mammograms, Taber now runs the store mostly via telephone, relying on several wonderful trustworthy women, like Ann English, who know a great deal about sewing and crafting themselves.

With grown children who have their own lives and careers now, when Taber finally decides to retire she says she may sell or just close the doors. If anyone reading this article is interested in a wonderful store, call Rainbow Fabrics. It would be a shame for Fairfax to lose such a creative place.

Trish Mahoney, from Fairfax, loves Rainbow Fabrics and was there the other day to purchase batik. She makes napkins, which she gives as "green gifts" for weddings and birthdays.

Yana and Doniel, who live "around the corner," needed stuffing for 7-year-old daughter Almadin's Halloween costume, an eight-eyed slug with fangs. They brought in the back piece they had already made to see if it required one or two bags of poly down fiberfill.

How long have they been there?

Rainbow Fabrics is one of the oldest single-owned businesses in Fairfax. When Taber bought the store in 1978, there were 22 fabric stores in Marin County, but now there are only a handful. Reps used to visit with beads and trim, but now she purchases mostly at shows.

Taber says that fabrics have changed since 1978. Polyester is much better than it used to be, many versions now feel like silk. She likes the stretch that has been introduced in many fabrics from cotton to satin to denim.

Taber's customers, about three-quarter of whom are women, are very creative. Often they make clothes for themselves and their kids. Halloween is big at Rainbow Fabrics, so is home decorating and design. Most of the patterns come from two local companies, Fantasy Fashions (Renaissance looks) and Folkwear, which started in Fairfax on Broadway, and Quiksew. For crafts, Taber listens to her customers and finds what they ask for.

Rainbow Fabrics is famous for "the button box," which has hundreds of buttons in all colors and sizes. Once a lady from Texas, who was visiting her sister in Fairfax, spent nearly three hours looking through the box and purchased over $300 worth of buttons.

Why are they business of the week?

For the environmentally friendly Fairfax customers, Taber carries a lot of 100 percent cotton and hemp fabrics. Also, she has 100 percent wool felt, which no one else in the Bay Area does. With no rayon, poly, or nylon, it is great for vests and hats.

For knitting, Rainbow Fabrics yarn comes mostly from brown sheep. They carry mostly wool yarn, but also some in rayon and acrylic.

Very few stores have real oilcloth any more, but the fabric is suitable for picnic tablecloths, drawer liners, lunch bags and does not stick like contact paper. Taber says it "wears like iron." And it can be washed with a soapy sponge.

In the back room, you can have a party or attend a wide variety of classes, many of which are seasonal and include the popular Ukranian Easter Egg Classes.

If you are not handy, Rainbow Fabrics can refer you to professionals who will sew or custom design your project.

"Most people have a creative need to do something that is just theirs. They want to make memories for themselves and their children," said Taber, who is not only generous in spirit but also in giving of her time.

Rainbow Kids is a local nonprofit organization, established in 1979 for at-risk youth. The store is always seeking monetary donations, and the proceeds from items purchased at the outdoor table in front goes toward the charity.

Please check out The Famous Button Box at Rainbow Fabrics and other Rainbow Fabrics images taken by Robin Collins