“We’ll just go to Mary Jo’s.” When Tom and I first arrived at Kings Mountain and got the assignment to build our topographic map, we realized that we would need a large piece of felt. The cloth that had already been purchased was a broadcloth and the velcroed soldiers wouldn’t stick to it. We needed felt so that the little velcro hooks would have something to hang onto. But we needed a big piece of felt. Where would we get it? Ranger Leah told us is wasn’t a problem, she could pick get just what we wanted at Mary Jo’s.
What is Mary Jo’s? I had to check it out.
When I was younger, I sewed most of my own clothes. I was in 4-H and became an accomplished seamstress. If you look at pictures of me when I was in High School, most of my clothes are a little strange-looking because I sewed them myself and I had odd tastes. When I went to college I took along dresses that I had made and wore them almost every day. The summer between my first and second year of college, I worked at Piecegoods, a fabric store that has since gone out of business. So, when Ranger Leah told me that Mary Jo’s was a huge fabric store, I was skeptical. These days, people think Walmart or Jo-Anns has a good selection of fabric, but it is nothing like fabric stores used to be.
Located in Gastonia, North Carolina about a 1/2 hour from us, Mary Jo’s Cloth Store is every inch a fabric store, and it is a HUGE fabric store – over 300,000 square feet! Not crafts, not decorations, but fabric! If you can’t find a fabric at Mary Jo’s, it probably isn’t available anywhere. Half of the store is upholstery fabric and the other half is all kinds of fabric: cotton, muslin, linen, wool, fleece, polyester, silk, quilting, team sports, blankets. There is a pattern section and a ribbon wall. And in the middle of the store – the sewing machine nirvana. Mom and Dad got me my own sewing machine when I was in college and I still have it (actually, my mom has it right now but it is still mine!). These sewing machines were computerized and do all kinds of specialized things. If you buy one, they have classes you can take to learn how to use it.
Mary Jo’s Cloth Store started in 1951 when Margaret Colien Cloninger convinced her father to let her stock fabrics in his grocery store in Dallas, North Carolina. Mary Jo’s has relocated and expanded many times. The store is now being run by Mary Jo’s children and the store is a day trip for those who love to sew or quilt in North and South Carolina.
When Mom and Dad visited, we stopped by Mary Jo’s to show them. Dad has spent all the time he wants in fabric stores, but Mom enjoyed browsing all the beautiful fabrics. Mary Jo’s Cloth Store is a place I will remember if I am looking for a particular fabric for a special project.