New Fabric Store Adds Colorful Texture to East Lansing’s Downtown

Thursday, June 13, 2019, 9:57 am
By: 
Brad Minor

Increasing retail diversity downtown has been a long-term goal of East Lansing planners. Now, a new fabric store on Grove Street is offering just that.

Seams opened in April and is located on Grove Street, next to Woven Art and just around the corner from City Hall. Besides being a retail shop, Seams’ owner Jessy Gregg is looking to make her location a gathering place for everyone from experienced sewers to people looking to learn to make their own clothes.

The store offers a wide variety of specialty fabrics along with basic sewing supplies. According to Gregg, the offerings in linen are especially popular, but customers are also excited about the selection of vintage, mill end, quilt, and printed broadcloth fabrics.

Seams also carries patterns from about a dozen independent pattern companies, and Gregg is planning to provide vintage style patterns soon, for sewers seeking retro designs. She’ll also be offering classes.

Gregg says one of her goals is to help people with body positivity, including for people who are LGBT.

“One of the things that drives people into sewing is having a body or a style that doesn’t mesh well with off-the-rack clothes,” she tells ELi. “You either have to resign yourself to ill-fitting clothes or you have to learn to alter your clothes so they fit you. It's not necessarily welcoming to go into a retail store and have those experiences of trying on clothes that make you uncomfortable in yourself.”

She explains, “It happens with everyone to some extent. We have just basically resigned ourselves to wearing ill-fitting clothing. With plus-sized women, they’re receiving a lot of signals from society that they don't have the right body and you go and try on ill-fitting clothes and it just reinforces that.”

Gregg emphasizes that making your own clothes can help you feel good about who you are. Every Wednesday from 5-8 p.m., Seams hosts a Sewcial (a play on the word “social”). There is no fee or purchase required for attending. Participants can bring whatever project they would like to work on and can get help from more experienced sewers.

Gregg is hoping that more men might take an interest in sewing, and she wants her store to be welcoming to them.

“I’ve had husbands come in with their wives but never a guy come in alone.”

Gregg is originally from Minnesota and moved to Michigan after earning a bachelor's degree in Fine and Studio Arts from Hamline University in St. Paul. She once thought about going into costume design but now, in addition to running Seams, Gregg is an artist, a reporter for East Lansing Info, and a member of the East Lansing Arts Commission and the Ingham County Parks Commission.

She lives in Shaw Estates with her husband Eli and their school-age children, who attend East Lansing Public Schools. Seams’ hours reflects the need to balance family and work life. The store is currently open Tuesday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday noon to 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Gregg brings in fabrics from various sources, including from American and Canadian distributors, from estate sales, and from even customers looking to sell good-quality fabric that they don’t have a use for. Much of her fabric is milled in Japan.

Sharing a building with Woven Art has allowed Gregg to work closely with Meg Croft, the owner of Woven Art.

“Meg and I have been friends, and this has always kind of been a fantasy idea. She has allowed me to have a storefront and also keep my overhead low.”

The two businesses have a lot of cross-over customers. One of those customers is Audrey Barton, who came by recently to pick-up a pattern and some yarn.

“I like to shop local businesses, especially creative ones like this,” Barton told ELi. “The way you spend your money determines how you live your life and how your community grows or shrinks.”

Seams Fabric and Woven Art are co-hosting an event on June 14 and 15.

Woven Art is bringing in a trunk show from an independent yarn-dyeing Traverse City company called Why Knot. They source yarn and other products from Michigan shepherds and manufacturers.

To compliment that, Seams Fabric will be hosting a local fabric printmaker, with a pop-up sale and printmaking demonstrations on Friday.

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