Delectable Mountain Cloth ends an era
BRATTLEBORO — One of downtown Brattleboro's most unique stores closed Tuesday, as Delectable Mountain Cloth ended 42 years of providing fabric artists with delectable fabrics.
Owner Jan Norris said she can no longer find and buy the high quality fabrics Delectable Mountain was famous for — all kinds of imported and handwoven silks, velvets, delicate cottons, linens and unique wools. At one point, the store had 160 different colors of doupion, a handwoven silk.
In addition, Norris sold unique, artistic buttons, jewelry and handwoven scarves and unique hats.
"Still crazy after all these years," she said Tuesday, as customers continued to come to the Main Street store to get one more piece of beautiful fabric.
"The store is small but our love for fabric is gigantic," she wrote on her store's website, saying she had enjoyed "an extravagant adventure for natural fiber textile enthusiasts."
Norris, 76, said when she started the store back in 1978, her goal was to create "a cotton shop," and only carry fabric made with cotton — with no polyester or nylon — a challenge in the 1970s.
Norris has moved four times since she opened her first tiny shop at The Ingenuity Shops on Putney Road, and encouraged by the strong response, rented some space downtown, off the Harmony parking lot.
Then, she moved into the vacant church building on Elliot Street (now home to Hotel Pharmacy) and eventually moved to Main Street, her location for the past 22 years.
Norris was full of emotion this week, preparing to end an enormous chapter of her life. She moved to Vermont from New York City, like many to pursue a more natural life. Her childhood was spent in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, and there's still a hint of the south in her speech.
The name of the store was borrowed from a quilting pattern, "Delectable Mountains," which in turn borrowed its name from the book "Pilgrim's Progress."
Norris, who moved to New York City after school, said she originally was a clothing designer, and then made a quilt from the scraps of clothing left over from her clothing — and she was hooked.
That, and the back-to-the-land movement brought her to the Brattleboro area "to grow food and flowers." She is also a painter and a collage artist, both things she hopes to spend more time doing once the store is closed. She's a musician as well; a few years ago, the Windham Orchestra performed one of her pieces, "Melting Spring."
Norris, who lives in Warwick, Mass., said the problems she encountered in the past year getting the fabric she loved — and her customers did too, judging from social media posts — led to her decision to close at the end of 2019.
She traveled often in recent months to New York City, and buying the high-end and specialty fabrics was getting more and more complicated. Some of her fabric suppliers have left New York City because of astronomical rents, she said, and tracking them down in New Jersey is more than she wants to handle. She would travel to India about once a year to buy fine silks and cottons.
She knows and loves fabric, and the sensual pleasure wonderful fabric can give to the sewer and creator.
Many of Norris' customers posted tributes to both her and her store, with people calling it "a fabric gallery," and "your garden of touch and color is beautiful."
"It's a feast for the tactile senses," another wrote.
Norris and others said the store attracted customers from far and wide — and even from foreign countries, drawn by the wide variety and quality of the fabrics.
"I wanted to become a fabric destination," she said.
Eliza Greenhoe-Bergh, who worked with Norris for more than 20 years, said it was no exaggeration that people came from far and wide to buy fabric, and came and spent the day in downtown Brattleboro.
Greenhoe-Bergh said dollmakers would regularly come to the store looking for the specialty tiny print fabrics needed for dolls. And unlike some fabric stores, Delectable Mountain would cut and sell small pieces of fabric — an eighth of a yard.
There's a famous bumper sticker for people who love, use and collect fabrics: "Whoever dies with the most fabric wins."
"It's almost like a museum of fabric," said Greenhoe-Bergh.
She said doll makers and re-enactors came to Delectable Mountain to get authentic fabric. "It truly is a labor of love," she said, noting that selling fabric "was not a money-maker."
"I'm sure I'll work in textiles," Norris said, saying people can email the shop at email@example.com.
"I have gathered some of the most brilliant people in the world, and I feel a great sense of loss for all of us."
Contact Susan Smallheer at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 802 254-2311, ext. 154.
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