When Charla Youngberg first opened Valley Fabric Shop, the southwestern Wyoming shop was in a field surrounded by cows. “The town of Urie is so small we don’t have a zip code—we use Lyman’s, which is a nearby,” says Bobbi Clark, Charla’s daughter and shop manager. But lack of proximity to an urban center hasn’t been a hindrance—Valley Fabrics customers come from Urie, nearby towns, and from Interstate 80, just three miles away. “Quilters are a unique breed and we’ve become something of a destination so that people who have stopped before will come in again,” says Bobbi. “We have kits for every quilt sample in the shop, and they’re popular with quilters who have kids and husbands in the car—they need a little ‘grab-and-go.’”
Valley Fabrics is happy to fill that need. What started as a craft and fabric store nearly 35 years ago, today devotes itself to quilting and specializes in original patterns and regionally appropriate fabrics. “Anything with wildlife and Western themes that comes down the pike is a great seller for us,” says Bobbi, who started working in the shop when she was 19 (and also celebrated her 16th birthday at a United Notions trade show in Denver). When Charla started wintering in Lake Havasu, Arizona, a few years ago Bobbi became shop manager, though when her mom is in town they run the store side-by-side. “We’ve always worked well together and have the same mindset and the same passion for fabric and people,” says Bobbi, who notes that their teamwork continues when designing and sewing shop samples. “We have our system—I’ll cut, she’ll press, and we’re really fast.” (Bobby’s sister Chrissy runs the flower shop just next door and lends a hand during special events or when a color consultation is needed.)
In addition to lots of samples and kits—”We have easily 300 items made up and on display,” says Bobby—Valley Fabrics is known for its wide selection of notions. “We keep up on what’s newest and greatest, and because we’re out in the middle of nowhere we want to make sure our customers can find what they need to complete their projects,” says Bobbi. “At one time, I think we bought more notions from United Notions than anyone.”
Another big draw at Valley Fabrics is Charla’s collection of more than 200 miniature antique sewing machines. They’re arranged around the shop, in display cases and on shelves—the newest addition is a Singer Featherweight Charla had painted hot pink, and men especially enjoy the old treadle machine converted to a John Deere tractor.
Customers also come for the Saturday Sampler gathering, which features original quilt designs that are later printed and available for sale in the shop (the All About the Boots quilt in the top photo is an example). Five times each year the shop holds special events like Spring Fling, Fall Frenzy, and a blow-out New Year’s sale. “We change the shop all around and hold mini-classes,” says Bobbi, who notes it’s a lot of work, but well worth it.
This April, the shop will be partnering with local medical staff to offer on-site mammograms, as part of events being held for Breast Cancer Awareness month, and as part of their Make A Child Smile effort, they’ve also collected and donated around 1,000 quilts for Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City.
With an eye to creating future customers, Valley Fabrics offers classes for mature 8 and 9 year olds. Three nights each week, Bobbi (sometimes with Charla’s help,) teaches 24 boys and girls to sew. The first year they learn the basics, including the parts of the machine and how to thread it. By year two returning students—Bobbi calls them her “freelancers”—can make what they like and turn out pajama pants, Turning Twenty quilts, and pillowcases. “There’s always a waiting list and they ask for homework,” says Bobbi, something truly remarkable in this age of busy childhoods. “There’s nothing like it when they make their first quilt—they love it, and we love it.”
And that’s how Bobbi and Charla feel about Valley Fabrics. They enjoy their relationship with Moda, which Bobbi calls a “phenomenal company with the great service” and with Jane Overman, their Moda rep. And they enjoy every day in the quilting business, too. “Neither one of us consider coming to the shop to be work,” says Bobbi. “We both feel so fortunate to be able to come and play with fabric and be around quilters, who are such awesome and energetic people.”