Talking with Phyllis Lively is fun. For one thing, Must Love Fabric, the Grapevine, Texas, shop she co-owns with her husband Gary has a sense of humor—just check the sign over the door to the restroom.
Then there’s Phyllis’s enthusiasm for quilting in general. And finally for someone like me, who resides north of the Mason-Dixon line, the southern charm sprinkled throughout Phyllis’s conversation is delightful.
Take the description of how she learned to quilt. Phyllis acquired her love of fabric and design from her grandmother, who belonged to a quilting bee in her “bitty, small town” in east Texas. Phyllis would sit next to her grandmother as she and her and friends stitched and talked around the quilting frame that filled the living room. And then there was her homemaking teacher, Dawn Chapman—described as the “lovely, lovely lady” who took Phyllis under her wing, teaching her to read patterns and use the sewing machine. And finally there’s the way Phyllis describes her customers reactions to a request for suggestions. “We tell ‘em, ‘Give us your ideas,’ and boy, howdy, they do!”
That enthusiasm and sense of fun permeates Must Love Fabric, which grew out of a shop Phyllis opened in her home in after being laid off from her job in “corporate America.” In 2012, the in-home congestion and chaos became too much and Gary encouraged Phyllis to find a place to rent. She did—a “bitty, tiny red house” in Grapevine, Texas. “It was in dire need of repair, but it had a lot of character and gave us our start,” she says. Three years later, the shop moved to its current location, a 5,500 square-foot-space on the corner of Highways 114 and 26. This larger space provides room for more fabric, and for classrooms that customers can reserve for retreats. Phyllis even brought in a set of upscale lockers that she rents to customers who use the space frequently. “Ladies who don’t want to lug their sewing machines will rent a locker and then all they have to bring in are their projects,” says Phyllis.
Must Love Fabrics features an area for novelty fabrics, a spot for children’s fabrics, and a good selection of batiks. “Ours is a real bright shop,” says Phyllis, who opened her Moda account in 2009 and stops by the warehouse weekly to pick up fabric, patterns, and notions for the shop—fabrics by Bonnie and Camille and Kate Spain are just some of the shop favorites. Must Love Fabric has a room filled wall-to-wall with patterns and carries an array of notions. (Phyllis appreciates that Moda is responsive to requests for new items, like the one she made to her Moda rep Jane Stewart about carrying Cosmo floss, another shop favorite.)
The “bright” feeling comes not just from the fabric and the samples that line the walls. Meeting customer’s needs is top priority for Phyllis, Gary, and their seven employees. “We want people to be happy when they come in, and happy when they leave,” says Phyllis, whose previous career was in human relations. The shop is open seven days a week (“for all those football widows”), offers classes that appeal to quilters, garment makers, and everyone in between, and holds lots of special activities. This weekend the shop is hosting an in-store quilting cruise, where the “passengers” will get a passport and lots of goodies, make a mystery quilt, and have an opportunity to enjoy a sit-down meal with the “captain.” “It’s the only cruise you can go on where you won’t get a sunburn or seasick,” says Phyllis.
Phyllis enjoys many things about Must Love Fabric, but chief among them is encouraging quilters. The shop’s Facebook page and Instagram account include lots of photos of quilters and their projects, some of which are shared during Saturday Sewcials. “Everyone cheers and claps during Show and Tell, and we have a lot of fun,” she says. “I’m all about making sure my employees are happy and my customers are having a good time.”