If there’s a longevity award for fabric shops, it probably belongs to Dick Raudabaugh, who opened The Fabric Center 54 years ago. What started as a go-to store for garment fabrics, today features a wide range of quilting fabrics and draws customers from Virginia, New Jersey, Philadelphia, as well as from around the world.
The Fabric Center is located in the historic district of Carlisle, a city of 17,000 in south central Pennsylvania. “Carlisle is literally a “George-Washington-Slept-Here” town,” says Alice Summar Womack, a Jill-of-all-trades at The Fabric Center. “It’s a quaint town with lots going on.”There’s plenty going on at The Fabric Center. Longarmer and staff member Debbie Weigle quilts for customers and teaches classes for beginners through advanced quilters. Her Sew Social gatherings bring up to ten quilters who meet to sew and socialize or learn new techniques. She teaches classes based on a pattern on Tuesdays and a Block of the Month group gathers on Saturdays—the group is currently working on Toes in the Sand by Jaybird Quilts. The classroom accommodates eight students with sewing machines and another eight who come in and watch demos via overhead projector. Debbie also teaches private lessons. “It’s a great place to teach,” she says. “People are in a positive mood and always willing to share ideas.”Fabric Center clients include locals, as well as faculty and students from Dickinson College and the US Army War College. The latter draws people from around the world and some find their way into the shop and even learn to quilt. Carlisle is located on I-81 and when travelers call, trying to decide whether to stop in on their journey, Debbie is happy to tell them it’s a Moda shop. “They automatically understand it’s a high quality shop,” she says. Alice and Debbie join forces to purchase fabric and they credit Moda rep Richard Covers for making it easy. “He’ll walk through the store with us to see what’s doing well and make suggestions about new fabrics based on what our customers like,” says Alice. “He keeps us up-to-date on what’s new and on new patterns to use with the fabrics.”
Debbie also appreciates that when a store sample inspires a run on particular line of fabric, United Notions makes quick work of getting more. “If we run out, they make it easy for Alice to make more appear, lickety-split,” she says.The shop carries a wide range of fabrics, including 600 batiks. Lines range from Kansas Troubles to Bonnie and Camille, and Kate Nelligan’s Tidepool and Robin Pickens’ Poppy Mae have been popular this spring. “We offer lots of different ways for people to be a quilter,” says Debbie. “We love to help people express themselves creatively.”Both Debbie and Alice enjoy working for Dick Raudabaugh. “When you come up with ideas he listens and encourages you to go ahead and do it,” says Debbie. “He has a good formula for keeping employees long-term,” says Alice. “He’s kind and let’s you work in your areas of strength—what a joy!”Customers are the beneficiaries of happy employees, and some come in with fond memories of having been in the shop as children, wandering the aisle while their mothers chose fabric for clothing. Today they appreciate getting help with pulling fabrics for their quilts, learning new techniques, and interacting with employees who are enthusiastic about their work.
“I had to explain to the UPS man that I don’t have a crush on him,” says Alice. “I just get so excited when he brings fabric. It’s like Christmas when you get a box with the perfect vanilla-colored blender a customer’s been asking for.”
The Fabric Center is located at 41 W. Pomfret St. in Carlisle, PA. Phone: 717-243-5076.