Spool, the latest store to open in Allentown, feels more like popping by a friend’s place than going shopping. The independent fabric store feels like home–precisely the intention of the owners Michelle Lancet and Jennifer Swartzwelder.

Spool features cutting tables for projects. Photo by Emma Diehl.
Spool features cutting tables for projects. Photo by Emma Diehl.

“We want them to feel like they’re coming into our house to sew or to choose their projects,” says Lancet. Shoppers can find crafting inspiration in the pillowcases created in-house, and the reupholstered chairs and couches in the space.

Spool rents sewing machines by the hour, holds private parties and offers sewing and quilting classes for kids and adults. Spool will also host maker nights where the needle arts community can gather in the space and work their handcrafts.

The two lifelong crafters met years ago at a knitting group for mothers of young children. Quickly becoming friends,Swartzwelder asked Lancet if she sewed in addition to knitting.

“I’ve been a sewer long before I was a knitter. I ask that a lot,” jokes Swartzwelder.

Lancet and Swartzwelder first opened Spool as an online store in 2014. When the site became a destination to purchase independently designed fabrics and patterns, the team realized they were onto something.

“Our fabric collection is curated by Jenn and myself. We take the balance of fabrics that we love, that are going to appeal to apparel and quilting,” says Lancet. “You can’t find these fabrics in a chain store. The patterns that we carry are all from independent fabric designers.”

When their youngest children were heading to preschool this year, Lancet and Swartzwelder started thinking about opening a space for their business.

It took a year for the duo to find a location in the city, ultimately settling in Allentown. Lancet grew up in the area, and when they met the local small business community, they knew the East Warrington Ave. location was a good fit.

“Once we found the space, we felt truly welcome,” explains Lancet.

Spool carries independently designed patterns. Photo by Emma Diehl.
Spool carries independently designed patterns. Photo by Emma Diehl.

Lancet and Swartzwelder restored the store and incorporated various DIY projects in the space. “We are DIY-ers to the core,” Lancet says.

Spool serves as a meeting place, workspace and store for all makers in the needle arts. In the craft community, explains Swartzwelder, “it tends to be that traditional quilters have their space to gather, and knitters tend to have their space to gather. We want this to be a gathering space for the entire maker community.”

In addition, they believe creating a welcoming space is a key to attracting new makers. “It can be an intimidating project when you’re starting a new craft,” says Lancet. “We want to debunk that this is hard, because [sewing] is a really important skill, but fun too.”

Spool marks the second independent store opening this season in Allentown. Black Forge Coffee opened its doors down the street in August.

Emma Diehl

Emma Diehl is a writer, blogger, and social media marketer working in tech and startups in Pittsburgh. She loves local craft beer and a well-crafted pun.