Material Girls

Alewives Fabrics is a draw for quilters and sewists in Maine and beyond.

Alewives Fabrics
Michaela Cavallaro
Photographs by Michael D. Wilson
[cs_drop_cap letter=”T” color=”#000000″ size=”5em” ]he Owners. Rhea Butler and her mom, Barbara Neeson, bought this Damariscotta Mills fabric shop in 2004 with a clear vision: “A lot of quilt stores focus on having the latest quilting ruler or selling sewing machines or embroidery machines,” Butler says. “We wanted Alewives to be about the fabric.”

The Craft. Traditional quilting relies on regular, repeating blocks of fabric that can seem a bit fussy — “calico florals on a beige background,” Butler says. Modern quilting, by contrast, uses lots of white space to set off interesting, often angular designs. While Butler and Neeson welcome all comers, they really cater to those who embrace the latter style, stocking fabrics from the indie designers whose aesthetic inspired a resurgence of interest in quilting in the last 15 years.

The Building. Alewives’ home, originally a carriage house and stable, became a general store in the 1930s. (Its owner at the time was Neeson’s great-great-uncle.) Butler and Neeson have retained period details, including stained-glass sidelights, while updating the space to include a large classroom that’s filled with natural light.

The Fabric. Unlike the big-box craft stores that overflow with gaudy holiday prints and poor reproductions of designs featuring TV and movie characters, Alewives offers higher-quality fabrics, which are organized by type, then by designer, and finally by color — making the shop as gorgeous to look at as it is satisfying to browse. About 70 percent of the inventory is quilting-weight cotton, with the remainder made up of linen, flannel, chambray, jersey, and other fabrics typically used for garments.

10 Main St., Nobleboro. 207-563-5002.

Alewives Fabrics staffer Abbie Sewall cuts fabrics for mail-order kits. Owners Barbara Neeson (left) and Rhea Butler (right) outside their Nobleboro shop.

More to Explore

Z Fabrics

Mary Zarate stocks a gorgeous array of fabrics and patterns by contemporary designers, along with notions, books, and even a few sewing machines, in this tiny shop on the ground floor of the Time and Temperature Building. 477 Congress St., Portland. 207-773-1331.


This well-stocked shop carries all the indie patterns and fabrics you’ve favorited on Instagram, plus a rack of sample garments so you can see if that Wiksten shift actually looks good on your body before you spend hours sewing one up. 428 Main St., Rockland. 207-596-3905.

Smith’s General

Run by Butler’s friend Dash Masland, this fresh, well-lit shop features artisan-made home goods, a small selection of fabric and patterns, and — the main attraction — quilts designed and handmade by Masland and other modern quilters. 359 Main St., Yarmouth. 207-847-3041.



Down East Magazine, October 2019