Last Saturday, Mark and I took a short road trip up to Paducah, Kentucky. It’s about a 2-hour drive from Nashville, and it felt great to be out and about! Why Paducah? Well, if you’ve looked at the Cottage Bucket List, you’ve seen that the National Quilt Museum is located in … Paducah! But that’s just a clue. We didn’t visit the museum on this trip. We went shopping at Hancock’s of Paducah.
See, I needed batting. a lot of it. on a great big roll. And even in this age of online ordering, shipping for a huge oversized roll of batting would cost more than the batting itself. So we shopped the old-fashioned way, which gets us to the good part of this story…
I was about 8 years old when Mom taught me how to sew. I remember studying over Simplicity and McCall’s pattern books to pick just the right one, and the resulting “scooter skirt” (shorts with buttoned on flaps in front and back) designed in a red and white seersucker stripe. We shopped at Hancock Fabrics. But not in Paducah! Back then, there were Hancock Fabric stores nationwide, and more importantly, in Little Rock, Arkansas where we lived. Hancock’s was nothing fancy – just a big warehouse type space, with old wooden tables and racks filled with bolts of fabric and piles of remnants, and handmade signs and old-fashioned price gun stickers – but for Mom and me, it was our candy store.
When Mark and I drove into the Hancock’s of Paducah parking lot last week, I started to tingle. The building is an old warehouse type structure that looks like it’s been there for years and years. Nothing fancy about it. And when I stepped inside, I might as well have stepped into that Hancock’s in Little Rock back in the 60’s and 70’s. Bolt upon bolt of fabric, sitting in wooden racks. Remnants overflowing on heavy wooden tables. I just wandered up and down the aisles, basking in the warmth and love that seemed to radiate from the place.
Finally, I asked for my roll of batting and prepared to pay for it and be on our way. As we were checking out, a quiet, unassuming man struck up a conversation with us. “Do you have a long-arm?” he asked me. I nodded yes, and about a half hour later, was fast friends with Mr. Roland Hancock, owner of Hancock’s of Paducah. His grandfather owned all of those Hancock Fabric stores back in the 70’s. Mr. Hancock explained that with the advent of clothing being manufactured overseas and costing less, “sewing your own” became uneconomical and obsolete. And so one by one, Hancock Fabric stores closed their doors. Except for Paducah. Hancock’s business model now caters to quilters, with their brick and mortar shop here, and with an online business that reaches a global community. A clientele, he lovingly described, of mothers and grandmothers who cut up fabric and sew it back together, adding some of themselves in the process, to create art. He called it art.
Thank you, Mr. Hancock, for reminding me of the good things in this world and this life, for the memories of my mother … and for my batting!