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Sew excited

FabMo Textile Art Boutique showcases goods made with repurposed material

Joan Zwiep's love of sewing and creating has spilled over into almost every room of her Old Palo Alto home. Pillows decorate the couch. Wine gift bags sit on the kitchen counter. A clothing rack of aprons fills the center of one of her daughters' old room.

And her other daughter's room has been transformed into her creation station. Stacks of cotton, silk and wool fabric fill the bed. Additional squares of color drape over the edge of the ironing board, while a crate on a shelf holds a rainbow of rickrack (zigzag trim) options. A line of partially finished dammit dolls leads up to the technology that makes it all happen: a 23-year-old sewing machine.

The flurry of supplies stems from Zwiep's connection to FabMo, a Mountain View-based organization that collects discarded designer material — nearly 70 tons a year — and offers them on a donation basis for creative use. During the past few years, Zwiep has volunteered her time to sort material and snag fabric finds at the monthly selection events.

"For anyone who loves textiles, it's like being in heaven," she said. "I just look at all these options and think, 'What could I make out of this?'"

On Saturday, Oct. 24, people can attend the seventh annual FabMo Textile Art Boutique and see exactly what Zwiep (under the name Joan & Zola) and others make from the repurposed material. The event starts at 10 a.m. and runs until 4 p.m., featuring more than 40 local artisans who make goods that contain at least 30 percent FabMo material.

Holly Welstein, FabMo board member and volunteer, said shoppers can expect anything from functional accessories (purses, totes, wallets, scarves, etc.) to home and holiday decor.

Welstein herself is one of the boutique's founders. With nods of approval from Hannah and Jonathan Cranch, FabMo's founders, Welstein worked with Sarah Jocksin and Megan Rosenhart to start the first boutique seven years ago. Their enthusiasm and interest in seeing what others make spurred their efforts, Welstein said. The event has grown from 30 exhibitors and roughly 100 shoppers to include as many as 50 exhibitors and 900 shoppers.

This year, Welstein will showcase pot holders, cat toys, pillows and purses, which she lines with salvaged silk squares.

"I work on them all year long," she said. "But a lot of the time is just spent sitting in front of a pile of fabric."

Zwiep echos Welstein's technique. Back in her daughter's old bedroom, she clamps pieces of fabric onto a hanger, bundling until she achieves the right colors, textures and sizes needed for a project. For an apron, this means finding at least one large chunk. On a particular finished apron, she has left the design center's price tag: $194 a yard.

"The quality of the fabric is amazing," she said. "You just can't go buy this stuff anywhere."

She chuckles as she thinks of someone wiping their messy hands on the edge of an apron made from $194 fabric.

One of her newest creations, dammit dolls, also capitalizes on the rare finds offered from FabMo. These little dolls, once sewed up tight, serve as stress balls and can take a literal beating when someone needs to let off some steam. Silk pom-poms and tassels transform into hair. Pearl button make eyes. And because each item from FabMo is limited and unique, every doll is different. That's the exact reason Zwiep enjoys the boutique.

"We all take different pieces home, and it's nice to know and see what others are doing."


What: FabMo Textile Art Boutique

When: Saturday, Oct. 24, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: Palo Alto Elks Lodge, 4249 El Camino Real, Palo Alto

Cost: Free admission and parking

Info: Fabmo Textile Art Boutique

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