The extent of my knowledge about fabric and sewing is the fact that I’ve heard the terms “Warp” and “Weft.” I don’t know what they mean, but I have heard of them. Oh, and I did sew part of an apron in Home Economics class in middle school, so I guess that counts.
Well, imagine my delight in chatting with a textile historian with 40-years-experience, Margo Krager of Reproduction Fabrics. This gal knows her stuff!
Margo owns a bright, cheery and beautifully organized store located above the downtown branch of Merchant’s Bank (formerly First National Bank) in Northfield, MN. She specializes in cotton fabrics from the time period 1775 - 1950. She has a very specific and unique niche in the textile industry.
If you have questions about what folks were wearing during the Civil War or the Great Depression, Margo has you covered. She’s been in business for eight years in her current location. Prior to Covid, half of her clients were costume designers for movies/theater/tv/reenactors and the other half were quilters. Now that the entertainment industry is back alive, she’s scrambling to accommodate her costumers and online clients all over the globe.
Margo spent 15 years in the medical technology field while her husband was working as a wildlife biologist. They lived in small communities all over Colorado, Wyoming and Montana before she pursued her interest in textiles and opened her brick & mortar store in Bozeman, MT. She did a lot of teaching when visitors from Yellowstone Park came in to see what it was she sold.
Her husband was the one who set up her original online presence and wrote the code that allowed her to start a “mail order business.” She still uses both a server and a personal cell phone number from her old stompin’ grounds in Montana so customers from her original store can find her.
When she isn’t in the store, she’s traveling, writing or lecturing all over the country. At 75, she doesn’t appear to be slowing down a bit. While I was in the store, she was waiting on a group of three ladies who peppered her with questions and shared stories about their recent quilting projects. She was also waiting for a call from her “young tech guy” who helps her keep her online customers happy with a smooth ordering process.
Margo casually mentioned that the first movie she ever worked on was, “A River Runs Through It.” She’s currently helping the costumer on a movie with a big-name star we all know and love, but she wouldn’t let me write about him.
Margo also told me she has purchased fabric from all over the world during her retail adventures, but she was most excited to tell me about having designed 23 lines of textiles for big companies as well as manufacturing three of her own cotton fabric lines.
She is the proud owner of nine antique fabric sample books that are her prized possessions. Three of these books feature American fabrics from the 20th century and the others are French fabrics from the 19th century. In this day and age, she can work with a fabric stylist who is technically astute in preparing images for digital printing. This gives her a level of detail that wasn’t available when the fabrics were original produced.
South Korea is where most of the fabrics are created and usually are printed in quantities of 3,000 to 5,000 yards at a time. It can take anywhere up to 18 months from the original design to receipt of the actual bolt of fabric. Due to advances in printing and technology in general, she can now produce smaller batches and multiple colors in the United States and have much more control over the end product.
If you want to learn about the French wallpaper hanger who is credited with creating the ombre effect or what women wore after their initial black silk mourning clothes during the Civil War, I recommend you stop by and chat with Margo. Reproduction Fabrics has samples of quilt pieces and period clothing and Margo would love to share her passion with you. Stop in!
105 E Fourth Street
Northfield, MN 55057
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