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Patterns of Perfection

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Heather Givans' fabric store, Crimson Tate, is nothing short of a fabricgasm. Even if you're not into sewing and quilting, you can't help but be captivated by the array of colors and patterns that fill the cozy shop at the far end of Mass Ave. And though the shop is small, it's not claustrophobic. Neatly beribboned fat quarters are stacked around the room, some on shelves and some piled in suitcases as if they're minutes from leaving for the airport. Patterns -- those tan, crinkly papers so full of possibility -- and bolts of fabric line the walls, inspiring visitors to pick out a variety of complementary cloths and learn how to stitch something homemade, perhaps just like Grandma did.

Givans' infectious energy has a way of making the difficult seem possible -- such as teaching sewing and quilting classes to students of all skill levels and ages. She draws on a decade of experience as an art teacher at Ben Davis High School and Park Tudor, which she pursued after attaining a degree in art and art history at Purdue University. She also taught in her partner's home state of Minnesota for three years after a job transfer sent the couple there.

Here, Givans poses with a quilt titled Succulent Garden. - COURTESY OF CRIMSON TATE
  • Courtesy of Crimson Tate
  • Here, Givans poses with a quilt titled Succulent Garden.

After the two returned to Indiana in 2011, Givans rented the space on Mass Ave that now houses Crimson Tate. She named it for a character she created in college, a girl who took over the world. (The name is a combination of the color crimson and London's Tate Modern museum.) Givans had been making sewn goods and was wholesaling to retailers and "[the business] took off in a way [I] hadn't anticipated." Initially, the space was going to be a resource where Givans could sell a few fabrics and maybe hire a few more sellers. It quickly became evident there was a real demand for the merchandise she carried, and a good many customers interested in learning how to sew. "It started with classes and grew from there," she says of the serendipitous start to a business now in its fourth year.

"I let it grow organically. I never set out like, 'I want to open a fabric store!' I wasn't opposed to the idea, but it was never my intention," she says. If that didn't work, Givans says she figured, "I can get a job at Starbucks and pay my rent and it'll be fine."

Now her store isĀ open seven days a week, and some months they have class every night, which she admits "is kind of amazing. It's a lot of fun."

"There are some awesome fabric stores in Indy," Givans explains, going on to say that Crimson Tate has a "really different vibe."

Givans' hands out samples of her shop's fabrics each year at Quilt Market. - COURTESY OF CRIMSON TATE
  • Courtesy of Crimson Tate
  • Givans' hands out samples of her shop's fabrics each year at Quilt Market.

"We are the only quilt store that has all contemporary modern [textiles]," meaning that other stores only devote a small section to current designs while also selling "a bunch of other fabrics." Crimson Tate specializes in a modern aesthetic and carries designers such as Amy Butler, Joel Dewberry, Anna Maria Horner, and Kaffe Fassett. "You can usually only find this stuff on the Internet," Givans says, which draws customers from all around, including people who come to Mass Ave from Chicago to find what they need. "We have a total appreciation of the craft of quilting and certainly the tradition of quilting, but we tend to take those traditional ideas and make them new, make them now," Givans says emphatically.

Givans calls this "Succulents," and it is the name of the fabrics she designed for Windham Fabrics.  - COURTESY OF CRIMSON TATE
  • Courtesy of Crimson Tate
  • Givans calls this "Succulents," and it is the name of the fabrics she designed for Windham Fabrics.

Believe it or not, quilting was not Givans' first love. She'd done some sewing in college, making things like tote bags and sewing for a sculpture class she took while pursuing her fine arts degree. "I never took sewing too seriously as a craft within itself; it was sort of a medium to do sculpture, art of some sort," she says. It wasn't until she attended a quilt camp with her mom at Camp Tecumseh that she began to focus on quilting. She loves how the craft can result in treasured possessions, such as a wedding quilt. "Three different generations of people will come in [the store] to find fabric and everyone [ends up] crying" (happily so). Givans has "such a connection to people ... I love being part of that conversation."

The future is exciting for Crimson Tate. The store will publish its next class schedule at the beginning of January. In March, Succulents -- the line of fabrics that Givans designed for national retailer Windham Fabrics -- will be released. In April, a collaboration between Crimson Tate and Indy Reads Books -- aptly named Indy Quilts Books -- will come to fruition at the annual Alphabet Affair. This year's letter is Q, for which a quilt with a bookshelf design is being sewn; stay tuned to Crimson Tate's blog for information about volunteering on the project.

Each venture is exciting, obviously, but the release of Givans' fabric has the artist and proprietor over the moon. The 22 SKUs, or bolts of fabric, are based on her longtime love of plants. To wit, she's been a member of the Cactus and Succulent Society of America for upwards of 10 years. After leaving a trade show in Portland last year, Givans was contacted by one of Windham's owners, who let her know he appreciated her modern aesthetic and offered his help should she need it in the future. That conversation led to the creation of Succulents, samples of which can be viewed at Crimson Tate.

The wide array of colors and patterns of fabrics filling Crimson Tate captivate passersby on Mass Ave.  - COURTESY OF CRIMSON TATE
  • Courtesy of Crimson Tate
  • The wide array of colors and patterns of fabrics filling Crimson Tate captivate passersby on Mass Ave.

Of her business, Givans says, "We take it seriously but not too seriously. We're always interested in good craftsmanship and learning best procedures and best practices, but there has to be room for forgiveness and error and for it not to be perfect and that's totally okay."

Visit Crimson Tate's Facebook and Instagram pages to learn more about the store, the merchandise they sell, and to see gorgeous pictures of fabrics -- as well as lots of happy people.

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