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You can never have too much fabric

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Katie Andrist looks in one of the many containers holding quilting material Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015, at her parents' home in Pine Island. The daughters of Marjorie Andrist have been organizing the fabric to sell since August.

PINE ISLAND — There probably wasn't a day in Marjorie Andrist's adult life that she wasn't sewing or quilting or knitting things from the fabrics she loved.

But it wasn't until she passed away in her sleep last December that her children began to truly appreciate the extent of her obsession, the depth of her passion.

For in a two-stall garage that served as her sewing room, they discovered a veritable warehouse of fabrics: cottons and calico, fluffy fleece and knit, velvet, satin and chiffon that reached from floor to ceiling. Stacks upon stacks of it.

"We could probably cover the Metrodome," said Jodie Bartz, one of her five children. "We could probably replace the dorm roof with one quilted of fabric."

At the request of their dad, who found the heaping quantities of cloth more than he could handle, his adult children held a fabric sale in August.


Nearly $7,000 in cloth was sold at $4 a yard, but it barely made a dent in reducing the mountain of cloth that their mom had accumulated. So another sell-off is planned, this one a two-day sale set for Friday and Saturday at the New Haven Township Hall, 9024 County Road 3 NW in Oronoco.

Yet the storehouse of cloth also tells the story of a Pine Island quilter who lived by the motto, "You can never have too much fabric," whose insatiable appetite for yarn, thread and cotton fed a lifetime of sewing projects. Though a dying art to some, to Andrist it vitally defined who she was.

In elementary school, her kids wore clothes made by her. She made their Halloween costumes, with each year a different theme — Care Bears one year, clowns another, Disney's Penny and the Rescuers another. The girls were outfitted in high school prom dresses crafted by their mom. In elementary school, when Bartz would head off to birthday parties, she would carry a gift of pajamas sewn by her mom.

"I can only imagine the sheer quantity of the fabric that she bought at the time, but all my friends got jammies," Bartz said. "I think sometimes I got invited to birthdays just to give the jammies."

Although she was a seamstress all her life, it wasn't until Andrist was in her 50s that she got a job as one, at Mill End Textiles in Rochester. Surrounded by fabrics that she was able to purchase at a greatly reduced rate or for free, Andrist was able to add to her hoard.

"She'd have bags of fabric sitting in the house, and I'd say, 'what is that for? What are you going to do with this?" her daughter, Stacey Pappas recalled. "And she goes, 'I got a really good deal on it.'"

Bartz said the money raised from the sale will support their youngest brother, Charlie, who is autistic and began living independently for the first time in September.

Until recently, Charlie, 28 had been living contentedly at home with mom and dad, but after his mom passed away, he began to fret about what would happen to him when his parents were no longer around and he would be by himself. So Bartz started a year-long process to help Charlie transition to an independent-living situation.


In September, Charlie moved into a subsidized apartment in Pine Island. But the money he makes as a dishwasher at the Hubble House and courtesy clerk at HyVee grocery store is barely enough "to keep the lights on and afford the apartment," Bartz said. The fabric sale will go into a rainy day fund to support him.

Yet the family's fabric fire sale won't include everything in their mom's sewing garage. Andrist's children are not quite ready to part with the quilts that their mom worked on but didn't complete before she died.

The fabrics will go, but some things will never go away.

"There is sadness in the fact that it's going, but in my head, I can hear mom saying, 'don't you put that price on (that fabric). That's worth 10 times,'" Pappas said.

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