Chase Clark, owner of The Black Squirrel in Berkeley, CA, was one of the earliest and most outgoing supporters of Arroyo, my first fabric collection from Robert Kaufman. The Black Squirrel is an independent, woman-owned yarn and fabric shop, which shares many of the same core values that I’ve embraced with Cotton & Flax. Issues like sustainability, supporting other woman-owned businesses and US-based manufacturing are all a focus in Chase’s business. She chooses every item in her shop with care, including yarns purchased from small, independent, local dyers whenever possible.
I’m planning a trip up to her lovely shop later this year, and I’m delighted to share this interview with her, which highlights the unique qualities of her fabric and yarn shop.
Erin: When did you start sewing?
Chase: I started sewing when I was 10 years old. Actually, I started doing a lot of crafts that year! My mom got a subscription to Martha Stewart Living for the first time, and I think I made something from every single issue. A beautiful embroidery sampler inspired me to learn to hand sew, and my mom purchased a bare bones sewing machine for me shortly after, which I used for almost 20 more years before upgrading.
What were some of your early sewing projects?
My first hand-sewing project was a heart-shaped pincushion, which I still have, and a pincushion project is what I now use to teach others to hand sew since it’s a useful start to your sewing career! My skills progressed to aprons and Halloween costumes once I learned how to use my machine, and in high school I made elaborate cosplay and bellydance costumes for myself and all my friends!
What makes your store unique?
We have a super-curated stock of unique fabrics, yarns, and DIY supplies. Every item is chosen with utmost care, and much of it won’t be found in any other shop! We love our little fabric section – we try to choose the most versatile and wearable fabrics for today’s specific breed of sewist in mind. And everyone who visits our shop loves its light, bright, welcoming feel, no matter what craft you do!
Do you have a favorite time of day to be in the shop?
We have a really well-attended and super fun Stitch & Bitch meet up every Thursday night, and it’s my favorite thing about the shop. We wanted to be as much a community space as a retail shop, and we’ve definitely managed to bring together our amazing crafty community! It’s better than most regular knit nights because we welcome all crafts, skill levels, and people, and we always have a blast!
What’s your current favorite sewing project?
Right now I’m obsessed with all kinds of apparel sewing. In August I hit my one year anniversary of eschewing fast fashion from my life – all of my clothing and shoe acquisitions over the past year have been either secondhand or handmade by artisans. This year I hope to have more time to sew and knit my own wardrobe, and I’m starting simple with a couple Scout Tees from Grainline Studio made from a couple of my favorite Arroyo fabrics!