In 1968, when Singer sewing machines sat in most homes, a youthful counterculture was shaping politics and fashion, and Paul “Bear” Bryant was rolling the Tide on to victory, King Cotton Fabrics owner Bill Haas started a piece goods store in Tuscaloosa called the Cloth Patch. During that time, many women, including Bill’s wife, Janet, sewed their family’s clothing, drapes, bed skirts and slipcovers. Janet recalls her time-consuming, twice-yearly shopping trips sifting through Butterick and Simplicity patterns to make fall and spring wardrobes for their two daughters, Kym and Nina. The Cloth Patch lessened this lengthy process for both the Haas family and many others in Tuscaloosa.
Eventually home sewing declined, so the Cloth Patch evolved into a home-decorating fabric store to better accommodate customers’ changing needs, and business was still booming. Janet kept the company books at home and helped direct Bill’s buying, while their daughters helped out in various ways. Bolstered by the success of the Tuscaloosa store, the Haas family initiated a similar venture in Birmingham. In 1993, they opened King Cotton Fabrics, which still operates in the former Green Springs Baptist Church.
The historic church building was established circa 1890 and is a historic landmark of the Jefferson County Historical Commission. It still retains its old-school chapel charm, and there’s definitely still a sense of awe upon entering the structure—awe at the vast racks of colorful and inventive textures and patterns, ranging from classic to modern and artistic to playful. The family-owned and -operated company specializes in high-quality, designer fabric brands, decorator fabric, upholstery fabric, linen, silk, damask fabric, trim, drapery hardware and more. King Cotton represents more than 150 fabric mills and boasts 2,500 upscale, yet affordable, fabrics, with thousands more available through special orders. The store imports new fabrics almost weekly to ensure the variety and quality of fabrics exceed its customers’ expectations.
“Our fabrics never get old or boring,” Janet says. “We offer so many fabulous fabrics that whatever your taste, style or goal, we can help.”
The Haas family applies painstaking detail and thoughtful consideration to provide fresh, popular items for its diverse clientele in Alabama and across the country, and, unlike many stores of similar trade, King Cotton allows customers to take home 18 x 24-inch fabric samples, instead of small swatches. These larger samples are instrumental in giving customers an accurate visual, ensuring that they achieve the desired look for their projects.
King Cotton not only offers a diverse and visually stunning collection, but it also offers a discount room downstairs, which houses short pieces of fabric, no more than three yards, on a bolt marked down to half price. This room is the DIY crafter’s wonderland, the perfect fabric fodder for creative sewing projects!
And King Cotton is more than just a jaw-dropping fabric mecca; they also offer design assistance. “We do projects from nurseries to dorm rooms to first homes to forever homes,” says Janet. “We re-do. We upgrade. We start from scratch. We do a couple of throw pillows to spice up a room, and we do entire office buildings. We have even done bridesmaid dresses! Folks buy fabric for boat cushions and toga parties and kilt skirts. Our fabrics have covered ceilings and walls in well-known restaurants and entertainment venues. You name it, King Cotton is there!”
Though the original Cloth Patch in Tuscaloosa has since closed and its mission has changed from a simple piece goods store to a dynamic fabric sales company, Bill has always kept his family at the root of the business. These days at King Cotton in Birmingham, Janet acts as manager and their girls both work for the company, as well, one administering the website and one directing buying. Bill and Janet’s grandchildren also work part-time in the summers, and Bill now fills an advisory role and manages the other King Cotton location in Montgomery.
To achieve their high ideals of exceptional offerings and customized service, King Cotton also employs dedicated and talented individuals who feel more like family to them. These employees walk customers through the step-by-step process of selecting and coordinating fabrics, creating a painless and rewarding experience. “They are our most unique attribute,” says Janet of King Cotton’s caring employees.
Ever growing and evolving, King Cotton is in the process of increasing its online and social media presence to showcase its unique and artistic collection and its one-of-a-kind service. Though its website is fairly new, it places King Cotton on the map as one of the largest online fabric stores in the country. “It gives us a national footprint, so we’re really excited about that,” says Janet.
With such a multifaceted and dynamic fabric reservoir, the Haas family is constantly inspired by the projects that King Cotton has been honored to be a part of over the years. “Our fabrics have topped tables for galas and grand openings and garden parties. They’ve decorated wedding receptions and bar mitzvahs and christenings,” says Janet of the fabrics that are hand picked for some of Birmingham’s most meaningful celebrations. “We strive every day to meet the needs of our customers, who we also consider friends and neighbors. For my family and me, it has been much more than our livelihood all these years—it has been a way of life.”
King Cotton is located on 1820 Green Springs Hwy., Birmingham. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Learn more at kingcottonfabrics.com or by calling (205) 322-5878.