In March of 1969 Bea Amaral set up her fabric shop on State Road in West Tisbury. The shop is still there today, open every day but Sunday, and Bea is there, too. At age 89, it's hard to break a good routine.

Bea’s Fabric Shop is filled with buttons, fabric, needles and thread on one side, and antiques and glassware on the other side. These days everything is for sale, including the building.

“Nobody sews anymore,” Bea says from behind the glass counter. “They say it’s coming back but I don’t know.”

From shark mittens to little sheep, Bea Amaral can stitch it all. — Mark Lovewell

She untangles a great knot of yarn and looks around for her knitting needles. She’s more than halfway through a little white hat for her newest great-great-granddaughter. There’s a blue one like it on the counter, next to a basket of gray mittens made into the shape of little sharks complete with little yarn teeth.

“I was looking for something to make my grandchildren, back after they shot Jaws,” Bea said. “They took these to school and everybody loved them.”

After about five minutes with Bea, it becomes clear that her hands are never still.

“I’ve got to keep busy or I’d go crazy in here.”

Bea has sewed clothing and knitted sweaters for her children from the time they were babies. The knitting, she explains, didn’t come easily at first.

“The USO wanted girls to knit during the war,” she says. “They brought us needles and yarn and wanted us to knit socks. Well, socks are hard to knit. I gave them back to them and told them I couldn’t do it.”

Bea Amaral: "Nobody sews anymore...they say it's coming back but I don't know." — Mark Lovewell

This was when Bea was a teenager living in New Bedford, where there was a defense plant. She met her husband Bob while he was working there. He enlisted as soon as he turned 18, and they married in Nebraska because he couldn’t get a furlough to come home for the wedding. Bea took her first trip ever, by train from Massachusetts to Nebraska, to get married and start her new life.

“I had never been on a train before, never traveled before, never ordered anything from a restaurant before,” she remembers. “There were all these soldiers on the train. Everybody was around 18. I looked over and said, that looks pretty good, I’ll have what he’s having.”

Bea was nearly the last person off the train and Bob was there waiting for her. “We were married 47 years. He’s been gone for 24.”

The couple traveled around the country for a few years while Bob was in the military and then settled for a bit in New Jersey where Bob worked for General Motors. Then, when Bob was away during World War II, Bea came to visit his family on the Vineyard.

“When he was overseas and I came here to meet his family, they all played instruments. I said I’m not going home, I’m staying here. It was a party.”

They lived in Oak Bluffs near Tony’s Market in the early days, in a house they bought for $2,500. Bob was a plumber and heating repairman and could fix anything mechanical. At the time, there weren’t many shops to buy clothing for children so Bea taught herself how to sew. She knitted her first pair of baby booties before their first child was born.

“I’ve been knitting booties for 70 years.”

The fabric store on State Road is within walking distance of her current home. At times Bob and Bea worked five jobs between the two of them while raising their four children. She made crafts for Woodchips and waited on tables at the Dunes. She used to sell sewing machines from her shop, back when most Island mothers made clothes for their families.

Bea taught herself to sew, knitting her first pair of baby booties when her first child was born. — Mark Lovewell

“We started the shop back then because we needed a place like this,” Bea says. “There was no Walmart. All my old sewers from back then have passed away.”

In their spare time, she and Bob took out their boat and went fishing, even though Bea didn’t know how to swim.

“Once I caught a fish, I wanted to go every day.”

Over the years, the fabric shop has remained open while other Island fabric stores have closed. But she’s ready to sell too, and put her antiques back in the attic. Most of her children and grandchildren are scattered around the country. If she retired and spent a year visiting them, Bea said, she’d be able to see a lot of the country. And she does like to travel.

She just got back from Florida in late October, a trip she made with her two daughters. They split the cost three ways, she says. They visited a Polynesian restaurant at Disney and they had to wear wristbands at the theme park.

“I felt like a criminal or a patient,” she says with a laugh.

She admits to being a little tired since she returned home, but there is already talk of the next trip, this time to Virginia. Bea will have to fit it in between doctors’ appointments. She jokes that her shop hours are determined by her visits to the doctor’s office. “You better call first to see if I’m open.”

“I’m slowing down a little,” she adds. “I get up about a quarter past six and I do dishes in the morning. My youngest daughter does everything else now. I just tell her to call me when it’s ready.

“I think I’ll make some candy tonight,” she says. “I’ve got some raisins and some chocolate. I think I’ll melt some of that chocolate and mix them together. That sounds good.”

Bea’s Fabric Shop is open every day but Sunday, unless she has an appointment away from the shop. Call 508-693-2581 to be sure it’s open.