Saturday, February 12, 2011

About the Fabric Store

The fabric store is a very mystifying place.

My mother is a master sewer, so i have many memories of going to the fabric store when i was little.  It always seemed like a secret club.  There was obscure terminology.  There were unwritten codes of behavior.  I'm pretty sure there was a secret handshake.

I accompanied my mother to the fabric store as a little girl, wide-eyed and curious.  All those pretty fabric designs.  Buttons and ribbons and lace.  Then there was a 14 year gap.  I got old enough that i didn't have to go absolutely everywhere she went; i could stay home.  So more than a decade went by until i had reason to return to the fabric store.

Then, a few months ago, i went.  And would you believe, the place hadn't changed.  It wasn't the same store i went to growing up, but it definitely could have been.  It was so bizarre.  The rest of the world has progressed in the past 14 years, but the fabric store was still exactly the same.  They still had those paper tickets, the lady at the cutting station was still 100 years old with a Little House on the Prairie hairstyle.  It was like walking back in time.

And i'm still wide-eyed and mystified.  It's still a secret club and i definitely don't belong.  I don't know the handshake.  The part that makes me the most nervous is when the lady who is cutting your fabric says, "So what are you making?"

That's when my heart stops for a minute.

I'm usually not making anything at all (i just loved the fabric), or i'm making something embarrassing, or i'm making something that i don't know what i'm doing and i'm afraid she'll ask more questions.

Well yesterday all that changed.  I marched into that store with confidence.  I knew exactly what i was making.  I even half-way know how to do it.  I was on a mission.  I went directly to the fabric i needed, selected the right color, and approached the cutting station.

There is always a long line at the cutting station.  There are three physical "stations".  Three counters with yardsticks and scissors.  But there is only ever one lady cutting.  No matter what.  It's one of the unwritten codes of sewing.

The man who was currently being helped must have been upholstering a chair or something.  He had long sheets of foam, a bunch of fluffy stuffing, and lots of leather-ish type fabric.  The cutting lady was making the usual small talk.  I wasn't really paying attention, until all of a sudden i heard her ask him, "Do you wear boxers?" 

Long awkward pause.

Oh man the look on his face was so funny. 

I said jokingly, "Wow, these questions are getting very personal!" 

Turns out she was trying to coax him into buying this fancy new spray-starch-wrinkle-releaser type stuff.  The employees must have a quota because she really wouldn't give it up about the wrinkle releaser.  Apparently her main tactic is to tell men how great it is for boxers.  You just spray it right on there and it makes them look neat and tidy!  I wasn't really following her reasoning.  I don't have much experience with boxers, but it seems to me that it's okay for them to be wrinkled.  Which is very freeing, because it's one less thing to worry about in life.  I mean imagine, if you had to add an extra 2 minutes to your morning routine to spray and smooth out your boxers?

Anyway, it was finally my turn.  "I need three yards of both of these, please."

She began cutting and i waited patiently for the inevitable.

"What are you making?"

Oh yeah, i can do this!  I was so excited to have an answer for her.  "I'm making new and improved sheets for my baby's crib because she keeps taking the sheets off and throwing them on the floor."  I even glanced back at the person in line behind me to make sure they heard.

The cutting lady thought about this for a minute.  She asked, "Do you burp your baby?"

Aw man, she stumped me!  I thought i was prepared, and here she goes and asks a question i didn't expect.  I replied (with the tone of voice you would use to say "DUH"), "yes."

She asked, "Have you thought about reducing the number of ounces at each feeding?"

Now i'm getting irritated.  Whatever my shortcomings as a seamstress, i feel pretty confident about my baby-raising abilities.  I don't mind feeling like an idiot in the sewing world, but do you have to second-guess my mothering skills as well?  You don't even know me!  And, might i mention, what on earth does this have to do with crib sheets?

I responded (rather tactfully i must say), "It's not a feeding issue.  She's very inquisitive."

She had to take a minute to regroup.  "How old is your baby?"

I said, "10 months."

She said, "Well, you know, childhood obesity is a big problem in this country so you really don't want to be overfeeding your baby, especially if she is vomiting so much."

At this point there were approximately 75 very intense things i wanted to say to her.  But she was clearly crazy, so it didn't seem worth it.  I think what i did say was something along the lines of, "SHE ISN'T VOMITING, SHE IS TAKING THE SHEETS OFF HER BED so i'm making new sheets like a pillow case style instead of a fitted sheet."

The lady didn't miss a beat.  "This is a nice lightweight fabric, so you would definitely benefit from our fancy-spray-starch-wrinkle-remover-stuff."

Um, no thanks.  Much like underwear, i sorta don't care if my crib sheets are a little wrinkled.

And thus my inquisition was finally over.  That was way more scary than all the times before, when i didn't know what i was making.  It convinced me that from now on, I'm going to lie about my project.  Or say nothing at all.  Or if i'm feeling particularly feisty, I'll make up something completely preposterous.  The poor fabric lady won't see it coming.

"What are you making?"

"Banana bread."



  1. yikes! since being a mom, i have found that everyone has an opinion on everything baby and most people are not afraid to matter how ridiculous he or she sounds. it does make for funny stories after the fact though often stressful and infuriating at the time.

  2. You are such a good writer! I just love it. Please seriously consider writing to publish. More people need to read your stuff.

  3. just say ' I haven't decided yet." or maybe' none of your damn business.'

  4. I just read this aloud to Husband and we both laughed through this story. Do you think this story could make a good children's book? Life lesson: don't cave to silly marketing.