Quilt or fabric shops are about as personal as underwear styles. You might go one place for one type of fabric (bikini) and another place for a wider selection of notions (hipster). Or there’s a third place where you just know you’ll find unexpected fun (thong). You get the drift.
No matter what draws you to a shop, though, you have your fave. It’s a gut-level “ahhh!” the minute you step in the door. Not an errand on a to-do list, but a destination treat.
Several of our staffers also work part-time in fabric or quilt shops, as teachers or counter help, so as “ Visit Your Local Quilt Shop Day” (Jan. 24) approaches, we found ourselves thinking about the whole fabric shopping thing, and how it figures in our past/present/future as sewists. Then we asked some of our staff members to share…
What’s your earliest memory of buying fabric?
“I’m sure I visited fabric stores as a very young girl, but this memory sticks out: I was a fourth grader, and my mom asked me to help pick out fabric for a jumper she was going to sew for me. I chose (e.g. was probably steered toward) a plush wide-wale deep green corduroy, because it was so soft. I kept stroking the fabric on the drive home. And a few weeks later, when my grandfather unexpectedly passed away, I remember wanting to take my grandmother a big chunk of that fabric so she could hold it and be comforted.
“It wasn’t until I started 4-H sewing in junior high that I really got to have some fun choosing outfits and coordinating apparel fabrics. My poor mom who went through those years with four daughters! A trip to the fabric store was probably an all-day event! (Now that you think about it, what’s wrong with that?)”—Melissa Thompson Maher
“I started making quilts about a year after I taught myself–often poorly–to make clothes. I didn’t know what a quilt was (for real) but saw a pattern on a magazine cover and just did it. And I was hooked. But for many years, I was quiet about my new addiction. This was the late 1980s and I would slink into my area fabric stores to hunt for calico and cabbage rose print fabric. Like a junkie grabbing my fix in a back alley, I never made eye contact and carefully looked both ways before leaving the shop. I wasn’t embarrassed, but I was shy and just didn’t know there were like-minded creatures out there. And I was completely intimidated by the older ladies who worked in the shop.
“But one day, a very sweet shop lady who was actually within a decade of my age asked me what I was making. No one had ever wanted to know what I was making before! So I reluctantly pulled out a magazine pattern of fall leaves scattered across a quilt and she looked at my 20 1/4 yard cuts in yellows, oranges, reds and browns. Then she treated me like a real live quilter and gave me my first major color lesson in two sentences: ‘You should consider adding some plum and eggplant to your line up. Purple is a complement to yellows, and will also make the oranges sparkle.’ Oh, she was so right! And she opened up my eye to the world of complements, shades and tones which continues to this day to feed my hunger for color.
“I no longer duck into quilt shop corners hoping no one will pay attention to me. I’ve learned to ask for guidance when I feel stuck, and to not be insecure about my creativity. To me, a quilt shop is like walking into a university of stitching. The experiences and skill levels of the people working there represent a wide range of styles, techniques and information and I’m a willing student.”–Jake Finch
So Q-bies…your turn! Share your fabric-shopping memories with us!