Daily Reflections From My Window

January 13, 2022 Thursday: A Trip to the Fabric Store


“I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. It’s impossible to put down!”


It’s like we are having a heat wave. Waking up to 20* temperatures and sunshine is a real treat in the winter. So why did I have a tantrum yesterday about a snow and ice covered driveway? Well, I had an appointment yesterday in the morning, and as is the way here in the winter, because our main drive is snow covered, twisty, and steep, I crept down our icy and snow covered back road driveway, careful not to slide, in order to get to the main road. We can’t see the main road from our house to know what the situation is and it kind of puts one in the mindset that winter will never end and after being here for over 20 years, yesterday, it got to me. I reached the main road and it was clear. A whole new world.

I made it to my appointment a little early because I had no idea what the main roads would be like and had left extra time to get there. I had some time afterwards to do a few things. I’m going to come back to the tantrum, don’t worry. It’s embarrassing but I’ll share.

I haven’t been to Joann Fabrics forever so I stopped just to look around for inspiration and did need a few notions, so it was a good thing to do on a day like yesterday. If you make things in any way, or have items that others buy from you to make their things, it’s always good to have a trip like this one. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that we have alpacas and make their fiber into a variety of things from the raw fiber, to yarn, to roving, to dyed fibers, to felt sheets, to carded fibers, and to finished products. I sell these things from several online shops and at fiber and craft festivals and use them myself. Pricing is a tough thing. It’s good to get out into the real world to see what prices people are paying. Now with the price and size of this, I could never compete, but it was good to see. It was on sale for $99. It’s also hard to compete with a place like this because EVERYTHING is on sale, and if you have an app or a special coupon, you usually get a discount on the total regularly priced items. My margins are too tight to even consider that.

As I waited in line to be checked out, I was transported back in time to my first fabric related job after graduating from design school. There was an older woman asking a question of the cashier, and the cashier (I’m not sure what the correct term is these days), patiently took her time to try to answer the question. It was about bamboo knitting needles. The woman must have been asking about getting a set of bamboo needles for a knitting project and the cashier was patiently giving her directions to the back of the store, to the farthest corner, wasaaaaayyyyy to the right. She politely suggested that the woman could leave the needles she had in her hands already, at the register, or she could take them with her to compare. This conversation took about 10 minutes in total and I was really interested in watching the interaction.

Fabric stores today are like department stores for crafts. They are enormous and carry so much more than fabrics and notions. Is that a good thing? I tried to go back in my memory to the things I needed necessary to building a garment. If I needed a hammer, which is a fabulous tool to have if you are hemming a pair of jeans so that you can “tenderize” the bulky seam to sew over it by machine, a hammer from our toolbox worked. Now they have special hammers-not sold for that, but for applying other things and many different types of hammers. That’s just one example. Does the “make do, do over or do without” mentality or “use what you have, to make what you need” philosophy of an in the trenches dressmaker on a deadline exist anymore? Who knows.

Back to the woman and the cashier. She had no one else to ask. There was someone else in the store but they were busy. How many square feet do those workers cover in a day? How much restocking do they do? How do they answer questions and know every single product and it’s use and purpose? I can’t even imagine.

The little tailor supply/fabric shop I worked in for (over ten years) in downtown Pittsburgh, first next to Heinz Hall and then we moved to the Strip District) was a tiny, emporium of treasures. My boss, the owner, would travel to New York, hand select fabric ends like silks, and wools from designers’ workshops and we had customers who came in to spend their days off and just look at the fabrics and spend their time with us. We got the story on the fabrics, the buttons, the customer. It was so small that we weren’t wasting time walking a mile and back to get a button to match and neither was the customer. It encouraged team work between us and we were there to teach and to learn. We created relationships. We’d cut fabric and hear about a project someone was making for a much loved child or husband. We’d share losses and celebrate. We knew our customers. When I listened to the exchange between the knitting needle customer and the cashier at Joann yesterday, I thought to myself how wonderful she was and patient and doggone, if that store wasn’t so big and she wasn’t the only one checking us out how they could go and sit at a table and talk about the needles. Reminded me of good memories.

So, she checked me out and was patient and kind once again. Boy we need that today. Thank you.

I headed home and in the two hours it took me to go to my appointment and spend time at Joann, the sun was bright, there was barely any snow anywhere, and I was feeling pretty great about the day. As I drove towards home, snow had been removed, everywhere except, you guessed it, our house. In keeping with my being transported by memories to another time, my dad was a champion snow shoveler. As soon as the first snowflake fell, he, and all of us kids were out shoveling. It was just an unspoken regimen. He and my mom had to get to work. The driveway and sidewalk had to be cleared. It just wasn’t once that we did it either. As soon as it was coated with snow again, we’d bundle up and be back out there. Snowball battles always went with it and rolling around in the snow, but it got done. It’s been so deeply ingrained in me that as soon as I see our driveway covered in snow, I must feel like my dad felt-time to rally the troops and get shoveling, except it’s too big to do by hand and I can’t do the tractor. I need a refresher on the huge walk behind snow blower that we have. When I got home, I had a little tantrum about why our driveway was the only one not cleared. I’m sorry to my family. It just makes me feel trapped. All winter. I went from loving snow to dreading the forecast of snow. So, I went out and scraped what I could and salted the ice that had already formed. In the hour that it took me to blow off steam, some of the ice and snow had melted, finally. This morning, it looks like it froze anew. Well, I need to learn to deal with it I guess. It happens every year.Here’s what it looks like this morning. I hear more snow is coming. Yippee.

Last night we watched a wonderful movie and I’ll try to be brief because this is already too long. It was called “A Royal Night Out” about the Queen and her sister Margaret celebrating VE Day before she was Queen. Though it was a fictionalized account of them actually going out into the public, there are some little tidbits that happened by her own account. Here’s a link to the back story.

It was another winner and worth watching. It’s interesting to hear the conversation about the things that they’ve never ever been exposed to. Directions? Riding a bus? Pouring a cup of tea? Not knowing the word for a public ladies’ room? Some things about royal life don’t seem so great. Thanks for the recommendation Barb!

Well, it’s time to get some work done here. Clean up comes with warmer temperatures and sunshine.

In the meantime, do something you’ve never done before. Find your passion and explore it. Every single day is a gift. I’m off to tend my passion.

Have a blessed day!