Monthly Archives: January 2015
For the past six weeks, I have had the honor of working at a fabric shop — The amazing Sewing Palace in Helena, Montana. Every time I unfurl a bolt of fabric and hear the thunk, thunk of the bolt hitting the cutting table, I am carried back to my childhood.
I first heard the thunking of a bolt of fabric standing next to my mom at the McCaulou’s department store in my hometown of Lafayette, California. Like most department stores, McCaulou’s had a fabric department until I was in my late twenties.
When I was young, my mom and I would walk past the children’s department, and the juniors’ department, to the back of the store — the fabric department. We would leaf through the giant glossy pattern books to choose the perfect thing for my mom to make for me, using tiny pencils to write the pattern numbers on scraps of paper. The lady behind the counter would pull the pattern from one of her giant drawers.
Then I would have the pleasure of selecting my fabric and notions. Sometimes, McCaulou’s would have the actual fabric used in the pattern photo! When we got home, I would not-so-patiently wait for my mom to turn the cloth into special clothes for me.
By the time I was 12, I was the one sewing the clothes. Although I sewed too hastily, and my makes were always clearly homemade, the possibility that I might make a beautiful garment out of the beautiful cloth was magical.
Growing up, I thought of the children’s department as the “land of no.” My mom always said no to ready-made clothes, except for the one shopping trip in August when we would buy school clothes. The fabric department was the “land of yes.” My mom was always happy to sew me something when I was small, and she was always happy to buy me the fabric to make myself something as I grew older.
As I take steps to open my own fabric shop and online store, I am buoyed by the hopefulness and empowerment I always felt when I heard the fabric bolt thunk on the cutting table. What does buying fabric remind you of?