Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Patterns



My mother was an expert at sewing and loved to shop for fabric. As a child, I spent hours and hours with her in the fabric store, leafing through pattern books, touching the bolts of cloth, and listening to the flipping of the bolt on the cutting table.

After the fabric was measured out, the snipping scissors alerted me that the magic moment was about to occur. I always watched as the clerk leaned forward and sliced cleanly through the fabric with her open scissors.

I did not inherit my mother’s talent nor her love for sewing, but still I go to the local fabric store every so often for small items. This store has been around for about twenty-five years, and is a fixture in our town. When I go, I linger there, looking at the various bolts of fabric, thinking about the possibilities within, remembering past times.

Last week as I approached the doors, I smiled, thinking about how lovely it was that specialized, locally-owned places like these still exist.

Entering the store, I stood and stared. At least fifty other women were in there, buzzing around, their arms filled with fabrics. There were long lines at the cutting table. One woman was cleaning out the Velcro supply. Had there been a sudden, urgent resurgence in sewing?

I asked one of the women in the store what was going on. “They’re going out of business,” she said. “Everything is 30 percent off. It’s the first hour of the sale. They only let their regular customers know about it.”

Now, my mother taught me about wonders of iron-on interfacing, how to open the long, smooth file drawers to find a pattern, and how to check for the bias of a fabric.

I figured out myself, not to stand between a determined woman and a bolt of $55.00-a- yard ultra-suede that had been reduced by 30 percent.

Moving deftly around the store, I avoided the women who were making a beeline for the quilting supplies. I stepped aside just in time to avoid getting wiped out by determined woman with fabrics stacked up in her arms like holy books she had to save from destruction. I moved into the upholstery fabric section to see women bobbing up and down like hulls of sailboats, grabbing at rolls above their heads, bringing them down like masts and then swinging them like booms as they went back after another.

Feeling a little seasick, I ducked down under the rolls in the women’s arms and I made it to the oilcloth section, got what I needed and then went to join the fifteen or so women in line waiting to check out.

The older woman in back of me started up a conversation. We discussed the projects we were planning and then she showed me some starch product she was buying. “When you iron your husband’s pants and shirts, this is a miracle product,” she said.

I just smiled and nodded.

(I think I have an iron around here somewhere…. I seem to remember helping one of the boys use it for a t-shirt transfer about five years ago…)

I left the store, with my purchase and a sense of sadness too. From now on I’ll have to go to one of the big chain craft stores to seek out material and other supplies.

More than that, though, the real sadness comes from the fact that when I walked in a store like that, the smells, the sights, the sounds all took me back to those times with my mom.

Life had been hard on her and normally she was somewhat guarded and pessimistic. However, in the fabric store, she changed. She saw possibilities. She felt in control. She could let the creative side of her come out to play for a little while.



As I look back on those many hours I spent in the fabric store with my mom, I realize that though I may not have learned how to sew, I did learn some things about life.

I learned that fabric, like people, can only appreciated when you see them in their fullness and consider all their possibilities.

I learned that beauty is not to be found only in the silk and taffeta moments in life, but also in the simple muslin and cotton ones as well.

I learned that one small straight pin, like one small thought or word can be a problem or a solution, depending on how you use it.

I learned that it isn't easy, but you can alter a pattern, even one that’s been around for years.


And just last week, my experience taught me that places and people we assume will be around forever can and do shut down, close up, and go away.

We can carry the treasures away in our arms or in our hearts.

What we make out of them is completely up to us.




63 comments:

Ann said...

Wonderful story again Betty. All the more reason to appreciate what you've got while you still have it. I always hate to hear about small locally owned businesses going out. I wish we had more of them instead of the big chains.

Daisy said...

This post brought back so many memories for me, Betty. I did learn to sew from my Mom. I used to love visiting the fabric store with her too. I haven't done any sewing for a long time because my machine no longer works as it should, and it causes me too much frustration to try and use it. Your mention of the iron made me laugh. I never iron anything except only out of complete desperation. HA! :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's a wonderful lesson you learned from your mother. And don't sales like that just make people a little crazy?

Catherine said...

What a beautiful post Betty!

You don't really see too many fabric stores any more. They seem to be a thing of the past. Not that I go looking for any as I can hardly sew on a button! ;)

Happy Wednesday!
xo Catherine

Mamma has spoken said...

Betty, you brought tears to my eyes. This story hit home because my mother was just like your mother. Hardest thing I ever had to do was empty her sewing room. Seemed like each piece of fabric I touched had a story with it. Now to go find a tissue....

Nancy said...

These little shops can't seem to compete with Wally World. Love the colorful photos of the fabric and thread. Perfect. :)

Leah J. Utas said...

What a touching story, Betty. It is sad how progress marches on and leaves the simpler way behind. You'll always have the memory, if not the activator.

EmptyNester said...

An absolutely beautifully written post!

The fabric store I went to with my mother was Mary Jo's and I hated being in there because Mother took so darn long to make her choices.

She is still sewing- she made Birdie's graduation dress. She made all of our girls' prom dresses and Breezy's wedding gown. The thing that amazes me is how the girls can draw what they want and Mother puts it together without a pattern!

Thank you for this post!

Madi and Mom said...

BB
What a beautiful post to an institution in your city and the memories you have of you and your Mom fabric shopping. It is so sad to see the small independent stores closing. ]
My daughter always loved going to Piece Goods with me. She especially loved feelint the fabrics and loved putting the spools of thread back in their place after finding them in the wrong spot.

Hugs Madi and Mom

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Great story Betty,as always a pleasure to read.

Yvonne.

Jules said...

Beautiful story Betty and your Mother taught you well.
The closing of these stores has made me sad as well. It's like little bits of our country's history is just going away to be but a mere memory.
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Anne Gallagher said...

Oh, Betty, I'm so sorry. We used to have a fabric story like that in my home town. I would go with my grandmother. She had to touch every fabric as if it would speak to her. "What can I be?"

I haven't sewn in years but I have tons of scraps upstairs in a box. Someday I figure I'll make a quilt. Someday.

Thanks for the life lessons from Mom. Beautiful.

Cool Gal said...

I needed this today.

Thank you, Betty.

Cricket said...

For me, it was Nana and cooking, not Mom and sewing, but I get it.

This was a very touching post.

BECKY said...

Your blog is my 3rd stop this morning and after reading this, all I can say is WOW!

Betty, I could go on and on about this lovely story, but I won't! It's so beautifully written....I have no other words to say! Thank you for sharing it with us.

Old Kitty said...

It's such a shame that this beautiful magical shop is closing! :-( I'm glad you got to visit this last time! Such wonderful evocative memories! Thanks for these fab pics too! Take care
x

Parsley said...

AWESOME post! Love how you gave us a life lesson.

KLZ said...

I think the cotton and muslin moments are my favorites. Thanks for the reminder. Your mom sounds just fantastic.

Linda said...

I feel about your writing like I do about Hilary's photography. They're both exquisite. You evoke such emotions with your writing. And the lessons learned from those trips to the fabric store and the resulting creations by your mother were wonderful. Well done, BB.

Brian said...

It's sad when change isn't always for the better. Great post!

Out on the prairie said...

I could hear those scissors cutting the fabric. I went with my grandmother and it was mystical as a kid, wondering what everyone was making.I have a sewing lady who has made me a few things and does my repairs.

Leanne said...

Beautiful post, Betty. I can imagine the sound of a scissors sliding through fabric, and your post brought me back to my own hours spent in a store like this. I feel patterned scrapbook paper is so similar to patterned fabric, and love the whole creative process. This post made me smile.

floweringmama said...

It's always sad when a landmark closes its doors. My grandmother was a seamstress. I still remember the little sundresses she made for me for Easter when I was little.

Brian Miller said...

ah love the little bits of wisdom you gleaned...esp in appreciating various people...and the smells yeah they take me back too...

Jo Schaffer said...

Interesting how a relatively insignificant event like a fabric store clearing out can evoke such deep and poignant thoughts.
Beautifully written.
Makes me feel wistful.

Flartus said...

That's a lovely post-Mother's Day tribute. I, too, spent a fair amount of time picking through patterns with Mom. I still have a shirt she made for me of silk my brother bought in Thailand.

Yet, somehow, I managed not to take as many lessons away from it as you did!

Eileen said...

What a wonderful story/post. My grandmother is an amazing seamstress, knitter, crocheter - you name it. I did not inherit her skills, but I did inherit her love of fabrics. I love how you said that fabric, like people, can only be appreciate when you see them in their fullness and consider all their possibilities ~ what a perfect way of putting it.

jenny_o said...

Betty, this is simply lovely. Your life lessons are especially wonderful. Thank you.

Did you know that many WalMarts (maybe all, by now) no longer carry bolts of material, only pre-cut pieces, meant mostly for quilting.

It is sad that the small independent stores can't make a living anymore.

vickilikesfrogs said...

This post made me cry. But in a happy/sad, nostalgic way that's really very nice. Memories of my own Mom and all.

Liz said...

You always find the beauty in the everyday, BB, and that's an amazing characteristic. :)

Katie said...

Beautiful post!

It is a tragedy that we let small town America and small town business be dissolved so easily. Sorry for the loss your area suffered because this business had to close. Even sorrier (if that's a word) that most people won't realize it was a loss.

CM said...

Wow, so well written! I loved reading this post.

My mom sewed too. I remember the thin paper patterns that she would spread out on the table and then her pinning the fabric to it. She never was very good at it, but she too, like your mom, changed when she was sewing. All her anxiety left her face and she could just focus on the task at hand. I never did learn how to sew, but I truly wish I could have learned before she died. I've always thought that one day, when my boys are bigger, I will teach myself.

Thanks for sharing your bittersweet memories with us!

Ms. A said...

Such ironic symbolism in your post, the shutting down of the hometown store and your moms Alzheimer's. Injected with some humor and a lesson!

Dillypoo said...

Hugs to you, Betty!

Bethany @ Organic Enchilada said...

Such a beautiful post! I am so sorry about the store closing down. That's sad. I hate to see those little ma and pa shops go out of business. It's such a shame.

Bouncin' Barb said...

Great story, great post and so true!

Copyboy said...

Thanks for this foray into the fabric. I can tell it was a bit of an emotional journey for you.

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

This brought me home, in a real way. Some of my sweetest mom moments involved her seamstressing (picking out fabric with her, watching her sew my new dress..). I never directly learned about bias from her, but it's all interwoven. Isn't it?
Hugs and appreciation for this one.
xoRobyn

Pat said...

A heartwarming, and sad, story. It's like you are losing a piece of you with that store closing.

Marlene said...

Ahhh...I used to love walking into fabric stores. (Used to love sewing, too, but it's been DECADES.)

Love your story. So touching.

The Adorkable Ditz said...

Beautiful post!

Whenever I go into a fabric store I get bored really easily. I don't do crafts at all and every major time I go with my mom she either is there for a while with a project in mind she also says that I still need to learn.

Well teach me!

http://theadorkableditzmissteps.blogspot.com/

Linda Myers said...

I don't sew myself, but I have the same memories with my mother. I went into our local fabric store a couple of months ago to buy iron-on patches for a pair of old jeans. I wished that day that I liked to sew.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

How can you be so funny and sad in the same story?
I love visiting our local agway store because it's so similar to the one where I grew up. I visited there with my mother or father hundreds of times in my youth. Hope you keep all the memories.

faye said...

oh this brought back such memories
of running errands for my mom...
having to go to Ruby's Fabric on main
street and searching for the right
material..

Susan in the Boonies said...

"The flipping of the bolt on the cutting table". That was enough for me, although I read the whole piece with relish! You brought back a world of memories with that phrase, for I, too, was the daughter of an expert seamstress.

I'll see you one "flipping of the bolt on the cutting table" and raise you one "felt the touch of her icy cold fingers as they expertly tugged and pinned the material to the proper tightness and length".

Thank you, Betty. For a moment, memories of my Mom came rushing back.

Mary Ann said...

My family had a retail/wholesale fabric business in a little country village. We lived above the store. Saddest day of my mum's life when we had to close it down. We couldn't compete with the franchises.

Brasil said...

Hi Webmaster, commenter’s and everybody else!!! The blog was absolutely fantastic! Lots of great information and inspiration, both of which we all need! Keep 'them coming... you all do such a great job at such Concepts... can't tell you how much I, for one appreciate all you do

gowestferalwoman said...

whats an iron?


Anyhow - thank you. My fabric obsession comes from my grandmother...and I agree; its the possibilities...

Shan said...

We have an I-Run (as per Mad's pronunciation) and an I-Running board. Mad saw it in use the other day and was fascinated.

I'm bummed for you that your store is closing. But I am impressed that this is such a hopeful message all the same.

Hilary said...

You never fail to write with your heart. I remember a similar fabric store very well.. squeaky, wooden floors.. and the smells..

Beautifully written.. wonderfully expresses. I know, I've come to expect it from you but you never fail to delight.

Katherines Corner said...

I love your posts sweet bloggy friend. Hugs and wishes for a day filled with Happy!

TechnoBabe said...

What great memories of your mother. To have been in a place to see how she came alive and in charge in a situation where she was comfortable.
I had to laugh at your mention of an iron. We have one around here somewhere too, it would take a few minutes to find it though.

Tabor said...

This was a lovely analogy and having been a person who sewed most of my children's clothes when they were young and before I returned to work, I understand your mom.

Georgina Dollface said...

What lovely memories and what a lovely metaphor too. My Mom wasn't an avid seamstress, but she was great at taking up pant legs and shortening sleeves for me. From time to time, she made whole outfits from scratch and she'd take me to the fabric store with her to pick out the textiles. I loved looking at all the Butterick patterns - the illustrations of the women and girls on the packages always looked so glamorous and fashionable! Thanks for this beautiful post! - G

Cheeseboy said...

My mom too frequented the fabric store with me in tow and I have similar memories. Although I never actually had the desire to learn to sew.

texwisgirl said...

that was lovely... i stopped over from hilary's POTW to say hello. :)

Shrinky said...

What a beautiful post, I loved the images it conjured - and the memories you shared!

slommler said...

I hate to see a business close...and a fabric store is such a wonderful place to go and browse.
Great post and congrats on your POTW
Hugs
SueAnn

Daryl said...

Wonderful post ... colors, like those spools of thread, make my mouth water ... congrats, well deserved, POTW!

Sandra said...

I love this. I also had a mother who sewed and also remember shopping with her for patterns and material. Fond memories. And I love your comparisons to life. A well deserved POTW.

ellen abbott said...

My mother sewed clothes for my sister and I and herself. I taught myself how to sew making doll clothes for my Barbie doll and I made my own clothes as well for many years in high school and college. My aunt made all her own clothes nearly all her life. So fabric stores are a favorite place for me. I love the aisles with bolt after bolt of cloth. I would look at everything until the sizing in all those fabrics made my nose and throat burn. too bad fabric stores are becoming a thing of the past. Not quite the same as going to a big box craft store for your fabric.

Baby Sister said...

That was a beautiful post. I used to go to the fabric store with my mom all the time too...maybe one of these days I'll have her teach me how to sew. There was a local grocery store that we went to all the time as well that went out of business last year because of the Wallie World down the street. It made me really sad to see such a big part of my childhood close it's doors.

Life with Kaishon said...

I cried. So sad that is closing down. I love stores such as that one as well. I love that you have all of those lovely memories of time spent with your mother. What a gift.