My local fabric shop had one of it’s periodical bargain fabric sales this weekend, and I couldn’t help but take a trip through and see what kind of gems I could find.  Low and behold, I stumbled upon…wait for it… 100% wool suiting heavy enough to make a new coat out of.  It’s chocolate brown, but at only $5.60/yd (on sale for $7/yd then a 20% off total purchase coupon they mailed me), I was able to inexpensively replace the fabric I used in my last attempt at a wool coat.  I paid $12.50/yd for the red.  It’s not the beautiful red that I had my heart set on, but it will turn out to be a much more versatile piece.  And you can be sure I’ll find a wild print to use as my lining!

I also got about 2.5 yds of silk dupioni in the same color of brown as the wool suiting.  I’ve had my eye on it for a while, and at just $4.80/yd (normally $20/yd) I just couldn’t pass it up.  I don’t have a plan for the piece yet, but I’ve got a few ideas bubbling in my head.  We’ll see what I come up with.  I also bought several pieces of rayon/spandex lightweight jersey knit and a piece of poly athletic knit, and I have projects in mind for those.  I just joined the YMCA and I’m in desperate need of new work out clothes.

I didn’t buy all that much this time around, because I was on a bit of a budget, and besides that I have a pile of fabric already that I need to get cut out for projects and get cracking on.  I considered not posting about this, but by the time I left the store I was so frustrated I couldn’t help myself.

You see, I expect stores to be a zoo close to the holiday.  I have some experience in retail, and I know what it’s like.  Despite the insurmountable odds, the staff at my local fabric shop remains pleasant, helpful, and downright resourceful when I need an answer to a difficult question.  I love that they only hire people who are knowledgeable about their products.  Other stores in their chain hire just anyone, but these ladies know their selvedge from their nap and aren’t afraid to tell you that tearing an extra wide fabric so that it’s on grain is a better deal than just cutting it.  Got a question about crochet?  Hang on, the girl cutting your fabric just dabbles a bit, but she’ll call over Sarah*, she crochets all the time.  Asking about something they don’t carry?  They aren’t afraid to give you a list of 3-5 stores in a 10 mile radius that might carry what you’re looking for.  Even their seasonal employees know a satin from a sateen.  Anywho, even though they’re bogged down dealing with all the yahoos making tie blankets for Christmas, these ladies are still all business about fabric and everything else.  I think they’re secretly happy to see me so they get to cut something other than flannel and fleece.  😉  So it’s not the store that got me up on my soapbox, it’s the yahoos who have invaded it this time of year.

So, in the interest of educating the public, here are some tips for shopping at your local fabric & craft store:

1) The store is NOT child-proofed.  There are tons of breakable objects, not to mention things-that-shouldn’t-be-ingested right at toddler height.  Anyone not old enough to drive to the store on their own should probably be supervised while shopping.

1A) Shopping carts are dangerous.  You know those little illustrations about where and how children can and can not ride on shopping carts?  They mean business.  I’ve actually seen an infant in a baby seat go flying when a 4 year old little girl tried to climb into the cart on her own.  No kids on the outside of the cart.  period.

2) Don’t ask questions if you have no intentions of taking the advice of the person you asked.  Want to know what kind of fabric to make pajamas out of?  Great, ask.  But don’t get all offended when they show you, you wander off and pick something totally unsuitable, and the employee rolls their eyes as they cut your fabric.

3) Keep your fingers (and your children) away from the fabric when the employee is cutting it.  Really.  Would yo go to Home Depot and “straighten” the lumber while they use a power saw on it?  No?  Let me tell you, those scissors those girls use are plenty sharp and definitely deadly.

4) Trust your fabric cutter.  Chances are they cut fabric 20+ hours a week, some of them 40+ hours a week.  They’ve been thoroughly trained to get you an accurate cut.  (How accurate?  One shared this math with me: if one average part time employee cuts just 30 cuts per shift, 3 days a week for a full year, and was only off by 1″ on each of those cuts, the company could easily lose 130 YARDS of fabric just from that one employee.  Let’s say that fabric is an average priced, $7.99/yd fabric… that would be a loss of $1,038.70.  And that’s just one employee.  My local shop has about 15 year-round employees.  Over the course of a year for a national chain, that number could easily be in the MILLIONS of dollars lost through a fairly small inaccuracy)

5) Have at least half a clue before you go in… and if you’re clueless when you go in, don’t be surprised when the staff is of limited usefulness.  I overheard one gentleman who claimed to want to buy a sewing machine for himself.  The employee tried to ask a few questions about the types of sewing that he would be doing and his prior experience, but the man wouldn’t give the employee any direction.  The gentleman ended up shouting at the employee because she was unable to sell him a sewing machine with no input from him.  Personally, I’d rather have a salesperson tell me honestly that I need to think more about how I’ll use a purchase before I make an investment than have a salesperson sell me whatever they want to get rid of knowing that there’s a strong likelihood that I’ll be unhappy with my purchase almost immediately.

6) Bring in pictures of your finished projects.  Sure, they’re asking you what you’re working on because they’re supposed to, but almost all of them are genuinely interested in seeing what happens with the materials that leave the store.


And on a final note, if you bring your reusable bags with you to the store, don’t use them until you get to the register.  Many stores prevent their employees from asking to see inside of those bags before you leave, so shoplifters use them to get things out of the store unchallenged.  Get a basket or a shopping cart, so the employees don’t have to keep an extra close eye on you while you shop.  They’ve got enough to do.