I have fond memories of fabric stores.
When I was young, my mom made a lot of my dresses. We would return from an afternoon at the fabric store — which, when I was seven, was cavernous, full of seersucker and straight pins and pinking shears — and she would immediately get to work. As I sorted through an old tin of mismatched buttons, creating small piles and patterns on the rug, she opened the white envelope that held the pattern for a new Easter dress, unfolded the onion-skin-thin brown paper, and began pinning flower-sprigged cotton to the pre-traced forms.
She was great with a sewing machine and smocker. I remember one dress in particular — a light blue, puff-sleeved number with a line of swans sewn across the front. I’m pretty sure it’s wrapped in tissue paper and carefully stored, along with an entire wardrobe of sundresses, in a white wicker trunk somewhere in Charlotte, waiting for the possibility of a daughter.
A few months ago, I dragged Danny into the Jo-Ann Fabrics next to our grocery store, looking for embroidery floss but, perhaps, also thinking I could somehow reconnect with that feeling of sitting on the thinly carpeted floor of a fabric store, helping my mom choose a new summer skirt pattern or leafing through a book of Christmas ornament cross-stitch patterns. As we pushed through the heavy door on our way back to the parking lot, I wondered if the fabric store business had really suffered such a downturn or if, instead, I was remembering my afternoons at the fabric store through the fuzzy filter of childhood. Because wow. That was the most depressing fabric store I have ever encountered.
Tonight, Danny and I passed Jo Ann Fabrics on our way home from a late-night cookie run, and I mentioned again how sad and hopeless it had been inside.
“Yes,” he agreed. “In there, it’s like somebody poured battery acid on my soul.”
Perhaps Jo Ann Fabrics is, for me, a special case, as it’s so entangled in childhood memories. But we began talking about depressing stores in general. I’ve blogged about the depression-inducing atmosphere of Party City. The Burlington Coat Factory has the same effect on me. Is it the aggressive fluorescent lighting? The pervasive odor of synthetic fabrics? The sad shells of overstock, second-rate designer pea coats?
All I know is that I’m going to be avoiding Jo Ann Fabrics from now on. I’ll rely on those tissue-paper-wrapped dresses to recall my fabric store days with mom. I’ll buy a dainty pair of Crane scissors and a tomato-shaped pincushion as mementos for those afternoons of trying on half-finished dresses, bristling with tiny pins. Or perhaps I’ll begin collecting buttons in an old shortbread tin and break them out on rainy days.
Because really. Who can be blue when sorting rogue buttons?