Sunday, May 27, 2012

louisville, ky: a sewing desert

The evidence is now undeniable. My city is increasingly becoming a sewing and fabric desert. For a city with a population of 600,000, this just shouldn't be the case!

Evidence: First, it began with the amazing two-story Baer Fabrics downtown. It closed without warning several years ago -- after 103 years! -- and sent the city reeling. The employees didn't even know it was closing until the day before. The building still stands there today with its original signage and button mural painted on the side. A forlorn reminder of what-could-have-been for my current sewing life. I bet you can guess which apparel fabric stores are left. Sob.


Evidence: I regularly visit thrift stores, flea markets, vintage clothing stores, antique malls and estate sales. Unlike the rest of you lucky people, I so rarely find fabric, patterns or notions at these kinds of places. Well, okay, there's currently a small collection of awful (and overpriced) 1980s sewing patterns at a local thrift store, but it's been the same small collection since I first discovered it six months ago. I ask these shop owners all the time if they know of anywhere else that sells sewing-related ANYTHING, and they just shake their heads apologetically, throwing out some unsure suggestions about someone they know who "might" have something like that in their store 15 miles away. 


Evidence: Last week I was making some girls' skirts and ran out of white cotton for lining. Instead of driving out to Jo-Ann, I thought I'd stop by the locally-owned quilt "shoppe" in my neighborhood. I'd only ever been in there once before because clearly it doesn't really cater to my needs as an apparel sewer. On that first visit I almost bought a rotary cutter but decided instead to go to Wal-Mart to get the same brand for a third of the price. Yes, totally shameful.

When I arrived there this time, the store was dark and their signage had been removed. The only things that remained were a small "Closed" sign and some abandoned bolts of fabric on the floor. I went on their Facebook page and read that they had officially shut their doors in December. I can't help but blame myself for the local shop's demise because I'm cheap and bought my rotary cutters at Wal-Mart and my cotton broadcloth at Jo-Ann with a 40% off coupon on my iPhone.


Evidence: Yesterday I helped my mom host a yard sale in her neighborhood, something we do on Memorial Day weekend every year. I contributed my usual RTW clothes and housewares, but this year had some fabric remnants and patterns I wanted to sell. I had about two boxes of fabric and maybe 10 patterns. I priced them all incredibly cheap, of course. There was even some Pendleton wool in there, people. A seamstress' jackpot, or so I thought.

We had a ton of traffic throughout the sale, but out of my sewing-related stuff, I only sold one piece of terrycloth for 25 cents and one Cynthia Rowley pattern for 25 cents. WTF. I said to the customers who did buy something, "Alright, someone else who sews!" and they both just laughed and said "No, not really." For some reason I was hoping that through this process I'd meet other seamstresses and we'd start a sewing club and eat little sandwiches while discussing flat-felled seams or something.

(In case you're dying to know, the bear purse pictured above did sell. Figures.)


There's more to whine about, like how there aren't any sewing classes for anyone who wants to learn patternmaking or more advanced techniques; how the only craft fairs are Christmas fairs; and how the libraries hardly stock any sewing-related books. But, I'm tired of feeling sorry for myself and I have some sewing left to do today... with fabric I bought from the INTERNET. For the record, I love my city otherwise, I really do!

How sew-friendly is your city? If it's like mine, how do you cope??