Do you have a special piece of clothing that you cherish? I have this shirt that I just love. It’s big and comfy and goes great with jeans and tights. I’ve enjoyed wearing it for number of years, but yesterday when I put it on, I realized that it had seen better days. Wearing it is no longer an option, but I had the thought that maybe the seamstress at the cleaners could make an identical top for me (she is very clever); and sure enough, when I showed her the shirt, she agreed that she could make me another shirt at a very reasonable price. When I asked her about fabric, she told me to find something I liked at the fabric store and that the staff there would help me determine how much I would need.
That’s when it hit me!
In order to have the shirt made, I would have to go inside a fabric store and face the women who work there. Fabric stores are my worst nightmare, but I decided to be brave, take a jagged breath, and face my fabric store fear.
Walking into the store, I was immediately assaulted with the sights and smell of bolts and bolts of new fabric. My head joined my heart and started to pound as I looked for someone to help me. I approached the cutting table and a middle-aged women with a nametag that read “Betsy.” Betsy exuded such sewing superiority that I am certain she sewed her mom back together after her own birth. Silently, she peered at pitiful me over her glasses, and without taking a breath, I blurted out my question:
“Hi. I have this shirt, and I took the blouse to the seamstress at my cleaners because, as you can see (I hold the blouse out to her in desperation), it’s kind of old and ratty, but because I really like it, I wanted to see if she could make me another one, you know. And the seamstress agreed to make the shirt and said you could help me determine what kind and how much fabric I needed.”
“You don’t know how much fabric you need?”
“Your seamstress can’t tell you?”
“Um, well, she said that you would be a better judge.”
“Are we making the blouse?”
“Exactly. So your seamstress should know how much fabric you need.”
“Ok, but she didn’t, and she is from Thailand and really doesn’t speak much English, but she is very nice. I think she will do a good job, and she is very, very reasonable. Can’t you help me figure out how much material I need?” (I was groveling.)
“I don’t want to be held responsible for giving you the incorrect amount of fabric. People blame us when things go wrong, you know.”
“Oh, I promise I would never blame you. Really.”
“Do you sew?”
“Oh.” (Big SIGH as she spreads my top out.) “Well . . .” (Another sigh.) And then she mumbled something about an arm here, ties there, a pocket here and there . . . I don’t know what ever possessed me, but a nervous smile came to my lips, and before I could stop myself, I blurted out
She looked up at me, staring hard, and told me that I would need three yards of material.
I then had to ask her where I could find the material I needed.
“Do you want cotton? Print? Solid, flannel, a blend? Organic? Linen drape?”
“I’m not sure. Maybe something similar to what I have?”
“Do you know what you want or not?”
At this point, I gulped out that I was terrified of anything that had to do with fabric, needles, thread, and measuring. And then I told Betsy that in about 15 seconds, she was going to need to find me a paper bag because I was going to start hyperventilating if she didn’t help me find what I needed for my shirt.
Maybe Betsy began to feel sorry for me, or maybe she just wanted to get me the heck out of the store, or maybe she had no idea where to find a paper bag — but she did become a lot more helpful. Together we found the fabric I needed, on sale, and she measured and cut my fabric. Dripping with relief, she put the fabric and payment slip in my shaking hands and directed me towards the cash register. After thanking Betsy profusely for her help, I walked directly to the register, stood in line, reached the counter, and handed the women my fabric. Then she asked me where my payment slip was.
Oh, yes. The slip was gone. If I ever go back to that fabric store, I’m going to need to take two paper bags — one for Betsy and one for me.