Good day fellow Pagan Sewists! Because we had a spell of much more mild weather this weekend, than over the past several months, I decided to take some time and peruse the local fabric stores in the Des Moines area, to compare and contrast their respective offerings.
The first store I stopped by was the Jo-ann's Fabrics & Crafts in west Des Moines. (There is a second location on SE 14th. Street--an area infamous for violence in recent months--though I have never been to that particular store.) The first thing that caught my attention was the steeply discounted bolts of holiday print fabric immediately to my right as I entered the store. I carefully examined each bolt, hoping that the various prints might inspire me. However, none did. I was also surprised that they had bolts of steeply discounted Yuletide and Christmas fabrics on sale at this station! Even more surprising was the fact that it's not even October, yet, and their Hallowe'en craft offerings were also steeply discounted! I honestly hadn't expected that until after Samhain had come and gone.
I immediately moved to their fabric section as I made a bee-line through and past their large and indomitable crafting section, now that I finally had a very firm grasp on the specific type of material that I was looking for in my quest for a poly-rayon blend which my ritual robes required! Eventually I found my way to the knit fabrics where I suspected it would most likely be, if it was to be found anywhere at all. I poured over each bolt of black fabric and found nothing but the casual poly-cotton blends and 100% polyester! So, it was from then on that I decided to ask for some help, all the while cringing at the thought of what answer the staff might give.
After tracking down an assistant, whom I felt like I had been stalking for several isles, I asked her if she stocked any rayon-blends, because I hadn't found any. The first question she asked me (which they all seem to ask, in my experience) is: What are you making? Usually I refrain from directly answering such questions, figuring that it's a private matter and none of their business, but she was much younger than the average staff member and very likely knows some Pagans! So, I explained to her that I am Pagan, and that I was planning on sewing some vestments for myself. She immediately seemed to know why I wanted the blend of fabric that I was requesting because she tried to sell me on some other fabrics that are also thought to drape well. As we began to chat, however, she informed me that rayon is becoming more and more difficult to find in textiles and fabrics, because Sewists are largely moving away from it in favor of cotton as a more "natural" alternative. I thanked her kindly for her knowledge with a firm hand shake and continued browsing.
As I made my way up and down each isle, I began to notice that there seemed to be a lot less fabric here, than there had been over the previous five, or even ten years! I got the distinct impression that the fabric was being pushed further and further back into the peripheries of the store in an effort to make more room for their crafting merchandise! Perhaps they think that they are in competition with Michaels, when they ought to try and compete with Hancock! Unfortunately, very little of that fabric would avail me in the least in constructing a set of fine ritual garments. The vast majority of their selected fabric was really only appropriate for quilting, and they didn't seem to stock any of what one might call "fashion fabric" from which attractive garments, linens, and other items might be constructed. I did spy several lovely bolts of satin, but I had no idea what I would use a gorgeous aqua blue satin on! Certainly I could not imagine sewing any ritual robes that might require an aqua blue satin lining. Though, I have noticed that the colors of aqua, medium-to-light teal and even sky blue have recently been calling to me quite strongly over the past few years as my own wardrobe can attest. Even their selection of trimmings, ribbons, and notions seemed rather paltry. I wonder who decides what to stock, and why? Or, if they simply get a random selection that is delivered by a semi-truck as my Dad used receive to when he managed a Ben Franklin store several years ago?
At this time I was deeply concerned that I might never find the fabric blend that I was looking for! So, from there, I decided to drive to Hancock Fabrics, which is across the street from Michaels. From the moment I set foot inside I realized that this store catered to Sewists, rather than mere Hobbyists as at Jo-Ann's! And, perhaps its proximity to Michaels is the reason for this. As I was waiting for an employee to assist me, I browsed about and I saw some amazing selections of shirting that both me and my brother wold look exceptionally sharp in! It was the shirting that so deeply impressed me from the outset, because I had found none at the previous fabric store that I had just come from. They also had a quiet row of seats where one may pensively browse through the pattern books, and a wall of ribbons in every color (a much larger selection than Jo-Ann's meager offerings), and some fabulous Singer-brand sewing machines (which will be my next big purchase)! The former store refused to carry this brand of machines and seemed intent on perpetuating the myth that the ability to embroider large digital embroidery designs must cost an investment of $4,000 at a bare minimum.
But eventually I got the attention of a sales assistant who directed me to the knits which were stocked in a section called "Career Wear". As I began to pour over the knits, checking each bolt of black fabric for the blend of fibers that I was searching for, my heart began to gradually sink as I was faced with polyester blends that contained not one shred of rayon! Then, right next to the knits, I spied a sign denoting a collection of Ponteroma fabrics. Could it be here, I wondered, as I hoped against hope! And, upon lifting back the veil of black fabric from the end of the bolt I saw what I had been searching for over the past six months or more: a poly-rayon blend, though it did have about 3% lycra added to the mix, as I seem to recall. In my excitement I "tested" the fabric over my arm, and as I had been told by numerous Witches it does, indeed, drape like a dream with an exquisitely soft texture and a luxurious feel! My robes, when I eventually sew them, shall be utterly luxurious sewn from this material! However, I shall have to enquire if they might be able to order me a bolt of this fabric that is a bit more black? While this fabric was, indeed, black, it didn't seem to me to be a very dark black!
Ecstatic beyond words at my find I asked the gal at the cutting counter if I might borrow a piece of scrap paper and a pen on which to write myself a note--after all, my camera didn't seem to want to work for me, today. I wrote down what section the fabric could be found at, as well as its jaw-dropping price: $13.00/ yard! I need at least 10 yards for the ritual robes that I plan to sew, so you can see that I will clearly be spending $100 on fabric alone! Still, with the use of frequent coupons I can easily manage that fee by 20%-40% on a good day.
Unlike Jo-Ann's they were not having steeply discounted sale on current holiday items. Though, Hancock was offering steep discounts of up to 50% from 5-25 September because it is the franchise's Fifty-Sixth Anniversary! After the relief of finding my poly-rayon fabric I spend took some time to browse some more and I came across their large display of "Bridal Satin" which was both exquisite and extremely heavy. Because I will be lining my ritual robes in satin I thought I would check out what they had on hand. Bridal silk, however, would be far too heavy and defeat the purpose of buying a fine poly-rayon knit fabric; instead of draping like a dream it'd probably drag along the floor from the weight of the satin alone. Definitely not what I want. The only thing I observed that sent a shiver down my spine was the messy array of their bolts of fusibles, their interfacing, and their webbing, etc.! It set off my occasional OCD-senses! I wanted to stop what I was doing and organize those shelves, which were directly behind the cutting counter. Why an employee couldn't manage those shelves during his or her "down time", I can only guess.
Having made my rounds, before I left, I happened to snag the most inexpensive bolt of muslin that I could find and had a single yard cut for me. (I plan on sewing a poppet or two with it from a pattern that I drafted.) Though, I realize now that I completely forgot to check either store for their collection of linen and for some clear vinyl which is sold by the yard on large rolls or bolts so that I can make a copy of the pattern I am using to sew my precious ritual robes (Butterick #4050). I will be using this pattern for years to come, should I be asked to teach someone and take on a student in The Covenant of Morrighan these will be the robes that they would have to make for themselves as well. So far, the Fates have not brought anyone to my feet. But, I digress. As I was paying for my fabric I was asked if I would like to sign up for Hancock's "Preferred Customer Card". This is purely optional, and in reality it is a way that the company can track what sells, what doesn't, and what items are being bought together and by whom so that they can make more strategic decisions and, hopefully, offer a more impressive line of merchandise in the future. What the card gives one, however, is merely advanced notice of special sales and some coupons and discounts that are not available to non-card holders. It's really just barely worth it, but I chose to sign-up for the card because I'm personally adamant about the fact that I hope my shopping decisions have an affect on the local and national franchise, even if they are small.
Until next time, Dear Readers...