I Couldn’t Always Make a Trip to the Fabric Shop

Posted by Jen Lopez on Oct 14th 2020

When I was early on in my sewing career, a kid actually, I never “bought” fabric. First off, I didn’t have any money. Second, I didn’t even know there were such things as “fabric stores”. I don’t remember where I thought fabric came from - some sort of magical faeries, perhaps? I only knew that my Mom would have fabric somehow and I could scoop up all the scraps leftover from her projects for my own purposes.

One time, I thought I’d hit the jackpot when an envelope of “samples” arrived at the house – a collection of 20 or so 5” squares of various calicos. My Mom gave then to me and I was delighted. I remember checking and squeezing all the mail for weeks after that, hoping for another such arrival. Nothing else ever came, but I used that little stash quite carefully for a long time, not wanting to “waste” a bit of it. I still have a “9 patch” dollhouse quilt I make from those calicos, although at the time I had no idea what a 9 patch was.

Another source of my childhood stash was an ad in one of those old-timey “swap” newspapers, the kind that had weird things “for sale”, such as “will trade one dozen eggs for can of paint”. Some lady was swapping what she called a large box of fake fur scraps. I forget what she wanted to swap it for but my beleaguered Mom agreed to drive what seemed like over an hour way up north to this lady’s house to swap her fake fur pile for 20 bucks. I was maybe 10 or 11 and she led me up to the attic where the pile was. I thought I’d just seen Santa’s workshop. To call it a “box” of fur scraps was an understatement. It was a gigantic pile consisting of several boxes and some trash bags full, too. I could not believe my eyes. Later, my Mom speculated they were “samples” from a coat factory that was nearby up there in central Maine.

I gathered up every last square and scrap of fur out of that 1 million degree attic and dragged it to the car. Even my Mom, who was always keen for a bargain, was impressed with the great deal we just got. I sewed stuffed animals from that pile of 12” fur “samples” all the way through high school.

Now that I’m grown and have my own money, I go to the fabric store on the slightest whim but I will never forget the joy of finding fabric in odd places.

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