Adaptation

Out fit for last day of work: my first project dress.

Last week, the Fabricland where I’ve worked for the last five and a half years closed its doors. I feel weirdly dislocated, almost like the feeling of forgetting your phone, like some phantom limb is missing from my life.

On the other hand, staying home and spending evenings with my family this week is pretty amazing.

I don’t know if it was always clear, but it’s hard to overestimate the impact working there has had, on both my sewing and my wardrobe itself, and I’m still processing some of that.

First, and most obvious, were the shop projects. Having a monthly budget of “free” fabric and deadlines changes what you chose to sew.

Having my pick of any big 4 (or later McVoguerick, after they turfed Simplicity) pattern meant I tended to choose from those rather than an indie pattern (which I’d have to buy myself) or a vintage pattern in my collection (which was discouraged since people will be inspired and probably want to know where they can get that pattern, and if it’s out of print they’ll get bummed out.) I also tended to go with new ones every time. Not a lot of TNT makes, nor of things already in my disgustingly massive pattern collection.

Second, instead of using fabric from stash, every project came from the store. This means you get to try shiny new fabrics, and use things I wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise, but it also meant the stash just got bigger and bigger. It’s not like you stop buying stuff! (Although Fabricland staff prices aren’t anything to write home about, you’re there for ALL THE SALES and you’re right there when stuff gets marked down at the end of a season. There is still plenty of temptation to buy.) If you wanted to make something right away, you tried to figure out how to do it as a project, because everything else went on the back burner.

Third is a bit more subtle. Projects that would boost your skills and try out new products were encouraged. Projects that get people excited were, too. Which, as you probably can guess, means it was fun to make a lot of dresses. Sometimes stupid, crazy, fancy dresses. With a strict two week deadline (and keep in mind I was working two jobs for most of this span, so limited sewing time at home) it was hard to tackle really involved projects like coats, or to muslin things. But a quick, fun dress? Perfect!

Next is its effect on what I wear. Shortly after I started working at Fabricland, the simple good marketing of wearing things I had made became obvious—but not just anything. The jeans and tees that had dominated a lot of my sewing while I was in grad school, trying to disappear into the background, don’t make anyone ask “Did you make that?” The dresses did. Those same ones I was conveniently making for impractical but fun projects. And I’ve always been one for binges of overdressing, so a perfect storm was created. I was making crazy dresses. I was wearing crazy dresses. I had a REASON to wear crazy dresses. This week, without that reason, I haven’t quite reverted to form, but it’s felt different. My day job doesn’t have much of a dress code and doesn’t directly interface with the public, so that drive is missing. On the other hand, there are several of us who enjoy playing with our wardrobes, so I don’t think the dresses are suddenly going to languish. But I may not make quite as many of them.

Or maybe I will!

But the biggest thing I’m missing already is the interaction. These people were my sewcialists. The staff (and some customers!) were always talking about what we were making. Everyone had their specialties, from self-drafted unique pieces to quilts to intricate hanstitched felt creations. We learnt a lot from each other—but most importantly we had a lot of fun.

There are the things I don’t miss, as well. Crabby customers. Corporate policy decisions that seem designed to create crabby customers. Constant, brutal price hikes (many items more than doubled their price in the five years I worked there). Interpersonal drama. Stone-aged (ok, pre-computer-era) inventory and ordering processes. Sometimes this stuff seemed overwhelming in the moment. Yet as soon as it was taken away, I find myself focusing on the good. The fun, the people, the shared love of making.

Then there’s the identity.

Somehow, working at Fabricland crept into my sewing identity. I wasn’t “just” another hobby seamstress, I was a professional. Even if I wasn’t blogging much, or starting my own indie pattern company, I was still working in the sewing world. And I quailed at losing that.

Fortunately, teaching sewing seems to be an option for keeping that feeling alive. More of the classes have been going through, and I’m really enjoying teaching. I have a fairly full lineup of classes ready for the fall, and ideas about others in the future. Beyond that–well, we’ll have to see.

In the meantime, I’m re-learning what it feels like to sew at my own pace, pick my projects based on stash, and taking a few deep breaths. I’ll be ok without work projects and deadlines. But I definitely want to maintain the relationships, even while I figure out who I am, sewing after Fabricland.

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18 Comments

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18 responses to “Adaptation

  1. You have created a lot of nice clothes!

  2. Vancouver Barbara

    So sorry your Fabricland closed. I understand you have a stash but the question is where will you buy your fabric now?

    • There is one remaining fabric store here on the west side of town. I could still drive over to the Fabricland that remains on the east side. But aside from thread and zips and things like that, the goal definitely has to be not buying! For a while at least. 😂 Stash is at pretty overwhelming proportions right now.

  3. Sorry you lost your job. But it sounds like you are heading for new adventures. And now you have the time to talk sewing with your students and fellow bloggers! Have fun!

  4. Oh, you hit me in the feels. Very well told story of a job and it’s environment. There’s always something awful, something wonderful about some jobs. I’m very glad you’re teaching: you have that set of explainer/enthusiast/teacher skills, and you’ll learn so much more of them doing that. Also, You Are Now And Always Will Be A Professional Sewist. No looking back now.
    I do miss dressing up for my coworkers. Then again, I miss those coworkers, but not that job.
    Onwards!

    • Aww, thank you. I’m feeling kinda whiny for all the woe-is-me posting about it, but I’m working through my feels and this is kinda where I do that. 😂 good and bad, in everything.

  5. Cherie

    You’re very thoughtful about your transition, mostly always a difficult time. You’ve showcased some of your wonderful projects! Very nice to see again!

  6. Where in Canada are you? I’m in Victoria BC and our Fabricland here remains open (I think?!) I’m surprised a Fabricland would close – is their focus shifting to online (Fabricville?) I was sad reading your post – 5.5 years is a long time to work somewhere that just suddenly closes – nice when it’s your choice but not so much when it’s theirs. Perhaps it was the nudge you needed though to refocus your passion in a completely new direction – teaching! Who knows what might be next? Designing patterns? Vlogging? The sky’s the limit with your talents and skills 🙂

    • I’m in Saskatchewan. I think they’re feeling the pinch like many retailers are. I don’t know how well the online sales are going for them. They consolidated to one store in Regina a couple of years ago, and closed one in Edmonton as well.

  7. Heather M

    Beautifully written love letter to the parts of the job you clearly loved (and what great makes). I hope you enjoy whatever comes next and you find people who will make your next job a fantastic experience.

  8. That is awesome that you have taken up teaching sewing! I do hope you enjoy it and it fills the gap!

  9. Coincidentally I have just started a job and am feeling the impact on my sewing in that I have much less time. Also much less motivation because the dress code is all black and pants cos I use a straddle stool, I fear my wardrobe will become the opposite of fabulous dresses! Enjoy your sewing 😉

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