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.