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Conversational Threads

another fabric store demise and Arman…

lin_hendrix | Posted in The Archives on

Well another wonderful little independent fabric store has bit the dust because no-one has time to sew.
I’m talking about Fine Line Design Fabrics in Menlo Park, Ca.
After much deliberation the owner, Roberta York, decided to close because she wanted to be able to make a living.
This was a great little store featuring designer ends (like Calvin Klein wools, DK silks) and quality fashion fabrics.
This is particularly scary because Menlo Park is Silicon Valley, an urban area of 5 million or so.
Roberta said that the women frequenting her store always complained of not having enough time to sew. Roberta also mentioned that she rarely saw women under the age of 30 in her store.

Have you checked out the latest Threads issue? It’s about duplicating Armani suit construction. This looks pretty time consuming to me. I wonder how many people will actually use these techniques to make a jacket that aren’t in the sewing or fashion industry and are working full time?
Please forgive me for being a bit miffed about this but I’m tired of trying to find quality fabrics at the local crafts store. I believe that women really want to sew but need more techniques for fast/simple/professional looking construction.
Thank God for the quilters. If it wasn’t for the resurgence of quilting I think all the fabric stores would close.



  1. Nancy_in_N | | #1

    Guess what? I'm not in the sewing or fashion industry, work more than full time, and I found both of the Armani stories very interesting and useful.

    If I'm going to spend the money on quality fabrics, I'm not going to waste time on "fast and simple" techniques that look it. When I sew, I want my garments to look at least as good as quality ready to wear if not better.

    I may not use all the techniques given in the articles on a single jacket, but you can be sure that they will be a resource for me the next time I make one. And I can adapt those techniques to fit my own particular needs.

    I really hope Threads keeps providing these kind of articles.

    1. barbara_quinn | | #2

      *I totally agreee with Nancy's message. Tailoring is my passion and I, too, want my clothing to look like Armani or Calvin as much as possible. As to fabric stores, it really is a growing frustration not to be able to find good quality wools and silks any more. Here in Seattle there are only about three stores left that aren't some version of JoAnne's. Marci Tilton's two articles in Threads were goldmines of information. I can't wait for the next one.

      1. pam | | #3

        *I live in Silicon Valley. I have the income that the independent fabric store owners want BUT I won't shop at a boutique which doesn't provide value for my money.While I enjoy sewing, I don't enjoy wasting $. I'm self-taught. The books didn't step me makeing a garment so it fit (never mind well). They illustrate good construction techniques. That's why quilting is popular among my peers. The end result looks good. The quilter doesn't worry about how a beautifully constructed and embellished garment will look on a less than perfect body.I expect an indie to offer a service to warrant the higher mark-up. Perhaps helping paper-fit ONE pattern when you purchase the pattern and fabric from them or demonstrating a simple technique, e.g. lining, that improves the overall appearance of a garment?I went into Fineline when it opened and everything was beautiful and pricey (the hours were identical to my working hours to boot!). The owner had made the assumption that if you could afford the fabric, you knew how to turn it into a beautiful garment. Well, if my peers are any example, when were we supposed to acquire those skills? Most of them don't sew garments because basic garment construction and fitting classes aren't offered after work. Yarn stores offer classes. Quilting stores offer classes. Successful independent fabric stores offer classes. Orchid stores have classes. It is good business sense to educate your customers on HOW to USE your wares at a time convenient to them.I finally took vacation time to attend classes at the local community college. With my new abilities for fitting, I entered Fineline to discover it was closing. It's unfortunate that the owner's dream clientele didn't match reality.

        1. Diane | | #4

          *Pam, the Bay Area has several places which offer beginning sewing classes in the evenings and on weekends. The Sewing Place in Saratoga, The Sewing Workshop in San Francisco, Stonemountain in Berkeley all have classes. There is an excellent program at Canada College in San Mateo also. I don't think you can expect every independent fabric store to offer classes, some of them don't have the space or the staff.

          1. Leslie_Bonner | | #5

            *I am really sorry to hear about Fineline Fabrics closing. I wish I had been able to give them more business but they are 2 1/2 hours from where I live. I thought their prices were a very good value for money. Try shopping in Britex in San Francisco! Their mark-ups are way high and they certainly don't provide any extra services. Personally, I do not sew to save money although I do enjoy creating a jacket that looks as good or better as an Armani or Richard Tyler for $1000 less than retail. I was deep closet cleaning last night and tried on a classic navy blazer I made 15 years ago out of fine wool. I spent lots of time on it, inserted gold cording between the lining and inside jacket facing for that detail only you know is there, etc. I must have made it before the big shoulder thing because it looks as great and as in-style as the day I made it. I'm almost always dissapointed when I waste my time on less than great fabric. The few times I made it to Fine Line they were always helpful concerning the fit on a pattern and picking the appropriate fabric. I was just grateful they had taken a chance and opened their store-I didn't expect them to teach me to sew. I take every possible class at the S.F. Sewing Workshop to perfect my skills. It's really a shame they didn't make it.

          2. thimble_ | | #6

            *dear friends....Wow, this is a heated topic! Probabaly the best I have seen on the Discussion ! It is so true that the fine skills of sewing are dwaning with today's young generation,I should know I am one! I am a 25 year old male who works as a dressmaker/ pattern drafter in Vancouver BC. I thoroughly enjoy sewing and I am very good at it but I know very few people my age or younger who can sew or are even very interested in it! I have researched pattern drafting, and Armani,Boss, etc cuts and production methods...and it is a science, one where the average sewer has no time to learn! As for expensive fabrics in fabric stores...they have to make money too, and for those of us who aspire for the armani look, good fabric is a must! I rarely will spend less than $40 a meter on a piece of wool suiting, and I insist that my clients select wools and other fabrics of the HIGHEST quality or I simply refuse to work with it. Working with inexpensive fabric is a monumental waste of time if you are trying to get the DESIGNER look. I hate to say it but with all the money and time going into making one garment, there is simply no way it can possibly be cheaper to make, and people are walking away from their sewing machines by the hundreds because of it! And yes Fabric stores will suffer, and we will have to endure the plague of ill fitting garments all around us! AAAAAHHHHH NOOOO!!!!!But basically it comes down to two things...individual taste and well fitting garments, that is what will keep sewing alive, and when people lose those two things(as is happening now) then there will be no appreciation for it at all!

          3. pam | | #7

            *In the Bay Area, Canada College (Woodside) is a godsend. I have taken classes in manual grading, fit, basic construction, tailoring, etc., skills essential to garment construction. From my home, I can get there in 30 minutes. But getting to Berkeley (Stone Mtn & Daughter) or SF (Britex) on a weeknight, it's an impossibility. The Sewing Place is close but yet again, the hours are identical to working hours.I'm envious that Fineline's clientele knew how to sew beautiful garments. However, in today's world, that's a rarity. Part of running a business is identifying a need/market and filling it. The market is preferably strong enough to provide income. The need for quality fabrics was not strong enough to overcome the average customer's lack of sewing and fitting skills and fear of wasting $.Running a retail business includes educating the customers to appreciate your product, cultivating a market not just meeting an immediate need. Apple infiltrated the school systems. Barnes & Noble has storytelling hours for young children.Unfortunately, we all will have to suffer with lower quality fabrics and less variety because the true problem isn't being addressed. The bulk of the consumer market possesses few sewing skills. Even fewer possess the fitting skills to make a garment hang beautifully. The computer and publishing industry attack the literacy problems that potentially threaten their market share.The fabric store owner should protect and increase his/her market share. There are things that even a small business can do. Suggestions include: weeknight store hours after 6PM sponsoring a sewing group night: customers could learn from each other "parent and me" projects demonstrations: from how to hem to how to bag target special interests (kitemaking, sailmaking, costumes) tie in with an adult education class in sewingAny business that does not create a market niche fails.

          4. carol_broscheid | | #8

            *There's nothing like being able to walk into a fabric store and see and feel high quality fabrics. I'd almost rather do this than sew! But there are still many sources of quality fabrics via mailorder -- it's not as easy but it can work. And I guess it will have to work. All I have locally is Joanns and to go in there and feel the fabric - yuck! But sometimes I miss fabric stores so much I go in anyway. and get so depressed.

          5. Cynthia_Clinton | | #9

            *I really appreciate Lin's comments. I live in Durham, NC and there are NO fabric stores in this city (fine or otherwise). It is very frustrating. I am a beginner sewer, who enjoys the articles in Threads about designer tips and techniques, but at my sewing level, I can't afford to and won't risk 15.00 per yard fabric on a designer technique I'm very likely not to be able to duplicate. I would, however, love ideas on how to use fine fabric to make simple yet fashionable, classical clothes. Indeed, I'm looking into trying one of the Loes Hines patterns (simple, but elegant) on some really nice fabric -- if I can locate a fabric store. On this same note, the occassions I have visited some of the fine fabric stores in Atlanta, the mood there was they definitely catered to the older more experienced sewers. I took along my daughter and we both felt like fish out of water.There must be something we can do within the sewing community to insure this beautiful craft/art is not lost to our daughters/sons.

          6. Sarah_Kayla | | #10

            *There are some mail order sources that I would (and do) trust. The folks on the phone are willing to spend time on the phone decribing and giving advise. I have had minimal experience with G street fabrics in the Washington DC area, and much more experience withThai Silks and Super silks. All of them advertise in Threads. That can at least give you access to good fabrics. I have found that better fabrics have made even my early terrible work look better. Now I can actually sew decently. I have laid aside early sewing "failures" only to pick them up again years later and rescued them as my skills have improved. Sometimes learning sewing has felt like learning calculus. Sometimes it takes years until a concept finally sinks in.Cynthia, I'm sorry you felt intimidated in the fancy fabric store. I find that if I ask questions people are willing to share their knowledge. keep

          7. lin_hendrix | | #11

            *Oh dear, don't get me wrong. I loooove Armani suits and of course to duplicate this type of sewing one must take the time to make a muslin, fit, pad stitch, all that stuff... and I'll do this once in awhile but I need clothes to wear and I'm a difficult fit so making my own is often my only wardrobe alternative.for example:I drafted a kind-of kimono shaped "jacket" with simple bias binding and neat silver/agate closure (I also do jewelry), made it up in high quality, extremely lightweight, DKNY black wool jaquard; no lining ($40/yd). Finished all the seams impeccably. All in one weekend. Very gratifying, very fast. This looks professional enough for a sales engagement, exotic enough so that it expresses my personality, and I can wear it three seasons.If there were articles/classes/ideas/patterns out there like my kind-of kimono I believe more women would sew fashion... If more women sewed fashion then little fabric stores would stay in business and we'd all have a better selection!And right, there's always mail order. I'll call up StoneMountain and Daughter to send me swatches and I subscribe to nearly every swatch service known. If I get to the Bay Area or L.A. on business I spend my days finagling long lunch hours to buy fabric and I rent a sewing machine from the local store to continue on my current project in the hotel room! Even when I went to Hawaii on vacation last year I dragged my poor boyfriend to all the fabric stores in the phone book.Too bad we can't have a World Wide Holiday for Sewers to Just Sew! --lin

          8. pam | | #12

            *We can keep the art and science of garment construction alive by sharing with our friends. Nine years ago, a friend posted on the Internet that she wanted to start a sewing club in her neighborhood. It started with 6 and though the membership has changed a tad, we're now at 8.Each of us has an area of interest that we are excited to share from smocking, quilting, crocheting, knitting, and garment construction. We've managed to increase interest in garments in our circle. There's enough expertise to share a simpler technique than in the instructions. One machine attaches binding and serges because she can't do handwork. I line when the seams/edges are too fussy to finish neatly (it's also faster).My mom was quite excited that I drafted her moulage. She wants to use it as a cover on her dummy (her shape has changed since purchase) and pad as needed. Mom taught me how to get a proper roll in a shirt or jacket collar. Grandma taught me the factory method for zipper insertion. I've shared the techniques with friends.The more people we can introduce to sewing, the more demand we create.

          9. cherylc_ | | #13

            *This discussion touches on so many things that concern me about sewing and the future of sewing. First of all, I'm 32 and I almost never see anyone close to my age in sewing stores, at the sewing expos, or represented in Threads (the models are youngish, but the authors don't seem to be). A lot of Thread's content seems to be aimed at older people, how to alter for the body after 50, etc. This makes sense if that's Threads' demographic, they should provide content aimed at the people who read their magazine, but I end up feeling isolated. Sometimes I think I must be some kind of misfit, trying to pursue a hobby that no one my age has! Also, it seems short-sighted to me not to reach out specifically to younger sewers. Someone needs to continue to buy these products if the industry is going to survive! I would like to see more emphasis on fashion in patterns (Vogue's Elements series is the only one I've seem that does this), and since I don't have time to learn to alter patterns to fit me, I would love a fabric store that offered a pattern altering and fitting service. I would gladly pay for this. Then, I could buy expensive fabric and concentrate on learning construction techniques. Also, I've been treated badly several times by people selling sewing related merchandise. Since I'm very polite, I surmise that this probably occurs because the person I am talking to is uncomfortable with a younger, funkier client. It's bad business to let one's opinion of a customer's shoes affect the way that customer is treated! Also, I'm in my thirties, I dress in a fairly mainstream way, and I'm married. How do they treat people who really fall outside the usual sewing demographic?I'm really interested in other people's comments or experiences in these areas. What do you think needs to change for the sewing industry to continue to thrive?Thanks.

          10. Cynthia_Clinton | | #14

            *This is obviously a very important and emotionally charged topic. Thanks Lin for bringing it to us for discussion. I think it's a testament to the fact that even though there is an obviously diminishing number of individuals devoted to sewing, we feel very strongly about this art form and want to find ways to sustain its growth and pull in others. I have sat at my desk thinking long and hard about my relationship to sewing. Even though my grandmother and great-grandmother were both seamtresses, as a child I hated the idea of sewing. It wasn't until after I finished law school and had my first child did I realize the joy of turning a beautiful piece of fabric into a wearable garment.I have to admit I've had an off/on love/hate relationship with sewing since then -- some sixteen years ago. I have owned three sewing machines, the latest a simple, basic Bernina. For several reasons, my sewing skills have never extended beyond the basics, and I mean basic. However, I love reading fabric-art magazines such as Threads, Vogue Patterns, etc. I have amassed a nice library of sewing books and magazines. Unfortunately, my peers and friends find it odd that, in this day and age, I am interested in sewing. It is becoming very difficult to find people in the 30 or 40 age group who sew. I also realize that I have not committed myself to this craft. Time is one reason, discomfort with my own sewing abilities is another. It has been difficult to find some sort of sewing group or mentor in this area. When I've sewn garments that did not come out the way they should have, I have really longed to have someone to ask "why did it come out like this?" or "what should I do the next time." The local Sewing Guild Chapter is 45 minutes away and meets during the day while I'm at work. As I indicated earlier, the very last sewing store in Durham (Mae's Fabrics) closed this week. It is such a sad testament when even the "chain" fabric stores cannot survive. I would love to hear from others about how you came to sewing and what you feel has hindered others in getting involved in sewing. We might also want to toss around real ideas to bring young and old into this wonderful craft. Thanks everyone.

          11. Alison_Cummins | | #15

            *I too have little time to sew and a perfectionistic attitude to construction and fit, but I am a favorite customer at my local fabric store. My trick: I use a dressmaker. I love to sew and always have a project of my own design going. I’ll do a lot of research into technique, style, and construction; splurge on wonderful fabric; and then take up to a year to finish a truly fabulous outfit. I also have day-to-day corporate clothing needs that need meeting. For these I’ll pick out some nifty fabric and either a commercial pattern, a photograph from a magazine or catalogue, or a sketch—and hand everything over to my dressmaker. A week later I have my finished outfit and lots of compliments back at the office. (Not the same Oohs and Aahs I get for my occasional, personal creations, but that’s kind of the point, isn’t it.) A wonderful advantage of working with a dressmaker is that if I’m not entirely happy with the fit I just say so, and HE fixes it for me. The downside is that construction is never the finicky perfection that I fantasize about doing myself—but then, neither is ready-to-wear. I also get to try different styles and fabrics without six months’ investment of labour which frees me up to experiment.This really isn’t an either-or proposition. I end up enjoying my own projects more because I’m not worrying about getting them finished right away because I need clothes. And I’m much more clear and knowledgable about what I want from my dressmaker because I am an experienced sewer.And about saving money: I make $30k Canadian — about $22k US — before taxes. I spend about as much on my custom made clothes as I would on RTW, with the difference that they fit me, so I look way better than I would in something made for someone else.

          12. Jen_Donnelly | | #16

            *I have been thinking about this discussion a lot in the past couple of days. I am lucky to live in an area (Chicago) that will probably be one of the last to lose its fabric stores. But earlier posters are right, I am a minority at sewing stores because of my age (24). Friends my age are impressed by my sewing, but dismiss the possibility of sewing themselves. Most of them actually own machines, that were their grandmothers' or mothers', and they may know a little, but have no real interest in learning.A big part of the problem is that most women now work outside the home. I can barely make time for sewing, and I have almost no obligations besides work, and I make a conscious effort to sew. I don't believe that women who are stay at home moms have all kinds of time for fun stuff like sewing, but they have more time than I do, and I don't have kids yet. This is also why most women have given up sewing- it really isn't something that's quick and easy. Garment sewing takes skill and practice, and you can only make so many curtains and tablecloths. Unless you are really, really good, it will take a significant amount of time to get a quality garment fitted and made. In the past, all women were taught to sew in school, and everyone took the fitting process for granted- it was just part of the sewing process. Now, when we sew up a garment straight out of the pattern envelope, and it doesn't fit well, we get upset and give up. That's because we haven't been properly taught. I think it's an unintended negative effect of the feminist movement- and you'll have to understand this is coming out of the mouth of someone who was born in the mid-70's. Once, only girls were taught to cook and clean and sew, to the exclusion of math and science. Now, none of our children are taught to cook and clean and sew! I don't think that was the intended effect. We rewrote women's roles, but didn't rewrite men's roles to correspond.I think you're going to be seeing a backlash of women who actually want to be stay at home moms, and maybe these women will be interested in sewing as well. I don't mean to get political, but I really feel the two issues are closely tied. Women my age have been taught, in subtle ways, that traditional home-based arts are inferior to achievement in the workplace. Instead of having additional choices, we've simply had a different choice made for us. We're good women if we have stellar careers, and bad women if we just want to be mommies. And good luck to you if you want both! There's no guidance there. And certainly no time to make your own clothes. So that's why nobody sews anymore. And perhaps that's why sewing is something women in their 30's and later seem to turn to- that's the first chance they've had to do something they want since their kids were born!But I continue to encourage my friends to sew, and to offer to teach them.In any case, as long as the garment industry functions the way it does, there will always be their leftovers for us to use, and I can't imagine the situation getting so dire that this fabric will be cheaper to burn than to sell.

          13. Alison_Cummins | | #17

            *Also, about age: I’m 34 and learned to sew from my mother. I wear a crew cut. I dearly wish I had more sewing friends to work with. But the resources are out there!

          14. barb_c | | #18

            *You are right I don't think the society values any work that was traditionally women's work. Someone quoted (in another forum) that apprentice woodworkers and carpenders make *** and hour which was much more than a seamstress. A tailor makes more than a seamstress. Too some extent I think this is the way of the world ---but it isn't right!! Sewing is a fading skill and because of that seamstresses might be able to charge a bit more, but still how does this effect the home sewing market? Well if people don't sew than they won't want to frequent a local fabric shop that is owned by a member of your community. Quilt shops seem to fare better than fabric stores but I think that is because woven cotton costs less per a yard than fine merino wool and it takes less skill to sew it into something acceptable.I think providing classes is part of the answer. I also think making the skill accessable is necessary. Target younger audiences (and I don't mean only preteens)show them something stylish they can make for themselves. Individualizing one's clothes might be a motivating factor. Beating the mass marketed ready to wear might be too.Meanwhile clothes (because of foreign labor) have gotten cheaper and to be honest some of my favorite brands use nicer fabric than I can buy in the local shops (and my local shops are good).

          15. gloria_pyrka | | #19

            *I'm not sure this is exactly the right forum for this information, but you all sound like heavy duty sewers who might be interested. Having moved to Chicago a little over 6 months ago, I am almost overwhelmed by what is available here and not only in conventional fabric stores. Never having lived near any specialty fabric shops before, I wonder how I ever made anything wearable. A couple blocks south of the Loop there is a tailoring wholesale house (Leonard Adler) that will also sell to home sewers. Talk about things you would never find in other stores. The first time I went I somewhat timidly asked if they would sell to me and the answer was "We consider home sewers part of the sewing industry." I've been there a few times and each time I was treated as a valued customer even though I was just picking up items for my latest project. Yesterday I got a couple of zippers for pants, some buttons and fusible waistband interfacing for three pairs of pants. My grand total was $2.00. Their building is being torn down and they are moving to Greek town in August. Right now they are just about 3 blocks from where I work. I will have to go a bit farther to get my fix.I also got the story of the move and their plans to do more mailorder. Each time I go I try to get the scoop on some item I've never seen before, and they are more than willing to answer questions. I guess there is a lot of down time in between selling 200 yd rolls of interfacing. Gloria Pyrka

          16. carol_broscheid | | #20

            *I don't even tell people I sew anymore. People's attitudes (both men and women) make me almost embarassed to admit I spend my free time this way. My own sister brags that she "can't even shorten a hem" - she's real proud of the fact. A woodworker would not have to face these attitudes. I guess it's considered old-fashioned, woman's work. I am so paranoid about wearing anything that doesn't look "manufactured" that I have hardly sewn in years. I've spent a lot of time learning to alter patterns though and plan to make some easy style summer clothes. My sewing skills are so neglected and no classes available I doubt I will every try something like a tailored jacket. I have all the books but it would take an enourmous amount of time to practice all the details. I made a jacket once but the buttonholes weren't quite right. I never wore it. And you know, I checked buttonholes on jackets in stores and they were no better than mine! I am much more critical of what I make than what I buy. I empathize with all the frustration out there. The satisfaction of turning out something great is a big reward but sometimes it just doesn't seem worth the effort and the neglect of other parts of life to perfect these skills. Wow, I never thought I'd go on like this. Nice to know I'm not alone though.

          17. Maura | | #21

            *Another point which might be involved in the demise of the wonderful little fabric shops all over is the "chaining" effect businesses are going through. It is no secret that Hancock's or Joann's can get a better price on any given fabric than an independant store because they buy in greater quantity. When we skip buying patterns for the fabric we just bought because "They'll be on sale at Joann's next week" we are contributing to the demise of the small stores. And I hate it, because I'm a card carrying cheapskate. (Okay, I don't have the card. I'm too cheap to pay the club dues.)And this problem occurs across the board. Office supply stores, bookstores, hardware stores, clothing stores, whatever. Because we can get it at Wal-mart, Home Depot, Hancocks, or B. Dalton, we are giving up unique selections. (When you are in a strange city, do you eat at a familar chain, like Applebees, or do you find a local restaurant to go to?) I'm trying to mend my ways, but it is hard.I think Jen was right about fitting not being taught. I am actually a professional seamstress (in the sense that I am paid to sew every day). I work in a costume shop making costumes. I went to a fashion design school and before that took a "home-ec" level class. I've never been taught to fit clothing. At work, it doesn't matter often because I'm making clothing for our rental stock. It will be fitted to the person who wears it after the fact, by alteration. But it is frustrating when I do need to fit something and don't know where to begin.I do not have the confidence to buy and cut into $15 a yard fabric (as someone here said). I could do it without a qualm for work, because I can construct a garment, but for myself, I'd make muslin after muslin, testing and correcting to be sure it FIT.Of course, there's also the fact that I don't wear clothes that merit $15 dollar fabric (yet!)

          18. cathi_chambley-miller | | #22

            *Yesterday, I had on a $10 t-shirt, a $20 pair of shorts, my undies and bra, and a pair of $50 sandals. Why would I make a t-shirt or short I can get for those prices? I wouldn't!But, there are also days when I wear $100 jackets with $60 skirts and $40 tops, so then it gets to be worth it, since I'd really like to be wearing the $500 jackets, etc... Plus, I don't like cookie-cutter clothes. And, to quote a famous commercial "I'm worth it".I suppose my point is that sewing has to be upgraded to an ART FORM. It isn't valued as a skill. But, couturiers get a lot of press for their DESIGNS, not for the amount of intricate hand sewing in the garments. I get more compliments from people than the snide backhanded compliment, you know "I just couldn't spend my time doing that....". To which I usually reply, "I don't bump into myself at parties."We need to be sewing evangelists!

          19. lin_hendrix | | #23

            *So far I've had pretty good luck with flat pattern drafting software (I'm using Patternmaker). The nice part is that I don't need a giant table and I don't need to spend time doing dumb things like adding seam allowances. I start from one of their basic slopers and fiddle around until I get what I want. The fit is pretty good and certainly much better than RTW or an unaltered commercial pattern.The problem with this approach to making sewing more accessible is that not everyone is, A. Committed enough to go out and buy a copy of this type of software, B. Willing or able to learn yet another hunk of software, C. Willing or able to afford this type of software.What would happen if a local fabric store bought the software and offered a free custom-fit pattern (from a pre-designed set) with a fabric purchase? There's also http://www.ez-fit.com offering custom-fit patterns for sale (I haven't tried these but they look good).Here's a brief summary of some of the great ideas posted on this thread so far: Cheryl said she would be excited to see a service that altered the patterns for her. Now that's a concept. Pam's idea about a local sewing club that shared ideas and tips is so valuable.Buying your mainstream patterns (Vogue, McCall's, etc.) from the little fabric store instead of the chain (I'm guilty too). From MauraClasses and education from BarbElevating garment sewing to an art form from Cathigolly gee I hope there are some little fabric stores out there monitoring this exchange.--lin

          20. Maura | | #24

            *I get what you're saying, and I don't quite get what you're saying.Do you mean that we should be trying to make unique clothes every time we sew (like Lois and Diane Ericson)? Or something else? How do I begin evangelizing? I'm going to get to really neat artistic stuff eventually, but right now I don't have the nerve to _wear_ it. So right now I'm making the clothes that aren't currently in style, but that _I_ love. Couturiers get a lot of press for their designs, but often the designs themselves are such a small twitch off what is usual (or the collection as a whole is mostly the ordinary put together in new ways), that even if we could do what Lagerfeld, Klein, or Dior was going to do a season before they did it, the world might not be impressed. I don't see how we can move into the realm of artists that the couturiers inhabit.I am not criticizing or arguing, Cathi, I'm just looking for clarification.One step in the right direction would be to say (whenever we could feel truthfuf doing so) "I designed this" not "I sewed" or "I made" this. The couturiers get credit for making a pair of full pants out of brown crepe, don't they? We chose the buttons and the fabric, didn't we? Obviously, it is wrong to claim credit for the more innovative styles, like most of what is made by the independant pattern companies, and the Miyake patterns. But on a relatively ordinary blouse, or skirt, or blazer, would it be wrong? Especiallly if we made any changes to the pattern.Comments?Oh, and if someone said to me "I just couldn't spend my time doing that..." I'd be tempted to reply "I'm sorry, maybe if you organized your life a little better..." Not very ambassadorial for sewing, but satisfying. *grin*

          21. Jen_Donnelly | | #25

            *This is such a great discussion!About sewing evangilizing: I don't think it is necessary to wear "art-to-wear" clothes to be able to evangelize. I find that even if I'm just wearing a sundress I made, there's something that makes people notice and compliment me. So it doesn't matter if it's a gorgeous, unique, artitistic jacket or just a plain blouse. I have my coworkers guessing every day- "did you make that?" Unfortunately, the answer is most often no, but I do have their attention. If you're wearing something you made, and someone compliments you on it, run with that. Say you made it yourself, say you designed it, whatever. And, in the next breath, say how fun it was, how quick it was, how easy, whatever is appropriate. If the person is still interested, mention a place where they could take classes! Hopefully, some of them will take the bait. I also talk about sewing. If asked what I'm going to do over the weekend, I'll tell the truth- "I'd like to go for a bike ride on Sunday, and I'm working on a pair of pants I'd like to finish." Some seem puzzled, or surprised, or slightly scornful- my MIL brags about not being able to sew on a button (she either throws the item away or has the dry cleaner do it)- I say "It's fun. It's like putting a puzzle together." (Of course, that probably sounds equally geeky.)About the chain stores: they could buy the same fabrics as independents, and sell them for less, but they often buy worse fabric and sell it for more! But they seem to be responding to customer preferences in the last year, at least in some markets. Yesterday I saw plaid silk for $2.99 a yard that JoAnne sells for $19.99 a yard. About "couturieres": There are fashion designers, and there are couturieres. Most famous fashion designers are just fashion designers. I don't even think they can sew. Some don't even do their own sketching. They just coordinate. Gabrielle Chanel could _sew_.

          22. Carol_Fresia | | #26

            *It's really fascinating to hear so many takes on how sewing fits into our lives. I started sewing (sort of again, after many years of not sewing) last year because I realized I needed a creative outlet of some sort that I could pick up and put down whenever I felt like it. So although I work full time, and until a year ago commuted 4 hours a day (totally insane) and have a 2 year old, I really struggled to get in an hour or so a day of sewing-related activity. What a difference it made! My everyday level of worry dropped, I got more optimistic about everything, and of course I spent a lot more money on my hobby than I ever thought I would, but honestly, it's cheaper than a therapist. Also, when I tell people I sew, many women my age actually seem interested and intimidated at the same time. Like they wish they could too, but think it's too difficult or time-consuming. However, if I tell them the nice-fitting pair of pants I have on, or the unusual dress, cost me all of $10 to make and a few hours, they are intrigued. I've offered to help them make something simple to start out (I'm not that experienced but I can certainly help someone put together a simple summer skirt or so forth), but no one seems to want to invest the time. Sigh. And I COULD use a local sewing buddy, so you know my offer is at least partly self-interest! I think many people are afraid of wearing clothes that look "home-made," myself included. But if you stop and really look at how average RTW fits and is constructed, don't you realize it's not that hard to do at least as good a job yourself? I'm definitely not above buying a shirt or pants at the Gap on sale (or anywhere there's a good deal), but sometimes what I'm looking for is the satisfaction of designing the outfit (i.e. choosing the fabric and pattern) and actually making the final product. It feels even better than the "I got the Kenar suit for $40 at Ross" sensation!

          23. Sarah_Kayla | | #27

            *This has been such a wonderful discussion. It is both so thoughful and so thought provoking. I got into sewing, (as everything else I do) trhough the back door. I never took sewing in highschool. I now earn my living making Jewish ritual objects in fabric. I began to make clothing several years ago to relieve tension while working on huge sewing projects. I read Virginia Avery's Wonderful Wearables and it changed my life. In the book she shows how lots of ethnic clothing is simply rectangles sewn together. i now make lots of my clothing and lots of my kids' clothing. I still have trouble working from patterns. I find them incomprehensible. Again and again i find us walking out the door and all of us are wearing clothes that I have made. Some of it is funky and wild and some of it quiet and subdued. It has been liberating both for me and for my kids. this spring my daughter (age 10) asked me to make her party clothes, everything in the stores was synthetics. She now has a lavender linen Eileen Fisher type suit that I made for her. I'm happy and so is she.I think that folks need to learn simple ways to turn that yard or two of special fabric into something wearable. There is a local clothing store that carries Flax and Bluefish and sililar clothing. I used to lust after that stuff. Now it seems like too much money for such simple clothing. Thankyou for all of your

          24. Leslie_Bonner | | #28

            *This has been an interesting discussion. I haven't agreed with all the thoughts expressed but all of it has been food for thought. It's true that I don't see many younger women sewing garments today and that is really unfortunate. I recently joined a fiber arts guild in a larger city one hour from my home. There are 140 members but not everyone is into garment making and there aren't many members under 35. We all need to inspire others and promote sewing! Don't hesitate to say "I made it (without the apologies for the mistake you made on the inside)." Share your knowledge and talents with others if you can. Of course, I wasn't able to convince my 32 year old daughter about the joys of sewing. Isn't the internet great when we can communicate with other sewers? I love sharing info about successful patterns and projects. It seems independents could reach a lot of us who don't have anything locally except Joann's and sell fabric online?

          25. Linda_in_Colorado | | #29

            *This discussion certainly covers the spectrum! Soooo I guess I'll stick my two cents worth in. The fabric store I go to actually caters to a pretty diverse age group. Most of the younger (late teens through twenties) men and women are participating in some type of fiber art form or costuming. A lot of mid range age women sewing for kids or work or for something creative to break the routine. I really can't get to worked up about young people not being in the fabric stores much, as I recall this was not a particularly active time for me, either. I was busy with a lot of other things. However, as I "matured" (not there yet) I began to appreciate the wonderful therapy of the creative process. I believe that I engage this process on many different levels. One level is definately the couture, hours of work, labor of love type project. For those types of projects I appreciate the Armani suit type articles. Another level is the quick, very expressive, not to intensive, just made something beautiful level. For these, the scarf thank-you was perfect. Then there is the "what I need" in a color that flatters me, that really fits my body, makes me feel good about me, doesn't take too long sort of level. For that I have some standard patterns that I have fit myself and I can make minor changes to stylewise and create work and play clothes that truly reflect me. Threads has been a great resource in terms of fit, pattern reviews, fabric ideas, and any number of wonderful basic articles. I'm certain that I was not living at this level of complexity when I was in my twenties. I'm not sure recruiting younger people is a realistic alternative to the closing of smaller independant stores. I think it's a lot more complex than that. I try to support independants, but often their selection reflects the owners preferences, and I have different tastes. Could this be one of the reasons we don't see as many young people in the fabric stores? Do the fabrics/patterns/atmosphere attract the young? Would I shop in a store that does? Maybe the answer is coop buying for independants, so that they can offer lower prices and a wider selection? I don't know, but I will continue to do my part (even if I have to get more room for my stash -- I wonder if the dog really needs her dog house?)

          26. Emily | | #30

            *I am a 23 years old graduate student and sew a _lot_. I have been sewing since I was 14 (I needed another project for 4-H. I have actually turned on two of my friends who are in their early 20s to sewing. I sew for the obvious reasons: I enjoy it, I need decent, well-fitting clothes for work, I like choosing my own fabrics and having unique clothes. Anyway, there seems to have been a lot of debate about stores on this thread. We have four fabric stores here: JoAnns, Hancocks and two independents. The independents have slightly better selections of fabric than the chain stores, but I really do not like shopping at them for two reasons. First, their hours are ridiculous 10-5, M-F. Hello, I work and most of the other women in town do. When I have managed to get to one of them over my lunch hour, the staff at both consistently ignore me, are dismissive, condescending or outright rude. I realize that I do not fit the profile of the average seamstress, but I do spend a fair amount of money on fabric and supplies and I would think they would be eager for my business (especially since my money figures into the profit column just like anyone else's). My appearance is not out-of-the-ordinary, so I cannot imagine it would be that. I had the same experience in a nice independent fabric store in California over spring break. This does not seem to be a great way to ensure the survival of one's business or of the art of sewing. So I am stuck with the chains until the independents can figure out that younger customers are _customers_. The chains don't have a great selection, but the staff are considerably more helpful and friendly. Thanks for letting me vent.

          27. Nancy_Moore | | #31

            *Regarding Armani techniques and independent fashion stores; believe it or not, there are some people that work full time and create garments that incorporate fine tailoring. You might be interested in the "Sewcouture" list (go to http://www.quiltroplis.com to join). If I were able to sum up the "purpose" or mission of this list I would say it's for those who are interested in creating quality, professional garments that try to incorporate better or couture level techniques within any garment made.Skill level of the members vary but we are all united in a love of better clothing. Speaking as one who does work full time with various other obligations, I'm always on the lookout for a "better" technique yielding professional results WITH less time. I guess if there is one thing I would carry away from this list it would be to keep an open mind and incorporate what works for you, your time and your lifestyle and disregard the rest. On independent stores; they are few and far between. But, there is always mail order. Again, the SewCouture list could be a resource for you. The list members are international in scope and usually eager to help out with fabric store (by mail) recommendations.

          28. Julie_Laffin | | #32

            *I have rediscovered my love of sewing after a hiatus from it for about 15 years. My fondest memories as a child were sitting at my mother's side just watching her sew for hours. I made my first dolly clothes around the time I started kindergarten. During college and graduate school I didn't have time or money for sewing (and sort of saw it as anti-feminist because it seemed SO DOMESTIC). I got most of my clothes from the Salvation Army and doctored them up a bit. Five years ago I began making performance art that required large garments and since I had very small budgets, I started designing and sewing them myself. Today I am constantly calculating how I can get more sewing into my life. There really aren't enough hours in the day for this guilty pleasure are there? It has become an all-consuming passion. When I'm not sewing for my artwork, I'm sewing for myself or reading to learn more about sewing. I'm lucky to live in an urban area where I have access to great fabric stores, chain and independents alike. I tend to avoid the high end indies because I love a bargain and have learned how to identify good quality fabric whether I find it in a beautiful store or at a garage sale or a flea market. I'd rather pay the garage sale and flea market prices. But I would hate to see Chicago's beautiful independent fabric stores disappear. Someday I might have the budgets to shop at them! And they are great sources of inspiration.

          29. Ginna | | #33

            *Emily - Have you ever asked for the owner or manager? I'm sure they would want to know how customers are being treated. NO sales clerk should judge a customer by what they look like. When my mom was a saleswoman on commission she lucked into a huge sale because the other saleswoman refused to handle a customer who was dressed like a bag lady - she was eccentric but wealthy. Any store that wants to survive needs to treat all customers well!!

          30. Catherine | | #34

            *Why do I sew? I work full time, am studying for a degree part time, I practice music seriously and I still find time to make most of my clothes. Sewing satisfies the creative urge in me, I love the feel of material and I enjoy ironing(!) my own creations. I sew all manner of outfits from Vogue designer to simple pull on elastic pants. I am constantly learning. Sewing is one way of expressing the joy of creativity.

          31. Joy_ | | #35

            *I would like to make the comment that some of the sewing techniques practiced in books are clearly outdated in the sense that they are not practical. I have been told that there are 2 to 3 ways to do everything, so why can't we learn the way they do things in the industry. It may be a shortcut technique, as long as it doesn't sacrifice the quality of what you are making then it is a very good technique indeed. I am 29 years old, and I learned to sew 3 years ago. I find sewing to be relaxing as well as a challenge. If it is something we really enjoy doing then it shouldn't be too much of a task to create a project even if it takes a long time. Although, I find that working with commercial patterns can be quite a daunting experience. This is when I begun researching patternmaking and I found a method that suits me well. Ever since I have stopped relying on commercial patterns. To be able to make garments that fit you well, we should be able to make the patterns that will give us the exact result we want. This is something that commercial patterns do not tell us. I don't really like guess work. I believe in "made-to-measure" garments. I admire a lot of European designs. And I believe that we can all do it. Nothing is beyond our means now with this new technology - the internet. I am a great supporter of Dressmaking and will continue to promote it.

          32. Sheila_Walker | | #36

            *I started to sew when I was under 10 years of age and always have had a pretty good machine (now also electronic serger) and of course the inevitable stash of fabric that somehow never get made up but is too good to give away. I am turning to the more artistic aspects of sewing but I have found that to add great totechniques to a garment that eventually does not fit is too troublesome to both. However, I cannot find very much about how to add flair and style to ready-towear--from simple denin stuff to higher end business clothes. I want to bead a plain black crepe suit for evening or embellish collars, cuffs, plackets and the like. Even with books on embellishment they are start from scratch before the garment is made up. Is there help out there.

          33. Maura | | #37

            *I wonder, Sheila, if you shouldn't start a new thread about this topic. There might be others interested, and it is kinda buried here. I think Threads just recently had an article about Free motion embroidery on a pre-made shirt, and periodically offers articles on embellishing other premade garments (though I think the emphasis has been on how to do the embellishments, not how to apply them to something premade-the authors of the articles just happened to choose something premade to use.)As far as beading a plain crepe suit--beading usually produces so few threads that show that I would think you could just go for it. Pick a design (_that_ is the hard part) and go to town. If you don't want the threads to show on the lining on the inside, you can try hiding the knot under a bead on the outside of the garment, then just be careful not to catch the lining as you stitch, or you could let the knots show on the inside, but not catch any of your other stitches in the lining.For collars and cuffs, again, I'm not sure it matters whether your threads show from the wrong side, but if it bothers you, you could look into making removable false cuffs or collars (there was an article in Threads on doing this in fake fur for a coat) and embellish the removable ones. Much easier and faster than making the whole garment.

          34. Sarah_Curtis | | #38

            *I am 29 and have been teaching myself to sew for the last couple of years. I'm petite and found it frustrating trying to find nice clothes in the shops that fit well, I started off just taking things up and in but in the end I couldn't resist the urge to make things from scratch. For the first year or so all my efforts were failures and ended up in the bin. But I have slowly and patiently learned about pattern alteration (I found that bought patterns fit me as badly as shop-bought clothes), about suitable fabrics and how to sew and handle them. I'm now making garments that look like they were bought in a reasonable chainstore in quality. My dream is to keep getting better and better all the time, until I can produce garments with the designer touch. I still have difficulty handling certain fabrics, but my skills are forever improving. But it is so hard to find fabric suppliers near where I live. There is one department store that's fairly good and an Indian market stall that has nice looking fabrics, although they are never labelled with fibre or fabric type, which makes choosing the right one difficult. I'd like to be able to buy fabrics online from the UK so I don't have to pay for transatlantic postage.

          35. Ghillie_C | | #39

            *Sarah, It sounds as though you are writing from the UK, in which case you have my sympathies, buying quality fabrics is becoming dreadfully difficult. I do not know of any UK online sources for fabrics, but there are various mail order places and Liberty's are very helpful if you phone their London shop and will post to you even though they do not advertise a mail order service. I think John Lewis's might do the same.The only other alternative is an occasional 'pilgrimage' to London, or, even better, New York. We have talked about these things on Gatherings before, and I expect you can find the information in the Archive.

          36. Toby | | #40

            *Barbara - I too live in Seattle so I was curious which stores you use for good quality material in this area. I've been meaning to try Satin Rose in Kirkland and Seattle Fabrics for material for riding breeches (another material that's impossible to find). JoAnn's is such poor quality, at least for suitings, that I wouldn't even waste my time sewing their material into anything.Thanks in advance for any recommendations!

          37. Sylvia_Cooper | | #41

            *where are the fabrics worth sewing. Not knowing better, I got excited when Joanns came to town, at least it had to be better than Hancock Fabrics, was I ever wrong. I really wanted to sew again but wasted money and time on bad fabric, two days to make something I could buy in Mervyns for $25. Is loes Hines still in Aptos. and does she sell fabrics there?

          38. Diane | | #42

            *Loes Hinse's retail store is in Carmel and she sells her ready-to-wear line and some accessories there, no fabric. The pattern and fabric mail order business is located in Oakland. The phone number is (510) 655-9161.

          39. Samra_Jones-Bufkins | | #43

            *I agree it's sad when fabric stores close. Two of the best in Houston--Hire's and Southern Fabrics--have closed. About all we have left (besides quilting and craft stores) is High Fashion Fabrics that does have good quality merchandise in a huge volume, but nobody to help you out with fit, etc. I miss the personal services from Hire's and Southern--Southern had a service perfect for us busy career types, where they would measure you, adjust the pattern and cut out fabric for you. I never used it, but it was intriguing. I disagree, however, with the idea that we busy sewers won't use fine couture techniques like those in the current issue. As a kid I started sewing to save money, and because I was 6' tall, 120 pounds (I'm still 6' tall, but haven't seen 120 in many, many years), I had to sew to have stylish, well-fitting, affordable clothes. Now I sew for a creative outlet, or to get what I can't find on the rack. It still saves money--when designer jackets top $1,000, spending $300 on fabric and notions is still a savings. However, since I'm so busy with work, gardening, volunteering and life, I sew more for quality than quantity. I make a few things I know I'll love for a long time (a real incentive to stay in shape), and don't do anything on deadline if I can help it. I buy the best fabrics and notions, and take my time with projects. I'm working on fall things now. I get fabric at High Fashion, or from mail order--Lin, you might check into many of the mail-order companies out there, and on the Internet. As for younger folks sewing, Houston Community College has an acclaimed 2-year program in sewing and fashion design, and it has many students in all age groups. If people under 25 aren't sewing, it could possibly be the fault of us old enough to teach our kids or neighbor's kids to sew. (My mom didn't sew--I learned from a neighbor. I don't have kids, but I help some kids out with projects.) We need to all work together to keep this lovely art form alive.

          40. Sylvia_E._Thompson | | #44

            *Another fabric store demise - I hate to see this. I live in the desert at the tip of Nevada. There isn't a fabric store within an hour's drive and there is a real demand here. This area is growing every day, especially with the people bailing out of California. We'd settle for even a Joann's or Hancock in this area.As for the question of why I sew. Well, it used to be to save money. But with the price of fabrics now, it is to obtain a one-of-a-kind and also as an emotional safety valve. When I worked out of the home, I used sewing as a balance to get the other side of my brain going and to relax. Now, due to a hand injury from medical typing, I'm able to get into some of the things I never had time to do, i.e., machine embroidery.

          41. Joan_W. | | #45

            *I'm new to "Gatherings," but seeing the original posting by Lin about the demise of Fine Line Fabrics in Menlo Park, CA pushed me to respond.As a native of Palo Alto, one town over from Menlo Park, I really appreciated having a good independent store emphasizing natural fibers when I returned home to visit my mom ( I now live in VA)... I'm so sorry that store closed.I would really like to understand the economics of running a fabric store: is the rent too high for the profit margin on fabrics, or are there just not enough sewers within driving distance these days? I wish someone like Roberta York who has run a fabric store could explain this.My impression is that there is a much greater proliferation of information on fitting and techniques than when I was a teenager in the mid-70's - Threads and Vogue Patterns among others, are providing abundant REAL LIFE information on fitting and altering, insider tips on customizing patterns, and commercial solutions to sewing that was not available 15 years ago, making sewing potentially more rewarding, yet great fabric is SO much harder to get your hands on these days!I live in Williamsburg, VA and we have one extremely limited independent store (mostly evening fabrics) and one chain that is closing - no loss there. I need to drive 1 hour to Richmond or Norfolk, or 2-1/2 hours to Washington, D.C. to go to G-Street Fabrics, a really great store. So even though the information age makes learning about sewing easier, the basics - getting one's patterns and fabric - is much more difficult and less enjoyable, b/c it takes a long trip or shopping by mail or the internet for what should be a sensory experience - touching fabric. This is really a sad phenomenon. As a teen-age sewer, I remember clearly how I did a tremendous amount of experimenting with alterations, using every book on altering that I could get my hands on (that were all limited to the basic sloper pattern, never a real fashion pattern), yet there were tons of beautiful fabrics at two wonderful independent stores, each 15 minutes from our house. Nowadays, we basically have the opposite situation... -- Joan

          42. Amelia_Joy | | #46

            *I liked the article about recreating the Armani looks, but I wish there was a video to order because I sometimes find it hard to visualise all the steps.Re: the demise of independent fabric stores, I wonder if a fabric co-op is a feasible idea. But that doesn't really address the problem of not having time to sew. It sounds trite to say it but it really is true though, that we always find time to do what is really important to us. Maybe the problem is not so much that people don't have time to sew as much as the fact that they really haven't "caught the vision" of what sewing your own clothes has to offer. Back to a co-op idea, maybe sewing moms of small children (like me)could get together and take turns entertaining the kids so that moms could have time to sew. I personally can't concentrate in small snatches of time, and to really get going on a project I need a few hours which can be hard to come by sometimes.

          43. MarianK_ | | #47

            *This topic has brought to mind a gripe I've had about public television in the Boston area. I wonder whether sewers run into it in the rest of the US. We have two PBS stations in Boston, full of cooking and home improvement programs through the weekend, but the only sewing programs are Sewing with Nancy and (reruns of) The Sewing Connection, at 8:30 and 9:00 on Friday morning. (Yes, I tape it, but isn't it possible to give up one of the 55 reruns of This Old House during a weekend to sewing?) Nancy's web site says that her show is distributed FREE to PBS stations, and I doubt that Sewing Connection is very expensive for the stations. Is the sewing public failing to ask the local stations for the shows? Are the Boston stations suffering from the "not invented here" syndrome? Are the local stations rejecting shows that don't have male backing? Are the local stations being influenced by corporate contributors to concentrate on shows that sell "more power" (as Tim Allen would say)? So: Are there enough of us sewers to make our public TV contributions conditional on more sewing programs?

          44. Martha_J. | | #48

            *To the woman who moved to Virginia and bemoans the lack of a good fabric store. I have been very pleased with Les Fabriques in Charlottesville, Va., which will send out swatches as well as mail orders.Give that store a try! We must keep the great independent stores in business!

          45. Joan_W. | | #49

            *Cynthia in Durham, NC: if you're out there: There are two fabric shops just down 15-501 in Chapel Hill and Carrboro: the Cotton Boll and the other is in the brick warehouse shopping area in Carrboro - very nice store.I now live in Williamsburg, VA, and always enjoy returning to Durham b/c you have more fabric stores in the Research Triangle Park than we do in the "colonial capital of America"...Joan W.

          46. Joan_W. | | #50

            *Martha:Thanks for the tip on Les Fabriques in Charlottesville, VA. Like others in the discussion earlier, whenever I travel, I look in the Yellow Pages and visit the local fabric store. So on a recent trip to Charlottesville, I did get to Les Fabriques, at 5:55 pm, and walked out 10 minutes later with a wonderful wool.Still, I like being able to go to a store within 25 minutes of home... I'm old-fashioned that way...

          47. Ex-Owner_Fine_Line_Fabrics_Rober | | #51

            *Hi, Roberta York here, ex-owner Fine Line Fabrics & Design, Menlo Park, CA. Basically, Lin got it right, I closed Fine Line Fabrics because I have to make a living. Actually, in a shrinking market the store did well in that it began paying for itself about 18 months in, however, there was never enough business for me to make enough money to have ANY quality of life...I was able to pay medical and car insurance and put groceries in the fridge...and sometimes that could not happen. And, at the age of 47, living like a poor college student doesn't make it, believe me, poverty in the Silicon Valley in the 1990's overpriced everything, is a major DRAG!The store began well enough, however, what I noticed over the 3 1/2 years it was open, was that by the end, many people who were regulars for the first 18 to 24 months disappeared...I suspect they were really excited about a new fabric store in the area, had great expectations about sewing up what they bought, never had time to sew it up and then could not justify buying more fabric. EVERYONE BITTERLY COMPLAINED ABOUT NOT HAVING ENOUGH TIME TO SEW. And, yes, as the sewers have aged so have our bodies and fitting issues abound, which then makes sewing more time intensive. For every new customer I got, I lost two and when I ran the numbers for income growth between the second and third year, the business had shrunk 20% and the writing was on the wall. In addition, I was losing at least one good vendor a year. The Vendors don't care about the small stores...they keep minimums high, constantly overship or really short the yardage on the bolt (all those 1 and 2 yard shorts add up as do the money it costs for 3 to 5 yard overages). They generally make it very hard to do business. After all, they're going to sell their fabrics, they don't need the stores, the fabrics will sell to clothing manufacturers. It was not worth the monumental effort it was going to take to stay in business because I had lost a couple of SIGNIFICANT VENDORS...they just pulled out of the market; and it is an incredible amount of work to find and develop fabric sources that are good quality, reasonably priced at wholesale so they can be sold at a reasonable price retail and still get a decent profit margin for the store...so that the owner just might make as much as $10,000 in a year...big whoop! So...not only do women not have time to sew, which does hurt those of you who are busy and do make time to sew...it is not worth my time or effort to stay in an industry that, in general, (and yes there are some few exceptions) does not give a damn about my business or any of the smaller fabric stores around the country.I was told by one of my vendors that generally, any store that has not been in business for over 10 years (that is FASHION STORE) is not really making it...unless the owners have spouses that support them, and then it's O.K. to just break even. Stone Mountain in Berkeley, Satin Moon in San Francisco, and Poppy Fabrics in Oakland have all been in business over 25 years....The Sewing Place in Saratoga, co-owned by Gail Griggs Hazen, one of the Goddesses of sewing education, although in business for only four years has owners who do not have to make a living solely from that business and therefore can afford to stay open as long as they break even...however, it get's really old, working your gluteus MAXimus off ( in my case over 50 hours/week) and not getting any reward except for the fabulous women that do sew...sorry stout-hearted women sewers of America, it's not enough. However, I think this is probably enough for you for now to understand some of the problems...the bottom line is, there are just not enough women sewing, at least in the Bay Area, to support a small store...and it doesn't matter how much customer service, classes, seminars, trunk shows, advertising or visability the stores get, if there is no time to sew, there is no time to sew. There has to be enough people in the marketplace sewing on a regular basis to keep a small store going. It's really too bad, sewing is a dying art.I call myself and my significant other, "Mr. and Mrs. Anachronism", he does antique furniture restoration...and he can't find employees because absolutely no one knows how to do that...The sad truth is that hand arts are dying in America...it's the age of technology....Just think, less than 50 years ago, most Americans still lived in Rural areas...no more...and until the second world war, there were no antibiotics and people regularly died from strep throat..Life is changing so fast it's amazing we are not all totally catatonic, sitting in the corner of a room, contemplating our navels...well, for some of us if we can still find our navel... Thanks for the opportunity to give my point of view.Sincerely, Roberta York, Fine Line Fabrics & Design

          48. Maura | | #52

            *Wow. Thanks to you, Roberta, for giving us an inside look at what it was like and what prompted the decision to close your store. No one can expect you to go on living like a college student, and I'm sure those in your area were glad you were there while you were. You've even touched, in a way, those of us many miles away--by prompting this thread. As you have seen, it is one of the more active threads on this board, and I'm hoping that we will be able to use the discussion here to prevent sewing from becoming a lost art, and to better support the small shops struggling in our own communities.Thanks for your post.

          49. carrie | | #53

            *I guess there is one thing that has hit me while reading all of the previous messages on this thread. Are we teaching our own children how to sew? My daughter is 8 years old, and has been asking for about a year now to learn how to sew. With my sewing business, and then trying to fit in things for my family as well, it has been too easy to brush this aside. I hope her interest is still there, and I haven't squandered a wonderful opportunity to spend time with her, and to teach her a creative and USEFUL art. Thank you for inspiring me to pass this trade down one more generation. I hope maybe others will feel the same way.

          50. Julia_Fletcher | | #54

            *I know what you mean: it's so easy to brush things aside for later. There was a discussion recently on this Gatherings site called "Teaching a Child to Sew"; many people contributed helpful ideas both about the practicalities and the approach to take with our children. It really is our responsibility to enthuse the next generation.Good luck and have fun!Julia

          51. cottontail | | #55

            *I was interested to read everyones comments as we in the uk are in the same boat. I shop at Rose and Hubble who have been in the business for many years producing many beautiful fabrics, and selling their wares wholesale and through two small retail outlets. Even their experience hasn't stopped them from getting into difficulty and looking around for a new buyer for the company. If our little outlet shuts here in Stourbridge, then the sewing fraternity all round the Midlands and the UK will suffer for the same reasons the Americans are - availability of cheap ready made clothing,no free time and precious little tuition in schools. Are there any millionaires out there interested???!

          52. Anne_Jolly | | #56

            *Hullo America! I live on a farm about 20 km from a small town in Tasmania (population 500,000), Australia. Our local fabric store - one in a chain - has just closed down. The story is the same as in the USA and the UK. We were told before the store closed that people either don't have time to sew any more, or can't be bothered because they can buy ready-made so cheaply. However, when I go into clothing stores and look at ready-made clothes, they are either very badly made or very expensive. I am retired and on a very limited, fixed income, but I still like to be able to wear stylish, well-made, well-finished clothes (even though my figure has expanded alarmingly!), and home sewing is my only solution to the problem. However, there is a growing fabric by mail order trend in Australia. It is not the same as being able to browse through a complete range of fabrics in a store, but it is better than nothing, and since our total population for the whole of Australia is only 18 million, we must be grateful for what we are able to have. Anne Jolly

          53. lin_hendrix | | #57

            *Hello Anne, Mail order has pretty much become my mainstay too. I scour every new issue of Threads looking for fabric mail order ads and subscribe to every known swatching service. I also send off to any store that will send me swatches. And whenever I travel local fabric shops are always on the itinerary! After your reply I count myself lucky to have one decent little store and some chains.--lin

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