Friday, January 6, 2012

A Lone Man at a Quilt Shop...Spooks the Natives

I walked into a fabric store this afternoon. I was by myself. The place was quiet when I walked in, and suddenly got quieter when the owner and three older ladies spied a man by himself in the doorway.

Usually, when a man darkens the doorway of a fabric store, he's being towed by his wife. He is expected to stand around with his hands in his pockets, inspecting the top of his shoes, and replaying a Lakers game in his head while he prays for the ceiling to collapse around him so he'll have an excuse to go out to the car and stick his head in the glove compartment. The natives of a quilt store expect this behavior of a man in their natural habitat and, although they might feel his pain, they also feel it makes up for the looks they get when they have to sit around a car dealership waiting to have their oil changed.

Not me. I'm quite comfortable in fabric stores. I go in alone to freak out the natives.

They eyeball you, those denizens of Ye Olde Quilt Shoppe. They eyeball the man the way one might eyeball a confused pink elephant that wanders into one's living room.

I wandered up and down the aisles of fabric on the bolt, pulling one or two and comparing them to each other in the natural light from the windows. One of the ladies came up and asked if she could help me. I smiled and said, "No thanks." I heard her whisper to the two ladies at the cutting counter when she walked away.

I pulled a couple of bolts from the shelf and held them under one arm. Walked to a different aisle to look at the brown fabrics. Looked at the ends of the bolts to see fabric content--which was a bit of a show, really. I can feel fabric content with my fingertips. Amateurs read labels to see if there's polyester in the fabric.

I took my sweet time choosing the fabrics I want to work with. It's a bit of a different color scheme I'm working on. I'm making this quilt as a gift for a friend of mine who just became a Dad. He has a little girl, and they decorated the baby's room in a combination of pink, brown, and white. The room is beautiful, and the colors play well together. I was enjoying putting fabrics together in that color scheme...but it wasn't easy. There aren't a lot of pink and brown prints out there.

By the time I wandered up to the cutting table, after taking my sweet time (all 8 minutes of it), the ladies stepped back except for the one who was going to cut the fabric. I have noticed over the years I've spent buying fabric that employees put men in fabric shops in two categories: a) lost, bored, pitiable husband, or b) crafting expert who knows-his-stuff-better-than-most or he wouldn't be there at all.

The polite smiles and offers of assistance changed when I put the bolts on the table and waited my turn. Tentative, almost timid questions and comments came:
"What are you making?"
"My...what wonderful colors those are together!"
"I wouldn't have thought to do that...but wow, that looks great!"
"How many quilts have you made?"

I'll confess I love those moments. I'll post photos when I'm done.

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