In the farthest corner of the store, I stare into the automotive section. Hadn't the fabric section been here? I walk on.
A young salesman shelves DVDs. I ask, "Do you have a fabric section?" "Over there."
Two cramped aisles with a counter between them.
A tired out looking mom with glasses and a tight ponytail says, "Yeah, I like this fleece for making jackets. I ran this through my Serger...," as the saleswoman slides 3 yards of brightly patterned fleece across the counter towards her. "My daughter, she likes anything pink," the mom continues in a cigarette husky voice.
Her daughter towers over her, also with a tight ponytail, but her face was a round teenager's face with darkish eyeliner around her bright eyes. She smiles and bobs her head.
The thread pyramid is stacked with colorful, tightly wound spools that roll forward when one is removed. It always looks full, even when only one spool remains. A few zippers, bobbins, a couple models of lightweight machines sit on shelves.
Don't ever change the tension on your machine, said the repairman - I remember my mother repeating his advice.
There are none of the cheap, short nap velvets that I bought here previously. No slippery rayons. Not enough room. Many bolts of cotton with fine prints, good for machine quilting, crafts, doll clothes. Fleece, and other very inexpensive fabrics. Hardly anything is above $2.95/yard.
You can tell quality on any garment. Look to see if the print lines up.
I look at a couple bolts of 100% cotton, natural, coarse weave. They all look slightly different - color, texture, thread weight, but I realize the bar codes are all the same.
Buy more fabric or thread than you think you need.
I bring a couple bolts to the saleswoman. "Three yards each please."
"Might not have 3 yards of this one." Thud, flip, thud, flip, thud, flip. She undoes the bolt, pinching the edge of the fabric and pulling it to the yardstick inset in the counter. Three and a quarter yards.
She scans a barcode and punches numbers into a clunky 'price gun,' which spits out a price tag.
"Three yards of this, too." Her scissors scrape across the counter as they cut the fabric, a sound so nostalgic. I could not reproduce it with letters.
I ran to the back of the store and hugged the immense rolls of shaggy, fake fur in oranges, blacks, greens and reds. Hey, don't do that, yelled the saleswoman. Never did again.
"Did this section get smaller?"
"Three years ago," snorts the saleswoman as she uses a straight pin to afix the receipt to the fabric. It seems like such an antiquated gesture. Already.
"Oh, people don't sew as much, I guess. Clothes are so cheap."
"Who has time to sew? Women are all working, no time to sew. I never worked when my kids were young." I look at the side of her face. "I sewed."
"I guess that's progress and that was the good old days."
"I'll take the good old days," she replies and glances out to the main aisle.