Sunday, November 05, 2006

Fabric shopping in the Bay Area

When I was in California last month, I dragged the Other along on my first adult trips to quilt shops. I've clocked hundreds of hours in them, but previously only as a grumpy child.

Sometimes it felt like I grew up in fabric stores; Joann's was a particularly loathed locale. Middle Brother and I would try to make the hours pass by scouring the floor for stray sequins, which, because they were shiny, seemed like they were virtually currency. Then we'd play hide-and-seek in the round racks of fabric, driving the Mother bonkers. I could never understand how she could spend SO BLOODY LONG in a single shop.

But now I know. It's a disease.

Philadelphia, as I've complained before, is sadly lacking in the realm of quilt shops. I think there's a magnetic pull to Lancaster County (where I once spent a family vacation that felt like a week stranded at Joann's), leaving city-dwellers with nothing. So since the Other and I were renting a car, I made sure to look up a few quilting stores, relying heavily on this posting.

I nearly passed up StoneMountain & Daughter. Their website hadn't got me excited, so I was going to give it a miss. But in the process of trying to find our way through Berkeley, we happened onto the street where the shop was and I thought we might as well try it out. And thank god we did! It was amazing. The prices were good, and the selection was better. The Other dutifully served as pack animal for the bolts I voraciously grabbed from the shelves. In exchange, we found a print he had liked at Britex but this time at a price I could afford. And I found a few I'd had my eye on for the text quilt (as mentioned previously). It was heavenly. The quilt shops I knew from my Midwestern youth were country-corny granny enclaves, but StoneMountain had modern quilts up on the wall, advertising classes I would actually take, were I anywhere nearby.

New Pieces was another good find, though the prices seemed better at StoneMountain. They'd just received a huge shipment, so there were bolts everywhere. I rifled through all the fat quarter and remnant shelves, since that was at least a way to focus—there was a ton of stuff. I dream of being able to get to places like this in my normal life. (That's the disease talking.)

Legend has it that there are male quilters, and straight ones at that, but even near San Francisco the Other and I were the only men prowling the aisles of bolts. Not that anyone made us feel uncomfortable—they were more than happy to chat with me about my projects. Too happy, in fact: at New Pieces, they got me flustered by asking what sort of things I quilted. What did they mean? Pieced or appliqued? Traditional or modern? What did they want from me? Modern quilting is difficult to describe to a quilter sometimes, 'cause you can't just say, "Oh, it's nine-patch blocks set on point." I guess at this point I only really talk about quilting with people who already know me, who know my taste and my general aesthetic sense. Or perhaps I just felt weird that the fabric I was buying was mainly for building a stash instead of for a specific project.

vintage check fabric vintage bird fabric

We also found a great antique shop with an enormous pile of vintage fabrics—the mythical kind of pile I kept hearing was out there, but had never actually found. I bought a nice mustardy check for the Other's quilt and some bird print for me. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it yet, but I love it. It looked like one of those vintage fabrics that incite blogospheric swooning (like almost anything Lisa at A Bird in the Hand posts—where does she find that amazing fabric?), so I knew it had to be mine.

A lesson I learned from the Mother after I came back from vacation: do not be deceived by fat quarters. For cheapish fabrics, a quarter yard cut from the bolt can often be less than the precut fat quarters, so unless you need a big square, beware. But am I the only one a bit hesitant to ask the ladies to cut something? It feels like more of a commitment to the fabric, I guess. That's how they getcha.

And speaking of the Mother, she called Friday to say she finished quilting my Plain Spoken quilt! I'm getting my binding fingers ready as I type.

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