Amber M.

 
 

I have so many memories surrounding textiles (is it an accident "textile" and "texture" start the same way?) The pink-rose blanket...the felt-dot picture on the box springs I'd pick at when I was bored or couldn't sleep...turning washcloths into dolphins and mermaids in the tub...that wonderful '20s-looking dress I wore to the petting zoo and a goat chewed up the skirt...chenille bumps on the bedspread...Grandma's quilts...

Mom sewed all our clothes. It wasn't a huge big deal back then, when all the girls learned Home Economics and the boys learned how to build cars. It does mean that some of my earliest memories involve the racks at House of Fabrics. I'd close my eyes, stretch out my arms and sweep down the rows of bolts of cloth, feeler-finger senses activated. When something wonderful touched me, I'd open my eyes to see: Yes? No? Ooh, wrong color. Close eyes and keep feeling. When I found the one perfect enough to love, I could stare at it and run my hands over it, and marvel over it. Not that I'd be allowed to *have* anything my fingers and eyes adored, of course, because I wasn't doing the sewing (or the buying). Besides, I was, like, 3.

Sometimes Mom would find a great bargain and buy the whole bolt. Mom and my sister and I got the same dress in the same fabric. We were triplets!! Nesting dolls! So Cute! Thank heaven I didn't have any brothers: they'd grow up with even worse identity issues than I have.

But the fabric store was like ... uh ... well, okay not Disneyland, because NOTHING is like Disneyland (not even other Disneylands)....maybe more like the old Knott's Berry Farm, before they put in any rides. A fun place to wander and fantasize and wonder while staring at things with no apparent purpose (I'm lookin' at you, Notions Wall).

And like the rides at Disneyland, I took it for granted they'd always be there. Some fabric chain had a presence in every shopping center; even the Singer store held a few token bolts; craft stores all over; warehouse-style monstrosities downtown; whole blocks in LA devoted to cloth -- and as a fiber artist may I also take this opportunity to decry the loss of a hardware store on every corner.

Later, I tried to learn how to sew, honestly, but failed; my mom and series of Home Ec teachers can attest to that. Frustrating thing about sewing one's clothing, or costumes, as I got into later: when you start, there's no guarantee the finished product will fit properly or look as good as you pictured. I have trouble sewing a straight seam, forget matching corners on a quilt! So many UFO's tossed into a corner, cuss words trailing after them -- until I decided to make cloth instead.

Fabric is Fabulous.