Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Empty Nest

Tales from the Cutting Counter:  An older woman comes up to the cutting counter with a bolt of St. Patrick's Day fabric.  She looks a little fish-out-of-water-ish.

"How much of this will I need to make a tablecloth?" she asks.
"Well, that depends on the size of your table," I reply.
She hesitates for a moment, thinking hard.  "Hmmmm.  It's just...just a regular table."  She looks me in the eye, with a eureka! expression on her face.  "How big is a standard tablecloth?" she asks.
"There are at least 6 standard sizes for tablecloths," I say, trying to sound sympathetic.  I have ways of figuring things like this out for customers.  "How many people does your table seat?"  I ask.
The woman laughs.  "Our kids are long gone," she explains to me.  "It's just me and my husband now."

Perhaps she should consider placemats.

What is Real?

Tales from the Cutting Counter:  A woman put a stuffed toy on the counter.  When I looked closely at it, I realized it was Grover, from Sesame Street.  About 18" from head to toe, this Grover had much of his fur loved off (to borrow a phrase from The Velveteen Rabbit.)  He'd been repaired many times.  His eyes were blank white ovals;  the irises and pupils long since worn away.  I asked about the toy.  "This was my daughter's.  Now, her son loves it.  I think I am going to try to make a cover for it so he can keep it."  I thought hard.  I try not to insert myself into people's projects, but I really felt compelled to say something.  "This is only my own opinion," I said.  "But have you considered putting this beauty away and making a duplicate?  Grover can't handle much more wear before disintigrating.  And if you make a replica, perhaps your grandson can show the original to HIS son one day, and pass down the one grandma made."  "That never occurred to me!" the woman said.  "That's the perfect solution."  So I helped her choose fabric, and showed her where the safety eyes were, and gave suggestions about stuffing and thread and what to use for Grover's big red nose.  She is an experienced sewer, and she said she wouldn't have any problem drafting a pattern from the original.  I told her to save the pattern, and store it away with Original Grover, with some photos of work in progress.

This is why I love my job.

Can I Just Borrow This?

Tales from the Cutting Counter:   A few days ago, I sold a young couple 6 1/2 yards of a heavy upholstery fabric that sported a contemporary floral print. Yesterday, the young woman returned to the story with the fabric and receipt in hand.  She wanted to return it.  As I took the fabric from her to remeasure, which starts the return process, she said, "I only used about this much," indicating about 18 inches with her hands.  "You've cut this?" I asked.  "If you've cut it, you can't return it."  "But I bought a lot more than I needed, just in case!  It was expensive!"  I suggested covering another piece of furniture, or reselling the fabric online.  These ideas didn't go over well.  She took her fabric and grumbled out of the store.

I am guessing that her next stop was the grocery store, where she wanted to return half a carrot and two-thirds of a container of cottage cheese.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Easy to Translate

Tales from the Cutting Counter:  In the last few years, this area has become home to a few dozen Nepalese and Bhutanese refugee families.  I often see them in the fabric store, often in multi-generational groups.  Yesterday, a grandmother, father, and two teenaged girls came in together.  Grandma was traditionally dressed in loose trousers, tunic, overshirt.  Dad had a foot in each culture:  tunic shirt with khakis.  And the girls looked like the teens you'd see anywhere in your own neighborhood, shirts emblazoned with the name of the stores where they were purchased, yoga pants, hoodies.  I don't know what they needed fabric for, but the teenagers headed straight for the spangles and sparkles and shiny special occasion stuff.  Grandma headed to cottons.  Dad just looked a little bewildered, like any dad would.  Grandma spoke no English at all.  Dad spoke enough to get through the day, as did the girls.  Eventually (and they were in the store for a long time) they come to the counter with four bolts of fabric:  two red cottons with tiny prints, a red satin, and a gold mesh heavily embellished with gold sequins.  The girls immediately pull out their phones text text text text.  Dad is left to translate.  Grandma is annoyed.  Families are families.  First bolt:  Two meters.  I do the conversion, measure... there's just a little more on the bolt than that.  Dad stops me, confers with Grandma and girls.  They take the whole piece of fabric.  (Grandma is now visibly annoyed with the teens, who are not being Good Helpers text text text.)  Three meters, no, Yardsplease, of the second red.  Done and done.  Up comes the gold fancy.  Dad asks the price, I check it for him.  "One meter."  I measure, cut, fold.  My counter is sprinkled with bits of gold sequins.  I brush them into a pile, sweep them into the palm of my hand.  I catch Grandma's eye, and hold my closed hand out to her.  She puts her hand out, rather confused.  I sprinkle the glittery bits into her open hand. They sparkle as they fall.  She looks at me, breaks out into a huge grin, and laughs out loud.  Dad smiles.  Teenagers look at me like I've just fallen on my head.  Some things cross cultures.  Pixie dust is one of them.

I love my job.