Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Fabricaholic Chooses Her Shop

Sundreams. My pattern. It has nothing to do
with this post, except showing why I need such
a large selection of fabrics.
I am a fabricaholic. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. Then again maybe not. Bear with me for a moment ... Do you think that I am a fabricaholic if I have fabric stored in 24 Ikea bins made into drawers, 2 four-drawer plastic towers, 15 plastic containers, 8 carboard boxes and a have bunch of yardage on my shelves?

No? Good! I didn't think so either.

My point here is that I buy a lot of fabric. But then, I use a lot of fabric. Most of my purchases are 100% cotton for quilting. I do buy a bit of minky, a bit of drapery fabric, some rubberized baby fabric and a few odd bits. My cotton is 90% quilting cotton and 10% flannel for backs. I do love a soft cuddly quilt back, but that isn't where I was going with this.

I spend a lot of time in quilt shops and fabric store looking around, stroking the fabric, and buying what I need for my current work in progress. Oh, and I might buy a meter or two of fabric just because I like it. I am not a quilt shop purist by any stretch of the imagination. I shop the fabric store chains and I've purchased fabric at second hand stores on occassion. I will shop almost anywhere. The question is, how do I decide where to shop and what brings a shop to the top of my favorites list?

Years ago, we had a shop here in Calgary that was lovely. They have since closed their doors. They had wide open spaces and neatly arranges racks of fabrics and notions. They carried quilting cottons in a wide variety of colors and themes. It was brightly lit with a huge classroom and world class teachers. I never shopped there, unless I had no other option. Why? Because the staff was stand-offish and rarely spoke except to ask for your money. I'm funny that way, I like to be greeted when I enter a shop. Ask if you can help me, ask about my day, make some idle chit-chat. At the very least, acknowledge my existance. I understand that you are busy, but would a finger wave really break your concentration during what is clearly a personal call? If you can't be bothered with me, I can't be bothered to shop with you. Fail.

When my daughters still lived at home, we would hit the quilt shops together. (They are quilters too.)Twice we went to a shop in Edmonton that I will never revisit. I won't even stop at their booth at quilt shows. Why? because when the girls and I went to their shop the staff followed them around like they were criminals bent on stuffing bolts of fabric down they pants. I understand that teenagers can be a shop-owner's nightmare, but come on ladies, be a bit more subtle and take the fact that they are with their mother into consideration. The staff never spoke to them, just hovered behind and beside them like vengeful hawks. Fail!

There are anumber of quilt shops here in Calgary and quite a few in the surrounding area that I get to on the rare occassion. (Oooo, road trip time! Followed by another post of my finds.) But back to this post ...

I love visiting the local shops, and yes, I am going to name them. Traditional Pastimes has a lovely quaint feel, friendly helpful staff and dozens of inspiring items on display. The only trouble is, many of their fabrics are muted and washed out colors. Not really my thing, I am more of a high contrast, lots of brights girl, but I find their shop interesting and inspiring all the same. The staff is good, but the lack of parking is a huge downfall. Overall, a passing grade.

Out of Hand is bursting to the seams with bright colorful fabrics. So much so that you have to move several stacks of bolts, just to see what is behind them. There aren't a lot of completed projects on display and the staff is hit and miss. But their fabric selection is incredible and they have a huge selection of wools, buttons and teddy bear making supplies. The clutter drives me crazy, as I like room to move and more light to see, but I still give them a passing grade.

My Sewing Room is HUGE! Their selection of fabrics, tools, notions and supplies here is stupendous. They have a frequent shopper program as well. If you are looking for something specific, there is a good chance they will have it, or can get it for you if you have time to wait. They run a lot of classes as well. Often there is so much fabric that you feel overwhelmed. Their downfall, if you ask me, is their staff. They have an extremely high turn-over rate and many of the staff lack quilting knowledge. They are lovely girls, don't get me wrong. They are friendly and helpful, just not knowledgable about quilting. That isn't enough to keep me away, they pass.

Finally, there is Along Came Quilting. This is my favorite Calgary shop. It is very bright, and wide open, with lots of fabulous light. There is room to move and tables to fiddle with your fabrics on. A bright classroom with great teachers and a nice variety of classes.. Their prices on books is the best in the city and they have a great fabric selection. Best of all, they have an enormous batik section. (Yes I am salivating.) They carry books, several lines of thead and notions and it is all extremely well organized.They run block of the months in a variety of techniques and styles. They have decent parking. But what really makes them stand out is their staff. They are knowledgeable, intelligent, helpful, playful, and quick to greet you.  Their atmosphere is open, helpful and welcoming. They also have a great sense of humor and laugh at my silliness. This all adds up to a superior shopping experience. This is what makes them my favorite shop. They pass the shopping test! Big time pass.

Something that I haven't mentioned here is that typically I do not shop alone. Usually I have one of my quilting cohorts in tow. It should be noted that we tend towards a bit loud, we do a lot of joking and teasing and can be a bit unruly. For the most part, shops are tolerant of us. Some to better than others and that factors into my like or dislike of a shop. We are harmless, so be nice to us because we drop buckets of money wherever we go!

I am curious, I would like to know which shop in your town is your favorite? What makes them special? What makes you turn away from a shop?

Hugs and happy quilting


  1. Hi Cathy! I just found your blog! Sorry to hear that you are ending your longarm career!

    I wanted to comment on the shops here in Calgary.

    Funny how one's experience colours whether you go back or not. The differences between my experience and yours -- My Sewing Room (the staff is great, if they are not busy and if they don't have an answer to my question they will find someone that can. I just don't like all the waiting around!) The selection can be overwhelming, but if I am looking for a particular item, it's my go-to store.

    Along Came Quilting - God Bless my hubby who went there and asked the staff for "red fat-quarters" on Valentine's Day and was told "sorry we don't have any" as well as "leaving it a little late aren't you?" Now, #1 he had the courage to go in there by himself, #2 the man actually KNOWS what a fat quarter is. The result is he walked OUT of the store and refuses to come into the shop at all. My experience with the staff is they are pretty aloof, and I feel like the "red-headed-step-child" when I go in. Again if I am looking for something I know where to find it. I took one class there with Lorraine Stangeness and loved it! My experience with the staff was not experienced like yours.

    Last, but certainly not least -- Out of Hand. I agree, it is PACKED! I love the staff! I just found this shop beginning of January 2013 because hubbby bought me an Accuquilt GO for my birthday. They know us by name and are happy to help me any time I go in there. I found the staff approachable and very kind. The owner Deirdre will order for you if you request it. If my hubby comes in with me, he's not glared at like he's infringing on a woman's domain. (PS..he's the one that has found some fabulous fabrics for me).

    Good luck Cath! Hope both your and my experiences improve in these shops!

  2. Thanks for sharing your experiences, it is always great to hear from another quilter.

    Where I shop depends on my mood. If I am in the mood for an adventure or to discover a treasure, I don't mind digging and searching. Sometimes, I just need to get in and get out with my fabric. Occasionally, I know that a certain shop has the line I am looking for, so I will head there.

    I also know that staff comes and goes and I would never let a single experience keep me away from a shop.

    I am a firm believer that every shop has something to offer and because of this, I try to spread my limited funds around in all the local shops. I think that buying local is important and it is rare that I order on-line as I like to keep my money local. That said, I will spend freely when I visit shops in other cities when I am on vacation.

    Thanks for your comments.


  3. :-) I love FARTS! (Fabric Acquisition Road TripS!) I do support the local shops, but can't resist a deal on-line!

    I know it's hard to go back into shops that are not that "friendly", but I hope that those shops read feedback and make those changes that draw in more shoppers! (though I still can't convince my hubby to go back to Along Came Quilting!)

    Looking forward to more of your quilting journey! I love learning from others! Thanks!


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