When I was a little girl, “Memaw” dragged me to every fabric store in our mid-sized West Texas town most Saturdays. I absolutely lived for it. Sometimes, I got to pick out a fabric and a pattern for her to make me a new outfit. Not having the life-understanding, nor the vocabulary to realize it at the time, in retrospect it is obvious I was Memaw’s fashion muse.
Later when I was 16 years old, I got the urge to sew for myself. My mom’s sewing machine lay dormant in a spare bedroom. It beckoned me. Flush with youthful ambition, I hopped into my old Karmann Ghia and drove to the same fabric stores Memaw once took me. I knew exactly what I wanted to make– a black chiffon spaghetti strap, A-line, empire-bodice dress, with a long-stemmed tulip embroidered on one side.
The woman who owned the store, who lived down the street from my family and who went to church with us—the same woman who warmly greeted Memaw every time we entered the store for 16 years– completely ignored me. I approached her to ask how I could go about embroidering chiffon. I knew how to embroider— I just needed answers on how to do it on a sheer, slippery surface. Instead of the obvious answer (“Young lady, try stabilizer!”), she sighed heavily, in the manner most teenagers are greeted by nearly everyone, and told me she didn’t have time to help me.
There was no one else in the store.
Fast forward to my working an insanely busy Saturday morning shift at the fabric store. Customers were lined up at the table and the register, and my shift was over in 15 minutes. A girl of about 16 approached me holding a Converse sneaker.
“Is there a way I can get a hold of some of this shoe rubber to make my own sneakers?”
It wasn’t an impossible request, just a difficult one. I stopped and smiled and remembered that awful greeting I once got half my life ago at a fabric store. Now I work at one.
“Not here,” I answered, “but there are some amazing resources online for people who make their own shoes.”
“I know!” she replied excitedly, bobbing up and down on her toes. “I saw this one guy who made them out of recycled car tires! It looked cool, but I don’t want black rubber, I want white and maybe other colors.”
“Call around to the local bike shops. They would know where to find recycled tires in all kinds of colors, and you could still use the same tutorial, but have a more unique look.”
She gasped. “YEAH! Oh my gosh, I need to tell my friends! Thank you!”
Then off she dashed. I hope I see her back with a finished product. Even better, I hope I see an ad for her beautiful recycled shoes in a magazine in a few years.
April “The Fabricker” Kling has worked in fabric stores for over 10 years. She continually shops for fabric all over the world, including both Mood locations, and is currently raising startup funds to open her own fashion fabric store to support the apparel designer community where she lives in Austin, Texas.