Fun with Fabric
This week was the annual fabric sale sponsored by the Lady's Auxiliary of the Elk's Club. I simply refer to it as the dead lady fabric sale. It feels very much like that all the items, which are donated, came from the attics and sewing rooms of elderly women who passed away this year. Their grown children went through their possessions and asked their moms' friends "what do I do with all this sewing stuff?" and it inevitably lands at this sale.
Which is great for me because this is my where I stock up for the year on ric-rac, yarn, buttons, fabric, ribbons, knitting needles and assorted notions. The first couple years I went, it was strictly blue hairs - the kind of blue hair you get when you do that special rinse on whitish-gray hair and it goes a touch indigo. These days, the blue hairs showing up get their color from Manic Panic and are a good sixty years from the grave.
I now compete with the hipsters from the Hill, costume designers, and all the new fiber geeks. The whole handmade movement continues to grow in droves and the D.I.Y. ethic is alive and kicking here in Forest City. Fabric from this sale winds up as custom made ladies panties, iPod cases and Etsy fodder.
The sale starts at 9 a.m. and the line starts at 8. Rain or shine. The crowd is polite, yet tough. No cutting in line. No mercy for small children. It's the thrill of the hunt.
The veterans know the layout of the Elks Club and know where to go first. It's the size of a gymnasium and smells of mothballs. Everyone has a strategy. The regulars know to bring large backpacks, canvas totes, bags on wheels.
I go for the yarn immediately, looking for the high-end cottons and Italian silks while elderly grandmothers with sharp elbows push me aside in their quest for neon acrylics.
Then it's on to the fabric. Polyester abounds, the cotton quilters are in heaven. I am on the hunt for anything quirky. Past scores include Marimekko prints, silk upholstery fabric and bolts of velvet. At fifty cents a pound for fabric, it's always a good deal. I walk out with bags of loot and never break a twenty spot.
So what do I make with all this stuff? I have knitted a few sweaters and a lot of hats. I have sewn pajamas, curtains, a comforter cover, picnic blankets and a superhero cape.
However, my interest, patience, time and skills are limited. So I have a closet full of fabrics and yarns that will never get made into anything. I intend to keep growing my stash until it is my turn to donate back and make some punk's day.
Jessica Tomlinson is the pr director of the Maine College of Art. On occasion, she uses fabric and yarn from the Lady's Auxiliary sale to create wearable art.