Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

Where Have all the Fabric Stores Gone (Long Time Passing)?

I remember in my youth, when there was want, you could simply go down to the "notions" counter of the five and ten. There you could find your needles and pins and hooks and eyes and garters and slide fasteners and pearlescent buttons and silken threads in Nile green and perhaps a bolt of nainsook and a bit of baleen for your corset and maybe a hogshead of tobacco for Papa, to surprise him on his return from the War (and won't Marmee be pleased).

Oh, wait, that wasn't my youth, that was Little Women.

In any case, there used to be a big cavernous fabric store at Lake and Hiawatha where I could replenish my stock of the following at will:

- Tubes of iron cleaner
- Collar extender buttons
- Mending fabric/iron-on patches
- Suspender buttons for Morris kit trousers

At this point I have enough needles, thread, and shirt buttons to last several lifetimes, so that's not the issue. Sometimes I misplace my seam ripper, but I always find it.

Sadly, that nearby fabric store closed a few years back. There is a small fabric store in St. Louis Park next to a Half-Price Books I frequent. I checked it out once, but the clerk there gave me a skeptical look when I asked about iron cleaner and collar extender buttons so I never went back. (Don't look at me like that -- I *know* these items exist!). There was too much polyester and Lurex in their general fabric selection for my comfort, anyway, and really ugly fake patchwork prints.

Well, I'm long out of mending fabric and I'm running out of iron cleaner and I should probably retire my older Morris trousers, which will require sewing suspender buttons inside the waist band of the white pants I have stockpiled. But where is there a fabric store? It seems to me that I see fabric stores all the time, when I'm not looking, but evidently when you turn to fix your gaze on them they disappear into the ether.

There is a strip mall near my workplace with a great Crafts store. This store carries ribbon in countless hues and artificial foliage to rival an arboretum and even fake stuffed birds (in case you were wondering where the one I used to wear on my Morris bowler came from, before our kit required a cricket cap). But they do not carry 7/8" buttons. I asked the clerk if there were a fabric store nearby, and she said the nearest one was in Apple Valley. I'm not entirely sure where that is, and it sounds too much like a town in a 1950s children's book serial to me (The Shackletons of Apple Valley go Hang-Gliding), and besides I had to get back to work.

So last night, instead of heading straight home, I went way way out of my way all around the Cities during rush hour to stop by that little store in St. Louis Park, since they must carry an assortment of buttons, right? But that store is in the process of going out of business (schadenfreude alert) and is closing at 5pm. Hey, what about Target, I thought, there's one not too far away. Isn't Target the modern equivalent of Woolworth's? But the guy on the information phone at Target seemed confused by my request ("I'm looking for sewing items, buttons in particular"), and he had to go to his supervisor who directed me to sewing machine supplies (plus a few small notions but certainly no suspender buttons).

It turns out, happily, that there's a fine fabric store not far at all from where I work but in the other direction from where I usually drive (it's in West Saint Paul) which not only had all that I need but a pleasant clerk as well. The Yellow Pages are still a handy thing. Still, I'm left wondering why fabric stores hide themselves just when you need them.
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