Where I Sit and Contemplate the Future over Breakfast

comments: 18

Calicos3 Thank you, everyone, for your get-well wishes (I am feeling much better) and condolences for my being so dumb and losing my own quilt. Thank you so much to Nikki for pointing me toward LostQuilt.com. I was flabbergasted at the number of lost and stolen quilts out there. Can you imagine? Have these thieves ever heard of a little thing called karma? I can't even think of an object that embodies more . . . spirit . . . than a quilt. Maybe something hand-knitted. You know what I mean. Anyway, I've listed my quilt on their web site. It was fascinating to see that people have been reunited with their quilts eleven years later. It would be amazing, absolutely amazing, if it were found.

Anyway, after thinking about my quilt, and as I mentioned last week after reading the new Cath Kidston book, I feel an restless urge to return to sweet mini-floral calicos lately. My bags this spring for Posie will feature these heavily (oops -- oxymoron) because they just seem so light and fresh to me after winter, of course, but also after some of the bigger, more stylized floral patterns I used last year. I'm clearly mourning the loss of all the little neighborhood JoAnn Fabrics stores around here, too. I don't know if this is happening where you live (if you live in the U.S.) but here in Portland, Oregon, they are closing down just about every little "independent" JoAnn's and consolidating everything into their Superstores.

I think I'm more upset about this than I thought. All my life I have lived within a few minutes of a JoAnn store. My mom sewed piles of stuff for us when we were kids, and the JoAnn's was in biking distance then; I can't even count how many hours I've spent shuffling through those bolts of cotton, a crying child howling somewhere in the recesses of the pattern department. I loved those little machines they had with the dials that counted yards of fabric as you ran it through its little slot (though those are long gone). Whenever I have been sad, or confused, or scared, or just generally freaked out, I go to the fabric store, where you can wander all afternoon without anyone bothering you; you can just think, and dream, and plan. Hours tick away. My blood pressure comes down. That's so much better.

Here in Portland I haunt each fabric store regularly, and have a pretty good idea of the inventories of each: Mill End for silks and wools and flat-folds, not so much printed cottons; Fabric Depot for ginghams and polka dots and high-end print cottons, and sales, and crafty things (though they've cut back on their inventory of some of these things of late, I think); JoAnn's for crafty things and cheap calicos and all manner of phony floral, including little birds and miniature strawberries and paper flowers and imported everything-weird you don't find in other places. Nevermind that the place always looked like it had just been ransacked, or that the employees very rarely stopped having their own personal conversations about various anachronistic medical ailments (goiter, gout) long enough to cut your fabrics or help you find something (as if). I used to complain about this to the point of hissy fit; over the years the place seemed to be getting more and more trashed. Still, it was a reliable source for so much of what I needed. I would take all my complaining back now, if I could.

I try, as much as I possibly can, to shop local, independent stores for the things I need, going corporate when necessary but mostly making every effort I can to keep our little locally-owned businesses alive. JoAnn's is corporate, but you'll often find them not in big strip malls (though they are there) but right in the middle of a little neighborhood business district. Superstores, at least in Portland, are on the edges of the city. I took a trip way out to a JoAnn Superstore in the Portland suburbs a few weekends ago. I had heard nice things about it, and I needed some stuff that the little neighborhood store, now on its last legs and clearance-ing everything, no longer had. I admit that I was excited. Well. That didn't last long.

I don't know how I didn't see this coming. It's big, very big, but somehow so much smaller. They seem to have consolidated their weird little lines, so quirky and wonderful, into JoAnn's-branded super-lines -- similarly packaged, corners rounded off, reduced in scope and quantity. Now it's polarfleece, and the same scrapbooking stuff you can get anywhere else, and acrylic-y novelty yarns. (Of course, I'm oversimplifying, but this is the effect it all had on me.) I felt there was nothing to discover that hadn't been sheared of interest to me somehow. Everything was neat and bright and . . . boring as hell.

Maybe I'm being unfair. Perhaps, as usual, even maudlin. I can't help it. JoAnn as I knew her is gone.

Even though I talked meanly about you behind your back and bitched about your disheleved appearance, you were a reliable, faithful friend. I'm certainly no prize, myself, and have been known to wander your aisles unshowered in pajama bottoms and glasses, so I should have had more compassion, and appreciation for your hidden depths. I'm sorry.

I'll miss you, dear girl.


I rediscovered JoAnn recently and am sad to hear that they are consolidating their smaller stores. I recognize so much of my own experience at JoAnn in this bittersweet post. I always find something unexpected, delightful, and reasonably priced (not to say cheap!) there. And by the way, that's my crying child in the pattern department.

I had to laugh out loud at the employees not stopping their own personal conversations. It happened to me yesterday, but yet I, like you, find this part of the JoAnn charm(?). I have one so close to me, that when I've had a tough day with the kids, I skid out of the driveway as soon as Peter gets home to go wander the aisles. I must be gone a long time on these sprees, Peter once asked me if they had a snack bar.

I'm with you on shopping as locally as possible. I hate superstores... and malls, come to think of it.

I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who feels that way about the JoAnn Superstore. There is one close to my work that I took a trip out to when I needed to get something and figured I'd save the time by going during lunch. I couldn't find a thing and it really did seem like there was so much less in there for all the size.

I personally prefer my little quilting store for cotton fabrics, but I do really enjoy going to my neighborhood JoAnn for that other stuff like felt and printed duck fabric.

Your JoAnn Superstore sounds like our Spotlight (here in Australia)- a warehouse with that nasty low-cost lighting that makes you feel as if you're drunk and so much synthetic fabric that you reel from the chemicals. I go there in desperation because we have NO little independent stores where I am. No spirit, no soul, no inspiration...

Oooh,that's my second "poor,sad me" post! This has got to stop!! I hereby declare only good things will leave my keyboard from now on.
ps hope you are feeling better, Alicia

Ugh, I'm sure hoping a JoAnn's superstore is NOT in my future. I appreciate your plug of shopping local. I try to do it as much as I can, and I think it's very important...although I've been known to stumble into Target on occasion!

it's not just you -- i feel the same way about the new joann's superstores (the one in tigard, anyway). i mean polar fleece has its place, but the world certainly does not need THAT much!

I must confess I was geeked when a big ole (Texas term) Joann's moved into a former department store space near me. Its better than a stick in the eye for quick trips for urgently needed pink embroidery floss, but you're right about the mediocre uninspired-ness of it. I try to hold up my end of the economic food chain by regularly zipping out to the local fabric shops which are all outside my normal travel zone. In return for my efforts, they boost my crafting energy and remind me that I'm part of an invisibly bound network of creative souls.

I know....I've recently been complaining about the general "corporatizing" of retail in America. I'm not going to be a liar & tell you that I don't shop at Target, but I really am missing the little shops & the original things that you'd find there. I guess that is why we still need places like Posie!

oh, i'm so glad you posted this. i have been looking for someone to commiserate with over the whole joann's thing. the one in hollywood? so awful, yet i was always somehow compelled to return. i loved how it was part of the little neighborhood. the most apathetic of employees. impossible to find what i came for, but always left with something. sad.

Ahh, Joann Fabrics. I remember well toddling after my mother throughout the winding aisle of seemingly endless fabrics. There is such an ENERGY around craft stores, all those materials and colors and textures just waiting to be transformed into some new and beautiful item! Luckily the Joann's in my neck of the Vermont woods is still nice and small, though I do find the "gift" items a little weird. I mean, isn't that the point of buying the CRAFT items, to MAKE the gifts yourself? Still our town is Walmart-free, at least for a little longer, so maybe they are just trying to fill a niche?

There was a time I thought I couldn't survive without living close to a Joann's. I find I haven't been in one for months and don't miss it. :(

I will miss the one in hollywood-I took pete there over chistmas and he couldn't belive it was a "store" i have to admit I never saw the inventory on the shelves, just on the floor-but I will miss it. sad, sad.

fisrtly...i lurve all your photos...they are like candy to me. beautiful and whimsical, they make me smile...second, i grew up with House of Fabrics and CLoth World and then those disappeared an JoAnns took over. i was anti JoAnns but then when i needed fabric, i had nowhere else to go so i went. here in Los Angeles they are all small neighborhoody and messy and trashed and full of unhelpful staff and each one has it's own personality so i often travel way way out of my way from here to there depending on whta it is i'm looking for. i can't inagine a superstoe, i know what you mean.. i'm not much of a seamstress but i dream of owning my own little fabric store full of retro quirky prints and faux flowers and baskets and such...sigh...thank you for sharing all that you do and happy heart day!

you make me miss the dingey minnesota fabrics of my youth. sigh. you'd need an electric bike to get to the joann's now. oprf is the bermuda triangle of craft stores. well, not sure if that analogy is right, but there are none to be found! the joann's (and you'd love it - a crazy, non super in any way old school joanns with quite a cast of characters working there) is so far north up harlem ave I feel like I'm in wisconsin by the time we get there.

Not only is this post beautifully written, but it is soooo truthful. I miss her too, and so many of her sisters. The independent hat shops and shoe shops and messy little office supply stores that fit so many hidden treasures in some kind of order that no one could ever understand, but the proprietor always knew exactly where to find what you wanted....
Aw, damn that Walmart. ;)

Elizabeth Chassereau says: January 01, 2012 at 07:04 AM

Hi Alicia
I recently discovered your blog and I have to say, I feel your JoAnn Fabrics pain! I worked for my local Joann for five years, and it was a tiny store around the corner from my home, called "Best Fabrics," behind a strip joint and next to a tavern! I still worked for them after they turned into Joann Fabrics and moved a mile up the road into a big strip mall store. It was a funny quirky store where the calicos were $1.99 a yard for the Fourth of July or Superbowl Sunday; where the yarns did not go with the knitting books; where the crafts were basic and did not follow "trends." That's the store I miss as well. The same for House of Fabrics and Fabricland, which were my mother's favorites. The new mega Joann Etc stores are exhausting, like Joann Costco. I've only been to the fabric stores in your area once. That was at the same time Portland had incredible stores like Daisy Kingdom. And one more thing, I also go to the fabric store when I am sad, angry, scared, lonely. Doesn't matter to me at all what the workers are or aren't doing, I just take a deep breath and dig around for more magic :)

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com