Saturday, June 16, 2007

Unfriendly Natives

I visited a quilt shop for the first time yesterday. Well, not the first time ever--last year at this time we were in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and a charming little quilt shop in a charming little square beckoned to me. From outside, the fabric colors looked like candy, and I couldn't resist stepping inside to run my hand across the bolts of cloth. I was enchanted by the beautiful mix of colors in the bundles of fat quarters; at the time, I had no idea why these little squares of fabric were mixed and bundled together, but I loved them.

Several months ago, we were having lunch in Salado, and my DP pointed out that the quilt shop next door might have that mini-iron I needed for melting crayons and chunks of wax. The quilts on display were amazing, and once again, I tried desperately to think of something I could with these beautiful pieces of cloth--something, of course, that didn't require sewing.

I guess I should say that this was the first time I visited a quilt shop since I've been quilting. We had been to Reunion Ranch in Georgetown for my DP's company picnic, and heading back, she exclaimed, "hey, it's a quilt shop!" Not that she has any interest in things crafty--in fact, her standard response when I just "drop by" Michael's or Jo Ann's or Hobby Lobby for that one that thing I desperately need is, "I'll wait in the car. Take your time." But, as I've written here before, she's incredibly supportive and never complains that I'm spending us into destitution with my hobbies.

So I whipped into a service station, fed a couple of quarters into the air/water machine, and proceeded to wash my feet. We had been gifted with a huge thunderstorm at Reunion Ranch during the picnic. Yes, I know "gifted" seems like a bizarre word to use, but typically it's in the mid- to upper-90s at this time, and we dread the picnic because we know we'll sweat buckets and come close to passing out from heat exhaustion. This year, we ended up huddled together--all 300 or so of us--on the covered pavillion, shivering as the temperature dropped into the low 70s. It was wonderful. Slogging through the mud to get back to the car was less wonderful, and we rinsed out sandaled feet with bottled water well enough to drive home.

A visit to a guilt shop, though, required more care. After my feet and shoes were spotless, I brushed my hair, since it had curled up in the rain and was alternately stringy and springy. I checked my mascara to make sure it hadn't run. I felt like I was getting ready for a date. We turned around and headed to the quilt shop. The minute I stepped into the shop, I was magically rendered invisible. Women were chatting at the cutting table about fabrics and quilt guilds and piecing. I was lost for a while in amazement at all the beautiful material. Before, it had just been pretty stuff; now, my mind was whirling, imaging various patterns and colors in finished quilts. I wandered and fondled and occasionally glanced up to offer a perky smile to the shop staff, but they were always busy greeting someone who had just walked through the door.

I thought at first maybe they all knew each other; Georgetown is fairly small and has always seemed like a friendly place. We drive the 20 minutes from Round Rock every couple of weeks to visit the shops or eat at Monument Cafe. But that didn't seem to be the case.

I wished I had some of my UFOs with me, because I was certain I would find the exact thing I needed here to turn them into lovely, finished quilts. I picked up a beautiful bundle of fat quarters and shivered a little at the price, but thought about all the amazing things I could with them. At that moment, I glanced up and saw one of the shop's staff in her perky little apron eyeing me. She turned away to greet a woman who had just walked in. I put the bundle back and left.

I'm still baffled by this treatment. Even coming from a rained-out picnic and wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and sandles, I'm pretty sure I don't look destitute, nor like a shoplifter. I wonder if I somehow offended them by allowing my 7-year old, 1/2-Hispanic grandson to accompany me into the store, after gentle reminders not to touch anything. He took one look around, didn't see anything that interested him, and headed back to the car to wait with his Mimi. I wonder if they sensed that I'm a lesbian and that the beloved waiting for me wasn't a DH, but a DP. But most people assume I'm straight, so I really didn't think that was it. I wondered if there was some secret sign I was supposed to have flashed to let them know that I was a fledgling quilter. Mostly, I wondered why I felt snubbed. The only thing I'm certain about is that I won't go back, and that this shop won't be helping divest me of my disposable income for the next several years.

I'm headed this morning to a drawing class I've signed up for. It's in the opposite direction from Round Rock--south to Austin rather than north to Georgetown. I think I'll stop by a different quilt shop on the way home, and see if the natives there are any friendlier.


swooze said...

I am sensitive to how I am treated when I go into shops as well. I totally understand how you feel. There are lots ofother LQS' out there that are happy to have us come to their store!

Sarah said...

I know the feeling. There's only one LQS by me, and after going one time - I'll never go back. Even after I tried engaging a staff member, and asking some questions, it seemed more like I was some kind of disruption to a member's only club. I shop online.

Micki said...

This just amazes me! Aside from the principle of kindness to everyone, wouldn't you think these LQSs (I learned a new acronym!) would be interested in making sure their businesses were the best they could? I'm puzzled.

CalicoDaydreams said...

LQS's are sometimes like that. There is one in my area that always ignored you and you would have to beg for help. They closed down last year... coincidence? I think not.

But please post picture of your melted crayons. I love to shave crayons and melt them on muslin. I use my regular iron and the paper I pull of my fusibles.

Susan said...

I say give the shop a chance, it may have just been that particular clerk -- in my town we are lucky to have three very different quilt shops, my favourite, though is not my favourite during the summer months as the clerks who make me feel most welcome are off on family holidays and I won't be seeing them or talking to them til late in august, so the shop with the really cool fabrics is now my favourite shop -- but the prices are higher so I mostly dream when I go there! Anyway, just try the shop at a different time on a different day of the week, the difference may (or maybe not) surprise you...