Raising the ire of a sewing blogger, two years after the fact

Catchy title, no? I was thinking of “Defending JoAnn’s” but ultimately decided against it. This feels much more undergrad poetry class to me (in case you’re wondering, I was once involved in an exercise where we had to assign new titles to poems and most of them were as horribly contrived and just plain bad as my title here).

I hadn’t originally intended to write a new blog entry today, despite pleas (well, not a plea, really. More like a gentle request via text) from a friend. My excuse was that I still hadn’t remembered to grab my con report notes while flying out the door on the way to work. I had already written one non-con report blog entry. I couldn’t very well write another one after promising that the next one would cover all the happenings at Shore Leave 31, could I?

Apparently I could.

I decided to pop on to Blogger and check the dashboard on my account. I don’t know why they call it that. I don’t think of Blogger as a car, and that’s really the only thing that I can think of when I hear the word “dashboard.” But I digress. Although I like to peruse random sewing blogs I only subscribe to two at the moment: Newman’s Needle – which is updated much less often than the other one but I actually prefer to read – and The Sewing Divas. I looked up the post that had been put up on Sewing Divas about five days ago (“Hemming stitch by hand”). I perused the entry and then decided to click on a link to one of the other blogs that the writers of Sewing Divas suggested.

I was shunted over to a blog called Mondo Mode. ** little side note here…as you can tell, I’ve finally discovered how to enact links in the blog entries. I believe I warned you all that I’m crap with technology!**

Mondo Mode doesn’t appear to be posted to anymore, but the older posts are still up. I wasn’t terribly impressed with most of what I saw. I kind of got a “holier-than-thou” vibe from it. At least in regards to the world of sewing. The entry that really cemented this dated back to early February 2007 and referenced an article written by a woman who wrote for the New York Times.

Now, I can get behind the emotions and experiences of the New York Times writer, who was just then discovering the joys of sewing. I’ve had that type of experience myself and have seen it happen to other people who had previously not believed it would be something they enjoy doing. Clearly the world of sewing is something that interests me. I don’t know many people who would devote an entire blog to a topic they find boring or meaningless. The article describes, to a certain degree, some of what makes sewing such a fulfilling hobby. You end up with something that is uniquely yours. Even if it’s made from a pattern, you are the one who made it. There’s something wonderful about watching something go from a pattern and a pile of fabric to a completed project that you can use.

The thing that really bothered me about Mondo Mode’s response to the article was the following:

While some of us more sophisticated sewing enthusiasts can hardly argue with her mentions of Clotilde and Reprodepot, why on earth would she devote her last paragraph to Joanne’s?
We hope that Michelle’s path to sewing excellence will carry her quickly past Joanne’s and onward to Emmaonesock, Textile Studio, or Timmel Fabrics.

After reading the above quote I wanted to find something large, heavy and supposedly “sophisticated” to hurl at the writer’s head. Like a Bernina. That would do. Of course, my desire to commit heinous crimes with what is essentially the sportscar of sewing machines probably goes a long way towards proving that I am not one of the “sophisticated sewing enthusiasts” to which Ms. MondoMode refers. And I’m pretty okay with that.

I hopped over to the sites that the blogger suggested (I’ll have to spend longer than a few minutes over on Clotilde and Reprodepot than I did for this entry) and wasn’t much impressed with them. I’m sure most folks who visit Emmaonesock are suitably impressed, but I was more “eh” towards my findings. I prefer to see actual fabric, to run it over my hand and feel the drape and weave and so forth, in order to “see” it being used for a project. I’m definitely very much about the feel of a product, and that’s just not something you can gauge through an online store. Furthermore, the pictures on the site didn’t do a whole lot to push the lushness of the fabrics.

Textile Studio has since done away with their fabric selection and their patterns all look like something I swear I’ve seen people wearing in films made in the 80s (and I believe we all know by now what I think of most 80s fashion).

Timmel Fabrics isn’t even a functioning site anymore.

Joann’s, however, is ever expanding and, if you absolutely have to do your shopping online, rather than in an actual store, with actual people, you can order from them as well.

I think what irks me most about that statement is the italics she’s used when she types “Joann’s” the first time. You can almost hear the contempt and see the sneer as you read.

Now, I’m not saying that Joann’s is on par with something like, say, G Street Fabrics. It’s not. If you’re out there looking for huge rolls of fabric, like we’re so used to seeing in filler scenes of Project Runway, one would usually not opt for Joann’s. That’s not to say, however, that Joann’s has no redeeming qualities, especially when you take into account the context of the original article. The piece is being written by a woman who is returning anew to the world of sewing, after having had a disasterous initial entry during her youth. She is just now learning about all the tools and techniques that are out there. She hadn’t even though people used bodkins anymore! (Of course, I usually just use a bent piece of floral wire to pull elastic through — reaffirming my status as an unsophisticated sewing lout)

If this woman had wandered into the notions and tools section of my G Street Fabrics she would most likely have been so overwhelmed that she would turn right around and forget about her new obsession. Those walls and racks of missellanea can produce a bit of panic. How will you ever find what you’re looking for, amidst all the offerings? Plus, I’ve noticed that places like G Street and my local quilt shop offer a smaller selection of tools for a much higher price. If you are just getting started in sewing and don’t yet know if you really need or will use said tools, then the lower prices and bigger selections offered at Joann’s can definitely help.

Sometimes you just need a little piece of fabric for a lining, or maybe some fancy buttons to finish a coat. Instead of waiting around for at least a week for your hoity-toity box to arrive in the mail, you can hop in the car and head to a wonderland of fabric and doodads nearby. There are three Joann’s locations within a 20 minute drive of my house. When you’re just a half-step away from finishing another project, that’s a wonderful blessing.

Although it was the obviously higher-end G Street that initially affirmed my devotion to sewing, Joann’s has been the one that has nursed me through my early years. I’ve come to know a number of the people who work at the JoAnn’s over in Burke (my sewing home away from home). Some of them even keep tabs on the projects I’m working on. The majority of my projects are made with fabric that has come from this wonderful store, and they turn out just fine. The dress my sister wore to her friend’s wedding (she was the matron of honor) was made of fabric purchased at JoAnn’s, as was the “mock-up” I made for her, in a beautiful blue and brown knit print. That reminds me, I need to get photos of those two dresses. Although I tend to come across one or two people who have no idea what they are doing on each trip to JoAnn’s, I’ve also met a number of talented, sophisticated sewers. They clearly get joy out of what they do. And even the people who sit there with thirteen different bolts of busy fabric, asking which one would be best for little boy room curtains (and, inevitably, asking how much they should get) have the potential to become the next ____(insert name of favorite high end designer here)___

So, what lesson do we learn from today’s blog? First, don’t assume that people who visit Joann’s are, in some way, less than those who shop snooty online stores. Second, understand that, when starting out, Joann’s is going to be an obvious starting place for most sewers. Third, and most importantly, don’t put JoAnn’s name in italics and imply that sewing excellence is not to be found inside its doors.

If you do, you might just find a very large, very shiny, very heavy Bernina flying towards your head.

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