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It’s a very unique situation in my neck of the woods when a man goes to the quilt shop to buy fabric for his own projects. It is pretty well accepted if the fabric is upholstery grade and it is going to be used for a seat cover for some old automobile, boat or bike. The other acceptable purpose for a guy to buy fabric is to construct some form or fashion of accessories for hunting or fishing. When you surpass those two examples then it automatically becomes accepted that your wife has sent you to do her bidding and there is a scrap of material in one of your pockets or in your wallet to be matched to the fabric she needs to finish her project. But once that option is also put to rest the true personality and character of the shop starts to shine through. Now for me, I can honestly say that I don’t feel like I have ever been ignored or disrespected in any shop I have been to. In fact, it is usually quite the opposite and I get catered to by the staff and on some occasions, the other customers as well. It usually starts harmlessly with a couple questions like- how, or why did it do this, or simply how do I fix this. Which usually means pictures of projects and of course the vintage machines or treadles and hand cranks driven by the grandsons. I have seen some pretty hardline gender bias grandmas soften up to the music of the treadles and little people. For some reason, it suddenly ceases to be a bad omen if the MAN shopping a WOMAN'S hobby store is passing the experience down to the next generation.
Now back to our LQS’s, The biggest disadvantage I can think of when it comes to shopping most quilt shops is size, most are fairly small and a large quilt shop doesn’t hold a candle to a major big box store. So sometimes they may not have the fabric you need or the needles you want. Maybe they don’t have a certain specialty pattern ruler you need. (Most big box stores won’t handle them either) But I have never been in a quilt shop big or small where they didn’t volunteer to order it for you. Especially if it happens to be from one of the distributors they order from anyway. Try that at a box store. Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying. I am not against Big Box stores when I am purchasing miscellaneous utilities and standard daily operations. But the atmosphere of the box store doesn’t compare to that in a smaller shop. Sometimes the fabric may be a few cents higher per yard than a box store matching the same pattern and quality. I have never found the same fabric in both of my LQS’s nor have I ever found the same fabric at a box store regardless the cost. Look-alike fabrics yes they can match sometimes, but the quality of the cloth isn’t always the same and I know the quality of the fabric from my LQS is worth the pennies spent for the years added service.
No, I am not snobbish, and it certainly is not my intention to put anyone down about where they shop or how much they spend. Where I live it is actually cheaper for me to buy fabric costing a couple bucks more a yard then it is for me to drive to the cheaper priced fabric. When we combine the basic economics with the camaraderie and friendship acquired during the last couple of years it would only be natural to prefer to spend money closer to home and with people who we have made a personal bond with. Over the years I have had special needles ordered for my vintage machines, special feet, bobbin cases and just recently a hand wheel for a hard to find vintage machine for a colleague my wife works with. The prices of these extra effort utilities have always been right in line with the prices I see online for the same exact items and sometimes even cheaper. By ordering through my LQS it not only helps me to gain access to distributors I can’t buy from because I don’t have enough volume to make it profitable for them to deal with me. It also helps my LQS to grow and increase their marketability by broadening their purchasing platform. I’m not saying all quilt shops are operated the same way. But if you find yourself needing miscellaneous parts or odd size needles it might be an advantage for you to talk with your local shops and find out who they order their notions from. Generally, the distributors can then be looked up online. Often they will have catalogs showcasing their product along with the part # and stock #. It’s been my experience with that information most shop owners will readily add your needs to the order even if they have no idea what it is or what it does.
Some of you have undoubtedly already tried this concept so it may seem like lame words to you. I hope you have as good of luck with your LQS as we have had with ours. Some of you may not have thought of your LQS as a source for anything other than the routine quilting needs. Its ok I did the same thing until someone shared this thought process with me. Now it’s my turn to share it with someone else.
Until next time, There is something to be learned every day, the lesson may be (never want to do that again) it is still a lesson.
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