Friday, September 26, 2014

At the fabric store, we're just people.

Hello and happy Poetry Friday! Please visit Laura at Writing the World for Kids for Roundup.

I've written here before about the power of quilts, and how some of my favorite childhood memories involve the late-night hum of a sewing machine and day trips to the fabric store with my mother. I love the rainbowed walls, the pattern books that make even the most fancy dress accomplishable, so long as you follow the steps -- and the cutters, who always ask and what you're making and genuinely care about your answer.

I still love all those things, and more and more, I am aware of how sewing is both inspiring and unifying, and is an art form that needs to be preserved. And now, this poem from BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson:

the fabric store
- from BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson

Some Fridays, we walk to downtown Greenville where
there are some clothing stores, some restaurants,
a motel and the five-and-dime store but
my grandmother won't take us
into any of those places anymore.
Even the five-and-dime, which isn't segregated now
but where a woman is paid, my grandmother says,
to follow colored people around in case they try to
steal something. We don't go into the restaurants
because they always seat us near the kitchen.
When we go downtown,
we go to the fabric store, where the white woman
knows my grandmother
from back in Andersons, asks,
How's Gunnar doing and your girls in New York?
she rolls fabric out for my grandmother
to rub between her fingers.
They discuss drape and nap and where to cinch
the waist on a skirt for a child.
At the fabric store, we are not Colored
or Negro. We are not thieves or shameful
or something to be hidden away.
At the fabric store, we're just people.


  1. I loved this, too. Although I don't sew (at all) I can see how the language of sewing is a unifying one - as it was in this lovely scene from Brown Girl Dreaming.

  2. The book is wonderful, and I can see your connection to this, Irene. Many in my family were quilters, and my mother sewed nearly all my clothes. I remember going with her to choose fabric for a new dress, exciting. Thanks for reminding us of those memories with Jacqueline Woodson's poem.

  3. There used to be four fabric stores in town. Now there is only one and it is crammed full of beads and jewelry and other items totally unrelated to sewing. It is something that should be preserved. I remember how I loved being fitted for a new dress by my mother's friend who sewed for me. I did learn myself and made many of my clothes as a teen and college student. But I have my daddy's propensity for easing the ends a bit. Not worrying that something didn't quite match up. Not a good thing when you're making a dress! Haven't done much sewing in years, but I do appreciate someone who does.

  4. Wow. Brings back memories of fabric store trips with my mother, though we did not have to face the challenges faced in this poem.
    Must get this new book! Thanks for sharing.

  5. I have this book on my shelf but haven't read it yet. I need to read it asap.

  6. Lovely poem. So anxious to read this book!

  7. This is lovely! Even though I only do minimal sewing, wandering around the fabric store is a treat. I can't wait to read this book--thanks for the peek:>) PS Your link is in the bottom Mr. Linky (which I can't get rid of!). But I asked people to link in the top one, and yours is only in the bottom. So you pry haven't had that many visitors. I'm going to go add it to the top Mr. Linky. Sorry for the confusion...

  8. I used to sew as a teen, and my daughter started to sew in her early teens (now mostly for strange cos-plays...) I can see how a common creative interest like sewing builds bridges between people so that they are no longer seen as "other." Love the vivid details in this--putting it on my to read list!

  9. I have an old machine, but I wish I was much better at sewing. Knitting is more up my alley, though I don't do that often enough anymore either. Still love the thrill of creative possibility when walking into a yarn store or fabric store, though! Thank you for sharing Woodson's poem, Irene-- so moving.

  10. So much to love about this book, isn't there?!?

  11. Woodson is one of my favorite authors of all time. Brown Girl Dreaming is on my TBR looking forward to this book. =)

  12. I can smell the store in that poem. I sewed a lot when my girls were young. I learned to smock. I made one quilt during that time. I keep thinking the day will come back, but my sewing machine is sitting in a closet, alone. I loved Brown Girl Dreaming and want to read it again.


Your thoughts?