Rediscovering the Thrill of the Hunt

I realized something this past November while stomping around San Francisco, trying to hit as many fabric shops as I possibly could.

I miss the hunt.  

It’s been 23 years since my boyfriend-now-husband-of-20-years told me I needed a productive hobby. All of my pursuits were academic, and he saw that I could use a creative outlet.  I had given up sewing in high school when friends made fun of my clothing designs (hey, now!  Those harem pants looked GOOD in terry cloth!!) and I hadn’t thought about it much until he presented me with an inexpensive little Kenmore sewing machine and set me on my way.

And the hunt began.  I began to quilt.  And collect fabric.  And collect fabric.  And collect fabric.  What started out as a shelf or two in my tiny apartment linen closet has become an entire storage room, plus every available inch of closet space plus a good quarter of our family room–and that’s just the boxes of fabric.  I’m beginning to eye the house for sale two doors down thinking it might just be time to expand a little . . .

But back-story aside, things have changed a lot in the past 23 years.  For one thing,  Bright yellow.  All I ever used to desire was bright yellow.  Back then, you could not find a sunshine-colored quilting fabric to save your life.  Highly saturated colors were difficult to come by, and some quilt shops even balked at providing high-end or designer fabrics (Jinny Beyer, for instance) because they didn’t want to have to sell anything for more than $5 a yard.  We were living in Calico City, Baby!

No one shop ever seemed to carry an entire line in all colorways, so it was a real adrenaline rush to go on a road trip to a far-away shop, or stop by when you happened to pass a shop you never knew existed.  There were always fun discoveries in fabric.  Picking through the bolts, you might find a couple that you thought might just go with that one purple you bought last Spring when you were driving through Ohio . . .  I never understood how anyone could walk into a single store and be satisfied to put together only the selections available there to make a quilt.  For me, there was always one more fabric I could find to fit in any given quilt design–and it was out there, somewhere.  I used to be able to tell you exactly where I purchased each piece!  I still can with some of my older fabrics.  

And then–many years later–the internet came on the scene.  And it was wonderful in its own pink-cheekedness!  Some of the early shops (still missing Pinetree Quiltworks) online aren’t around anymore, and some of them went on to Brick-and-Mortar greatness as well as their online presence.  The hunt took on a different pace–the pace of a dial-up connection-trying-to-load-graphics (anyone remember r.c.t.q?)!  Ah, such fun.  Click enter, go do the dishes, and come back to the computer when you think the page might be done loading (go, Gopher!)!  New social opportunities also arose with quilting Listservs.  Best friends were made (take a bow, Mrs. Schmenkman!), road trips and meet-ups with online friends to visit their favorite quilt shops took place.  International quilting visitors welcome!

And the fabric collection expanded.  So did the sewing machine collection.  And moved from state to state to state–all with love and support from He-Who-Pays-the-Bills.  And the internet got faster and more populated by brilliant web designers who specialized in selling fabrics.  And by quilt shop owners who had the smarts to strut their stuff.  Now the huntress, she is getting a little lazy and shopping in her silkies with a glass of pinot grigio at her side–not that there’s anything wrong with that!  

And while I adore combing local shops,  I now live in a place that has very few small shops, so it’s just easier to browse online.  And the full-line designer accessibility that Moda began is sooooo easy.  (A nod to The Cotton Club, who started out online waaaay back selling just charm packs.)  And beautiful!  And what could be easier than following that link in the shop email I signed up for?  Oh, UPS man, how I love thee!    

But this last fall reminded me of the rush a huntress gets when the smell of the sizing hits her as she walks through the door of the quilt shop.  Lugging bolts under her arms as she stalks around the shelves, looking for a perfect coordinating fuschia dot to go with that gold and purple flower, discovering that maybe she does need to add to her collection of grays . . . the hunt is good!

So I have concluded that while I love the jellyrolls, layer cakes, charm packs, and all those other beautifully presented collections offered up by the designers and fabric companies, I’d like to get back to my fabric hunting roots.  I’ll likely keep buying the charms and fat quarter bundles when it suits me, but I’m going to focus my efforts on hunting down that next perfect piece of fabric wherever I go.

The irony is not lost on me that my best hunting grounds right now might just be located in my own house.  It’s pretty sad how memory is failing me–but each trip into the storage room brings me new joy at re-discovering the perfect fabric that I already own.

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2 Responses to “Rediscovering the Thrill of the Hunt”

  1. Garen Says:

    The Hunt is good! Oh and really, really fun!

  2. Claire Says:

    Well, after you briefly noted this in your presentation at St. E, I had to go back and read it. (BTW I enjoyed the presentation–been thinking of blogging, but not started yet.)

    I love the hunt. I have studiously resisted buying preselected bundles with the exception of bundles of fat quarters in near shades when I need a great variety. I have resisted charm packs, jelly rolls, layer cakes and even fabric lines.

    I’d rather do it all by myself, like any self respecting three-year-old. LOL. Picking out the fabrics is half the fun.

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