Working at a Fabric Store

Confession…quilting doesn’t pay the bills yet, but I am still hoping!  In the meantime, I have a part time job at a local shop.  3 days a week, I am the friendly face you see behind the cutting table, ready to help in the stash acquisition phase of your project!  Here are some funny things that I see while working at a fabric store.

pixabay stock photo fabric

Do you make any money?

The number one question that people ask is how I can take a paycheck home when I am surrounded by fabric. Doesn’t it get spent right away? Probably the same answer that the ice cream store clerks might give you, “I’ve built up immunity.”  Just kidding! My trick is that I only work while my daughter is in school, so I am usually rushing out the door for carpool duty at the end of my shift. No time for shopping!

Is it boring?

No, rather than getting bored, I’d have to admit it can be OVER-stimulating to see all the wonderful new lines of fabric and start dreaming of new projects.  All I have to do is grab half a dozen bolts of fabric, planning to cut fat quarters, and that will guarantee a line forms at my cutting table.  But truly, I prefer to cut a multitude of eighth yard pieces for a customer than try to occupy myself tidying bolts for the seventy-third time.

Biggest Surprise Working at a Fabric Store?

Shoplifters!  Really, who does that?  I want to believe that quilters are the best of humanity, but I suppose there are all kinds of people, honest and dishonest, in any group.  I was shocked the first time I found an empty bolt shoved behind other fabric, in a totally different area, and my co-workers told me that someone must have taken whatever was left. Granted, this is a large store and the shelves are set up sort of like cubicles so we don’t have line-of-sight over all the merchandise.  But still, I wish people would just do the right thing, even when no one is looking!

Do you get paid to sew if you are working in a fabric store?

This may be true in some shops, but in my case, I am just a clerk.  I stock and re-stock fabric, provide basic customer assistance and cut fabric for customers.  There is an employee who quilts on location in the shop – she gives lessons on the longarm and quilts samples in-store sometimes.  As employees, we can make samples for display but that is done on our own time at home.  And truthfully, I have a huge UFO list so I don’t volunteer for that task!

Best part of working in a fabric store

The best part of working in a fabric store is FABRIC!!!  Even though I don’t take much home with me at the moment, I am inspired every day.  I love helping customers find just the right fabric for their project, especially if they are trying to match something and I can suggest a fabric that makes their eyes light up.

Hopefully, you have a local quilt store in your area that has friendly, helpful staff and provides inspiration and education on your quilting journey.

Related Post: Shop Hop Guide

Plan your next Shop Hop!

Next week, I am taking a road trip with my quilting friends.  The quilt shops in our area are hosting a Shop Hop, an event that is common all across the country.  Since I am on a strict budget, I need to plan for a shop hop!

flyer for maricopa county shop hop 2016

What is a Shop Hop?

First, let me explain the basics.  Shop hopping is a day of visiting related stores. Many times shop owners will coordinate a specific period of shopping, plan special events and giveaways, and offer prizes to people who stop at every participating store. When you begin, you are typically invited to purchase a “passport” that will be marked at every shop. A full passport becomes your raffle entry for a grand prize.  I was lucky enough years ago to win a store’s raffle basket with wonderful fabrics that I turned into my Sedona Stars quilt.  quilt made from shop hop fabrics

Plan for a Shop Hop

As much fun as a full day of quilt store shopping sounds, it can be depressing when you are on a limited budget.  I want to support small business and independent store owners, so I always try to make a purchase at every stop.  Knowing that I have to make smart purchases I created this plan for a shop hop.

Tip # 1 – Think about your future projects

Are you starting a new quilt?  Is your UFO pile growing because you need borders or backing fabric?

unfinished quilts

Start your shopping list with fabric.  Be sure to include specific colors, sizes and those special designers and fabric collections that you have been drooling over in your Instagram feed!

If you are a scrappy quilter and have a sufficient stash, think about supplementing with colorful pre-cuts.  One of my local stores has a scrap bin near the register and I always find delightful fabrics in fabulous color combinations.

Tip #2 – Inventory the basics

Take a look at your notions.  Thread is a necessity, so put those basic colors on your shopping list.  I generally piece with a beige or grey but you may need bright colors for an upcoming project.  Are you working with bent pins? Treat yourself to a new box of straight pins.  Having fresh, sharp tools makes preparing your quilt pieces so much easier.  Stock up on new rotary cutter blades now!  Don’t overlook your sewing machine – grab some needles while you are in the notions aisle.


Tip #3 – Shop for Gifts and Souvenirs

A shop hop is the perfect time to grab some gifts for your crafty friends.  Many shops have items such as notepads, pincushions, bobbin holders and scissor fobs that make lovely and useful gifts for fellow quilters and sewists.

shop hop books gifts shop-hop-books-gifts

If you are far from home and want a souvenir, look for local patterns and fabric.  The recent Row-by-Row Experience with the coordinating fabric license plates are fun to collect.  Books make wonderful gifts so make a list of titles for yourself or others.  The coloring craze is in full swing and designers are on board with coloring books featuring quilting designs and full quilt layouts.

So, are you ready to plan a shop hop with your quilting friends?  Be sure to download the planning guide and make notes about the fabric, books, notions and gifts you are interested in.  Drive safely and have fun shop-hopping! I’d love to hear about your crafty road trips so please tell me about your adventures.