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Sewing 101: Lesson 0

Updated on April 25, 2016

So you've decided to start sewing. Great! There are all kinds of great things you can learn to make for yourself, someone you love or even just to sell.

What's the next step? I suppose you could go into your nearest fabric store and just wander around until inspiration strikes. Or maybe you could haunt Pinterest (it's okay. We all spend too much time there). One way or another, let's say you find the perfect pattern and the perfect fabric. You take it up to the counter and ask the girl to cut you five yards.

But there aren't five yards there. This is a perfect chance to exhibit your skills before you ever get to the sewing machine.

This post is going to be all about etiquette in a fabric store though a great deal of it shall apply to any store you go into, really.

Dos and don'ts of being a good customer:

Do have some idea what you're looking for. If you want to make a horse themed backpack for your niece who loves horses, understand that not every store has the same things. You might have to go to several places or else online. If your objective is a bit more general or has more wiggle room, then you probably don't need to research anything before you go to the store.

Do NOT get annoyed when you can't find that just perfect fabric. There is a perfect fabric out there. Again, you might have to go to several places. If you are an old hand at sewing, you will probably still find something to inspire you at the store you're in. If you're a newbie, look at some of the cheap fabric. If you're trying something difficult, you might want to make a mock-up before you commit to the fabric that you really want (the fabric that's $10 a yard as opposed to the simple cotton that's $5 a yard).

Do ask an associate for help. It's what they're there for.

Do NOT get annoyed with the associate when they cannot help you how you want. Some people have trouble describing what they're looking for. That is where the internet comes in handy. Find a picture and take it in. If the associate helping you isn't sure what you're talking about and you don't have a picture, politely ask to speak with another. Usually there will be someone who either knows what you're talking about or can help you find something similar.

Do know what you're making. Even if it's only an idea. Most fabric stores have pattern books that can give you an idea what you're doing and what you could need for it.

Do NOT guess on fabric. Unless you WAY overestimate. You don't want to come back and find that the store is out of the fabric. If you don't know exactly how much you need, look at a pattern or ask the associate to hold the fabric for you. Most places can hold the fabric for twenty four hours while you figure out what you might need. If you need more, big stores like Hancock fabrics and Joann's will offer special orders. If you're not sure, ask.

Do have an idea of dimensions. If you're recovering dining room chairs, don't simply tell the associate that they're standard sized. If there is a ruler on hand (there should be) indicate about how big the chair cushions are. From that, the associate can give you a better idea and won't sell you more than you need.

And finally ASK QUESTIONS. If you only have one or two, associates can usually answer them even if they are busy with something else. If you need help finding something, or you think you might have a lot of questions, ask if there is someone that can help you and give a general idea what you need help with (ie. reading a pattern, picking out a fabric for a prom dress, how to properly use a zipper foot). This will help the associates know who might be best equipped to help you. That way they don't send someone who's never used interfacing to help you pick some out.

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