Teaching Teens to Love Sewing – NOT!

How to discourage teens from sewing

Several days ago and as I often do on a Sunday afternoon,  I made a trip to JoAnn Fabrics to purchase tulle for the flower girl dresses I’m sewing.  This was the second type of tulle I’ve purchased, but that’s another story.   While waiting to have the tulle cut I witnessed the most disappointing scene.  Nearly frantic and obviously overwhelmed by the experience of being in a fabric store, a mother and her teen-age daughter came to the cutting table to ask for assistance.  With a photocopied shopping list in hand it was clear that the mother and daughter were shopping for fabric and notions for a sewing class.

As usual for a Sunday afternoon, there were 2 clerks at the cutting counter and not another staff member to be found anywhere in the store.  Already having waited 15 minutes I was holding “number 59”, the ticker was well past 70 and every person in line patiently waited with a cart full of fabric to be cut.    By now you have the picture.

Frantic mother: “Is there someone who can help me find fabric.  I’ve never been in a fabric store before.”

Teen: Embarrassed, she split to another more teen-friendly area of the store.

Employee: “You’ll need to take a number and stand in line.”

Frantic mother (looking around for assistance):  “I’ll need to wait forever – I don’t even know where to start.”

Me: “I’m just standing in line – is there some way I can help?”

Mother: “My daughter is making a backpack for her class but I have no idea what type of fabric to buy”

Clerk: “Number 59”

Another customer: “I’ll be waiting for a long time – let me show you where the denim fabrics are.”

Customer service aside, isn’t it so sad that the stores who should be creating their future don’t have staff who have either the time or the interest to advance sewing and assist those who will be their future customers?  What if this mother and teen had a positive experience?  Maybe the daughter would have enjoyed sewing and would have become one of us “crazies’ who love to spend time in a fabric store?


3 thoughts on “Teaching Teens to Love Sewing – NOT!

  1. I often think it’s I good thing I know my way around a fabric store because I would get absolutely NO HELP for the associates at my local JoAnn. I usually do what you did – offer to help the frantic shopper. Recently, I had a very nice encounter with a woman, about my age, who was just beginning to learn to sew and needed help selecting a skirt pattern. I felt satisfaction from encouraging a newbie. It’s sad employees don’t (or can’t) take the opportunity to feel that same satisfaction.

  2. What a difference there is between yarn and fabric stores. I wonder how things would be if more fabric stores were locally owned. Local yarn stores tend to be well staffed and inviting, with employees who will spend a lot of time trying to help customers find the right yarn. We do have a boutique fabric store nearby with a personal atmosphere more like the yarn shops. They even post pictures of customers’ finished work by the cash register! Very different from the larger, fluorescent-lit fabric stores in which I spent so much of my childhood.

    It is good to see that some teenagers are still learning to sew. I know several people in their 30s who don’t know how to knot thread. I think of basic sewing (buttons, simple mending) as a life skill, but more and more school districts are losing funding for the programs that teach those skills.

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