Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Haberdashery Snobbery...

Here's a little secret...

I - Nicole Cleary - get intimidated when I go into haberdashery stores.

It's true.

Yesterday was no exception. As I stepped into a new store that has opened up near me - one with some lovely unique fabrics and essential bits and pieces - I slid a sideways glance at the elderly saleswomen, merchandising the accessory wall to which I was headed. I've been into this store a few times, and normally nobody pays me any attention. No 'hi, how are you', no 'can I help you's'... nothing.

But today the store was empty. And I was standing right in front of where the women were working. Really, they had no choice but to acknowledge my existence. They asked if I needed any help.

And I was forced to admit that I did. I explained I'd snapped a sewing machine needle 'again' and needed some new ones. The women clucked in disapproval. 'That should never happen', they said. It should only be happening if I'm not sewing right. Or I didn't know how to use my machine. Or I wasn't changing the needle enough to begin with. One of the ladies suggested I attend sewing classes.

I responded with my interest in attending a class, but explained I had two small children and that committing to such a thing throughout the day time was pretty difficult. 'You wouldn't want my children in the store', I joked, to which the saleswomen replied "no, I certainly wouldn't!" without a hint of a joke in the tone of her voice.

So, ok then.

This is not an isolated incident. Walking into fabric stores always has me feeling akin to Julia Roberts in Pretty Women (but without the 'shit hot Lotus'). I nervously wander about; examining new fabrics and colours and patterns but rarely am I ever spoken to by a sales assistant unless I am at the counter purchasing something. My questions are often received with barely disguised disdain and a mild sense of distrust, as though I am going to be using the 10 metres of elastic I have just asked for for sinister purposes. When I asked for such a thing yesterday the lady asked me straight out what it was for before she started cutting, in the tone of voice that insinuated once I told her I was going to realise I needed 10cm instead of metres.

In case you don't know, I run a surprisingly successful business these days - one that requires hours and hours of sewing every week. I am no stranger to my machine, and though I don't profess to know it all, I certainly know my way around a rotary cutter.

But it shouldn't matter, should it? Whether I have 10 years or 10 minutes experience, shouldn't I be treated the same?

Why then, do I feel like there's such unabashed snobbery in these haberdashery stores?

Am I exaggerating? What has your experience been in these stores?? Do share...


  1. I feel exactly the same!

    Some of the woman in these shops are so rude when you admit that you are not using their fabrics for quilting..

    I haven't been anywhere except for spot light lately.. It's much less daunting!

  2. So, it's not just me.
    And not just because I seriously have zero skill base (which I assumed was stamped on my forehead upon entry).
    I want you to respond with - "oh, I'm Nicole Cleary, no doubt you've heard of my work?"
    :-) xx

  3. Nicole, if you're talking about the store I think you're talking about, I was about to pay a visit tomorrow. Funnily enough!! I got all excited when I saw some women with branded bags last week and asked where this new shop was! Me?? Asking about a sewing shop? Anyway, they sound a snooty lot. And I don't like snooty people. Maybe we ought to go in together and giggle and act like 'our children' in the corner somewhere....

  4. This is so funny Nicole, because I have been having the EXACT same experiences for the past couple of weeks, every time I go into Lincraft. In fact the other day, I was even forced to mutter to myself a wise crack about "the old biddies" giving me the eye. Doesn't help that I always have either one or both of my boys in tow. My youngest always insists on having a scream and Mr4 enjoys playing hide and seek where he shouldn't.
    BUT when I reach the register with a whole swag of supplies, they quickly change their mood acting very interested in what I am making etc etc...
    So glad to hear that it's not just my paranoia in those shops xo

  5. My local is the opposite. They have a doll house, toys and books and over the years have given my kids badges, buttons and fat quarters as little treasures when we leave.
    They are so very friendly and have taught me heaps through the advice that they give when I am in there. And consequently I have invested a small fortune into their business...but don't tell my husband.
    Last year I did a quilting course and had an issue with some babysitters and school/kinder pickups. They were more than happy for my 3 kids (4-9yrs) to hang out and 'help' them in the shop for 90 minutes while I finished the course. (The kids where given the very stern "you will behave or I will have you for breakfast" lecture).
    Maybe I am very lucky ???
    I hope can you find a better shop.

  6. OMG!!! I a so glad I'm not the only one!!!! PHEW!! Now that I have the fellow support of the haberdashery fearers anonymous I will remember this post and all you other ladies who suffer with me...and next time i visit a store...I WILL be smiling!! xo

  7. I know exactly what you're talking about! There is a massive habdash store next to my local spotlight and to compete they must have purposely decided to go against the grain and really focus on customer service - as opposed to every other habdash store I'd previously been into, they are incredibly helpful and go out of their way to make everyone welcome. Needless to say they absolutely carve it up and poo all over spotlight. I've even gone in there to get instructions on how to re-thred my over locker and walked out with appointments for free lessons.if only they were all like that!

  8. Given that it's a Pretty Woman situation, maybe you should walk in with a business card and ask them if they work on commission!! :) Seriously though, that's really pretty poor customer service and given everything I keep reading about the continuing downfall of the Australian retail sector, perhaps they need to rethink who they hire in their shops. Come over and visit - there's a gorgeous sewing shop down the street from us . . they even have brunches on the weekends!

  9. Hi Nicole,
    Just want to say how much I enjoy reading your blog, you've given me inspiration to start my own blog. I'm fumbling along at the moment but think it will be lots of fun.
    I'm love reading everyone's comments. Can relate to your experience.

  10. I know how you feel - feel free to read my post about my "local lady"- she must be related to yours!

  11. Hi Nicole - I've just found your blog and have started following! I just love the photos of your home from the Ikea shoot - really beautiful!

    As another local of the Central Coast it's so sad to hear, but I've had similar experiences. I now say loudly 'I can find better quality online and for a much better price' to whomever I'm with! This has on occasion been my children (3yrs & 1yrs), but the point is still made!

  12. My mom actually goes to fabric stores sometimes to hang out with her friends. She calls it fabric fun Sundays.



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