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Apr 3, 2016

The State of Home Sewing 2016 -- What's Your Perspective?



If you haven't heard already, the Hancock Fabrics chain, with more than 250 stores in 39 American states, is closing.

That's a pretty large chunk of American fabric stores to lose all at once.  I had never been to a Hancock's -- they weren't in NYC -- and I imagine it as something akin to a JoAnn Fabric, with lots of quilting cotton, fleece, and craft kits and not much focus on garment sewing, but it's still sad news to me.

The announcement made me wonder where we stand in 2016 with regard to home sewing.  I often hear that sewing is experiencing a resurgence.  I can't say I'm aware of any dramatic change happening in the seven years I've been sewing.  I'm heartened by the success of the UK's Great British Sewing Bee, which has completed three seasons, but discouraged that there wasn't enough interest in a stateside version (albeit one where the competitive element was hyped up, a la Project Runway) to make a go of it here.  (I suspect the British are culturally more craft-oriented than we Americans.)

My perspective on sewing is skewed because I live a stone's throw from the Garment District.  We've seen some store closings since 2009 -- most notably Greenberg & Hammer and most recently, Chic Fabrics -- but things seem relatively stable.  The store I know best, Mood Fabrics, seems to be thriving and has recently added sewing classes and expanded their notions department.

Still, more and more cookie-cutter sliver hotels are squeezing out the old factory buildings, and there are more cute coffee bars opening in spaces that used to house fabric stores.  When manufacturing can't afford to stay in the Garment District, fabric and notions stores will close -- it's inevitable.  (NYC has been experiencing a dramatic increase in chain stores of all kinds in the last decade or so, from 7-Eleven to Forever 21, as well as rising commercial rents across the board.)

What I wouldn't give to be able to step back in time and shop at a Singer sewing store!

I don't know what's going on in your part of the country or the world, but I'd love to hear your own perspective.  One thing I know is that, thanks to the internet, passionate individual sewers are able to find each other and share their excitement and expertise.  No one with online access has to feel like they're the only one they know who sews.  There are certainly more independent online pattern companies than there have been in the past, or so it seems.

With so many brick and mortar fabric stores closing -- due to either lack of a large enough sewing community to support them or inability to compete with online stores -- in-store fabric shopping seems to be going the way of in-store book shopping.   I think it's easier to shop for books online, however, because you don't have to touch a book or see how it drapes or wonder whether the color is accurately represented on your computer screen.  Plus, even if there are no book stores, there are still libraries.  There are no fabric-store equivalents to libraries that I can think of.

In closing, a few questions:

What's going on in your corner of the planet with regard to home sewing?

Do you sense an upsurge of interest, a dwindling of interest, or are things pretty much status quo?

Home sewing, 2016 --what's your take?

148 comments:

  1. I'm in Austin, TX so I definitely have alternatives to Hancock but it was one of my favorite places to shop- I preferred it to Joann's. Since I'm in a larger city we also have some fun independent fabric stores- but of course they are more expensive and don't have the range of fabrics that I need. I used to live in a much tinier town and the only fabric store, which is Hancocks, was 40 miles away! Now my friends who still live there are super bummed they will have NO fabric store. I'm with you on the online thing- I've bought fabric online, but you're never 100% sure what you're going to get. It has made me sad about the state of home sewing. Definitely worth discussing.

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  2. I've seen this coming for a long time. Most suburban or semi-rural areas where I've lived have only had three choices for fabrics: Hancock's, JoAnn's, or Wal-Mart. Over the past ten years or more I've watched them shift away from fabrics for garment sewing and toward quilting, crafting, and home decor.

    When I learned to sew (in the early 80s) it was still cheaper to sew my own clothes than to buy them. Now that's not the case at all. People will still learn to sew in order to make nicer clothes that are more to their tastes, or that fit better. But that kind of boutique sewing urge just isn't going to support the big chains of fabric stores the way our mothers' and grandmothers' sewing habits did.

    We're lucky that this should happen at the same time as the internet made far-flung fabric and notion sources available to us. Because, though this is a sad development, it would have been a whole lot sadder if we didn't have other options.

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    1. I can remember visiting a fabric store *in the mall* in the early 80s. And it was full of women, buying garment fabric. And if you couldn't sew, the front desk had a list of seamstresses in the area. I remember my mom buying fabric to have sewn up for herself - and for special things, it was indeed cheaper to have it made.

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    2. I remember fabric stores in malls too, although I had forgotten about them until you commented. Ours was called Sew-Fro, I believe and we also had a Piece Goods shop.

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    3. We had a So-Fro, a Minnesota Fabrics, and a JoAnn when I was growing up. I think the JoAnn is still there, but the others went out of business 20 years ago.

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  3. I'm in Austin, as well. The latest issue of Seamwork has a "what to do in Austin" article that lists a couple of fabric stores I didn't even know we had. I do think home sewing is seeing a resurgence, at least, as compared to the state of things over the past 30 years. My understanding is that the availability and variety of quality apparel fabrics is nothing like it used to be (and probably never will be again); however, people are starting to be willing to pay for "Made In The USA" and organic fabrics, and I'm seeing lots more of both on the market than I did even just a few years ago. Local fabric stores, however, are still very limited. I think it's probably a labor of love to own one of those stores - I doubt the profit margin is very high.

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  4. I wonder about this, too, because I feel like there's been a bit of a home sewing backlash lately -- people saying it's too hard, too expensive, takes too long, etc.

    We have a few independent fabric stores here (near Boston), but there's definitely more of a quilting/knitting community.

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  5. I just want to cry! Hancock's is the only fabric store we have in the Tri-cities area (Kingsport-Johnson City-Bristol area in Tennessee and Virginia). Can you imagine? Now I have to travel to Asheville NC (70 miles away) to buy fabrics, notions and patterns. And please don't tell me to go to wallmart or hobbielobby!!!!!!!! I was telling my husband that Hancock's was the place to get my patterns at 99 cents a piece, what are we going to do here? It is so sad...This area of TN is known for quilts, but quilt fabric is not my ideal for sewing clothing. I certainly use online stores, but I love feeling the fabric with my hands and watching how it drapes or moves. I'm so sad.....

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    1. I'm jumping in here without reading the rest of the comments. I haven't time. I live in Bristol, VA Raquel and I feel your pain. Where are we going to go? I watched the pattern sales at Hancock's with my wish list in hand. If I was careful, I almost always could find suitable fabric at Hancock's. Now what? If we just want patterns and notions there are 2 Joann stores in Knoxville and one in Roanoke. The closest one to me is Morganton NC! I can't run to Morganton NC for a navy blue 7 inch heavy duty zipper! My sister and I have been hand wringing since the news broke. We are planning a trip to Kingsport to buy everything we think we'll need for a while and then I guess we'll just wait and see what happens. Maybe something will fill the void. I hope I don't forget that 7 inch navy heavy duty zipper. It's my last chance.

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  6. I live in a somewhat rural area. If I don't want to buy fabric online, my closest options are Walmart and a quilt shop. My next-closest options are about an hour away. In one nearby city I can visit a good all-around fabric store; in another nearby city I can go to a Joann's or a nice store for garment fabric and pay top dollar.
    In the past couple years, my stash has grown a lot. I've learned there are some brands that are reliable enough that I can trust an online purchase; I also like to buy fabric when I travel. I think it makes a great souvenir.

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  7. Having worked at JAF for 13 years (left 1.5 years ago), and having seen it move from a family-owned (with stockholders) business to one owned by a holding company, I can tell you that I don't see a bright future for that particular company. The focus has totally shifted from helping the customer and giving good customer service, to pushing cheaply made craft goods onto the customer and paying them lip service. My local store no longer has sewing experts - we used to have a dozen, and it was the smallest scale format of stores that JAF had. When I stop in to buy stuff, I invariably help customers, and frequently the employees, to find stuff and figure out what they're trying to accomplish. When I was on vacation 1200 miles away, I stopped into a Hobby Lobby, and ended up helping a customer there with an upholstery question, because she wanted to upholster a footstool with burlap, and the employee didn't know how to steer her to a more appropriate fabric. I live in the rural Midwest, and there are no independent garment fabric stores within 70 miles of where I live. I depend on the internet, and co-ops before that, to get my fabric fix, but it's really difficult for the people who don't have my fabric experience to have consistently positive buying experiences that way.

    I've actually given sewing machines to people who have shown an interest in sewing. Rescuing those poor machines that people get rid of and rehoming them is one way that I contribute to keeping the art alive.

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    1. Burlap as an upholstery fabric would be an interesting choice, texture wise I mean. I probably would've suggested that the customer buy some twill or canvas to interline the burlap for durability if they were set on using burlap and not a typical upholstery fabric.

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    2. Hear, hear! I'm the former Education Coordinator for our local store. I quit in December 2015. I was hired probably around the time you left the company. They've rolled out a WHOLE slew of "getting back to good" propaganda and requirements, but at the end of the day, it's not about giving actual good, honest customer service.

      Like you, when I go in to get my own stuff, I generally end up helping either a customer or staff member. I feel your pain.

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  8. i agree that it's having a resurgence -- considering things like the rise of Maker culture, DIY, and the popularity of sites like Craftsy.com -- as well as the popularity of your own site! -- all this shows to me that sewing is back, baby. while i have never heard of Hancock's, it seems to me that they are just succumbing to a combination of the economic downturn from the late 90s, and the larger presence of JoAnne's and Walmart. consider also that younger people into sewing are going to turn to online vendors and amazon for most things.

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  9. I see this development as a consequence of the online shopping. People who buy too much online, should not wonder why in downtown of their cities the stories are closing. We need to bee conscious about this and support our neighbourood/downtow shops.

    Other sad story, some years ago was the closing of "Pearl Paint" in Chinatown NYC, one of the best art supplies story in the world, after 70 years was broken because of online concurrence.

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    1. I did buy at my local fabric store... until I found that the fabric I bought always had a problem holding up- pilling, fading, dye running,smelled like it had been treated for insects. The prices were comparable to Mood and other better quality online stores. The costumer service was meh. Why should I continue supporting my local shop when it does a lousy job?

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  10. I used to work at Jo-Ann's 20+ years ago and have been a sewer for 38 years. I am both happy about all the sewing blogs and communication & cameraderie online, along with fabric stores online & the cosplay folks & re-enactors making their mark enough so that the "Big 4" notice, and I am sad about the closing of Hancock's and many, many, many other smaller fabric shops and the state of home sewing in general.

    1) I think much of this has to do with the problem of "fast fashion" - RTW on the cheap end is so VERY cheap, why would most folks learn to sew? The fact that "fast fashion" depends on the misery and suffering of others only makes this a 1000 times worse. Alas, it is one of the symptoms of corporate business run rampant.

    2) it is rarely taught in school anymore. Back in the day, everybody had to take shop and home ec, so lack of familiarity keeps loads of people away/many people never find out that they enjoy it.

    3) Patriarchy. Definitely a soap-box topic for me, but I'll try to limit the rant to the fact that most of the haute couture designers are men, and most of those whose sew the world over - especially as a hobby or unpaid, are women, and what women do is devalued.

    4) Consumer culture. Every person I know has some story about some item that is commercially made/processed vs. something made at home and how the commercial product is favored over the one done at home (Mac'n'cheese from the box comes to mind). This bias comes at us in so many ways and on so many levels - part of what a wise man I know calls "brutal materialism" - that one is sometimes looked at as insane for wishing to make things with their own hands. No status to be had there...
    4a) if one sews, this "brutal materialism" can often lead to looking for the cheapest fabric online after fondling it in the store, which tends to close the local stores.

    5) corporate consolidation of the major pattern companies. How can this bee good for the consumer? History tells us otherwise.

    I could go on but this topic depresses me. Still, I am very, very happy about all of the wonderful sewing blogging and I am delighted that I can buy silk jersey or whatever online as it was never available - even by special order - at my local shop. I remain hopeful

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    1. I would like to hear more about your point #3....I am coming to similar conclusions myself. Have you watched the documentary on Netflix called, "The True Cost"? It is about the garment industry and factories in other countries and how sacrifices are made on the backs of these peoples in order for Americans to enjoy "fast fashion." There are men in these factories but most are women and have to leave their children...they get paid so very, very little just so that we can have $5 shirts. It's ungodly how much slave labor goes into making our nation's cheap, trendy, throwaway clothing.

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    2. I agree with everything you say! I would add too that the dressing down of Americans has led to lack of interest in quality clothing. When I learned to sew back in the 60s, women (and teen girls too) wore skirt suits all the time. My mom would make woolen ones in winter and linen ones for summer. People dressed up! And people that sewed had tons of great fabric in independent shops to pick from. Take a look at a Vogue Patterns Magazine from the 60s or 70s and you'll see what kind of sewing was going on then! I really feel bad about the whole thing!

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  11. I live in Portland OR which is craft heaven...but I live in the suburbs so I have Joann and then Mill End which is an independent. We also have craft warehouse but their focus is more quilting cotton. If I go into Portland there are a few more options but it's a hike and often expensive. I don't know...it is sad to see independent places closing....it's true across industry though. I hope sewing can keep the stores alive. Bc I love online but it isn't the same.

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    1. I'm also in Portland, but I'm in SE so spend most of my sewing dollars at Fabric Depot. Joanns is a tiny bit closer and I do go there for the pattern sales and 50% off thread and buttons but I just hate their stores because they never have enough help at the cutting counter or the cash register. I've had uneven success with online shopping so prefer not to do it.

      Nancy

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    2. I used to live in Olympia, WA and whenever my daughter had Irish dance competition in Portland, I would stop at Fabric Depot. I really miss having that resource; although I could easily buy online the selection is much smaller.

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  12. I think this will just push more fabric buying online, with its pluses and minuses. If there's a silver lining to the Hancock closings, I hope it will present opportunities for small shop start-ups in those communities. I haven't been to a Hancock's in something like 20 years, but I remember it as being uninspiring - which is not to say that it isn't a loss to so many - but it also seems like a door could be opening. Smaller, more targeted shops could also address the preferences of the (younger) DIY trend in sewing. Through the 1980s, some department stores, even the big ones, used to sell yardage. I don't expect to see that again, but it also says something about how the market shrunk over the decades. But at the same time, I think sewers have become more discerning too.

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  13. I will miss Hancocks. It's where I purchase all my patterns and notions. I may not buy a lot of fabric from them, but I do but maybe a quarter of my sewing needs from Hancocks.

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  14. Here in France there's a renewal. Lots of new fabric stores (on line), new independent fabric editors, new independent pattern editors, one TV show equivalent to The Great sewing bee ( second season on screens last month). During holidays, city hall organises activities for children, and my daughter choose... Sewing! New sewing magazines too (lot of Japanese inspiration). 15 years ago, buying patterns was quite expensive (unless second hand), now there are many books with lots of sewing patterns. You don't have to buy them one by one anymore. And there's also a big annual craft show in Paris (and smaller shows in other French major cities too). Do you want to move? :-)

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    1. If only. I love France. Nice to know that sewing is having such a renaissance there.

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    2. I would like to move to Paris! :)

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    3. Yes! I bought lovely silk during a visit to Paris in 1983 and wore it for years, with so many happy memories. France also has a long tradition of beautiful sewing and clothing design. It is a more exciting background than our frontier tradition of plain clothes and scrap quilting. Not that anything is wrong with these, but we have also lost our textile mills.
      Kristina

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  15. I'm sure it varies from store to store, but the Hancocks in my area (south of Houston, Texas) was poorly lit, poorly stocked, and full of very rude employees. The last time I was there was years ago, and it was such a bad experience I never went back. Their main competitor is Joann's, which has a huge location less than 5 miles away and superior in every way (again, I'm sure this varies store to store). So my take is that Hancocks and Joann's have emerged as the main two big-box stores vying for the same market, and Joann's won. From my perspective, it says less about the state of home sewing and more about Hancocks branding itself in a way that is far too similar to Joann's, then losing the race.

    My condolences, though, to those whose situation is reversed and are now losing the superior choice!

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  16. While it seems to be making a resurgence online, I don't know anyone in my community into garment making. I signed up for an embroidery class at a local sewing machine store and am the only person there who makes garments, not quilts. I recently joined Costumers Guild West and am looking forward to meeting other sewing enthusiasets at their conference. I've also met others sewers at Los Angeles sewing guild events but we garment sewists aren't that many, really. But I do seem to see more people shopping in the LA fabric district, where I buy my fabric. I've never been to Hancock but it's sad for those who now have no more in person options.

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  17. I will miss Handcock's Fabric Stores greatly. I have shopped at Handcock's for 25 years (wow!). They were where I purchased items for my first sewing project.

    Handcock's is my go to sewing store here in San Jose. They are a "real sewing store" not a craft store with some fabric like JoAnn's. I bypass JoAnns' (2 miles away) to purchase sewing items at Hancock's (4 miles away) because they carry such a great variety of fabric and notions. They are were I buy my patterns, special fabric for Christmas gifts, and the thread and zippers that I need desperately at 8:55 p.m. in the middle of that special project. I have consciously spend my sewing money there to support the store.

    Handcock's staff is lovely to work with. The ladies who work there ask if I need any help or inquire about my sewing project. They are kind and KNOW HOW TO SEW. I don't have to patiently explain that interfacing *is* different from batting while trying to control rolling my eyes in disgust.

    Yes, there still will be JoAnn's and other small independent stores in this very large city that I live in - but they don't meet my sewing needs like Handcock's.

    I think loosing Handcock's will be like the death of a friend. I will grieve their passing and look back at the times I spent there with nostalgia. But mostly I will just shake my head and mutter to myself "What a shame that they are gone."

    Leann

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  18. I'm a Canadian living with my partner in the Netherlands (24 years now). I am 74 and have been sewing since I was 14 (my mother was a seamstress). I sew for the 2 of us - shirts, pyjamas, boxer shorts, shorts, jackets, winter coats to name a few. I think what has always irritated me the most (and continues to do so), is that the industry just does not accept that men sew! I still get looks from other shoppers in fabric shops and it is always a "surprised look" when I announce that I sew. I wish there had been internet and sites like Male Pattern Boldness 30 years ago. What Peter is doing is a boon to ALL sewers and I commend you Peter. Keep up the good work. I am about to tackle a pair of jeans using the KwikSew pattern - I have all your tutorials and pictures at hand - I can't go wrong. All best, John Mac

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    1. Couldn't agree more. Breath of fresh air to us all and a treasure.

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    2. Kudos to Peter.

      A(nonymous)

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    3. I'm also living in the netherlands and used to live in Eindhoven. Because of the 'Design Academy' a industrial designing college with a lot of young people, male and female, with an interest in fabric/sewing/crafting in a modern way there are severall fabric and notions shops. There I can find whatever I need, in different qualitys.
      Now I live in a more conservetive area were it is rather difficult to find the fabric quality I prefer. So I can either buy things online, but mostly from several shops i've previously orderd from, or drive to Eindhoven (1 hour). I find that the fabrics I use for my children are often bought online, but my own fabric or for my husband is bought in brick and mortar shops, I need to feel them.

      Lately there has been a (relativley) new phenomenon; fabric market: a big market travelling through the country in spring and autum with lots of different stalls. When I learned to sew from my mother in the early 90's every weekly market had 1 or 2 fabric and notions stalls, now those have mostly disappeard, although I the notions are coming back again. But the fabric stalls have bundled up in the fabric markets, wich I don't think of as bad, those big markets have a lot more diversety in quality and fabric types than the single stalls at the weekley markets.

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    4. Hi, moving the topic slightly; I move to the States about 20 years ago, long before I found out that I like sewing. Since I'm planning a visit to family this summer, I figured I could do some fabric shopping while I'm there. Any good recommendations for the Amsterdam/Utrecht/Maastricht areas?
      Thanks!

      PS. Thanks, Peter. You're part of why I love this new hobby of mine.

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    5. Hi Wouter,

      I can really reccomend Harrie Bosch at the Gabriel Metsulaan in Eindhoven. It's ugly from the outside, but he really knows his fabrics, most of it is designer left overs from Gucci, Prada, Scappa and so on. He specialises in wool, silk and linnen, but there's also a lot of shirting, linings and notions.
      When you're there Smitje in the city center is notions heaven in a (to small) 2 story shop.
      In Amsterdam Kantjeboord is amazing if you're into lingerie ;)
      On saturday in Utrecht there's the 'lapjesmarkt' in the Breedstraat

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  19. I'm not sure I've been a sewer for long enough to truly appreciate if it is on an upswing or downswing. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area I'm blessed with several options for shopping local. But even so, Stonemountain and Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley, truly one of the best independent fabric stores in the area, is ending classes after 20 years. Sandra Betzina, a nationally-known instructor, has taught out of this location.

    Their blog states they can't afford to offer sewing classes any more. They likely will use the class space to stock more fabric, and they claim to support local instructors going forward. But overall the news doesn't sound encouraging to me.

    Link: http://fabriclady3.blogspot.com/2016/03/endings-beginningsfurther-reflections.html

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    1. I don't understand why she says the school was essentially "non-profit" -- were they not charging enough to make money on them?

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    2. I have in front of me their (final!) course catalog. Most classes hover around $30-40 for 3-4 hours of instruction. Some of the more advanced classes generally cost $60 - $100 for two or three three-hour class sessions. So *very* roughly we're talking $10/hour per student for instruction. I have no idea how the numbers work out for them, but maybe they figured they can't raise the rates because they'll get fewer students.

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    3. I heard it had to discontinue classes because of ADA issues. The classroom is up a steep flight of stairs to the 2nd floor and completely inacessible to handicapped individuals. Maybe they meant they could not afford to make it accessible (an elevator) or take away selling space on the mail floor.

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    4. barbaraq, that does sound plausible - the Sips 'N Sews sewing studio in San Francisco has an entire basement area they can't use because of ADA issues. Though it would be especially sad to hear that is the reason, I hope it means the store is on good financial footing otherwise.

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  20. Aww, Hancock Fabrics was where my mom took me in middle school when I was ready to sew my first project from a pattern. I think it was pajama shorts. Now I live in San Diego where it's pretty easy to find fabric stores of several brands. More of my local friends (ages 25-35) than I'd expect own and use sewing machines, but it's not a big hobby for any of them. The main reason I'm commenting is because my own sewing machine is my grandma's Singer Slant-O-Matic, the one pictured in the last image in your post! It's SUCH a solid machine.

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  21. Desperate for fabric in Pittsburgh! We have one small independent store in the suburbs (and grateful for it) and Joanns (almost all craft fabric there). They give beginning sewing lessons at Joanns, so there must be some interest, but all the serious apparel sewers I know are in my 60+ age group.

    I have recently returned to sewing after a long hiatus. Blogs like yours have been a Godsend as I brush up my skills. I hate having to mail order fabric, but gotta have it so I am getting used to it. LWS

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    1. LWS-
      Please also investigate Spool's new location and Loom Textiles in The Strip District. Quilters Corners in Finleyville while only quilting fabrics, still has a mind blowing color selection.

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    2. Thanks for the tips! Can't wait to check them out.
      I am curious where people are learning to sew these days. I started sewing as a child at home, as did most of the skilled home sewers I know. (Still trying two get used to "sewists".)

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    3. If you're in Pittsburgh, you should check out the ladies aid annual fabric sale - it's this Saturday April 9th somewhere in the south hills. It used to be in South Park but they're in a new location this year. Patterns for 25 cents, tables piled high with a wide variety of fabrics, notions, sometimes machines. It doesn't substitute for a local store that you can run to for last-minute things, but it's great for feeling fabrics, and getting things on a whim to experiment with.

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    4. Wow, how did I not know about this? I hope there is a mailing list I can get on.

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  22. I see the trends in the mainstream and the niche areas of garments and sewing to be fairly similar to our relationships with food and cooking. Here in Morocco you can basically only get Turkish and Chinese imports. No local fabric left basically. People are at the stage we Brits and similar cultures were at 50 years ago, seeing it as something to be dropped without a thought on the way to the very first signs here of cheap fast RTW fashions. And you know, with a cold winter and harsh economics, I'm no more ready to begrudge a person a pair of fleece lounge pants than I would have done some cheap comfy warm clothes in England back in the day. But it's sad to see sewing disappearing as a skill with real value when I know there really is such an empowering and enjoyable gain from it and I basically just wish they could learn from our long slow process and skip to the bit where you can pick and choose from all worlds without losing the skills. That said, in England we are doing ok and those of us who sew don't half love to share the love, so I think the benefits will stay where they are most appreciated.nin my experience here and in other developing countries, we may love the best of materials to work with, get nerdy and bonkers about fabrics, but it's the process of transformation under our hands that counts and we will do that, as many of our grandparents did, with a sack or a bit of parachute fabric, even quilting cotton (gasp), if that's what we've got, and it's then the skill and the creativity really kick in anyway.

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  23. I live in a prosperous suburb of Chicago and it never ceases to amaze me that there is nothing, NOTHING, in this area that could be considered a decent fabric store. There is the occasional quilt shop, and there's Joann's, but for a real fabric store, I have to go 35 miles to Chicago.

    I very much appreciate reading sewing blogs because it's great to know there are other sewers out there, somewhere, but I don't personally know anybody who does garment sewing. More typical is this response that someone actually said to me once, "It's so great that you sew. If a button falls off my pants, I have to throw them away."

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    1. Janet Wayman, do you mean the trek to Vogue? Made that one many a time.

      In Ohio we have JoAnn's, or I as call them, "church". I don't go to "church" because they have become crap-fests (even those locations in wealthier areas, where the merchandise was somewhat "better" - good luck to you shop at a JoAnn's in a less-affluent area). There used to be a certain charm to fabric stores, now it's just inferior goods in an "about to close" setting.

      All about on-line shopping here, better choices, and none of the headache of business hours and pot-holed parking lots (which seem to be legislated near any fabric/quilting store in these parts).

      To the good, the men's rooms at JoAnn's are clean and seldom used, so for the guys, it's a little-known high-quality port in the storm which, sadly, is likely going away.

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    2. I love sewing blogs too, and sewed garments alone until recently. I am now a part time sewing instructor at a local college crafts center, hoping to inspire college students and help them develop good sewing skills. And I joined the American Sewing Guild, which I'm sure varies in different areas, but offer lots of expertise, companionship, and competitive challenges. I'm not into the competition at this point but it is fun to see what creative responses there are to, for example, "best travel clothes." These new associations have given me a shot in the arm and new inspirations, including a new network. I have also been able to find new homes for various sewing machines, and see the pride in sewing for young men and women. There are also free instructions from a volunteer at our local public library who offers classes twice a month.
      Kristina

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    3. I agree with people who have a distaste for Joann's. I have a sewing friend who says Joanns has evverything you want, as long as you want cheap fleece.

      I don't go to Hobby Lobby for my personal political reasons. C Wade

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    4. "Joanns has evverything you want, as long as you want cheap fleece."

      MUAHAHAHAHAH SO TRUE! They have started to get *some* decent natural fiber fabrics. And even a teeny selection of organic cotton. But... That's about it. I wish we lived nearer to Mood. Either one.

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    5. I get those stunning comments all the time....someone will say, "I wish I could sew so I could hem my pants or sew on a button." The fact that I could make those pants, a jacket, shirt and coat to go with them is beyond their realm of belief and usually isn't even considered as possible in today's world. Sad. I grew up in a family that made everything from wedding gowns to men's suits. I'm the lone survivor.

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  24. In Longview, TX, Hancock is the only alternative to Hobby Lobby and Walmart. I hate waiting in long lines, and Hancock is so understaffed that with one person on the cutting desk and one on the register, the lines are long indeed. I have several times in the past year put back bolts I wanted cut. Fabric stores would do better if they didn't try to be everything. I don't want to buy furniture or glitzy craft kits at a fabric store. I'd like to buy fabric, trims and buttons. Beads belong in a bead store.

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  25. I'm in Milwaukee and Joann's and Hancock are my only choices, unless I want to drive to Chicago. I shop online a lot. I'm surprised about Hancock closing - one just opened near my office in November. Why would they open a new store to immediately go out of business? I did have some luck finding apparel fabric there. Mostly knits, denim, and challis prints.

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    1. Here in Jonhson City TN there was the sign of "hiring" last week, I don't understand. Maybe they need people for closing the store. So sad

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  26. I think - because we're part of an active online sewing community - it's easy to assume that there is a huge boom in sewing, but it's hard to tell how wide spread it really is, or how well the shops are really doing. Great British Sewing Bee is really popular here (including with non-sewers), but I think a lot of people who love watching it have no desire to actually sew. From my perspective in the UK there seem to be more shops / workshop spaces opening or expanding than closing.

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    1. However i would disagree that the UK is more craft oriented -we have really no large chains of fabric shops (i dont count hobbycraft as their fabric selection is woeful). Large cities with fashion colleges have more than one fabric shop or a few market stalls but most places have nothing. No access to classes either. The internet for online shopping and classes has been a huge boon for people outside those areas but it is a very small hobby in the uk.

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    2. I've found that where I live in the UK the focus is patchwork and that you will be better off looking at independent shops. I really think it's dependent on where you are as I have access to a small fabric shop (mostly patchwork though) only 20-30 minute drive but otherwise have to trek into London but when I'm at university the closest store I've been able to locate is an hour away

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    3. Charlotte makes a good point – from the inside it's hard to tell if it is booming or not. I've been sewing (in the UK) since I was a child. 20 years ago, you didn't tell your friends you sewed because they'd have thought you were odd, but now it's much more common. My hunch is that dressmaking fabric stores here very nearly died out altogether somewhere around 2000, but since the recession hit in 2007 they've been on the up. There are now more fabric shops in my Mum's home town than at any time since she was a teenager in the 1960s. But the stores that haven't moved with the times, aren't online and don't interact with their customers aren't going to find it easy to survive.

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  27. I was a little shocked to hear of Hancock's store closing. I am in an almost-rural area, with Hancock's, Joann's, Hobby Lobby and Walmart as sewing suppliers, in order of priority for me. I buy 90% of my notions and patterns there (always At a significant discount), but very little fabric. All the stores in my area cater to quilters and crafters, with low quality offerings, so I buy 90% of my fabric on-line. Even my muslin I purchase online because the quality of chain store muslin is so poor. I will miss them, nonetheless! This is the second time in 10 years that we've lost Hancock's. They closed most of the stores in our area back in 2007 also. I was hoping that there really was a resurgence happening, but I guess it's not enough to keep everyone afloat.

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  28. Most people I know sew for reenactment (SCA) and steampunk garb. Most of our linen is ordered online. Joann's is a crap shoot except for notions and thread. Hancock is even worse. Hobby Lobby has some nice upholstery fabrics but with the current political stance they are taking they have been boycotted by a lot of my friends. And Michael's? nothing useful, hardly notions at all. So much for central Indiana.

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  29. My closest fabric store (and it's actually fairly close) is a Hancock and it's the first fabric store I shopped at as an adult, almost one year ago. It was dark, full of fleece and quilting fabric, half the store was dedicated to home decor (and not a single customer was shopping in that half), and the employees were obviously low-paid and demoralized. It appeared to be very badly managed. And yet, they had some really nice fabric and some of that was on the discount table. I'm not sure if Hancock's situation should be taken as commentary on the state of home sewing as much as the state of Hancock Fabrics. My one trip there was unpleasant but I found a few good things.

    A bit of a rant: As a guy and as a beginner, I find the sewing community pretty unwelcoming. Books assume knowledge and very few pages (if any at all) are devoted to sewing menswear or written to include a male audience. Fabric stores are no different. Even in thrift stores I'll get the occasional strange look and am almost always asked the identity of the person for whom I'm buying and when I tell them I'm the one who plans to use them, their eyes widen, i.e. "Really? You sew?" to which I respond, "Well, I plan to learn." Searching through the sewing patterns, I'm lucky if I can find one pattern in one hundred that is for menswear (and that one is usually pajamas or a robe or an oversized fleece pullover in Extra Small). I have a friend who completed a fashion design program at a local community college and I remember him telling me that the curriculum was very similarly skewed. (This was back in the early '90s. It may have changed since then.)

    I write all this not necessarily because I think the sewing community should cater to men but because I believe it should appeal to a wider range of people including gender, age, race, and all economic strata and walks of life. From what I've seen in fabric stores, sewers are overwhelmingly older, white, and female and are overwhelmingly interested in quilting. There is nothing wrong with any of that but in order to grow the craft, it needs a much wider appeal.

    I wish Hancock employees the best; may they find new employers quickly and easily.

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    1. I was thinking about your comment about the sewers being older and white. I agree and I think this is because I having graduated HS in 1959 learned sewing in school as we girls did in those days. Everyone's Mom made their clothes and we all sewed for ourselves and our kids. Those women today seem to all quilt as you said. My son learned to sew in classes at his local Jo Ann's store. He wasn't interested as a kid. I did the quilt thing then went to sewing Retro which I love.

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    2. My mom had a similar experience as yours, sewing mainly fashionable clothing for herself that was beyond my dad's financial reach. My sister wasn't interested in learning and I guess it was assumed my brother and I weren't either because we were boys.

      I seem to remember way back in the days of cub scouts/boy scouts that we had a merit badge for knitting or something like that. And in Y Indian Guides we had to make leather vests. Boys and Girls Clubs of America would be another great place to introduce sewing (and maybe they already do for all I know). It seems that the public school system has given up teaching practical life skills and is more interested in pontificating and theories, analyzing lyrics of popular songs, preparation for college entrance exams, and building the new football stadium. I know that 4-H still does some of this but I imagine there are fewer and fewer of those programs as the US becomes ever more urbanized. Global trade has also taken a toll (disposable clothing being insanely cheap causing many to devalue clothing altogether).

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    3. There, there. I sympathize as it is more daunting than it sounds to be the only one of your gender in a skilled community. I was the only foreign student in my college class, and the only female in many economics classes. However, I hope you hang in there. I tell the men in my sewing classes that they have roots in tailoring, sailing, surgery, and other textile endeavors, and several are making money sewing for their dorm mates who can't shorten pants or sew on buttons. In time and with the internet, you'll find a community, or try starting a club on your own. Don't let the ignorance of a few get you down.

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    4. If it's any consolation, those of us who sew *for* our men have the same difficulty finding patterns and fabrics locally - all of my shirting has been bought online. I finally found a nice men's shirting pattern through Bootstrap - unisex doesn't cut it when your husband is 6'4"!

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    5. I'll survive. :) What's daunting is not being the only guy buying old sewing patterns (if I can find them) but finding information/instruction/materials specific to menswear within common sewing resources. Fortunately, supply/demand curves and integral calculus aren't gender-specific; unfortunately, the curves on our bodies and in our clothes are!

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    6. Hearth, I'm 6'2" and am roughly in the same boat. A week ago I found a pattern in Large, Long size and felt like I'd won the lottery. Dress shirts in 16/37-38 don't exist on the rack and have to be special ordered, yet I keep reading that the world's population is getting taller and with longer limbs. Needless to say, I wear a lot of short-sleeved shirts.

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    7. Hearth, you stated my thoughts exactly. My husband wears big man sizes and patterns for that group are few and far between. I rejoiced when i found a slacks pattern that went from a 1X waist up to a 6X!. It was a vintage pattern and I had been looking for it for a long time. But it is no better on the other end. Looking for patterns for my 2 year old grandson is not an easy proposition. There must be hundreds of little dress patterns for girls, but unless you want to make pajamas or a unisex jacket, good luck.

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    8. Lekala/Bootstrap. Check 'em out. The taping process is worth it, IMO. I sang a hallelujah chorus when I muslined that first shirt ---and it fit---. I'd tried drafting a shirt myself, but the fitting advice for women (particularly from vintage texts) and men isn't the same (shoulder point is not at the same place, for instance). I get shirting at fabricmart mostly - they often have shirting sales. David Coffin's shirtmaking book. Reading Peter's site. There IS a difference sewing for men and women. You can hide a lot of "oopses" and get away with some beckyhomecky stuff in beginner women's clothes. Not so much with men's - precision is everything, and that's a bit of a skill climb. I haven't tackled pants yet. DH is murder on pants, and he's slim, so those aren't hard to find in RTW.

      Oliver & S seems to have some cute boys clothing...

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    9. Hearth, just checked Bootstrap. Excellent! I'd never heard of them and they have basic patterns you can customize in a made-to-measure style fashion. Very cool, thank you! :)

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  30. I picked up sewing my sewing addiction again about 6 years ago. I talk about it all of the time, event at my job, and come into contact with about 300 students a year in non-sewing related classes. Rarely do any of them mention they or someone in their family sews. This is in a suburb of Portland, OR (put a bird on it), and I am often surprised at the lack of interest in sewing.

    I haven't been to Hancock's in so long that I don't even know if one exists in Portland any more. We've got Joann's (everywhere) and lots of quilt shops with several high-end, independent fabric stores. I'm so grateful to live close to these resources.

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    1. As far as I know, the only Hancocks around is in Vancouver, in Hazel Dell.

      Nancy in Portland

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  31. I live in a small town in the Texas Panhandle. My local options are Walmart (no), and a locally owned quilt shop. Sixty miles away I have Walmart, Joann's and another locally owned quilt shop. The quilt shops are nice and I do buy fabric or notions there sometimes, but I'm not a quilter so I don't buy a lot. I don't think there is a independently owned shop with garment fabric selections within several hundred miles of here.

    I am not sure if there is a resurgence of interest in sewing or not. I'd like to think so. But I'm certainly not seeing much interest in garment sewing around here. Most people here, if they sew at all, quilt. They simply don't understand why I want to sew clothes. I think a several factors are to blame. Fast fashion makes styles rapidly obsolete, and skews our idea of how much clothes should cost, leaving consumers unaware of the value of quality. I also think we live in a culture that believes everything should be fast and easy. Sewing anything--and perhaps especially garments, due to the fit issues involved--takes time. It takes time and effort to become good at it. Most people just can't be bothered to take the trouble. Of course, fast and easy don't usually equal good. But whatever. Most soldier on with cheaply made, badly fitting clothes and I guess are content with that.

    It's bad enough that a large chain of stores many depend on is closing. But what is upsetting me now is learning that things may not be rosy in places I had thought were above the problems many of us in small towns and rural areas face. I made the comment on a recent thread here that it must be nice to be able to walk out your front door and find almost anything you wanted. I had NYC in mind when I said that. Substitute driving for walking and I thought perhaps areas in California or many larger cities across the county would qualify as well. So I am feeling pessimistic that things in other places might not be as great as I thought they were. That seems an ominous sign.

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    1. Forgive the typos in my message. I should have proofread it better!

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  32. I have lived in Alaska for 15 years now and live 75 miles from a Jo Ann's. Needless to say I do mostly all internet shopping on Mood for Fabric.com. Jo Ann's doesn't really have fabric I covet anyway. They did get the Gertie line in which is nice. I give sewing lessons in my home for free and also provide the fabrics. It's terrible to find students in this town of 5000. It really baffles me why the young people don't want to learn to sew these days. People say it's cheaper to buy than make so there you go. I personally love the process of putting together a beautiful garment no one else has.

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  33. I just spent three hours today between the two Hancock's here in town buying fabric and zippers for the stash. When Hancock's finally closes I think it will just be JoAnn's and Hobby Lobby. Have not been in a WALMART lately so don't know if they have brought back the fabric counter. I'm disheartened to see them close as I thought they carried some better fabric than JoAnn's.
    Theresa in Tucson

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    1. Most WalMarts now have fabric, but it is of very questionable quality. They must have lost their contacts for fabric when they gave up fabric several years ago. Back then they used to have clearance fabrics that were sometimes a great deal. Burnout velvets and hefty knits for $2.00/yard! Now it is loosely woven trashy quilting cottons and cheap fleece.

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  34. I live in Mount Vernon, New York, which is about 15 miles north of New York City. The local fabric store here (Westchester Fabrics) closed in December 2015, after 69 years in business. I worked in the store as a teenager, 34 years ago. The store was about 10,000 square feet and they sold EVERYTHING! The stock was liquidated to an online fabric store and fortunately I was able purchase fabrics beforehand. They also had an over stock of the big 4 patterns from the year 2000 to 2015.

    There is one other fabric store located directly across the street which sells pure JUNK. There is also a Joann's, located about 20 minutes away. I go there just to purchase patterns that are on sale. Thankfully I can drive to the garment district in New York City. I also shop online but have not had a positive experience with any with the exception of FabricMart.

    Home Economics (which consisted of sewing and cooking) in our local school is no longer offered and greatly needed. This is why some folks cannot sew a button on a shirt or hem a pair of pants.

    I will continue to enjoying sewing, especially since I now have an even larger hoard of fabric and patterns!

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    1. I have moved to Tennessee and the closest fabric store besides WalMart was Hancocks. I also have had good experiences with Fabric Mart. I never thought that I could order fabric online, but need breeds determination!. I feel Fabric Mart does a great job describing their fabrics and each fabric gets several different pictures showing drape, close-up, overall print, etc. i have not been disappointed.

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  35. Hello Peter, I live in Glen Iris a suburb of Melbourne Australia. I love to sew and always have. I retired from my work two years ago and was glad to now have time to sew (and it is a time consuming hobby). In order to meet other people who share my interest I sought out and attended local craft groups which had the word 'stitch' in their name. Through these I have met other people who sew. In Australia the best way to meet other sewists is through the Australian Sewing Guild. My local group in Mount Waverley has regular monthly Saturday meetings which 30-40 people attend, all sewing garments! I love it! A place to chat about the patterns and blogs we like, where to buy fabrics, how to fix that pesky pivot point point. Such wonderful camaraderie. In Melbourne there is still a handful of good quality fabric stores Tessuti in the city, The Fabric Store in Fitzroy and The Cloth Shop in Ivanhoe, I also like Darn Cheap Fabrics. I have a young sewing pal who is very creative and does it, as I do, because the fabrics speak to her.... I also love the challenge in sewing for others - daughters, mother and sisters.
    Thanks Peter for your excellent blog, reading high quality blogs like yours has certainly enhanced my joy of sewing.

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  36. In Canada, my take is that it is fairly stable. But you never know. I worry about the fabric stores in the garment district making enough money to carry on. I would really miss them if they were not around, but shopping online and some emerging independents/sewing studios my pick up some more business. Ever hopeful that this becomes an even more robust industry.

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  37. It's exactly the same here in Melbourne, Australia. Where once there were many fabric stores to be found in the suburbs and CBD, now there are none in my neighbourhood and I can think of only three in the CBD, only one of which trades in fabric/sewing supplies exclusively. The department stores once carried fabric, haberdashery and sewing machines but all those lines were deleted years ago. The last fabric store to close in the city (a year ago) had been trading for almost 90 years. Word was the rent was too high. The premises have been taken over by a supermarket.

    Seeking out fabric for a project is now an expedition that requires planning rather than a quick trip into town.

    I have been wondering whether the apparent resurgence in home sewing is real, or is just that I follow people and organisations on the internet who are into that sort of thing? Can't say that I've sensed any change in 'real life'.

    What I have definitely noticed is an upsurge in businesses that do clothing alterations. All my younger relatives buy most of their clothes online and then have them altered to fit.

    Great post, Peter.

    Spud.

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    1. I actually worked in the Myer fabric department, the fabric was nice quality and I used to drool over the John Kaldor fabrics when they were delivered, but that disappeared some time ago. There is still Tessuti's in the city of Melbourne and others here have mentioned some great fabric stores in and around the suburbs of Melbourne. I think the most challenging thing is you really need to hunt around the different stores to get a great selection, no one shop will be your go to destination any more.

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  38. Compared to where home sewing was in the years between 2000-2010? Booming, because of online stores and community. Compared to what it was 1970's and earlier? A selective hobby. Unless you are sewing for babies and small kids, it isn't cheap . Those mom's though, they blow me away with the way they'll "take an old sweatshirt, trace out an outfit that works, and..." Stuff I never dreamed of when I was raising my brood. I think interest in sewing jumped and has leveled to a slower grow, but probably not in decline and the local stores closing aren't going to make us go away. It is harder to buy fabric online, but it's do-able. I love how the internet affords me the opportunity to take a peek at the wide wide range of techniques and styles people do- from trendy self taught never opened a book but I'll make this work, to your fabulous dedication to doing it to the highest time honored standards, and all points in between.

    I am kind of sad Hancocks is closing, although it's been at least a decade since I've been in one. Years ago a chain called Piece Goods closed, THAT was upsetting! I made my first purchase from them in 1983 with a check. I got out my driver's license and the cashier stopped me, saying, "We've found people who sew don't write bad checks". I used to drive 70 miles twice a year to shop there in the 90's when I couldn't foresee buying fabric without touching it. I've been without a nearby fabric store that long!

    Coming to your area in about three weeks and plan on shopping the district, even if I have to figure out the subway and bus systems on my own. I wonder if I can find my old duffle bag for lugging the stuff back to Jersey via public transit.

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  39. Like the other commenters from Melbourne Australia, I have noticed both decline and growth. Decline is in large department stores having fabric sections (none now do this), closure of some independent stores and a tendency for the cheaper chains (the Australian equivalents of Joann and Hancocks would be Lincraft and Spotlight) to move into craft. Growth is in the arrival of relatively high end independent semi- chains like Tessuti, emergence of more dedicated sewing magazines (though they tend towards craft rather than garments) and, I think, growth in the offering of classes both by independent stores like the Cloth Shop and by the Council for Adult Education. I suspect that a lot of the decline in shops is about rent costs and the demise of Melbourne’s garment district. The growth is due to energetic young creatives coming up with new ways to trade. It more or less mirrors the changes in the book trade – people mourn the death of small bookshops, but publishing is in many ways thriving. As someone who occasionally wonders how I will survive if nearby fabric shops and book shops close, but who sometimes buys books and fabrics online, I think that it’s both true and not true that home sewing and literature are dying. And while traditional home economics has gone from the curriculum, textile art has arrived and can include teaching both girls and boys to sew.

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  40. Here in the Seattle Washington suburbs we have lost just about all of our fabric stores except for Joann's and one or two independent stores. We have lost all the other chains and I don't go up into the big city. When we first moved here there were fabric stores all over and I loved it. Now I only sew out of my stash. The new fabrics are not up to the level I actually want to pay for. The quilting cottons are good, but I am not a quilter. I wish I had the resources of living in NY in or near the garment district.

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    1. For fine fabrics in Seattle, Nancy's Sewing Basket is unbeatable. There is also a newer store in Fremont, one on Capital Hill and a smaller one on Bainbridge.
      I make a point of buying only from my local stores. I want them to stay around forever and for everyone.

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  41. My closest Hancock's closed several years ago (lost their lease) and the other one had grumpy employees and poorly stocked shelves. After waiting for over 30 minutes for someone to finally come to the cutting table (I had to ask twice), I never went back. Not to say the local JoAnn's is all that stellar, but the current managers are tying hard to make do with limited staff and corporate constraints.

    And I know this topic has been pounded into the ground, but until the big 4 pattern company uses letters or some designation other than current system, you simply aren't going to get young ladies sewing their own clothes if they have to go 2-3 sizes up. It shouldn't matter, but it does and telling people to deal with it does not welcome them to the sewing world. I hear this over and over again when I am sitting at the pattern catalog table: "I wear a size 12 and this company's patterns run too small".

    The other problem is competing with fast fashion. When you have to shell out $30-$50 for pattern, fabric, and notions for a single garment, that "2 for $20" sale looks really good and you already know what the end result is.

    As for a renewed interest in sewing, I do think it is there, but I think a real disservice to the next generation was removing the "skill" classes out of the schools - home ec, wood shop, building trades, etc.

    However, I do think the internet is a growing resource for hobbyists and if we all do our bit to at least expose someone we know to our craft, you never know who will get the sewing bug. :)

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  42. Well, I live in Anaheim, California, home of Disneyland. I'm thankful that I am fairly close to the Los Angeles Garment District, about 30 miles away. I don't go very often to the L.A. Garment/Fashion District very often though. But when I do go, I usually buy over $100 worth of fabrics and supplies. Fabrics and notions seem to be less expensive and better quality in L.A. than at the Joann's near my house.

    However, I tend to go to the Joann's near my house because it's only ten minutes away, it's safer, and I don't have to pay for parking. I do wish the Joann's had a higher quality of garment fabrics.

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  43. I'm in the UK, and fabric stores are at a premium here too. I know of one good old-fashioned one about 40 minutes drive from me, which is not part of a chain (I don't think we have a chain of fabric shops in the UK). If that one closed I don't know where one could buy fabric near here. In my teens (a long time ago) I made almost all my clothes but it just doesn't make economic sense any more, especially with chains such as Primark selling clothes so cheaply. My mother looks in charity shops for skirts etc made of fabrics she likes, and alters them to fit her.

    I think sewing is actually an unusual hobby here in the UK, and children grow up not knowing how to do the simplest repairs. "Textiles" is popular as a subject when it's offered in schools (which isn't always) and it cemented my niece's interest in sewing after a foundation laid by her mother, my mother, and me, but she tends to adapt and embellish bought (charity or eBay) clothes rather than make them from scratch.

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  44. Another Australian here, formerly of Melbourne and now living temporarily in Canberra. And I have definelty noticed the decline of good fabric stores over the years, and as a dedicated sewer for most of my 40+ years, I've felt the pain. When I was growing up in what is a largish regional city in Victoria there were about four of five good fabric shops to chose from, including the local department store. Then the two major chain stores moved into town - Spolight and Lincraft - and slowly but surely the smaller family run businesses closed down. Now there's only those two to select from and if you want something nicer than quilting fabric, cheap and nasty polycotton or stretch cotton sateen you have to go to Melbourne.

    Even Melbourne has slowly declined since I moved there twenty years ago. Where there was once a dozen different fabric shops to go to on Sydney Road in the inner city suburb of Brunswick there's now only two or three. High rents and gentrification have all but pushed them out. Even Spotlight, the big chain store, can't afford Brunswick anymore and they closed their Sydney Road store about three years ago when the landlord priced them out of the suburb. There's a chain hardware store there now, which I am sure is driving the smaller, family owned hardware shop across the road out of business. But at least Melbourne still has a few decent independent shops like Darn Cheap Fabrics and Rathdown Rements. Here in Camberra I have the choice between the definitely cheap and nasty Lincraft and a couple of overpriced fabric shops that mostly sell (expensive) quilting supplies. I have to drive half an hour to the next town over to go to Spotlight and if I want something nicer, it's a three and a half hour trip to Sydney! I miss the days when every town had its major fabric and haberdashery shop, and you could walk in with an idea in mind and come out with exactly the right fabric. The sheer logistics of hunting down a decent fabric shop these days is exhausting!

    All the best,

    Lesley

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  45. I think home sewing is enjoying a resurgence in interest and hope that it continues to grow. I find that much of the available fabric at the local level is geared toward crafting and quilting, i.e. JoAnn, Hobby Lobby, WalMart. We used to have some very fine fabric stores here in Jacksonville (Phelps, The Silk Shop, Fabric King), but they sadly have gone the way of many independent fabric stores and gone out of business to be replaced by those mentioned above. I would like to see more interest in making really nice, well-made and fitted clothing, like here on your website. I grew up watching my Mom make all of our clothes and things for the house and it was all beautiful. The current "fast fashion" movement leaves me cold and the clothes are horrible!

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  46. Hancock's in Paducah is one of my best "souvenirs" of US. Very sad to hear that all the stores are going to be closed.
    I live in France, at 60 km north of Paris and several little fabric stores are closed. The nearest one is at 1 hour drive to go.
    Helene

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    1. Hancock's in Paducah is not the same as the Hancocks Fabric chain of stores.

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  47. Here in central Virginia, three Hancocks stores were among the first lot to close. The closest Hancocks to me has been understaffed for quite some time. I typically haven't bought much from them except for the occasional knit or rayon challis (thankfully Joann is getting more of the challis in, but you have to know where to look for it.

    We are fortunate to have three independent stores in the Richmond area that are not quilt or home dec shops. One caters to sewing for children. One is a "relic" from earlier times that will likely close in the next few years. The third is a high-end couture shop that focuses on silk and bridal fabrics. I'm also getting to know the shops within a 2 to 2 1/2 hour radius. However, all of these shops are high end or niche stores.

    Our Joann is almost always busy whenever I go in. The quality of the fabric usually isn't great but I have gotten some nice fabrics from time to time. The recent Nicole Miller collections have included some rayon knits that were heavier than normal.

    Most of my fabric purchases are online, simply because to get the quality of fabric that I want for a reasonable price I have to purchase from online sellers.

    As far as interest in sewing, I see a few factors that are influencing things. A lot of newer sewers appear to be attracted to sewing as a hobby/creative expression. I know a few younger women who are getting into it now. Craftsy and indie pattern makers are helping fuel this interest. Another factor is cosplay. Our local Joann has gotten in a LOT of cosplay fabric in recent weeks, and I noticed pattern displays of cosplay patterns in my most recent visit. I've definitely seen people in there buying fabric for costumes.

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  48. Here in Germany, home sewing seems to be quite fashionable at the moment. Lots of new (online) fabric stores, and thanks to the internet, we can buy pdf patterns from cool companies and aren't limited to just Burda magazines anymore. As for real stores - the "proper" fashion fabric stores are as good as gone, but there are a lot of small new ones. They mainly do colourful childrens prints and fleece and so on, mummy sewing.

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  49. I live in a small town in Ireland, and although there is one shop in the nearest large town, I have to buy almost all my fabric from England because most of their fabric isn't great for garment sewing. However, when I suggested a sewing group on my town's Facebook page, I got a lot of interest (considering the size of the town). Our little sewing circle has 38 regular members, and they're all very keen.

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  50. I will be very sad to see Hancock's close. Here in Arkansas, the Hancock's store has helpful and knowledgeable employees and a better selection of garment fabrics than Joann's. I refuse to give any of my money to Hobby Lobby or Walmart, so I guess I will have to settle for Joann's. There are some really nice quilt shops, but quilting cotton is not all that useful to me. I am not a fan of online fabric shopping, as I really like to touch fabric before I buy. I am going to stock up on thread and machine needles, zippers and elastic. I just don't know what else to do.

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  51. I'm in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and have (had, I guess) both JoAnn's and Hancock fabrics. Once upon a time (this is going back over 30 years), Hancock's was a decent fabric store. My first job was working at Hancock's. Besides JoAnn's, now in the metro area we have two independently owned fabric stores, both of which have better curated garment fabric selections compared with JoAnn's. The options are becoming more limited, and I am relying more and more on internet shopping, which I don't like as much as a person can't feel the fabric, so errors are more common.

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    1. I will also add that about a year and a half ago, I bought two entire bolts of 100% silk suiting at Hancocks at 70% off on clearance. I don't know if the market here doesn't support high end garment fabrics (although the independent stores seem to sell a lot of nice quality garment fabrics) or if in Hancock's race to become JoAnn's lite, they lost the few garment sewers in the audience, but the store(s) around here had some nice fabrics mixed in with a lot of average fabrics/quilting cotton/fleece and apparently the nicer fabrics didn't appeal to the types of people shopping there.

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  52. I'm in New Jersey, a stone's through from New York, and I don't know anyone else who sews.

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    1. I invite you to attend our next MPB Day outing on August 13th. You'll meet dozens of sewers, mainly from the tri-state area.

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  53. I see this as a good thing. There aren't a lot of home sewists these days. We're savvy and want quality products at reasonable prices. With the advent of Etsy, Lekala (cheap, pre-set patterns), indie pattern companies, marfy (wonderful women's couture patterns), small fabric stores (many of which are online only but sell great stuff) as well as places like Mood which will ship just about anywhere in the US, I've almost stopped going to the big box stores entirely. There is NOTHING that I cannot find online. Usually, it is much better quality. For example, you can get cheap pelon at JoAnns - but you can get couture interfacing online from fashion fabric supply. I am a small business owner, and am happy to see so many small companies flourishing. Go small! Get better stuff!

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  54. I live in Maryland, close to DC. I can't say I was shocked to hear that Hancock's was closing, but it was abrupt. I worked at So-Fro Fabrics in the mid '80s and being able to sew was a requirement for employment. I feel like there's a resurgence in home sewing here in the DMV (DC/Maryland/Northern Virginia). I'm an organizer for a sewing Meetup with nearly 350 members. Do they all participate? Of course not, but clearly there is interest. We have a related Facebook group that is very active, with people looking for help or advice, or posting pictures of their garments and projects. I have a lot of sewing people in my life as a result, and the Meetup members range in age from 25 - 70+, with most being in their 30s and 40s. We have a number of independent fabric stores scattered across the area and we do field trips to shop for fabric. We make twice yearly trips to NYC to shop for a day. I find a piece of fabric at Jo-Ann now and again, but mainly shop for patterns and notions there. G Street Fabric is not far from me, and they have moved three times in ten years and closed two stores in Virginia; I wonder if they'll be the next casualty.

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  55. I feel ashamed to have omitted some of my other favorite online stores (for those of you feeling the hit). Britex fabrics (San Francisco) has the most lovely grosgrain ribbon and bias silk ribbon for trimming and real silk thread including buttonhole thread. Bias Bespoke (Etsy) has all of the fixings to make men's suits including sleeve heads, kick tape, etc. PacificTrimming (now on Etsy) sells YKK and RIRI zippers. If you've never used RIRI, once you do you'll never go back. TheBuckleGuy sells snaps, grommets, and snap setter tools to get through the toughest fabric and leather. Emmaonesock has wonderful couture quality fabric. It goes fast, so you might not have time to order a sample. GorgeousFabrics also has wonderful fabric and the best selection of ITY, knits, and stretch linings. She also sells high quality muslin if you need it. Merckwaerdigh (Etsy) sells all of the items in a kit for making lingerie. Artecrafts and Tailormadeshop and MarynotMartha (all Etsy) sell a nice selecction of lingerie making items and stretch lace - but don't always have the trimmings in matching colors.

    Finally, I must say that stores in Boston area are not dead. A big shout out to Peter at FabricWarehouseBasement, here in Boston area. He has lovely lovely fabric in a real store where you can touch and feel everything. If you are looking for fabric for the home everyday quilting, or even that special occasion, he's your guy. The stuff is purchased as roll ends, so he doesn't have every color in every fabric. However, if you've got an open mind, you will find TREASURES. His shop is conveniently located at the Speen Street round-about next to the Natick Mall.

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    1. Thanks for listing these resources, Rita!

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  56. Thanks for this discussion, Peter. I live in rural Ohio, awash in quilt fabrics, but not so much for garment sewing. I make dedicated trips to Cleveland, and shop online, and shop when I travel for garment fabrics. JoAnn's sometimes has what I need but as others have said, seems to be going to the dark side of crafts, quilting, and junk machines. I have happy memories of bargain treasures from Hancock's,and I'm very sorry to hear they are closing. By the time the fast fashion fans discover that their fast clothes are falling apart and quality is a good investment, it will be too late for them to find quality sewing options. Or maybe a new kind of store will emerge, like Sears has done in rural areas. The bricks and mortar store has samples you can feel, but you have to order through them for larger amounts. Would require a smaller footprint for the store, and fewer employees.
    Kristina

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  57. Here, in Denmark, we have two big chains. They hold most of the market and there is very few independent fabric stores around. Sadly, so I do most of my fabric shopping online.

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  58. I live in San Diego County, and there are two fabric chains here, with a sprinkling of independent shops, most of which are quilting-oriented. One chain is, of course, Joann's. The other chain is a local chain, I think they must get their fabric from the LA garment district as cast offs. It's a real treasure hunt - sometimes you can find amazing things (at amazing prices) and others? Oh dear. Imagine bolts of wool left so long that they've changed color on the creases. I buy fabric at the indie chain ... rarely at Joann's. (Joann's has my thread and notion business, especially since they're 5 min away from me).

    Other than the ASG ladies, I don't know anyone who sews their own clothing. Quilt? Craft? Yes. Somehow the jump to garment sewing is beyond folks' imaginations. For that reason, Hancock (more oriented to garment sewing) lasted all of five minutes here.

    I get my garment fabric either online or occasionally I will make the pilgrimage to the LA garment district. It's a fun day trip, and I know where to score some gorgeous silk as well as the *best* place for wool and tailoring stuff... but. But. It's adjacent to skid row. And it's random. No map, not much in the way of signage. (You'll notice the LA Mood is nowhere near the garment district!) And fine fabric stores are few and far between. (Who is buying all that $2/yd tiger striped polyester? I want to know.)

    Garment sewing, in other words, is holding on to its niche, and I think will grow from here (slowly) but right now, making something costs more than buying it from a fast-fashion outlet, and people don't have the patience (as a whole) to develop their skills past the first few "Becky Homecky" projects - for which I blame quick crafts - so it's a bit of a specialized thing. -sigh-

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  59. Hancock's is the closest store to me and I go there a couple times a month for notions and patterns mostly. I prefer natural fabrics and they tend to sell blends and polys for clothing. Thus, I generally shop online for fabric. But I have to say, "my" Hancock's in Albuquerque on San Mateo has AMAZING staff, always cheerful and eager to help. Good luck to each of you!

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  60. I am so sad about Hancocks!!!! They were wonderful!!! The employees were the best! Going in there was like visiting family!!! I loved their selection and their sales!!! I feel like I am losing one of my best friend!!!!!

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  61. "My" Hancocks was clean, nice helpful employees, and I had much better luck finding garment fabrics there than Joann. There is one local fabric store/Viking dealer, but their garment fabrics are mostly bridal & special occasion now. I will not go in Hobby Lobby. There's one Walmart on the opposite side of town where I rarely go that kept its fabric department when they were being removed. I can't say that I'm impressed by most of the restored fabric departments. If you want quilting fabrics, it seems there are a quilt shops all over the place.

    So, based on what's available here in eastern Iowa, if I want to make quilts, Halloween costumes, or crafty projects, I'll be OK. But I want to make clothing from decent fabrics, I'm out of luck. Once the stash is greatly reduced, I'll need to resort to internet.

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  62. This is bad news for me as I am just beginning to return to sewing after many years. Here in the semi-rural Midwest, Hancock's store with fabrics superior to Joann's is 65 miles away. Joann's is 25, but the fabrics for garment sewing are largely shabby and unattractive. The quilting department is very good, however, so I suppose if I want to sew at all, I'll have to make quilts, while my furniture remains un-reuholstered and 40 windows go without draperies. Fabric costs are too high, but I can save up and get a little something from Britex in San Francisco. It's all very frustrating.

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  63. Here in the UK my opinion is clothing sewing is on the up, although still a minority hobby. There are many online shops with a massive selection of garment fabric, and many will send free samples. London obviously has lots of fabric shops, but another good place is Birmingham- the Fancy Silk Store (not online) is a treasure trove with three floors of goodies!

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  64. I live in the Yukon, Canada, and I can't say that I've ever even heard of Hancock's before all of this. I'm sad to hear that the States are losing such a large portion of their fabric stores though. Our only local option up here is a little independent fabric shop that's been here for years. They never had a great selection, but the majority of the fabric they carry is garment fabric. They can't compete with the thriving quilting shop down the road for quilting cottons! The fabric store recently changed hands though, and while she's bringing in some great fabrics (finally some basic knits!!!), more and more of the floor space is being taken over by home decorating stuff (pictures, statues, vases, lamps and lamp shades, etc). It's frustrating to watch, and doubly so when she says she won't bother bringing in fabric requested by customers because she doesn't have the space.

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  65. Hello Peter coming out of lurkdom to share a UK perspective. I think I can safely say UK dwellers are not more craft orientated than US folks! Certainly all the small town fabric shops shut more than a decade ago, and we are increasingly subject to Hobbycraft, a big chain craft store that carries quilting cottons etc at steep prices. Even the formerly fantastic independent department stores have shrunk their garment sewing fabric selection. I think it's quite different if you live in one of the major cities, or one renown for arts though. You mentioned the online sewing community and this is something I am so grateful for. I know no one else who sews their own clothes, I feel that I am viewed as quite eccentric by my friends and acquaintances. Thank goodness I've found my tribe! :)

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    1. Hi Philippa! I'm also a UK lurker :) I think there has actually been an increase in the interest in garment sewing in the last 5 years (since I've been sewing), judging by the number of new blogs, pattern companies, magazines and fabric shops etc. I'm in my mid-20s and I have a few sewing friends that I've met through sewing, but I also have a fair few people I know who have also started to sew.
      It is difficult to judge from the inside, as I for one am just more aware of what is available now, but it does seem to be easier to get hold of non-quilting fabric online now than a few years ago. There are so many great stockists popping up.
      It's still not a cheap hobby - but I think the things I make are much better quality than what I can buy, for a similar price to the mid-end highstreet.
      Don't know if you're aware, but there are some great resources available at: https://thefoldline.com/

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  66. Hi Peter, I live in Hoboken, NJ so am fortunate to have easy access to the garment district offerings such as Mood. I was in New Hampshire a few summers ago and made a point of going to a Hancock's. It was no big deal, a step up from JoAnne's, better quality, about 1/6 the size of Mood, I know I am spoiled by the local offerings. I like to go to Fabricland in Plainfield,NJ. It has good prices and a very knowledgeable staff. There are usually one or two customers in there in homemade funky outfits to chit chat with. I do think the fabric store for small towns are going to fade unless they can offer sewing advice and a really good selection. I have ordered from fabric.com and denverfabrics.com and have had a good experience. When private equity companies start buying up stores, they are looking for a quick buck and will close anything that is not related to fast profit. There was an article in the NYT or WSJ last week about the return of textile production in the US for technical fibers which may start to bring back some of the sewing industry to the US. Additionally, some smaller, high end manufactures are bringing back their cotton mills and sewing to the US. They are hiring people with sewing skills so they have more oversight and control of the quality of a distinguished end product.

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  67. We here in DC are fortunate to have G Street Fabrics. In Chapel Hill NC, Mulberry Silks in the wonderful Carr Mill Mall continues to hold its own

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  68. I compare it to bookstores. Me personally, I have been in probably more than 1,000 bookstores on the three continents I've been on. Today I live a twenty minute walk to a large Barnes and Noble. Yet, I haven't bought a book at a retail store (save an airport before a flight for some reading material) in close to a decade or more. My local B&N has become increasingly abusive at the hands of its employees to shop there, it has 40% of the books on display it had fifteen years ago, and it's prices are half again to four times the price I can buy for online.

    I've bought fabric online with mixed results. Some fantastic deals, some stuff which surprised when it arrived and some miserable junk. I live a short subway ride from the garment district and prefer to shop there, even more so that garment district prices now closely match up with online, AND I can get some super high end fabrics as well. YET, that ain't gonna last all that long. At some point I'll be buying online like everyone else at RFD Mayberry.

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  69. Hello Peter - I saw your picture of the old Singer Sewing Machine store and it brought back memories. I'm old enough to have shopped at the 2-floor Singer store in Rockefeller Center back in the late 60s. Bought my first Touch N Sew machine there. Two floors of machines and beautiful fabrics. So sad that stores like that don't exist anymore. Thank goodness that at least there are now fabrics to be bought on line. But it isn't like it used to be. And I miss the old garment center from 20 years ago. Sad times for the newer sewists. They missed some great places.

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  70. I live in San Diego and have not found anyone who sews. All fabric stores specializing in apparel fabrics have closed. Although Los Angeles does have great fabric stores. Joann's is really making a renewed effort at some apparel fabrics but still does not carry much in the way of quality. I brush up on my fabric vocabulary, narrow down what I want, go online and then go crazy. thats it. the end. all by myself!

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  71. Did you know that we used to have a Singer store in NYC? Very posh, 2 levels, in Rockefeller Center! I couldn't find any images, but I believe it was there until at least the 1960's. Those were the days when sewing was really popular - cause almost everyone knew how and had access to a machine. Macys and Bloomingdales sold fabric! My favorite place to buy patterns then was B. Altman. You sat in little velvet cushioned chairs to look at the pattern books, then super-knowledgeable sales people led you to the correct fabrics for your pattern, found all the right notions for you, etc. Heaven.

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  72. I remember Mom and I going to the fabric store a few blocks away from our house years ago. "Economy Textiles" sold fabric by the pound. I loved the entire experience from walking the aisles and aisles of fabrics to being perched on a stool to look through the pattern books.

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  73. I think it varies, more people that I know, like me, are into more craft like sewing projects. To me sewing garments for myself is just too expensive. I do make baby clothes. I do sometimes find expensive fabrics on sale and might make my daughter a top, but it is usually very simple with the least amount of fabric and the fabric is what makes it look expensive not so much whether it is tailored or not. I never went to Hancocks, and I order most of my fabrics on line from the most popular stores. I do love Joann's and Michaels. They always have something I need. I also hear from people that unless you have the perfect figure and size the patterns need to be manipulated and you need to have some kind of skill in altering patterns and for them it is just a waste of time and money. Everyone is different in their needs and to be honest I have seen a decline in home sewing garments and an increase in more practical and useful things where you can be more creative.

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  74. Sewing is definitely booming in Belgium! But sadly we don't have any large chain stores and most independent ones (online and brick and mortar) are very mommy oriented and pricey. Sewing is definitely at a peek among moms who sew exclusively for their kids, it's still weird for a grown-up to sew for themselves, which makes it difficult to find nice fabrics. (Except when you live in the big cities) I'm very lucky to have a 'cater to all' fabric store nearby with very decent pricing. It only opened up a year ago though, so before that I had to shop online to find a nice selection of (affordable) grown-up fabrics.

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  75. I don't think the UK is any more craft-oriented than the US, if anything less so. Possibly the reason GBSB could be made in the UK because the BBC is still notionally a public service broadcaster and it can also make money out of tied in book sales.

    I haven't noticed much interest in sewing among my 40yo friends, there is possibly more interest in a younger group, but you do need a fair amount of space in your house for sewing and that is in extremely short supply for most young Britons. I live in an area with a very large British Pakistani population and there are a lot of fabric shops and market stalls catering to that group and it is also an area that had a lot of fabric and wool manufacturing in the past (which is why the large immigrant population settled here), so there are still quite a few mill shops, but that is mostly in upholstery fabric.

    Patterns are very expensive here and there has been no large scale sewing chain like Hancocks or JoAnns knocking stuff out at a discount.

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  76. Peter,

    Dublin Ireland has seen an increase in the number of fabric and craft shops in the past few years. But, we don't get the same choice of fabrics as other countries, and I find myself wandering around beautiful markets and shops when I visit other European countries to get unusual fabric for my patchwork. If I buy it online from an Irish supplier it is very expensive. I enjoyed looking around the Garment District when I was in New York a few years ago but had no room in the suitcase to buy more than a small piece of nice cottons. Still, my 12 year old neice is taking a great interest in the contents of my sewing room and secretly leaves me messages to keep the scraps for her... so maybe I am doing something right??

    Ann

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  77. I never much cared for either Hancock's or Joann's, as being not a patch on Pieceworks (died in the 1980s) or the fabric shops of my youth. Go there because there's no other choice but Walmart to look and touch and smell fabric for dressmaking before I buy. Still, in central NC, there's at least a wealth of outlet warehouses for drapery and home-dec fabrics. Some good cottons and linens there that are perfectly fine for blouses and dresses and trousers and coats.

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  78. I live in Paris and at Marché St Pierre there are lots of great fabric stores with material that comes from all the big fashion houses like St Laurent, Dior and Chanel for a fraction of the price. However, I'm not sure there are the same opportunities elsewhere in France; it's a bit of a niche, maybe like the Garment District in NY. Of course, you've got to get to know the owners to get the insider info on what is what and some are nicer than others (after all, this is France and we make snootiness a national pastime!!) There is also the equivalent on Sewing Bee on TV here and there probably has been a resurgence of interest in making clothes/crafts although it remains pretty marginal as a hobby. Even in Europe we are light years from what it probably was in the 50s and 60s: the perfect illustration for anyone who's had the chance to go there is the Mecca of Merceries, Liberty in London - the fabric department is really quite small (ok it's divided between clothing and furnishing fabrics but even so ...) whereas most of the store is now filled with ready to wear and accessories by the right names just like any fancy department store.
    But the internet is no replacement for feeling fabric which is the only way you can ultimately tell if it's of good quality or not.

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  79. Ah, the demise of good fabric stores. I never considered walmart, hancocks, or joanns good fabric stores. I live in Phoenix, AZ, and would have to drive 500 miles to LA to find a fabric store. Not gonna happen. Thank goodness for a stash and online stores.

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  80. I went to my local Hancock Fabrics this afternoon. Found some nice Madras woven shirting, some (rather expensive) denim -- will wait to buy that, and saw a ton of poplin from 100% cotton to various blends, batik, crepe, corduroy. Amongst the fleece and home deco fabrics there are deals to be found. I also bought 6 patterns.

    Worth the trip. Made me happy to buy good stuff and made me sad that I only just found out during a liquidation sale how happy this stuff could make me. The place was packed with fellow mourners; the line to the cutting table extended through the store and nearly out the front door.

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  81. I am sad to hear about Hancock. "Private equity firms" are a plague upon honest businesses. I live in the Virginia suburbs of DC. The Hancock in our town left about 8 years ago when the landlord didn't renew their lease. I was devastated by that, and now we have our third high end grocery store to enjoy. Sigh. Then this year G Street Fabrics shuttered their two shops in Northern Virginia, consolidating into one store in Rockville, MD. More woe for the fabric starved. I agree with the fellow commentator that many people consider it odd that I sew. I don't know a single person in my neighborly acquaintance who does. Fast fashion makes it seem like a fool's errand to sew. Why would you spend $40 and 5 hours to sew a shirt, when you can buy one for $25? There is no reason to do it but self expression now. I, too, remember going with my grandmother to well stocked fabric stores in NYC and pouring over pattern books or running my little hand over all the bolts. Back then, if you wanted a special occasion dress or a new coat, sewing was the most economical option. I remember (and still have) many of the clothes my grandmother made me, I wore some of them to tatters, notably a gorgeous plaid mohair coat made with a Vogue YSL pattern. I think my daughters feel the same way about the garments I sew them. The other day, my youngest came home from school in a tunic I had just made her and observed, "I've never heard anyone else get to say, 'Thank you, my mother made it for me.'" Unfortunately, this is the reason we can't have nice fabric stores in every town.

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    1. I wish I could make a shirt in just 5 hours! LOL You're right though: sewing is primarily a hobby. It's like gardening. We don't HAVE to grow food. We do it because it's fun.

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  82. A couple years ago, I posted a sewing machine on freecycle, and got maybe 20 responses. It was heartbreaking, trying to decide who to give it to, but obviously there is a lot of interest out there. Also, recently my young 19-year-old neighbor asked for help finding a sewing machine because she wants to learn to sew and eventually become a fashion designer. We did find a machine for her, and I helped her become familiar with it. It seems to me that sewing is more popular among immigrants than native-born Americans, maybe because they often need particular styles or items that can't be purchased easily.

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  83. Wow....these comments have been great reading! I love hearing from others around the world. I am in Helena, Montana and my only option here is Joanns, Hobby Lobby and some independent quilt shops. Our last independent fabric shop just announced they are closing, but they have gone more towards the quilters in recent years. I do not make clothes, primarily because the only instruction available to me is online (or calling my 84 year old Mother who lives 1600 miles away!). I primarily make bags but also make quite a bit of baby items. I am purchasing fabric more and more online and am finding those online shops that I feel have quality material. I like buying fabric on Etsy....feels more "local" to me (weird, I know). My Mother is an amazing seamstress, and growing up in the 60's, she sewed all our clothes to save money. She made herself some beautiful Jackie Kennedy outfits....chanel suits and even sewed the chains into the jacket hem! She made all my Barbie clothes and I still have a few of them....set in waits, darts and lining! I fear it is all a lost art. I am a fan of Project Runway and love seeing the young men and women who are so talented. Perhaps shows like that will inspire others to follow suit. However, most of the designers on that show are taught by their Mother's/Grandmother's. Where I live, there are simply no classes available so if you don't have a Mom who sews, I think one would have to find one!

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    1. Susan, would organizing a get together of sewers through Meetup or Craigslist be a possibility. You're out there, I suspect, you just have to find one another. Seems like it would be a great way to share your skills!

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  84. It is with great sadness to hear of the closing of the Hancock's Stores. Hancock's has been a feature in my sewing and design life from the beginning. I began sewing in the mid 70's while in college in Seattle, and always went back to my hometown Tacoma store to purchase fabrics and notions, usually the discounted stuff on the back tables. Lycra stretch knits were just coming into their own, and my six grade sweetheart was working there and she always gave me a huge discount on the fabric (thanks Jania). In the ensuing 45 years, several other fabric retailers have and gone, but Hancocks always seemed to weather the economic storms, but now I think they have lost the battle to Joanns. Even my humble hometown Hancocks with it's cavernous interior, bad lighting, inept merchandising, and anemic corporate innovation, was destined for closing. It's really too bad, Hancocks became my go to place for the basic Lycras I use for costume making, and the had a great selection of Star Wars fleece and flannel that was better than Joanns. There were other Hancocks in the Seattle area I visited, later as a design student you searched the discount tables for unusual fabrics a cheap prices, and later still as a sewing professional, Hancocks was a good resource on the list of local fabric stores, but you never forget your first crush (that's you Jania!), or your first fabric store, that's you South Tacoma Hancocks!

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  85. Me and a friend of mine had a similar conversation, about a month ago, after we visited the local sewing fair here in Malmö, Sweden. I am not surprised that sewing at decline. Say what you want, but there is a lot to be discussed when it comes with whose fault it is. May be it is the consumers, who would rather buy a garment for next to nothing on the next sale. Maybe it is the whole culture, where we work overtime and when we finally make it to day off, we would rather watch idiot-tv (read The Kardashians or similar), rather than make something.
    But may, just maybe it is the home-sewing industry itself.
    What struck me at the fair was how difficult it was to find good fabrics. And I am more than happy to pay as long as it is worth it. All of the fabrics on that fair were either of sub par quality or they were printed with really tacky patterns.
    The stores that sell fabrics here are a reflection of that too. The garment-grade fabrics in the shops are usually hideous. Most of the pattern companies and sewing magazines here in Sweden and Europe (I can say) would rather target women in their 40 ties and 50ties... which is fine. However, that means that no young girl of a guy would consider sewing. I have hear the sentence over and over again: "That's something mom does".
    Of course it is something mom does, she learnt how to. How many schools teach children crafts and handwork?
    And getting to learn the craft of sewing at a quality level would compete with the quality of the industrially made clothes is not really readily available en masse. Unfortunately. And home made is usually not that exciting.

    So in conclusion, unless the industry starts targeting the younger generations things are about to go downhill. With poor fabric choice, with little chance to learn the craft and without an expansion of the target groups of the home-sewing industry we should be happy we have what we have today.

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    1. Enjoyed your comment! I started considering what you said about the whole culture. You're on to something there. People are not as industrious as they once were. In my comment I mentioned my mom and aunts sewing pretty much their whole wardrobes. I didn't mention that they all worked 40 hour a week jobs too. And can I add cooked dinner each night for their families! They all had nice flower gardens too...no housekeepers or landscapers for these gals! They knew how to squeeze the most out of each day. You also are right about the target consumer for most pattern companies. Burda is the only one I can see with a young section. The big 4 always had junior sections when I was a teenager. The sewing magazines and pattern books used young popularly known models in fashionable outfits. Oh well. Like you say...let's be happy for what we do have today, there's no going back.

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  86. Its always sad to hear when a business is closing. Here in Va years ago my go to fabric store was Piece Goods. I was so sad that it closed - it was just a great store and always had a great discount table. I'm still not over it. The closest Hancock fabric store near me closed years ago and there are two that were farther away but I never got to them so Jo Ann's has been my go to local sewing place. I'm so thankful for the online sewing community and MPB day : ). I can't tell you how many fun/creative folks I've meet in line waiting to get fabric cut in fabric stores. I've learned so much just talking with folks, sharing ideas, and cutting up (Pardon the pun) while standing in line at the fabric store. Its nice to see more men in the fabric store when I go in there these days. A husband once asked me to help him pick out knitting supplies for his wife who was learning to knit since he was getting her a B-day gift. I thought that was cool. I'll never forget when I was in Mexico City one time and was amazed by the number of dress shops/clothing shops that were all over. These were independent stores with dress makers and making their own garments to sell - to fit! You don't see this in the states as much as it used to be. We have more big box stores selling clothing that is manufactured off in other countries for sale here. I'm thankful for the sewing community and those that continue to practice their skills weather they need to or not just for the fun of it, interest and enjoyment of it.

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  87. Peter, thanks for such a great post. I have read all the comments as this is one of my favorite, although sad, topics. I'm one of the oldest commenters here having learned to sew in the 50's and 60s. Here in the Providence area there were at least 10 wonderful fabric stores then that sold gorgeous fabric. It was a treat to spend the day perusing each one. Whatever garment you had in mind to make, you could find what you wanted. Just a look through a Vogue Patterns Magazine from that era gives good insight as to what kind of sewing was going on. We also had many fabric mills that made silk and woolens that had factory stores right on the premises. It was a wonderful time to be a sewer. Not to mention, people dressed up in those days! My mom and aunts wouldn't have been caught dead out and about unless wearing a nice suit....made by them of course! Maybe the dressing down has contributed to the lack of interest?
    I am lucky enough to have one final independent fabric store only 20 minutes from my home- Apple Annie's. She does have an online store too. People meet there for sewing camps and lessons. But you are right, sewing has gone the way of "hobby" rather than a way of life for most out there. Good thing we have each other here for moral support! I'm hoping I can join you in NYC soon for one of your meet ups.

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  88. Oops - posted this in the wrong place initially. Here's my blog post about Hancock's closing:

    http://2busyandersons.blogspot.com/2016/04/another-sad-goodbye.html

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