So I run a little quilt shop out of my home now, and I’ve tried my best to make it shop-like. It’s a seperate room with an almost separate entrance. You know that front living room that no one uses? The one off the front door that also goes unused? There.
That’s where I made it.
It’s tiny but fierce. Super cute too, bolts lining the walls. Old trunks line up under the large picture window (you knew there was one in this room), filled with markdowns sorted by color. A rainbow of deals and pretty.
Big table in the middle for cutting fabric, small table next to it for setting down your purse or extra bolts. Cashbox tucked discreetly underneath.
But because it’s in my house, people sometimes act like a visit. They want to take their shoes off (please don’t, your feet will freeze here over the old basement).
They can see the electrical panel in the corner (can’t really hide it) and get glimpses of some renos still in progress (lack of trim, half a wall on the other side of the staircase – which you knew was near the front door too.)
But when they are there a while, and feel comfortable, that’s when they talk.
See, there’s all sorts of things about running a business and dealing with customers and nothing out there about how much, in some industries, you become a companion or therapist.
Someone is having their first grandchild – you can tell they are nervous. Another sad, as the quilt they are making might never get used. Maybe it will work this time.
Some quilts get dropped of with not really a deadline, but could I do it sooner rather than later? It’s going to the hospital and no one knows how much time they have left.
It’s a wedding, it’s a graduation – finally! It’s a just because the grandchild asked and well, what could they do really? (I understand. So much!)
It’s a sigh and sometimes mock frustration and a quilt made with love, even though the sweet elderly lady insists her brother is an asshole but even he deserves one of her quilts before either one of them die. It’s got their mother’s fabrics in it, see.
I also see the nervousness of first quilts, the lack of confidence and then the beauty gets unfolded.
It’s seeing the new quilter come back and try again and again, and saying to her one day that I noticed how much her work has really improved. She left beaming.
It’s the perfect binding fabric for a vintage quilt that had the edges worn off and needed replacement. The relief it can be used and loved just a little bit longer. And how well the binding fabric matched.
She comes in with her mother – or father even – slowly up the walk. Mind the step. Good sturdy handrail they tell me. I let them fill my ears as their child picks the fabric.
She comes in with a limit sometimes – a “please can you split this between the card my husband sees and the cash I have”.
She comes in when her pension cheque from the Teacher’s union gets deposited. Her fun money. We joyfully pull the prettiest fabrics off the shelves for “just because”.
She counts her change out of an envelope – her earnings from selling what she makes.
We joke often, “Don’t let me buy!” she says, “I have more than this at home!” Sometimes I give a running subtotal, sneaking in a small discount where needed. Once or twice, her card slaps down on the counter – “Don’t tell me, just run it.”
We talk. About her kids, her grandkids, her husband. We talk about the news, roll our eyes at politics, and shake our head. She asks about her phone, because I’m good with those things I guess. She wants to know did I get the same bank changeover notice and what did it mean? She didn’t understand what they told her. Should she call them back? And what about these fancy cards these days? Well how about that, look at the sales on your tablet and that little white thing they can tap. The beep lets them know the money is flying away.
We talk about color and how the fabric feels and the difference between imperial and metric – she never could get the hang of it. And what is the difference between flannel and flannelette anyway?
Her hand is on the doorknob – the well I should let you go, the follow ups and one last question and wow this house is amazing. No, you’re not bothering me at all.
Her name is probably Linda, Susan, Janet, Lois, or Cathy (Kathy).
She’s a customer, a client – I know her ups and downs, her family members, her job woes, the little things her husband did that are annoying or wonderful, her fears, her hopes, her dreams.
She’s not just a customer.
She’s a friend.