I haven't posted in yonks, I know. Summer days are lovely for being out and about. The kids seem to not want to take naps much. Sewing is still happening, but photographing and blogging are slow.
So I'm cheating now and posting about nothing in particular. At least not a sewing project. But long-time readers of this blog will know what my blogging is like - absolute silence for two weeks, then 6 posts all at once about some insane thing I'd been working on. So that will come, that will come.
Today I want to share a silly sort of tutorial. The title says it all - it's how I go fabric shopping with three small children, all under five. I can count on one hand the number of times I've bought fabric online - it just does not appeal to me. But physical shopping with little ones takes some thick skin, and I'm always open to learn how other people do it. Want to share your tips? OK, I'll go first.
First, it is important that small children be trained from as young as possible to adore fabric stores. This means a few days after birth, they must be taken out in their car seats to the nearest fabric store to expose them to Important Life Experiences. When Kate was less than a week old, we went out in a blizzard to a remnant sale. Never mind that I bought nothing because it was a completely useless sale or that about 80% of the whole adventure was spent driving or nursing in the car (when stationary of course - what were you thinking?). It was good mother-daughter bonding. Plus it was good practice watching the clock and getting really good at the whole dashing-in-and-dashing-out-of-the-store thing, which leads to the next point.
Second, you must be focused. You must have a list. See mine in the first picture. You cannot just browse because you have a free morning. Small children = no such things as free mornings. You must write all your Must Buys down on paper or in your blackberry or on the skin of your arm. Do not trust your memory. Small children = no short-term memory. You may disagree and claim that you took a college course in remembering 100 things by thinking of colors of the rainbow or rhyming words that string together into a catchy little tune. More power to you but don't come crying to me when you've gotten home from your shopping trip without the yard of 1" elastic you had to stop sewing that skirt midway to go on said trip to buy.
Third, you must pack ammunition for the smalls. Every child will have different dietary needs but this is what I apportion into small ziptop bags when we go fabric shopping:
I will share this important tip: The larger the cracker, the more time you can buy before your child(ren)'s next request for "more". If your children are not germophobic, pack one sippy cup and make them share it. Otherwise you will have to carry all the sippy cups as well as all your non-walking children back to your vehicle because you don't want to risk having water leaking onto your new fabric in the shopping bags. Even if your children swear that they will hold their own cups, by the time the shopping trip is over, they will not.
Also, if you have especially young children, you must pack suitable receptacles for containing snacks. I bring one of these for each child accompanying me:
Without these, you will spend all your time replenishing snacks in their limited-capacity little hands.
Fourth, always ensure you have a Secret Weapon in your purse. Mine looks like this:
Even if you are the most health-conscious parent on the planet, your children will somehow discover the existence of such things as candy. And they will want it. If you plan ahead and restrict their access to it to special occasions (i.e. fabric shopping), it will give you a lot of negotiating power. If you dispense it at home indiscriminately, then you cannot use it as a Secret Weapon when shopping for fabric. You must pick something else, or risk shameful failure in the fabric store. Also, the Secret Weapon is best used in small amounts and in immediate response to the first signs of an impending meltdown. Should you unwisely forget to pack your Secret Weapon that day and have to resort to, "If you stop writhing on the floor now and be quiet, mommy will give you (insert Secret Weapon name here) when we get home", good luck to you.
Fifth, a well-conditioned child is one who loves the fabric itself, not the other "craft things" that the store might also stock. This way, they will be enamored of the very things you are buying and will not clamor to "go and see the craft section now!" Sadly, my children are not well-conditioned. They think that part of the shopping trip is to buy craft items. To show that I am patient with their shortcomings, I usually make a short detour at the end of the trip to the craft aisles but only after all the fabric has been measured and cut.
Sixth, if the staff at the cutting counter asks you what you are making, lie and say you are making a quilt or a tote. Unless, of course, you are in truth making a quilt or a tote. Any "unusual" project will cause the staff worker to either roll her eyes (and annoy you) or pause in her task and ask you more about it (thus wasting time). Worse, if your answer should come while she is manipulating her hand-held recording/printing device, she will be thrown off and delete all the transactions and have to manually re-enter them. Smile and act excited about your quilt/tote project and all will be well.
Finally, the same rule for attire on airplanes holds for fabric shopping trips: dress your children adorably. Other patrons in line with you for the cutting counter are more easily charmed by a child in a well-put-together outfit. Remember that the other patrons are also there to buy fabric i.e. they know about coordinating and contrasting prints and colors. You will score even more points if your child's outfit looks professional-and-yet-unmistakably-hand-made because now you will be able to talk about patterns and tips and sewing tricks with the other patrons and make time pass even more quickly. Don't worry if you yourself look like a wreck - many of the same patrons are mothers or grandmothers and remember what it was like when they hardly pulled a brush through their hair. People who buy fabric all have, at some point, chosen shopping over personal grooming. It is a fact.
Parting thoughts: when you return to your vehicle with your wonderfully-behaved children and vast amounts of fabric you know not the purpose of, you must hug them (the children, I mean; you can embrace the fabric at leisure when you get home) and praise them for their marvelous performance in the store. This is called positive reinforcement and will count towards more of the same lovely behavior on future trips and convey this powerful association to your children: Fabric Shopping = Happy Thoughts
I have found that this comes very naturally to me because I am so incredibly relieved to have survived the experience. One of our favorite fabric warehouses even rewards well-behaved children with fat quarter packs when we check out. How wonderful is that?
OK, it's your turn now. How do YOU shop for fabric with small children?