Chelle Summer

Yards and yards of fabric...and a penny

Michelle Rusk

It always seems perfect. And then turns complicated.

It was the perfect fabric. I was looking for a specific weight for a dress I wanted to make. With the amount of chiffon and georgette one can find in the Los Angeles Fashion District, this would have been a cinch.

And I thought it was when I saw it.

“This is it,” I told Greg who was happy he’d been the one to point the way to this store, having already scoped it out after running another roll of ten yards of knit to the car. “I’m in love.”

It was paisley, it was pink. It was orange. It was green. It was yellow. It was the 1970s. It was my Barbies.

We asked the woman working in the store what the price per yard was, $1.80. I was cool with that.

The minimum? I expected her to say five or ten yards, what we’d be quoted at the stores on the block next to this one.

“It’s by the roll,” she said. “And the rolls are a minimum of fifty yards.”

I’m not there yet and knew it, leaving the store with a sample in my hand, but feeling dejected, not wanting to let this pattern slip through my fingers.

We drove to another part of the garment district and I found myself in a little prayer with my dad. “Please bring me a coin if I’m supposed to buy this fabric today,” I prayed. Then I felt silly and added, “No, it’s okay.”

I thought it was stupid to ask him if I should buy the fabric. I didn’t need that much, I didn’t need to focus on it. I would let it go and eventually it would come back when the time was right, maybe in another form. When that happened, I’d look into the rearview mirror and understand why it transpired the way that it did.

I let it go, we parked the car, and walked toward the store where I needed to get piping for pillows and I looked down. A penny.

The fashion district is filled with homeless; we walk by more makeshift tents than I can count with all my hands and toes put together. There’s never a coin to be found. Except this one.

“We’re going back,” I told Greg, “after we finish the items on the list.”

That’s where it got complicated. The woman kept upping the minimum on the rolls from 50 yards to 60 to 70. I definitely didn’t need that much fabric (but curtains were starting to sound good). She also couldn’t get to the rolls because there were too many on top of them (they’d used a forklift earlier that morning in another store to get to the pink lining that I’d requested). She would have to wait about an hour for some of the delivery guys to come back and help her.

We left the store with plans to drive another store that was a few miles away, me knowing it might kill enough enough time. I’d already come this far, I was going to get the fabric now.

Three blocks away, the woman called.

“I don’t know how it happened but I found a roll with 32 yards on it,” she said.

Still more than I needed (at least until I make the first dress), but more manageable. And definitely meant to be mine.