January 20, 2006

Sari Store

For our new couch, we are designing and sewing our own cushion covers. I wanted to find the perfect fabric to make the couch and room a place to be proud of. Being new to the city, I had no idea where to look for fabric.

Back in September, while working on new curtains with my mother, we noticed a store, in the same strip mall as the JoAnn Fabric, a sari store, complete with colorful sale bolts on the sidewalk. Our neighborhood is close to the main Indian section of the city, a happy find for my curry addiction.

When our upholstery hunt began, I immediately started imagining wonderful silks, in bright colors, covering our pillows. It was time to check out those sale bins at the Sari store.

The barrels of bolt ends on the sidewalk did not match our visions, so like any store with merchandise to sell, we went inside. Immediately, among the sea of beautiful, overwhelming racks of silk and behind the overflowing display cases of gold, heads turned. Both clerks and shoppers gave pause to witness the white people.

A woman, about our age, came to wait on us. “We are looking for fabric,” I said. She quickly escorted us to the back of the store and began her vigil over our browsing.

“Maybe we want a green or blue tone,” I mentioned to SB. “Here, here, we have green. Or this blue, take this one,” the clerk said, pointing out the bolt nearest to where she stood. Her insistence, solemn and critical tone and the speed at which she tried to solve our ponderings, made her intentions obvious. She wanted us to leave her store, quickly.

I moved further into the store, down the long table of heaped bolts. We discussed quietly the options we saw. I was disappointed that most of the fabrics were solid colors, missing the patterns that are common on pre-made Saris. Our clerk remained on guard.

The discomfort of being so closely watched and the plainness of their selection finally made us leave the store. As we walked out, I could feel the eyes of the patrons track us through the racks.

With a little more sleuthing on-line, I found an enormous upholstery fabric store, filled with middle aged white people, happy to have our business. Our couch will be covered in a dense cotton weave instead of luxury silks. It will be more modern and less bohemian and it will be a little reminder of what our culture is and is not.

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