Saturday April 14th. I've had this date marked on my calendar ever since I read about the Salvation Army's Vintage Fabric Fair in the program of a Pittsburgh-area knitting festival I went to in February. Even though it was almost the end of spring break, I woke up before dawn on Saturday and drove all the way to Pittsburgh to see what this fabric fair was all about. I thought leaving at six would give me more than enough time to be there when it opened at nine...and it would have...if I'd bothered to copy down the right address.
Although getting lost makes me cranky, the following exchange did make me smile. Having just realized that the 1900 Brownsville Road I Mapquested was some kind of dive bar and NOT the building (or even suburb/borough/hamlet/parish/etc) where the sale was happening, I stomped into a nearby gas station and asked the sixtysomething woman at the counter:
"What city am I in?"
What I meant ( I thought, quite obviously,) was what suburb/borough/hamlet/parish is this? Her reply?
Suffice to say, I arrived at the Home Economics building in South Park about 20 minutes after the sale started. Women were already walking OUT TO THEIR CARS with big bags full of stuff. Despite being 37 years old, in this kind of competitive shopping situation I still labor under the delusion that EVERYONE wants exactly what I want. So I did what any self-respecting crafty mama would do...I stopped my car in the closest thing that vaguely resembled a parking spot and ran as fast as my little legs would carry me.
When I arrived at the entrance there were about a half dozen people waiting outside. It was so crowded inside that the security guards were only letting people in after other shoppers left. Fortunately, I didn't have to wait very long. With a minute or two everyone waiting outside was allowed in.
Just inside the door, we were greeted by a man passing out giant gift bags for us to fill with our treasures. Despite the breath-stopping chaos going on around me, I was struck by how pretty they were.
What's in the bag? Chanel? Mmm, no. Used flannel and old buttons, thank you for asking.
The sale was crazycrowded and much larger than I'd imagined. Despite the crowds, the inventory was well-organized with signs clearly indicating the type of fabric or craft material on each table. While the larger yardage was in the middle of the room, books, notions and fat quarters ringed the perimeter. Each station was well-staffed with friendly volunteers who were eager to bag and price. When I left each station, my things from that table were sealed in a small bag with the price written on the outside in black marker. I was told several times, almost apologetically, that doing it this way made it easier for the cashiers at the end where the customers actually paid.
The first place I went was the buttons only to find that, alas, there had been several jars of buttons, but one of the first people in the door bought them all.
"I don't know what someone would do with all of those buttons." the sweet elderly lady working the table said, shaking her head.
Oh, I do.
I had the most fun looking through all of the fat quarters. There were boxes and boxes of fat quarters all neatly folded and arranged by color. Many of the scraps were much larger than a quarter of a yard, but not big enough to be sorted with the cotton yardage. The price for everything at that table was two dollars a pound. All of this came to three dollars:
I've been wanting to do some embroidery and bought all of these for $1.15. The volunteers at this table couldn't believe I'd driven all the way from Cleveland. They were concerned that I'd somehow missed a similar sale much closer to home. Nope. I checked. Nothing.
I also bought some ribbon and a couple of larger pieces of fabric, but it all totaled up to less than twenty dollars. Yes, I know that technically I should add in the price of gas to drive to and from Pittsburgh but, no, I'm not actually going to do that.
I would like to go again next year. The selection was vast and the prices were amazing. However, in order for it to be truly cost effective, I really should get a carpool together. I was told that, when Easter isn't a factor, the sale is always the first Saturday in April. Anyone interested?