Recently, I decided that I want to learn embroidery. I know, I need another craft/hobby/obsession like I need to get my teeth knocked out in a street fight, but it’s something I’ve wanted to try for a long time. I want to travel outside my crochet and cross stitch comfort zone, and I thought I’d get a kit from Michael’s and go from there. Pretty simple, right?
Well, I stopped by Michael’s on the way home from work one day and headed straight to the back right hand corner of the store, where all the cross stitch notions are. Imagine my utter shock when I went down the aisle previously lined with thread, fabric and kits, only to find it completely bare. With the exception of a couple of stamped cross stitch patterns and felt applique ornaments, there was nothing there. An employee was stocking yarn behind me and I asked incredulously, “are y’all not selling cross stitch anymore?” to which she replied “no, there hasn’t been much of a market for it lately.” She recommended Joanne’s, to which I replied that they never had good stock because they are first and foremost, a fabric and sewing notions store. She seemed irritated by my irritation and suggested Webs, but as any yarn crafter knows, if it doesn’t pertain to spinning, weaving, knitting and crochet, Webs doesn’t carry it. At my wit’s end, I told her that Michael’s may have lost a customer and I left. The ornaments pictured above came from kits I bought on a day when I just assumed they were restocking the shelves. On this day, however, I walked out with nothing, not knowing if or when I’ll go back. I hate to not shop at Michael’s anymore because my husband’s uncle manages one, and I feel like I’m keeping it in the family when I support his company. Perhaps the next time, I’ll swallow my pride and shop there for scrapbooking materials (even though the quality of those has gone way downhill in the past five or six years).
I understand that in a tough economy, companies have to look at their bottom line and trim the parts that aren’t producing a profit for them. Fortunately, there’s a lovely “mom and pop” type needlework store in Amherst that has enough materials to make me have to live to be 479 1/2 to finish my projects. What I find disheartening about this experience is that I written off as doing a craft that’s not “in demand”. The employee’s attitude was as if she didn’t care that I had just been disenfranchised from one of my favorite crafts. Granted, I have had issues with their employees’ complete lack of crafting knowledge before when asking for something specific like waste canvas. This is different, though. It’s not ignorance, it’s a personal rejection of me and probably hundreds of thousands of crafters who don’t do “mainstream” crafting. How can we keep the crafts alive for future generations if we’re written off just because we’re not a huge moneymaker for the big box stores? Just because my cross stitch supplies don’t have Martha Stewart’s name emblazoned across them, doesn’t make them any less important. Why couldn’t they just examine which cross stitch supplies were making money and which weren’t (although it’s hard to make money selling DMC thread for $0.39 a skein, I’ll grant them that) and streamline the department. Instead of selling the Dimensions Gold kits that sell for $40 a pop, why not offer more pattern books that are less expensive? There were ways around gutting a whole department. I will take my desire to learn something new and go somewhere else. If a company can’t show loyalty to its customers in a tight economy, then certainly we have to spend our hard earned cash in a place that does.