Sew Obsessed: An Addiction to Fabric

The moment I walked through the front door, arriving home from my sewing class, I saw it. There was no mistaking it, and I immediately felt the flush of anxiety rush up from my stomach and swallow my head in a fiery gulp.

On the side of the box, in bright blue and hideously large letters, its origin was declared.

"You got another box from," my husband said from the couch without looking up from his book.

I nodded and fake-smiled, trying very hard not to betray my panic and remain as calm as possible.

It is essential at this juncture that I point out that boxes typically don't terrify me. I've been known to answer the door for a UPS man (who clearly drew the short straw when assigned my route) wearing camel-toe yoga pants and a "Workin' for the Weekend" headband because I was so excited to open the door and claim my prize. What does scare me are boxes with things inside that I don't remember buying, especially since I could clearly see just slightly past my husband's head to the four-foot pile of totes and boxes, all containing fabric, in Hoarder Corner.

I was justly horrified by the box. How could I be so far gone in my fabric obsession that a purchase had gotten lost in the mix to the point that I didn't even remember the delight of buying it? A hobby is only as good as its accessories, and sewing barely has any competition in that area.

After all, the reason I have so much fabric is because I love it. I'm not proud of it, but I will admit to making monkey sounds and flapping my arms like a heron when I encountered a particular brown-and-red-pinstriped wool for $35 a yard (a yard, by the way, is not enough to make anything for a person with an ass my size). I cooed as if it were the baby I gave up in order to go to college instead of going on food stamps. It was ridiculous and deteriorated from there when I bought as much of it as I could afford (a yard).

So when you take someone who loves something so much that her inappropriate emotional response to it nearly causes her to levitate, and then tell her she can make a dress out of it, the game is over. By the time I brought the pinstriped fabric home, both sides of the armoire and former DVD cabinet were full of wool, faille, crepe, challis, and silks. I had one box of patterns. Then two. Then three. I went to Costco on a cheese and wine mission one day but came home with totes for "storage." Boastful, foolish girls in my sewing class bragged about how they were making a dress out of a sheet they got at Goodwill for three bucks, but I had Vera Wang faille I scored on for $3.99 a yard plus a 30 percent off coupon code — eight yards of it (for two dresses, neither of which made me look like a sister wife who had spent three bucks on a dirty sheet from Goodwill when I put them on).

And then had the entire Ralph Lauren fabric selection on sale, and the totes filled up at the end of my bed. Herringbone. Taffeta. Plaid suiting. And on one lucky score, cashmere. One day, the UPS driver handed me several Minuteman missile-size objects as he averted his eyes. Bolts of Vera Wang satin. Buck-ninety-nine a yard. That's like putting cocaine on sale. Of course I was going to buy two 20-yard bolts! I'd be insane not to.

If that wasn't bad enough, I rediscovered SAS, a fabric remnant store largely exclusive to metropolitan Phoenix, and the glories contained within (despite the brusque, gruff Eastern Bloc women who work there and who, I suspect, have been kinder in cutting the throats of goats than in answering a question). While digging through the piles of fabric for $2.99 a pound (That's right: a pound. Cocaine for $2.99 a pound. Pablo Escobar never got it so cheap, and cocaine doesn't drape as nicely as a good dupioni does), I actually found a piece of fabric I had returned to two months earlier, the sticker still on it.

On one particularly fruitful trip, I bought so much cotton velvet, plaid wool, and high-end rayon ($1.99 a pound! That's cheaper than old ham from Albertson's!) I had to drag the bag to the car and wrestle to get it into the front seat as though it were a $32 corpse with great nap. I put the contents in the first tote that broke ground on Hoarder's Corner and began to spend so much time at SAS that on one memorable occasion, a woman who looked like she had lived through more wars than anyone else let me use her hand sanitizer. She cracked an almost-smile when I made a joke about the trim section's being a bigger mess than the country formerly known as Czechoslovakia was in 1992.

Hoarder's Corner grew to multiple levels, the penthouse being an enormous box, big enough that I debated adding a pillow to it and using it as napping box. But even when the corner began to crown above the couch with boxes and bags of fabric, reaching proportions that caused my husband to ask whether I was planning on moving somewhere, I wasn't that alarmed. It was just messy, I told myself, a problem that could be easily remedied when I cleaned out a "little shelf in my closet" to relocate the 25-cubic-foot fabric monument.

But when I saw the mysterious box as I walked through the door after sewing class, everything changed. I suddenly had the feeling that I needed to call Candy Finnigan and book a suite at the Red Lion Inn because my episode was next up on Intervention. This was serious. How much fabric did I really need, anyway? I don't buy anything I don't love, but apparently, I have a lot of love to give and it's clearly exclusive to textiles. I had more than I needed. I had more than I would ever use. I had more than sweatshops in India. And I suddenly mourned for the children with tiny fingers I never had.

It took me about two hours to even get close to the box because waves of nausea rose within me if I caught a glimpse of it. Eventually, curiosity and my proclivity as a fabric whore got the better of me. I sliced open the box as soon as my husband was out of the room and pushed the cardboard flaps aside. The contents were encased in a plastic bag, and I eagerly riffled through it to see what I had bought and no memory of buying. Was it silk? Was it the piqué I had waffled over for several weeks? Was it the polka-dot voile I'd been waiting for a sale on?

And then, there it was. A pair of eyes. A hairy chin. A large forehead, not unlike a former boyfriend's.

It was an embroidered portrait of Bigfoot, accompanied by a vintage pattern for a Western shirt, and bags and bags and bags of vintage class buttons. The card inside wished me a happy birthday and was signed by my friend Lore in California, who, herself, is almost a bigger fabric whore than I am. And who had taken the opportunity to hide her own slutty fabric ways by sending the evidence to my house.

But it's okay. I took a deep breath, exhaled3 a big puff of relief, and thought that the pair of earrings I got her for Christmas would fit perfectly inside the napping box.

SAS Fabrics by the Pound (1111 E. Indian School Rd., 602-279-2171, and 1700 E. Apache Blvd., Tempe, 480-966-7557)

• For more hilarity — and tales of obsession — by Laurie Notaro, check out her essays and novels at