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From: Sandy Lubkin
Date: Tue, 5 Aug 1997 13:08:36 +0000
Subject: Shopping 2 - Fabric Store

When we chose this apartment, we didn't know it was just a couple blocks from the largest fabric store in Moscow. Many of you know about my weakness for fabric and sewing in general. My housemate, Erin, has lived with several large boxes of quilt scraps in the livingroom for months at a time, and a sewing machine permanently set up on the dining table. Since she also enjoys sewing, it didn't cause too much conflict fortunately. But I have missed both the sewing machine and the fabric collection. Sometimes I just get the urge to create something. This time I've got a couple small projects in mind. One of them is a traditional Russian outfit (complete with the exquisitely embroidered blouse) for my ragdoll, Maryanne (one of my early creations), who is making the tour with us.

Since I need fabric for that, I went to Dom Tkani (House of Fabrics - no relation to the American chain of the same name) yesterday. It's big, huge, even by American standards. It's also run very differently from American fabric stores.

Some of you are familiar with American fabric stores, but for those who are not, here's a general description. Bolts of fabric (the same idea as spools of thread) are displayed. You choose the fabric you want, take the entire bolt to a cutting table (sometimes shopping carts are available for those who are buying several fabrics) where a shop assistant measures and cuts the fabric you want. Sometimes you also pay this clerk, sometimes you have to pay in another area. (The clerk puts the bolts back on the shelves.)

At Dom Tkani, as in most Russian stores, only samples are displayed. There must be thousands of different fabrics displayed there. The displays are lengths of each fabric hanging along a wall. in some sections, the lengths of fabric are floor to ceiling (curtain fabrics for the full-length curtains which are popular here. All three rooms in our apartment have floor to ceiling gauzy curtains which go across the entire wall, although the windows are smaller than that. It looks very nice, though.) and in other sections the samples are only a couple feet in length. Similar types of fabrics are grouped together, as in American fabric stores, for ease of selection.

(Picture) Bela looking at books in our kitchen with gauzy curtains in the background

Bela waited outside yesterday as we'd been out all day and he was tired. I went into the store, expecting a bit of adventure and not being disappointed. I wandered around in the store for a long time, looking for just the right fabric. I also took the opportunity to watch the other shoppers and try to learn the procedure. I couldn't figure out what they were doing - how they were going from looking at fabric to having it package in hand. But I did eventually find just the right fabric for my project - a medium-weight woven white fabric, a cotton or linen blend, I think.

I still didn't know how to go about buying it, so I watched people a while longer without gaining any insight. Finally I consulted my dictionary (Don't leave home without it!) and approached a (bored-looking) clerk. "Excuse me, please, but I don't know how to buy it." She asked me what I wanted to buy and I pointed to the fabric which was near her counter. She asked how much I wanted and I told her half a meter. She wrote me out an invoice (with a carbon copy), handed both to me and told me to go to the cashier up the hall and on the left.

The cashier was chatting with someone when I got there, and finally deigned to notice that I wanted to pay for something. She took my money and the two invoices, printed out a cash register receipt and stamped the receipt and the carbon copy. Then she handed all three slips of paper back to me and went back to her conversation.

I went back to the first counter. The clerk sent me to a third counter, staffed by an even more bored-looking clerk. I handed her the three papers. She took the original invoice and handed the other two papers back to me. She put the invoice in a box (a chute, perhaps) and scolded me when I started to fold the two papers and put them in my purse. She took the papers from me, tore the receipt halfway through (Russian clerks do that when you collect your goods, perhaps to keep people from trying to collect twice), returned it to me, and impaled the carbon on a spindle. Then she returned to standing around idly, looking bored. I was a bit concerned because I now had a receipt saying I had collected my fabric, but no fabric. I started to go back to the first counter, but the clerk called out, "Zdes, zdes, zdes!" ("Here, here, here!). So I waited near her counter. By and by I was joined by another and then another person waiting. Then I heard some machinery noise, like an elevator (lift). A door behind the counter opened and a man walked out carrying a large bolt of fabric. But it wasn't for our counter. Then the clerk bent down and was taking with someone under the counter, who apparently was handing up bolts of fabric which had been purchaced. The clerk layed a bolt of white fabric on the counter, checked her collection of carbon-copy invoices and measured my half meter. She then folded the fabric up in a piece of butcher paper (which I'll use for drawing patterns) and handed it to me.

Some notes about the store: It seems to have little but fabric, but it has a great selection of that. I was unable to find any hand-sewing needles there. They did have a large selection of buttons, a few skeins of yarn, some zippers, a bit of thread, some household linens like towels and tablecloths, but very few notions (small but important sewing items).

Then I went outside to collect Bela. He wasn't sitting on the steps right outside, because that space was occupied by a handful of people illegally selling fabric and notions. He was sitting on the steps about 20 meters up the road, across from another group of illegal street sellers. He told me there had been a bit of excitement while I was i the store. The peddlers were in front of the store when I went in (they are almost always there). Bela wasn't sure what happened, but at one point the sellers simply vanished. Then after a while, they were back. Later he saw some excitement among the peddlers. They started calling to each other and packing up. A policeman (militsia) came around the corner. "He looked like a nice enough guy. In fact, he looked like he was on his way home from work. But there were all of these grown people, terrified of him. They were dodging behind parked cars trying to keep out of his sight." And when he had gone, the peddlers set up shop again, right in front of the store.

(Picture) Sandy in front of the unofficial market in front of Dom Tkani - the people on the right and left sides of the picture

Sandy (Cannady) Lubkin
Currently in Moscow, Russia

All text and pictures copyright 1997 Sandy and Bela Lubkin, all rights reserved.