Fabric Fondler Or Public Nuisance?

feeling fabric

There I was, stood on the escalator, going home at the end of a long day. The woman in front of me was wearing a lime green wool coat of some extreme fabulosity. That was a great coat. Had she made it? What was the texture of the fabric? I reached out to stroke the hem … and my hand froze in mid air.

The rules of polite society, I told myself, are that you don’t go around stroking strangers clothes.

I shoved my fist into my pocket and bowed my head in shame. Just because I sew doesn’t mean that I can’t behave like a functioning member of society. That’s the theory, anyway.

I have so many sewing friends now, and so many other people who know that I sew. Everyone’s got used to a bit of man handling. A fond greeting in my world is a kiss, a hug, and a fondle of a collar. Ooh, poplin! That’s how you say hello, right? Or wrong?

Am I a hopeless case or does this happen to you, too?


Hugging Lizzie or checking out her tweed?

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62 Responses to Fabric Fondler Or Public Nuisance?

  1. Lily Davies says:

    I stalk interesting knitwear….

  2. Sara, Cardiff says:

    Don’t worry – I am the same with hand made knitwear – fighting the urge to stroke a cabled cardie, or trail my fingers over a lacey scarf, muttering “silk and alpaca perhaps?”!!!

  3. Lesley King says:

    I stare. And scrunch my eyes up. I’m just trying to work out the construction but to the untrained eye I look like I’m a serial killer.

  4. Lucy Turner says:

    Lol. My son loves plush and fur fabrics so I’m always apologizing to people whose coats he’s been caught stroking lovingly…

  5. Angelica says:

    My maternal grandmother (a seasoned seamstress herself) does this to me, a lot. Most of the time, I will go to “show off” my new makes to her, and let her examine my dresses inside out in private and give comments on how well (or not) I’ve sewn it. That’s all very fun, but sometimes, when I wear a me-make she hasn’t seen, she will examine it in public. Like at a recent family party, when she just hiked up my skirt to see the hem finishing, exposing my underwear to half the family. *sigh* Silly old grandma <3

  6. sewbusylizzy says:

    Oh and I thought you were just being friendly & patting my bum! LOL 😉
    I only stroke those I know – with permission. Except at meet-ups when you can even lift up hems!
    I’m more tempted to take photos of garments I admire & hone in on details… but I realise that’s too weird!!

  7. Marike Smit says:

    I interrupt the person politely, compliment them on what they are wearing and ask whether they made it or where they bought it and how great they look wearing it – by then they are in such a flattered state that when I ask if I may touch the garment they wholeheartedly agree. Heehee.

    • The same with me. Lots of garments and people wearing them around me got compliments and questions. I think I never touched (can`t guarantee) but a few times I was tempted to ask, if they could borrow me the garment, so I can take the pattern…;-)

      • Sharon says:

        Yes if I love a garment, I always comment and ask if they made it as it is so fabulous. You can get into all sorts of lovely conversations and even the acceptance of touching the garment is well received.

  8. Katie says:

    I’m generally more of a construction junkie/stalker, which involves scrutinising other people’s seams, collars, ummm jeans crotches….

  9. ManouelaS says:

    Yeap another restrained fondler here. The times i ve had to control myself on an escalator….also to stop staring people’s crotches and bums trying to understand trousers fit and working out construction. At least my rush hour tube journey is more interesting this way.

  10. Oh my goodness, I am a compulsive back tag tucker, and when in London I did it to some women in Spencer St Tube Station – she reacted really badly, and then she didn’t speak much English so my explanation was a bit lost on her. Here, I do it all the time but London is not a city that takes kindly to unsolicited physical contact!

    • Fashionista says:

      Me too!!! The back tag out drives me nuts and luckily I haven’t had a bad reaction to my “just tucking your tag in, have a lovely day” actions. Most ladies are just grateful and I have had some fabulous conversations. I take the tags off my RTW as I find them really itchy and spiky. Not to mention my fear of them sticking out and I don’t know……..

  11. Colesworth says:

    Nearly happened to me today too! I was behind a lady on campus/work in a gorgeous fit n flare dress in a border print of midnight blue with deep red flowers and starry dots. I was following her thinking “is that crepe or sateen? I want to touch it” So I made myself walk away!

  12. creatievemie says:

    Ok,I can totally envision this.I’m constanstantly touching fabric in stores but have yet refrained myself in doing so when there are actual people inside,only my close friends are getting fondled😄Sewists just have some weird fascination for fabrics,people just have to indulge them ,right?

  13. Hélène says:

    “Mom, stop staring at her!!” My son and my daughter often have to bring me back to reality. And I’m always trying to refrain from touching. I think this is s pathology affecting most sewists.

  14. Ali says:

    This happens to me all the time! I’m glad I’m not alone.

  15. Yvette says:

    Yes, it is very hard to resist when you see someone in something lovely! I also often wish I had a tiny pair of scissors to cut those threads they put in the vent of a coat or jacket to keep it closed in the shop. I often see people wearing their coats with the cross of threads still in – can’t they see it hangs badly?! It just needs a little ‘snip’ …

  16. sewfarsogood says:

    Totally identity with that scenario- have even been known to introduce myself just so that I can get a closer look or indeed a fabric fondle!

  17. Stephanie says:

    I don’t fondle people’s fabric, but the focused gaze thing has been embarrassing me lately. I’m always inspecting people’s clothes and have to force myself to look away. When I’m in Italy I admit that I sometimes follow people for a little bit to snap pictures of what they are wearing. 🙂 I think Marike has the best plan though!

  18. I always want to see the inside seam finishes on things, so my friends are now used to me turning their cuffs and necklines inside out in public!

  19. helen says:

    Once in Aldi I followed a lady around who was wearing a coat made out of patchwork Liberty Tana Lawn, it was before I had a smartphone so could take a photo. It was just wonderful!
    The other weekend I was caught ogling somebody’s bike – so when they caught my eye I had to say why I was starring. I’ve since found out it’s a Bobbin Brownie but unfortunately I can’t justify a new bike as there’s nothing wrong with the one I have.

  20. ginderella says:

    100% get your temptation to touch the hem of that coat. I’ve told strangers how lovely a garment looks on them. I have a thing for touching fabrics / looking at construction methods in rtw garments in store, only a matter of time before this escalates to garments people are wearing.

  21. It’s not just you. I love to check out people’s clothes. I just ask before I touch =) I haven’t really had any completely negative responses, maybe some strange looks though. I have even asked people if I could take pictures of some detail or other that caught my eye. Most people are just flattered that someone appreciates the quality of their clothes.

  22. Anna says:

    I don’t make my own clothes from scratch, but I’ve done that, down to the “mid-air pause and stare at your own hand in surprise” bit, because I do love fabric! I always feel stalkerish when I want to take photos of the patterns, too, because you have to get close but be subtle and, well, it’s creeperish. I probably wouldn’t like it if someone did it to me and I didn’t know what they were doing!

  23. I’ll tough other sewing peeps when I meet them, but once an illustration teacher I didn’t really know all that well grabbed the hem of my dress to look at the fabric (it was a very stiff canvas with a world map print) and that really startled me!

  24. My sister has some vintage 70s Halstons in her closet. I made her get them out, then turned them inside out and thoroughly inspected them! Good thing they don’t fit me, or they would have gone home in my suitcase.

  25. Hilary says:

    I frequently play the “looking/not looking” game with strangers in public. I stare fixedly at their garment, trying to take a mental photograph so that I can sketch the relevant detail when they are out of sight. Should they look at me, however, I quickly look away and pretend to be focused on something else. That can be more embarrassing – the realisation that I’m intently staring at a poster for incontinence pads, for example….

  26. symondezyn says:

    BAHAHA!! I literally JUST had this conversation with someone the other day, and whether it’s OK to “feel someone’s fabric”. It hearkens back to the classic Seinfeld episode where depending on the recipient of the fondling, feeling someone’s fabric could either result in getting a date, or getting fired LOL. I’m a fabric fondler myself but only with people I would at least consider an acquaintance – I’m not sure I’m brave enough to fondle strangers’ fabric without an introduction, although I do peer at it shamelessly on public transport!! LOL

  27. Britney says:

    This totally happens to me. I love looking at hems and finishes of garments AND I’m a hairdresser so it’s double as bad cause I always stare at others hair and sometimes I catch myself mid air about to fondle their tresses…and if there’s anything worse than fondling someone’s clothing…it’s fondling their hair!

  28. dinglebobbins says:

    Aaaahhh, so this must be why my husband likes to touch the neckline of my shirt and say, “This must be felt.” Or…maybe that’s something else….. 🙂

  29. amcclure2014 says:

    I wish Maryanne had been in my class yesterday! I returned home only to find I had been wearing my top inside out (husband spotted). I can’t believe no one told me; I really can’t believe no one noticed!

  30. fk says:

    I keep wanting to whip out my camera and take a picture so I can examine the construction later and more carefully. But I think it would be unacceptable either to take a pic of a person on the street, or of clothing on a rack in a store. Does anybody do that, by the way?

  31. Elle says:

    i seem to have abandoned the rules of polite society when it comes to staring, although I do ask before touching. Of course my standards are low, the limbo bar being set by a small boy standing near a friend and me, who upon seeing her very shiny plum-colored vinyl coat at face level, had an experimental lick or two.

    • Mary says:

      Actual LOL. My nephew used to sit beside me so he could pet my variegated wale corduroy trousers.

    • Hilary says:

      LOL! I had a similar experience with a toddler and a pair of stripey tights I was wearing. She had me in fits of the giggles as she traced around the stripes with her finger. Her eye-level was just my knee-height (very ticklish area!)

  32. BeckyLeeSews says:

    At the office coffee pot this morning, I found myself ogling a gorgeous dress a coworker was wearing. But beyond just seeing the prettiness of it, I was committing to memory every tailored dart and the construction of the princess seams down the bust. If I was a man, I’d of been turned in for sexual harassment.

  33. B-rouchka says:

    I constantly check whether patterns and darts match on other people clothes, be it RTW or sewn. And I also play a game guessing what material their clothes is made of.
    Recently, I have been admiring my colleague’s dress (simple black dress with white lining on the sleeves which looks so simple and yet original) and wondering whether copying it would make her angry :o)

  34. Heather says:

    I totally catch myself doing this too. Or I’m really bad for staring and looking at fit – I forget that it probably looks a little creepy!

  35. Tracy says:

    I’m the same with people’s bags. Friends are very patient with me whilst I examine the structure of their new bags inside & out.

  36. sew2pro says:

    I fondle other people’s cats and dogs. The owners are usually flattered, the fools. I have yet to actually steal any, but I may have had a cat or two or move in with me, usually in search of better conditions 🙂

  37. Gail says:

    We are sole mates. Resisting the urge to touch (definitely dangerous!) I find myself staring for too long, trying to imprint great seam lines or design features into my memory.

  38. Ros says:

    No. Because I know how much I would hate it and how much it would freak me out if a stranger started doing that to me.

  39. Lisa says:

    One of the perks of working in a fabric shop is that it’s perfectly acceptable amongst all (ok…most) to go around inspecting (and often stroking) one anothers garments….

  40. I do this all the time, especially nicely tailored garments like the chap in the perfectly matched plaid tweed topcoat with the velvet collar on the transfer bus at Heathrow and the chap in the immaculately tailored pinstripe suit in Edinburgh. Sorry for staring guys. Honestly, it wasn’t at you. 🙂 I look at all the little details like how many sleeve buttons and if the button holes are hand-stitched. I long to grab a handful of the fabric and check the drape and weight. Ladies aren’t left out though. I look at fabric matching and dart placement and, mostly being a corsetmaker, am drafting patterns with all adjustments in my head. Not got to stroking people yet but I am sure that will come. 🙂 xx

  41. Catherine says:

    Great post, made me chuckle!

  42. Interesting darts or complicated draping always has me following complete strangers around

  43. joan says:

    Ohh thank God I’m not the only freak on the planet……

  44. LinB says:

    I am more likely to want to stroke a stranger’s hair or pat their beards, than to fondle their fabrics. Both actions would be majorly creepy, so I somehow manage to restrain myself. At least, so far; I make no promises about tomorrow.

    It borders on creepy when I pat my friends’ heads or faces, so I warn them ahead of time that I am going to do it. Those curly locks, though … and the smooth, thick, yellow tresses … and finger-combing a long beard … sigh.

  45. oh my gosh! I’m so glad to know I’m not the only weirdo who has had to stop herself from getting all personal with the fabric in a stranger’s outfit! (btw, wasn’t this a Seinfeld episode?) Wouldn’t it be great if you could just carry a permit? “Don’t be alarmed m’am, I’m a licensed fabric-feeler!”

  46. deadlycraft says:

    You can add trying to take pictures of peoples clothes surreptitiously…

  47. Mags says:

    I just stare … My sewing friend is a man and it’s worse for him staring at women’s clothes!

  48. Totally get that urge! I find myself looking at garment construction on the bus. Odd how we are all so similar. I thought I was unique!!!

  49. prttynpnk says:

    I have a minky dress and everytime I wear it, I find my coworkers stroking my arm while they talk to me…..

  50. Honestly…it’s a wonder I haven’t been arrested by now! You’re not alone. 😉

  51. I don’t fondle but I do have a focused stare that would make me look like a maniac. Combined with the fact I have resting bitch face people probably think I am massively judging them.

  52. Absolutely. I can’t resist fabric. I think I ma have asked her.

  53. megan says:

    Oh! Yep i do this, stare and try to work out how a garment was constructed… however on an escalator I would say I love your coat did you make it? Then from there maybe ask what the fabric was and whether I could touch it. Yep I’ve done it, probably wouldn’t walk after anyone… Having hit 50 I realise life is too short and just do stuff… plus I think I am looked upon differently to a girl in her 30’s, I’m harmless you see! Oh I hate tags sticking out of clothes too but have so far resisted the temptation to stick them in unless it is a person I know.

  54. Kimi says:

    Ah, so there is a name for my condition: Fabric Fondler! I don’t even try to exhibit self-control, but I do ask, usually prefaced by, “Wow, your coat (dress, shirt, etc.) is fabulous and the fabric looks exquisite! May I please feel it?” No one has said no, but I admit a few were little taken aback at first until I explained that I design patterns and love to sew.

  55. seagyrl says:

    I have just stumbled upon your blog… After work…. Getting lost in blog world…. I’ll never forget when my daughter was was 18 (now 26) She had just had emergency surgery… The next day, as the surgeon was explaining what he had done and how her recovery would be, I interupted him and said “May I feel the fabric of your shirt?” My daughter, bolted up, from an anesthesia induced haze, and said “Mom! You can’t just go around asking to feel people’s shirts!” It hasn’t kept me, although I usually say, “I’m a seamstress, may I feel your shirt?” Fabriphile is the word I use to describe myself. 🙂

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