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Readers,

This morning I was recalling an experience I had a few years ago that I’ve been pondering ever since.

New York’s Garment District. Sadly, Paron Fabrics has since closed.

I was visiting New York to take part in a Saturday afternoon browsing and shopping tour of the Garment District with other avid sewers. Before the shopping began in earnest 25 or 30 of us grabbed lunch at a nearby restaurant.  We all trooped upstairs with our lunch trays of soups and salads, taking over a small upstairs space, to get acquainted. More than a few, seeing that Kenneth King had dropped in to say hello, were calculating how they could score some time with him to ask their most pressing questions.

Taking one of the last available seats near me was a fellow sewer who introduced herself as a Manhattanite who was, enviably, only a quick subway ride away from this fabric and notions Mecca. She was a librarian–I was a retired librarian, so I noted a commonality–working at a university.  She loved beautiful fabrics, maybe too much, and admitted she had a treasure horde in her apartment.  She recounted gorgeous pieces she’d bought at some high-end little store that was going out of business.  To pass up such lovely yardage at such bargain prices would be…unthinkable!

I don’t remember saying much; that would have interrupted her reverie. I can vividly recall fabrics that delighted me in Minneapolis, Chicago, New York, London, and most recently Vienna, and bringing more than a few home.  I understand the excitement.

But then my lunch companion confessed that, well, very few of these fabrics were getting sewn.  I understand this, too.  (If getting things sewn were easy, do you think I’d have started a blog to help me do it?)

Unprompted, she continued, “I see my fabrics as a collection–like a stamp collection.  Stamp collectors don’t collect stamps and then feel guilty about not using them on letters. They just enjoy their stamps. I enjoy curating a collection of beautiful fabrics.”

I said nothing, but likely a raised eyebrow betrayed my skepticism. The thing is, she didn’t seem convinced, either. No, she looked slightly pained.

After lunch our large group divided into three more manageable groups to browse Garment District stores all afternoon. My new companion and I ended up in the same group. I brought my swatch cards and a list of fabrics to be on the lookout for.  Despite my best efforts and intentions, though, I can lose my head. This I know.  So I figured that unless I was sure a fabric was perfect I would request a swatch. I could review the swatches, in tranquility and natural light on Sunday, and if I decided to buy anything I would return to stores on Monday.

So I took the pressure off myself and removed the risk of making a hasty decision. And I really enjoyed my time that Saturday afternoon.

As for my librarian lunchmate?  Stroking some summery, bright cotton print she was heard to exclaim,

“Wouldn’t this make a great dress!”

There were enthusiastic yeses (except from grumpy old me, of course). It’s safe to say she bought several yards.

Judging from the size of her bag she bought many yards of other fabrics, too.  And, why not?  Why go on a shopping trip to the Garment District and not shop?

But I have thought many times about this sentence, “Wouldn’t this make a great dress!” and how it probably led to…no dress.

You know why?

Because I really doubt she had a plan.

She thought she had a plan, but she didn’t.

Hope is not a plan.

Neither is an idea.

And neither is excitement, or a fabric, or a pattern.

Not even inspiration is a plan.

And that librarian?  She should have known that.  If she was a reference librarian, she’d know from working with thousands of patrons helping them to find information and answers.  And if she selected library materials, she’d know from having to work with budgets and collection policies and mission statements.

A plan is a map to help you get somewhere. (The French word for “map” is plan, remember?)

I was wondering today how I could write a post about planning that would be interesting and persuasive.

It occurred to me that a plan is a way of showing respect for your idea.

Your plan basically says to your idea, “I am taking you seriously and am going to try to make you happen.”

I don’t believe for one minute that my librarian companion thought she was a fabric curator.  She didn’t say to our group, “This fabric will be perfect in my collection!” No, her true self knew its destiny was as a dress.   Only she knew what kind of dress she wanted, for what occasion, whom she imagined herself to be with, and what she would be doing, in this dress of her dreams.

I hope she eventually came to her senses and recognized that she could use her librarian skills to forge a path toward making that dress that so captured her imagination.

Because even if hope isn’t a plan, without hope–and creativity, and discipline–a plan doesn’t stand a chance of being realized.

In Central Park, comparing swatches from my stash back home with what I’d just swatched in the Garment District. Natural light is so much more reliable than store lighting.