You’re cheating and I know it

At this moment, I’m enjoying a cup of coffee, with a graham cracker to dip into it. It won’t take as many bites to finish it as it once did.

I’ve been eating graham crackers since before I started school,crackers back in the days when my mother decided to protect my health by calling them “cookies.” They’re still a treat to me, plain, or smeared with something decadent, like all-natural peanut butter, or cherry-almond jam from one of our local farmers.

At some point, though, I suddenly realized that the graham crackers aren’t as big as they used to be. They look the same, they’re packed the same, but they’re smaller. What a sneaky way to raise the price without being obvious about it.

Then I started noticing other things. Old recipes call for certain sized cans of ingredients that only come in smaller sizes now. The ounces are fewer in cans of soup. Some cereal boxes have become very skinny but when you look at them head-on, they appear to be the same size. Someone is hoping we won’t pay attention to how much is inside that box.

I think what I resent most is the producers’ assumption–evidently–that we’re too stupid to notice what’s happening, or we’re too apathetic to care, or, more likely, that we’ll just accept it because there’s nothing we can do about it. To me, it’s cheating; it’s an accepted form of weighting the scales.

I could live with all of those things, though. I could avoid the blatant changes by eliminating products that just aren’t worth it. For instance, we no longer buy cold cereal. I can adjust recipes, or admit that a couple ounces less in some ingredients won’t make a difference.

But what is nearly driving me to head-banging frustration is what’s happening to bolts of fabric. The standard widths for years have been 44-45” and 58-60”. The clothing patterns give yardage requirements based on those standard widths, and their layout sheets are based on those, too. Now, some of those bolts have shrunk to only 42 inches.

If you’re not a sewer, or if you only make crafts or quilts, you may not have noticed or it might not matter. But when you’re an apparel sewer, as I am, you know that those two or three inches can make a big difference. Most garment pieces are cut out on a width of fabric folded in half, but when a sleeve suddenly won’t fit, so that you have to open the fabric up to get only one sleeve, it means having to add to the total yardage at least the length of a second sleeve in order to have enough to go around. The trouble is not knowing ahead of time what kind of trouble you’re facing, or having to guess at how much extra is needed, with the possibility of wasting some of it.

boltsIt would be so much more straightforward–and honest–to simply raise the price of the fabric (which they’ve already done anyway, of course) and leave the widths as they’ve always been so we know exactly how to plan our projects. When we have to buy extra fabric to accommodate the narrower widths, we’re already paying more, and we’re well aware of that. But now we have the added aggravation of trying to adjust our patterns in some willy-nilly fashion.

The frustrating part is having no real way to complain about it. The fabric stores have little or nothing to do with it, and the poor clerks in the fabric stores have no control at all. Who do I write a letter to? I have no idea where this fabric is woven, but it’s probably somewhere in China, where most of our U.S. goods seem to originate these days.

So far, my answer has been to avoid the skinny bolts. Maybe, if enough of us do that, someone out there in textile land will figure it out. Or, if the fabric-skimping practice continues to grow, maybe the new patterns will begin to draw their layouts based on 42 inches instead of 44-45.

Until then, I’ll growl and gripe at the fabric stores and write blogs. None of that will do any good, but at least I’ll feel like I’ve shown I’m not as naive as they hope I am. I know you’re cheating me, even if I can’t do anything about it.

About Monica Sawyn

I'm a retired newspaper reporter/columnist, and although I still freelance, I miss the weekly column I used to write. I still "see columns" in everyday life and need a place to put them after they're written--thus, this blog. I'm Catholic, have been a Benedictine oblate since 1977, and live with my husband and our beagle in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. When I'm not writing, I'm probably reading, sewing, taking photos or walking the dog.
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4 Responses to You’re cheating and I know it

  1. blb1 says:

    Monica ABC has been doing a made in America feature. Maybe a bug in their ear will get a story out of this. I don’t sew any more so didn’t realize this.

    • Monica Sawyn says:

      Since I don’t watch regular TV–we have no cable, satellite OR antenna–I wasn’t aware of ABC’s show. If they’re looking for things actually made here–lotsa luck! As a sewer, even a former sewer, you can appreciate my dilemma.

  2. sage_brush says:

    Not only skinnier bolts, but skinnier weft and warp too. The quality is awful.

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