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Image by Zachariah Hagy

By Krystyn Hartman

I love the sense of rebelliousness I get while sewing because creativity is often the only counter-offensive we have to all the distress and destruction in the world. In my own way, I fight back with every stitch. Color and texture are dynamic and expressive so turning bits of fabric into something lovely and useful is as invigorating as it is rebellious. The more stressed out I get about the state of the world, the more I tend to sew in defiance. 

A few years ago, immediately after retirement, I was rebelling so often that I was in the fabric store several times a week. Before long, the assistant manager asked if I’d like to work part time, try it out for a few months, see what I think — and there’s an employee discount to help compensate for the low hourly wages in our high-desert Colorado community.

A few months turned into two years. Whether cutting fabrics for customers at the cut table or helping at the check-out register, knowing that that crafter or stitcher chose our store on any given day to invest their time and money in something creative that they value, made it equally valuable for us. Well, we hoped so anyway.

Hearing customer voices, eyeing and touching the fabrics, the lovely trims and whimsical doo dads, noting how certain colors and combinations seem to resonate with them was poignant and beautiful. Trying to match Grandma’s heirloom quilt? “Yes, how did you know?”

Those familiar bloop bloop sounds of the scanner at the check-out register signifying another happy customer. “Oh, that’s a wild color of yarn, what are you making?”

“I don’t know what they’re called, but I’ve got a picture on my phone. Hang on, it’s right here.” The other crafters and quilters waiting patiently in line as she scrolls through the photos on her new iPhone, long pearlescent nails clicking on the glass. “I know it’s here, hang on. Here it is! Sorry,” she says to the folks waiting behind her, arms full of craft supplies.

“Wow. Who knew you could do that with yarn? Are those pineapples?”

And moments that melted my heart, like the young woman whose mother had passed away a few months earlier and they’d always gone fabric shopping together and her mother had made her special event dresses and could I please help her. “I have to do all of this myself and I don’t know what to do.” She was in tears.

“I think I can help,” I assured her, adding how wonderful that she is keeping her mother’s legacy alive with this dress and what color or colors did she have in mind. We spent almost 45 minutes choosing fabrics and laughing and crying and the managers could see what was happening and left us be. Several weeks later, she returned with photos of herself in the most enchanting dress I think I’ve ever seen. “I did it,” she said. “I did it. Thank you.” 

I thought my heart was going to burst, burst almost as much as when 6-year-old Toby approached the checkout stand clutching a large blue stuffed toy with big sequined eyes, sparkling, reflecting, amplifying the aura of light all around them.

“Name’s Toby,” the little boy introduced himself as he stepped forward, explaining that he is adopting Leonard, that’s its new name, Leonard with the sparkly eyes, paying for it with his “own birthday money.” I held his gaze for a moment, grasping the seriousness of the look in his eyes that seemed to say, in no uncertain terms, I’m trusting you lady to treat Leonard and this transaction with the utmost care and recognition of its importance to me. I’m buying this with my own birthday money, in your store, and I’m just a little kid, so think about that. 

“Ah, perhaps,” I suggested to him,“you hang on to Leonard with one hand and hold up the scan tag with the other and I’ll try to scan it from here.”

He held out the tag. “Be careful.” I took a deep breath, held up the scanning wand taking aim so as not to miss and accidentally bloop Leonard’s paw with the powerful laser beam. Bloop. Bloop. “That was close, but you did okay.” Whew. Toby pulled out a crisp $20 bill from his pocket. Another moment of eye contact, of connection, the ring of the cash drawer opening, its maw ready to receive the currency. Toby kissed the top of Leonard’s furry blue head, giving him a much different look than the one he gave me, a look of love that said: just you and me now buddy, and oh the adventures we will imagine and discover together! I counted back the change into his tiny hand, Leonard firmly secured in his other.

Transaction complete. We nodded our farewells. Of all the things in the entire universe available to this little boy to invest his own birthday money, he chose Leonard, Leonard with the sparkly eyes. Love at first sight. And I had the privilege to be part of that moment with him, a gateway granny, a bon voyage from an old adventurer to a new one.

“Thank you!” he turned and hollered back in my direction. ‘You’re welcome. And thank you too,’ I replied, then went quickly in search of a tissue to mop the mascara puddling around my eyes.

I see variations and harmonics of that same look of love among people of all ages, of course, but that one was so pure and so lovely and so vulnerable and so strong — all at the same time, that it stayed with me. 

Transactional vulnerability: We invest in what we value every single day, whether that be currency, time or attention. And if you don’t believe me? When they’re not off on one of their many adventures together, just ask Toby and Leonard, they’ll tell ya.

Krystyn Hartman is a happily married retired niche magazine pubiisher and adventurer who has returned to school in pursuit of a Master degree in Public Policy. Based in Colorado, she has lived most of her life in Western US states from growing up in a New Mexico reservation border town to the remote mountains of Idaho to lush wine country of California to hot Texas and windy Wyoming. “I’m a dusty high desert girl, a tumbleweed.”


  1. George Dom

    I enjoyed reading about the healing and restorative effects offered by the fabric shop. Sometimes the spiritual salve for all the chaos, polarization, and feelings of betrayal and helplessness when watching elected leaders put their self-interest above the public interest is to touch one person’s life each day with a selfless act of kindness. As Krystyn describes so well, it is in those simple 1-to-1 interactions of transformative vulnerability that we connect with our humanity.

    • Krystyn hartman

      Thank you Captain Dom! “It is in those simple 1-to-1 interactions of transformative vulnerability that we connect with our humanity.” I could not have summed it up better. I love this so much, thank you!

  2. Anonymous
  3. Phillip M. Castle

    What a wonderful column. It’s poignant, full of truth and offers a more hopeful outlook for what could be more meaningful relationships. Well done.

    • Krystyn hartman

      Thank you Phil! Means a lot coming from you!

  4. Anonymous

    I’ve known Krys for over 30 years and every endeavor she takes on is with a big heart and focus on what the outcome will be. She cares deeply about the effect she will have on those around her. Loved reading this story and I can absolutely picture her treating her customers with love and respect. Lucky them.

    • Krystyn hartman

      I think I know this voice… thank you B?

    • Anonymous

      Texas, California, to Wyoming and Colorado, thank you for sharing your thoughts, experience, time and love. Honored to be your daughter, proud to have you as my mother-coming from a place of love, gratitude-thank you mom for your awesomeness, inspiration and magic.

      • krystyn Hartman

        Oh sweetie. I had no idea that was you. Oh my. Thank you. I’m the lucky one to be your mom. I could say a lot here, but will call you in the morning. I love you.

  5. Uncle Don

    Your grandpa and your uncle are very proud of having such a writer in our family. Keep it up!


      Aw, thank you Uncle Don. It is surreal to be among so many talented accomplished writers from all around the world. I love everything about this magazine and couldn’t feel more honored and humbled to be part of it as a columnist. Again, thank you. Gobs of love your way. ❤️

  6. Anonymous

    I’ve enjoyed your writing for most of your life. You are a natural storyteller who makes simple events come alive. Someone reminded me yesterday “it’s the little things that make life fun.” There might be a run on fabric stores now to find sales folk to give us attention or Human Resources departments to hire us.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you! (And a run on fabric stores would not be a bad idea! )

  7. Anonymous

    Transactional vulnerability. Choosing to be vulnerable and investing emotional capital love possibly loss pain heartache, growth is a risk. Your daughter used to tell me we only grow when we struggle, she was correct on so many things I needed time to heal to grow stronger. You speak of cloth, we all I believe are cut from different cloth love sews us together into something beautiful. In a way I feel the loss in your work a feeling of letting go. Some say that I lost so much in the last few years. It was a struggle yet I gained so much more. We are all hear to teach in some ways you have taught a beautiful melody and that song taught me that I was enough. Muses do that they create the best version of us you can always see by the choices. I wanted to thank you for your skilled writing and teaching. What does it profit a man to gain the world yet loose his soul. I am sober thank God and your angel, I was diminished so scared and angry. You told me forgiveness is a gift we a give and are given. please know I have so much love and forgiveness in my heart . Even though I am old I am young . I don’t have Leonard I have someone else. God , Hate, Anger Fear all replaced by love and acceptance born from humility and forgiveness. I thank you and your song your melody that guided me through the wilderness I was lost she like you is a great writer . I have clarity and conviction of purpose. Truly the most influential and loving force I have ever encountered. It is my prayer that she will know and see in her what she so easily saw in me for I am still learning her gifts and yours. fight the good fight if you ever wish to see me again . Your Templar is here to help you with your greatest song. Carpe Diem. Well written it is comforting to know vulnerability is not weak it’s true strength. thank you. CB


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