Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Shopping in New York...for fabric, of course!

You guys, I'm a little disappointed in myself.

After spending nearly an entire day fabric shopping in New York (a pursuit fully worthy of an entire day, just to be clear) my mom and I bought, between us, 6 pieces of fabric. Which might sound acceptable until you realize that half of those were 1-yard swatches from Spandex House.

How, you might ask, did I permit such scantiness to come about? I am afraid (I'm ashamed to admit it) that I became so focused on finding certain textiles that I knew I wanted that I was not as open as I should have been to the wealth of options around me.

Which means I ended up with a very responsible heap of fabric. I have all the fabric I need for my prospective projects, without a lot of extra unallocated textiles to bloat The Stash. Moreover, I have a clearer idea of what sort of fabric I'm looking to match to some of the newer Vogue patterns (V1419 Ralph Rucci coat, anyone?). Unfortunately I found these items at the expense of those exquisite, unanticipated impulse purchases you hope to find while fabric shopping in New York. (Although I suppose tackling impulse buying is a good thing...)

Ok time for show-and-tell :D

I know you were curious about that Spandex I mentioned!

This summer I realized that a lot of seamstresses not only make their own clothing, but also their own bathing suits! This sounded pretty awesome because A) bathing suits are expensive! B) most bathing suits all look the same = boring and C) I'm pretty picky about the style of my bikinis, because I actually wear them in the ocean and like to focus on swimming instead of if my bathing suit is about to fall off.

I figured while I was in NYC and there was a store dedicated to Spandex I should pick some up. At Spandex House they only sell by the yard, which is sort of inconvenient because I could have gotten away with half that, but at $13/yard you can hardly complain. I'm thinking of making a one-piece out of the blue/purple fabric on the left and bikinis out of the turquoise snake print and crazy psychedelic polka dots on the right. But for the moment, these are going away to the Stash and I'll pull them out next summer!

This is actually my mother's purchase. It's a white cotton with an intricate, fleur-de-lis-reminiscent design painted on in dark gray and then embellished with copper-colored sequins. It's actually a really cool combination. I think she's planning on making some sort of jacket out of it.

This I have in mind for an upcoming project!

I was looking for some suiting that's sleek and professional and that would make a really awesome suit-dress, but also had a little bit of a funky twist. I love the purple pinstripe on this black wool suiting! And plus this fabric was only $6/yard....! Which means that I just paid $18 for this whole dress. Who says sewing isn't worthwhile!

And finally...most dramatically...most importantly...

I can't actually show you a picture :[ I bought my prom dress fabric (or part of it), and it's a surprise!!!

But I can tell you that it's really awesome. I can show you some pictures of other fabrics in the store that I was considering, so at least you can drool over other beautiful textiles!

Wishlist: There were a couple of other things I hoped to find in New York that I couldn't manage to locate. One is the other half of my prom dress. The other is some winter white wool (or other coating) with a pretty thick, stiff drape. You wouldn't think something so apparently basic would be so hard to find, but it was really difficult trying to locate a fabric with the right color and weight and drape at a reasonable price.

How beautiful would this look in winter-white wool?
Note/Edit: Now you don't have to imagine!
I think this is a good opportunity to try some online fabric stores. So far I've ordered some swatches from Elliott Berman and I'm still doing research. (By the way, if you happen to have any favorite online fabric sellers, it would be really awesome if you wanted to leave a recommendation in the comments!)

THAT'S IT, FOLKS! That's all I bought!

But in order to help you better organize yourself and acclimate yourself to the diverse wardrobe-related options available to you in New York, I've created a brief list of fabric stores that my mom and I liked AND a Google map of the good ones in the area so you can start getting an idea of where to shop while you're in the Big Apple! (if you're looking for the Google map, scroll down to the bottom or click here ;) ).

Recommended Stores: 

MoodThree stories tall, home of Project Runway, sister to my L.A. favorite! What's not to like?

Plus there's Swatch :D
Paron Fabrics: A relatively small little store, but they have some really nice fabric at reasonable prices. I got my purple-pinstripe suiting here! I was also really tempted by a gorgeous pinky-red wool...I was only deterred from the purchase by knowing that I would never have time to make and probably would never wear another red coat (yes, I have already made one).

New York Elegant Fabrics: I've got a mixed review for this one. On one hand, the selection in this place was awesome. They have a huge ground floor and a whole other second level. Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to effectively browse this huge selection because the organization is atrocious. I counted suiting in four different places, and there were whole sections of new arrivals that were just heaped on top of each other so it was really hard to see what was there. On top of it, most everything is pretty expensive. But it might be worth a look.

Chic Fabrics Inc: I've got a soft spot for this one. Last time my mom and I were in New York we wandered accidentally into this store and discovered (again, accidentally) this huge role of fuzzy red fur, which we later found out was alpaca fur. I bought a few yards at $10/yard and made the most awesome fuzzy red fur coat you have ever seen in your life. Hint/hint: Fuzzy red alpaca fur was still there when I walked in a couple weeks ago!

Spandex World: Great for all your Spandex-related needs. Which I hope are pretty limited.

Pacific Trimming: Not actually a fabric store, but still enough to make any seamstress nerd out. Their inventory was AMAZING. Every type of zipper, trim, or clasp you could feasibly imagine. Silver zippers, copper zippers, 6-inch separating zippers, zippers with rhinestone teeth, zippers with multicolored teeth, purple zippers with orange teeth, you name it! I only wish I had walked in with a project that required a really awesome zipper!

Diana Fabrics: Tons of beaded lace! This is where I found the fabric for my prom dress!

Butterfly Fabrics: Right next to Diana Fabrics. You wouldn't know just by sticking your head in, but including their underground level, they had quite an extensive selection of fabrics. They had a lot of embroidered and beaded fabrics, as well as some nice printed silks. I would stop there again!

Leather Impact: Yes they had leather. Yes I was impacted. I have never seen so much leather together in one place before. I really wish I had showed up with a pattern for a leather jacket. Note: There's another leather place nearby that my mom and I did not get around to visiting called Leather-Suede-Skins that's supposed to be good, thought I would mention it here!

Stores we wanted to visit but didn't have time: Elliot Berman, Mendel Goldberg

Google Map
Before we went fabric shopping my mom and I did some research on good NY fabric stores according to other fashion bloggers and I made a Google Map with the points plotted so we could find our way around. Blue points are stores we were particularly interested in, the green point is where we had lunch (a cute little cafe near the garment district that serves good sandwiches). Click on the image below to take you to the interactive map!

If you think I've missed any notable fabric stores, please comment below! I'll keep you posted on what I end up making with this fabric!


  1. That turq & peach snake print lycra is wicked isn't it! Can't wait to see how your bikini turn out. I haven't the foggiest clue what I'll make mine into. BTW if you're feeling adventurous you might want to draft your own bikini / swimwear pattern following Stretch Pattern School's instruction. The site's offline now, but you can find it on Web Archive at: https://web.archive.org/web/20110102084923/http://www.patternschool.com/ Then you can get a custom fit, plus choose from a range of different one-piece & bikini styles. Since you're after performance & not just sun-bathing, I'd recommend reading the page about "The Principle of Stretch Direction" (https://web.archive.org/web/20110102110824/http://www.patternschool.com/?page_id=9) & the intro on the "Leotard Block" page (https://web.archive.org/web/20110102085318/http://www.patternschool.com/?page_id=306). They explain how much negative ease to use depending on your functional needs. I plan on drafting my own using this instruction - when I get around to making swimwear!

    B&J is another good one. Prices are between Mood & NY Elegant. Big selection too, but a lot of are hung as browsable samples on a rack with the actual rolls in the behind-the-scene stock rooms. It's geared towards the fashionable crowd I think. On some of the walls they have fashion editorial with suggested fabrics. We're talking high end RTW / couture. It's on 2nd floor, corner of 38th St & 7th Ave, above a Starbucks.

    I actually quite like NY Elegant even though their prices are a bit higher. Their organization seems to be by fiber, so wool suitings vs linen suitings etc would be in different sections. But I like the fact that it is still very organized and I can easily see all the options for a given type of fabric (with same main fiber content) in one place. So if I'm looking for silk charmeuse of a particular color, I can see fairly quickly whether they have the shade I want. I also like their sweater knit section. You just have to decide first what type of fiber you're looking for, rather than all suiting fabrics.

    1. Thanks so much for all your great advice! I was wondering how I was going to make a bathing suit (haven't figured that part out yet, haha). This tutorial is on the "Leotard Block" is great! I was thinking I would just buy a cheap basic one-piece to use as my block, but I might do this instead and save myself a trip to Old Navy.
      My mom and I meant to go to B&J but we didn't get around to it :( Something to look forward to for next time!
      Oh I see! I suppose that's great if you know exactly what you're looking for, but can be a little confusing for just browsing. Next time I'll just have to get my ideas together!