Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Jonathan Embroidery: Buttonholes While You Wait

Address: 256 W. 38th Street, New York, NYC
Phone: 212-398-3538
Hours: Monday - Friday 8:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.; Saturday 8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Online site: Jonathan Embroidery
Best for: Saving you from making dreaded buttonholes

Just like the sign says, Jonathan Embroidery in the garment district sews professional-grade buttonholes while you wait.

How fabulous is it that you can get professional buttonholes made in NYC's garment center—while you wait—for $1-$2 per buttonhole. I really don't like making buttonholes. Does anybody? I mean, by the time I put my buttonhole foot on, make a test sample or two, the technicians at Jonathan will have sewn 10 perfect buttonholes.

So yes, I am a complete Jonathan Embroidery buttonhole convert, letting them sew all my buttonholes for me, keyhole and regular. You usually don't have to wait long to get your buttonholes made—I'm typically outta there in twenty minutes or less. Do have your buttonholes marked in advance, either with pins, chalk or marker. The only thing left for you to do will be to snip some threads. Now if they could just sew the buttons on for us….

Note: Jonathan's takes cash only; no credit or debit cards accepted.

A buttonhole technician preparing to sew buttonholes on a coat I made in 2008.

A view of the buttonhole area.

Sewing a keyhole buttonhole.

Hundreds of thread color options.

Jonathan Embroidery has a decent selection of buttons.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

NYC Button Store Review: LouLou Buttons

Address: 69 W. 38th Street (near Sixth Avenue), New York, NYC
Phone: 212-398-5498
Hours:  Monday - Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Online store: n/a
Best for: the wide assortment of buttons of all materials

I am a button fanatic. I frequently replace the buttons on the clothes I buy because I feel that buttons are a detail many RTW manufacturers think they can skimp on. I cringe when I see fellow sewists create a stunning jacket and then ruin it with cheap-looking buttons. There's no need to limit ourselves to the meager selection at Jo-Ann's when places like M&J Trimming sell beautiful buttons online. And if you're visiting NYC's garment center there are several excellent button stores, including LouLou Buttons on W. 38th Street.

LouLou Buttons is small and more manageable. When costumers for stage and screen need buttons they turn to LouLou Buttons. I've chosen LouLou Buttons for several jackets and tops I've sewn and will continue to shop there.

LouLou Buttons is just one long room of buttons. But what buttons they are.

Monday, August 4, 2008

NYC Trim Store Review: Pacific Trimming

Address: 218 W. 38th Street, New York, NYC
Phone: 212-279-9310
Hours: Monday - Friday 8:30 am - 7:00 pm; Saturday 10:00 am - 6 pm
Online store: Pacific Trimming
Best for: Hard-to-find hardware, like jumbo covered snaps, Riri zippers, covered hooks-and-eyes, etc.

Pacific Trimming, with its crowded aisles of bric-a-brac, reminds me of the five-and-dime stores of my childhood, where you could always find something to make you happy. I dare you to walk out of this store without buying anything.

Pacific Trimming is on my list of Garment District trim stores I regularly go to. Need hardware for that handbag you're making? Belt buckles for your safari jacket? Rings for your bikini? This is the place. It's cramped, though recent changes in store layout helped, and it's often crowded with designers' assistants and FIT and Parsons students, but there is usually enough sales staff around to answer questions and help you find things.

This post would go on and on if I included all the photos I took at Pacific Trimming. There's such a variety of stuff. Even if you don't have any trim or hardware on your shopping list, do yourself a favor and stop in here anyway just to experience that kid-in-a-candy-store feeling that you never get at Jo-Ann's or Hancock's.  Or, just come along on a Speakeasy tour!

Pacific Trimming has loads of buttons.

Loads of handbag hardware.

There's belt buckles galore.

Visit Pacific Trimming for sportswear zippers of all colors and sizes. They'll also cut zippers to your exact measurement.

Need a chain for your Chanel jacket?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

NYC Fabric Store Review: Rosen & Chadick Fabrics

Address: 561 Seventh Avenue (west side of 7th, enter on 40th), 2nd floor and 3rd floor, New York, NYC
Phone: 212-869-0142
Hours: Monday - Friday 8:30 am - 5:45 pm; Saturday 9:00 am - 4:30 pm
Online store: n/a
Best for: the personalized service

Since 1952, Rosen & Chadick Fabrics has been a customer service favorite of designers, fashion students and home sewing enthusiasts alike.

Rosen & Chadick Fabrics is the rare Garment District store that manages to do two things at once: Sell top-quality fabrics while providing top-notch customer service. I'm placing the emphasis on customer service here because that's a quality shoppers have reported lacking at some of the other well-known garment center stores.

I got a warm welcome from David Chadick when I walked into his store on a recent Saturday. When I told him I was in the market for interlinings for a coat I was making, he knew right away what I needed and pulled out several bolts for me. (Asking about interlinings at another popular fabric store in the area got me nothing but blank looks.) I saw David give the same level of customer service to other shoppers in the store—and this was before I told him I write a blog about stores in the garment district!

I found scrumptious high-end fabrics of all kinds in this bright, well-lit store that overlooks the garment district: silks, cottons, wools, shirtings, necktie silk twills, laces, velvets, brocades and more. I fell in love with silk charmeuse chain prints created just for Rosen & Chadick in several colorways. The windowsill on the second floor that faces W. 40th Street is lined with bright cotton prints—something you tend not to see so much of in the garment district. While I was there a woman was picking out cotton prints for a quilt she was making.

Will you be jumping for joy over the bargains you found at Rosen & Chadick? Nope. Their prices are what you would expect for fabrics of this quality. I paid $32.95USD per yard for a silk twill print. But the blouse I made out of that silk twill turned out great—every time I wear it I say to myself it was worth every penny and then some.

That's David Chadick on the right helping a customer. He wants you to know that he's usually dressed in a suit, but it was a Saturday when I snapped this photo.

Loads and loads of fabric to choose from, but it's just the right amount. You can shop here without going into shock from fabric overload.

Making a bridal gown in the future? Look at all this exquisite lace.

Colorful cotton prints line the windowsill that overlooks W. 40th Street.

These silk charmeuse prints were created exclusively for Rosen & Chadick.

Rows and rows of silk prints. I think I spent 45 minutes here trying to decide which one I wanted to take home most—tough because I wanted them all!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

NYC Fabric Store Review: N.Y. Elegant Fabrics

Address: 222 West 40th Street, New York, NYC
Phone: 212-302-4980
Hours: Monday - Friday, 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, Saturday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Online store: n/a
Best for: Faux furs, theatrical fabrics, and lots of everything else

Brace yourself before entering New York Elegant Fabrics: It's BIG!

New York Elegant Fabrics has to be one of the largest fabric stores in the Garment District. With some 20,000 square feet and two levels, this store seems to have a little bit of everything. Don't let the "elegant" in the name fool you as it did me: I was expecting to find a store with only laces, brocades and materials for gowns and the like. But New York Elegant Fabrics has fabrics ranging from cottons and shirtings to real furs and fake furs. It feels more like a traditional fabric store you might find in any major city but without the notions and patterns.

Prices at New York Elegant Fabrics seem to be on par with Mood Fabrics and Rosen & Chadick: No bargain-basement prices here. I saw many of the same types of fabrics you'd pay less for at Paron's, like wool suitings. But I also saw silk charmeuses in playful prints that would be great for jacket linings, and specialty fabrics, like brightly-colored, quilted nylons that would make cute barn coats or vests for little girls.

According to Charles Yoo, the owners' son, New York Elegant Fabrics does steady business with the theatre industry, providing fabric for shows like "Wicked" and the Metropolitan Opera. You can see that costumers would easily consider this store their favorite place for one-stop shopping—it's just so big, and the staff is very helpful. New York Elegant Fabrics has been selling to retail customers in NYC's garment center for more than 20 years.

Truthfully, I was a little overwhelmed the first time I visited this store. There's just a lot of fabric to see (not that that's a bad thing). I feel I need to go back a couple more times before I can realistically assess where this store rates on my need-to-visit fabric shopping list. Until then, if you have the time and since it's just down the block from Paron Fabrics and Paron's Annex on W. 40th, do pop in New York Elegant Fabrics.

That's Charles Yoo, son of the owners, behind the counter. He's incredibly helpful and friendly.

You'll find rows and rows of printed silk charmeuses to choose from. Lots of fun jacket and coat lining options here.

Just to give you an idea of the store's prices.

I thought these double-sided, quilted nylon fabrics in bright colors would make cute jackets for toddlers and little girls.

The faux furs looked high-quality and there is a large selection.

New York Elegant Fabrics has the real stuff too.

Looking for cotton shirtings? This store has plenty of options.

You'll find loads of specialty fabrics, like this appliquéd sheer georgette.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

NYC Trim Store Review: M&J Trimming

Address: 1008 Sixth Avenue (near W. 38th)
Phone: 1-800-9-MJTRIM
Store hours: Monday - Friday, 9:00 am - 7:00 pm; Saturday, 10:00 am - 6:00 pm; Sunday 12:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Online store: M&J Trimming
Best for: All the embellishments you need to take your garments from "loving hands at home" to haute couture

No visit to the Garment District would be complete without a trip to M&J Trimming.

I wish my photos did better justice to this emporium of all things embellishment. You'll just have to take my word that M&J Trimming is retail nirvana for trims, beads, appliqués, buttons, cords, ribbons, sequins, sew-on jewels, nailheads, rhinestones and much, much more. M&J Trimming has an excellent online store but it only represents about a fraction of what you'll find at the real thing on Sixth Avenue.

What I love about M&J:
  • If you're looking for trim by color, you won't just have a handful of choices in that color--you could have fifty to a hundred different options. It's almost mind-boggling.
  • The store has these nice big counters where you can spread out your garment and try out all the various things you've grabbed. No one bothers you while you agonize over which embellishment works best.
  • The staff is mostly young and look like they've never sewn a seam in their life, but they are very knowledgeable about the store's inventory and friendly to boot.
  • The store is actually open on Saturdays and Sundays! And hidden in the rear of the store, next to the restroom (extra points for having a restroom!), there are shelves with all the sale items. You can always find some interesting stuff back here on sale.
Now some people say M&J is pricey but I think their prices are fairly reasonable for the quality of the merchandise. They carry some of the basics you'll find in your local Joann's or Hancock's but M&J's prices are generally the same on these goods, not higher. You may be floored to pay $35 a yard for beaded trim but you can be guaranteed the trim will make your outfit. M&J's is one of the best places to shop for braids to adorn that Chanel jacket you've always wanted to make; I purchased some beautiful chocolate-brown velvet braid here for my Chanel-style jacket.

A view of M&J looking out toward Sixth Avenue. Love the high ceilings.

Here are those big counters that are perfect for spreading out your garment as you experiment with different embellishments.

A bulletin board calls your attention to the newest additions.

The selection at M&J's is what keeps me coming back again and again. Just look at all these suede tassels in different sizes and colors.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

NYC Fabric Store Review: Mood Fabrics

Address: 225 W. 37th St., 3rd floor (about the middle of the block; no sign outside what looks like an office building, go into the lobby and ride the ancient elevator [with an elevator operator] to the 3rd floor), New York, NYC
Phone: 212-730-5003
Hours: Monday - Friday 9 am -7 pm, Saturday 10 am - 4 pm
Online store: Mood Fabrics
Best for: Mood is the sewist's equivalent of a favorite department store that always has everything you need

Here are the three things I love most about Mood Fabrics:
  1. If you have a very specific fabric or look in mind, Mood will have it. With three floors of fabric, Mood has just about everything. The main reason to come here.
  2. It's fun to eavesdrop on FIT and Parsons students and young designers-in-training as they ponder their fabric choices. And this is the store Project Runway sends its designer contestants to: You could be fondling the same silk that Christian Siriano touched!
  3. Mood has restrooms. Usually by the time I get to Mood, after a morning or afternoon of shopping in the Garment Distict, finding a restroom is priority number one. (Mood's restrooms are located on its main level, toward the back of the store by the velvets.)
I love everything I buy at Mood because it is usually exactly what I wanted: the right color, the right texture, the right fabric content. Normally when I shop for fabric with a pattern in mind, I am always compromising because I can't find specifically what I envisioned. At Mood you can actually create the garment that's in your head because they have such a wide selection of quality fabrics.

Italian sweater knits at Mood.

Speaking of quality fabrics, this is the place to go if you're looking for designer stuff. Marc Jacobs, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein and many more designers are represented here. The main floor (3rd floor) with the designer bolts seems to attract the most shoppers but I love the less-crowded fourth floor with its tweeds and bouclés. If you're looking to make that Chanel-style jacket you've always wanted, Mood's your store. The last time I looked they had several bolts of Chanel bouclés. (Note: Mood also carries home decor fabrics on its lowest level.)

This is just a small portion of the many bolts of bouclés and tweeds you'll find. Yummy!

(Here's a tip to make shopping at Mood a little less overwhelming: Print out one of their store floor plans and take it with you. Mood's signage is excellent but this will help you strategize a plan of attack.)

Service at Mood can range from cheerful and helpful to "I'm too cool to make eye contact with you." Fortunately my experience has largely been the former. My daughter needed some fabric swatches for her FIT class, so I told a Mood employee what the specific assignment was and asked for help. She grabbed her scissors and swatched her way through the store for me. Another time I visited the store wearing the bouclé jacket I made and the man who cut the fabric for me recognized me and made a big fuss over my jacket. The last time I was there the woman who was cutting some white piqué for me and she noticed a smudge on it—which I could tell would wash right out—but insisted on giving me 10 percent off. But it goes without saying though that the less crowded the store is, the better customer service you'll receive.

Mood's signage makes finding the type of fabric you're looking for much easier—important because there is so much to see here.

The hub on the main floor. 

5/26/10: Mood is now selling Vogue Patterns! 15% off the retail price.

6/20/09: Mood has expanded its trim department. An employee told me trims were selling well at the store so they moved them into the nook where leather used to be and relocated leather downstairs to the home dec department. I think their button and trim prices are good, often better than Pacific.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

NYC Trim Store Review: Daytona Braids & Trimmings

Address: 251 W. 39th Street (near Eighth Ave.), New York, NYC
Phone: 212-354-1713
Hours: Monday-Friday 9:00 a.m. - 6:30 p.m.; Saturday 9:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Online store: Daytona Trimming
Best for: Eclectic trim selection, very reasonably priced

If you're shopping at Daytona Braids & Trimmings and happen to notice some movement in the air conditioning pipes overhead, do not panic and immediately recall the news footage you saw of rats overtaking a Manhattan fast food joint. It's only Ric, the friendly orange tabby cat who lives there and keeps watch over the store. Or it could be his brother Rac, who's equally affectionate. Ric and Rac are two good reasons to shop at this trimming mainstay in the garment district, but the hundreds of yards of braid and trim at reasonable prices are why you'll want to come back to Daytona again and again.

Ric the cat (above) patrols Daytona, stopping to allow customers to pet and ooh and ah over him. Gotta love a store with not one but two cats.

I first came here looking for a suitable drawstring for my anorak and found an entire wall of cords in all widths, colors and textures. Looking for ric-rac or braids? There's an unbelievable selection, again in every size and color. I was wowed by all the different kinds of elastic trims they have; this is the definitely the place to go to buy finishing touches for your knits and lingerie. And Daytona also has a worthy array of fancy trims, laces and ribbons—I picked up some Anthropologie/Free People-style trims for my daughter to decorate her Gap tank tops, plus some gold trim for a navy-and-white dress I plan on making.

You'll find a decent selection of out-of-print McCall's patterns, buttons, zippers and other fasteners at Daytona; plus notions, including hard-to-find Klassé sewing machine needles. Upstairs there's 15 to 20 different brands of yarn along with embroidery and needlework thread (and accompanying notions, like knitting needles).

The service at Daytona is pleasant and eager to serve. A young staffer followed me around with a basket and a pair of scissors as I pointed out trims and cords for her to cut. The store is small but well-stocked. I could have easily spent an hour here just taking it all in and cataloging it in my head for future reference. For price and selection, I consider Daytona Braids & Trimmings a must-visit store in the garment district.

Out-of-print McCall's patterns (a quick look led me to believe it was mostly early 90s patterns) in a bin in front of spools of ric-rac.

A wall of ribbons and trims at Daytona.

I couldn't get over how many varieties of elastic Daytona stocks. I think I spent 20 minutes alone just considering the different types of foldover elastic.

In case you're interested, there's plenty of yarn and needlework supplies upstairs at Daytona.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

NYC Fabric Store Review: Metro Textiles

Address: 265 West 37th Street, Suite 908, New York, NYC
Phone: 212-209-0004
Hours: Monday - Friday, 8 am to 6 pm
Best for: Sewists who are looking for bargains rather than specific kinds of fabric

Some fashion sewists have good luck at this small store located on the ninth floor of an office building on W. 37th in the Garment District. Large selection of print jerseys. Not open on the weekends.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

NYC Fabric Store Review: Spandex House

Address: 263 W. 38th Street, New York, NYC
Phone: 212-354-6711
Hours: Monday - Friday 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Store web site: Spandex House
Best for: Spandex, well duh. But also really nice poly jersey prints and soft cotton solid knits

I have been to the temple of knit fabrics and it is called Spandex House. Don't let the name put you off: There's definitely enough spandex fabric here to inspire Will Ferrell's next 20 movie roles. But there's also a long (and very narrow) aisle filled with nothing but bolts of lovely cotton lycras in every shade and weight under the sun.

And this stuff is top quality—the same fabrics you'd find in better RTW t-shirts and casualwear. Even better are the wonderfully low prices. Many of the bolts are 72" wide, so you get a lot for your cut. I promise that you will never be able to buy knits from your local chain-store fabric place after you've been to Spandex House in NYC. The only downside I can see to Spandex House is that they don't sell cotton lycra prints, just solids and stripes.

Because I knew I was going to be back in the very near future, I
exercised buying restraint (a rare thing) on my first visit and just bought some heavier-weight white knit and black knit to make tunics for me, and some super-soft jerseys in pretty shades of blue and pink for my daughter. I will have to bring a bag with wheels for my next visit....

I hear there are stores in the garment district that sell knits at prices even lower than Spandex House's, but because I'm usually on such a tight schedule I tend to stick with tried-and-true stores. Spandex House is one of my TNT stores and I recommend you check it out when you visit the garment center.

5/18/09: Spandex House has expanded on the first floor, taking over an empty store next door. Now it's much easier to find the lovely poly knit prints that are usually hiding behind all that shiny spandex.