Tuesday, October 20, 2009

NYC Fabric Store Review: Lace Star

Address: 215 West 40th Street (opposite Paron's Fabrics), NYC, NY
Phone: 212-840-0555
Hours: Monday - Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; closed weekends
Online store: n/a
Best for: "Exclusive, one-of-a-kind, hand-beaded French laces, and embroidered fabrics," but they actually have a lot more of ladies-who-lunch type of fabrics, like bouclés, silks and brocades.

Lace Star on W. 40th in NYC is the place to go for special occasion fabrics. Or if you just want to make something drop-dead spectacular.

I've known for awhile that Lace Star is the go-to store in the Garment District if you need fabulous lace for special occasions. But it wasn't until Susan Khalje took me and my sewing classmates there on a field trip that I discovered Lace Star has much more beyond exquisite lace. There are bolts and bolts of wool bouclés, brocades, jacquards, silks and more. And it is all the most splendid stuff. Really top-rate, to-die-for designer fabrics.

I should warn you that this store is pricey. (And I've gotten reports that the sales staff is a little on the snooty side, although the woman who assisted us couldn't have been more helpful.) Most of the fabrics sell for more than $50 a yard, but I did see abundant bolts of silk charmeuse priced at $18 per yard. Keep in mind, however, that anything you make out of fabrics from Lace Star will look five times as expensive as what you actually paid.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

NYC Trim Store Review: So-Good Ribbons

[03/12: CLOSED. I'm sad. Leaving this review up as a memorial to a fine old store.]

Address: 28 W. 38th St., between 5th and 6th Avenues, New York, NYC
Phone: 212-398-0236
Hours: Monday - Friday, 9 am - 5 pm
Online store: n/a
Best for: Grosgrain ribbons, satin ribbons, velvet ribbons and lots more ribbons and trims in a store that's been around since "Mad Men" days and looks it

So-Good Ribbons has been at this W. 38th Street location for 44 years.

I admittedly contradict myself when it comes to retail: I want my Jo-Ann Fabric stores to be brand-spanking new and big, but I want my garment district stores to look like venerable institutions, just like So-Good Ribbons' shop in the garment district area. Who cares about a little dust when the prices are as good as these? There are rows and rows of grosgrain, satin, velvet and embroidered ribbons in every color and design imaginable. (No petersham though, drat.) I've been shopping for ribbon at So-Good since 1990 and it's always the first place I think of when I need lots of ribbon or a ribbon in special colors.

I popped in there last week to buy some 3-inch striped ribbon in the colors of the university my niece will be attending; I'm going to use it to decorate a fleece throw I'm contributing to her dorm room. I happened to have some other ribbon in my hand when I went to pay, but I told the person at the register I only wanted the 3-inch ribbon. "What the heck, I'll give you some of this other one anyway," he said cheerfully, and he cut off two yards of it for me. Free! It was really nice ribbon too. And I didn't even identify myself as someone who blogs about the garment district. Can you imagine this kind of generosity happening at a fabric chain store?

Don't be put off by So-Good's small size or disorganized appearance when searching for ribbon. The staff is very helpful at finding what you need and accommodating special orders. They have binders filled with swatches of ribbons in every shade.

NYC Trim Store Review: Joyce Trimming

Address: 109 W. 38th Street (close to Sixth Avenue), New York, NYC
Phone: 212-719-3110
Hours: Monday - Friday, 8:30 am - 6:30 pm; Saturday 10 am - 5 pm
Online store: ejoyce
Best for: Sparkly trims and rhinestones

Like M&J Trimmings, Joyce Trimming has a brick-and-mortar store in the garment district area and an online store (eJoyce.com).

Between M&J Trimmings and Pacific Trims, I can usually find everything I need when it comes to embellishments. But I always welcome more choices, so I was happy to recently check out Joyce Trimming on W. 38th, a small but well-stocked and brightly lit store. They carry buttons, buckles, crystals, appliques, ribbons, nailheads and loads more at competitive prices. The store is close to M&J Trimmings, so if you don't find what you're looking for there, or are overwhelmed by M&J's size, you can always pop into Joyce's.

Joyce Trimming seems to carry a small smattering of everything embellishment-wise.

Lots of jewels.

Lots of trim.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

NYC Fabric Store Review: Chic Fabrics

Address: 225 W. 39th Street, New York, NYC
Phone: 212-398-9451
Hours: Monday - Friday 9:30 am - 6:30 pm; Saturday 10 am - 6 pm; Sunday 11 am - 5 pm
Online store: none available
Best for: One of the few stores in the district open on Sunday

Of the many small fabric stores that populate W. 39th Street between 7th and 8th, Chic Fabric is one of the better ones. And it's open on Saturday and Sunday.

Ever been shopping in one of Mexico's border towns? There's lots of little shops that tantalize you with bright colors and shiny objects, and you think oooh, I'm gonna get some bargains here. But then you get a little closer and you see that while there may be some hidden gems, there's a lot of cheap and tacky stuff for sale.

That's what shopping on W. 39th Street in the Garment Center NYC is like to me. There are undoubtedly some fantastic bargains to be had on top-notch fabrics but you'll have to wade through tons of polyester and other man-made fibers to get to them. Because I usually don't have a lot of time to spend when I'm in the Garment District, I prefer to head straight for my favorite stores where I know and trust the quality.

That being said, some sewists may only have the chance to shop for fabrics and trims in the Garment District on a Sunday, when very few stores are open. If this were my situation, I'd try Chic Fabric. Here I think you'll have a better chance of finding decent fabric. I bought some cotton-with-lycra there for $4 a yard, and other sewists have reported being pleased with their cotton shirtings. Knowing your fabrics and your fiber contents helps when shopping on W. 39th because few stores label their fabrics.

NYC Fabric Store Review: B&J Fabrics

Address: 525 7th Avenue, 2nd floor, New York, NYC
Phone: 212-354-8150
Hours: Monday - Friday: 8:00 a.m. -5:45 p.m.; Saturday: 9:00 a.m. -4:45 p.m.
Online store: B&J Fabrics
Best for: Luxury fabrics for those who don't need to check the price per yard

11/02/10: Read my fresh take on B&J here

B&J Fabrics on Seventh Avenue is the place to go when you need to make a drop-dead, one-of-a-kind, red carpet gown.

I like to visit a Chanel boutique at least once a year. Not to buy (as if I can afford Chanel!) but to observe the styles, the fabrics, the garments' interior finishes and exterior touches. It's the big girl's equivalent of a field trip.

Unless you've got a Chanel-sized budget, B&J Fabrics on Seventh Avenue in the Garment District belongs in the field trip category of fabric stores. Many of the stunning fabrics you'll find here are well over $200USD a yard. I gasped at the $810 per yard price tag attached to a piece of feather-trimmed embroidered organza, but others report they've seen fabrics at B&J's going for $1,200 a yard. That's over $33 an inch!

I asked Scot of B&J for a definition of a typical B&J customer. "I'm not certain there is one," he replied, listing Seventh Avenue fashion houses, theater and movie costumers, stylists, boutiques, and couturiers and dressmakers as groups who frequent the store. He named home sewing enthusiasts as well, but I think that should be qualified as home sewing enthusiasts with Park Avenue budgets.

To be fair, I saw lovely Liberty of London cotton lawns that, if I remember correctly, were around $45 a yard, and I even found a family wool tartan for $10 a yard. Some of the basic materials were similarly priced to fabrics at Rosen & Chadick, Mood Fabrics and New York Elegant Fabrics. But most of what you'll find at B&J is well over $85 a yard and aimed at those in the market for red-carpet gown material.

Bottom line: Go at least once for the gawk factor.

How about some feather-trimmed organza? It's just $510 per yard.

Looking for luscious velvets in spectacular colors?

Or how about embossed leathers?

Here's the beaded and feather-trimmed organza that's a steal at $810 per yard.

At the lower end of the spectrum, how about pailettes on silk chiffon for $155 per yard?

A customer checking out the Liberty of London prints.

I liked the inspiration boards located throughout the store.

Some cotton prints artfully displayed.

NYC Fabric Store Review: A.K. Fabrics

Address: 257 W. 39th Street, New York, NYC
Phone: 212-944-5693
Hours: Mon-Fri: 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Sat: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Online store: A.K Fabrics; akfabricscorp@yahoo.com
Student discount with ID? Yes
Best for: Basic fabrics at affordable prices

A.K. Fabrics is the Gap of the garment district: When you want the fabric equivalent of a plain white t-shirt or a pair of khakis, this is the place. Stocking the basics in mostly natural fibers, A.K. Fabrics carries cottons, denims, wool, silk and velvet.

And the customer service is first-rate. Sali Raddani, whose father opened A.K. Fabrics thirty years ago, helped me with the fabric I bought, and her cuts were generous. (Love a store with generous cuts, don't you? Paron's is also good this way.) As I browsed the store, her two brothers Azam and Khan asked if I needed any help but then didn't hover when I told them I was just looking. A couple of times, people walked in off the street asking for fabrics and if they didn't have what they were looking for, Sali, Azam or Khan pleasantly directed them to other stores in the area.

A.K. Fabrics has an online site, though it really represents only a fraction of what the store on W. 39th has to offer. Sali says you can call and describe what you're looking for and they'll be happy to send swatches or fabric to any state or country. Daytona Braids & Trims is just a couple of doors down from A.K. Fabrics, so you can get your fabric and trim in one fell swoop. If you don't need to be wowed by designer fabrics and want quality basics at affordable prices, check out A.K. Fabrics the next time you're in the area.

That's Sali Raddani in the corner. Her father opened A.K. Fabrics 30 years ago.

A.K. has an ample selection of cotton prints, many with stretch. Some of the prints look a little dated.

I also saw wool suitings, gabardine and cotton shirtings at A.K. Fabrics. Fabric prices range from $1 to $35 per yard, according to Sali Raddani.