Wednesday, January 31, 2018



"The things we make have one supreme quality; they live longer than us. We perish, they survive. We have one life, they have many lives. And in each life, they can mean different things; which means that while we all have one biography, they have many."
-Niel MacGregor, Director of the British Museum

*For the complete talk, visit the TED website, where he presents a fascinating talk on one particular 2600 year old piece of art.

I invite you to chime in to tell me if I'm alone on this one, but I love to visit fashion and clothing exhibits here in New York City, and have spent many hours over the years, gazing at the lovely, carefully crafted creations of many designers and needle-smiths. One thing I have often wondered, especially when looking at something old and beautifully simple, is "How did the creator of this piece trust his/her own talent enough to know that they needed to work with such high quality materials?" I have often found myself paralyzed with fear before cutting into my never-find-anything-like-this-again fabrics, worrying that one wrong move can send hundreds of dollars worth of fabric to the back of my closet, or bottom of my trash can. How do you know it is worth the effort?

As I wander through exhibits, more often than not, the materials lists on the description placards include words like "silk tulle", or "silk velvet", fabrics with real staying power, and the ability to hold beautifully vibrant colors for years beyond the lifespan of the person for whom they were made. These fabrics are pricier than the rest.

Are they worth it? Well, they sure can be. Who cares? You do... and although I can't promise anyone else will value it as much, a lesser fabric will certainly shorten its lifespan.

Recent experiences with clients are telling me that there is a sincere appreciation for quality. In my dressmaking life, I am seeing more and more brides who want to redesign their own mothers' or grandmothers' gowns, based on the quality, age, and tactile experience of the fabric. Often sewn by hands you have neither met not heard of, these garments resonate, and they still hold a magic that reaches into the future.

So, I say all of this to say, there is enormous value in shopping at the stores where the staff is knowledgeable about the quality, origin and description of the goods they have to offer.

When the occasion is very special, and the budget permits, consider the following stores for wonderful quality...

B&J Fabrics (chiffons, silks, and so much more)

(a fabulous whisper-light metallic sequined fabric from B&J)

(and the top that fabric eventually became)

Rosen & Chadick (also, check out their 126" wide silk tulle! and many other wonderful specialty fabrics)

(a wonderful silk from Rosen and Chadick)

(silk organza from Rosen and Chadick - raw edges)

NY Elegant (silks)

(above fabric - lovely 4 ply silk from NY Elegant)

Lace Star (laces and more - see previous post)

Solstiss (French laces - by appointment only - only for the VERY serious...)

Now, I don't expect my pieces to end up in museums anywhere... but a girl can dream, can't she?


  1. I LOVE this post, Mimi! You are right on. I teach sewing in Bellevue, WA, and I really try to encourage my students to buy quality fabrics from the start. Maybe not silk - but nice cotton.What is the point in handling fabric, or wearing it for that matter, if it feels "icky" against your skin? People today sew for the love of creating something unique - not to save money. That is what H&M and Target are for. Work with fabrics and tools that you love, and you will love your creations. Sew on!

    "Sew Maris"

    1. Thank you, Maris! I say, why invest the time in something that isn't fabulous?

  2. This is such an inspiring post, Mimi. As someone who started sewing with cotton/poly sheets, graduated to cotton, and am now sewing linen (not to mention some wool here and there), you've really help me to feel validated in my choice to invest in better quality fabrics.

    I'm not quite ready for silk tulle yet -- but maybe some day!

  3. I know what you mean about making cuts into expensive fabric. I always have to take a deep breath first. But miscut fabric never goes into my trash can. All scraps & leftovers, no matter how small, are saved for something else. Those luscious GD fabrics would make wonderful crazy quilt squares, for starters. Which brings up these questions: Do any GD stores sell remnants & scraps? Or do I need to find out where Lace Star's dumpster is?? :) And who will cut 1/8 of a yard if I only need a few inches of silk? I've noticed that some places can be hesitant to cut less than a yard. Thoughts or suggestions?

  4. I've always told my students, "Fear not the fabric. You're the one with the shears!" It can be nerve wracking to cut into a $500 piece of lace, and I found that taking a class with a master teacher like Kenneth King or Susan Khalje (among others) can help alleviate that. And once I did my first project with a wildly expensive fabric, I was anxious to start the next. Working with high-quality fabrics is addicting, isn't it?


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