Tuesday, October 30, 2012

After Hurricane Sandy...

"There were more than 200,000 “customers” without power in Manhattan alone, Con Ed reported, with most of Manhattan below 39th Street dark. There was no timetable to getting the lights back on.
"This will be one for the record books," John Miksad, Con Ed VP of electric operations, told reporters Monday night. "This will be the largest storm related outage in our history."
There are 670,000 customers without power in all of New York City, with 230,000 in Manhattan, 73,000 on Staten Island, 140,000 in Brooklyn and Queens, 38,000 in Bronx and the rest in Westchester. By comparison, there were 200,000 customers down for Irene.
Power could be out for a week, he said."

-Wall Street Journal, Oct 30, 2012

Okay, so here we are.  The devastation, images, and news stories are just incredible.  The mood in this city is somber, but my family and I are 100% fine, with all utilities working, no property damage, and all is well for us.  Tough to celebrate that when so many near us are in VERY different circumstances today.
As this relates to the Speakeasy tour scheduled for this Friday, November 2, I will give alternative dates, from which the registered participants may choose, since I think proceeding with the tour this Friday will make travel and shopping difficult (or impossible) for may of you.  If anyone registered for this tour would still like to shop this Friday, happens to already be here in NYC, and if the stores are open, and travel and electricity are both possible then, you just let me know you're still game, and, as long as I can get to the garment district, I would still take you shopping.  

There are many "ifs" in that sentence, but "ifs" are all we've got right now, huh?  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Prepping for Sandy...

Whew... I am so glad that the garment district tour is scheduled for the 2nd pleasant-weather day to follow this big ol' storm!  As preparations for Sandy are being made, I have recharged and loaded my Kindle, charged my cell phone, made brownies (vital), a batch of codfish cakes, and made generally sure we all have enough stuff around to keep us safe, cozy, and occupied.

I would love to design, create, and sew like a maniac, but we'll see what this particular situation requires or allows...

We live on a reasonably high floor of an apartment building, so barring any unusual circumstances, it seems we'll just be dealing with lots of rain and wind, and possible power outages, keeping us from venturing outside.  This should be interesting...

How are all of you prepping for Sandy?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

When it comes to Home Dec...

MOOD Fabrics
(yes, that's what I said...)

225 West 37th Street, 3rd floor 
New York, NY 10018
Phone: (212) 730-5003

Store Hours:
Monday - Friday: 9:00 am - 7:00pm 
Saturday: 10:00 am - 4:00pm Sunday: Closed

You know, folks, Mood's celebrity status as a fabric store sometimes makes me shy away from saying too much about them here, for fear of losing my true New Yorker street cred.  I mean, hey, if you visit New York City from any other part of this country (and possibly many others), what is the fabric store you are guaranteed to know exists?  Really now, sometimes it feels like the Statue of Liberty and Mood are already on tourist's must-see lists, but in reality, there are areas where Mood really, really gets it right, and okay... you should go, just because they have what you need.

So, when it comes to Home Dec fabrics, in my opinion...

Mood's got it right!

I don't like traditional stuff, and I don't like things I can't figure out how to clean, so the beauty, function and practical daily-life concerns all have to meet up for me to make a purchase.

Here are some ideas that inspired me.  Now I have to choose!

Big, strong polka dots!

Love that blue!

Looks kinda like lace from a distance.

Love how vibrant those colors are!

So pretty, but kinda looks like a dish pattern... maybe...

Oddly enough, the very top design is extremely similar to my parents' 1970 wallpaper in the early 1970's. 

And you really need to visit the leather department.  For one thing, Dimitri (sales assistant) knows so much about leather and the tools you need to sew it and shape it correctly, but will also share that information with you! They do sell tools, glues and needles in the leather department, to help you on your journey. Dimitri can also give you the rundown on the designers who used the custom leather they have.  Florals, embossed, metallic... if you enjoy leather, they've got stuff to make you melt.  I am thinking leather for home dec sculptural pillows, myself... but we'll see...

Friday, October 26, 2012

NYC Fabric Store review: Guide Fabrics

Guide Fabrics is the store you didn't know you needed.

262 West 38th Street
NY, NY 10018

No website, but you can email order requests to orders@guidefabrics.com

This post is in the "a fresh look at" category, since, in January of 2011, Meg wrote a post on Guide Fabrics.  Sure, I read the post, didn't store the info for use afterward, and have walked past this store close to a half million times since, never stopping inside.  It has a wholesale, industrial, intimidating look about it. But... just walk inside, engage a bit with Thomas (sales), and it will change your whole experience of this place!

Yesterday, while walking the district with my tour guide partner Cindy, we stepped inside on a whim, I sorta tentatively touched a few different linings, looked around at the overwhelming quantity of stuff inside, and got ready to turn away.  Sure, there were lots of linings inside.  Every color and weight you could dream up, but what to do with that information...? Okay, so that was it...

A kind voice said, "Can I help you find anything?"
"Just looking." we answered.

"I'm Thomas," he said, and extended his hand. "and we have lots of interfacings, muslins, tulle, nettings..." As he spoke, the list got longer and longer, and he had us intrigued by the range of things he had to offer.

Yes, they have minimums, but the minimums are so doable!  Silk tulle, for example, offered at HALF (or less) than the price you might pay elsewhere has a minimum of just 5 yards to purchase retail.  But hey, you probably need that much anyway, right?  You can buy muslin at a wonderfully affordable price if you can meet a 25 yard (half bolt) minimum.  That is doable for a dressmaker, costumer, designer, or serious hobbyist, I'm sure!

A card showing samples of the various muslins and interfacings they offer.

Here's the kicker.  Linings, interlinings, illusion (in many, many colors), interfacings, crinoline, buckram, can-can net... the color/sample cards tell the whole story.  And talk to Thomas.  He won't make you feel like you're wasting his time, and he'll explain what makes ordering from him doable. There is much more information on the cards than this representative sampling shows... but just to give you a taste:

Lots of colors, too! 

Order it online, get it shipped. If in New York City, get it delivered (you might have to wait a bit for hand delivery, depending on their workload that day).

So... to learn and see more, come along on a Speakeasy shopping tour!  A few more spaces for Friday, November 2, and a good number of spaces available for the spring!

Gearing up for our next tour!

So today, along with my tour guiding partner, Cindy, we walked the route for our next Garment District Tour, which will take place next Friday.

We seriously combed the merchandise of each store we'll visit, and wow, will our tour participants be happy!  Happily/sadly, the pickins were so good, that there are a few stores that likely won't fit in our timeframe, so we'll just have to hold those secrets to tell the group, if they elect to continue shopping after lunch.

For anyone who is unsure about coming on the tour, I want you to know that we actually walk, research and curate the whole experience, and consider those shopping with anything from abundant to limited budgets, and are absolutely ready to give guidance, advice and education to those we can assist.

Cindy is my ace-in-the-hole, since she has a significant career as a costume/wardrobe/dressmaking professional, and her knowledge of fabrics and tools is just incredible.  Plus, she's an absolute joy of a person, and I'm so happy to have her along on this trip.

I tell you, in some of the places we've seen together while preparing for this upcoming tour, we found ourselves mumbling to each other, "How would we have ever known that this existed if we were just here retail shopping?"

The answer?  We wouldn't.

We're here to help, my friends.

So come along on this Speakeasy tour, or the next one!

Also, Cindy has expressed her willingness to do private or small group tours, if desired - so if you would like to explore that option with her, drop me a line, and I'll put you in touch!

Ivy Style exhibit at FIT... oh wait... a book fair!

Although I had known about the exhibit for quite some time, I just managed to go visit the FIT museum recently, to experience the Ivy Style exhibit.  I wasn't particularly jazzed to see this one, since I don't really get the aesthetic, the meaning, the significance... even after reading the blurbs on the walls of the exhibit, and supporting information.

However, I will say it was beautifully curated, and the design of the exhibit itself was a beautiful display. But I just wasn't into the clothes. That Thom Browne did do some interesting modern interpretations, though... I must say that was pretty cool! So is his website.  Definitely worth a visit!

But, after it was all said and done, I found out about something else at FIT.

Did you know there was a three-day book fair going on? The description and mission are clearly explained here.

Now, this is something that really jazzes me... wish I had known to plan for this fair. It does have a fee, but, apparently, you can also pay at the door!  Because it doesn't start until tonight, you can actually still go, and not miss a second of it!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

NYC Fabric Store Review: Butterfly Fabrics

Part of today's exploration, was a trip to a fabric store with a familiar name...

Butterfly Fabrics

But the address was unfamiliar.  Located on a street I rarely need to visit, I decided to check them out.  My listing gave me the following address and telephone #:

237 West 35th Street  New York, NY 10001

(212) 768-3940

I used to shop in a garment district store by the same name, many years ago... but what was this one?  What is it doing on 35th Street?  You mean there are stores I might be missing on 35th Street?

Apparently, yes.

And today, upon entering, I was confronted by the astounding revelation that there are more beautiful fabrics in the world than I could have ever possibly imagined.

And this is where many of them are just waiting to be chosen.

Weep-worthy fabrics.  No kidding. Good prices, too.  Too bad my wallet was empty due to earlier splurges.  More on that later.  Much later.  (She grabs a tissue, weeping quietly...)

Here's what called out to me...

What a beautiful double-breasted vest this would make.  Just to DIE...
And this dangly-disk colorful celebration... so much fun!

Oooooh... the textures!

A reversible delight!

And there is just sooo much more...
And what colors!

And... okay... get ready for this...


Brace yourself....

THEY SELL PATTERNS!  Current Vogue, and Butterick catalogues on pedestals await you here.  The also offer McCalls in limited quantity. Yes, right there in on the edge of the garment district! In a beautiful, abundant, well-lit fabric forest that just dares you to leave the store empty handed.  Friendly staff, no hard-sell, no soft-sell, no SELL actually.  The fabric speaks for itself.

And why is it called Butterfly Fabrics?  This store has the same owners as the one where I once shopped years ago. But better.

So there I stood, on the verge of doing my own version of a James-Dean-esque primal "You're tearing me apart" scream, when I remembered... there's always another trip into the garment district when I do have a fabric budget to work with.  This was an exploration... a discovery.  I can share it with you, and now you know, too.  They do have a website, but it really doesn't do their selection justice.

NY Trim store review: Joyce Trimming

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: Unusual findings, buttons, closures, beads, trims, handbag handles, frames, closures, straps - and at great prices, too!

As described on the web, Joyce Trimming's buzzwords are "Heat Transfer Shop, Purse Supplies, Appliques. Beads, Beaded Trim, Braids, Buckles. Buttons, Chains, Cords, Flowers. Fringe, Fur & Feathers, Home Décor ..." 

And wow, it is all that AND a bag o' chips...

This post can be best categorized as a "fresh" look at Joyce Trimming, since the June 2009 post by Meg introduced the uninitiated to this wonderful palace of a trim store, but I just have SO much to add...

For one thing, the button selection is all kinds of cool.  They seem to have found even the funkiest versions of everything plain there is.  It is this wonderfully curated collection of buttons that inspires so many different ways to use and feature them. Talk about a creative jump-start!  

I also must mention that their leather trims are not only exciting, but a good 50% of the prices charged at some of the other leather purveyors in the neighborhood.  And I do mean the EXACT. SAME. STUFF.

Great sequin selection too. Hot fix and sew-on.  Wonderful colors.  Easy as pie to see and decide.  

I may have shared my fear of bead stores on this blog in the recent past.  Like sweaty palm, shortness of breath kind of confusion, indecision, I-must-leave-now kinda fear.  Well, Joyce solves that.  Not intimidating.  Set up in a way that lets me find things.

So, what else can you get there?  They are THE place to go for Swarovski crystals. Bling galore!

And hey, someone was looking for those little metal buckles used to make kids overalls?  Joyce!

Hot fix sequins? Joyce!

Prettiest of pretty lace trims? Joyce!

I've been to Joyce before, but today, in that store, I almost felt like I went to heaven.  You gotta go.  You just gotta...

Note: This is not an ad, but a testimonial. I don't do solicited posts, so trust me when I say this is my own gut reaction to this place.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Getting into the holiday season...

You know the phrase "Everything s/he touches turns to gold"?

Well, what word would you use to replace "gold", when you are having just the opposite experience? Yeah, me too...

So I'm resting my hands for a bit. When it comes to clients that is...

After taking a rest, I will embrace my inner "Selfish Seamstress"(I loved that blog, for those who know who I am talking about.  I miss her terribly.), and sewing for just me and mine for a little while, so I can do the quality of work I want to do, within the budget and timeframe I need to complete it.  Sound selfish?  Well, it isn't, because I will share on the blog, and you all will benefit.

Part of my thinking here, is that every year I scramble around to earn enough to buy wonderful gifts for friends and relatives, and every year I fall short on time, energy, and money.  And suddenly, a bell went off in my head. Guess what the equivalent is? Make the things you can, and carefully plan the rest, keeping the budget low, with enough time to spare before Christmas.  In my case, that means I'll stop the flow of client work, and finish LAST YEAR'S gifts this year.  I know I'm not alone on this.  Chime in on this folks, so I'll know I'm not crazy. Your comments of support will be much appreciated. Seriously.

So yes.  I know EXACTLY where to get the fabrics I need, and they are waiting for me out there in the garment district right now.  Today's shopping and speculating trip is delayed due to exhaustion, and I expect to be back in full swing tomorrow.

Over the past year or two, I have amassed quite a spectacular stash, in terms of quality and beauty, and I cannot wait to turn those fabrics into the items I have planned for them.  I have even managed to finish a TEN year quilt project this fall, and am very pleased to see that it has finally come to fruition.  One of the work hazards of writing this blog, is that I see and am inspired by so much, I just can't stop dreaming and creating!

So here we go, folks... Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas or Hanukkah.  That's plenty to take in for all of you who celebrate!  I am inspired by such an eclectic bunch of things, that it makes no sense when you roll them all together. My son wants to dress in a similar costume as the one I made for client's child some time ago.
Two years ago, I made a crazy dinosaur costume for a toddler, using fabrics I found at NY Elegant.

And it had scaly feet you could attach with elastic cord over the child's shoe.

These are the kinds of projects I love to do when the clock is not ticking in an oppressive way, and I need that freedom just about now...

And, on a final note, yes, you can still come on the November 2 Speakeasy tour!  I will accept more participants, if you want to join in!  Details can be found by following this link!

Friday, October 19, 2012

All action, no talk...

It may seem that the blog has gone silent, but I assure you that this is a result of having too much, rather than too little to say over the past week.  I will update you fully as soon as I come up for air over after the weekend, when I will have completed the third of three wedding ensembles I've delivered in just the past week...

Yes, I said three.

Yes, I am crazy, apparently.

We'll "talk" very soon.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Overheard in the Garment District...

Many fashion companies, new designers, students and startups send out scrambling groups of interns in the garment district to find, source and buy a wide variety of fabrics, notions and other supplies.  In my experience, lately, there is a fairly significant (and growing) customer service problem in the district.

Just recently, in a notions store I frequent, one nervous, young intern, obviously pressed from time, scrambled up to the counter, gripping a zipper in her hands, breathlessly exclaiming, "I was told to get a red, non-separating, invisible zipper... Is this right?" The cashier smiled, and repeated back to her in heavily- accented English, "Non-separating, Non-invisible.  We have...", and motioned at the intern to hand over the zipper, so she could ring it up.  She wasn't even looking at the zipper. Maybe the answer was yes, but it was pretty clear she didn't care to actually look, or even indicate to the intern how she might identify such a zipper. I didn't have the heart to look at what the intern was buying, because I didn't know how else to handle it but to violently snatch the zipper from the cashier's hands, and guide the intern to where she needed to be, and show her what the identifying features were.  Okay, so let's say that isn't their job, but really, can't we just care a little bit?  The store wasn't even crowded. Sigh...

One of the things my Shop the Garment District Tour has inspired, and frankly, it has become a bit of a mission for me... is to encourage sewers not seek advice from some of the employees of some of the businesses where they shop.  Some of them are very interested in what you buy and how you will use it, and some... and, folks, I really completely understand why.... will tell you whatever results in you adding money to their cash register.  Questions like "Is this difficult to sew?" or "Is this fabric double-faced?" or "Is this washable?" have clear answers, and will probably govern your buying decision and/or yardage requirements.  Additional bits of advice, like "This fabric is a directional print" or "This fabric has a nap" or "This fabric is narrower than most" matters  a great deal, and will help you make the yardage decisions you need to make.

The second tour I am leading is fast approaching, and I would love to see you on November 2.  The trip is a definite "go", and you will benefit from being led to some beautiful fabric and notions shops and my great relationships with business owners who CARE.

Itinerary below:

10AM - 2PM - Shopping (Will include several very special fabric stores with a wide variety of offerings suitable for many different purposes/types of garments.)

2PM-3PM - Lunch (included in your fee)

3PM - 5PM armed with your "Secret Map", you may visit more garment district stores if you wish, and give unique codes (that you'll get from me) to vendors who will give special assistance/discounts.

The cost of this guided, efficient tour is $75 per person. If you use this trip to shop and participate in what NYC has to offer, you will save at least as much as you are paying, and probably far more.

Wanna come?  Click below, send payment, and the details on meeting time/place will be provided. From outta town? If you need hotel and/or travel help, I will advise some of the BEST NYC secrets I know! Also, you can click on hotels above (this page - to your right) for the most standard and convenient choices. Payment is only accepted via PayPal (you do not need a Paypal account), credit or debit card. No cash, personal checks, or additional payments will be accepted on the day of the tour. The trip will involve a good amount of walking, so come prepared, and healthy.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Mood offers sewing classes... Didjaknow that?

Did you know you can take classes at Mood?  As you know, since moving on to Mood Fabrics, the former owner of this blog is making sure everyone knows big things are a'happenin' on Mood's ever-improving website! When chatting with Meg one day, she let me know that the classes can also be found on their website, which I hadn't noticed before! I had previously only seen the signs in the store advertising classes... So, while looking at their class offerings online, I came across this one, which is one I'm sure many of you would find interesting. Click through for details on this class and more....

How to Sew Knits Like a Pro

Here's the "Psst..." part - The classes are affordable, small, and taught by people who really know their stuff... There are others, but this one speaks to a particular subject I know is a challenge for so many!

Now, of course Mood offers knit fabrics, and their wool knits are especially appealing right now.

Here are some other places to get some great knits right now:

Kashi at Metro Textiles has some knits I scouted out on our Speakeasy tour that are just TO DIE for at the moment.

B&J fabrics. Seriously. Yes, it has a reputation for being expensive. But they've got plenty of really wonderful cotton stretch knits that are so completely AFFORDABLE right now...

Happy shopping!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The quest for pants...

On the recent "Speakeasy" tour, one of the journeys I noticed many in our group shared, was the quest for better pants.  Some are taking classes to learn better techniques, and some were looking for better fabrics. Some just needed some guidance to find the "right" fabric.

If you want to come on a Speakeasy tour, the next one happens pretty soon, so sign up!

Choosing the right fabric for your pants is very important.  You stress pants in ways that you don't challenge other garments.  When you sit for a time, you want your pants to be comfortable, and continue to look as good when you stand up again.  When you bend, make big movements, or walk, you don't want to need to "readjust", if you know what I mean.  Where they wrinkle, stretch, fade, and how well they'll launder are all things to consider as well.  The combined expertise of our group really helped the shoppers find what they wanted/needed.

There are plenty of places to buy great fabric for pants, but here are a few from my recent jaunts, where I have found places with great choices:


Try Rosen and Chadick for wool, cotton twill, washed linen, corduroy.  Wool sateen makes particularly wonderful "dress up" pants.


Try New York Elegant for exciting denims and great bottom-weight cottons (far back wall, kinda to your left).


Try Metro Textiles for great, affordable cotton twills... But get 'em now, because his inventory is ever-changing!

Try Fabrics & Fabrics for wonderful brocades.

Budget conscious/classic:

Try AK Fabrics for very affordable wools and poly-blends.

So, let's say you need some help making them.  Where to adjust, etc?  You can't find or buy this article anywhere (below), and it did appear in the Butterick Home Catalogue in the Fall of 1998, where I worked as an employee at the time. I just found my copy today, buried in a book I probably haven't opened in a year.  What is missing from the article, which I chose not to share, if the personal pant measurement chart.  Why didn't I share it? Because mine has my own measurements written in.  Here's what to record for your own chart:

Date: _____ (because you may need this later!)

Circumference measurements:

Waist ___
High Hip _____ (Measured ___" or cm down from waistline)
Full hip _____ (Measured ____" or cm down from waistline)
Thigh ____
Knee ____
Calf ____
Instep ____

Length Measurements:

Side length to floor ___
Side length to knee _____
Side length to calf ____
Crotch depth ______
Front crotch length _____
Back crotch length _____

If you have scoliosis, or any other left/right difference, take a left and right measurement for each affected area.  This may mean that you have to divide some circumference measurements into "left" and "right", and that if you are using a commercial pattern, you may need to make left and right versions or halves of pieces originally designed to be identical on each side. Make sense?

Let me know if you can't see these.  I have a hard time with pictures and scans... Note: I can read them on my screen, and I can drag and drop them to my own desktop and enlarge them.  Can you?

* I am sharing copywritten info here, giving full credit to the publisher, who has no copies available to share.  If anyone knows where a person can purchase or obtain a copy, feel free to let me know in the comments.