Saturday, May 31, 2014

"You can't buy more time"

Paraphrasing Warren Buffet here:

You may have all the money in the world, but you can't buy more time. 

Amen to that, folks. Time is limited. Time is precious. Think about the value of your time. Spending all day looking for the "perfect" thing? 

Is that wise? 

Or practical? 


This is how I imagine I would feel if I were shopping in the Garment District, had I not been here before.  If you are naturally curious and have lots of time on your hands, it can be an absolute adventure.  And lots of fun. Guaranteed.  Sure, it can be. You can also develop a pretty quick headache, if you've got a shopping list to check off.

This picture won't even fit on the page.  See all those dots? Fashion-related businesses in the district.

An example.  You may ask me, "Who has great buttons?"

Well, that depends.  How much do you want to spend?  What kind of buttons are you looking for?  What size, purpose, material? Want some names? Here are some choices...

Steinlauf & Stoller
New York Elegant
Fashion Design Bookstore
Top Trimmings
BT Button

Wanna try all those places?

Or, "Can you tell me where to find some beautiful silk?"

Sure, just try:

Elliott Berman
New York Elegant
Fabrics & Fabrics
Rosen & Chadick

Sure, just go ahead and enter any of those names in the search box of this blog and...

Do you see what I'm getting at?  I could give you a headache trying to answer just these "simple" questions.

Okay - way too much information, for sure.  Maybe you should just come along on a Speakeasy Tour, and let me show you where I've seen some great stuff, show you things to inspire you further, secrets I can't tell you here, and recommend specific places to you based on your questions.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Felted wool throw... or a great "lazy girl's quilt"

This felted wool throw just melts me.  Click through for a link to the faqs and how-to info.

Just look at it.

I really do crave such a throw.  Something you can make, elegant enough to toss on the sofa, while still looking stylish... sweet enough to still look adorable when snuggling up at an outdoor event.

And a true alternative to knitting one... which could probably be awesome (and a portable project), since you would only be creating squares of various colors and patterns...


I'll never have enough old sweaters or scarves around to make this work, and I don't feel inclined to knit a bunch of squares.  I guess I could ask my family members if they have old sweaters they are ready to part with... or I could go to...

NY Elegant!  They have such a lovely collection of cut and sew knits, that I could do something awesome to fill in the rest of the throw with what that store has to offer, and they won't unravel on me!  Yes, it's a pricey way to do things... expect to spend in the vicinity of about $50/yd on this, but you won't need too many yards, and it will last you for the long haul!  I'm an extremist, I know... Would make a great gift, too!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Perpetual anything.... (Completely random thought...)

It only occurred to me last night (oddly enough, while driving), that my perpetual shirt idea need not be limited to the one shirt.  I can have a perpetual anything, as long as I make an appropriate patch for the item concerned.  

There will be a perpetual hoodie in my life this year.  

Now I'm moving into year two of wearing my shirt...

Based on history (as explained in my gambler's fallacy post), I guess it will be one more year before anyone else likes it!

Letters/numbers from Jonathan Embroidery, Velcro from Daytona Trimming.

Slightly wonky - it's been washed A LOT since!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Elliott Berman Textiles...

Buckle your seatbelts, folks...  

On my birthday, after attending the David Kelley Talk, I hopped over to the garment district to curate the goods available in the stores I wanted to recommend to my Speakeasy participants.  With the wonderful assistance of Eugenia (below), I found beautiful things at Elliott Berman Textiles. (I was also wearing one of my favorite tops that day!)

I looked at all they had to offer, as their beautiful selection of fabrics grows, and I found some truly exciting things!  Among them, a new collection of organic scarves.  Yes, you heard me correctly - scarves - you can simply wear them just as they are (and they are breathtaking), or you can use them as border yardage on other projects.  A perfect way to make a border for a skirt, tunic, or home dec project, these jacquard weaves are quite elegant, and unusual in color combinations and textures. This is a collection you need to see in person to truly appreciate.

The prevailing themes at E.B. right now are double-faced fabrics, really exciting COLORS and prints, and rich textures.  The wools are out of this world (don't wait until Fall to buy them), and the knits are wildly exciting, too.  Go see them. The quality and resilience of their knits is particularly stellar.

The pictures below (my personal favorites) represent a mere sampling of what beautiful fabrics await you at Elliott Berman right now...

So... there's this black and white basketweave (above) that just sings when seen in a wide expanse or yardage.

I imagine it becoming something like this... (Simplicity 2444 photo below, with edging in a bright, very saturated pop of color).

What colors... oh the colors!

More exciting colors!

blah, blah, blah (meaning, who cares what words I can put to this... the pictures tell you all you need to know!)

Double faced knit

This double faced knit came home with me...

Inspired by this photo (below - can you picture it?) - a contradiction of a casual shirt - using the reverse as a tuxedo-like "dickie" on a very plain shape. i'll have to show the finished product for you to see what I mean, I think...

blah blah blah - who cares?  Again, no words do them justice - just Look at these pictures!

A shimmery denim you really have to feel and see for yourself to know its magic...

A double-faced denim... hmmm....
This (above) could be a two-tone reversible denim jacket for Fall - (I have a unique design idea for reversible pockets in mind for this one) with flat-fell seaming, to make it all flow.

Basic idea,  a masculine looking men's jacket, but for  for me... a woman!

So, all in all, found some great things at Elliott Berman, and I suggest you go there, too!  They are open Monday through Friday only, and are located in an office building.  Take the elevator to the 7th floor and go to your right.  Read this primer before your visit, because the setup is unusual, and it is best to be prepared...

Elliott Berman Textiles

225 W. 35th Street, 7th floor

New York, NYC

Not in New York?  Visit the website! And... be sure to tell us what you found there!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Speakeasy testimonials

I really love it when people tell me what a great time they had on a Speakeasy tour.  They are truly fun to lead, and, as time goes on, far more interactive, since I can now shift on the fly, according to the interests and vibe of the group. I love that I know the backstory on so many of the businesses in the district, can introduce people to each other in a way that is genuine and warm, share stories, and make friends.  The tours give me much more than they take outta me.  And believe me, we are ALL tired at the end of a Speakeasy tour! I particularly love it when we have my touring partner Cindy along, because she just has a wealth of experience, stories, and ideas that are always endlessly helpful to our participants.

Here are some words some past participants have shared with me after their tours...

You know, it was nice connecting with other sewists on the speakeasy. There doesn’t seem to be that many around!Now that I’ve started sewing again, my friends keep asking… did you make that? And I’ve started to say “yes!”. Kind of cool.
I had picked up a white swirl on black background, kind of a loud print- made golf pants out of it- fantastic.I won’t see anyone else dressed like me!

C.L. (2012 tour participant)

Again- I cannot tell you what that first tour meant. To be able to go back to those people and place orders via phone, be extended the courtesy of periodic swatch deliveries etc. has been amazing.  

T.R. - (2013 tour participant - manufacturer, sourcing in NYC!) 

Thanks for the fun on Saturday! I got a lot out of the day and am looking forward to sewing up some things and planning another trip down! 
M.R. (May 17, 2014 tour participant) 

And thank you for the fabulous speakeasy map! I had a total blast in the Garment District. 

C.R. (May 17, 2014 tour participant)

I had a wonderful time in the Garment District with you and the gang on Sat. Just wish I could do that a bit more often.....
C.C. - (May 17, 2014 tour participant)

 At this point, I have one more Speakeasy tour on the schedule this year.  I will happily add more, if my schedule allows, and interest merits it.  Updated Speakeasy tour schedules and map ordering information can be found here on the blog, and individual, special group, or themed tours can always be requested, using the contact information found on that page.

I wish you all a very creative day!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Kids, creative activities, and the "forgotten groups"

My daughter made this purse, using soda can tabs (we got ours from Ebay, dirt cheap!) - She guesses she used about 400 tabs to make this one.

Yes, my daughter made this purse. On her own.  No help from me to find the instructions, understand them, or source the supplies.  100% her own effort.  It is incredibly light and strong, and required only soda (pop, depending on where you're from) can tabs, yarn, and a crochet needle.  The instructions can be found here.

As the parent of a 12 year old girl, who is quickly approaching her tween-hood (eek!), in size, appearance, and interests, I am looking for more opportunities for her to explore her creative side.  For those of you with young girls, grandchildren, or young girls in your neighborhood/life, maybe you can sympathize with me when I  say that I am finding she is part of a "forgotten group" in many industries.  Recently, we were very happy to find facial and skin products from a wonderful company, Ottille & Lulu, who I found on a random excursion to FAO Schwarz this winter.  Okay, but that's just one area so far...

But what's up with creative fashion? Yes, we've been to the mall... and yes, there's plenty of stuff there.  But what about the truly creative kid who marches to the beat of a different drummer?  I've looked at the patterns offered by the major pattern companies, and, just like my own mother did, asked my daughter to go through the sites and choose things she would like to make together.  She came up empty.  Completely empty and uninspired. We have put a few things on my Pinterest tween fashion page, as we come up with more ideas.

When I was employed by a major pattern company years ago, I learned a very important piece of information that I never forgot.  Pattern companies don't sell patterns; they sell dreams.  75% of patterns purchased never even get opened by the person who purchased them.  Look in your own storage, and tell me I'm not wrong on this... right?  But you need the inspiration!  Let's see some really artistic stuff in those pattern advertisements.  It's fine if we can't tell what age the model might be, but I would love to see them presented in a way that translates.

The major pattern companies jump from Kids to Misses, and a tween can't easily envision which Misses styles would be appropriate, because the photos don't show anyone with her pre-teen body type, nor do they typically show very youthful faces or fabric choices.  Are there other companies out there, with a specific interest in the far younger set? If not, I would love to see that change.

When it comes to fashion, creativity and sewing, there seems to be a gap in ages from true "kids" 10 and younger, and "teens", who I consider to be 16 and up.  Perhaps specifically in New York City, where our kids don't do too much solo travel and public interacting until they are true teenagers, I find that many of the activities we find for her are things we make up ourselves.

She has come along with me to countless fabric and notion stores over the years, watched me make things, been my guinea pig, and the proud recipient of some of my most successful projects. She has learned to sew for herself, and, while not a sewing fanatic, feels an enormous sense of pride when she finishes a project successfully.

I am also the parent of an 8 year old boy, who loves to design clothing... Let's call it "theoretical design", since it usually involves some sort of wild innovation.  These things don't exist unless WE make them. He imagines the thing he wants to wear in his head, draws it, and requests (begs, actually)  that I make it.  His designs are so specific and unique, I almost never have the time to do it, and that must be rectified.  Well, maybe. What he really needs, is a place to learn to sew for himself.  My machine is a bit too fancy to set him free with for experimenting, but I do think he would fall in love.  What the world needs is to support boys who are creative in this way, and I know of at least one place that is supporting that "forgotten group", very well! (Note to all:  that "one place" is now closed...)

School will be out soon.  Do your kids want to take sewing classes in NYC?

See my old post which lists The Sewing Studio, then visit their website to see more.

If you've seen any particularly great and unusual things for kids lately, let me know!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

About the recent Speakeasy...

On May 17, I met up with a great group of creatives for a speakeasy tour.  Although I was delayed on a slow moving subway train, (trying to meet up at 10AM) my wonderful touring partner, Cindy, took charge and led the group to the first store. Thanks a million, Cindy!

This tour was pretty different from the others, for several reasons:

It was a Saturday.  And wow, what a Saturday it was!  Beautiful weather, calm, peaceful streets and stores, and a more laid-back energy in the district than the weekday traffic usually allows. Before our tour, I had asked the participants specifically what types of things they hoped to find, and curated the selected stores to match their tastes.  I also tweaked the stores we visited, according to their interest level as we moved along, and it really enhanced the experience. 

From creative art quilts, to art-to-wear and funky fabric lovers, to purse-making, to generalists, to natural fiber lovers, we had a healthy range of interests! And... I must say... I admire anyone who knows she needs to bring along an empty suitcase with wheels!

What did we see that excited/delighted us?

I'm not giving you the specific store names here... after all, that's why we call it a "Speakeasy", for goodness sake...

Feel free to guess which stores I'm referring to.  I will neither confirm nor deny your guesses, but it could be fun!

Store #1 - HUGE, and had great printed cottons, stretch knits, really fun woolens, lovely silk prints, cut- and-sew knits, and a beautiful rack of really amazing specialty fabrics.  They also gave each member of our group a gift - which I know we will ALL use.

Store #2 - A gorgeous display of printed cottons, wonderful fabric suitable for making silk ties, some really great, bold laces, unusual velvets, a collection of woolen fabrics TO DIE FOR, and a wool print (can I call it that?) that three of us loved desperately.  There was only a small quantity left... but the three of us swooned.  I mean, SWOONED...  Also, if you wanna make great pants, you want the twills, linens or wool sateens they've got.  I've used and loved them all.  I've made pants that still look great, a decade later because the fabric is so awesome.

Store 2.5 - Lots of pretty silks, mainly.  A store with a "foreign" feeling - an whim of a stop on our way somewhere else...

Store #3 - Designer closeouts.  That is a strong hint, if you can guess.  Prices were great, we all saw things we loved, and I fell in love with a crinkle chiffon in what I like to call a non-color.  Lost somewhere between beige and pink, it was just so lovely.

Then we ate.  Great conversation,  great meal!  That place isn't so much of a speakeasy secret.  In my opinion, just the best place to have great food and rest your tootsies with a group in the garment district.  You can probably guess this one on your own.  Amazing corned beef sandwich and Dr. Brown's Black Cherry soda... can't beat it!

Store #4 - Based on lunch conversation, we knew we needed to go to this place.  A home dec search for one of our group made this stop important.  Everyone found reasons to "oooh" and "ahhh" in this store, whether they meant to, or not! I was hyperventilating over a fabric I saw rolled out on a table for another customer, ran over, and demanded to check price and fiber content.  Yes, just like a crazy woman.  It will take everything in me to shake off that experience, and not head back into the district until I can breathe normally again. I am "grounded" until I complete the projects on my burner right now.

Stores 5, 6, 7 - All a bit of a blur now, although many more things were purchased.  One store in particular required me to give a brief lesson before entering on "the art of the haggle".  I advised them which store staff would try to charge the highest price they think they can get, but are actually willing to go much lower.  I know... from experience.  We got tangled up in stores so packed with inventory, we had to take breaks for fresh air (no, I'm not kidding), we saw really fun laser cut leather remnants, and things with feathers, interesting textures, great colors...

Everyone was sufficiently pooped when we ended at about 4 PM.  We ran long (because we were having fun!), and I just told people to let me know when they were too tired to go on.  The group dwindled down a bit, leaving a proud few of us by the end! As for myself, I took a "nap" soon after arriving home (interrupted only by a quick dinner), that ended on Sunday morning!

I also gave group members with more time to spend in New York, details on finding the other fabrics and services they needed from the vendors who are open on weekdays.

Wanna get in on a future Speakeasy?  Click through to this page to stay updated on future Speakeasy events, or to simply request a speakeasy map with store descriptions, locations, what to say, and important merchandise details.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Today is my birthday!

And my daughter (12) drew a portrait of me.  There aren't enough words to describe how much I love this gift.  She says the colors were inspired by the creative things I make...

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May 17 Speakeasy!

Last chance to join us this Saturday!

This tour is a definite "go", and we will shop, socialize, and eat.  What could be better?

Looking very much forward to it!  It will be a blast!

I've closed the book... and it was fantastic!

The Lost Art of Dress

Every now and then, I play a game I call "The Beautiful Game" with my daughter.  When she isn't with me, I sometimes play it on my own.  The rules are simple.  Look at something ordinary, or possibly even unappealing, and find something beautiful in it.  For example, a messy-looking skateboarder may have organized a really creative rainbow of shoelaces to tie his beaten-up sneakers.  Did you notice/appreciate that? Do it silently, of course.  If playing with another person, agree on a mutual target.  When you have found the beauty, give a simple nod to your partner.  There is no winning or losing in this game.  You can discuss (if not within earshot or if not a person), you can silently appreciate,  or you can even sketch, if so moved.

Sometimes it makes us laugh, like the scene from the "Breathtaking"  moment on Seinfeld, when one of us can't believe what the other person found beautiful.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I had begun reading a book, written by a professional colleague of mine, Linda Pryzybyszewski. (No, I can't pronounce it either.)  

Fast forward to today. I have loved every single syllable of this work, and it has sincerely taken me this long to finish it.  I've been committed to giving the book the time and thought it deserves, and, while reading it, was often inspired to explore related tangents of my own, deepening my educational experience.  The author is an associate professor of art history, after all, and covers the subject matter thoroughly, both as an educator and as an appreciator. Her wit and intelligence make this book as entertaining as it is informative.

As for my own attraction to this book, I collect dressmaking books from the 1800's to 1950's or so, and am particularly interested in the scholarly analysis of dress, for practical, artistic, historical and social/cultural reasons.  This book hits all of those notes, and twists the study in new ways I had not thought of.

Let's consider this: the Home Economics class. Once a serious course of study, but now, in my opinion, (at least here in NYC) reduced to family sitcom jokes.  Have we stopped trying to keep our homes and selves clean, live on a budget, raise children, consider our own longevity and health?  Of course not!  If you watch enough network TV advertising during the day, you will think that keeping our floors clean is as complex a pursuit as rocket science, considering all of the equipment being offered to help us complete this monumental task.  If you question its importance, visit the online archive of early home economics writings offered via Cornell University's HEARTH program, and I know you will marvel at its expansive exploration of practical instructions for leading a richer, more practical (and beautiful) everyday life.

Whether you consider your clothing to be simply superficial, meaningless ornamentation or not, consider these points:

"Balance concealment with revealment.  Flesh exposed all the time has far less effect than flesh revealed on special occasions and for a privileged few. People who receive privileges should be appropriately grateful."
- Linda P.

"In all casual and momentary meetings, we have the same status as packaged goods," and no one will pick out a package "mussily and carelessly wrapped" if there are others "done up carefully and neatly".
-Jane Loewen, millenery instructor

"Our clothes, like our faces, tell what we are. They tell our taste, our appreciation of the beautiful, our self-restraint, excessive modesty, naturalness or boldness - our characters, in fact."
-Mary Brooks Picken, "Dress Doctor"

I struggled to find pithy quotes in this book.  There are too many great ones directly from the author herself.  No single quote will summarize its message. No words are wasted, and practically every phrase uttered within it could inspire its own conversations. If you find a hard copy of this book in an actual bookstore, and want to glance through just to determine your own interest level, I suggest starting by reading the acknowledgements at the end of the book.  Gaining some idea of just how much work and assistance was required to make this book happen is reason enough to invest in its purchase.  The information it contains is timeless, so it won't matter how long it takes you to read it, so I suggest you buy it.

Oh, and if you haven't seen previous posts about this book, you can watch the video on the author, the subject matter, and the book as featured on CBS Sunday Morning here.

And here's a great review of the same title by another blogger, discovered today!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

NYC Fabric Store Review: Metro Textiles

Repost: Original post 7/18/12
Still true (and updated): 05/08/14

Address: 265 West 37th Street, Suite 908, New York, NYC
Phone: 212-209-0004
Hours: Monday - Friday, 8 am to 6 pm
Best for: Any creative person with a keen eye

As you probably already know, the garment district is a bootstrapper's land of opportunity.  A wonderful place for people to claw their way up in business, working hard, providing quality service, and building relationships; and that is how many long-established businesses are staying strong in this dismal economy.

Metro Textiles was once reviewed on this blog a few years ago.  I am adding more info and a different perspective from the earlier post.

Kashi, as he is known in the Garment District, has got to be the warmest fabric store owner/host I've ever met.  A kind and loving personality, his hard work putting together the vast offerings in his crowded shop is evident from the moment you walk inside.  To better understand just who this mystery fabric man is, let me share with you, a little story he shared with me.

Long ago, as a young man in his home country, he lacked the fare to travel from his home to the university, so he would hitchhike to school. One day, he was picked up by a successful professor who turned to him along the way and said, "You know, I didn't pick you up for your beautiful eyes." After a pause, and some confusion on Kashi's part, he elaborated, "I remember a time when I was a poor student. Someone helped me, and now, I am paying back the kindness shown to me."

This is Kashi's philosophy.  And his personality.  You feel it in your interaction with him.  

A surprisingly busy and cheerful man, it appears he will give you all the time and info you need,  despite the ringing phone, and people constantly calling his name, with a warm patience you can't help but feel comforted by.  

He became an accidental fabric vendor about 12 years ago.  Kashi got into the fabric business because it seemed like something he could do to earn money, and his good eye for quality fabrics that will sell has really paid off.  With the regular advice of some advising designers, he uses his gut to choose fabrics, and then offers them at extremely fair prices.  Look around a bit, and you're sure to fall in love with something. I'd bet you money.

The store is quite crowded, without much walking space, but if bolts just jump out at you, like they do for me, it is a fun adventure!  Not only that, Kashi does most of his business with repeat customers.  Why? He builds relationships with people.  Once you go, you will be happy you did. And you'll be back.

By the way, he'll even ship your fabric home for you, so don't worry about how heavy your  bags are...

A collaboration with George of International Pleating has given some fabrics a new life as beautifully pleated lengths of fabric you can use for appropriate projects!

The above fabric has a very boldly colorful print, that tells a different story when pleated!  Examples of pleated fabrics hang from the ceilings of Kashi's fabric-filled room. (a fan was blowing the pleats back and forth - we're having a heatwave, ya know, so it was tough to capture a reasonably good picture, but you get the idea.) Unless you've been living under a rock, you have probably noticed that pleats are all the rage these days.

Check out his blog for more info... (As if you need any more convincing to just go there.)

And there you have it, folks.  Yet another reason to go "upstairs" in the garment district.

Psst... by the way, if you have plans to come shop in the Garment District soon, whether you are a New Yorker or not, click here...

Monday, May 5, 2014

Mobile App Competition

This is a special competition, perfect for the tech savvy and just plain passionate folks among you. The Garment District is evolving, changing, growing, collaborating, and thinking.  And YOU can participate!

Find more information on this and other unique NYC opportunities, follow this link...

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Lots to tell...

I have so much to share with you all, but I'm working with every bit of my strength and creativity on a few different projects right now - creative and otherwise.   will be sharing more very soon, and will post as soon as I am able!  Smooches to to all!