Friday, January 30, 2015

Channelling the 60's - 70's vibe.

I can't believe I'm saying this aloud...

I've always been STRONGLY anti-1960's and 70's clothing.  Not my aesthetic.  Not my time.  At all.  But now, I think...

Maybe this 70's thing that's happening in fashion isn't such a bad idea after all... (What?  Who said that?)

After all, looking at historical data  the 60's-70's seemed to be about the clothing, much more than exposing parts of the body occupying it. If this trend catches on in a meaningful way, you can make pretty bold statements with colors, shapes, trims, and fabrics without looking like a lunatic.  It might be time for some wild creativity!

1971 Spring/Summer - Elegance International Magazine - I love the idea of a coat dress for spring!

I love old copies of the Elegance International catalogue, which features sharp, oversized, fantastic National Geographic-style photography in exotic locations with beautiful scenery. Carefully adhered to each page, are small fabric swatches (suggested and actual fabric used) with prices, sewing pattern brand and number, with complete ordering information.  A very expensive endeavor for the publisher, to be sure, but a fantastic resource, even now, since many of the same vintage sewing patterns can still be found!

Of course we'll start gently.  You can find great fringe at M&J Trimming or Leather, Suede, Skins.
You can find some amazing trims at Daytona Trimming.
You can find great fabric for peasant shirts like this one at Fabrics and Fabrics.

And then, maybe you can even buy a VW bus... 

Of course, I'm kidding!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

"Poiple Shoyt"

Ugh... this weather...

There needs to be a name for this season in clothing.  The thrill of winter has worn off, the "February blues/blahs" loom in the distance, and I want to simply cocoon myself, sip coffee, and design/sew wonderful stuff in my copious bursts of "free time" and "extra energy".

So, what do we call this weird stretch of winter? I know - I'll call it "Cruise".  Yeah, that's it. Then I'll pretend I'm going on one...

So, that's what I'm doing.  And... by the way, you might have noticed that I name everything.  Almost accidentally, really.  As I'm creating a garment, it decides it wants a name.  I can't stop it.  It just comes.  So, I introduce you to...

"The Poiple Shoyt"
("purple shirt", of course - but must be said in the accent of Bugs Bunny)

Maybe I can wear it on the cruise.

I felt the need to do a quick, messy drape on my form (literally a very rough, sloppy, drape), to create a shirt that would celebrate this cozy double-cloth knit fabric I bought from Elliott Berman in September.  One side is grape juice "poiple", the other side I would want to call call "Kool Aid chartreuse".  Funny thing is, the purple-ish color is much more midnight blue than "poiple", but I just can't stop calling it that.

Fabric from Elliott Berman Textiles - the layers are secured together at every "dot"

So, in a creative frenzy,  I draped a very messy muslin, skipped making a pattern entirely, cut the fabric directly, added a side seam invisible zip plan for less boxy shaping, drafted a sleeve, started the assembly...

Started doing weird things to it.  Yellow cord... festive buttons...

And how could I describe it?

Hmmm... Sorta artist's-smock-meets-Crayola-box-meets-kindergarten-teacher-meets-fun,-but-absolutely-not-sexy, -meets-not-for-grown-ups, with a bit of humor, well... that is...until I do hair, makeup and accessories, so you won't be able to tell whether I'm kidding or not...

But, as I was making it, something about it just didn't feel "right".

As I worked, something came over me, and I started to move more in the "clown" direction, but I liked that it also made me smile... even giggle a little.. so I went with it...

And then I added a tie. 

And here's a glimpse  of the (not ironed) result...

Perhaps it's simply an accidental subconscious homage to my favorite tie-wearing comedian, Paula Poundstone?

Interesting tidbit... she doesn't know how to tie a tie!

Wanna know more? After reading this...  
Click the relevant highlighted text for details...

Have fun!

Monday, January 12, 2015

What happened to Woolworth's, Greenberg & Hammer, La Button Boutique, A&G, K Trimming, Art Max, So-Good Ribbons... and.... and

Once upon a time, in the garment district, there was:

Greenberg & Hammer

This place can't be duplicated.  An old Shop the Garment District post acknowledges the loss. Old fashioned business, knowledgeable staff, wonderful, and peerless products.  Winning product, sadly now unfindable - is great tailoring-weight interfacing.  Best current substitute vendor?  Try Steinlauf & Stoller

La Button Boutique

Wonderful button store, FULL of an amazing array of wonderful buttons.  Floor to ceiling, beautifully curated selection.  Best current substitutes?  Buttonology (for beautiful and eclectic), Pacific Trimming (great prices and variety), M&J (quality and uniqueness, if you don't mind the prices), and Daytona Trimming (if you simply enjoy the ride, and are open to whatever you find)

A&G Trimming and K Trimming:

The jam-packed aisles of K Trimming won't be forgotten...

These places were unique in their offerings, much like Daytona Trimming is now. I assume it eventually just becomes a story of "when it's gone, it's gone"...


The huge, multi-level Woolworth store location (on 34th Street) was once a great place to buy sewing notions.  Of course I was a child then, but I still have tools my mother bought there waaaay back when... A seam ripper, a tomato pin-cushion.... From a time when things were absolutely made to last!  Best modern alternative for similar products? Fashion Design Books near Fashion Institute of Technology.

Art Max Fabrics: 

One of my favorite early places to shop as a teen, I found the fabrics for my early Issey Miyake pattern experiments there! Loved every bit of shopping there...  Thinking back, I probably should have just had my allowance and early paychecks wired to them directly. Best modern alternative?  Rosen & Chadick

US Liberty Fabric: 

No pics, no links... just... nothin'. Poof! Washed silks and soft cottons with such beautiful prints, I just couldn't bear the beauty.  They moved upstairs to a less retail-friendly location, and seem to have faded away in the years since.  Best modern alternative?  Fabrics & Fabrics has some really awesome stuff...

So-Good Ribbons:  

Looks like this store has bid us adieu as well.  Best modern alternatives?  Mokuba (if you can ignore the price LEAP!) and Daytona Trimming.

Do you miss the district stores of yesteryear?  Come along on the Stroll Down Memory Lane Speakeasy!  Click the link for details!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

A speech from the trenches - Staying the line (Julie Taymor)

Absolutely worth watching.

Creative nourishment.

Dealing with turbulence, the fire of transformation, and the challenge of finding the "ideograph" when building a show.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Current Fashion/Design/Creative sculpted and sewn art exhibitions - a little off the beaten path...

This city has many exciting exhibits to see and creative/sewing/making/designing things to do, you wouldn't even believe me if I started to list them all...  Immersed in my research and planning for the Spring Speakeasy  (about 10 of you have reserved, now), I have found so many things, it is just overwhelming!  The biggest "finds" won't be shared here, since I am saving them for our tour, but here are a list of a few fun events!

Check out the Brooklyn Museum's high heeled shoe exhibition... until February 15, 2015.


Visit the Merchant's House Museum, and be sure to notice their odd hours, days open, and weird credit card rule before you go.

Among the garments and accessories held in the collection are a remarkable group of 40 dresses worn by Tredwell women ranging in style from 1815 to 1890, as well as hats, parasols, shawls, shoes, gloves, reticules, and fans.

The Museum of the Moving Image is doing a Jim Henson show.


Wait for Spring to come... and on March 29, go to the Museum of the City of New York for the Gilded New York exhibit and make yourself a feathered fan!


Be sure to catch The Making Design Exhibit at The Cooper Hewitt Museum, or just watch all the fun videos they have posted for your creative appetite!


The Museum of Math is always fascinating, if you love math (as many designers and creative thinkers do)

You may think you don't care about this video, but go to about the 9:18 mark, (especially if you have a mathematical child, enjoy knitting, enjoy thinking...) and watch just a bit, and it will suck you in...

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The most interesting boy in the world...

The Dos Equis advertising guy...

Just before the holidays, my son became obsessed with some special pajamas he had designed in his head.  White camouflage flannel is what he wanted, but my garment district searches turned up nothing.

Shy, and prefers not to be photographed in his pajamas, which I respect.  He agreed to this photo, though.

He came with me on my next fabric search and chose this flannel Dalmatian print fabric in a small store with piles and piles and PILES of wildly inexpensive stuff... (a secret beyond the very "Speakeasiest") 

He loved it!  

I created his pajamas, with kimono-like sleeves and a soft, loose fit... and he loves them.  Because of their very mature, gentleman lounge-y appearance, when he wears them, we now feel compelled to refer to him as...

"The most interesting boy in the world."

After much consideration, I thought about adding the store where we bought this fabric to my garment district stores map, with an honorable mention, but since it is not in the garment district, and not otherwise findable, I changed my mind...

But, if you have a kid who likes to design, and might want to try his/her hand at making something themselves, Mood Fabrics is offering a FREE (yup, that's what I said) class for kids.  Follow this link for more info.

What's new at Mood?

Well, not so new at Mood, really.  It's been a little while now, but they've moved what I feel is their best asset to a prominent spot on the street level of the Bricken Arcade (the iconic building which houses the store).

The Mood home decor department at the brick and mortar NYC garment district location, has always been, in my opinion, the stuff of dreams, and I think it is FANTASTIC not to have to go fight through the crowds and check your bag like a criminal* upon entry, the way you do when you head upstairs.  

*Sorry to say it aloud, Mood, but the aggressive bag check has always been a bit uncomfortable for me, and it forces me to plan my personal shopping trips differently, since I don't want to enter Mood with armloads of stuff. I get it.  Theft must be a big problem for you, and you can't tell who means well and who doesn't, but, man...

The best pictures and description of this change are given on a lovely blog I happened to find today, to which I will direct you, since the blog's author did such a stellar job of detailing her experience:


Brightly lit, well organized, clean and inspiring, you will find the home dec fabrics in a this new spot a great catalyst for your creative concoctions.

One particular reason to embrace Mood right now, is that they are consistently making a wholehearted effort to embrace the hobby and home sewer, in addition to the artists and dreamers among us.  Not everyone is designing a runway collection or decorating a yacht, but they do manage to treat you as if you are equally passionate about your own projects, and treat them (and you) as important.

For that, I say "Thank you, Mood."

I suggest you go.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Fashion musings: A Teen's Perspective

A lover of Manga, my teen sketched this picture on her tablet this weekend.

No online search for the definition of the word "manga" seems appropriate and/or complete, so, when I asked her for a better definition just now, my request was met with an annoyed grunt, a sigh, and a whiny "I don't know..."  So, okay...

Yesterday evening began with with a new project.  "Can I do your makeup?" she asked.  "Sure, and I'll interview you for the blog." I scrubbed my face, sat under the bright lights of the sewing area, and lined up all of my products for her to begin her work.  "I've learned a lot about makeup." she said. "Do you have any primer?" 

"What is that?"


"I'm pretty sure that's for people who aren't already bronze."

We both laughed.


"Yeah, it's this..." I pointed to the tube.

"Oh, that's not lipstick?"


So I sat as steadily as I could, while she decorated my face with various potions.

*From this point on, you'll be reading her voice, written from my recorded notes, her answers and elaborations to my questions and/or comments in between. Mom's (my) impressions are in parentheses where needed or useful...

"I like the idea of contributing to the blog, sharing ideas and creative thinking.  Sometimes the sewing things you do are interesting to me. If I were to make something for myself, it would be...

a costume!"

(her eyes looked all dreamy as she said this.  I asked what the event would be, or where she would wear it, but she really wasn't thinking that far ahead.  She just wants to create a work of art that can be worn as a costume.  An art piece.  OK. I get it.)

When it comes to clothes, I like variety.  When I go to high school this fall, I want different kinds of things. I kinda want to challenge my comfort zone. I don't like wearing a uniform.  (since 2nd grade, she's been wearing a uniform) 

It's itchy. I hate wearing a uniform. Uncomfortable, and my uniform pants always need a belt (she's very slender), and the shirt is itchy.

What do I think of my friends' clothes?  Well, I mostly see them in uniforms, too, and when they aren't in uniforms, they pretty much wear only the most normal stuff.  T-shirts and jeans, really. I guess if I had to choose a style for myself, I really like Harper's clothes a lot.

Haper is a character from "Wizards of Waverly Place"

She wears wacky stuff...

Really wacky stuff... but I really love that headband!

I like the humor and the wackiness.  I want wackiness in my wardrobe.  I like the things you make, but I also know sewing takes a LONG time.  And it's hard. I am inspired by it, but if I sew, I would only make some things.  Just very special things.  Takes way too much time to try to make everything, and I know there is always potential for failure.  But I'd be willing to fail, as long as I have enough fabric and supplies to fix anything that goes wrong.  

(I asked if she would have the patience for it)

Sure, I'd have the patience. And I wouldn't let it frustrate me.

My favorite thing you have made is the perpetual shirt.  (Note: I hurt my back before that day, which explains why I am standing so strangely in the picture below.) I want one, but we ABSOLUTELY can't match.  Mother-daughter matching isn't cool at all! Especially EXACTLY! (She laughed heartily) But mine would be a different shirt - maybe a sweatshirt or a hoodie or something.  Now, we could wear those on the same day, and it wouldn't be like we're matching.  It would just be funnier! I love when clothes have humor!

Me and the kids - on Governor's Island nearly two years ago - how do I know the date?

I also want to do a lot of accessories.  Headbands, leg warmers, and stuff like that. I love pajamas, but only some are exactly perfect.  Some are just too warm.

Extremely dextrous and patient, she created this bag by crocheting MANY, MANY soda can tabs together (you can buy clean ones very cheaply on Ebay), AND made a 2nd one for her best friend!

What I really don't understand are fashion runway shows.  Especially the really crazy ones.  Who wants to look like that?  Why do they do that? Who is that for?  Like a big leather "X" on a t-shirt.  You can't even wash it!

"I'm still not sure..." I shrugged.

I looked in the mirror.  "Pretty awesome! This "contouring" you speak of actually works! (I'd never tried the makeup tricks the beauty experts give) Maybe I should wear makeup more often!"

Note: She enjoys the exploration of garment district stores, in small doses.  Take your teen, if s/he is interested.  Be sure to buy a map if you need store suggestions!

Additional note:  She will read and respond to your (appropriate) comments personally!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Meet this blog's new contributing columnist - "A Teen's Perspective"

That's her in the middle (photo taken December 2014 - Oak Island, NC)

She is exactly my height.

She is smarter than I am. (also lean, graceful and beautiful, but those are things are just extras...)

She is a wildly creative and talented artist.

She is a gifted scientist and mathematician (more about that later).

A few years ago, she explained the dimensions for  a skirt pattern she was making, doing so mathematically in her head before cutting, using equations involving PI...


Oh, yeah... and she's 13.

And she's my daughter.

For about 6 months now, she has also been managing the "maps" portion of this blog, the proceeds of which are her compensation for helping me.  She will continue to do so.

Any post to which she contributes will have 

"A Teen's Perspective

as part of its title.  The words and ideas shared in those posts will be her own.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

For knitters and non-knitters with a dream... (formerly called, "But why is it called School Products?"

**Updated post with new pictures, text originally dated July 31/13

Inspired by this photo...


And this book...

I am planning a visit to School Products Yarns to my schedule in the coming week...

Always researching and learning, I plan to also use some tips I learned here.

A while back (more than a year ago!), I found a store, just outside , but close to the garment district quite accidentally, and wrote this...

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Happy New Year! - The January 2 Speakeasy Tour

Since there are no Speakeasies planned for the near future (as I work on the uber-project, the Grandest Speakeasy EVER, scheduled for this spring), I want to share some details from yesterday's event.  After yesterday's trip,  I remain really creatively inspired, and excited to share some of the things we discovered along our journey yesterday!

And a big special THANK YOU to Cindy, who helped lead the group, and offered her always brilliant, friendly, expert advice and encouragement to the group! I truly adore her, and have known her forever...

It amazes me every time, but I am often as inspired by my tour participants as they are inspired by the fabulous things we see in the stores, and yesterday was truly no exception...

Exhibit A:

One of the tour participants was really jazzed by a photo of a very expensive "glove clutch" she had seen.  Inspired by the idea, but intimidated by what could be a complicated labor-intensive project, I thought about ... (I have tried desperately to make great gloves in the past) I stumbled upon these in an internet search (link to original below)...  I adore this bag!

Perrin Paris glove clutches

Note: If I were to use this idea as a springboard for my own, I would go to Leather, Suede, Skins for the leather, Botani or Pacific for the hardware and such, and Joann fabrics (online or in person) for what I have found to be the best stabilizing materials for the bags I make (The fusible interfacing used for lampshades, and plastic mesh - I fuse the interfacing to a stiff muslin to make the structural inner layer of my bags.)

Exhibit B:

Let's say you make quilts, as two of yesterday's participants do.  Where to go in the garment district certainly isn't obvious, but there are many places that have lovely, creative offerings for quilters.  Now, there are some obvious spots to visit; Mood and City Quilter among them, but I must say that Rosen and Chadick, Chic Fabrics and NY Elegant had some awesome cottons suitable for quilting, too!

Exhibit C:

You can find silk gazar, like the fabric used to create this Oscar de la Renta Gown  in rich colors at Fabrics & Fabrics

What if you love bold colors and textures?  One of our participants was such a delightful enthusiast of very bold oranges, purples and greens -- she found plush velvets and wonderful prints that were so exciting! There are some stores with gasp-worthy colors, panel prints, and textures right now.  Check the display window of NY Elegant, and you'll see what I mean!  Paron, Fabrics and Fabrics, and Rosen and Chadick all had delightful offerings in these categories as well!

Exhibit C:

And seriously, shop with a rolling suitcase.  Or you'll learn the hard way... That's how the pros do it... am I right???  And, when you get home, you say to anyone who has a problem with the amount of fabric you bought.... "You should have seen what the rest of them bought!!!!  FAR more than I did!!!!" (giggle...)

If you are longing to go fabric shopping or browsing, here are some must-sees for you right now:

  • Check out the fabulous chunky cut & sew sweater knit at Paron Fabrics(immediately!)
  • Look at the fabric panels on the long wall of Fabrics & Fabrics
  • Check out the double-faced wool (green/charcoal) at Rosen & Chadick
  • Check out the special panels hanging on the rack near the counter at NY Elegant
  • Check put the great houndstooth wools at Chic Fabrics
  • Check out the variety of unique zippers, pulls, buttons and other notions at Botani
  • Check out the novelty button offerings and hot fix crystals at Joyce

Happy New Year, and enjoy your creative adventures, whatever they may be!