Tuesday, July 26, 2016

For newbies - tales from a garment district "Buttinski"... (and a "Hug" of a Speakeasy)


"Pixelated" is what I'll call it.  This fabric called to me, and told me that it has to become something.  You can't appreciate it up close.  You have to see it from a distance. A large expanse of it. Yes, it must become something.
Sometimes a fabric leaps into your arms, like this one did into mine.  Found at NY Elegant Fabrics... One of so many lovely stores in the district...

Now what?  What will I do with it? I've got a million ideas...

BUT, if I were new to or unfamiliar with the sewing world and New York City Garment District, where would I look?

I ask this question because I am constantly overhearing overwhelmed beginners and uninitiated sewing enthusiasts in fabric and notions stores, asking questions about trying to find the items they need for their projects (patterns, home sewing machines, interfacing, zippers, etc.), and frankly, now,  I often interrupt unhelpful interactions with store staffers to answer those questions myself.

Understandably, the fabric stores often don't readily refer customers to one another, and barring the big names, many of them don't direct people to the notions stores they need, either.  There is an unspoken no-handholding policy in the district.  New York is a busy place, time's awastin', and frankly, to quote a famous internet personality, "Ain't nobody got time fuh'dat!"

Let's say you want a velvet board, hand sewing needles, large carbon paper, pattern making paper, a stretchable zipper, tailoring weight interfacing, pocketing, ribbing for edges and cuffs, leather flowers, great scissors, lace trims for lingerie... do you know where to go? How would you find out?

How can you get what you need if no one helps you?

Okay, I get it... independent creatives, artists, and home sewers generally don't bring in enough cash on their own to keep these industry focused stores in business, but certainly, a regular stream of customers is highly valued by any business, and you can play a role in keeping these businesses alive!

So, let's pretend we are on a fabric shopping trip together.  Where will we go?

Do you have a pattern/instructions, something to rub-off/duplicate, a self-drafted design, or just an idea?

A pattern? Well, you likely bought it online, from 


And, then you may have read the reviews and tips on Pattern Review, whose membership is now nearly half a million strong, by the way!


If you bought your pattern in the garment district, you may have grabbed one from Daytona Trimming or Paron Fabrics. (There aren't many places in the district who offer a real range of patterns anymore.)


Maybe you have been inspired by a book or video series, like Vionnet, or the insanely popular Japanese Fashion Design books like Shingo Sato, or exhibits at the 

or any other special exhibits in near and/or far away locations...

Independent research has led me to believe that the independent creative and sewing market is a wildly strong hidden business opportunity so many retailers could easily tap into into, and benefit from, if courted appropriately, but I have yet to see many garment district fabric stores fully embrace this market.

Whether you want to get your feet wet or deep dive, I suggest you explore the district and its corners and crevices as any creative explorer would, and you'll be amazed at what you will find.  My contribution? 

I will lead a special September Speakeasy that caters to the planning steps of creating the pieces what you've imagined.  Let's look at where to find inspiration, where to find fabrics, and where to find supplies that will help you put it all together.  I'll help, consult, and cheer you on while you shop, but I will also show you where else and how to get what you need, before releasing you to shop on your own. This Speakeasy will assume you are not an expert, would appreciate a bit of guidance and possibly hand-holding, and will introduce you to professional people who will treat you with respect and patience.  Featured on this tour will be only stores with whom I have a long and loving history, guiding you through a calm and fun trip through my beloved garment district.  

Wanna come?  

Look here for more information:

1 comment:

  1. Hi Mimi! Could you email me? I have a question about your maps and tomorrow is my one free morning in NYC. toofunny2 at gmail dot com. Thanks! -shams


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