Friday, June 30, 2017

On UFOs (Unfinished Objects) - This stuff matters... often more than we realize.

Reposted from 1/14/13

Since then, years have passed, my daughter has grown older, and she now maintains an Instagram of her own artwork!

Update: City Quilter will be closing its brick and mortar store on 10/26/16.)

A full decade (and lots of hand-stitching) after I began this project, I took a picture of a quilt I have completed. I took this picture at Christmas, looking up at the front porch, outside, while visiting my in-laws home (in the background), since, where the heck do you hang and photograph a 6'x6' quilt in New York City apartment?  At the time of this photograph, the quilting was finished, and only binding remained to be done. Completely hand-pieced, hand-sewn, and hand-quilted, I often questioned my own sanity, but ultimately, I feel the satisfaction of really calling it "finished".  

With this post, I specifically want to highlight the incredible difficulty of finding just the right fabrics and colors to make this quilt.  I spent a solid two months looking for the right fabrics back then, venturing out to many stores to get the combination of colors I needed.  Nowadays, there is a much closer option... City Quilter.  While not in the garment district, it is energetically walkable, taxiable... subwayable.  For my next quilt... and yes, there will be a next... that will be my destination.

This quilt is a fabric interpretation of a painting my sister created when I was little (1976).  It is called "Family".  My goal was to make a quilt with no machine stitching anywhere at all.  I envision "speaking" to the great-granchildren I may never meet through my own hand-stiching. Please feel more than free to love it, hate it, not understand it.  It's not for display, sale, or art... just love. Our family will be sleeping under it.

Hanging kinda crooked - I was cold and impatient while taking this picture!

My 11 year-old daughter wrote many test essays during her test practice sessions for an entrance exam she just took for a specialized school.  This particular topic in her prep notebook:  "Someone Who Makes a Difference in My Life".  I happened to take a look at it one day, and saw this...

Stash Management

Reposting (originally published 6/28/12)

Oh the stash... it just grows and grows, doesn't it?

Okay, here is an exercise for all of us. ALL OF US... Yes, ALL of us...

You know that fabric stash that is stuffed in your closets, drawers, boxes, rubbermaid tins, cedar chests... wherever? I know you've got piles of fabric waiting for your next project soon someday. Okay... today we're gonna decide that's okay. Part of the creative process is collecting hoarding curating a fabric supply. That's what keeps the creative juices flowing.

I'm being serious here. I have yet to visit the workspace of any creative person, fully immersed in the art of making things, who doesn't have a big ol' pile of creative madness going on. Embrace it.

Why do I bring this up?

History has taught me that when I wander in and out of fabric stores, I see all kinds of great things that I would love to use, if only I had a project going for which I could use it. If I decide I want those things six months later, I may never find them again. Here's the thing... buy it, and you may be surprised by what it inspires later on! I made some covered buttons about 6 years ago and never finished the project for which they were intended. Time marched on, the design idea lost its luster, and my daughter asked for the buttons instead. She made use of one in a fabulous necklace made for my birthday! Creative karma...

Another reason to curate a healthy stash? When the fabric is considered before your creation/design decisions or pattern purchases, you can build a wardrobe of planned items that are interchangeable and/or coordinating, rather than a one-at-atime approach, that keeps you buying new shoes accessories and bags to complement each piece. A time/money saver! See...? Not so crazy, huh?

So, feed your stash, people. Organize it to the best of your ability, but understand that it is part of the process.

Now, cue some sad bugle playing taps, while you scroll through the swatches of fabulous fabrics I regret not buying, or not buying enough of...

Some sorta leather-like wool animal-printed fabric I found at Paron. Just weird enough to intrigue me, but not creating a sharp enough creative vision in my head to coax any money out of my wallet that day. NOW, I can see the winter vest it should have been.

I am almost embarrased to share how long this crinkled denim (above) lived in my stash. In an appetizing color I affectionately call "Pepto", I always knew it needed to be a pair of pants, but there was never quite enough of it to become a pair. So it became a jumper. And a hasty one at that. One I have never, ever, ever worn...

I need a tissue.

And quite possibly a hug.

Learn from my mistakes, folks. I share because I care...

The best stores for stash shopping are the ones where you find wonderful surprises in limited quantity or quick/limited seasonal availability. Bring your wallet with some "mad" money, because these are a few of the places to find the fabrics you weren't looking for:

Mood225 W. 37th St., 3rd floor (mid-block, office building, go into the lobby and take the elevator to the 3rd floor)

257 West 39th st (bet. 7th 8th ave) New York, NY 10018

Metro Textiles
265 West 37th Street Suite 908 New York, NY 10018
More info about this store can be found here.

Enjoy yourself, take deep breaths, and embrace the stash...

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Whew! Spilling the details on the "Speakeasy" tour...

Reposting (from 9/29/12) - for those of you who don't know what the Speakeasy idea is/was, and what I would love to duplicate, if there is enough interest!

Now that the tour is over, and I've had a good sleep, lemme tell you all about it! This was the first Speakeasy tour I've done, and since no two will be exactly the same, I can dish here without spoiling it for those who will come in the future. Our tour was scheduled to meet at 10 AM at the "Big Button", and I arrived quite early. The rain was TORRENTIAL when I got there, so I ducked beneath a shelter for a time, and reemerged when the rain lightened to a steady drizzle. Cindy (my great tour guide partner) and I met the participants as they arrived, just when the sky ABSOLUTELY OPENED UP.

I'm not sure when I've seen it rain so hard.

I briefly wondered if one could build an ark of canvas and boning, since I do know where to get that...

Thankfully, we were all dressed for the occasion, and they were all really good sports about the relentless downpour. We quickly scrambled off to our first destinations.

Because these were smaller stores, Cindy took half of the group to C&J Textiles, while I took the other half to Metro Textiles. Cindy's part of the group absolutely RAVAGED the $6 sale rack. Yes, I said $6. Really, I did say $6. Why do you keep asking me that? (That's why I call it a "Speakeasy"... see?) And good luck going there now. They practically cleaned it out. No, I'm not kidding. When its gone, its gone, until they restock it. You would have had to see it with your own eyes. At Metro, Kashi was, as always, an incredibly gracious host, whose selection is just overwhelming. While there, a serendipitous visit from George of International Pleating, holding THE MOST MAGICAL pleated fabric you ever did see, allowed me the opportunity to introduce him to my part of the group. Truly, the way that pleats can give a new personality to such a tame and classic print... We couldn't even imagine what it must have looked like before pleating until Kashi showed it to us in its original state.

Really, you hold up its pleated version, and you dance with it. Just because you have to.

So, when you're in Kashi's place, you just keep looking at his vast selection of fabrics until things jump out at you. I can be easily distracted by shopping for myself, so I promised myself I wouldn't buy a SINGLE thing. However, I do now have a list in my head that I will need to satisfy shortly. Thanks, alot, Kashi... Kashi has three fabrics I MUST have, and will go to pick up this week. Mostly because I can barely sleep without them. That's just true. On another note, you will feel the need to call the place "Kashi's" instead of Metro Textiles after going there. That's just what happens.

Okay, so then I tried to minimize my excitement as the entire group met up at Fabrics and Fabrics (formerly Lace Star). I just wanted to let them get off the elevator, and GASP as it unfolded before them. I'm not even sure why I mention the name Lace Star when I talk about them now, since this version of that store BLOWS what was known as Lace Star away. This place is VAST, and I can assure you, the sale racks will amaze you. But bigger than that, there are AISLES and AISLES of brocades (and plenty of other things, too) in lots and lots of colors. Fabric-selling industry veterans have told me that a wide variety of brocades are amazingly hard to find. They found them, somehow. The antique French laces, the wild, unusual fabrics...

As I walked around, I kept hearing purrs, shouts and "Come look at this!" from corners and aisles all around this store. And the layout of this store is absolutely stellar. The organization and labeling of goods is just so perfect, I don't think it could be improved upon. I am so serious about that. And it just keeps going, and going, and going! Rahman is just a great, welcoming personality, and I know there are other staff members, but I just gravitate to him specifically, because he is always first to smile!

Understandably, people were reluctant to get things shipped home rather than carry them, because it takes away from their fabric budget (and can be pricey, especially for our Hawaiian!), but arms were getting weary!

From there, we moved on to Rosen & Chadick. David, Ellen and the assistants were wonderfully helpful, and the group was astounded by the quality of the goods they carry. The beautiful heavenly beaded net fabric and velvet combo bought by one member of our group nearly brought tears to my eyes. The printed cottons are also just TO DIE for. The silks, oh, and the silk tie fabrics are just glorious! The cotton twills for pants, the UPSTAIRS... oh yes, there's an upstairs... you mean you didn't know? "Speakeasy"... see?

And here's the deal... you see stuff there you won't find in other stores. The pinwale corduroys in particular are so beautiful, and inspire ideas in so many directions. The layout and lighting are awesome, and the wonderful, warm personalities of David and Ellen are even awesomer... yes, that's a word...

So, from there, we took a quick little subway ride to 28th Street on the 1 train, where I discovered that I could not swipe a whole pile of people with a pay-per-ride fare card... and seriously MTA, why not???? After a few people, the machine tells you that you have exceeded your "transfer limit". Why? Someone explain to me what transfers have to do with this? And the absence of subway personnel makes it especially frustrating. Random venting.  I digress.

So, I just bought more fares, and we moved on. No big deal.

Anyway, our next stop was Manhattan Wardrobe Supply, which offers more stuff than you ever knew you needed. We discussed the joys of waxed hand sewing thread, various glues and adhesives, types of elastic, all sorts of bust fixes and fitting solutions, garment shields, shoe concerns, fabric care supplies, and just soooo much more.

That place was a ball, and everyone was about to keel over, so we all rested out tootsies (and other parts) for lunch. It all worked out fine, but for the next trip, I will make sure to plan lunch better! We all ate well, though! Over lunch, we answered all of the "where can I find" questions they had for us, and got feedback on their favorite stores. Surprisingly enough, the favorites were pretty evenly spread out among the group! Everyone said they had an awesome time, and they were really happy they came! I am so glad!

After the tour, I did a follow up with a few of the store owners, and they had some great feedback for us, too! One of the major points I stress on this tour is that this is meant to be a MUTUALLY beneficial trip.  You get access to gorgeous and fun stuff, discounts, bargains, and relationships I already have with vendors.  They get business from people who probably don't otherwise even know they exist.

The folks at Rosen and Chadick thought the groups was really nice, fun, and interesting to talk to! They were pretty amazed at how far some were willing to travel to come on the tour, and so was I!

Side note: I had NO idea you could drive from elsewhere, park your RV at the marina, and save yourself a hotel bill! Makes coming here crazy affordable!

Kashi really enjoyed the group as well, and was happy to have been able to show them fabrics they found exciting! He has such great prints! 

C&J can really look intimidating, but don't be intimidated. Yes, there is a receptionist, but don't feel put off by the feeling of being asked to state your business. They just wanna help you find what you need... and of course, they want your business!

Manhattan Wardrobe Supply is better explored than explained. Also nice people, in a very businesslike environment.

My request to all of you:

After reading this post, when shopping in the Garment District, make sure to tell anyone who will listen, that you came because you saw the business mentioned on the blog. I can't guarantee that it will always help you at the register, if I'm not there with you... but sometimes it will!

In a nutshell,  conversation flowed, I am really happy that the blog is entertaining for so many, and was happy to meet those who hadn't really followed the blog, but were just excited for the real-life opportunity to go on the guided trip! I was especially excited to have learned so much from those who came on the trip, too!

Oh... and... sorry for no pictures... I was having too much fun to think about photo ops! And vain truth be told, I got drenched, and wasn't much of a fashion plate after the rain! Can you say "hot mess"?

The next garment district tour will be...

September 22, 2017.  Click here for more info.

Today, I saw a sobering post from Seek LLC tours, stating that they will no longer offer fashion tours in NYC.  As businesses disappear, I wonder what the future holds...

While I understand Seek's choice, I do feel that there is still a glorious fabric shopping experience to be had here, and I will continue to lead you through it.  Since I have not been a competitor of SEEK for the same type of service, I have recommended SEEK tours to some of you who have a greater interest in fashion shopping than in the process/exploration of making things. I hope someone will fill that void.

I can agree that there are fewer people interested in group tours, and I have found that I lead far more private and small group tours than the larger crowd tours these days.

Keep in mind, there are always maps, too!

You'd be amazed at what creative pursuits, exhibits, fabrics and notions you can explore in the district.  


I'll still be here to show you.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Friday in the district...

Man, it NEVER gets old...

Saw such beautiful things on a private tour I led on Friday...

Really floored by the beauty of it all.

Heavenly adornments.

Suede - really.

I haven't been able to express just how wonderful it has been in the district lately.  The beauty is overwhelming. It truly is just THAT amazing, and you need to come see for yourself!

Friday, June 16, 2017

I made a friend.

I started with the idea of a mouth. Just randomly constructed a mouth, with the idea of creating a sock puppet that would pretty much be ALL MOUTH.

But that mouth took over.

And I made a friend. 

No pattern, no plan, just a puppet that TOLD me what to do, how to create her... It took a while. I kept thinking I was done, but that mouth wouldn't stop yappin'.  She is LOUD.  Even if I am the only one who could hear her.  Creative chaos ensued.

I MADE a friend.

It took a village.  Did I shop for items to make her?  No.  She was 100% scraps and stash. I credit Britex (San Fran), Daytona, Elliott Berman, Metro Textiles, Spandex House and New York Elegant for all the pieces of my sewing life it took to create her.

Turns out she loves an adventure.  She came with us to the Metropolitan Museum of Art this week, took a few pics, and then announced she was ready to go to her new home. 

She really found her place among the exhibits.

So, here's the deal.  Long ago, I made a quilt for my family.  The idea of the quilt was to create a loving place to snuggle when you feel tired, sad, sick, heartbroken, or just in need of a hug. 

'Bo is the continuation of that idea, BUT I made her to give to a friend and HER family, but specifically her daughter, who is just a sweet little 1 year old right now.  She may find her terrifying, but I know her mom has a good sense of humor, and that fear will fade in time. 'Bo can be the mouthpiece of the household.  She may even insist on it... Whatever you wanna say, you can let 'Bo say it for you.  She has no filter, and is not SHY.  I hope she enjoys her new home.  We'll miss her.

* Inspiration (Sassy Urban Friend referred to in the Bo Burnham song #Deep.  The jury is still out on whether this qualifies as fan art, since he is NOT a kid's comedian, but she is kinda named after him...)

Photo credits: my kids.