Monday, October 28, 2019


It has been a while.  I don't want to let a million ten years of posts to go to waste, so I will be reposting and updating as time moves along!  I have finished my treatments, and am feeling better with the passing days, so I'll be back in the wing of being again, as I am doing a bit of creative sewing even today!

LOTS of fabric and notions stores are closing to have closed, so I will be updating my garment district maps to reflect those changes today.

As always, just when I think I have run out of things to say, more stuff comes to mind, and my stats tell me people want to read it, so ... 


I'm still here for you.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

On shoemaking

*Originally published 1/16/17

Well, here we are. I am OBSESSED, and frankly, it is just an endless, bottomless, chasm.  Having said that, I can't really form this particular dispatch into one neat, cohesive post, so, please, my fellow mad creatives... please appreciate this weird romp along with me.  Where the heck do I begin?

Well, I found a book at the library on shoemaking.  Let me not forget to say, for the record, that I asked the woman at the information desk in the creative/art section of the library if they had any books on shoemaking, and she literally ROLLED HER EYES, as if that would be a ridiculous pursuit for ANYONE to embark upon.  She referred me to a section, not a BOOK, and I was eventually able to find, after diligent internet searching (on my own!), a book that they needed to retrieve from their basement!

click photo for Amazon link

And I have now studied almost every single word of it. I would like to own it, but, as you can see, if you click on the above link, it has a ridiculously high price on Amazon.  Truth be told, I'd spend less by pretending to lose it, and pay the library for it... hmmm...  I won't do that, though.  It would be dishonest. Darn it.

So... my fascination begins at the point that I really love unique shoes, have very few pairs (by choice!), but there are a million ideas in my head, so I want to experiment and explore.  After about two months of research and supply sourcing, I must say that one can learn the technical challenges and common techniques, but the rest, much like clothing making, is unique, sculptural and magical.

What I love the most, is that while watching a professional make a shoe using factory equipment and tools, finding creative ways to construct something like a carpenter would, using your hands, and carefully planned pieces, calling on your local shoemaker to do the soling part for you (toxic glue fumes, professional equipment) if you want to do something truly special, you discover that you can indeed create something lovely and lasting for yourself!

This video would be wildly ambitious for anyone who has never tried to sew sneakers before, but it is a great education in what all of the shaping and sewing entails.

I like to assemble failing things, toss them all, and replace them all at one time.  More practical than crazy, I would argue.

And here's another thing.  If you're anything like me, you long for some favorite pair of shoes that you had long ago, or are no longer made.  You can't duplicate them exactly without the tools and materials, but you can absolutely use them as inspiration!

Now, explaining how to make a pair of shoes is as complicated as trying  to tell someone how to make a dress.  There are endless levels of quality, complications, etc.

So, let's say you just want to do the sculpting and artistic side of things... you can leave the soling up to your local knowledgeable cobbler or shoe repair person!  If you want to do the soling yourself, you can buy soling sheets and cut them (try Manhattan Wardrobe Supply or Amazon), and/or you can buy pre-made soles, ready to glue.  You can also buy insoles, rather than make your own.  There are many options for comfort. Explore the options online, and you will find some great supplies to help get you to a beautiful result.

I was happy to learn about a great shoe supply resource (in Brooklyn), named Brooklyn Shoe Supply, and will visit once I have completed my first pair/several pairs, so that I will be able to proceed with a bit more confidence.

As for the drooling/shoe eye candy aspect of things, I made a Pinterest Page with ideas and inspiration, and I have watched some wonderful You Tube videos for ideas and thoughts. 

Wrap shoe.  Food for thought:

About ballet shoes (not because I dance, but informs my shoe thinking):

The video below begins the process of making a very basic ballet flat, but if you read the book I mentioned at the beginning of this post, you'll see what advice is given there, and you can improve on/deviate from the suggested methods given here, if you like.  No matter what you choose, it seems some trial and error/discovery will be necessary to your development.

Over the past few weeks, I have explored and learned a lot about fabric choices, leathers, dyes, closures, leather stackable heels, looked at shoes in museum exhibits...  I have DEVOURED every bit of information I have found inspiring, and cannot wait to use my hands to sculpt some shoes.  I will share results when appropriate!

Note: Now there is a shoemaking map on my maps page, if you'd like to know where to go!

Saturday, October 26, 2019

I see London, I see France...

* Originally published 8/3/13

The London Eye

Sometimes the garment district can feel like an amusement park, and the stores within it, a carnival ride. A dizzying assortment of fabrics and notions, offered at a wild range of prices, and often of unknown origin, it is such a win when you find that magical spot, where the collection is carefully and artistically curated, AND you are greeted like an old friend.

If you're like me (and I think many of you are), you crave beauty and an outlet for your own creative expression, appreciating the quality of the luxury brands and the materials they use, but, even if you love exactly what they offer, you may not choose to spend or have the kind of cash those items require of you. 

I was leading a private tour in in mid-July when we walked into Elliott Berman Textiles to explore their selection of fabrics.  My heart nearly stopped when Eugenia pulled out a selection of headers (sales showroom cards for display and ordering information), featuring the beautiful digital prints that were due to arrive a month later. The above panel  (London Eye ferris wheel... and YES, that is FABRIC pictured above) stole the show for me!  This is a wonderfully soft poly print, with the image of perfect dimensions for the front of some fabulous silky T or blouse I have yet to make. The shipment was due to arrive the the end of August.  I couldn't comment publicly here on the blog, for fear that it would just be gone in an instant.  And now... yes, it is gone.  When designers saw this one at the DG Expo, they FLIPPED OUT, and bought ALL of it! And Elliott Berman doesn't plan to have more.

Pictured above, is the panel the store saved just for me.  Sorry, folks... Sometimes, I just have to keep some secrets to myself.  Sorry you missed it? 

But, here's the good news...  There are other AMAZING digital prints they have to offer.  And, no lie... they are just as amazing.  The London Eye just happened to be very ME. Had you been there yesterday afternoon, like I was, well... I can barely put it into words.

Some of the fabrics are so beautiful, that just a very simple sewing project can take a basic garment into the wearable art category, simply because the fabric makes such a powerful statement of its own. 


A wall has come down.  On purpose. Yes, in the store. As a result,  a new room of new goods is being filled.  NOW. Yesterday, I watched that room starting to come together, at first, about 1/3 full of new fabrics from France, and then a TRUCK arrived, UNLOADING brand new goods from Italy.  Yes, I was there to see them!  A true first look.  Think brocades, high-end swimwear fabrics, Chanel, Etro, Clavin Klein...

 Go there in person.  The magic cannot be effectively conveyed in a blog post.  I will tease you with some photos, but you will have to take the next step.

Digital printed velvet, as used in Etro's collection.  Feels like magic.  Winter 2013/2014 collection.  

Oh, and ask to look at the cool Calvin Klein sorta burlappy coating/handbag/tough stuff that Calvin Klein has used as well.

Believe me when I tell you this.  Go now.  I am not lying when I tell you that some fabrics are actually HIDDEN in the store because they are so wildly popular. Yes, really.

A lovely Chanel high end swimsuit fabric in bright white... for the bravest among you!

Stretch high end swimsuit, snug dress or legging, perhaps?

Stretch high end swimwear fabric.

Another fantastic print.

Need I comment on how pretty and crisp the colors are?

Sparkly, random silver polka dots on a white cotton background.  Check out the textured cottons, too!

Stretchy, fuzzy, and beautiful.  Must be experienced in person!

What I cannot capture, is the fabulous digital prints (like my London Eye), because my photos are terrible, compared to the quality of the photography on the fabric.  You'd have to see it in person to believe them.If you're not local, visit their website here to see what they have to offer! Oh, and by the way, what I am showing you here represents only the very tiniest tip of the iceberg of fabrics they have to show.  The digital prints are just unbelievable when seen in person.

And, it doesn't end here.  To make things, you need notions, linings, complementary fabrics.  You will need to visit  more stores to do your best work.

For more opportunities like this, come along on a Speakeasy tour!

Friday, October 25, 2019

Shop the..... Garment District???

Now, with some of the big fabrics stores closing,  I can hear the death knell ever amplified.  A fairly strict "no pictures" policy is being implemented at several stores, although the older, more established stores still allow it... But I can't decide... does it make my speakeasy tours more valuable... or less so?

On Friday, I led my "hand-holding" Speakeasy, leading some wonderful newbie sewers on a fantastic exploration of interesting fabric store in the district.  Consisting of some stores they would not have found on their own, and some they might have, the information. camaraderie and guidance shared on the trip made for a very inspirational journey indeed. By reducing the intimidation factor, and embracing the fantasy of what kinds of things could be made with the lovely things they found, gave me a beautifully warm feeling that sticks with me now as I write this post.

What I often forget, is how much the tour participants inspire me as well.  My purple-loving participant opened my eyes to some things that may not have caught my eye before (pssst.... the lavender-ish handkerchief linen at Grayline is just so beautiful), and the lovely finds my "non-shopper" participant found herself loaded down with at the end of the day made me giggle...

So, as I consider the future of the "Speakeasy", I wonder if the fact that the best stores are now harder to find, and some of the obvious street-level choices have ceased to exist, makes the whole prospect of a speakeasy more mysterious and intriguing?  I'd like to think so.  

On Saturday, I lead a private Speakeasy, with a focus primarily on interesting notions stores, a small bit of garment district history, some fun upholstery fabric sources, and advice for more places to find the unique items my ladies had in mind.  Lively conversation and beautiful weather made it more fun, and as always, it was great to explore the stores through the participants' eyes!

Without specifics for what led to these stores over the others, between the tow tours, I will tell you where we had the most fun:

Metro Textiles (moving)
Graylines Linen
Daytona Trimming
Pacific Trimming
NY Elegant (moved)
Fabrics & Fabrics (moving)

As always, I encourage you to come and explore for yourselves.  There is still a wonderland of beautiful stuff out there!

Thursday, October 24, 2019

On needing closure... This post may be overwhelming...

Every clothing item that opens or expands in some significant way, every bag you carry, and practically every sewn accessory that needs to contain something has to open somehow.  It also has to close somehow.  There are many creative ways to achieve this, but unless we invent something new, when it comes to hardware, we are mostly limited to what we have seen.

Elastics abound at Daytona Trimmings, M&J Trimming, Pacific Trimming, and Sil.  But have you looked at Manhattan Wardrobe Supply lately?  They've got some SUPER strong resilient elastic that would be wonderful in a waistband, and great gripping elastic that would be fantastic for lingerie. Check it out!

Drawstring Cord Stops.  Wildly imaginative ones can be found at Botani, and M&J Trimming.  Pacific Trimming has creative cord stops you never would have imagined!

Toggles. Go to Botani. M&J has them, too!

Grommets. Have them applied at Steinlauf & Stoler (they have moved in fairly recent past) or Star Snaps.

Snaps of all sizes. Magnetic or not... Have them applied at Star Snaps!

Covered Buttons. You can have them done at BT Button.  (But don't say I didn't warn ya.

Buttons in quantity? Buttonology or Pacific Trimming.

Buttons for just one specific project?  Possibly M&J Trimming, possibly Pacific, Joyce Trimming, plus lots of other choices.

Snap Tape. Manhattan Wardrobe Supply and Daytona are the best/easiest places to find it.

Hook & Eye Tape - Steinlauf and Stoller, Joyce Trimmings, Daytona Trimming, Pacific Trimming.

Zippers. Depends on what you need.  Jus function, specific size, or quality?  Is your zipper a design feature?  Botani or Pacific.  Functional?  Sil.  Specialty? Depends... 

Velcro. Manhattan Wardrobe Supply is certain to have what you need, but Daytona has plenty, too!

Leather laces. Leather, Suede Skins, Joyce Trimming, and Leather Impact will have what you need.

Fancy buttons?  Tender Buttons... (updateL now closed!) But you would have had to leave the garment district for that, anyway.

Oh, and a kind reader mentioned that I forgot to remind you that Jonathan Embroidery will do perfect, custom buttonholes for you!

If you need a closure map, that holds all of this information in one lace, you can buy one...

Where to buy closures in the garment district (with descriptions):

This map is $15. Purchase option below:

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

$17 later... Curtains. (And my fight for curtain diversity)

Updated -Original post 4/27/15

The simplest of curtains.

*The details of the curtains are unimportant here, no special finishes or hems or anything of note... I just love the colors. On Friday, I was looking up at apartment windows, and noticed the glaring absence of interesting window treatments.  Mostly white, and not distinctive in structure or texture, it seemed, I just wanted to see something different. This random thought led me into a local fabric store on Saturday.  I had grown tired of my old, golden-hued curtains, and wanted an immediate change.

I went to a place one wouldn't likely know to go to... and you can only win there if you can distinguish the good stuff from the crap, because, believe me... they have too much of both.  While I can't say I would "recommend" this store (unless you really wanna beat Manhattan prices, and this place is likely a jobber, a big sign tells you all fabric is sold "as is"!), the prices, eclectic selection, and opportunity for thinking differently absolutely couldn't be beat.  I'm talking $1-4 a yard, mostly.  So, what did it cost me to make these curtains?



I made them on Saturday.  Simple, cheerful curtains. Done.

So let's say you want to do the same?  You can spend more, of course, but the options are practically endless for simple panels.  At that price, you can change your curtains monthly, if you want. 

Note: Home dec fabrics adhere to flammability standards, but you can also spray other fabrics (not leather, though) with this stuff.

Wanna make your own?

Here are some ideas for where to buy the fabric:

NY Elegant (upstairs)
Prime Fabrics (upstairs)
B&J Fabrics
Mood Home
Truemart Discount Fabrics

I just did a rod pocket, but if you need grommets installed for hanging:

Star Snaps
Steinlauf & Stoller

When it comes to simple curtains, make them yourself, and you'll save a fortune.  Pay someone else to do them, and you'll spend a fortune.

If money is no object, you can really have some glorious things made.  Just keep in mind, there are more options in the world than just WHITE!