Friday, March 16, 2012

New York's Garment District: Sticking to My List

Today I took a mental health day and went to New York City to shop for fabric and trims. I was headed to Mood, the fabric store featured on the TV show Project Runway, plus a couple of other shops nearby that sell trims and ribbons. These stores and many more sources of fabric, buttons, ribbons, and beads are in New York's famous Midtown Garment District concentrated on 37th and 38th Streets between 6th and 7th. The actual Garment District is bigger than that; Parsons School of Design and scores of sample shops that sell to retail stores are here, too. Delicious, fashion-forward window shopping.

The huge M&J Trimming on 6th Avenue
I focused on selecting some supplies for a crazy quilt--you know, those heavily embroidered Victorian silk and velvet quilts. The Tinsel Trading Company on 37th Street is full of ribbon, tassels, buttons, beads, fringe, beaded fringe, beaded appliques and generally cool stuff. Tinsel Trading has an interesting history specializing in metallic trims and threads. I scored a bag full of various metallic trim remnants.  My other stop today was Hyman Hendler and Sons, a 38th Street shop full of exquisite imported ribbons. I kept to my list here as the ribbons are quite expensive.

 I've been sewing since the Nixon administration, and I made most of my own clothes from difficult Vogue patterns when I started working full-time during the Reagan administration. During Bush II and Obama I have sewn sporadically, but I have always found the activity of attaching fabric parts with tiny machine or hand stitches an effective way to relax. One thing I've learned in all my years of sewing is that I must have a shopping list when I enter a fabric store or else I tend to lose control a little. My list for Mood, my main destination, was carefully composed the night before. Plan A was to find some heavyweight red silk for a skirt, but I had Plans B, C, D, and E ready.

Fabric at Mood is stored on
 cardboard rolls.
Each roll has a tag like this
 stuffed in the end showing price
and fabric content.
Finding Mood was an adventure. I had the address, 225 West 37th Street, but there was no sign. You have to know where the store is, and you have to know to enter what looks like an office building lobby. Then, you have to know to venture up the stairs with the fire extinguishers at the base, and climb up to the third floor. Thousands of fabric rolls wait inside, grouped by fabric content and fabric type. I was after silks, remember, but so were a lot of other shoppers. I took this opportunity to explore the rest of the store, three floors of high-end designer fabrics, buttons, trims, and the famous Swatch the Dog. I enjoyed pretending to consider $50-per-yard designer silks and brocades, and ultimately found a nice piece of red silk/wool blend for a skirt. The salespeople were friendly and helpful, and as I waited in line, Swatch the dog, frequently seen on Project Runway, came right over to me to make friends.


After about four hours in the Garment District, I had gathered enough supplies, ideas, and inspiration to keep me going for awhile, and I window-shopped my way back to an express train boarding on Track 7. It was a good day of city-walking, train-reading, and fabric-shopping. I needed that!

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