Saturday, September 17, 2016

Teal Stripes in Wool (Dress) and Other Stuff

Teal Stripe Dress

I purchased this teal and black stripe fabric from Sewing Workshop last January or February. (I see it's still on their site!) It's a wool and acrylic blend and pebbled on one side. I'd been trying to decide how to use it when I realized that it would be perfect for one of my sheath tunic dresses.

I used the Style Arc Adele pattern to make myself a black wool doubleknit tunic dress a couple years ago. I wear that dress so much that it's pilling. I should really make another.

In fact, ironic aside: I recently learned that there's another sewist in my neighborhood—just a couple blocks from my house. I met up with Carrie for coffee and we realized that we were both wearing the Style Arc Adele! Hers really looked like an Adele (and very pretty) while my black tunic version only retains the neckline and armhole, but it was still funny! I wish I'd gotten a picture, but next time!

I dug out my pattern and, chop chop, had a dress in an evening. This is a great basic for me and I can layer many things on top.

A couple things to note.

Matching stripes:
The FBA I added to this pattern means that the stripes won't match up perfectly at the side seam. I handle that by matching the stripes at the hemline and as far up as possible. They won't match at bust level, but that's pretty much right under my arm. Why are you staring at my armpits? I would wonder. That's kinda weird.
Neckline finish:
I often finish my knits with a visible binding but, on these tunic dresses which are made with beefy knits, I like a cleaner look. The Adele neckline has a nice shape and uses narrow facings. Because I use a substantial knit, I whip stitch the facing to the body. The stitches are hidden in the knit, and the facing never flops around. You could also topstitch by machine.
I used a ponte for the facing, which is fused with interfacing, serged, and stitched down by hand. You can see the pebbled texture of the fabric on one side and the smooth texture on the other. I noticed that the smooth side snags fairly easily, so I'm glad I featured the pebbled side.

Koos Scarf

I had a half a yard of the teal and black stripe left over, so I decided to make a Koos infinity scarf! I've made several of these scarves and I love wearing them. The advantage of using the same fabric is that, when worn together, it looks like a cowl neckline. But sometimes you don't want a cowl, so I can have it both ways!

I had thrown this fabric into the washer before I remembered that it contained wool though, to be honest, I probably would have done it anyway. I love throwing wool into the wash. Before washing it was 52" wide, at least according to the Sewing Workshop website. After washing it was 45"—perfect for a Koos scarf!

A Koos scarf, so named because the technique was commonly used by Koos van den Akker, uses a half-yard rectangle of fabric. Koos' rectangles were collaged and embellished with bias strips. The rectangle is sewn on the bias. Kinda sorta. It's hard to describe and requires a leap of faith to sew. You can introduce one or more twists into the infinity scarf. I always use a full twist (or two half twists). This results in a scarf that lays very nicely on the body. The last time I made a Koos scarf, I blogged about it and linked to Linda Teufel's directions. Linda wrote a book about Koos, and she published an article in Threads Magazine about this scarf technique. See my post for more info.

Duster, Second Try

You might remember my heathered blue duster. I wore it on 4 different days since making it and I decided that it really was too long. One evening last week, I chopped it off. I removed 9".

I then realized that I should have more carefully checked the length.

It's now too short!

Oh well, I'll still wear it—I love how snuggly soft the fabric is—but I do wish I'd left it a couple inches longer!

And, yeah, I went to the bank and the grocery store dressed just like this! Hats rock. :D

Flaxseed Therapy Pillow

I'm sure you've heard of rice bags, yes? You heat them in a microwave and apply them to where it hurts. They are therapeutic except, over time, the rice dries out and the bag no longer holds heat as effectively.

My daughter, who is at university in Canada, accidentally left her heating bag behind, so I did some research. I learned about the superior effect of flax seed in re-heatable pillows. Flax seeds contain oil, so you can heat, and reheat, them endlessly. The oil does not evaporate and they continue to hold heat (or cold, for that matter).

I found this tutorial and here, where she talks about why flax seed is better. I whipped up a flax seed bag using some very soft denim, 2 pounds (more or less) of flax seed, and 1/2 cup of dried lavender.

Wow, it smells fabulous!

The flax seed pillow is part of my first care package to Canada. These items, along with two bars of fancy chocolate, cost $44 to ship. Ouch.

Artistry in Fashion 2016

So, local sewing friends, will I see you next weekend?

Next Saturday is Artistry in Fashion, one of my favorite days of the year! The featured guest is Sharman Spector, owner of Britex Fabrics. The Designer Showcase, a fashion show styled using clothing and jewelry from the vendors, is at 11am. I hope to see you there!

And, speaking of Britex Fabrics, did you see that they launched a new website this week? They are also hosting an event on Friday evening, PROJKT Maiden Lane. I'm not sure if tickets are still available, but I'll be there, too!

I have a boatload of sewing to do this weekend. I hope you have a great one!

And please join me on Patti's Visible Monday and Judith's Hat Attack!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Teal Vest, Zippergasms, and More!

Long Teal Vest

I've finished another garment for Paris. Sandra Betzina released this tunic/vest pattern with the early Fall Vogue collection last July. I snapped it up in the first sale. I purchased this fabric, "Teal Double Weave", from Marcy Tilton last January.

It is a very interesting fabric. The double weave, which creates a quilted effect, was lovely to sew. It raveled a bit, but not badly, and it pressed beautifully. The yardage went through the washer and dryer like a champ. I also used a 2-way 24" zipper I'd purchased from Botani while visiting NYC.

I started with a size E (typical), View A, and made a few alterations and modifications:

  • The front-and-back-princess seam pattern has Dior darts, which I lowered and enlarged (typical).
  • 1/2" forward shoulder adjustment (typical)
  • The pattern has a CB seam, but I didn't notice at first. When I cut it out I put the back pattern piece on a fold. I could have easily sliced along the fold afterwards, but I decided not to. Instead, I removed the excess with two 3/8" darts at the back neck. I was pleased with this approach because it gives me another 1-1/4" of ease across the back. I don't mind having more ease in this non-stretch fabric.
  • Reinforced the back of the collar stand with extra stiff interfacing secured with rows of quilting
  • The pattern has no pockets. (Whaaaaaaaat?!) I added my "Covert Cavity Pockets."
  • The pattern has no front facings, meaning that the zipper tape is not covered. If you wear the neckline open, the wrong side of the zipper tape would show. I covered the tape with narrow front facings.
  • This sleeveless pattern is designed with extended shoulders and the armhole is on the small-and-tight side. I didn't like how closely fitted the armhole was for a layering garment, so I removed 1" around the entire armhole. I also didn't like how the extended shoulder cap looked on me (it looked a bit Romulan), so I removed another 1" from the top of the sleeve (removing a total of 2" from the top), creating a more natural armhole.
  • The vest is unlined, but I finished all raw edges with bias tape

The pattern has no side seams, so use the other seams to control the shaping. My vest is a bit loose through the waist, but I wanted to be able to layer it.

Reinforcing the back collar

See the darts added to the back neckline

The "main" pocket opening of my "Covert Cavity Pocket."

Unzip the invisible zipper along top edge to access the stealth pocket inside.

A 24" double-ended zipper I bought from Botani when I visited NYC

I like how it layers!

Vogue 1510, Sandra Betzina's Zip Front Tunic and Vest

J.N. Zippers

I first visited J.N. Zippers in South San Francisco over 3 years ago in July, 2013. Last Thursday I made my second trip there. J.N.Zippers is a wholesaler who imports hardware from China. They have a (hard to navigate) retail website, Zprz, and a wholesale website, J.N. Zippers (which had been down for days until I told them on my visit). They don't have a brick and mortar store, but they are willing to sell to individuals who stop by. This means that you have to visit on a weekday, during the day. They are located in the industrial part of South San Francisco near the airport. They've actually moved since I was last there in 2013—they are now located at 380 Swift Avenue, #5. Parking is plentiful and free in this area. If you look at the massive building from Swift Lane, they are along the left side of the building, five businesses down.

They don't only sell zippers. They also sell giant snaps, buckles, cord stops, and purse hardware. I only have to walk into their office and look at their wall of goods to enter my spiritual happy place. I have lots of pictures to share with you. If you see something you like, and you can't find it on their website (they told me that they are working on an improved website, thank goodness), send them a copy of my picture and circle the item you want.

Their factory is next door to their office and they are willing to customize zippers for you by cutting them shorter or swapping the slider to one of their many decorative sliders. I was on a mission for zippers for a teal jacket. I found the perfect zippers and I had them customized while I waited. If you have a large order, they prefer that you come back later or that they mail them to you. There is not much going on in this part of town, but you can drive to nearby Burlingame or San Bruno for food or shopping.I was on my lunch break so I waited for my 6 zippers. I also bought two zipper lanyards and two polka dot zippers. I still have a stash of striped zippers from my last visit.


My haul

I love all of the metallic shades!

I loved the 2-color zippers and asked if they could do red and black. She said that they'd have to get that from China. I didn't ask, but I assume that means they'd require a minimum order.

Thar she blows! The elusive striped zipper!

Giant zippers and center pull (luggage style) zippers!

A few of their rhinestone zippers—they had more variety in one of the binders

Giant snaps

Silk Chiffon Burnout Scarf

When I was in NYC last July, I purchased 2 yards of silk chiffon burnout. I saw lots of silk chiffon burnout fabrics at different stores in the garment district, so it must be an "in" fabric right now.

Measuring the silk chiffon burnout, Chic Fabrics, NYC

I intended the fabric for a scarf. I thought I would do the easy thing and tear the fabric to my desired dimensions (26" by 72"). It tore ok along the grain. But when I tried to tear it across the grain... what a mess! Regular silk chiffon tears very well, but not this stuff.

Oops, don't tear a silk chiffon burnout!

If the fabric had torn cleanly, I might have just left the raw edges unfinished, but this fabric needed to be finished, so I used a micro hem for sheer fabrics along three edges. I left the selvedge edge alone.

I've worn this scarf to work and I love it! It's as if a litter of kittens are cuddling my neck.

Sweater Knit Presto

Here is Presto top #7! (Savage Coco has made 12 herself and I need to catch up. ;) )

I really wanted one made out of a sweater knit. This is that same heathered sweater knit that I've already used for 3 projects in different shades of teal and blue. I just love this fabric! It's soft and drapey. Another great basic that I'll probably take to Europe.

Presto #6

DD1 needs some mom time this weekend, but I hope to squeeze in some sewing. I have one more jacket I'd like to finish for Paris, plus a raincoat which is almost finished. Otherwise, I'm working on some simpler projects.

Have a great weekend! Join me on Patti's Visible Monday.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Heather Blue Duster Cardigan, Blogiversary, & More!

I have several small projects to share, including another pattern from the recent Butterick release.


Heather Blue Duster Cardigan

I reviewed this duster pattern in the last release of Butterick patterns. I liked that the neckline had some interest—it's not merely a jewel neckline—it's more of an abbreviated shawl collar. The pattern that I really wanted to make went missing so I ordered another on-sale copy and, meanwhile, gave this pattern a try.

The fabric, a heather blue sweater knit, is a drapey, lightweight, single knit. The pattern calls for a moderate stretch knit: jersey, ponte, or sweater knit. This fabric was fairly lightweight, but I decided to forge ahead. (Note to self: pay attention to your gut instinct.)

My alterations were fairly typical: I started with a size 18 and added a bust dart, made a forward shoulder adjustment and narrowed the shoulder by about 1". All of these are typical for me. I also decided to create a deep slit in the side seams (all the way to the waist) but, otherwise, I made the pattern as designed. Because of the slits, I finished the hem with 4 mitered corners.

It was a straightforward sew, but it's a lackluster garment. I finished the duster last Monday night and wore it to work on Tuesday. I felt very "meh" wearing it. In analyzing my reaction, I think there are two reasons. First, I think I'd prefer this pattern in a less droopy knit. The neckline just sort of lays there, defeated. I think it would be nicer in a ponte or another doubleknit with some drape. Also, the front band feels very wide—if I make this again I might narrow the front band a bit. Maybe.

Neatly finished seams

I'll probably try wearing this garment again—give it another chance—but I am very likely to send it on to a new owner. It's too bad because I quite like this knit, but I should have saved it for a different project.

Butterick 6368 (See & Sew)

Blue Knotted Scarf

I first made a red knotted scarf using a rayon jersey using a pattern from Sewing Workshop. I didn't love that scarf, but that was mostly because I was a little over-enthusiastic when stretching the strips—I ended up with Angel Hair when I should have aimed for Spaghetti.

I had a half yard of the heather blue sweater knit left over from the duster, so I decided to give it another try.

This time I didn't go quite as nuts when stretching the strips. I made this one quickly, in just a couple sessions, instead of the 1+ years it took me to finish the red one.

I LOVE this one!

Persistence pays!

Teal Presto

Last week Savage Coco asked, on Instagram, how many Prestos have you made? So I had to count and it was give (not counting a failed attempt that was operator error), but I already had #6 cut out. I decided I needed a teal Presto for Paris. I'm not sure where this fabric came from because I now have several similar teal jersey fabrics purchased from different sources!

I like it with my new knotted scarf!

I had dinner with Coco and a few other bloggers last week. Much fun!
Left to right: Coco, Meg, Beth, me, Laura, and Jillian (who is now more active on Instagram than her blog)
Photo credit: A stranger, taken with my camera phone.

Seventh Blogiversary!

I actually forgot my blogiversary this year! It has been 7 hears of blogging as of last Thursday, August 25th. I usually do my annual recap on my blogiversary post, but I wasn't feeling it last week. I will likely come back and do it later—it was a good year and I like to do a bit of reflection before looking forward.


I've talked about going to Paris this fall with the Tilton sisters, but I'm also spending some time in Munich. I'll mostly be working, but I have a little time allotted to play tourist. I won't be able to go to far afield, and I've started compiling a list of things to try and see, but do you have any recommendations? I'd love to hear about it!


I went to Seattle a couple weeks ago for work. This is becoming a regular trip for me, though I only rarely have time to play. For this trip, Kathy and I worked on chemo caps! She has updated her pattern to use fair isle to spell "f*ck cancer" in Morse code. She hasn't posted a pattern yet but, when she does, I will share it. We make these for Knots of Love and they love them, as you can see in this tweet:

We cast on, sharing the same two balls of yarn, in the Oakland airport

Waiting for our flight in the Seattle airport

We finished just before landing. We took this pic on our laps before de-planing

On our return we went in on an order for more yarn! Berroco Comfort is on the approved yarn list for Knots of Love, though the first two hats were knit with Red Heart Heartland

As it's now September, DD2 is back at university! She attended Gustavus Adolphus for one year, two years back. She did well, and it's a wonderful school, but it wasn't the right fit for her. She spent the last year working multiple jobs in San Francisco, socking away money, and now she's off to a new university in British Columbia. Her sister and I made two shopping trips with her before she left. Hey, for those of you who ship packages from the U.S. to Canada, any tips on how to do that economically?

Trip #1. By this time her sister had already done some solo shopping with her.

Trip #2. DD2 was never much of a shopper (unlike her older sis), so she's been learning new skills!

For those of you in the U.S., enjoy your Labor Day weekend! I actually have 2 more Paris projects almost done. One, a coat, is in timeout for misbehaving. For the other I need to run to JoAnn's today to buy invisible zippers. I have a huge zipper stash, but my stash doesn't extend to the invisible variety!

For those of you on Instagram, the #sewphotohop started last Thursday and runs through September. It's been fun learning about new Instagrammers! You can also check out my Instagram feed.

And, finally, join me on Patti's Visible Monday!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Teal Lisette Coat


I've finished my first garment using a fabric I bought in New York City, lined with another fabric I bought in NYC, and using one of the new Fall Butterick patterns released a couple weeks ago.

It's all new new new!

Teal Lisette Coat

I'm starting to realize that I need to sew faster if I want to make several more items before Munich and Paris!

So I am.

I purchased this gorgeous paisley brocade at B&J Fabrics:

I decided to make Butterick 6385, View C, a Lisette coat pattern:

Lined with the navy silk I bought at Kashi's (on top):

I purchased some vintage buttons from Britex. They were $5 each, but worth every penny!

They even coordinate with the lining! (I took this pic at night under incandescent lighting, so the colors look weird.

I started with a size 18. The pattern comes in cup sizes A to D. I used size D. I made several changes:

  • Cut the fabric across the grain (mostly) and mixed up the "nap" (direction) of the pattern pieces. I wanted to break up the giant print so it didn't look so regular and even. I didn't want to look like an upholstered sofa!
  • Lowered the Dior bust dart (typical)
  • Increased the waist by a couple of inches (typical)
  • Narrowed the shoulder by 1" (typical)
  • Shortened the sleeves by 1" (typical)
  • Added small shoulder pads. The pattern may have called for them, I can't remember. I tried it with and without and liked the jacket better with them.
  • Replaced the inseam pockets with welt pockets
  • Added inside patch pockets
  • Reinforced the back of the stand-up collar with a crescent-shaped piece of stiff interfacing and rows of top-stitching. (This is on top of the regular interfacing.) Before I did this, the collar was quite limp, even with interfacing.

Note that the armhole is high and small on this coat and the sleeve is on the slimmer side. I decided it was fine for my purposes, and I like a nice high armhole, but you might want to check it in muslin!

Welt pocket

Inside patch pocket. Picture taken at night under incandescent lighting, so the color looks weird.

Back lining. This pic also taken at night. I love the texture of the brocade!

I'm pretty happy with this coat. This is one of the nicest fabrics I've ever sewn: It presses like a dream, doesn't ravel too much, and eases like wool. It's fabulous!!!


I recently met up with Kathy and mem at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. It was like a current-and-former-Dart-writers offsite!

I was eager to see the Straandbeest exhibit. I knew about Theo Jansen, the Dutch inventor of the Straandbeest (translation: "beach animal") from various Youtube videos. These machines move via wind power, and I wanted to see one in person.

Full disclosure: the museum has a good-sized space dedicated to the Straandbeests, however it's indoors. They have demonstrations at fixed times throughout the day when you can see one of two beests in action but, since it's inside, the beests don't move under wind power. They move via compressed air stored in bottles.

It was less cool than seeing them walk a sandy beach, but it's still pretty cool!

The beests are made from narrow PVC pipe. Some of the pipes are heated and partially flattened, like those on its feet

The Exploratorium used to be located near the Palace of Fine Arts, on the northern tip of San Francisco. Several years ago it moved to Pier 15, along the Embarcadero on the eastern side of the city, and I hadn't visited since they moved. I used to take my kids there when they were little—it's a great activity on a nasty day. It was great to go with other grown-ups and play with exhibits that make science principles fun!

The other, larger Straandbeest that walks, but not when we were there.
Photo credit: mem

I would have loved to see this hamster-powered Straandbeest in action!

Make persistent wall shadows!

The "self centered mirror, where you see yourself in all 34 panes. I didn't bother taking a picture of it's cousin, the mirror where you don't see yourself in any of the 34 panes.

The upside-down-y mirror

Getting all 3 of us in the upside-down-y mirror was a challenge!

Close to the entrance of the Exploratorium is this disgusting fountain, right next to a normal fountain.

It didn't bother Kathy, who says she must be part dog

Kathy playing with their giant clock

mem playing with a hot/cold sensation exhibit

This exhibit was fun! It reminded me of the psychedelic effects popular in the 70s.

In fact, I made a video!

We had lunch at the office nearby.

View of the Ferry Building

View in the other direction of the Bay Bridge. Just look at those fabulous rooftop gardens!

I just love these planter boxes!

Thanks for a fun day, you guys!

Here are a few images you might enjoy!

The current window at Valentino. Very art deco!

The window at Chanel. I really liked the fur collar and pocket welts on the jacket on the left.

So I took a close-up. The "fur" has a texture reminiscent of a bath mat.

I loved the pocket on Kathy's jeans! Yes, I was following her trying to take a picture of her butt. ;)

I'm in Seattle for a quick work trip, but I have a second project almost completed from another B&J fabric I bought in New York. I can't wait to get back to my sewing machine!

Join me on Patti's Visible Monday!.

Have a great week!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

New York City, Part 4: Fabric and Trim Shopping


Shams Unleashed in the Garment District

For many sewers who visit NYC, fabric shopping is the main event, amiright?

If you have never been to the garment district in NY before, you may have heard that "it's much smaller than it used to be." Yes, this is true. Most designers and RTW operations now send their clothes offshore to be manufactured, so the garment district has shrunk.

But it's still mind bogglingly big!

If you think you can see it all in half a day, or even a full day, you are wrong. If that's all the time you have, you need to be selective. One thing you might consider is asking an expert. Mimi of Shop the Garment District sells maps, which she keeps current (because things keep changing). You can buy one of her pre-made maps or you can have one customized. For example, "I want to make athletic wear, a Chanel suit, and a leather corset and I have one day." Or "I make flannel shirts, am desperate to find good sweater knits, and I only have a half day." Or, "I'm making my daughter's wedding gown, where is the best (or most economical or most extravagant) lace?"

Give Mimi a challenge! I bet she'd love it. ;)

Also, don't assume that you can just walk through the garment district and see everything. You will see some of it, but much of it is not at street level, or even identified at street level. Often, you must enter a glitzy lobby, or sometimes a decrepit lobby, identified only by an address, and ascend in an elevator. (I never saw a business that was below ground. Does it exist?)

The elevator opens up and, voila, maybe you are facing a store front (Mood, B&J), or maybe you have to navigate a hallway to find the business (Kashi, Elliot Berman). Collect the addresses of the stores you want to visit beforehand, and make sure that the address includes the floor number, or you might be hopelessly confused!

The last time I was in the garment district was in the early 1990s and it has changed since then, though it has the same vibe. One of my favorite stores back then is gone now. I can't even remember the name, though I asked some locals. Carolyn remembers the store, and even the location (which I've already forgotten), but not the name. It was a large store and they had a mezzanine level the full width of the store, but set back a bit. Does anyone remember the name? I loved that store.

There are too many fabric and trim stores to list them all, so I'm going to list my favorites. And, yes, you can get into some serious trouble here. Luckily, most stores, at least most of the larger ones, are happy to ship your purchases home for you—even purchases you made at another store. I had four boxes of fabric shipped home.


I know, I know, but they weren't large boxes! I also shipped home a book from the Met, and some newly pleated fabric from International Pleating. So, yeah, that's six packages total. My suitcase was 38 lbs when I flew to NYC and 52 when I flew home so, yeah, it was a good trip, acquisition-wise.

By the way, I've already started sewing up two of the new fabrics, and you'll be seeing them soon.

Which was my favorite store? That's hard to say. I mean, how do you measure "favorite"? If you measure it by "spent the most money", it would have to be B&J Fabrics, hands down, followed closely by Elliot Berman. If you measure it by yardage purchased, it would have to be B&J, followed by Elliot Berman. If you measure it by "just-leave-me-alone-to-run-naked-through-the-stacks" and "wish-I'd-come-here-first" it would have to be Elliot Berman. I also found some treasures at Metro Textiles, but not as much as you might think, given Kashi's infamous persuasive techniques.

And then there are the trim stores. Omigosh, the trim stores. I went in to maybe ten trim stores. You can pretty much find anything here. I enjoyed most but only one had my heart pounding and left me with an overwhelmed-but-happy afterglow: Botani.

More about specific stores below.

B&J Fabrics*

I have only shopped off the the B&J website once or twice—I find it to be a little overwhelming. I don't think I looked at their site at all until I noticed Margy shopping there. B&J is open at 8am on weekdays, which is fabulous! To be able to stop by on the way to work is wonderful, and I was there, three times, at 8am. They are located on the second floor of their building, and the elevator opens to the store front.

A chiffon hand embroidered with feathers and beads for $710 a yard. This pic doesn't do it justice.

Some of my friends who live in NY don't often shop at B&J. It's more expensive than other stores, but I felt right at home here. They have fabrics from $13 a yard to $710 a yard. The first time I visited, at 8am on Tuesday, there were some designer's assistants shopping fabrics for samples, zipping around the aisles with intense focus.

On my first visit, I focused on fabrics for my teal-black-cobalt Paris wardrobe. I found three pieces—these went into box #1. (I've almost finished sewing the first of these fabrics and have started the second.) You can order samples from B&J's website but, when you shop in person, they will give you up to 15 samples. I took advantage and came home with several samples.

Lovely Lorena cutting one of my fabrics

This brocade went into box #1

I went back to B&J on Wednesday morning. Box #2.

I raved so much about B&J, that Robin decided to visit on her last morning. I joined her. She had already splurged on a beautiful fabric souvenir at Mendel Goldberg and wasn't planning to buy any other fabrics, when she spied their linens.

A bemused Robin, "not buying any more fabric." LOL

Some of the stores with ample floor space and more of a retail-space vibe, such as B&J and Mood, have developed the fine art of draped fabrics displays. I've also seen this art in San Francisco's Britex Fabrics. They take a length of fabric, drape it on a dress form and, using only straight pins, manipulate it to look like a fabulous gown. They often add trims, also pinned to the mannequin. I took several photos of these displays—they boggle my brain.

Playing with Robin in B&J

*Don't refer to B&J Fabrics as "BJ" or even "BJ Fabrics". Just don't. In common parlance, "BJ" refers to a particular sexual act. People will snicker. "B and J" is sort of a mouthful (don't go there)—they could use a new nickname, like "Banj" (soft j) or "B's".

Elliot Berman

Of course I'd heard of Elliot Berman but, based on their website, I had no idea of the delights within. They do not have a retail space, the way B&J does. You shop in their warehouse, wandering amongst their fabric stacks. Once Carolyn and I entered, announcing ourselves to the folks working at the desks (let them know when you enter, so as not to surprise them), the owner (I can't remember his name) walked us through the stacks, showing me what was where, as Carolyn has been here many times. There are no prices on the massive bolts—you have to ask. This is a wholesale business that is willing to sell to home sewers, so they have to calculate the retail price. (Please, when you visit, don't do anything that might convince them that home sewers are too much trouble to host in person.)

And, OMG, the stacks, THE STACKS of fabric. OMG. Unlike most jobbers, this place is big. So.big. The scrumptious wools... The beautiful knits... even viscose knits... OMG.

A wool that Carolyn had her eye on

I should have come here first, when I had the most disposable income, but no matter. I found a few gorgeous pieces that were shipped home (box #3).

I didn't take many photos here. I was too busy trying not to drool on the fabrics, stroking the fabrics, and laughing maniacally, but Carolyn did take a couple pics. They carry those oval-shaped wool panels, in many designs, with the holes for the arms. You cut out the armholes, and around the outer edge, put it on, and go. I knew that this style is not flattering on me, but the wife of the owner (sorry, I've blanked on her name) wanted me to try one on, so I did. Carolyn took a few pics and, yes, not a great look. (The back view is better than the front view...)

If you peek past me, you can see just one of their many aisles of fabric

Despite this, I bought one of these panels. Why? Because it was red and black (I'm clutching it in the pic at the top and bottom of this post) and, because it had some minor damage, they sold it to me for $25. I need to refashion it somehow, because I love that fabric!

Metro Textiles

Kashi's reputation in the garment district is such that most people don't say, "I'm going to Metro Textiles", they say "I'm going to Kashi's". This is one of those shops hidden from the ground level—you ascend an elevator, exit, turn right, and Metro Textiles is at the end of the hallway.

It's a small, but packed, shop and the fabrics are organized by type. If you tell Kashi what you like, what you are looking for, he will direct you to various corners and start pulling bolts that you might find interesting. He's a jobber, meaning his prices are good and his inventory is at the whim of what manufacturers are selling off. I love jobbers for several reasons. One, their prices tend to be lower. Two, you get fabrics that are really used in ready-to-wear, and three, it's the thrill of the hunt. They aren't so good if you have a very specific fabric (or type of fabric) in mind—you may be disappointed. But if you enter with an open mind, and some general ideas, you will often be delightfully surprised.

On my visit to Kashi's, I found 4 or 5 pieces that came home with me. It wasn't a mind-blowing experience, but the prices were very good. Probably my favorite piece is a gorgeous silk that I plan to use as lining. At $12 a yard, it was the priciest fabric I purchased from him. I also purchased some polyester chiffon for $3 a yard. As Kashi measures your fabric, he encourages you to buy MORE yardage. First, he suggests how much you might buy, "Five yards?" When you tell him how much you want, "Is that all?!" is a common response, followed by, "What else do you like?" I enjoyed his good-natured banter. He was happy to ship my fabrics home and he'll even include fabrics that you've purchased elsewhere (box #4).

Carolyn, who is a frequent visitor to Kashi's, took these pictures while I was shopping there. Thanks, Carolyn!

Kashi measuring my teal silk, destined to become a delicious lining

Yes, that's right. Three yards is good.
"Is that all?"

And some of this, too, please!

There we go!

Some of my haul: teal silk, woven grey wool (with holes), polyester chiffon

Thanks, Kashi!
And thanks, Carolyn, for these pics!

Relaxing with Carolyn afterwards, enjoying some cold drinks
Thanks for taking those photos!
Photo credit: Carol of MakeItAnyWear

Mood Fabrics

Yes, that's Mood up on the 2nd floor

Mood Fabrics is unique because it's pretty much the only fabric store I can think of that's become a tourist destination. Well... maybe Britex in San Francisco is almost as well known, but Project Runway put Mood Fabrics on the map even with people who don't sew.

When you exit the elevator into Mood's store front, you first have to check your bags with security. I visited twice while in NY and it was pretty much a zoo both times. Swatch, a celebrity in his own right, seems to mostly hang out on the main floor, near the entrance. Like most any celebrity, he's unimpressed by crowds or photographers.

On my first visit... it was a hot day, poor doggie

Later that same day, Tim Gunn posted this pic to his Instagram feed. I guess I just missed him! (And I agree with Swatch's apparent assessment of this fabric...)

Not counting the separate store front at street level which houses Mood's Home Dec fabrics, Mood consists of 3 floors of fabric. I crawled all three, with particular focus on denim, knits, and brocade.

Alpaca aisle on the top floor.

Buttons on the main level

I believe the silks were on the main floor, but I might be misremembering

I really like the Mood website. It's easy to search, and I often find must-have fabrics there. But, despite two in-person visits, and the second visit was a long one, I found very little that I wanted to bring home. I found one piece of a heavy rayon, and it is gorgeous, but that's it.

I also bought a tee shirt: "Thank you, Mood!"

On my second visit to Mood, I ran into Peter Lappin, who was choosing fabric for his next Mood post. We had a nice chat.
Photo credit: Peter Lappin

With Mary Glenn
Photo credit: Peter Lappin

Mood also has some draped fabric art on display

On my second visit, I managed to catch Swatch in a more energetic moment.

Who's a good boy?!
Photo credit: Mary Glenn


Have you heard of Botani?

Margy brought their website to my attention two or three months ago when she ordered some giant snaps from their site. I added them to the list of shops I wanted to check out but I would have found them anyway. They have a very prominent store front on West 36th Street. I passed by their shop many times during my stay.

I was drawn to their store like a moth to a flame.

What first caught my eye when entering (once I got past all those buttons) was their zippers. They carry two brands of zippers: Lampo, made in Italy, and their own name brand, made in Korea. Both brands are high quality. What really excited me was their aisles of zipper sliders. I frequently order custom zippers from ZipperStop. ZipperStop carries YKK Zippers which are a great brand but, frankly, I'm getting a bit bored with their limited selection of sliders.

I want more variety!

Botani has a huge variety.

Just a few of their zipper pulls

They are happy to customize a zipper by cutting it to length and adding your chosen pull. I ordered four custom zippers while I was there. I also confirmed that they are happy to take custom orders by phone or email, if you know what you want. I've already ordered a custom zipper since returning home.

Unfortunately, their website shows only a limited selection of their slides. Because I had photos of their slides, I emailed them a picture of the slider I wanted, with the pull circled, like so:

Botani doesn't just carry zippers and buttons, oh no. As I was waiting for my custom zippers, I noticed another doorway. I entered their second room, full of hardware! Buckles, studs, snaps, and rivets, oh my!

Their hardware room

While trolling this room I noticed another open doorway leading to a fabric room! This store is much larger than it appears from the front entrance.

The only downsides to Botani are a) their website shows only a tiny fraction of what they carry and b) they are more expensive than ZipperStop. For comparison, the custom zipper I ordered on my return (38", 2-way separating, size 5, black tape, charcoal teeth, custom slider) was $41, including a $10 shipping fee. Last June, I ordered a similar zipper (38", 2-way separating, size 5, black tape, silver teeth, Foxtail slider) from ZipperStop and it came to $26, including $9 shipping. But, if you want a special zipper, this place has many options. The other hitch is that my custom order got "lost" in their system. Almost two weeks later I was still waiting for my zipper. I phoned, they looked it up, and it hadn't been shipped. Oops. I guess this happens when one goes rogue with the ordering system and doesn't follow the usual process. Next time: get a tracking number right away. (It's now en route to my sewing room.)

The Rest

Here are just a few of the other stores I visited in the garment district.

Paron Fabrics

Paron used to have a larger store than their current location, but they carry very nice fabrics!

I found this beautiful piece of chiffon

Chic Fabrics

A small store, stuffed with treasures. I found this silk chiffon burnout. (I saw a lot of silk chiffon burnout in NYC—it must be a trend.)

SIL Thread

SIL Thread is a notions store. Do you need French curves, rulers, tape measures, flexible rulers... you can get those here.

SIL Thread warrants special mention because they have an entire aisle of Hug Snug seam binding, favored by many sewists.

They also have an impressive selection of off-the-shelf zippers. (They don't offer a customizing service.) They have aisles of zippers.

And, yes, they have loads of thread.

I'll stop here, though I also visited M&J Trimmings, Daytona Trimmings, Pacific Trimmings, as well as many other fabric stores—too many to list or even remember!

Oh, wait, there is one fabric store I should mention: Spandex House. This is THE place for all things spandex. I bought two very cute swimsuit fabrics here.

There were also stores I didn't have time to visit, but I'll be back... :)

And this is my last post on my trip to NYC. Phew! If you've missed my earlier posts, you can find them here: