About me

My photo
I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


Follow by Email

Follow me on Instagram


Friday, February 10, 2012

The New York garment district though my eyes

It's been almost two weeks since I got back from New York and I have still to write about my experiences in the garment district (where I also stayed, just in case).

There is a lot to digest. And as I am sure nearly every other blogger has a better knowledge of this community than I do,  what I have to say probably isn't very complete, insightful, or useful.

However if you are a person who is tied to finding whatever they can at the local big box or small box chain fabric store, or someone who orders online and dreams of a world where the fabric is as big as your dreams, if you haven't spent much actual time in this part of the big city yourself, well these are my thoughts.

1. I have seen this part before, the remnants of the schmatta business, from friends of my mother's who used to manufacture in Montreal before re-locating production to China. To a New Yorker what isn't there any more is probably as acutely apparent as what is. The garment district of today is an echo I suspect. But still...

Yes, there are innumerable small shops ( apart from Mood they are all pretty small) selling enormous quantities of sequined chiffon and stuff most of us don't wear, but the actual garment fabric stores that sewers look for are wonderful, but quite numerable.

What you find in the garment district is real quality, not quantity, get that straight.

2. Look up. If you bring your eyes from home you are going to expect to see the best stores on the street. Not so. Mood and Metro for example are on floors in what looks like office buildings - you go into an elevator just like you are going to the dentist except the doors open and there is fabric - messy, gorgeous fabric. Much better.

3. The area is a subsidiary of the garment industry not the home sewing industry, so this is a place for different, for distinctive more than it is for staples.

I understand now why sewists who live in New York (yes that would be you Carolyn) still buy big from places like Fabricmart. The garment district is where you find boucles, mohairs, tweeds, wool and silk jerseys, but not a place where you load up on bargain pant weight for instance.

I got myself some nice Linton tweed and some $40 a yard wool jersey with yarn sort of couched on it and I am still short the pant weight.

But lack of bargains aside ( although I got an excellent deal on the Linton tweed) did I like it there?

You have no idea.

Do you ever have those moments where you just wonder where all the good fabric has gone? Do you ever go into the local fabric store and decide that you are just so tired of trying to persuade yourself that a blend is the same as, that maybe polyesters do actually breath? Do you just walk in and walk out because you just aren't in the mood that day to lower your expectations?

Do you ever just wonder if you will see real fabric again in your life time? The 100% thing, the best there is, the fabric you won't do anything less than your best job on, because that is what it requires?

Do you ever wonder if it's all gone?

Well in the garment district it's all there, an outpost really, of when fabric was fine.  You can shop there like they did in the 1920s, the 1950's with your hands in fabric that would have met standards then and meets them now.

To a sewer, going to the garment district is just well, a relief.

A relief.

And here are my pictures:

My coat of a few weeks ago on the street with my most excellent and beautiful son Nat walking beside me. He looks like he belongs there doesn't he? He does.
The famous Mood Fabrics which is vast and organized and on several levels in a big building.

Me at Metro. Note the trance like look on my face, your face looks like that if you finally are in a place you have been trying to get to for thirty years. Note the calculator adding it all up.

Metro Textiles, on a 9th floor I think. A tiny space with fabric rolls and rolls deep. It reminded me of my husband's garage - only the owner knows where what's what but everything still seems to be there.

Will I go back?

You better believe it. As soon as I can. If there was such a thing as a garment district passport I would apply for it. 

Now next time, or sometime, if you want to meet up with me there, just email me direct so we can find each other.


Colleen G said...

I am so glad that your trip through the garment district met your expectations. I really can relate to your comments about "real fabric". Thanks for posting the photos too as I didn't have the courage to take any on my trip last year and I just couldn't describe the expedition to my understanding husband in enough detail for him to get it. But he must have; he sent me back again the next day to get another fix. And while he thinks our next trip is to attend a Broadway show, really it's all about the fabric.

ElleC said...

When I read posts like this, I start to get impatient for the world to catch up with Star Trek and develop beaming technology. Can you imagine? Wouldn't that be the best for fabric shopping? Glad and jealous that you had such a great time.

a little sewing said...

what a wonderful visit you had! I'd love to meet up with you there some time. If you think about it, shoot me an email the next time you go, and I will make arrangements for a day trip.

Unknown said...

How nice to find this blog. A friend and I are headed to NYC in April, and will especially go to the garment district. You mentioned that you stayed there also, we are trying to decide where to stay, do you have a recommendation? Thanks for your info.

velosewer said...

Thanks for your view on the garment district. It's definitely on my travel list. DH knows we'll be there one day...

Patty said...

my thoughts exactly....

Karen in VA said...

Yes, definitely let us know the next time you're heading to NYC. Like Robin, I'm in the DC area and it's an easy train or bus ride up...

Carolyn (cmarie12) said...

Okay truthfully part of the reason I buy online is because I work alot of hours and don't have the ability to get up from my desk and head down to the garment district during the hours it's open.

Another reason is because now that Mr. UPS & Fedex man so nicely leave packages by my garage door, I hate giving fabric a 2 hr bus trip and a 10 min walk in to my townhouse.

Finally, when I need something I'm thrilled that the garment district is there. However, you've said nothing about the trim/button and notion stores which are my particular love of the garment district. Did you not go to any of them?

I'll definitely be emailing you especially if my girl Robin is willing to come up and spend a day. I will leave work around 12 and spend the rest of the afternoon with you...it will be fun!

LinB said...

Central NC has some stores like the garment district fabric warehouses, but for upholstery and drapery fabrics. If you're ever interested in those sorts of fabrics, a crawl down I-85 will yield dozens of stops. That's where I often head for cottons and linens -- some of the weights are suitable for garments. And widths are gynormous, so yardage is affordable.