New York: Concrete Jungle Where Dreams are Made of [Fabric! And trimmings!]

Jay-Z’s anthem isn’t the only thing getting me pumped about my beloved Metropolis lately. Last week, I had the pleasure of spending the day on a quest for fabric and fiber with one old friend and one new friend who came to NYC from Boston for a few days of research and shopping. Since the Boston-area lost The Fabric Place, Beantown fabric shoppers don’t have too many options, so, Diane and Jess were eager to shop and we covered a lot of ground. We started with some coffee and catching up at Le Pain Quotidien off of Bryant Park, near a great few blocks of Garment District fabric stores (also near the Kinokuniya Bookstore, which has a great selection of Japanese craft books… watch out, Big A, now that I know you can make a Fried Egg Tawashi…).

  • Mood Fabric [225 W 37th St]  The ladies found Mood the day before I met up with them and spent a good while in this fabric mecca. Yes, you know it from Project Runway, but this place is bigger than TV, and… dangerous. I avoid it because the temptation to buy when I’m there is just too strong. I mean, tell me where else I can get Marc Jacobs fabric… that doesn’t involve me, a pair of scissors, and an angry woman with a hole in the back of her shirt running after me… so how can I go in there and leave without it?
  • Paron Fabrics [206 W 40th St] Our day started here. Paron does orders through their website the old fashioned way. You tell them what you need, they mail you some swatches, you pick what you like, and they send it. Diane does this all the time, and she loves it. Great customer service. They don’t have the selection Mood or some other places have, but their Annex has “deal” potential, and for a smaller shop, the people are really nice. Some of the little shops you see around here are the real-deal, rip-off schemers you’d expect Guiliani to have kicked out years ago. But they’re still here! Listen, if a guy in one of these places ever tells you he’s giving you that price because he can “tell from your face” that he likes you, he’s ripping you off. Offer him half. That won’t happen at Paron. They’re nice.
  • NY Elegant Fabrics [222 W 40th St] Even though it’s only two doors down from Paron, I didn’t know this place was there. But Paula Nadelstern (who recently had a fantastic show of quilts at the American Folk Art Museum) has a Garment District fabric shopping guide, and we followed her advice to stop in. I have to say, I was impressed. They actually might have had Marc Jacobs fabric and I just didn’t see it because I was too busy looking at beautiful shirtings and touching all the giant bolts of cashmere. Big selection, well organized. No great deals anywhere, but if you need to easily and quickly find something (anything!) this place is definitely a good bet.
  • B & J [525 7th Ave] This place is great if you’re sourcing fabric for big projects, but it’s not the kind of place to just hunt for a few yards. So it was an in-and-out for us.
  • Pacific Trimming [218 W 38th St] This is a real all-in-one trim house. If you want something trendy or out of the ordinary, go to M&J, but if you’re looking for anything else, I’d go here. Jess found some nice metal purse frames that she could only find for sale on overseas websites. Prices are good, selection is huge.

After weaving through some zipper shops nearby, we stopped for lunch before heading to the east side of Broadway, with three important stops in mind:

  • M&J Trim [1008 6th Ave] I don’t think I need to say much more than “5 different kinds of sequined tiger appliques.” And maybe “ball fringe.” Prices are high, but, hey, sometimes you just have to treat yourself nice.
  • Tinsel Trading Co [1 W 37th St]  I’ve known for years that there was something special about this store, but in finding the address to post here, I may have found out exactly what it is. Guess who’s declared this her “favorite store in all the world”? … give up?? It’s Martha!!! I should have known… I should have recognized her presence… I guess I’ve just been too distracted by all the shiny, beautiful things in this place! This is literally a shop where everything for sale sparkles. Read about their history, or just walk in, and you’ll have a whole new appreciation for shiny things. (Oooooooo….)
  • The Magazine Place Next Door [W 37th St] I don’t know what this place is called, but it’s next to Tinsel Trading, and they have like every magazine in the world. And not so good coffee. Jess needed to see a copy of Selvedge (my favorite magazine ever!) before deciding to lay out the big bucks for a subscription, as well as a few other hard-to-find publications, so it was a perfect inspiration pit-stop before we left the Garment District.

New York’s a big place, and though you can spend all day in one neighborhood, sometimes it’s good to switch it up. We hopped the train down to the Lower East Side for some of my downtown favorite spots and a nice walk.

  • Zarin Fabrics [314 Grand St] If it’s home furnishing fabric you seek, and you can’t shop in the D&D building, one of the best places to start is the Zarin Warehouse, upstairs from the Zarin showroom. Good selection, good prices, good fabrics. Sometimes a good remnants pile.  And it’s the same Zarin as Jill Zarin, from the Real Housewives of NYC. And she’s not one of the ones who punched any of the other housewives, right?

At this point, we had covered everything except yarn, so we grabbed a coffee and took a walk to the nearest yarn shop, which was a few neighborhoods over in SoHo, which has a sister fabric store down the block.

  • Purl + Purl Patchwork [137 + 147 Sullivan Street, respectively] Though small, these two spots have a very well-selected inventory and a nice, helpful staff. Jess found some nice organic cotton to knit with. I seriously contemplated my love for Alexander Henry Fabrics and how I could turn graphic art like that of Charley Harper into needlepoint, without spending $150 (…I think I can eye-ball it).

And that took us straight to dinner time, after which I had to say goodbye. But, even for the fabric-hungry this is the city that never sleeps, so I sent the ladies to the Strand for some late evening book shopping. The Strand has a great selection of new and used fashion, craft, textile, art, and (oh, yeah) everything books. The place is huge, and they have books you’ll never see in Barnes & Noble, sometimes at prices better than Amazon. It’s hard to leave without buying anything. In fact, it’s just hard to leave. Luckily, they close. Maybe because they know, like Jay-Z, when they “better slip you a’ Ambien…”

.a

3 thoughts on “New York: Concrete Jungle Where Dreams are Made of [Fabric! And trimmings!]

  1. Great post! I’m now envisioning you running with scissors down a lonely Soho street with MJ fabric in your hands, leaving a very chilly fashionista in your wake! :)

  2. O.K. “little a”, these are some pretty impressive textile source reviews. Can’t hardly thread a needle, but yet I really enjoyed reading each and every one to the end. And while I don’t have the itch to stitch, doing a walking tour of the garment district sounds like too much fun.

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