Thursday, June 28, 2012

Stash Management

Oh the stash... it just grows and grows, doesn't it?

Okay, here is an exercise for all of us. ALL OF US... Yes, ALL of us...

You know that fabric stash that is stuffed in your closets, drawers, boxes, rubbermaid tins, cedar chests... wherever? I know you've got piles of fabric waiting for your next project soon someday. Okay... today we're gonna decide that's okay. Part of the creative process is collecting hoarding curating a fabric supply. That's what keeps the creative juices flowing.

I'm being serious here. I have yet to visit the workspace of any creative person, fully immersed in the art of making things, who doesn't have a big ol' pile of creative madness going on. Embrace it.

Why do I bring this up?

History has taught me that when I wander in and out of fabric stores, I see all kinds of great things that I would love to use, if only I had a project going for which I could use it. If I decide I want those things six months later, I may never find them again. Here's the thing... buy it, and you may be surprised by what it inspires later on! I made some covered buttons about 6 years ago and never finished the project for which they were intended. Time marched on, the design idea lost its luster, and my daughter asked for the buttons instead. She made use of one in a fabulous necklace made for my birthday! Creative karma...

Another reason to curate a healthy stash? When the fabric is considered before your creation/design decisions or pattern purchases, you can build a wardrobe of planned items that are interchangeable and/or coordinating, rather than a one-at-atime approach, that keeps you buying new shoes accessories and bags to complement each piece. A time/money saver! See...? Not so crazy, huh?

So, feed your stash, people. Organize it to the best of your ability, but understand that it is part of the process.

Now, cue some sad bugle playing taps, while you scroll through the swatches of fabulous fabrics I regret not buying, or not buying enough of...

Some sorta leather-like wool animal-printed fabric I found at Paron. Just weird enough to intrigue me, but not creating a sharp enough creative vision in my head to coax any money out of my wallet that day. NOW, I can see the winter vest it should have been.



I am almost embarrased to share how long this crinkled denim (above) lived in my stash. In an appetizing color I affectionately call "Pepto", I always knew it needed to be a pair of pants, but there was never quite enough of it to become a pair. So it became a jumper. And a hasty one at that. One I have never, ever, ever worn...

I need a tissue.

And quite possibly a hug.

Learn from my mistakes, folks. I share because I care...

The best stores for stash shopping are the ones where you find wonderful surprises in limited quantity or quick/limited seasonal availability. Bring your wallet with some "mad" money, because these are a few of the places to find the fabrics you weren't looking for:

Mood
225 W. 37th St., 3rd floor (mid-block, office building, go into the lobby and take the elevator to the 3rd floor)

Paron
257 West 39th st (bet. 7th 8th ave) New York, NY 10018

Metro Textiles
265 West 37th Street Suite 908 New York, NY 10018
More info about this store can be found here.

Enjoy yourself, take deep breaths, and embrace the stash...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Quality

"The things we make have one supreme quality; they live longer than us. We perish, they survive. We have one life, they have many lives. And in each life, they can mean different things; which means that while we all have one biography, they have many."
-Niel MacGregor, Director of the British Museum

*For the complete talk, visit the TED website, where he presents a fascinating talk on one particular 2600 year old piece of art.

I invite you to chime in to tell me if I'm alone on this one, but I love to visit fashion and clothing exhibits here in New York City, and have spent many hours over the years, gazing at the lovely, carefully crafted creations of many designers and needle-smiths. One thing I have often wondered, especially when looking at something old and beautifully simple, is "How did the creator of this piece trust his/her own talent enough to know that they needed to work with such high quality materials?" I have often found myself paralyzed with fear before cutting into my never-find-anything-like-this-again fabrics, worrying that one wrong move can send hundreds of dollars worth of fabric to the back of my closet, or bottom of my trash can. How do you know it is worth the effort?

As I wander through exhibits, more often than not, the materials lists on the description placards include words like "silk tulle", or "silk velvet", fabrics with real staying power, and the ability to hold beautifully vibrant colors for years beyond the lifespan of the person for whom they were made. These fabrics are pricier than the rest.

Are they worth it? Well, they sure can be. Who cares? You do... and although I can't promise anyone else will value it as much, a lesser fabric will certainly shorten its lifespan.

Recent experiences with clients are telling me that there is a sincere appreciation for quality. In my dressmaking life, I am seeing more and more brides who want to redesign their own mothers' or grandmothers' gowns, based on the quality, age, and tactile experience of the fabric. Often sewn by hands you have neither met not heard of, these garments resonate, and they still hold a magic that reaches into the future.

So, I say all of this to say, there is enormous value in shopping at the stores where the staff is knowledgeable about the quality, origin and description of the goods they have to offer.

When the occasion is very special, and the budget permits, consider the following stores for wonderful quality...

B&J Fabrics (chiffons, silks, and so much more)



(a fabulous whisper-light metallic sequined fabric from B&J)


(and the top that fabric eventually became)

Rosen & Chadick (also, check out their 126" wide silk tulle! and many other wonderful specialty fabrics)


(a wonderful silk from Rosen and Chadick)


(silk organza from Rosen and Chadick - raw edges)

NY Elegant (silks)


(above fabric - lovely 4 ply silk from NY Elegant)

Lace Star (laces and more - see previous post)


Solstiss (French laces - by appointment only - only for the VERY serious...)

Now, I don't expect my pieces to end up in museums anywhere... but a girl can dream, can't she?

Friday, June 8, 2012

What happened to Lace Star????

I received a call from a professional dressmaker friend of mine, who had sent a particular client to Lace Star on 40th Street for inspiration and shopping, only to find that the store was no longer there! In this dismal economy, stores are shuttering faster than you can blink, and she was certain that this store had gone down the sudden, sad path that so many others have taken... that is, until she checked the internet, and discovered that they had moved!

Well, I was relieved to hear this, since they truly are a gem of a store, and I stopped in at the new location this week. On the third floor of a happy building on 38th Street, I stepped out of the elevator, made a quick left turn, and discovered... FABRIC WONDERLAND!



Okay folks, not only did they move... they have improved, expanded, and have the greatest, and most organized selection of delicious fabrics anyone could ask for! Take that, economy! They now have a new division/company, quite aptly named "Fabrics & Fabrics", which carries many new fabrics including brocades, cottons, silks, laces, woolens, velvets and more. The delightfully kind and polite salesperson, Rahman, was there to greet me and explain the selection and layout to me in such an incredibly patient way, that frankly, I wondered if I was still in New York City. Maybe I had taken the elevator straight to Oz (as in, the place where that famous wizard lives)?

There's space to move... to dance, even... which is exactly what you will want to do when you see all of the beautiful things they've got. This is definitely not another "more of the same stuff" store.

What appealed to me specifically, was a to-die-for beaded lace that was whispering my name softly from one of the shelves on my right. Apparently, Rahman heard it first, since he pointed it out to me, based on my loose description of what I was looking for.

I was also impressed by the lovely array of colors available in that elusive fabric, silk gazar. I love silk gazar for its sculptural quality, and just last year, was able to get up close and personal with a beautifully executed Valentino dress I was rearranging for a client which featured a silk gazar ruffled skirt, and inspired some design ideas of my own.




So, here's where you'll find them:

270 West 38th Street
3rd floor (between 7th & 8th Ave.)

And yes, they have a website.

And, correct me if you've had a different experience... they also have another fabric I love, but have trouble finding... cotton organdy! Call me old-fashioned, but what lovely, feminine dresses (for women and girls alike) can be made using the stuff!

Here's the deal. Daunted a bit by the prices, I did a bit of comparison shopping. On purpose. Looked in a few more stores to see what similar fabrics I could find. Guess what? Couldn't find comparable stuff. I had fallen in love with so many things, other stores felt like a let-down.

A little more eye-candy for ya... Is it for the bargain shopper? Nope, but you also won't keel over. You'll want to shop here mainly for your special occasion fabrics, but you will need quite a bit of time to commune with the aisles full of bolts, so plan to spend a good while there.