Tuesday, June 30, 2015

SHINDO USA Co. - The company is more than ribbons, but ribbons are enough for this store!


You know the saying, "If you have to ask, you probably can't afford it..."?
Looks like a chain, but is actually a fiber cord!


While you do have to ask at SHINDO, much of their merchandise is quite affordable. Previously mentioned on this blog in 2011, (see previous post for info, which remains up-to-date) it is easy to forget about this one, since it is a bit off the beaten garment district path.  There is no swatching, but photos are allowed.


Lovely denim trim

This huge Japanese company is much bigger than just ribbons, but this store location on 36th Street is mostly ribbons and trim.


SHINDO USA Inc.
162 West 36th Street
New York, NY 10018
212-868-9311


Alive... and the inspiration of Koos Van Akker and childlike, playful prints

I had an opportunity to attend a private estate sale yesterday, where some lovely vintage pieces were being offered. The sight of those pieces changed my artistic perception, and while shopping later on, my brain zeroed in on some fabrics it might not have otherwise chosen. Invigorated by my adventure, I happened upon this wonderful cotton...


Spotted this fabric at Rosen & Chadick yesterday.

I love this fabric's "Willy Wonka" vibe. It calls out to be paired with denim, suede, or something wildly textural, as part of a unique signature piece.  If used as part of a bag, the person who carries it MUST have candy inside.

Anyway, backing up...

At the vintage clothing sale earlier in the day, I spotted some lovely Koos Van Akker pieces, who, coincidentally, was a longtime, faithful customer of Rosen and Chadick. 

Vintage sale piece
Closeup of pocket on Koos coat at the vintage sale
Peeking out at Rosen & Chadick... a Koos-like fabric.

There were many more beautiful clothing items at the private vintage sale, and one piece I'm not so sure I can live without, so I may contact the host of the sale to find out if anyone else has snagged it... 

Although... I must admit that I'm surprised no vintage retailer came along and negotiated a price to simply haul it ALL away!






Monday, June 22, 2015

As yet untitled... (and "Death By Pastrami")

*Make sure you read the comments on this post, too.  The comments really expand this post, and really give great additional food for thought! (Originally posted in 2013, I have realized that posts have their moments of popularity, and my stats tell me that this is a post that is igniting a spark right now.) Visit this blog post for more recent thoughts on the same topic!

"I find it interesting that you call your blog 'Shop the Garment District', considering..." he said, tapping the glass table deliberately, "that the Garment District no longer exists."

Leonard Bernstein, author of a collection of short stories featured in an earlier post, was ready to school me on the garment district.  And I was an eager student. I initially wanted to meet him because of his fiction writing, and his unique garment district stories. What I didn't know, was that I actually needed to meet him.  His knowledge of the Garment District is vast, valuable, and needs to be shared.

I met him in the office of his family business, Candlesticks Inc., where he has been at the helm since 1953.  Candlesticks is a well-established company, in business since 1928, selling to the biggest retail chain stores whose names we all know. In a glossy, formal, garment center building, his company produces childrens' pajamas and swimwear.  Leonard, a smartly dressed, happy man, ushered me over to the big glass table in the showroom, and promptly offered me a perfect cup of coffee. "This is a real Garment Center business." he announced.  He was right. There was no sign of the dingy, rough places I have seen and imagined.  This place was corporate and clean.  Efficient and quiet.

With a garment district family history that stretches back as far as his great-grandfather who owned a pushcart on Hester Street at the turn of the 20th century, and a grandfather who owned an apparel company with a factory in New York City, Leonard's unique perspective allows him to understand both where the district has been AND where it is going.  Better yet, his warm, open personality allows him to share this information with us.

And now?  His company produces lots and lots and LOTS of garments, overseas of course, and selling in the biggest retail chains we know.  Macy's, just across the street from his office, is among them.  Quickly, the conversation turned to the topic of apparel manufacturing. We're not talking about the hobbyist, or the little guy/gal who just wants to make a few items here.  We're talking about the businesses that help people buy houses , cars, build savings, and put their children through college.


Myth #1: Greedy capitalists won't produce in America, making it impossible for others to compete.

Here's the thing: Can you still buy supplies, manufacture, and sell goods you make in NYC's garment district?  "Yes, you can - if you do boutique-type stuff.  You can find a small shop to make 27 dresses, or some artistic handmade ties, and yes, you can sell them.  But... you wanna sell to Macy's Target, WalMart, Sears? Then, you've gotta go overseas." Leonard tells me.  "Why not produce it here?"  I ask. "Why not, you ask?  Where are the factories?" He elaborated on this point, explaining  that it's fine when you're just starting out, since at most, maybe some loft in Chinatown will produce the small lot you need, but, eventually you have to be competitive.  If you want to sell to the big stores, the factories in China, Bangladesh, and Cambodia can produce the quantities you need quickly, using workers who are paid $1/hr.  And guess what?  That's a living wage in those places!

Mythe #2: The foreign garment factory workers are being abused and exploited.


Bangladesh factory fire - locked exits - read here...

"We love to believe the story of the poor, abused foreign worker.  The children, the enslaved, the hungry and lame. Making pennies an hour."  The fact is, he goes on to explain, if you tell a factory manager near Shanghai that you hear many of these factories hire or enslave children, he will tell you that he has a MILE LONG line of able-bodied, capable ADULTS who would be happy to work for $1 and hour, compared to the $.50/hr the hard physical labor alternatives offer.  Working in state-of-the-art, efficient factories for a good wage. He has a WAITING LIST of eager adult workers. "Why would I hire a child?"

My brain is spinning now.  This is not what I expected to hear. What I'd been led to believe. "So, can't you use a 2nd class factory somewhere, and pay workers far less?" I asked.  "Well, you can..." Leonard explains, "But when you sell to a store like Macy's, they will only buy garments produced at approved factories, and you (the manufacturer) must have a certificate that states they are manufacturing your goods.  Without that certificate, the big stores won't talk to you."  The big stores send inspectors to those factories, both announced, and undercover, to see how things are being produced, and to check that procedures are being followed.  Without the kind of sales a store like Macy's, Target, or Sears can do, how would you sell the goods?

"But, I've been to stores like Conway," I protest, "and their prices are sometimes lower than I can even buy the fabric to make it myself.  Where is that stuff from?"  (I've always been SURE it was some sort of near-slavery work in a third-world country.) "The stuff you see in those stores are closeouts." Leonard tells me. "These things need to be sold for anything they can get.  Those are just goods they need to move."

We want to believe that the Asian factories have "grabbed" the apparel manufacturing, but we (USA) are a privileged, advanced, over-comsuming country. We open our drawers and closets to find dozens and dozen of garments - more than we need or even want.

So, it comes to this.  What should we have done differently/ What is our future?

"Well, " he confides, "You know those huge campaigns... Look for the Union Label, Buy America, etc...?  Well, they all failed.  Every one of them."

A decade ago, Leonard ran a factory in Pennsylvania, with 350 workers.  "You know what? Far more foreign cars in the parking lot than American ones.  The employees wore affordable clothes made in other countries - and these were American factory workers! The salesmen had to hide the fact that the clothes were made in America just to get appointments, and avoid getting laughed at!  Our wholesale prices weren't competitive."

He goes on to explain that he can make a sample garment, photograph and email it to the Shanghai factory at 10AM, and by 11AM, the factory can give him delivery and price. AND the fabric is already available there, where the factories are!

So... the future?

This was a much longer conversation, not easily summarized in a blog post... but a rising tide lifts all boats, you know.  In time, workers who make $1/hr now will be wanting to earn $1.25 at the new factory down the road.  Wages will rise, and labor will become more expensive for the manufacturers.  It will be at least 30 years before their wages are competitive with our own, though.  So, we move on to other countries.  Bangladesh, Cambodia... all they need are more factories to be competitive.  After that?  Africa can't be far behind.  There are workers in Africa who will gladly earn $.50/hr - and yes, still a living wage.


Rising labor costs in factories force manufacturers to look elsewhere... follow link


We can impose tariffs, for sure... but don't we want other countries to buy our goods? Due to advances in technology, we are more connected than ever.  This has made the other side of the planet as accessible as the office next door.  No one is to blame for this. We can grow exponentially, or we can change, OR can simply stop consuming.

The fact is, the world is constantly changing.

"Okay, so what should we have done differently?" I ask.

"Nothing." Leonard replies.  I believe him when he says that. This guy is no slouch, I tell ya.  Early in  our conversation, I asked him why he wrote fiction, before I had any idea what other pearls of wisdom he had to offer.  "I love to write, so I wrote." Simple as that.  And, by the way, this is his 6th book!







(note: added 1/3/15) And he has since written a new one!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Teen's Perspective

If there's one thing I know about my daughter, it's that she loves the color combination of purple and yellow.  I bought this lovely purple fabric at Fabrics & Fabrics a while back...


Sheer, light, soft, and playful! (That's my hand beneath it)

and hesitated to cut into it because I wanted to make sure I chose the right project.  

The question, "What do you want to wear for the prom?" (an 8th grade dance in the school gym, really) was met with shoulder shrugs and a general lack of interest.  


So, I had to go it alone.


I found the right yellow to make it "pop".


Actual colors, not enhanced.

And created a swirly, twirly, simple dress!

Yes, my friends... it appears my daughter's "prom" dress was a stash creation.  And she loved it. And she had a great time, too!




Saturday, June 20, 2015

Yesterday's Speakeasy - the Unspoken Truth of the Garment District

What can I tell you about yesterday's Speakeasy tour?  Well, it was a lovely and intimate gathering of fabric enthusiasts, with my wonderful friend, Cindy, along to add her professional experience and expert guidance during the afternoon portion of the day. The participants were an absolute joy to lead, and our fabric finds were awesome!  While the regular secrecy was important before our excursion, as usual, I curated the best spots before this trip to see who has great stuff right now, and we actually bought the LAST yardage of some of the things we found, so no harm in you knowing some specifics!

From Paron Fabrics

One of the participants spotted this lovely stretch knit fabric at Paron, and, while trying to stifle my pangs of longing, I photographed it, stroked and tugged it... and alas, after she bought her yardage, some the rest of it came home with me!  Paron, by the way, is currently having a huge summer sale with deep discounts.

From Metro Textiles - delightful, tough, stretch fabric perfect for a slim skirt or shorts/pants.

At Metro Textiles, I found this funky fabric (above), and, no, there is no more.  There was no leaving it behind.  Let that be a lesson to ya, since frankly, you would have had to physically fight me for it anyway... 

and I woulda won...

But now, with this fabric at home, it appears I will have to fight my daughter for it.  We'll see who wins that battle.  It's tough, but she doesn't usually beg too much... so maybe... 

I said MAYBE.

Also note, Metro Textiles has prices you have probably only dreamt about for some of the fabrics of your dreams.  No lie.

While out and about, we saw some great cotton prints, priced well below $10/yd., Cindy showed the group some fantastic ponte knits, Metro Textiles had some things to die for you gotta see to believe, and some scuba that blew my mind, and there are some pretty amazing offerings in the trim stores, too. We also saw some pretty wild fur fabrics at Fabrics & Fabrics... and get this... in a store that HUGE, one of the tour participants, with no suggestion from me, bought yardage of a wonderful fabric I also fell in love with and already have at home, in my embarrassingly large stash! 


Hers was a deep pink grid, but same fabric!

Of course we visited other places, and found great things in those places, too, but if you wanna know everything, come along on the next one, or buy a map!


Friday, June 19, 2015

Are you a feather fan???


Updated:

Taken from their Yelp page, (where similar comments to mine below were made) this is John C's own comments on his place:

Updated, with additional comments taken from John C's (business manager) Yelp page. I was guilty of giving similar comments, so I wanted to make sure that HIS words were here, too!

Dersh Feather's Quote below:

3/12/2015  Just a few corrections:  Our elevator is small. 

 Our vestibule area is small and there are no feathers in it, just some photos and magazine pictures which Jay's wife sticks there.  

Once you step out of our vestibule, our place is long and narrow.  We are wholesalers.  We sell as little as one feather, or one "string" of feathers (sometimes called a "bundle").  We do not cut the string.  Our customers buy the entire string.  Some strings cost ten dollars.  Some cost thirty dollars.  The photos on the walls of our vestibule are not of Jay or myself.  

Some of our male customers do dress outrageously.  A little skin may show.  Nothing to be afraid of.  Jay's wife would never hang a scary or distasteful picture.  (Her grandchildren come here occasionally).  Just thought I'd set the record straight after looking at this review, (and finding it amusing),  for more than 3 years.  

AND NOW we have a larger elevator!  

Much larger.  

We have moved to 144 West 37th Street, between Broadway and 7th Avenue.  4th Floor.  Bigger, well-lit vestibule too.  We moved in Nov. 2013  . . .  because our old building is being torn down to allow for the construction of yet another midtown hotel.  Progress.  Ugh. 

PS  As of today, March 12, 2015, there is still no hotel where our former building stands, so they didn't have to rush to push us out of there.  Where we are now is nicer than the old place . . . so no complaints.

I made this for a client a few months ago. Feathers can really make a garment so much fun! Readers, here's the deal. There are many shops in the garment district who are run by second or third generation, hardworking owners. They are not like the business who try to woo customers with manners, sweet-talk, promotions, and fancy retail establishments. Visiting some of these places require trips in rickety elevators in old warehouse buildings, and interactions with angry, squinting merchants who would rather not speak to you. Well, that can happen in the garment district. However, if you an navigate these environments and develop relationships, you can find wonderful things, and create the projects of your dreams. Now, sure there are plenty of places to find feathers, and feather trims. If you don't mind emptying your wallet at M&J Trimming, you can find some pretty exciting things. Chances are, what you find there will direct your design - not the other way around. But... let's say you could just dream for a bit, and imagine glorious plumage surrounding a collar of a dramatic duster coat for a grand evening out? Let's say you want it to be turquoise. Can you find it? You can at Dersh Feather. So let's say you just clicked that link. What did you learn? Nothing? Exactly. That's why you need to go. But wait, before you go, you have to know what you want. You have to find a picture of something that looks like what you want. You have to know whether you want them sewn together in a flexible line (the way you would need to surround a collar, and develop your terminology. Do you want them dyed? Bring a swatch of the color you want. Don't make them explain things to you. Why would you want to do this? Because you can create something truly unique based on the design in your head and heart, rather than letting what you find in a retail store dictate that to you.</> If you ask if they sell to the trade only, the answer is "Yes, primarily... but if you already know what you want..." (shoulder shrug) So, if you are a business, great. If you aren't, you can still buy. Okay, so we've covered the getting what you want part. But here's another consideration. They are the importers, so what you save in markup over the retail stores (if it were even attainable) is AMAZING. So let's say you go to Dersh Feather. It is NOT a retail environment. It is a very crowded room full of feathers, and a few employees steaming, organizing and sewing away. Boas hang from the walls, boxes on shelves from floor to ceiling... the words "fire hazard" come to mind. You will be greeted with suspicion, most likely. If you actually want, and are ready to pay for something, you will make fast friends. If you are a browser, the elevator button may be pressed for you to quickly make your descent. Dersh Feather & Trading Corp. 25 West 38th Street New York, NY 10018 Don't say I didn't warn you.

June 19 and July 27, 2015 Speakeasies

*Reposting

There will be a Speakeasy on June 19th, 2015!

There will also be a July 27, 2015 Speakeasy!

The itineraries are identical.  Prices are identical.

Wanna come?

Itinerary:



10AM - 12PM - 

Shopping (Will include a specifically selected set 
of stores with a wide variety of offerings suitable for many different purposes/types of garments, appropriate for the theme of the day's tour. Relevant additional information, suggested additional resources and appropriate on-site expertise will be available.)

12PM-1PM

Lunch (local restaurant reservation for our group, already included in your fee.)

2PM - until 3PM

More shopping, based on desires and interest of group


3PM until end of day

Armed with your "Secret Map" and your own interest in or desire to visit the many other stores you see or have learned about, you may visit more garment district stores on your own if you wish, and give unique codes (that you'll get from me) to vendors who will give special assistance/discounts.

The cost of this guided, efficient tour is $80 per person. If you use this trip to shop and participate in what the NYC garment district has to offer, you will save at least as much as you are paying in supplies and education, and probably far more.

Wanna come? Click above, send payment, and the details on meeting time/place will be provided.

From outta town? If you need hotel and/or travel help, I will advise some of the BEST NYC secrets I know! Payment is only accepted via PayPal (you do not need a Paypal account), credit or debit card. No cash, personal checks, or additional payments will be accepted on the day of the tour. The trip will involve a good amount of walking, so come prepared in weather-appropriate gear, and healthy.

Regarding cancellations:

 If you have paid and wish to cancel 7 days or more before date - 100% refund
Fewer than 7 days - 50% refund
 If you don't come on the scheduled date or cancel within 24 hours or less - you will forfeit your refund, but can switch reservation to a future tour date.
 If I cancel a tour for reasons not related to weather, newsworthy acts of God or other emergencies, you are entitled to your choice of a full refund, or a future tour.


For June 19:

This speakeasy is a "go"! As of today, we have two committed participants, anchoring this event.




Payment button for July 27 below:

This speakeasy is a "go"!





Thursday, June 18, 2015

Star Snaps

Update: March 13, 2015 June 18, 2015- Star Snaps is in a popular new location (316 W 39th street - street level) Nowadays, you can expect to wait on at least a short line! 


Originally posted 6/29/12, and I have happily used their services since...

What a find! We all know how the professional look of your garments can be limited by inadequate tools and findings, or your own skill in applying them. You can make a great garment, but, lets get real... a homemade or sloppy-looking closure can really sink a great piece. Unless you are particularly good at achieving artfully handmade-looking details, it is wise to outsource those tasks when you can.


The above photo is from their Yelp page, which confirms what I'm about to say here. (By the way, it seems no one can avoid the snarky Yelp comment that contradicts EVERYTHING you experienced at an establishment these days...)

While the business card (top of this post) says it all, here's the winning feature: You walk in. You are greeted kindly and professionally at the counter. You tell the employee what you need. If you don't have the vocabulary for it, (in my case), he guides you. You ask him how much it will cost you. He gets you to specify how many of which item you need installed, by showing you a vast array of snaps and other fixtures on big sample cloths hung conveniently on the surrounding walls of this small office/studio. When you give your answer, he adds his own professional expertise, which helps you to make a better decision.

In my case, the project was a western shirt I haven't made yet. How I wish I had known about this place when I embarked on my fruitless search for small, pearlized snaps for the ridicu-shirt I made last year. Star Snaps would have been the perfect choice. But I digress...

He asked how many snaps I would want to apply. I hesitated. He patiently indicated how many snaps a western shirt usually has, and where they are located. He knew to ask me whether there would be breast pockets. See? That's thinkin' ahead.

Anyway, the price? Incredibly affordable. So worth it.

During my time there, about three other patrons entered, and each was walked through his/her request with the same amount of patience and attention. Highly recommended. A+ for Star Snaps.

Star Snaps 
316 West 39th Street
(Street level)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

10 Sewing Supplies You (actually I, really) Can't Do Without (and where to get them)

*This is a repost*


First of all, let me tell you that I know that this is a *trick*. Internet gurus tell me that people like lists.  Personally, I tend to ramble. 

 Why 10 things?  10 is as good a number as any... right?

Right?


10 Sewing Supplies You Can't Do Without

1. Household sewing needles, not just ORDINARY sewing needles.  These curve, stab, and manipulate strange terrain.  (Similar ones are linked here, available at Manhattan Wardrobe Supply) - The curved needles help repair a sofa, carpet, bind a book, seal a pillow, sew a slipcover, fix any awkward and unweilding shape or tough fabric!




2. Great scissors - I really love my own scissors, and can't be convinced otherwise, but the right scissors for a dedicated sewing enthusiast is like the right pencil for an artist, or instrument for a musician.  Frankly, though, I wouldn't say there are too many great choices.  There are only poor, mediocre, good enough, and PEERLESS!
Mine are about 30 years old, but they are still magical!


Where to get them: The advice on this is more than just a list of store names.  See this post for more information.

Also, know where to get them sharpened.

3. A ham

A necessity for sewing curved and hard-to-reach areas.  A good ham is a solid, heavy, densely packed tool that will last a lifetime.

Where to buy one: Steinlauf and Stoller

4. Silamide thread - for hand sewing and beading, especially.

Where to buy it: Manhattan Wardrobe Supply

5. A dress form (or, in my case two)



Where to buy one: Look at this post for suggestions.

6. A great (not good, but GREAT) mirror.  
You should be able to see your (or your intended wearer's) full body clearly in it.  Bonus points for portability and ability to tilt, like a cheval mirror. Added benefit; you can capture BOTH the front and back of a garment from the right angle in a well-positioned mirror.


This one is similar to mine, which is about 15 years old now.


Where to buy one:  This is an extreme solution, I know... but King David Gallery is the best place to get the best mirrors EVER.  Find your mirror, but it, the grab a taxi or have someone drive in to meet you to pick it up.  The prices are good, (so is the customer service) so you should even get a not-so-fancy mirror here, because it will be the BEST not-so-fancy mirror.

7. A good (but great is better) iron.  Depending on your space, you can get a fancy-schmancy gravity feed, or work with a lovely Rowenta or other quality brand.  It should steam well and with considerable "oomph", and it should have a pointy tip, perfect for getting into corners and difficult spots.


My own Rowenta - the third one I've owned in 25 years or so.

Where to buy one: Manhattan Sewing Supply (basic or fancy),  or City Sewing (fancier)

8. Quality muslin for test garments. What, you don't do this???  (LOL, I know we've all skipped this step when we can afford to)  But if you drape your own designs or test out your design before you sew with pricier fabric, your muslin needs to be on grain and mimic the weight and behavior of the fabric being sewn.  When working with woven fabric, and accuracy is important, quality muslin is a must.


Sturdy, medium weight muslin from S&S


Where to buy it: Steinlauf & Stoller or Guide Fabrics (larger quantities)

9. Quality interfacing.  Fusible, woven, black, white, heavy, light, tailoring canvas... you need the right interfacing to sculpt the shape you need, and stay strong throughout the life of the garment.

Where to buy it: Steinlauf & Stoller

10. Revolving leather hole punch.  This works for tough fabrics and leather!  I use mine "awl" the time!  And not just to sew - Sometimes a belt needs another hole, or I want to install grommets in something, or I have to attach leather tags to stuff to prevent it from being lost- I've used this contraption a million times for a million different reasons!




Where to buy one: M&J Trimming


So fine, yeah... in reality, there are more than ten supplies you'll need, but we've gotta start somewhere, right?

Right?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

I admit to being slightly obsessed with this story - Joyce Mitchell and the prison escape

In a fit of bookshelf cleaning, I recently listed some of my quality books to sell on Amazon.  In my opinion, this has proven to be a very easy way to relieve myself of some extra books, without the guilt of throwing them away, since our local charities and libraries are overrun with donated books.  Much to my surprise, (and discomfort) one of the people who purchased a sewing book I was offering is an inmate with a federal prison shipping address.  Frankly, this made me uneasy.
Click here for the full story. 

Okay, I'm treading lightly here.

So you don't dismiss me entirely for saying this, I'll start with this quote from CBS News, and you'll can see that I PROMISE to be going somewhere with this... 
"Mitchell has a job with a yearly salary of $57,697, overseeing inmates who sew clothes and learn to repair sewing machines at the prison. Amid the criminal case, she was suspended without pay."

I am thankful for this information. I was afraid to admit this aloud, since it really shows that I'm focusing on the wrong aspect of this HUGE news story... but... I couldn't help but obsessively wonder...


"Why do they need a prison TAILOR?"

When I finally said it (before reading the article referenced above), I was happy to hear my husband giggle at the idea, too, because, after all, isn't a general fit standard good enough for a prison uniform?

But that's not what her job is about.  She is training inmates, who hope to legitimately become ex-cons, to qualify for a job performing a very valuable skill.  Good grief, have you ever tried to get a sewing machine repaired?  High quality choices are few, and closely guarded, although I have shared my own sources on this blog

So this story is a very sad one, in so many ways, for all of the people involved. It remains a dangerous situation at this point, and it is very serious business. I don't dismiss any of it, but I do ask you to consider the following points:

  • Sewing tools are truly multi-purpose ones. Not only can you rip seams, holes, chip and chisel away at things... you can also... well, nevermind.
  • Apparently prison tailor/instructor is a fully legit job, with a respectable pay, assuming, of course, that you don't overstep your responsibilities.
  • My theory?  If I were asked to theorize on where they might be hiding... I'd guess the criminals have escaped to a native American reservation in Old Forge, NY.  But that's just what I think...


Monday, June 15, 2015

How to fabric shop in New York City - Quilter, Artist, Home Sewer, Home Decor?

Unfinished quilt top in 2006

Some years ago, I made this quilt.  I made it entirely by hand, with no machine stitching anywhere at all. It is a quilted interpretation of a painting my sister made as a student in 1976.  We sleep under it, so I have learned (the hard way) why the right fabric and thread choices matter.  I have had to go into various areas


When shopping in the garment district, it seems the assumption is that you make garments or accessories.  Also, it seems that the stores are generally not set up for the home sewer/the weekend shopper/the artist.

What to do?

Retail: Nowadays, just about every store at street level in the district will sell to the retail customer.  Very few of the stores are wholesale only.

Shopping on weekends: Many garment district stores are closed or operate on abbreviated schedules on Saturday and Sunday. However, there are enough stores open on Saturdays now to make a full shopping day of it, without a problem, provided what you are looking for isn't too specific.

For quilters:  Because I am often asked this question, I have created a map with stores that would appeal to quilters specifically.  You may purchase one here.

For artists:  You can easily be overwhelmed by all of the choices in the district, and there is no easy path, since what you will love is likely something you didn't know existed before you went exploring in the district! I would say t is best to start with the smaller stores, and work your way up from there, since the smaller stores have carefully curated offerings, more likely to appeal to a person looking for something truly unique!

Home Dec: This can be a bit tricky, because flammability standards, strength, and colorfastness make it very important to choose your fabrics wisely according to your end use. With those things in mind, make sure you go to the right sources for what you need.  Mood Fabrics does a great job in this category, as do some other stores, which can be found on this map!


Curious Creative:  Now for you, the district is your oyster...  You may want to stumble into some of the lesser-known stores in the district, and explore all of the discoveries you come across in not only the fabrics stores, but the other bead, trim, novelty and hardware vendors sprinkled between them all.  The options are just endless!

As we move into the summer, which is typically a quieter timein the district, I encourage you to explore and create, with the bravery to experiment and innovate, amazing yourself and those you encounter in the process.  I'll be rooting for you!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A taxing dilemma... Just the tip of the numerical iceberg


Have you ever been fabric shopping in the district, and been (a) happily surprised or (b) disappointed that sales tax has or has not been added to your purchase?

Well, I spent some time on the phone with the New York State Sales Tax Information hotline this morning to get to the bottom of this very issue.  I needed to make sure I understood it for myself.



Are you sewing for yourself or doing this non-professionally?

There is no sales tax applied if the fabric or notions you are buying are components of an item(s) you will sell for less than $110, OR WILL NOT OFFER FOR SALE AT ALL.  The reason I have highlighted NOT OFFER FOR SALE AT ALL, is because making something for yourself or as a gift - therefore NO SELLING PRICE, will not be taxed, regardless of the amount of your fabric/notions purchase. Does the IRS care if you make something WORTH $1000 if you don't sell it at all? Nope. No sales tax. Boom.

Now, there are some "catches" to learn about. And they can get wildly confusing.  For example: What you buy in the fabric store has to become part of the item.  Is that seam ripper part of the item? Not unless you sew it on!  

Need more info? 


But... if you are a business:

Sales Tax Information Center  518-485-2889
Find out about registering as a sales tax vendor, filing and paying. See Sales and Use Tax


Now look at this paragraph, and see if you don't get a headache:


Clothing, footwear, and items used to make or repair exempt clothing sold for less than $110 per item or pair are exempt from the New York State 4% sales tax, the local tax in those localities that provide the exemption, and the ⅜% Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District (MCTD) tax within the exempt localities in the MCTD. The MCTD consists of the city of New York and the counties of Dutchess, Nassau, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Suffolk, and Westchester. The exemption applies only to clothing and footwear worn by humans. It also applies to most fabric, thread, yarn, buttons, snaps, hooks, zippers, and similar items that become a physical component part of exempt clothing, or that are used to make or repair exempt clothing. The following are not eligible for exemption: • Clothing and footwear that sold for $110 or more per item or pair. • Costumes or rented formal wear. • Items made from pearls, precious or semi-precious stones, jewels, or metals, or imitations thereof, that are used to make or repair clothing eligible for exemption. • Athletic equipment. • Protective devices, such as motorcycle helmets.
Also from the same NY government website:


There is no sales tax on an item of clothing or footwear that costs less than $110. An item of clothing or footwear that costs $110 or more is subject to the full 8.875% tax rate. Sales tax is calculated per item, so even if you buy two or more items that add up to $110 or more, you only pay tax on the items that individually cost $110 or more.

The following purchases are exempt from sales tax (longer list on the site):

  • Medical equipment and supplies for home use
  • Prosthetic aids and devices, hearing aids, and eyeglasses
  • Laundry and dry cleaning services
  • Shoe repair services
  • Some items used to make or repair clothing and footwear

If you are having your fabric and/or notions shipped to another state or country, there are even more complications, rules, and fees to consider.  Those things, I'm afraid, you will need to research yourself...

I've looked through my own receipts from the garment district myself.  The only thing I've discovered, is that the vendors in the district tend to be consistent with their own policies.  Either they tax EVERYTHING or tax NOTHING. 

My advice?

Basically, learn and know the rules for your own situation if you want to be properly charged...


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Ancient inspiration

Note: The brick and mortar City Quilter has since closed...

I'm creating a garment that has no closures.  No buttons, no zips, and no fiddly mechanisms to manipulate. A garment designed and decorated with an appreciation for the people who will see it. Simple in structure, that can be passed down through generations. A garment that can be disassembled and reassembled for special laundering or repair, if desired, that can conform to a variety of body shapes. That can be equally elegant in "thin" or "fat" times... A garment that respects the body movements of the wearer, and offers some versatility regarding how it may be worn...




Oh wait, that already exists.  It is called the kimono. Incredibly practical.  Timeless in its beauty.  Insanely forgiving.

We are in a kimono phase right now in fashion, if you haven't noticed.  Google it, and you will see, fashion is all about the kimono right now. To make one, you need to know how to do it, but you do not need to know how to fit or alter, since the kimono requires neither.

If an American equivalent of the kimono were to exist, what would it look like?


Well, the fabric has to last.  Both the color(s) and the fabric itself need to endure.

My latest appreciation is for "yukata" cotton.  I was gifted this lovely piece of fabric by a friend of mine, who attended a Okan Arts trunk show at City Quilter.

To use it, I thought... I'll need to know what the characters mean, and which way is right side up and what is upside down...

So I asked my best friend to ask her dad to tell me what the fabric said.  And in his extremely thorough, wonderful way, he shared this...


From dad:
It is read "dai-naru-to" or "oh-naruto" in Japanese.   It means "great tidal whirl pool".大, dai = big.       ( 鳴, naru = ringing     戸, to = door. )鳴戶, naruto = 1. The eddy or whirlpool and its sound caused by the strong low tide and high                            tide hitting each other.                        2. (Not in this case)  The semicircular fish past on a wooden plate, kamaboko,                             which is rolled up white fish past and red fish past. When it is cross cut, the                             Intersection will show white and red whirl pool like a roll cake.                         3. A city at the north-east corner of Shikoku Island, facing Kobe and Osaka.                             A big bridge, "Oh-naruto bridge" connects it with the main island of Japan via                             an Island named Awaji-shima in between.Hence, Dainaruto or Oh-naruto may refer to the famous noisy great tidal eddy.Many tourists just go to the Oh-naruto Bridge, get off their vehicles, wait and watch the great tidal while pool.
Please note that the printed words on the top is looked from front, while the lower one is looked from back side.
By the way, do you know "yukata" means "bathing wear", by its words?However, in real life, it is evening wear, for both staying at home, or for out-going, or visiting, especially it is very comfortable during hot and muggy summer evening.
Is she going to make a yukata for herself?  If so, please remind her when she wears kimono, the right piece must be under the right piece.  Men and women wear kimono in the same way.Only the shrouds are worn left piece under right piece, men or women.  Some movies made in Taiwan once caused big laughter in Japan years ago, just because the female star was wearing kimono with the left piece close to her body under the right side, just like she wore Western style dress.

What a wonderful guy.  I love when people take this kind of time to explain.