Our trip to New York in December 2016 was my treat. Hubby has always gone away a lot on business trips and I have been left at home with the kids. I must say the kids are now much older and no longer in need of 24 hour care but when they were little this was definitely the case. It was pay-back time!
I won’t bore you with all the details of our trip but I thought you may be interested in our experience of the area in New York known as the Garment District. This is where many of the fabric shops are concentrated. I hope to make a few blog posts over the coming weeks to let you know what to look out for and helpful tips that may aid you if you ever go there. We visited only a few of the fabric and trimming shops but I think we got a good feel for the place and I hope these posts might inspire you to visit yourself one day.
Layout of New York
If you are new to the layout of New York (NY) it may be helpful to know that the roads are organised on a grid system. The Avenues run North-South and are numbered 1-11 starting at the East side to the West side. The streets run East-West and are numbered 1-218 starting in the South and reaching up to the North of Manhattan Island.
The Garment District (shown below inside the red box) is to be found between Avenues 6-9 and streets W34th and W42nd (The W denotes the West side of the island or West of 5th Avenue as the streets reach all the way across the island.)
You won’t only find fabric shops here though, there are also many design studios, manufacturing hubs and shops selling all manner of things, it really is an absolute dream of a place to visit if you are even slightly interested in sewing. I was completely blown away by the choice of fabric and trimmings but I will come onto that later.
Plan your visit
I had spent time looking at the list of stores on the Garment District website and had drawn up a list of the shops I wanted to visit. I didn’t find the site the easiest to use to start with but over the course of a few visits I worked out that if you followed the Places Directory link and typed in ‘fabric’ it gives you the option of selecting fabric or fabric retail. If you click on the latter it shows you just those stores that allow retail purchases, you don’t want to be hunting places that only sell wholesale. This choice also makes the selection much more manageable at 23 stores.
From there I honed my list to just those stores that had the sort of fabric that I wanted, I knew I was really focusing on printed Lycra (or spandex), and scuba fabrics. I then created an Excel spreadsheet showing the name of the store, the address, the type of fabric, opening times (weekend opening can be a bit patchy and some places close for the Jewish festivals) and any special notes such as minimum lengths cut etc.
Plan your requirements
I drew up a short list of lengths of fabrics I would need to make the wardrobe basics; skirt, trousers, blouse/shirt, dress etc. I have a few patterns that I know very well and always love for ‘quick make’. I recorded these on my list and made mental adjustments when there but it was so handy to have the list to refer to in the stores. I had also made a metric/imperial conversion which was invaluable as all fabric is cut in yards in the US.
Don’t be shy
It is easy as a newbie to the Garment District to feel quite intimidated not only by the streets and high buildings but also the vast array of choice within each shop. Don’t allow this to stop you enjoying the experience though. If you are investing time and money in travelling to NY you clearly know something of fabric and sewing, look upon this as an opportunity to learn more.
I found all the assistants I came across to be helpful and very willing to answer any queries I had. I found them to be very similar to the assistants in Britain’s fabric and haberdashery shops that being if you are prepared to ask and really listen to the answers they are happy to give their time.
In some of the stores it was possible to haggle to get a good price, I found this particularly in the shops where they were having a clearance. They want to get this stock out of the door and are prepared to listen to reasonable offers. Be bold, be brave and just ask! You don’t get if you don’t ask.
Next week I will tell a little about each of the stores that we visited and the fabrics I purchased.