As I’m sure you’re well aware, I recently took a trip Stateside ? I’m still recovering, and so is my bank balance.
As a sewist, you obviously can’t go to New York City without visiting the fabric shops. (And if you can, I salute you for your willpower).
The garment district is where it’s at, occupying the rough area between 6th and 9th Avenue, and 34th – 42nd Streets. Although in London we have the Soho area which contains a few fabric shops, and also Goldhawk Road (which would be your best choices if you’re looking to hit fabric shops HARD) they don’t really compare to the garment district. Soho for one is REALLY pricey (£200 per metre silk, anyone?) Goldhawk Road is a bit more budget friendly but neither areas compare to New York in terms of sheer size or choice.
Rather than set aside a chunk of time to shop for fabric, I decided to break it up into manageable sections of an hour or so and hit just one or two shops a day. This actually worked really well for me, because having so many shops to choose from was quite overwhelming! This also meant that if you bought LOADS from the first shop you went in, you didn’t have to carry it round loads more fabric shops – you could just drop it back to your hotel and carry on with your day ?
I had a list of the main shops I wanted to visit, to make sure that I didn’t miss them, and then after that just chose what took my fancy as I walked past. There were still SO MANY that I didn’t get to see, and there’s several shops that are not at street level (Mood included – it’s on the third floor) so you only discover that they are there if you look up!
So here’s the roundup of all the fabulous places that I went – this by no means is an exhaustive list of all the places that you *could* go though, you’d need MANY days of solid fabric shopping to cover everything NYC has to offer ?
Just a heads up: there are pictures. LOTS OF PICTURES. Get coffee and snacks. And give your credit card to someone sensible.
Here we go…
263 W 38th St, New York
Spandex House was the first fabric shop I visited during my stay in NYC – Mood would have been top of my list, obvs, but it was Columbus Day (so opening hours were shorter) and already early evening, and I didn’t want my trip to Mood to be rushed. We were heading to Washington the following morning and needed to get some supplies from Macy’s before heading back to pack, so we were a bit short on time – I therefore opted for a smaller shop to ease myself in to the Aladdins Cave that is the Garment District.
The building number of Spandex House is 263, and upon walking down the street I saw the shop that had 263 written on it… but it wasn’t Spandex House. I was much confused. I double checked the address on Google and sure enough it said 263. Perhaps it wasn’t there any more? Strange, as it is such an established business. I went into the shop occupying number 263 to see what it was.
Even though I knew the answer, I asked the lady that worked there if this was Spandex House (and regretted it as soon as the words left my mouth, because CLEARLY it wasn’t Spandex House because the shelves DID NOT HAVE SPANDEX ON THEM). Nope, she replied – it’s two doors down. Ok, so it does still exist, I thought, but maybe it’s moved door numbers and that’s why I’m getting lost. I had a quick look round this mysterious shop, and then left number 263 and headed two doors down. As I got to the shop next door, it was also labelled 263. And then, sure enough, two doors down was Spandex House. Also number 263. WHAT DEVILRY IS THIS.
I started wondering whether every address in New York would be this difficult to find, and began to think that even though London is grimy and cold at least it has properly numbered buildings.
This shop at the third number 263 was DEFINITELY Spandex House – as confirmed by the many, MANY rolls of spandex.
It was the largest collection of spandex I’d ever seen. EVER. I know, I know, the clue is in the name right – Spandex WORLD – but I’d never really imagined how much spandex that might actually represent.
It was stacked to the ceiling. LITERALLY.
The sheer volume of fabric was overwhelming – I just kind of worked my way along each wall, seeing what took my fancy, because a better method didn’t occur to me. The staff were friendly and helpful, and the guy didn’t complain when I asked for a roll to be got down from the dizzying heights.
One side of the shop was regular prints, and the other side was all things shiny-shiny: foils, glitters and sequins.
I was primarily looking at spandex for Watson bras. The fabric I’ve bought previously has all been from FunkiFabrics in the UK, where it’s about £20 per metre for a standard non-foiled fabric. The printed fabrics at Spandex House were $13 per yard – OK so I realise we’re comparing 100cm (metre) to 91cm (yard), but even so – £20 is a LONG way from $13/£10. I wish we had a shop like this in London.
This place almost (ALMOST) made me want to take up gymnastics or ice skating or something just so that I could use these fabrics on a more regular basis.
Their minimum cut is one yard, and I came away with two prints.
459 Broome Street, New York
Ok so *technically* not a fabric shop (although they did sell fabrics), but I’m a knitter as well as a sewist so I wanted to hit up some yarn shops too.
Purl Soho has been on my list of places to visit ever since I first came to NYC in 2012 – but to date, I hadn’t managed to make it there on either of our previous visits. It’s tucked away at the south end of Manhattan – in Soho, would you believe – well away from the hustle and bustle of Times Square so it’s a bit of a mission to get to it if you’re not already heading that way.
The shop itself isn’t that huge, but it carries a good selection of stuff – yarns, haberdashery, fabrics, and some embroidery/beads/sewing kits. The yarn selection is by far the focus of the store though. What I came here for was to see, in the flesh, Brooklyn Tweed’s ‘Shelter’ yarn. I’ve already made one sweater from it, and want to make more – but my only option is to buy the yarn online (it’s not carried by many U.K. sellers – Loop may be the only one) and I have to kind of take a leap of faith on the colour representation on the screen. Which makes me a smidge uneasy when it’s £13 a hank.
The one thing I really did like about Purl Soho is that there were so many knitted samples around the store – you could see how a yarn knitted up and feel it for itchiness-factor.
They had some Liberty cottons, a small selection of other fabrics (I spied a lot of Nani Iro – not really my style though), some books and haberdashery items.
In the end, they didn’t have enough stock of the two colours of Shelter that I wanted (but at least I got to make my choice seeing the actual colours in front of me), so I came away with a beading loom instead.
As you do.
1020 Pine St, Philadelphia
Yep, another yarn shop.
It’s always around this time of year that I really get my knit on, but I try not to buy *too* much yarn without knowing what I’m gonna do with it. My house can’t take a fabric stash AND a yarn stash.
I found this little shop in a cute, Old-Town-y area of Philadelphia, and it’s run by a lovely lady named Dona and her absolute cutie of a rescue pup Gertie.
They had a really good selection of yarns, and Dona was able to provide help and advice as she is a knitter herself and knits all the samples and garments that are displayed in the store.
A lovely cosy, homely yarn shop (the good ones always are, aren’t they?) that I’m really pleased I found. I spent rather a lot of money in here, on yarn for sweaters for the husbeast and me, plus an ombre yarn cake to make a hat for moi. (Yes, I have a lot of hats already, but winter’s here in London now so it’s ok).
*As a weird side note, my obsession with wooly hats may stem from birth – I remember my Mum telling me that as soon as I was born they put a hat on me. She used to say that’s why I was clever, because they kept my brain warm, but I’m not convinced of the science behind that. I do love a good wooly hat, and would happily have a closet full of different colours and styles. In fact, I may have just discovered my life goal right there – not a shoe closet, but a hat closet ?*
I think I’m worse with buying yarn than I am with fabric, I see it and I just want to buy ALL the colours and make ALL the things. Which of course I do not have time for.
The other shop in Philadelphia – which I didn’t actually make it to – was Loop (popular name for a yarn shop, ain’t it?). My feet were aching, we were tired, and couldn’t really carry any more anyway.
There were also a couple of yarn shops in Washington (which we visited after Philadelphia) but they were quite a way out of the area of the city we were in, and we didn’t have the time to get there. Next time though!
225 W 37th St 3rd Floor, New York
The mothership, amirite? It needs no introduction.
This is *the* fabric store that springs to mind when you think of NYC – probably due to its Project Runway fame – and it’s not unjustified.
The first thing you notice about Mood, is that you can’t see it – it’s not visible at street level. Mood Home is (which – no surprise – sells home decor fabric), and theres a sign in the window telling you that if you’re looking for the apparel fabrics, head into the elevator lobby to the right of the store and go to the 3rd floor. It all feels a little bit weird, as this is something that we JUST DON’T HAVE here in England, but just go with it. I promise you that you will find Mood and the fabrics will be worth it.
You enter on to the middle floor of Mood’s three levels. YES. THREE LEVELS – full of mostly designer fashion fabrics, all arranged by fabric type and usually colour. There’s even a whole section for ‘tie silks’.
If you’re heading into Mood for the first time, I’d recommend just walking around without any real intention of buying – soak it all in, check out all the different sections and make a note of the things you’d like to look at properly. The first time I went in, I came out with just two pieces of fabric and was a little bit disappointed that I didn’t find more. I decided to go back for a second time – because SURELY I wouldn’t come away with just two fabrics – and I found that I was able to concentrate and focus a lot better because I WASN’T SO DAMN EXCITED THAT I WAS IN MOOD FABRICS. The second visit was a lot more productive, and I came away with *ahem* rather a lot.
As well as fabrics, there were more trimmings than you could shake a stick at:
Leathers and furs:
And some shiny-shiny-bling-things that the husbeast made a beeline for as soon as he walked in the door. Honestly, that man is a human magpie – if it’s shiny, he wants.
Usually on purchases in New York, you’d get sales tax of almost 9% added on to the label price at the register, but fabric is tax-free (as it is classed as ‘clothing’) ONLY IF the single piece of fabric (or clothing) is less than $120. The wool coating I picked up for the husbeast was $40 per yard, and I bought three yards – totalling $120 – and therefore was taxed approx $10 on top of this. Had I have bought 2.9 yards for $116, I would not have paid the tax. Buttttt I only thought about it after I’d paid (and long after the fabric had been cut) so y’know, nothin’ much I could do. But bear that in mind though, if you’re buying fabric stateside.
It’s a little hard to see *everything* that’s on a shelf as the rolls are stacked on top of each other, so it takes some time to work your way through the store if like me you’re just browsing.
I missed Swatch on my first trip into Mood, but on the second trip I was blessed with his little doggy presence ?♥️
On our second visit, we started out not with the fabrics, but with the dawg. Swatch is chilled AF just laying there in front of all the fabrics. I thought he might be able to sense I was a dog person and may respond to my ‘I come in peace’ vibes, and sure enough he got up on his little legs to come see me and give me some fuss. Omagaaaaaad he is such a cutie! He soon got tired of me sat himself back down to his standard position though.
There is a MASSIVE selection of pretty much every type of fabric in Mood, including tie silks, plain silks, patterned silks, laces, plain cottons, printed cottons, shirting cottons, jerseys, wool knits, boucle – even a whole section for alpaca.
We moved systematically though the store, picking up more along the way this time. Customer service is excellent and you can leave rolls on the cutting tables rather than carry them round with you, or you can have them cut as you go and start a little pile that will be waiting for you when you’re ready to head to the checkout.
There are restrooms on the middle floor (both men’s and women’s), so if you’re in there for an unexpectedly long time – such as we were – at least you can have a wee.
To illustrate the sheer volume of choice in Mood, let’s take black jersey as an example:
Yep, that’s ALL black jersey.
You won’t be surprised to hear that Mood is where most of my fabric purchases happened, and despite buying some more expensive pieces like wool coating, I found the prices to be quite reasonable. I mean yeah, you could spend a LOT of dollars on fancy lace and whatnot, but the fabrics I bought (silks for shirts, wool coatings, a couple of brocades, oh and some faux fur which I CANNOT WAIT TO SHOW YOU GUYS) were actually ok price-wise. I’d happily make the trip to Mood once every year/couple of years and not buy any fabric in the UK, because nowhere do we have such a shop like this.
If you can’t tell, I LOVES IT.
Take me back. Please.
218 W 38th St, New York
OMG. More buckles, zips, D-rings and buttons than you’ve ever seen in your life. If you make bags, this is THE place to come for your hardware.
Since I’m now only really scratching the surface of bag making (in fact, I’m not even sure you could go so far as to say I’ve ‘scratched the surface’, it may be more accurate to say I’ve lightly and quickly jabbed a finger at it), I wasn’t really sure what to buy. So I didn’t buy anything for bag making. Instead, I came away with some bra strapping and fold over elastic, to partner up with the spandex I got from Spandex House.
LOOK AT ALL THESE COLOURS OF BRA STRAPPING ?
In the shop I go to in London, we have about four colours and they are all the boring colours like black, beige, skin tones and cutesy peach. Eugh.
Some hot pink, PLEASE.
It’s a Material World257 W 39th St, New York
So I’m told this place is forever on the brink of closure – ‘Last Days!’ ‘Everything Must Go!’ etc, but they have a sign in the window recruiting for a sales girl. Eh? Yep. I dunno either.
This store was a bit different to all the ones I’d visited previously – it’s pretty chaotic in there, with rolls leaning against every surface imaginable, and narrow walkways. Something about layouts like this just immediately put me off, but I thought I’d give it a try.
I saw mostly poly fabrics, but there was some dubiously labelled ‘cashmire’ at the back.
And no, I don’t know what’s with the dodgy magazine models either. ?♀️
Kinda regret not buying this, but absolutely no idea what I’d use it for…
I did spot a nice wooly orange fabric for $30 per yard, but seeing as I’d already bought rather a lot of coat fabrics I walked on by.
(In hindsight, it’s just as well, because there would have been no room in the suitcase)
247 W 38th St, New York
I was recommended to go here by the fabulous Marcy of Oonaballona.
It looks quite small from the outside, but the store actually stretches a long way back and there’s quite a volume of fabrics to browse.
It’s a smallish place (in terms of comparison to some of the other shops) but they have a good selection. There were sequins, polys and silks out the front, and cottons, denims and coatings out the back. All very reasonable prices, and the guys that ran the store were really lovely.
I came out of here with three fabrics – I probably could have bought more but I was being held back by my stupidly small suitcase (note to self: BUY BIGGER SUITCASE) – so it was definitely worth the visit. It was from this shop that the husbeast bought his one and only piece of fabric to make something for me – some pink and purple embroidered mesh at $10 per yard.
Around The World Magazine Store
148 W 37th St, New York
Once you can look past the REALLY excessive cigarette adverts in the window, this is actually a great store to get your hands on fashion magazines. I was after a copy of Vogue Knitting – we can’t seem to buy it in the UK – but had as yet failed to find a newsagents that might sell it (it seems newsagents aren’t really a ‘thing’ in New York City). I was told that this was the place to go.
They did indeed stock Vogue Knitting (but only the current issue), and other publications like Burda and Vogue and a HUGE selection of what I would call ‘inspirational’ magazines – basically just collections of fashion photos.
But worth a visit if there’s some international magazines that you want to get your hands on.
208 W 79th St, New York
We were staying on W 58th Street, so the walk to Knitty City up on W 79th Street seemed like a good idea for a chilly morning.
It’s a fabulous shop, so if you’re a knitter visiting NYC I recommend that you get yourself there. A lovely atmosphere, with really friendly and knowledgable staff, and a huge range of quality yarns.
(It was here that we found out that we were travelling home LITERALLY the day before the Rhinebeck yarn festival, which I was gutted about. Next time).
I would have pinned London on their little visitor map, but it already looked pretty busy! ??
This was my favourite of all the yarn shops I visited – one day, when we open our yarn/fabric shop that we dream about, it’s gonna look like this.
There’s a table where you can just chill out and knit (as several people were indeed doing), and one lady who was in town from another state came in with her project in a panic because she had made an error a few rows back and didn’t know how to fix it. The ladies were more than happy to help her out and she was over the moon, bless her.
I spent a good hour in here, browsing the yarns and magazines – I picked up a back issue of Vogue Knitting, but they had many other publications too, and SO MANY BOOKS.
I came away with yarn for two scarves for me, and one for the husbeast. Because winter ❄️ They wound the hanks into balls for me, which was really handy – I’ve no idea whether that’s normal or not, as I usually buy yarn online. We don’t have many knitting shops in London (and other than the yarn section of Liberty and John Lewis – both of which are department stores and not actual yarn stores – the only one I can think of is Loop), so it was really nice to actually go somewhere and browse in real life.
All in all, it was a really enjoyable shopping experience in New York – although it does make London look a bit crap. Which, thinking about it, is probably just as well because I DO NOT NEED TO BUY ANY MORE FABRIC OR YARN FOR AT LEAST THE WHOLE OF 2019. This will be my new year’s resolution – to sew only from my stash (and with my Minerva Crafts Blogger Network Fabrics). Yeah yeah, I know so many of you have probably made this resolution before me, and never stick to it, but unless it’s literally like THE MOST AMAZING FABRIC IN THE WORLD and I would forever regret not buying it and/or shed actual tears over it, then I need to just forget about it.
SERIOUSLY. PUT THE CREDIT CARD DOWN.
For those of you that are itching to see what I bought… do not fear. The day is coming. I’ll admit that all the bags of fabric (and yarn!) just got slung on the bed in the spare room the day I got home and haven’t been touched since (yes, REALLY ?). I need to go through and photograph each piece, not only for the big reveal but also because I’m going to test out a few of these fabric/pattern organisation apps to try and bring some order to the chaos ?
Next week on the Wanderstitch blog… the first post featuring a stateside photoshoot – my SewLiberated Hinterland Dress! Subscribe below to make sure you don’t miss out!??