Let me define that for you.
Textophobia: The fear of certain fabrics.
This phobia describes people who fear the tactile feeling of fabrics like wool, corduroy, or cotton. While I don’t have this particular phobia, I do have a ridiculous, yet legitimate fear of shopping for fabric in NYC.
That seems so strange, right? Everyone loves to come to NYC to shop, and everyone who knows me knows that I love shopping…so why the dread with regard to fabric?
I could try to blame it on the frequent shopping trips my brother and I took to the local fabric store with my Mom when we were little. My brother found this hilarious episode of Fosters Home for Imaginary Friends that speaks to the experience. It’s a long clip, but if you’ve ever been a bored child in a fabric store you’ll probably enjoy it. (The fabric store starts around 3:33).
We shared it with Mom and she was pretty upset that we ever felt so tortured by the fabric store. Sorry Mom!
It’s funny how times change. I don’t mind going with her at all anymore, and I’d honestly be thrilled to find a “normal” fabric store here in NYC.
New York City just has to do everything bigger and better. When it comes to fabric stores, I’m sure they are bigger…but are they really better?
The garment district is a series of streets (with no official boundary – but vaguely 34th-40th St) between 6th and 9th avenue. That’s a big (and intimidating) area to cover! Google maps has its own opinion on the boundaries:
This map highlights 5th Avenue to 9th Avenue and additionally includes 40-42nd Street between 8th and 9th Avenue.
The fabric stores that line the streets are pretty unassuming (you can easily miss them if you aren’t looking closely) and it’s extremely difficult to determine whether the store is worth your time without heading into the chaos.
Most people only realize that they have entered the garment district because they notice the obnoxious patterns and sequins that line the windows of the Spandex stores.
These stores are simply not the place I’m going find the perfect home decorator fabric for my next sewing project…though they are a fabulous source for Halloween costumes.
You’ve probably heard of Mood (of Project Runway Fame), but it took Mom and I years to discover where this store was hiding. I’ll save you the trouble and tell you that it’s on the 3rd floor of 225 West 37th Street (you can also enter the lobby from 36th St, just for added confusion/convenience).
Mood isn’t a terrible resource for fabric in the city, but it certainly isn’t a bargain hunter’s paradise. It is one of the few stores that offers one stop shopping. It carries fabric (well-organized by type), buttons, trim, thread, and any other sewing needs you might have.
But, if you want the real NYC experience, you should check out the many “trim” stores that only carry ribbon, buttons, bias tape, etc. They are an adventure all of their own. I highly recommend checking out M&J Trim if you ever have a chance (it’s right by Macy’s).
Sorry, I got lost in my day dreams of ribbon and rhinestones. Back to my fear of NYC fabric shopping!
In the suburbs fabric stores look like this:
Look how clean and neat! All organized by color and fabric type! Just lovely.
This is what you walk into in the Garment District stores of NYC:
It’s really like this!! Doesn’t that lady look totally overwhelmed. I feel for her!
This store looks suspiciously well stacked. It’s always a risky endeavor to attempt to lift a roll to see what’s hiding underneath for fear of death by fabric avalanche.
This photo is back at Mood, where thankfully things are categorized (see signage above), but a customer must demonstrate endurance and bravery as they attempt the treasure hunt for the ideal fabric they seek.
I might sound a bit dramatic, but these photos are seriously stressing me out!
So what was I going to do about it? I have a sewing machine taking up valuable storage in my apartment after all! I needed to acquire a fabric stash!
I was going to avoid these stores at all costs…if without motherly companionship.
- Shop for Fabric Online
- HobbyLobby.com is a favorite resource of mine, and although I rarely purchase without an in-person go ahead from my Mom, they dare me not to by offering a 40% off coupon for one item everyday. That makes the bargain shopper in me very happy.
- Shop for Fabric in Alternate Forms
- TJ Maxx: I look for cute graphic patterns on tablecloths, napkins or runners.
- Bed Bath and Beyond: I found some discounted quilted placemats here that really spoke to me. (I’ll show you what I did with them later).
- Target: Sheets, shower curtains, anything with good yardage (always the sale stuff).
- Shop for Fabric on Vacation
- I always beg a trip to the fabric store (as if Mom wasn’t already going) whenever I am outside of New York. It feels like cheating…but I usually find exactly what I’m looking for, without all the stress or mess of NYC.
If after reading my cautionary tales, you STILL feel the need to attempt fabric shopping in the Big Apple here are my recommendations:
- Do Your Research
- Lots of bloggers have posted their experiences and favorite fabric store locales.
- Know the type of fabric you need for your project and ask questions to make sure that is what you are buying.
- Don’t go in without a plan. You will feel overwhelmed, and the chances of failure increase greatly.
- Don’t be Afraid to Negotiate
- Most stores (with the exception of Mood) do not label fabrics with pricing, and depending on your yardage (and how desperate they are to make a sale) you might be able to get a deal!
- You never know unless you ask.
- As always, read the situation and use your best judgement.
- I always find asking nicely goes a long way. :)
- Snacks are Vital
- While coffee is probably not appreciated with fabric all around, be sure to take a snack break for angry moments of low blood sugar and overly fluorescent/stuffy warehouse headaches.
- There are a number of bars in the district with catchy sewing names (Houndstooth Pub) (Stitch). Buzzed fabric shopping could be the way to go…though I haven’t personally tried that yet.
- Track your Shopping and your Purchases
- There’s nothing worse than deciding on your favorite fabric, and not being able to recall where you saw it. Take notes and pictures to help you re-locate your options. Those places look frighteningly similar after only a couple stops.
- Ask for swatches! How will you be able to compare with other fabrics you find if you don’t have a swatch handy?
- Even after you make your purchase, you might end up needing more fabric. Don’t lose your fabric in the Garment District Sea forever – write down the name and location of the store and save your receipt so you know what you paid the first time.
I’ve yet to discover that magical land of cute graphic fabrics (that aren’t special order for designers only) in NYC. If anyone has any ideas or tips I’d be glad to hear them, and happy to adventure out with you to treasure hunt (snacks and coffee in hand, of course!).
Check back tomorrow for an unbelievably easy sewing DIY with one of my random fabric resources!