In-the-Know & Places to Go!
I'll share here some of my favorite resources for art, sewing, and crafting. Where to buy fabric and art supplies in New York City and online, some of my favorite books, and websites I love!
Fabric, Fabric, Fabric!
New York City Fabric Shopping
There are what seems like infinite places to buy fabric in the city. Sometimes the mere selection can be staggering to the point of overwhelm. Some stores are geared toward designers buying wholesale, others are retail-friendly; many carry only fabric; a few offer one-stop shopping with notions and supplies. Here are some that I like.
Save-a-Thon - the bargain spot
I go to the Fordham Road location, but there are others in East Harlem and Brooklyn. A couple times a year they have a warehouse sale. Save-a-Thon might not look like much from the outside, or even upon first entering. But good deals abound if you know what you're doing. They have two main categories of fabric: 1) Fabric that is fairly cheap but priced right, and 2) Fabric that ought to be expensive and is priced cheap! Obviously, I like going there for the latter. I've gotten great deals here - nice printed 100% cotton for $2-$4 a yard, floral drapery fabric for $2 a yard (!), medium weight wool blend coating for $7 a yard (!!!). It's true they also carry things like synthetic stretch satin for $6 a yard, which really shouldn't cost more than that anyway, and I don't bother buying. If you learn to recognize fabric by feel, you can get extraordinary deals. I found some dupioni there that I was told was polyester, but my fingers told me was silk . . . at $2 a yard it wasn't much of a risk. But a burn test revealed that it was, in fact, silk, making it an absolutely extraordinary deal! Sometimes they also have random deals, such as the 10 yard rolls of vintage rayon velvet ribbon I got for a mere 99 cents. Even polyester ribbon costs several dollars per YARD. Unbelievable.
In addition to fabric, they have a variety of yarn (mostly synthetic, but occasionally there are surprises), craft supplies, and a decent selection of sewing notions - thread, zippers, interfacing, upholstery trim, buttons, scissors, machine needles, etc.
Other locations are in Brooklyn and Queens.
P&S Fabrics - one-stop shopping
A lovely family owned store that has everything, and at great prices. A lot of fabric stores in the city only carry fabric, and possibly a bit of thread and a few zippers. P&S has a full selection of notions, from basic to special need notions. They have several brands of thread, all sorts of basics like zippers in many colors, elastics, chalk pencils, sewing aids, buttons, ribbons and trim, beads, all kinds of interfacing, and even hard to find supplies like buckram. They have a good selection of sewing patterns at good prices.
In terms of fabric, they have a huge selection for both apparel and home decorating, all at fair prices. There is quite a bit of inexpensive synthetic fabric, but they also have a lot of higher quality cotton, wool, linen, and silk fabrics, at very fair prices. They also have foam and pillow forms downstairs with the home dec fabrics. I have bought beautiful bright blue wool crepe, gorgeous strawberry silk georgette, cotton jersey, and many other beautiful finds here.
They have a large knitting section with everything from acrylic basics to silk, cotton, and wool yarns. I have bought beautiful multicolor flecked brown chunky weight wool here, as well as merino worsted weight in several colors, and coral pink bamboo silk blend yarn. They also have knitting needles and crochet hooks.
They are closed on Saturdays and the hours vary a little depending on time of year, but they are open into the early evening on select days. Way downtown, but it's close enough to Chinatown for a soup dumpling run!
Mood Fabrics - yes, it really is legendary
Mood is a legendary experience. Prepare to spend money, because even though the fabric is fairly priced, it is not discount and it's all high quality - but moreover, because there is so much you didn't know you wanted that you will have to practice extreme restraint to walk out without buying a number of beautiful things. That said, it's worth it. There are much more expensive fabric stores in the city. The quality of the fabric here is very consistent and you can find things here that you don't find other places. And there are good deals for specific things, even if it's not "discount". They have a huge selection of high quality cotton in every color and print imaginable, typically around $10-$14 a yard for basic voile, sateen, or jersey. You can get silk habotai for lining or sheer blouses for $10 a yard (a very fair price). They have leather, wool jersey, high quality faux fur, and everything else you could imagine. THREE FLOORS of it. Yes. Believe it. And there really is a cute little dog running around named Swatch. The sales staff is very helpful and knowledgeable. Many have gone to fashion school and can help you pick the best fabric - just go when it's not a prime day, because they will be backed up with the enormous crowds that now frequent Mood ever since Project Runway became a hit. It's a mixed blessing: I used to go to Mood back when it was a well known spot for designers and dedicated sewers, but before Project Runway brought it national attention. It has changed a lot - it's much more stressful now in terms of crowds and the lines on Saturday afternoon can get crazy. However, they now stock many sewing basics they didn't used to before, such as a large selection of notions and tools.
Their trim and button section is truly outstanding, including items that are hard to find, like stretch lingerie elastic and all kinds of buckles.
Things I've bought here over the many years I've visited the store: silk-cotton blend apricot colored voile, yellow satin Italian rainwear, aqua blue cashmere and wool coating, floral print wool and mohair jersey, cotton floral print sateen that looks like an impressionist painting, multicolored silk and cotton floral lace,
Yes, they do offer free sewing classes (sort of - with purchase of a supply bag). Why would I tell you that? Well, to each his own. The classes there are very different than mine. While I have not taken them, I've researched them and seen them in action from a distance when fabric shopping. It's just a different experirence. It's a large classroom with an instructor on microphone and a number of assistants walking around. My understanding is that everyone does the same project, step by step. There isn't a lot of choice involved, but I am certain they hire quality instructors, since everyone who works at Mood really knows what they are doing. Some people will prefer their classes, and some people want a more personal and social experience, with more personal attention and choice of projects, supplies included, a small group for social interaction, and tea! So since my classes are very different from what Mood offers, I don't hesitate to tell you about theirs. And I will certainly continue to send clients to Mood for their unparalleled fabric selection.
To get to Mood, go in the lobby and wait for the elevator. It's an old fashioned elevator with an operator. At least several other people will be going to Mood on the 3rd floor, too, so you'll find it, or just tell the operator you'd like to go to Mood.
38th Street & Elsewhere in the Garment District - buckle your seatbelts!
After visiting Mood, exit the other side of the lobby on 38th Street to visit other beautiful shops in the area, including a host of trim shops, where you'll find all kinds of faux flowers, ribbons, rhinestones, feathers, fascinator bases, and just about anything you could imagine. 38th Street is also great for a number of notions stores that sells zippers in odd sizes and specialty parts like handbag closures. A lot of these stores are closed on Saturday and Sunday, so if you can do your Garment District shopping on a weekday before 5 you'll find the most things open.
Don't forget the other fabric shops in the area. Even though you've just seen every fabric known to mankind at Mood, you'd be surprised what hidden beauties are in some of the smaller shops, and often at better prices. I got three beautiful cotton jersey prints at Fabrics World USA for $5 a yard, and put on my wish list some beautiful rose gold stretch sequin fabric.
Some of my favorites:
Sil Thread, 257 W 38th St, Hours & Map
Daytona Trimming, 251 W 39th St, Hours & Map
Pacific Trimming, 218 W 38th St, website
Fabrics World USA, 256 W 38th St, website
M&J Trimming, 1008 Avenue of the Americas, website
Also, check out these other links with a pretty thorough breakdown of *some* of the MANY stores in the Garment District. There are just way too many to review, which is why there is no one list of stores. Wander away.
Not in NYC, but not too far if you have a car. Read my review down in the online section.
Online Fabric Shopping
Fashion Fabrics Club
This is one of my favorite fabric websites. They have a wide selection at great prices. As much as I love Mood, I have found the exact fabric from Mood that was $12 a yard (dotted Swiss floral cotton) online at FFC for a mere $4.95. Of course, if I were intentionally looking for it, I'd be out of luck. I just happened to see the fabric I had bought online at Mood. Does that mean Mood is overpriced? No. Mood's prices are fair. The cotton is definitely worth $12 a yard. Fashion Fabrics Club just has good quality, well-priced fabric. Their search engine is great, which is a good thing, since the selection is pretty exhaustive. Unlike Mood, they don't really have everything - a lot of their stock is seasonal and sporadic. Also, some prices have gone up. Formerly, for example, they did not regularly stock silk habotai, one of my favorite lining fabrics. When it was in stock, it was usually a great bargain at $7 a yard. Now, fortunately/unfortunately, they always have it - but it's a steady $12.95 for 45" wide fabric. Mood has the same prices online, but in store they have 45" habotai for only $7 per yard, and 60" habotai for $10. Great bargain. Nonetheless, for most fabrics, Fashion Fabrics Club has incredible deals. They also have great sales, and they cut as little as 1/8 of a yard, so if you aren't sure about a fabric, you can test it out. Word to the wise, those 1/8 of a yard cuts are the perfect size to fold in half and make a lovely little sash or hairband. Great source of cotton print jersey, wool flannel, cotton sateen, poplin, voile, and many more basics. You will likely browse through many pages of options regardless of search criteria, so be prepared to spend a bit of time browsing.
I love Fabric.com. They have all kinds of beautiful things, but I particularly like that I can find very particular quilting fabric here. I like quilting cotton for a variety of home projects, such as napkins and kitchen curtains. I wanted citrus fruit print fabric to match my kitchen, stenciled with lemons and oranges. Did I find it? Not only did I find it, I found it accented with a bright blue that nearly matched my trim. Then I decided I wanted an apron to match. Sadly, they no longer carried the fabric, and for a few months I could not find any decent citrus print fabric anywhere. Then, once again they citrus print fabric in stock - a different print this time, but still beautiful, with lemons and oranges mixed with blue and green. I found some cute orange pindot fabric to accent it with, too. They also carry a great selection of drapery and upholstery fabric, like the adorable bird and rose print fabric for my couch throw pillows. Their apparel fabric selection is good, though not quite as extensive or easy to navigate. But sometimes I find great choices, like a gorgeous silk and cotton poplin for $16 per yard.
I like Joann's website pretty well. It isn't all that searchable, but they do have a huge selection of fabric and craft supplies. They are great for quilting fabric and basic fabrics. They don't have a lot of high quality apparel fabrics - they tend to have a large selection of polyester silky dress fabrics, poly blend suiting, and fleece. They do carry wool and cotton, although typically their prices for wool, cotton, linen, and other natural fabrics are fairly high, unless they are on sale ($16 per yard being pretty average - wait until they're 40% off). Still, I have found some great stuff here. I prefer to shop in person rather than online, and they have amazing sales, especially if you sign up for coupons by email. If you have a car, there is a location in Scarsdale, just a 20 minute drive north of Inwood. They have an extensive selection of notions and supplies, and you can get great deals when they're on sale. I managed to stock up on sewing scissors for my classes when they had a 50% off all cutting tools event. Quilting fabric frequently goes on sale, and they have a huge selection of beautiful prints. While I don't come here normally for apparel fabric, they do sometimes have beautiful finds. I got some clearance cotton metallic gauze here in electric blue for an absurdly good price, and some pretty cotton floral stretch denim also on clearance. There happened to be an added 50% off all red-tag clearance fabrics going on the weekend I visited, so I got both of these for a steal, along with some pretty rayon knit. Word to the wise - check out their monthly sales flyer online. They offer amazing discounts on patterns here and there.
NYC & Online
I love Utrecht. They have a beautiful selection of art supplies, many brands, and knowledgeable staff. They have a student discount card, and several locations in the city. They also have a great website, with fantastic online prices. They carry both student grade and high end art supplies, so there is something for every budget. I go to the 23rd St. location or shop online. Store prices are not usually the same as online, and the selection is more limited, but you get help from their friendly staff to find just what you want. They helped me pick out a good set of professional quality watercolor paints.
Of course, everyone knows Michael's. But that's because it's a great store. Yes, it's a huge chain, but it's a good places to get bargain loot. Although they aren't my first choice for fine art supply shopping, they do have a good selection, and when they have sales you can get good deals. Sign up for email coupons and use a 50% off one item coupon for a tin of Prismacolor artist grade pencils. While you're rating for the moment to buy that, you can practice with the inexpensive brands like Artist's Loft, which are not bad for student grade supplies (don't expect them to live up to artist quality materials in most cases, but they're fine for learning) and come cheap.
Michael's has a great selection of all kinds of craft supplies. While I have to find some specialty items online or elsewhere, if it's a basic item, they've probably got it. Polymer clay in a good array of colors, yarn (albeit mostly acrylic, though they do have a little wool), seasonal crafts, all kinds of beads (which frequently go on fantastic sales) and jewelry supplies, baking supplies, and kids crafts. They have extended hours and two locations in the city - I prefer the location at Columbus Avenue uptown, since the Chelsea location feels kind of like a rat maze, and I wound up going in circles. You'll always walk out with more than you planned to, unless you are extremely diligent at budgeting and not wasting time.
Pearl Paint - R.I.P.
Sadly, the glorious Pearl Paint and its five floors of beautiful art supplies on Canal Street is now closed. :-(
"The Bead District"
No, I don't think anyone else calls it that. But if your'e heading to the Garment District, you may as well venture a block or so to the East, where you will find all kinds of bead shops.
Wander all around the area from 35th to 40th St, from 8th Avenue to 6th. There's also a little "bead district" for jewelry makers on 6th avenue between 37th and 40th St, and also on surrounding streets. I like NY Beads, Toho Shoji, and Fun2Bead, although every time I go down there they have something new. There is a good mix of semiprecious stone beads and glass, wood, and other materials. I especially like it for the unusual selection of findings, a lot of which are available by the piece, so you don't have to buy a huge bag, though they have quantity discounts, so if you do want fifty pieces of something, you'll get a better price. Need copper earwires and spacers? Sterling silver clasps? Get them here, along with lovely lucite flower beads, rhinestones, good pliers, and much more.
NY Beads doesn't have a website, but it is on the same block as Fun2Bead, and others are in the area.
Michael's has a great selection of beads and findings, though their finding selection is mostly limited gold tone and silver tone alloy metals. They do have cute little mixed finding bags though in a nice array of colors and a variety of chains. But the beads are pretty awesome, especially on sale, and they have a wide variety to choose from. I like that they're grouped by color. They have both real and faux stones, glass, wood, ceramic, metal, and seed beads to choose from, and a good selection of pliers and other supplies.