Oct Travel Recap: New York City

Oh my – between travel and everything else crazy that has gone on this month, I haven’t had time to blog! But there is so much to share, so here’s the first of two recaps of October travel.

I went to New York City for four days earlier in October to fabric shop and visit friends. It was a really good trip, successful in fabric shopping, friends, art, culture and some thought-provoking museum exhibits.

Fabric shopping was on the top of my list, so after arriving on the Vamoose Bus and dropping my luggage at Schwartz Luggage Storage, I ran to the Garment District. Some friends had posted articles about the Garment District fabric stores closing, and although the large ones like Mood and my favorite B&J Fabrics don’t seem to be effected, the small, family-run stores are in danger. I found one store that advertised it was it’s last day, and everything was on clearance. Although I don’t have an immediate need for two-colored sequin fabric or brocades, well, I couldn’t beat the prices, so I purchased 2 yards of each. And a pretty knit for the McCalls 6844 sweater I’ve wanted to make for a while now.

Last day here - the owner (manager?) was very friendly and upbeat, flirted a bit, so I didn't ask about what he does next. I didn't want to remind him...

Last day here – the owner (manager?) was very friendly and upbeat, flirted a bit, so I didn’t ask about what he does next. I didn’t want to remind him…

I did buy some luxury fabrics at B&J Fabrics, to make some nice basics – a blue tencel twill for another Dressy Talk basic blouse, and a stretch gray for a Sew Over It Ultimate Pencil Skirt. Those two pieces will be nice work basics, nothing flashy, but good “uniform” pieces.

The blue is darker than I was looking for but I love the fabric. It's hard to get the color right in these photos!

The blue is darker than I was looking for but I love the fabric. It’s hard to get the color right in these photos!

Meeting up with a friend in Hoboken resulted in a stash of vintage sewing patterns. She has been cleaning out her mother’s and grandmother’s sewing stashes, and has offered me whatever I want. I made two blouses out of Liberty of London fabric she gave me a while ago. The vintage patterns were fun, especially after having attended the National Arts Club FashionSpeak Fridays talk about the collaboration between Jackie Kennedy and designer Oleg Cassini. I’m not a 1960s styles fan but seeing all the photos of Jackie’s outfits was wonderful. So I ended up with a few patterns that I might end up making.

I also went to two Broadway shows, “School of Rock” and “Something Rotten,” and loved both of them. I have friends working on both shows (wardrobe friends, so backstage, not on stage), so it was fun to see what they are up do. school-of-rock something-rottenMy visit to the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum was one of the best things I did all weekend (and I did alot of great things). I went for the Scraps: Fashion, Textiles and Creative Reuse exhibit, but found so much more. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a museum that so thoroughly engaged my intellect as well as my creativity. cooper-hewitt_scrapsThe exhibits focused on the design element in the world around us, such as the history of design of the American police system, but also how design can improve the future, how it tackles social injustice, the affordable housing crisis, and even allowed the public to design solutions for modern social problems.

I found these statistics to be depressing as well as educational and inspiring.

I found these statistics to be depressing as well as educational and inspiring.

But the Cooper Hewitt had a really cool feature that I wish all museums would do – a digital “pen” that allowed each individual guest to “collect” the display items that they like. You match the + on the end of the pen with the + on each item display, and it downloads or links or something. With each payment you are given a unique code, and then you can log onto their website and see the things you liked. So cool! Also, then I didn’t have to take photos of everything and fill up my already overtaxed iPhone storage…

I am always pleased to have such a stimulating trip, full of ideas and concepts and thoughts as well as just simple visuals of where I have been. Between the city itself, Central Park, the new Oculus at Ground Zero, and a stroll down Fifth Avenue, I feel inspired and yearning to create and design. Now, if only I had the time! After returning from this long weekend, The Mechanic and I went away for a bike weekend in the country. Still no time to create! But that was also a lovely weekend – stay tuned for that recap coming up soon.

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The Hunt for Reflective Fabric

Hunting for reflective fabric has turned into a bit of a obsession. It wouldn’t be so, possibly, if it was easier to find, however! So when I see things, I tend to jump immediately, cost be damned! Recent example – Stonemountain and Daughter, a fabric store in Berkeley that I actually haunted while in high school and college, recently shared a photo on Instagram of some reflective trim. I’ve never seen aurora reflective anything before, so I called the store when I got home from work and ordered some! At $8 a yard, I didn’t buy much; I’m sure that once the shimmery package arrives, I will regret that!

Seriously, how could I resist this?!

Seriously, how could I resist this?!

I do get asked where I find reflective fabric, so I thought I’d try to encapsulate all my finds.

Reflective Ribbon

It all started in 2012, with Dritz iron-on reflective grosgrain ribbon, purchased at JoAnn Fabrics. It’s harder to find now, as is the Dritz reflective piping, which is apparently no longer made. Shortly thereafter, I found sew-in reflective ribbon in a notions store in New York City. I think it was Pacific Trimming, on West 38th Street, but I’m not positive.

Reflective Fabric

This is the biggie, the goal of everyone – fabric that is reflective. It’s amazing, and I love having so much made with reflective fabric, but it is difficult to find, expensive when you do, and then not easy to sew with or wear.

Most of it I have purchased at B&J Fabrics, in New York. I found the gold in 2012, went back in 2013 for plum and lavender, and then bought some orange in 2014. I wish I had more of the plum! A B&J employee told me that they used to carry blue reflective fabric – oh how I wish they still did! But at $54 a yards, I know the store wouldn’t special order a roll just so I could buy a few yards. (B&J does have a reflective fabric on their website, for $69.95 a yard, but not with a good photo.)

I also purchased a yard of silver reflective fabric at Britex Fabrics, in San Francisco. That too was about $50 a yard, and a friend who was recently in the store reported that they no longer carry it. Gah! 2014_August_Britex SIlver Reflective

Reflective fabric, top, along with some gray velour I also purchased at Britex

Fellow bicyclist and sewing blogger Oanh at Unique Schmuck hooked me up with some other fabrics. She reached out to the people at King Tech Fabrics and they agreed to sell her some remnants of their super cool reflective fabric. This stuff wasn’t as expensive, it’s much more fun, and far easier to sew, although not ideal. I haven’t checked in to see if they will do that again. In the meantime, I’m getting stingier about what I do with it. No more big pieces, but trims and bias instead. Not as fun, but….

I purchased this reflective camo fabric with the intention of creating miles and miles of bias tape, to substitute for the reflective piping that is hard to find and difficult to sew. It’s also relatively inexpensive at $8.99 a yard, so I bought several yards. I’ve used it in several projects, but it’s not as brilliant as a bias as the other materials. Next up, a coat with this on the cuffs. Maybe that will look better. 2015_August_Reflective CamoOther Reflective Stuff

I’ve purchased but not really used some other stuff, like this fun reflective yarn from LFlect. I don’t knit and I’m sort of at a loss for ideas. but hey, I’ve got it, so when inspiration hits, I’m set! I had some reflective rickrack that I found in JoAnn’s a while back, and used on the hem of a skirt. I received a bundle of reflective trims thanks to Australian sewing blogger Susan at Measure Twice Cut Once. (What is it with awesome Australian bloggers?!??! You guys are forever my heroes and I’m in your debt!!!) And I had some reflective embroidery floss once, for a failed attempt to make tassels.


So as you can see, the hunt for reflective materials is a hodge-podge of luck, location, internet searches, and swell Aussie bloggers. I haven’t exhausted my possibilities, since Dashing Tweed has some gorgeous reflective tweeds, but they are a bit out of my price range for now. Maybe that will be this year’s splurge?

If you know of sources to find reflective fabric, please share! I’ve got a Pinterest board dedicated to reflective stuff, and would love to add more to the collection.

Rainy Day Reflective Hummingbird Blouse

Saturday, June 27th, was not only a rainy Saturday, it became a record-breaking day for rainfall (2.75″, beating the previous 2.59″ record of 1881) and made June 2015 the second wettest June on record since 1871. Just look at the photos and videos at the bottom of the article to see how dramatic it was.

What’s a bicyclist to do when it pours rain? Sew! I was anxious for some sewing instant gratification, so having planned ahead and trekked to JoAnn Fabrics in Seven Corners (on the bus, so I could also buy new fish and not jostle them too much before getting them home), I was prepared with thread, the Butterick pattern I wanted, and my fabric. I set aside the cool blue floral asymmetrical top for a weekend when I have more time, and cranked out Butterick B6214.

Fish on a bus! Three new Platys and a horned snail made it home on the bus

Fish on a bus! Three new Platys and a horned snail made it home on the bus

I thought this pattern was a perfect design to show off the reflective fabric from King Tech Industry I have, as well as give perfect 360* visibility for the reflective design. The fact that it is a pretty easy pattern didn’t hurt. I opted to do French seams again, because they are easy and I like the clean look. Hummingbird 5Probably because I was in a hurry, I spaced and cut out the longer sleeve pattern, rather than the shorter one designed for Version C, the version I chose. It didn’t even occur to me until I had finished the top and was putting the pattern envelope away and looked at it again. D’oh! Thankfully I had cut it out too long, but rather than try to recreate it as designed, I just shortened the sleeves a few inches. It definitely made the top look better; I am still a bit dissatisfied about exactly how boxy it is.

One of the reasons why I liked this pattern is because of the dropped hem in the back. It’s subtle, but it’s there. Just a nice touch for biking – the subtle drop will be just enough while I’m on my bike, since my position isn’t too aggressively forward. Hummingbird 7I am pretty much in love with the fabric. The lavender and teal hummingbird print is the cotton lawn I purchased at B&J Fabrics when I was in New York last month. I had been hunting for something to coordinate with the teal reflective fabric and almost missed this. I’ve never worked with cotton lawn before and I might be a convert. It’s so lovely, soft, fine, presses up well….. The reflective fabric, unlike the others I have, is very rubbery on the back, so for the first time, I tried the tissue trick – I used a bit of the pattern tissue scraps to put between the fabric and the feed dogs, plus used my new Teflon foot. It worked amazingly well! After all the projects I’ve struggled through… Hummingbird 6The reflective fabric doesn’t press well and doesn’t drape well, so it’s not really an ideal fabric for this drapey boxy top. I’m sure it won’t breathe either. But it doesn’t matter! It’s my favorite color and it’s REFLECTIVE!

Hummingbird 10Hummingbird 8The only thing that I don’t love about this top is that it is *so* huge. I’m still debating on whether or not to try to take it in at all on the sides. Normally I prefer to wear clothes that fit my torso a bit closer, so I’m not 100% sold on this shape. (I didn’t use a bunch of photos here because they made me look pregnant, which I definitely am not; that’s never a good look if you aren’t actually pregnant.) But I’m going to try it out and see what I think – and what my friends at work think. I need their fashion advice sometimes, too.

I mean, that's a lot of fabric until you get to my waist....

I mean, that’s a lot of fabric until you get to my waist…. (Also, note the Levi’s Commuter Jeans and purple Dansko heels)

I will need to test out a few different skirts and pants to figure out the best way to wear this blouse to work, but I think the fabric (both print and texture) and fun reflective fabric will win out over the fit. It’s just so pretty! Hummingbird 9

New York Moments

My quick trip to New York last weekend was full of the kind of New York moments I haven’t really had in the other times I’ve been back since I moved to the DC region, and they made me miss the city for the first time.

The first moment was when my friend Kim and I found ourselves madly clothes shopping for an event that night. We had known we were going to the Ukrainian fashion event at the National Arts Club that night, but hadn’t realized there would be a dress code! After looking it up to make sure, we ran through several stores, including two different H&Ms, then changed in a Starbucks bathroom. A total New York moment – it’s not the first time I’ve done that!

Watching the fashion shows from the front was a treat for both of us, having dressed models during countless Fashion Weeks. Admiring the designs as they came down the runway was just as much fun as observing the audience. The first collection was by Ukrainian Oksana Karavanska, considered the “go to designer,” according to the program. Every look had a nod or two of native Ukrainian design, but all in quite modern ways. I was too enchanted to take better photos.

Another New York moment was the kind you see on TV shows – I had lunch with some friends, one of whom brought her baby. So there we were, martini glasses in front of us, when the baby woke up and needed to be played with. I promise, we did not let the baby get near our martinis!

In my Cleverhood at a New Jersey Transit light rail station

In my Cleverhood at a New Jersey Transit light rail station

Naturally I ran to B&J Fabrics, where I buy the reflective fabric. They didn’t have much left, just a Peep-yellow and an orange that is somewhat of a Creamsicle orange. I bought a yard of that, although I have no idea what I’ll do with it. Probably bias tape, to put in some future project, since I can’t see me wearing something made out of orange. I did find out that a lovely blue reflective material exists but is not in the shop, so I need to find out if they would be willing and able to order a bolt. Since I can only afford to buy two yards max, I’m not sure it would be worth it to B&J to do so. But I’ll find out! I also bought some trim from a few trim shops, for the wedding. That’s such a New York thing, digging through fabric stores. IMG_8781

I ran up one side of Fifth Avenue and then down the other, stopping in Joe Fresh, shopping in Uniqlo, treating Kim and The Mechanic and I to Teuscher Chocolates champagne truffles, and buying custom print American Girl Doll t-shirts for my niece-to-be. Even though I suppose I am now a tourist, I felt like a native, scorning the tourists who patiently waited for the crosswalk signs to change. New York moment – crossing on a red light in front of a cab. “I’m walkin’ here!”

I was surprised to notice that although Citibike is a new thing for NYC, it felt so much like a part of the landscape that I hardly blinked whenever I ran across a station. Maybe because I’m so used to seeing the red bikes everywhere around here? Their stations are much larger than ours, and of course the blue bikes blend into the scenery a bit more, but they didn’t seem odd or unusual. Although I didn’t get to ride one, many people were, and I hope that they soon become New York moments for everyone else.

When I lived in New  York, the New York moments were too many, too close together, and I couldn’t wait to get away and find some peace and quiet. I love my tree-lined street and my two-story garden style apartment, and being able to bike through Arlington with relatively few obstacles. So now that I’m settled, I’m ready to return for more New York moments – I think I need more of that grittiness than I realized.

Fabric and Fashion in NYC

Running up to New York last weekend wasn’t just to go fabric shopping, but that was my number two priority for the trip (number one was to see friends). And yet… I spent most of my free time in the fabric stores!

New York's Garment District

New York’s Garment District

My first stop, however, was Manhattan Wardrobe Supply. After ten years of living in Manhattan, seven years of which were spent working on Broadway as a member of the wardrobe union, I had never been to the store. It was heaven! (That is, if your idea of heaven is shoe stretchers, shoe dye, hangers, sewing notions, organizers, steamers, and more. Frankly, my fantasy is a wardrobe/sewing/laundry room full of this stuff.) But then I made a bee-line for B&J Fabrics. This is where I purchased my gold reflective fabric, and I was hoping to find the silver. But I found something even better!

Reflective fabric at B&J

Reflective fabric at B&J

I bought a half yard of the purple and lavender each, but it was a hard call. NYC 072Now, before you say, “But that’s not very reflective,” let me show you what it does under a flash: NYC 071

I think it will reflect just fine! I have a few ideas of what to do with these, but a half-yard isn’t much (18″ by approx. 44″). But it’s $42.95 a yard, so…

Then I hit a few other places, hunting for the perfect gray and black fabrics to make my tux pants, but I couldn’t find anything I liked. I found a print corduroy that I loved, so I asked for a swatch, then asked my friend David Zyla for his opinion when I met him for lunch.

Print corduroy from Elegant Fabrics

Print corduroy from Elegant Fabrics

David is the author of The Color of Style, and is a brilliant costume designer and stylist. I worked with him on many projects, back in the day. So I was very happy to rush back and buy the fabric after he approved it. I think they will make great fashion pants – with reflective piping of course!

The print, with a solid gray for the tux stripe

The print, with a solid gray for the tux stripe

I also went to TrimArt to buy more reflective grosgrain. I tried to get colors I could use for more peplum tops or yoga mat bags, so red, navy, and a nice pink.NYC 068NYC 067

Pleased with my purchases (and feeling a bit poor), I ran through some of my favorite NYC stores – Joe Fresh, Uniqlo, Lord & Taylor, Ted Baker, Macy’s, Fish’s Eddy, Cole Haan (almost bought a reflective belt but decided to wait), and Old Navy just because it was there. I found a ton of great things at Joe Fresh and Uniqlo, but because I’d already spent my budget on fabric, those shopping sprees will have to wait for another time. I saw, but did not go into, a store with a fun window display –

Aritzia - "Stop Blending In"

Aritzia – “Stop Blending In” (perfect tagline for me!)

Aritzia chameleon from the window display - cute!

Aritzia chameleon from the window display – cute!

I also made sure I had time to visit the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Museum, to see their two exhibits.

FIT Museum

FIT Museum

The Fashion and Technology exhibit was interesting because it started off with historical technological advances, including the sewing machine, and ended with digital fabrics. The Shoe exhibit was fantastic! Such crazy shoes, some never meant for walking. Sadly, photos weren’t allowed in either exhibit, but they have pictures on Flickr.

Naturally, while I was running between 27th street and 53rd street, I stopped to take pictures of the bicycle infrastructure that is new since I lived there and last visited. Eighth Avenue now has a cycle track, which was full of cyclists, plus there are circular bike racks everywhere, and a great bike stand on 23rd street.

There are floating parking spaces on the outside of these lanes, almost in the Copenhagen style

There are floating parking spaces on the outside of these lanes, almost in the Copenhagen style

Covered bicycle parking, complete with a bike map posted!

Covered bicycle parking, complete with a bike map posted!

And I have to give a shout out to Zen Bikes, in Chelsea. Marco Quezada chatted with me for a bit about biking in NYC, and biking in general, before I had to run. He had a lovely selection of townie bikes, including the beautiful Viva bikes.

In front of Zen Bikes.

In front of Zen Bikes. Check out the size of that bike! I’m 5’10”, so…

Viva bicycles inside Zen Bikes.

Viva bicycles inside Zen Bikes.

It was a whirlwind trip, but quite satisfying. I’m already planning the next one. It’s so close and cheap to get there, so I really have no reason to not go more often. But for now, I have sewing to do!

A bike rack in front of one of my favorite fabric shops - how perfect!

A bike rack in front of one of my favorite fabric shops – how perfect!