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NYC fabric shopping

Suki | Posted in The Archives on

I have just joined the group. I came to the site to see if I could access the article that Threads ran back in Feb/Mar 2001 : A Sewer’s Guide to New York City. I know I have the issue with the article, but have recently moved & cannot put my hand on it right now. I was hoping I could copy the article from the site. No luck with that , so I will need to get myself organized….

 Any  specific suggestions/ recommendations about NYC fabric stores  you think are worth the visit?

Thanks for any input.




  1. becksnyc | | #1


    Please email me direct re: NYC shopping article @ [email protected].  Remove the "remove this".

    I have been shopping NYC fabric district for about 15 years now and may have some additional favorites, which I am happy to share with all.


  2. carolfresia | | #2

    Hi, Suki,

    The NYC shopping guide is not yet up on the website, but we're hoping to post it in the not-too-distant future (by the end of the year, which is just around the corner for us, but probably too late for you!). We're in the process of updating some of the information, since several of the businesses have closed or moved, and many now have web addresses that we'd like to share with our readers as well.


    1. sarahkayla | | #3

      here is a quick tour - Go to 40th street and 7th avenue -( you can take the subway there - the 1, 2 or 3 just get out at the southern most exit - start walking west towards 8th avenue - there are several stores lining both sides of the street - nearly all of them are open to the public - when you get to 8th avenue start wal;king south and then walt along 39th street where tghere are motre fabric stores as well as daytona trimming and steinlauf and stoller for notions and trim.  there are stores on both the north and south sides of the street. keep wandering back and forth - do the same on 38th and 37th street - if people on the avenue hand you flyers about sample sales - go to the sample sales.. you should not miss SSS sample sale on 36th street between 7th and 8th. They get wonderful stuff.

      by the time you are on 38th street you will be tired and hungry. If you want to go fancy you can eat at Ben's best which is kosher traditional deli with huge portions. if you are in a more adventerous mood.. while you are walking along the north side of the street ...keep looking at the loading docks - one of them hides a glatt kosher schwarma place - the food tastes like it comes fresh from jerusalem - schwarma is grilled meat you eat with salads and hot toppings in a pita bread. the owner also has some hebrew cookbooks on the shelf that you can peruse whoile you eat -

      if you go east to 6th avenue you can do trimmings walk north from 36th street - at 38th go east again - welcome to millenery land - be sure to visit manny's. Paul's is fancier but they have not been particularly nice to me. the folks at manny's seem to always be in the middle of a party. i love them. this is pribably enough visual stimulation for one day.

      the next day you can visit the museum at fit,you may want to walk west to their bookstore  and visit the bookstore on the block which has lots of pattern making supplies and some interesting fashion books.  visit the dusty old fabric store across the street from the fit museum on 7th avenue and then walk south to 23rd street and walk east to lp thur which is a total and complete grab bag . there are some vintage clothing stores on the block that are worth a visit.

      if you need to be pampered after than- you can visit my cousin's store on `19th near8th. it is called arcadia and he carries all sorts of lotions to heal your sore feet. next door is a very sweet vaggie restaurant  where you can have a restful snack. Beckensteins interior fabrivc store is further east on 6th avenue - they have wonderful stuff - i don't know their address off hand but I think it is on 22nd towards 6th avenue.  you should also visit the cake decorating store on 22nd street. it is just not to be missed.

      for the following day you could do the upper east side consignment stores and combine that with a trip to the fashion institute at the met -  Imost of the consignment stores are on either madison or lex between 84th and 76th streets. most of them are on the second floor. my favorites are encore and bis both on madson near 84th street.

      if you are into vintage clothing you may also want to go to off broadway on 72nd between broadway and columbus - they have fabulous stuff. if you are a larger sized woman .. with a large wallet.. they now have some amazing (mostly unworn ) art to wear clothing - they have Koos couture stuff along with almost idescribeably beautiful hand painted suedeand leather  dresses - it is some of the most beautiful clothing I have ever seen in my life - you will be paying several hundred dollars for clothing that cost in the thousands - many of the items still have price tags of 2 and three thousand...

      I don't knwo the lower east side well enough to be help ful .. you will need to find a different source for that font of knowledge...

      sarah in nyc

      1. becksnyc | | #5

        Awesome run-down, Sarah.  You covered most every highlight related to sewers in the Fabric District and beyond!

        A few other sage words of advice.  40th St. is the most expensive, and it gets cheaper as you go downtown, although the Parron discount on 40th near 7th has all stock at 50% off or below their full price (drool) shop just up the street.  All the shops in the district are worth a quick looksee, but some are downright junky.  Pass 'em unless you like to dig and have a week to waste.  TEST the FABRIC for strength, smell it for moldy smell, have them burn a swatch for content.  You cannot believe the whoppers some of the sellers have told me over the years.  Passing off Polish wool as Italian, and one fiber for another, etc.  Use your eyes and fingers and if in doubt, pass.  Unless you have money to burn and time to waste.  You will find, in some stores, total trash mixed in with 100% quality wools.  You just never know what you'll find.

        Besides 40th and a few on 39th, most of the shop owners/salespersons will bargain.  In fact, foreign born shop owners are almost insulted if you don't.  Just make a fair offer a little lower than the general price for the fabric in the area and the fun begins! Since NYC fabric district has been in a bit of a slump the past several years, many businesses have changed hands and just passed on their already old inventory to the newcomers.  On the upside, they want to sell and will discount if you ask.  Got a $40 awesome Italian coating (really Italian this time) for $15 a yard from a desperate store owner.  Last year got wool suitings and crepe for $6 a yard.  They will also give you extra yardage to finish a bolt or to cover flaws you have find.  Look carefully at all sides of your fabric before you cut, good advice anywhere, but especially here, as alot of seconds end up in the less expensive shops.

        Theres a notions shop near the corner of 39th and 8th on the uptown side--can never remember the name.  Cash only business and really cramped store, but the Romanian owners are diamonds in the rough.  If you don't see it, ask.  Don't expect less than the usual NYC charm and graciousness (tongue in cheek).  Great prices on basic linings, shoulder pads, zips, and a good selection of trims, less costly than Daytona (which is the MOTHER of all trimming stores).

        Bathrooms are a pain to find in NYC, but especially in the Fabric District.  If you look really desperate, sometimes Parron will let you in their fairly clean "employees only" bathroom.  Otherwise McDonalds--where is it?  or Macy's on 34th (always a huge line), but beats a puddle.

        Don't try to find new patterns for less than full price and no comfortable place to look through books that I've found--stand up and fight for space with all the others over the very few pattern books.  Take a day trip to the 'burbs and/or wait for JoAnns 75% off sale, like me.  :-)  Discontinued patterns abound, though.

        A NYC fabric shopping trip is worth the time and money, no place like it in the world, as long as you remember, "Buyer Beware".  Oh, and the District carries mostly fashion fabrics, not alot of decorator or quilting cottons, although there are a few shops.  Decorator fabrics are found in other areas of the city.  The Indian run shops have the most awesome, shimmery sari fabrics. 

        Come, hear the cacaphony of languages, smell & taste foods from the world over--just watch your purse!  And watch your stash pile up while your bank account drains.  I LOVE NYC.


        1. Suki | | #6

          Thank you, Sarah, Pasdenom & Becks! You are the best! Loved your input - great information & tips. Can't wait to go.

          I charter a bus a few times a year - usually in Sept, Dec, & April - from MA & RI to visit the big city. I started doing this a few years ago for my sewing students. I am familiar with the garment district area - & yes, the bathroom situation is far from ideal! Thanks for all the "buyer beware " tips.

          I want to learn more about the shopping in other areas of the city, particularly for Home Dec fabrics. I usually make a stop at ABC Retail - great for inspiration & exclaiming over the prices!

          Also, do you have any suggestions about where  to see one of a kind wearable art clothing? Some of us are thinking about selling our own work & are wondering about places to show it. Do you know of shops that either take on consignment or buy outright?

          Any suggestions about holiday events going on the 13th of Dec.?

          There is no place like New York City! We always have a great time! We are praying for sunny weather!

          Thank you so much for your help!


          1. sarahkayla | | #7

            for art to wear there is a wonderful gallery on madison in the high 50's maybe julie's art to wear the name escapes me at the moment - they are doing a retrospective exhibit at the moment -

            you may want to do a google search on art to wear and nyc. I would stop by off broadway on 72nd street 1 - because they currrenty have such wonderful stuff including the koos stuff I had mentioned 2 - the folks who run the place are amazingly nice - you could call them in advance  - the nice thing about consignment places is that you can get up close to the clothing in a way that you can't in you regular madison avenue store - the front of the store has clothing that is by smaller designers worn to be noticed -

            if you will be around on the weekend some of the bettercraft shows may be on and then you will get a selection of the best art to wear from around the country - you mayt want to google the WBAI craft show or the park avenue armory craft show - they have really astonishing stuff there very very high end and lovely (no crap crafts from a kit) just wonderful very pricy work.

            I would also check out a place like encore also an amazing consignment store just because of the sheer quality of the clothing - i can't tell you how much I have learned by walking around looking and touching clothing there - you would have to call and ask permission from the owners - the store is small.. but they consistantly have the highest range and most interesting clothing - In my book couture is art to wear -

            sarah in nyc

          2. sarahkayla | | #8


            Gallery of Wearable Art… This small boutique is brimming with beautiful, timeless fashions. Gallery of Wearable Art specializes in one-of-a-kind and limited-edition evening and daywear. The shop is known for one-of-a-kind art jackets made with museum-quality antique textiles. 34 E 67th St between Fifth and Madison aves, 1-212-570-2252 http://www.galleryofwearableart.com.

            Hope this helps ----

            sarah in nyc

          3. becksnyc | | #9

            If you want to see one of a kind art clothing, try Soho or the Village.  Specific shops I cannot name, as I don't hang in those areas, but have seen shops over the years.  As far as consignment, I don't know.

            Anyone else?


          4. SewNancy | | #11


            I've been shopping in the garment district for years and here's a store that you need an address for as it is on the third floor.  It was mentioned in the Threads article but has since moved.  Mood fabrics is at 225 w 37th. St.  This store has everything imaginable and it is well lit and organized and well priced for excellent quality.  I bought stretch wool last time I was there that made up into beautiful pants .  $14 a yd.  If you don't have a lot of time this is the place to shop.  You really have to learn to recognize quality and know fabric to get the best buys.  There is great stuff out there mixed in witha lot of dreck. 


          5. becksnyc | | #12

            Thanks for the address.  I have been to Mood, but didn't know the new location. 

            I totally agree on knowing your stuff.  When I teach, I tell the students to feel clothes in the most expensive store they can find.  Try them on and see how they hang.  If you haven't been exposed to the best, you won't know it if it bites you!  No charge for caressing the clothes, even if you do get looks from the salespersons! SMIRK!


          6. FitnessNut | | #13

            Yes, yes, yes! Know your stuff!

            I just tell the salespersons that I'm drooling...but that I'll be careful to keep it off the clothes! I usually get grins and free rein after that!


          7. stitchmd | | #14

            When people offer to help me in fabric stores I often reply that I am just fondling.

            I get a knowing nod and smile and free rein to indulge.

          8. Tish | | #15

            I often reply that I am just fondling.

            I used to like to say I was shopping for inspiration.  Sadly, fewer and fewer sales staff seem to know what that means.

          9. stitchmd | | #16

            My favorite response was when I admired a salesperson's garment and asked if she'd made it (had some interesting applique). She loudly exclaimed "No, why should I waste my time sewing".

          10. becksnyc | | #17

            I was over in the Fabric District yesterday, and must reaffirm my preference for Paron Annex, the 50% off store on 40th, closest to 7th Ave.  They gave me an extra yard on both pieces I purchased.  A Bemberg coat lining orig $9 a yard for $4.50 and a beautiful twill, lightweight rayon suit lining for $3.50.  Delicious!

            The Romanians didn't disappoint, with invisible zippers, 9" at 2 for $1 or 5 for $2 and suit shoulder pads (NOT foam) at 4 for $5.

            Butterfly silks on 39th (did they change their name? Anyway, big butterfly on window) has the most awesome selection of silks at moderate prices, run by Indians who WILL bargain.  If anything is not cut as promised, hold your ground and they will give in to keep your business.

            A favorite of mine, if you KNOW your fabrics and are willing to snoop, dig and barter is Fabric Kingdom on 8th Avenue.  Very helpful staff and buttons in the basement at 8 for $1.  Take a bag up to the upper level and make an offer.  They will discount.  The woman salesperson is very helpful, but the men flatter, jack up the price and then discount it "because you look like a queen".  Right!  The woman gave the lower price to start and cut the baloney.

            Now I need a day to recover!


          11. FitnessNut | | #18

            Oh, to be closer to New York.....

          12. sarahkayla | | #19

            come visit....You don't have do do a super fancy trip ...staying in a hotel can be $$$$ but you can eat for cheap and be entertsained for cheap too..

            sarah in nyc

          13. FitnessNut | | #20

            I'd like that....maybe one day in the not too distant future. My husband owes me something special for that 20th anniversary we just had.....but he was in British Columbia fighting forest fires in September and we had to make do with a quick phone call : ( Actually, I think he would like it too. He's a gem in a fabric store and will search out the really interesting stuff. Not to mention all the other attractions of NYC. I only wish we'd been able to get there when we lived closer (in Montreal).

            Sandy, who lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

          14. sarahkayla | | #23

            When you are ready to come here.. I can tell you aboput some hotels that are uptown and not too spendy.. you will be about 6 minutes by subway away from fabric and theatre and will still be in a neighborhood that is safe and pleasant and interesting to walk around in... I know that lots of the stuff that is famous about new york is really expensive but many of the lesser known treasures are affordable or even inexpensive...

            depending on when you book there can be fluctuations of $200 per night for the same room...

            sarah in nyc

          15. FitnessNut | | #24

            $200 per night! Wow! I imagine that New York is like most cities in that some of the most fabulous things aren't well known or publicized.

            Thanks for your offer. I will keep it in mind.


          16. sarahkayla | | #25

            actually the same room ... over the course of a year  - for the same weekend was being offered for proces ranging from between 99 and 325 per night...  this was pre 9-11 but it is all over the map - this was for the weekend of my dd's batmitzvaha year before and just beforethe event the prices were at the low end.. just a few weeks before the prices were offered at the high end... you just never know...

            sarah in nyc

          17. Michelle | | #21

            You remind me of myself when I try to persuade people to visit Israel!

            (we also have a nice fabric district in Tel-Aviv - not anything on the scale of NY though)



          18. sarahkayla | | #22

            tel aviv , actually jaffa, has an astounding flea market district - it was overhwhelming even for me...

            sarah in nyc

          19. betty_boop | | #29

            Justn case someone is currently wanting up to dat info:  The most recent issue of American Quilter, Nov 2008 has a nice article describing all the stores and where and when to go.

          20. SewNancy | | #26

            Dear Becks,

            Where is this Romanian notions store?  I am going to be in the City next week .  I am making lists of fabrics to look for so I don't get too overwhelmed!! 


          21. becksnyc | | #27

            West side of Manhattan, it is on the corner of 39th and 8th, on the uptown side, one or two stores in on  39th.  I can never remember the name.

            Cash only.


          22. Cherrypops | | #28

            After reading all these posts I really want to be able to go to NYC

          23. stitchmd | | #10

            There must be some home dec on the lower east side. I got the impression the Canal&Broadway stores may have home dec. Check online yellow pages for websites or make some phone calls.

  3. stitchmd | | #4

    Sarah's post made me drool. I would plan more than two days for that if you want to actually look through and buy fabrics. Those stores in the upper 30's are all crammed full and many specialize in certain types of fabric. You can take any train that goes to Times Sq. or the Port Authority bus terminal to get to that area. A,E, 1,2,3,9,7.

    The lower east side stores are mainly on Orchard St., with others on Allen, Delancey, Grand and Hester. I can't recommend any in particular as it's been years since this NYC native shopped there. The F train to Delancey is the closest stop.

    Looking at online yellow pages I also noticed a cluster of stores in the low 400's addresses of Broadway, near Canal St. I don't remember these so it may be a new district or it may be my faulty memory. So many trains stop at Canal that you can walk along it until you hit Broadway if the weather is nice, lots of other interesting stores there. Or call one of the stores listed in the Yellow Pages to ask which train stop is closest.

    Where are you staying? If you give us street location we can help with using the subway system. It's just too big and complicated to look at the map and figure out.

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