This post was supposed to be a simple fabric haul…but then I got a bit chatty. And I wanted to include some shop reviews and photos from my recent trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So it’s some sort of shopping adventure/review/haul hybrid.
And unlike most of my hauls, the majority of these material weren’t purchased in NYC! Most of them are from shops near Lancaster Pennsylvania, then I picked up some matching fabrics to pair with them in the garment district.
The first shop I visited in PA was Fabric Mart. I had heard of this shop before since they have a pretty well known website, but it wasn’t until I researched fabric stores near Lancaster that I realized they have a brick and mortar shop as well!
This store didn’t look too promising from the exterior…and the inside wasn’t that inspiring either. Since the store is made up of three rooms, and it isn’t immediately clear that the back rooms are open to customers, it looks quite small when you first walk in. It also wasn’t as densely stocked as a store like Jo-anns, so I was a bit concerned I wouldn’t find anything.
But once I started browsing I was a lot more impressed. They don’t have a ton of fabric, but they have a good variety of materials and relatively unique fabrics – especially when it came to silk. Lots of patterns and designs I’d never seen before, even in places with far more options like the Garment District.
It wouldn’t be the best shop to go to if you were looking for something specific, but I was just there to find pretty fabrics and it was definitely a good shop for that.
However It wasn’t my favorite shopping experience. None of the fabrics were priced – they didn’t even have paper signs to give you some idea of the price range. And none of the employees I spoke to knew prices offhand. Instead you had to go to their website and type in the fabrics item number. I used data on my phone for this, but if you didn’t have a smart phone you’re dependent on a single computer in the center of the store. Even with the phone it was a pain since I was constantly forgetting the prices of each fabric, and some bolts didn’t have any item numbers visible.
They also handle customer service (a team of several people behind desks) for the website in the same room you shop in – which I understand due space limitations, but I felt really awkward and like I was in peoples way.
But I would go back if I was in the area! And I’ll considering ordering from them online in the future, since I did like the selection and uniqueness of their stock.
Now onto what I bought…
The first fabric is from their dollar a yard section. It’s a light pink polyester satin covered with bright pink roses. I absolutely adore this fabric and the style of the print reminds me of how flowers were painted in the 1700’s. Which is why I want to use it for an 18th century robe a la francaise – something i’ve been wanting to make for ages.
I don’t think the print is accurate for that period, and i’m not sure how well the fabric will pleat, but I think it’s worth a try. I got eleven yards of it, and as I said it was from the dollar section, so the whole bolt only cost me $11!
Then I picked up a coordinating fabric in the garment district. This will be used for trims and potentially the petticoat. I ended up finding this material at Zahar fabrics, which is one of my favorites since they have a bit of everything and good prices.
However I wasn’t expecting to find this there. I went there to look at chiffon, but on my way to the chiffon section I saw this beautiful silk dupioni, which matches the floral satin — perfectly. Which is fantastic since I needed a warm (almost coral) pink which I thought would be difficult to find.
In addition to being the right color, It has a lovely sheen to it and drapes beautifully. Though the slub is more intense than I usually like, it’s very consistent throughout the fabric so they don’t look like random snags.
I’d budgeted forty dollars for this fabric, which I expected to get me four yards. But I ended up getting five and a half yards for that price, since that was all that was left on the roll!
The next purchase from Fabric Mart is a mesh embroidered lace. This was from the home decor fabric and on sale for four dollars a yard. I ended up purchasing two yards, and I think it will look beautiful as the trim for an Edwardian gown.
The threads used on this lace are almost metallic, which gives it a lot of life. I actually have some purple chiffon that matches this, so hopefully I can figure out a design that pairs these two materials together.
From the silk section (which I spend ages staring at) I bought a yard of this lightweight beige silk. The base fabric has a lovely subtle sheen to it, but it was the metallic stripes that won me over. They have the most beautiful shine to them, it’s so pretty. I think this would make lovely sleeves for a historical dress – maybe paired with a gold or navy brocade.
And my final purchase there was this silk shantung which has black velvet flocked designs all over it. I can’t even put into words how much I love this fabric, it’s so striking, i’ve never seen anything like it.
It was the most expensive fabric i’ve ever bought (not including beaded lace) but even the price couldn’t deter me, i’m that in love with it. I’m not sure what i’ll use this for, but I bought two yards which should be enough for something neat!
To go along with that I bought three yards of black micro velvet in the garment district. I love the contrast of these two fabrics together, and I can’t wait to use them. I just have to think of an idea first…
The next shop I went to is called Goodvile Fabric Outlet/ Zinck’s Fabric – they recently combined and can be found under both names. This store was an experience, truly unlike any other fabric shop i’ve been to. The store is actually a giant warehouse. The front room is carpeted and looks like a normal quilt shop, but the rest of the space is filled with hundreds of pallets of apparel and upholstery fabric.
A lot of it was very poor quality – in the whole store I found less than a dozen fabrics I really wanted, but seeing that quantity of fabric was incredible. And it was all really cheap. The flat cuts shown above were a dollar a yard, as were many by the bolt fabrics.
I picked up two of the flat cuts from the home decor section (the only ones soft enough for apparel use) but they didn’t photograph well so I haven’t included photos in this post. I also got a twenty five yard bolt of white organza for twelve bucks, which I was pretty happy with since i’ve wanted to make an organza petticoat for a while.
My by-the-yard purchases included six yards of this bright plaid cotton. This fabric is very fine and very soft and I thought the bright print would make it good for something out of the 1830s – it’s been too long since I paired massive sleeves with a pleated collar!
From the same section I got a light brown and white plaid fabric. This is very lightweight as well, but has more drape to it, like a medium weight rayon. It feels very nice to the touch and I thought it would make a pretty dress from the early 1800s as well – maybe something regency inspired? This fabric, and the bright plaid were both four dollars a yard.
I also bought a flat cut of a cotton homespun – I think these were two dollars a yard once discounts were factored in. This piece is almost six yards long and has a very small green and beige checked print. I think the color drew me to this one, I love green and it’s rare for me to see an apparel fabric I like in that color so I snatched it up!
This shop had a limited suiting section, but what they did have were stunning. Very soft lightweight wool suitings – and only three dollars a yard! The first one I got is a medium brown with small blue and pink stripes.
And the second one is black and white chevron. I bought these both for suits based on designs from the early 1900s. Tailoring is something I want to get better at, and these are light enough for the menswear inspired dresses that were popular towards the end of the Edwardian period.
The final fabric from this shop is a polyester satin charmeuse – not usually a fabric I go for, since it tends to look quite inexpensive, but this one has a really nice sheen to it.
I had hoped this would match the lace I purchased from Fabric Mart but it’s a little bit too light – i’ll see if I can make it work, otherwise it’ll go in my pile of mock up fabrics!
Oh and I bought some buttons too – these were 80c each and I thought they would be handy to have around since I don’t have many small, simple buttons.
The next store I visited is called The Lace Place. It was a slight struggle to get an appointment here, but i’m glad we did! The store was a lot larger and had a lot more stock than I was expecting. It’s set up a lot like the stores in the Garment District, which is interesting to see in such a rural area – we drove past miles of corn fields and cows to get here!
This shop had a great selection of nylon and colored lace. I found the cotton lace a bit stiff, and the selection of venice and embroidered lace lacking, so I didn’t get many of those. But i’ve never seen this many colorful trims in one place – and in every small pattern imaginable!
The store owner was very nice, and the prices on the narrow trims were very reasonable and well marked. The only negative I can really say is that the checkout and cutting process was slow (especially for fabrics) so I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re tight on time. But if you like lace and you’re nearby it’s definitely worth stopping at!
My main purchase here was eleven yards of white netting that has gold spots woven into it. I bought this because I thought it resembled the material on Sisi’s star gown. The spots are too close together for it to be used for a replica, but it should work for something similar. Either on its own or as a base for sequins. This was four dollars a yard but twenty five percent off since I bought more than ten yards.
On top of that I got quite a bit of lace, including three white cotton trims, five small off white ones, and a beautiful embroidered organza one. A lot of these are similar to trims I already own, but most of my trim collection is made up of vintage items which so some signs of age, and it’s nice to have some that you know are unblemished!
An interesting pin tucked cotton trim that I thought would look neat on a corset, a white pin tucked organza that I thought looked cool, and a beautiful alencon beige lace – I can’t wait to embellish this and use it to trim the sleeves of an evening gown, it’ll look stunning.
And some colorful trims to help build my collection. I thought these might work for lace inset work as well. And the yellow ribbon lace is to top off a corset that I finished recently – it matches much better than what I found at Jo-anns.
From the same store I got three grab bags, which were a dollar fifty each. These were such a steal, all of them have a couple lengths of lace that are three to five yards long, along with many pieces that are half that length. It had a lot of fun opening these up and organizing the trims I got. Definitely worth the money, and a joy to look through.
And now back to the fabric shopping. The final store I visited is called Zooks. It mostly sells quilting fabrics but I did find a few things that would work for my costumes.
The first of which is this plaid orange cotton homespun. I liked the color of this, it made me happy, and the price made me happy too – it was two dollars a yard with an additional twenty percent off. I got all the had left (a little over seven yards) and plan on using this for an 1840’s day dress.
From the small apparel section I got two yards of a silky feeling dimpled orange fabric. This matches the homespun material perfectly (for some reason that fabric looks more red in photos) and has a really interesting texture. Hopefully i’ll be able to pair them together.
And I also got three yards of a green striped fabric, which has an interesting texture as well. And once again I purchased this to go with the lace I purchased in the first store – it isn’t a great match, but I think I might be able to get it to work
From a different quilt shop (I forget the name) I got some embroidery floss, since it was reduced down to four for a dollar. I bought some greens and oranges which I can hopefully turn into some sort of floral sampler. Embroidery is one of those things I really want to improve at but keep putting off learning more about.
The final few things I got were from the venders section of a quilt show. My first purchase was this magnificent quilting cotton which has unicorns on it. Unicorns are one of my favorite things, and seeing that combined with fabric was wonderful.
I got a yard and a third of this, and I plan on using it to re-cover my ironing board. I think it will look adorable with unicorns running across the bottom!
I also got a pair of support gloves for my wrists. My wrists are pretty good considering how much time I spend sewing and on my computer, but they do have bad days. I didn’t have super high expectations for these, but I was willing to give them a try. And I’m really glad I did, because I notice a huge difference when I wear them.
I put them on if my wrists are feeling sore and they alleviate the pain by around ninety percent. Which means I don’t have to slow down or take breaks, which I definitely appreciate. I’m not sure that these would work for everyone, or if you have more severe pain, but i’ve been really impressed with them!
I also bought a wallet, which is a bit silly but very…me. It’s pale blue and has a vintage singer sewing machine on one side, and crossed crane scissors on the other. I justified this because it’s more secure than my previous wallet, and smaller so it fits in my purse better. But I think you can get better wallets for the price, I just fell for it because it’s sewing related.
But I don’t regret it at all because look! So pretty.
And the final thing I got in PA were buttons. A lot of buttons. There was an antique shop selling a box of buttons for fifteen dollars, and a scoop of buttons for three dollars, with twenty percent off everything.
These are metal buttons which I think are new old stock. They say “Waterbury company” on the side, which is a local button manufacturer who has been providing buttons to the US military for almost a hundred years. I got a box of big ones and two scoops of small ones – all of which totaled seventeen bucks.
Not sure what they will be used for, but I figure I could always sell them on etsy and make my money back.
Now onto my NYC fabric shopping adventures. The main point of this trip was the see the Manus x Machina exhibit at the Met. But it doubled as a fabric adventure, and a very successful one at that. My list for this trip was relatively small so I could really focus on finding the materials I was interested in. I managed to find everything I wanted so I was very happy!
The first thing I needed was some fabric to match a plaid fabric I ordered online a while back. This is a very bold print so I needed something to break it up. Luckily I found a matching cotton sateen in Hamed Fabrics, and it was only five bucks a yard.
Then I went to Diana’s fabric, and I was on the hunt for something specific. Last time I was there I fell in love with a blue and white striped taffeta but decided it looked too nautical and that i’d already spent enough money that day. And I’ve regretted not getting it for months. I went back this time with hopes they would have some left.
When I first walked in I was concerned, because all the bolts of striped taffeta were gone. But I had a brought a swatch with me and asked the owner if they had it hidden anywhere. Apparently it was in storage, but they sent someone to fetch it and in a few minutes I was reunited with this beauty.
I recalled this fabric being priced at fifteen dollars a yard, and I needed at least seven yards. I had hoped to talk them down to twelve dollars a yard, but by some miracle I got it for ten dollars a yard. Which is an absolute steal in my opinion – it’s fifty four inches wide and has a beautiful texture and sheen to it.
My plan for this is to make a matching skirt and polonaise that plays with the print of the fabric. I also have a striped organza from a previous trip that I want to use as trimming for this dress, I think that would look very cute!
While I waited for them to find that fabric I looked at their solid silk taffetas and shantungs. I had hoped to find one in a bright color or jewel tone, something that would work well for an 1890’s day dress. I attempted to make one of these earlier in the year, and though I did finish it, I despise the end result. The fit, the design, the fabric, the length, it’s all bad!
I want to take what i’ve learned from that project and apply it to a new, much nicer dress, that has the same inspiration behind it. And this time around I wanted to use a fabric that drapes nicer than polyester taffeta.
They didn’t have too many colors that interested me, but this bright orangey yellow caught my eye.
I was hesitant about this fabric since it’s different then the colors I usually go for, but I didn’t want to let that stop me, and once the fabric was rolled out and I handled it I couldn’t resist. It’s so crisp but soft and light in a way polyester taffeta isn’t. I’m so incredibly excited to work with this and give this project another shot!
And my final two purchases are for an 1880’s evening gown. I already have the main fabrics for this (a jacquard and beige taffeta that have been in my stash for years) but wanted something softer for ruffles around the neckline and skirt. I had hoped to find a chiffon, but they didn’t have any in the right color. However I did find a very pretty satin faced chiffon that matched, so I bought that.
At this point the only thing left on my list was a lace fabric for this project. I finally stumbled upon this one in a shop i’m not super familiar with. It was more than I wanted to spend (fifty dollars a yard!) and since I only needed a half yard I couldn’t negotiate a better price. But since I couldn’t find anything else that matched, I decided to get it. And I don’t regret it – it’s truly stunning and matches perfectly.
And that’s it for fabric shopping but I wanted to share my thoughts on the Met exhibit – i’ll try to keep this short since i’m sure there are far better summaries and photos of this out there!
I found the exhibit a lot more interesting than I expected. I think the write up on the website is a bit misleading – I thought it would be focusing more on machine made garments, but it was all about the hand sewn details and variety of textures.
There were dozens of beautiful fully sequined dresses, some made fully from feathers, and others that were entirely lace. Though I didn’t like all the dresses (there were some collapsable dresses by a Japanese designer that seemed really out of place, and some “deconstructed” ones that were just…awful, in my opinion) I was really impressed by the majority of them.
The dresses on the left were some of my favorites since they remind me a lot of the dresses the stepsisters wear in the Cinderella live action film.
And of course I managed to fixate on one of the oldest dresses they had – this 1920’s gown was beautiful. I’ve actually pinned photos of it on pinterest before, so seeing it in person was a treat. I love how heavily embellished it is while still being very light and airy. Plus the ribbon embroidery was beautiful – it makes me want to learn how to do that!
I also loved seeing the vintage Dior dresses – of which there were probably twenty. I think they are a benefactor for the museum, which probably had to do with their prominence in the exhibit. But I didn’t mind because they were all stunning!
However out of all the dresses, the one that really stuck out is this Givenchy dress. If you’ve been around for a while you may remember my weird idea of making a vulture inspired costume. I purchased the fabrics for it but never settled on a design I was happy with, so it never came to life yet. However this gave me major inspiration! I love how the bodice looks like armor, but it has the softness of fabric. It gives me lots of ideas, which is more than I can say for the others.
And I think that’s everything I have to say. It’s definitely worth visiting if you appreciate embellishment and pretty dresses!
Thanks for reading!