Friday, May 24, 2013

Road Trip to Philadelphia's Fabric Row

Several weeks ago, one of the members of our local PatternMaster users' group suggested a road trip to Philadelphia's Fabric Row. The last time I visited this small enclave (roughly 4 blocks long) was back in 2002, when the American Sewing Guild conference was in Philly. I had heard dire things about the shrinking number of stores, but hey, it is closer than New York!
We set out at about 7am on Thursday the 23rd, and with all the chatter between the four of us, the trip just flew by. After a somewhat amusing detour to find a Jo-Mar store, only to discover it shuttered and permanently closed, we got to Fabric Row (located in a part of the city called Queen Village) and started our adventure.
One of the things I always forget to do is take pictures when I'm out and about, so I don't have a lot of images of the actual day to share... I was too busy enjoying myself and the company of other fabricholics! However, we tried to be vigilant about picking up business cards so we could remember where we had gotten our treasures. And there were certainly treasures to be found!
Many of the stores reminded me a lot of the Garment District in New York: narrow passages, tight stairwells, bolts piled high and deep. And almost without fail, the people working in the stores knew exactly what their inventory contained, and so were able to help guide us to the items that most interested us. Only a few of our group had specific goals: I was looking for shirting to make more work shirts; Stephanie was looking for something for making shades for her bedroom; Regina was hoping to find some insertion lace.

So here, in no particular order, are the stores we went to, along with what I got.

This store was packed tight with all sorts of fabrics: wool, linen, upholstery, drapery, you name it. I managed to find a cotton fabric (meant for scrubs) that was very close to what I wanted; it was a good price so I picked up three yards. I also found a wonderful knit border print:
Here it is draped on my dress form so you can get an idea of the scale of it. I'm thinking of making a simple sleeveless sheath dress with it.

Albert Zoll had everything you ever wanted in cording, binding, rat tail, webbing, ribbon and more. They also had a lot of blingy rhinestone trims and appliques.
I didn't get anything too exciting: just two different webbings. The wide was $2/yard and the narrow was $1/yard.

This was another "You want it, we got it" place. I found some black ripstop nylon for making shopping bags.
Here's Lynn buying some blue fabric for making a pair of pants. See those bins below the counter? These were scattered throughout the store and had all sorts of close-out stuff: boas, spools of ribbon, zippers, you name it.
Regina and Stephanie ready to head for the next store. This was one of the more spacious stores: you could actually pass someone in the aisles without a problem. In other stores, this was an issue!

We almost didn't go into this store, due to its rather nondescriptive name. However, there was a little sign out front: "Memorial Day Sale: All Fabrics $5/yard." Oh yeah, had to see that.
This ended up being one of our favorite stops on the whole trip, due to the owner's droll sense of humor. Howard kept cracking jokes and we were all laughing along. We found some real treasures here: Lynn stumbled across two bolts of Ultrasuede: one a pale blue, the other a milk chocolate. I found some black pleather for recovering my dining chairs, and also some buttery-soft dark red pleather that will become a purse or tote someday.


At the southern end of the row was a store painted bright yellow outside, and there I found the perfect shirting fabric! I got 10 yards, which should get me at least four shirts. I also found a cute garden-motif cotton; they only had a little over a yard so I'll have to be content with using it as an accent on something. I also found a lovely polyester that will become either a shell top, or a lining on something.

By this time we were getting hungry, so we stopped at Red Hook Coffee & Tea. This turned out to be a lovely Bohemian hippy kind of place, with mismatched antique furniture, books and magazines to read, and really, really good food.
This chair was so comfortable!
My lunch: a "Happy Hooker"! Bacon, Tomato and three different cheeses on gluten-free bread. The little cup held a wonderful potato salad, topped with sprouts.

Our last stop was Jack B. Fabrics. We had no idea that this store was in a temporary location due to a terrible fire last month. We had noticed a building across the street had been torn down, and the businesses next to it were having work done, but somehow it didn't click until we went into Jack B.'s and started talking with the staff. The April 6 fire consumed everything in the store: fabrics, scissors, everything. They are determined to rebuild in the original location, but were worried about all the new building codes they would have to adhere to. It will be a long upward slog, but they are looking forward to being a continuing presence on the row.
Here is where Stephanie found the perfect fabric for her bedroom shades, and I stumbled across a wonderful map-themed fabric that was just begging to become window treatments for one of our upstairs rooms.

Finally, we headed back to the car...
...and loaded our purchases into the trunk.

Rather than head south right away, Stephanie suggested we head for Reading Terminal Market. We had never heard of it, but her description started off with, "Well, they have chocolate..." No further reasons necessary!!
I have to admit, I was grinning like a fool the entire time I was in the market. It was HUGE. And varied. And every stall had these amazing smells!! The first place we went was Chocolate by Mueller, which had an incredible variety of chocolates in some... "interesting" shapes! There were anatomically correct chocolate hearts, lungs, kidneys, teeth and more. And chocolate "bagels"!! And, to my delight, the biggest variety of Dutch licorice I have ever seen outside of the Netherlands. I showed great restraint in only buying half a pound.
Finally it was time to head south. As we stepped into the parking garage to retrieve the car, the heavens opened up and it started to pour! We had avoided all the nasty weather all day, but the drive home was punctuated by waves of very heavy rains, which didn't make for very relaxing driving. However, Regina and I enjoyed listening to an Anna Russell album while Lynn and Stephanie napped in the back seat.
The only think I now wish I had bought was an embroidered red drapery fabric for our bedroom from B. Wilk Fabrics. Here is the swatch I got, next to the fabric that's already in the bedroom:
 I just wasn't confident enough that it would look right next to the gold fabric. But now I see that it will, indeed, look terrific, so I will be calling the store to have the fabric shipped.

All in all, it was a fabulous day, and I can't wait to head back north and do it all again!! (But this time I'll remember to take the rolling bag I had put in the trunk of the car and forgot to take with me... but the weight of the bags probably prevented me from buying too much!)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Ready for the garden!

Last night I went to a Ladies' Crafting Night at a local church, hosted by my next door neighbor. While most of the other ladies there were doing scrapbooking, I hauled my sewing machine, pressing board, iron, fabric, pattern and all the other associated paraphernalia and worked on making something for me.
One of the projects that's been high on my ever-growing list is an apron I can wear in the garden to hold the harvest. I'm starting to have that issue now, with the asparagus harvest: we're picking about two pounds of asparagus every few days, and it's just inconvenient having to lug a bowl or basket out with me to put the spears in.
But a regular apron, with a solid fabric pocket, wouldn't work... The pocket would collect dirt and bugs. So I knew I'd have to make one.
For a starting point, I pulled Butterick 5506 from my stash:

The apron had the right shape, so I used it as a jumping-off point. I wasn't interested in having all those pockets, though... I just wanted one larger one.

So here's the result, finished in just over three hours:


(Yep, that's our garden... lots of work, but so rewarding! It measures about 75 feet wide by 150 feet long, and has a high fence all around to keep the deer out.)
The pocket is made of a sport mesh left over from making the inside pouches for Diana's first aid kit.


The edges were bound with bias tape (it's hard to see, but I made the tape out of a quilting cotton with a pea pod motif), and the pocket was sewn onto the apron with two lines of stitching to keep it secure. My hope is that the mesh will let the dirt fall out, so I don't have to wash the apron much.

My favorite part, though, is the design I added to the bib:

Believe it or not, this was done with my Silhouette Cameo! I used three different colors of heat transfer material. And it was so easy! I created the design, cut it out, and ironed it on. The hardest part was choosing the fonts. I can see doing a lot of this in the future; this was the first time I'd tried it.
The pattern also included a cute floppy-brimmed hat, which I'm going to make soon to go along with the apron. Yet another project for the list!
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to put my apron on and head out to the garden. The beans have sprouted and I need to put in the trellis so they have something to climb onto.
Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Hardly sewing, but still...

Today I tackled a project that had been staring me in the face every single bloody morning for the past several years.
This is my "dressing area," located in what used to be a teeny tiny half bath, which was attached to a little bedroom that (we think) was occupied by the "Chief of Staff" for the household help, back in the day when this place had a full-time staff of ten (I wish!). About six years ago we took out the bath, created a doorway, and turned the tiny bedroom into a walk-in closet. What was left of the bathroom space (where the commode was) was really too small to do anything with, so I appropriated it for a dressing table.


Here's the issue. The bedroom is on the east side of the house. For part of the year, the sun rises in just the right spot to shine through the window over my dressing table and send a shaft of brilliant light right smack across the center of my pillow.
So much for sleeping late on those mornings.
Hanging some kind of shade has been in the back of my mind for quite a long time now, and today I finally decided to just go ahead and make something -- anything! -- so I could possibly enjoy some extra morning shut-eye.
As is usually the case for projects like this, it was quickly done, leading me to kick myself for not having done it sooner. But no matter; it's up, and we'll see this weekend whether it makes a difference in letting me sleep in.


Project Details

The interior of the window measured 18" x 54", so that was the target size for the shade. I didn't want anything complicated; I just made a long shade, lined with blackout, with a sleeve at the top to run a tension rod through. I then put a second tension rod about halfway down the window and draped the shade over it to create a single fold.
Before going to bed, I will pull the bottom of the shade free of the second tension rod, so it will lay flat the length of the window. In the morning, I'll just pull it up and over the rod again.
There was only one line of sewing (the top edge) in the whole project, too! Everything else was bonded with Sealah tape (which is fabulous stuff). Even the bullion trim was attached with the tape... mostly because I'm not 100% certain I like it. It's left over from a project from years ago, so everything here is entirely from my stash. The gold fabric is left over from doing the bedroom a few years back, and I was happy to discover that I have enough of it left to do shades for the main room as well.
So, gradually, the bedroom is getting decorated. Eventually, more of the windows in the house will get shades or draperies, which will also help with energy efficiency and comfort throughout the year.