An Idiot Abroad

Can you guess where I am?

When you travel to New York with work, it’s important to pay careful attention to budget, schedules and colleague liaison.

Which is why, on arrival, I threw my suitcase into my hotel room, slammed the door back shut and ran out onto the streets of the city that never sleeps. I had priorities: to meet Elizabeth from SEWN.

Here’s Elizabeth and I in Paron. We’re both beaming because we’ve both bought fabric:

Elizabeth and I met up outside Mood Fabrics, a store I’ve read so much about on US blogs. I nearly walked straight past the building – the shop is tucked away discreetly on the upper floors reached by a rattling elevator. I was worried about struggling to spot Elizabeth, but we clapped eyes on each other straight away. Her son patiently tolerated two lady sewing shoppers for the rest of the afternoon, behaving beautifully.

Mood is massive. It’s on three different floors (or is it four?) each of which houses five or six large aisles holding hundreds of bolts of fabric:

I was vaguely looking for some fabric for a make of the new Vogue Pamella Roland pattern, V1233:

I ended up buying some brocade (the pattern looks as though it requires a relatively stiff fabric). I also bought some denim that I would describe as either mustard or gold. Yeah, I know – sounds a bit iffy. I have been drawn before to metallic denim. It will either work or it won’t, but I want to give it a go. My purchases below:

As well as Mood and Paron, Elizabeth took me to two other stores. Unfortunately, I was too overwhelmed to make a note of their names. The Garment District is jam-packed with reasonably-priced fabric stores. Makes me think we need more mid-range stores in London. Or just more stores! Fabric either seems cheap as chips (Walthamstow market) or high end (Liberty). Having said that, I’ve yet to visit Goldhawk Road, so I should probably suspend judgement. Not that I’ll be doing any fabric shopping for a while!

Amusing culture clash moment: in Mood I was queueing up to have the denim cut, chatting to Elizabeth. People milled around us. I noticed the odd other customer drifting past me and would politely step out of the way. At this point Elizabeth was probably thinking, Does this woman not want to get her fabric cut? In the end, she told me straight: ‘Maybe you should be more aggressive with your line standing, Karen.’ Oh, dear. I was being too English. I had to learn some New York attitude! I stepped forwards and made sure to raise my hand when it was my turn next. Raising my hand in a polite way, obviously, whilst apologising profusely for the abomination of my existence.

Right now I am feeing a bit dizzy with jetlag. There’s some bloke on the telly in my hotel room called Billy The Exterminator. I’ll meet my colleagues for a drink soon, then sleep well tonight. Thank you, Elizabeth, for giving me such a warm welcome during my first hours in the city.

New York, New York – so good they sewed it twice.



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23 Responses to An Idiot Abroad

  1. Sølvi says:

    Oh boy, oh boy, I´m going to New York in a couple of weeks, and I´m both excited for, and a bit intimidated by the thought of shopping in the garment district. Good to see a fellow European survive it! 😉

    Have a great time the rest of your stay!

  2. Rachel says:

    I really want to make V1223 too – I can’t wait to see yours made up. I love the brocade you chose too – I’ve never made anything with brocade, so will be keen to hear how you find it to work with. Have fun for the rest of your trip!

  3. Miss Celie says:

    I saw this on Elizabeth’s flickr and told her I was going to have to be jealous! How absolutely terrific. Welcome to the States 🙂

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Awww! It was such a pleasure meeting you today. I wish we had more time to chat over a nice cup of tea. I look forward to seeing you again when I’m in London this summer. I love the fabric you bought and can’t wait to see the dress made up. It will be perfect in that gorgeous brocade. I hope the rest of your trip is as fruitful. Safe travels new friend!

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Oh, the other two stores were Spandex house and Chic Fabrics. 🙂

  6. Solvi – No reason to be intimidated by the Garment District! Everyone is soooo nice and extremely polite.
    Celie – we chatted about how cool you are! Next time, next time.
    Rachel – yes, that looks like a really interesting dress, doesn’t it? Though a bit formal? I can’t quite (yet) see how to dress it down.
    Elizabeth – thanks for the reminder on the names of those stores, and thanks again for such a lovely first afternoon in New York.

  7. Tilly says:

    Jealous!! That sounded like such a fun day. Oh and mustard denim = awesome Beignet skirt, non?

  8. You may be right about the Beignet skirt, Tilly. I still haven’t bought that pattern.

  9. Carly says:

    Wow, so much fabric, I think I would be paralysed by choice! Echoing Tilly’s suggestion of the mustard/gold denim beignet, it’s what popped into my mind as soon as you mentioned it.

  10. Roobeedoo says:

    SO jealous! Even my teeny daughter was star-struck with awe when I told her you were in Mood! The power of Project Runway, eh?!

  11. SewOm says:

    I love New York and I hope you enjoy the rest of your trip. I can’t wait to see V1223 in the brocade you bought. That one is my favorite of the new Vogue Patterns.

  12. Confession time: I have never seen Project Runway!

  13. Elizabeth says:

    you’ve never seen PR????? Hmmmm… You might need to rectify that. I’m not a reality show fan, but even I was sucked in for a season or two.

  14. Nancy says:

    So exciting – what a great first day in NYC! I can’t pretend I’m not jealous… Hope the rest of your trip is equally fabulous!

  15. frk.bustad says:

    So good to see that a European handles the American way of shopping… I’m going to NY next week (!), but haven’t yet decided on whether I should go to Garment District or not… I should, really, but there’s two reasons I’m having doubts: a) If I don’t buy the fabric that I consider, I’ll regret forever, b) I buy too much… I’m lousy when it comes to impulse shopping, and coming back to Garment District twice in one week might be too much to ask for of my travel companion (aka the boyfriend)… But I should go, shouldn’t I?

  16. daisydonut says:

    Oh how wonderful to have visited the Garment District, I’m green with envy, and I’m so impressed that you’ve made some purchases. I would have become an indecisive jibbering wreck and come away with nothing – like when I found the French equivalent in Paris a couple of years ago! Enjoy the rest of your trip.

  17. blankenmom says:

    I am SO jealous! We just finished 4 years in NY/NJ and the one place I wanted to go to was MOOD. If we ever go back, I’m hitting is the Garment District.

    When we first moved there from the NW, the first place we went was Costco and the people in line were yelling at each other, all we did was stare in fear. By the time we got to the front of the line to get our hotdogs, the kid behind the counter said “Welcome to NY” – we must have REALLY have stood out! Hahaha

    After 4 years there, we were used to it and now that we’re in the south, we stick out again. *Sigh*

    Glad to hear you are enjoying yourself!

  18. Alessa says:

    😀 I’m glad you had so much fun! Looking forward to seeing your dress all done up in brocade!

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  21. Jeanette says:

    Little by little, I’m reading your entire blog and loving it. From reading yours, and those of other British sewers, it seems like sewing one’s own clothing is very popular in Britain. I’m not sure it’s so popular in the states, except maybe in NYC where the options for buying fabric are evidently very good. I’m in Virginia, and the closest nice fabric shop is 90 miles north. Otherwise, there is only Joann’s and Hancock. Oh! My question: Has apparel sewing always been prevalent in Britain. In the US, it died out considerably in the last 2 decades, and fabric shops couldn’t stay in business.

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