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My New York Vacation: Fabric Stores, Libraries, and More

I have been to New York City countless times, but almost always on weekends.  As a member of the 9-5 crowd, traveling on weekdays is hard.  But on my final personal day of the fiscal year this past June, I took off on a Monday to New York.  I caught the 2000 New Century Travel Bus (aka the Chinatown Bus) in the afternoon and arrived in NYC around 1 pm.  This being a last minute trip, I didn’t have my typical pocket itinerary.  I’m a planner so going without one always feels risky, but spontaneity can lead to the best experiences.  I wrote down a list of fabric stores and figured I would run into all kinds of interesting things.  First stop: The Garment District.


Each store was nestled inside one of the many beautiful New York buildings.  I love the density of the city – how everything is like a hidden treasure waiting to be discovered among the sea of options.  It brings me the same excitement I felt going on scavenger hunts as a child.  I had to make the best use of my time so I hit B&J Fabrics, Mood Fabrics, and Paron Fabrics.  Each store was more incredible than the last – with walls, and walls, and walls full of beautiful textiles.  I was in nirvana!  I imagined as I entered these stores, that this is what it would be like if I was a fulltime designer.  Visiting fabric stores during the day, hunting through reams and reams of amazing fibers, walls, bins, and baskets full of notions, tables full of trim. I get goose bumps just thinking of it!  This trip was just another insight into my life’s purpose.  Whatever I am doing it must involve the creative process, because that is what makes me tick.  Entering these stores sends my brain into overdrive just thinking of all I could create.

As I wandered from store to store, I stumbled upon my a great find: Fun 2 Bead.  I was blown away by their selection, especially all the satin rope colors!

After I soaked up the creative energy of the garment district, I decided to head for a quick stop at my favorite NYC destination:  The NYC Library in Midtown.


This library is truly amazing, not only in it’s architecture and design, but in the massive amount of resources it contains.  Whenever I’m in New York I try to get to the library.  I love the energy that such spaces contain.  They just make me want to explore and learn all there is in this world.  But I’ll save my love of libraries for another post.  After my quick stop at the library, I jumped back on the subway and headed to Tribeca.  There I hit my final fabric destination: PS Fabrics.

I must have saved the best for last, since I ended up with a bagful of merchandise after I left the store.  I also had a delightful conversation with another customer, who was also buying one of the African fabrics.  She explained how the pattern on her fabric was actually a language.  I already loved the beautiful design of her fabric (which consisted of a gold pattern over pastel colors) but to know that there was a deeper meaning hidden in those designs was mind blowing.  It just goes to show how important it is to know the culture and history behind the things we buy, so we can have a richer experience and deeper understanding of the world.  It makes me want to know more about the fabric I buy and the story behind it.

After I finished up in PS Fabrics, I wandered around Tribeca for a while and as always saw so many fun and amazing things along the way.

I was so excited to see the Color Me Mine store.  It made me think of the SATC episode where Carrie makes fun of Charlotte for wanting to spend her days glazing bowls (I’m chuckling thinking about the scene).  The town I grew up in, Warren, PA, had a similar store where I have yet to return to finish a piece I started in high school.  I always have loved the idea of making crafting accessible in this way to everyone.  What a great way to spend a day on your own, with friends, or with children!

Down a bit further, I saw this beautiful store front.  I was so captivated by the building itself, I neglected to get the name of the store.  But thanks to the internet I was able to figure out its a store called Double Knot (which has exquisite rugs by the way).

My dream is to own a space such as this for my work studio.  I would create my art and people could just peer in and see what I am doing, or come in to shop, take lessons, and to connect with a local artist.  I would love to have a space that goes from store to gallery to fundraising space – a positive force in the community.  And of course I would own several units above to rent out and live in (got to have that passive income)!  It’s so important to envision the future you want by immersing yourself directly in it.  This trip allowed me to truly picture such possibilities.

Next I saw art in unexpected places.  I peeked into this store called Let There Be Neon, and was tickled by the fun rainbow arrangement of the neon lights.

I really like the contrast of the light in the background against the worn down door in the foreground.  Something about the combination is perfection.  It just makes me smile.  In the city you always have to keep your eyes peeled, you just never know what will inspire you and bring you joy.

After my stroll through Tribeca, I finally headed back to the bus pick up.  Coincidentally it was right in front of yet another fabric store, Zarin Fabrics.

I loved the store windows that stretched around the block.  They had this historic charm, with the classic Singer sewing machine and tan and brown gingham fabric.

With a few minutes to spare before the bus arrived, I ran into the store and took a quick look around.  Even the stairwell had great art.  You just can’t escape it in this city!  Zarin definitely has the best selection of upholstery fabric and is an interior designer’s dream store.

By 6 pm, I was on the bus and on my way home.  I looked through my bags to review my purchases, and felt satisfied by my New York fix.  I’ve decided that going on solo trips to NYC will be a new ritual I will adopt, in addition to the trips I take with friends.  Nothing’s like having complete control over the day’s plans, not being rushed, and being able to focus on shopping for materials.  And traveling on a weekday made me feel like a New Yorker…seeing all the people on their lunch breaks, heading to their offices, and me wandering around carefree like I do in Philly on any given day.  It was truly paradise.  It made me realize a “vacation” is really what you make it.  It’s not about flying to some far off destination or relaxing on a beach with a drink in your hand.  You don’t even have to leave your hometown to experience it.  You just have to be doing whatever you love, on your own time, in complete calm and relaxation.  So forget about saving up for that huge trip and just step out and do what you love in your own backyard,  hop the train to the nearest city, or walk to the park and get lost in a book.  When you are doing something that brings you absolute pleasure, that is the vacation in itself!

P.S. If you’re looking for a great guide to the Garment District check out this post by quilt artist Paula Nadelstern (and also check out her amazing work).

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