Visit to Andover Fabrics and New York City

ESE in New York 

I had a chance to travel to New York City this past month, where I joined my daughter Barbara for a long-awaited long weekend.

We stayed midtown Manhattan, so I walked past M & J Trimming many times, a happy spot on my walks.  Anne Brousseau, a good friend who used to work in this industry, arranged a visit for us to Andover Fabrics, and of course I said “YES!”

Fashion Dist_4

Fashion Dist_4dFashion Dist_4a

Cliff Quibell, the Vice President, gave us a tour of the different processes and departments, from design development to printing to editing.  We were able to see an artist hand-painting a new design, but of course, no photos were allowed.  There is so much involved to getting one bolt of fabric to our local quilt shops!  We appreciated Mr. Quibell taking time for us, given the fact that they had just returned from Quilt Market.

Fashion Dist_4b

He introduced me to Gayle, who works for Andover, and hanging in her office is this amazing quilt, made from old clothes from when she lived overseas in Tunisia.  Her sister, Elizabeth Porter, made this quilt for her as a memory quilt.  (I think I got those details correct!)

Fashion Dist_4c

There was so much there that I couldn’t photograph, but he did allow a shot of their bookshelves.  I would have loved to have browsed those titles and made notes.

From there it was a short walk over to Gotham Quilts, another thing on my Must-See list.  I loved their selection of modern fabrics and of course, that see-through Bernina in their front window.
Here are some tidbits of other Fashion District finds (click on any cirle to enlarge):
  • tables in the pedestrian area
  • artwork in the buildings (they let me creep in to photograph it)
  • Desigual building with a terrific mural on the side
  • the heavy weave of one of their winter coats on display
  • Mokuba, a ribbon shop
  • close-up of the wares in the Mokuba window

I went into last shop, thinking I’d like some of that fancy metallic ribbon in their front window display. After some minutes, a little lady pushing a cart rolled up to where I was, opened the fat book on the top, and scanned the list.  She looked at me.  “Twenty-seven dollars,” she said.  “Per YARD.”  Gulp.  I smiled, thanked the lady with her little cart, and slunk out.


This pedestrian barrier was near the Folk Art Museum, which I didn’t get to.  Next trip.

NYC11_18_6 Zabars

We were on our way to Zabar’s, a New York Institution, where I almost bought a set of glasses (Macy’s got the business when I arrived home), but did buy a nutmeg grater.

NYC11_18_12c highline
Sculpture on the High Line; the birds perched there, but they are not a part of this piece of art

NYC11_18_5 chelsea market

Another day found us at Chelsea Market, after walking the High Line, on the East Side.


Her husband purchased Hamilton tickets for her for her birthday, and I got to come along (we first had a meal at Eataly near the Flatiron Building).


We got ourselves to the Occulus, the new World Trade Center Transportation Hub, and we visited the recently opened subway station underneath it:



Another chilly day (you need to know that I am from Southern California and she is from Arizona) we drove around looking at street art in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn.  

NYC11_18_8 RockefellerNYC11_18_12fNYC11_18_12eNYC11_18_12d

A few more iconic sights: taxi shoes at Kate Spade, the Empire State Building from our hotel room, posing with a man from the Empire Shield Task Force (he told me to point to his badge), and finally, the glorious sight of Grand Central Station.

Until next time, New York!


Punching the Creative Buttons


{NOTE: If you are looking for the teensy scissor giveaway, you can find it *here.*}


Manhattan Skyline

If you’ve never traveled to New York City, the question of whether that city is worth all the hype may cross your mind.  I can’t answer that one, but  from a quilting perspective, the stimulus provided by this “town,” as the cabbie called it one time, gives me a chance to look at things in a different way.  I’ve had the unique opportunity to travel there three times in the past year and half and have come at the city as a tourist, not as a resident, so can’t answer whether it would be lovely to be there 24/7. Is my experience so different from any travel, anywhere? Don’t know that, but here are three things that punched my creative buttons this past week (along with some quotes on creativity).

“Creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.” –Ken Robinson

Five Pointz, Queens, New York–scheduled to be demolished in September of this year (2013), so hurry if you want to see it


Take the 7 train from Grand Central towards Queens, and as you round the curve, the elevated track passes an old factory, completed decorated with street art.  Yep, like you, I don’t really want this on MY house, but here in its urban setting, it was amazing.


On Memorial Day when we were there, the area was deserted and quiet, with only a few tourists like ourselves strolling around, cameras clicking away.  I put quite a few of these up on my Instagram feed and within hours, the street artists were identifying each other’s work, noting for me who created these and in some cases, which country they were from.  The taggers (but most of these weren’t really tags, but full-fledged art) have to get permission to put their art up here, and I felt like I was interacting with a community as tightly-knit as our quilting community.





Detail of above



I liked also how people interacted with the art.  This family was from France.


This young woman was there with three of her friends (can you see her in the middle?), and they did yoga poses in front of several pieces.  We talked to one set of spray paint artists (the best paint is apparently purchased from art stores–no Home Depot for them) as they worked, and they said this building could look completely different next week, as it continually being painted over.  There is one man who kind of runs the place, and to be able to paint here, new artists have to work their way up from scraping and cleaning the site, in order to adorn a wall with their creation.


As quilters, we have quilt shows, blogs, and places to show our art.  And while the street art at 5Pointz may not be your thing, I thought it was interesting how this community had evolved in this particular place and time.  I hate the blight of graffiti on my town, the tags scrawled across buildings, defacing them.  But I loved coming here. My takeaways: passion for your art, dedication to completion, ability to put it out there and let it go, colors, shapes, novelty.

“You were probably steered benignly away from things at school when you were a kid — things you liked — on the grounds that you would never get a job doing that: ‘Don’t do music, you’re not going to be a musician. Don’t do art, you won’t be an artist.’ Benign advice — now, profoundly mistaken.” –Ken Robinson

El Anatsui–exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum  (click on this link and watch the video of them putting up the pieces–reminds me of hanging a quilt show.  Sort of)


El Anatsui is a Ghanian artist working in Nigeria and is a master at using materials at hand to create his art.  These squares are all bottle tops, bent and shaped and then put together to create massive “quilts” of color and form and shape.  In a video at the exhibition, he used the word “patchwork” to describe his work of creating pieces and put them together.  There are a lot of similarities to what we quilters do, only ours are cloth, not liquor bottle tops.

ElAnatsui bottle tops






My sister had gone the week before and said it was an amazing exhibit.  Be sure to watch the video on the Brooklyn Museum’s website about how they installed these pieces.  Although they are huge, they look as light as air. Takeaway: explore all kinds of colors, materials, shapes and forms.  Don’t be afraid to reshape or move things around to get a different result.

“Human life is inherently creative. It’s why we all have different résumés. … It’s why human culture is so interesting and diverse and dynamic.” –Ken Robinson

Punk: Chaos to Culture–showing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art


Like the above street art, I am not drawn to punk naturally, but this exhibit at the Met I thought was brilliant, because it talked about the influence of punk fashion on the greater world of fashion–and it brought together some of the things I’d been seeing this week in my touristing. [All photos are from the internet.]  To get a fuller perspective on the show, watch the video, narrated by Andrew Bolton, the curator.


This gallery, titled Bricolage, was where the culmination of recycling trash to treasure was noted, and I loved what what used in the skirt and shirt below:


Bottle Tops!  Couldn’t believe it. They also had dresses that had graffiti sprayed on them, and how graffiti can be incorporated into T-shirt and dresses.  I thought of the current obsession we have with text on cloth, and wondered if we were also feeling a wave of punk influence, in a more refined way.

“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” –Ken Robinson

I won’t show you any more of that exhibit, as it was punk-ish, after all, better seen in context, as is all art.  But I will leave you with one more picture:


This is the grave of Elias Howe in the Green-Wood Cemetary in Brooklyn (hey–it was Memorial Day, after all), in the who we all owe a great debt, as he was the inventor of the modern sewing machine.  Apparently the biggest sticking point was where the eye of the needle should go, and this account from a family story, tells how he came to invent this (from Wikipedia):

“He almost beggared himself before he discovered where the eye of the needle of the sewing machine should be located. It is probable that there are very few persons who know how it came about. His original idea was to follow the model of the ordinary needle, and have the eye at the heel. It never occurred to him that it should be placed near the point, and he might have failed altogether if he had not dreamed he was building a sewing machine for a savage king in a strange country. Just as in his actual working experience, he was perplexed about the needle’s eye. He thought the king gave him twenty-four hours in which to complete the machine and make it sew. If not finished in that time death was to be the punishment. Howe worked and worked, and puzzled, and finally gave it up. Then he thought he was taken out to be executed. He noticed that the warriors carried spears that were pierced near the head. Instantly came the solution of the difficulty, and while the inventor was begging for time, he awoke. It was 4 o’clock in the morning. He jumped out of bed, ran to his workshop, and by 9, a needle with an eye at the point had been rudely modeled.”

Wikipedia also notes that “Howe received a patent in 1851 for an “Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure.” Perhaps because of the success of his sewing machine, he did not try to seriously market it, missing recognition he might otherwise have received.”  In other words, he invented the zipper, too.

Sorry for the long post, but sometimes it’s interesting to note where we get “refilled” when we’ve run out of ideas, or are tired, or have too many UFO’s lurking in the closet and have lost our creative mojo. (Plus, we had a great time in The Big Apple.)


Quotes are from Ken Robinson, who has given many TED talks on creativity and our educational system.


Pins and Needles, in New York City


I’ve been in New York City for a week, and while there I discovered a new quilting/fabric shop, on the upper East Side, a few blocks from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  It’s called Pins and Needles.

Map to PinsNeedles


Ring the buzzer, and they’ll let you in.  Head up the stairs to the second floor, and their door is on the left.  It’s like going up to fabric heaven from the gritty bustle of the streets.


I am standing at the window overlooking the street, and photographing toward the back.  It’s not a big shop, but it has such a variety of modern fabrics and ideas and even a little classroom area, that I felt it had a lot to offer.


The classroom and looking out the window.  There are basically three fabric stores that cater to quilters and home sewists in New York City: City Quilters (midtown), Purl Soho (Soho, or lower third of Manhattan) and now this gem of a shop.



I was immediately welcomed by two very friendly women: the owner Rachel Low (on the left) and Lauren Rucci; Rachel gave me permission to take photos. She also maintains a Facebook page for the shop, if you’re interested, as well as a blog.


Though compact, it felt spacious.  They have a wide variety of modern fabrics, well-edited, and I could see lots I wanted to take home.  But since I had practically sat on my suitcase that morning to get it closed, I was constrained by space.


While most of us diehard quilters approach fabric with a fair amount of gluttony (unless you are sitting on your suitcase to get it closed), in the shop Lauren has taken more of an arts and crafts approach, as opposed to quilting, even using the term “patchwork,” as their clientele is more geared toward sewing.  Smart move, as you can learn to do the quilting after a good knowledge of fashion sewing has been established.  One of the most successful things a shop can do is to know who their customer is.


I loved their wall displays.  Rachel has worked in the fashion industry, including a two-year stint at Prada, so the shop incorporates these themes into their decor.


I loved their wall with fashion pictures, fabric swatches–so many ideas!  I have noticed the trend towards sewing; many quilters are trending towards making dresses and clothes not only for themselves, but also for their children.  I just happened to do it the reverse, majoring first in Clothing and Textiles, then discovering quilting later. I say, no matter how you come to it, sewing something for yourself or for your home is extremely rewarding, and this shop brings all of those ideas together.


Crafting table.  They hold several classes for children’s crafts.



I loved the window overlooking the stree, with a comfortable banquette with cute pillows.


And what did make it into my suitcase? Three cuts of fabrics, some Itty-Bitty Scissors, all done up in a very cute bag.  These scissors are about 1 1/2″ inches long, have a point cover; Rachel says her customers have been successfully taking them on airplanes to do their stitching.  I bought an extra, and would love to share it with you.


Leave me a comment below and I’ll choose a winner on Tuesday morning.  In your comment, tell me where you’ve traveled recently and have needed a pair of teensy scissors, as well as which color you’d prefer: turquoise or pink.  And if you are not a winner, I’m sure that Rachel of Pins and Needles would be happy to ship you your own.  Contact her at her Etsy Shop, or by email (

Something to Think About

A Little Reading, A Little Traveling

I ordered several books off of Amazon, and have been enjoying them a little each night.  Here’s my latest two.  I’m still paying homage to them for my Come A-Round quilt, which was their design.

Tomorrow, I’m headed here with my only daughter, Barbara (I wrote about her here, which also shows the quilt I made her).  We have to get up an the unearthly hour of 3:30 in the morning, out the door by 4:00 a.m. in order to drive to our hub airport some distance away for our 7:00 a.m. flight to The Big Apple.  We’ve been making lists of things to see, to shop for (City Quilter? Purl Soho?), to look at (Ground Zero), to watch (a Broadway Show with Daniel Radcliffe) and we’ll get together with my son who is there that week for business.

Our Google Map is studded with push pins in four different colors: yellow for shops, green for sightseeing, blue for our transit/hotels, and pink for places to eat (macarons anyone?).  We’re excited to go and make some memories — enough memories to last a lifetime.

Creating · Quilts

Quilts with Attitude

“Does Not Compute,” by Boo Davis

I was doing the mind-numbing thing of sitting at the computer, surfing along after another long week in the classroom.  I stumbled onto a slide show in the New York Times about Quilts with an Attitude.  It’s about Boo Davis, who has just put out a book (Dare to Be Square Quilting) about her quilts: part goth, part old-timey piecing.  As an old quilter, it’s fun when New Young Quilters come on the scene, although I must admit to some amusement when they “appear” to have discovered anew what I’ve been doing for years and years.  Like from when I was a New Young Quilter and discovering anew the art of patchwork and piecework.  Click *here* for the slide show, but here’s a notable quote:

Ms. Davis says she gets upset when she sees quilts and patchwork sold on the Web for “next to nothing.” She believes that “It’s an artistic labor of love that deserves respect.”