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Sourcing Fabrics for Your Sewing Projects

People always ask where I get materials from. I am fortunate to live in a fashion capital, where I have easy access to supplies.

I don't use materials from just one store, or one area. In order to realize an idea for a client, my search may take me into any of the five boroughs of NYC; and sometimes online.

It takes about 6 hours of work from initial client meeting (to sourcing samples, sketching design, costing out each element) to subsequent finished written consult package to be sent to a client. This is to ensure that the idea can be closely realized and produced.

If you thought this was going to be a list of places to go, sorry, but you got the wrong post! Here's the thing: Taking the time to look/source materials for ideas helps your develop your own eye and creativity. It helps you to create uniquely and authentically- which is key for branding (and also not getting sued for copying other people's designs).

Online

There are many stores/online retailers that will send you a swatch card. Basically you may pay a small amount for the fabric store to mail you a card that includes small swatches of a specific fabric in all the colors that are available. This insures that you purchase the right fabric type and the right color.

In terms of trim, this may be available for flatback stones, depending on the seller. There are also some stores that may sell 1/4 to 1/2 yard of trims as samples.

Once you locate a potential online supplier, contact them and ask if they have a swatch card.

Local Fashion District

I truly believe in design as a full sensory experience, not to exclude the importance of tactile interaction with fabric. It is importanct to see how a fabric feels, its weight, how it moves, if it drapes well, etc. You cannot always determine this with a swatch card (unless you already know the fabric properties and are sourcing only for color).

I am fortunate to live in a fashion capital, where I have easy access to supplies. I have of colleagues and fellow dancers who schedule trips here to NYC solely for the purpose of sourcing fabric and trim for their projects back home.

By the same token, when I am in different cities, I make it a point to look up and go to the local fabric stores to source fabrics that may not be available in my own city. Every buyer for every business has a different eye, a different aesthetic, and a different knowledge of what their clients in that city might purchase for their design needs. This creates variations within different city markets that as a designer I can capitalize on.

I also patronize local retailers in order to contribute to the local economy. This is key, because I believe in supporting local businesses as Cocoabelly is also a local business.

My advice?

Especially in NYC, but wherever you may be- Put on your sneakers and take a walk.

1. The first thing I did was do an organic Google search for fabric stores in my area- for the five boroughs. My radius was wide, but I wanted to see what I could find.

2. When I first started looking for materials I took about 2 full days and walked into almost every store between 36th street and 40th and between 6th and 8th avenue. I took my time and lingered, making notes of what each owner kept in stock- including dress shops/ wholesalers.

3. I took business cards, I asked questions, and took notes on the back of them when there was some fabric (and price) I wanted to remember for later. Owners will also attach a swatch of some fabrics to the business card so that you may return later. This is not for all fabrics- some high end, heavily beaded, or fabrics that have a specific pattern may not be available for swatching. Also, some stores may place a limit on the amount of swatches per customer.

3. Everytime I go back I widen my radius. Or, I pick another area/borough to explore on a different day.

Note: Stores change often. (Either because of relocation or going out of business) so there is always something new. I gain inspiration from taking the time to look. Different areas of the city offer different elements for design.

I am inspired by many things, and not solely by existing dance wear or regular fashion. Going out to source also gives me a chance to do some people watching- this can be a huge inspiration as well. I encourage you to go ahead, make that list, get your sneakers on, take a walk and explore!

BUT... if you would like me to source for you, I am more than happy to do it! Contact me to schedule a consult at www.cocoabelly.com!


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