Number Forty-Two * August 15, 2000
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The Traveling Quilter Goes to the City
By Christina Holland
One day only, alone in New York City. What to do? Shopping, museums, tall buildings?
Come on, you know you'd rather go fabric shopping.
I knew in advance that the one store I had to go to was The City Quilter, but unfortunately they don't open until 11 a.m. So first I set off for The Gazebo.
[Editor's note: We have been informed that The Gazebo has closed.]
After buzzing to be let into The Gazebo, you'll find yourself facing a wall filled with stacks of finished quilts for sale. If that's what you're looking for, there are some very nice ones available, in all kinds of patterns. Most appear to be hand quilted. They come from The Gazebo's "factory" in the Caribbean. A queen size quilt, I was told, will run you $495 and up, depending on the pattern.
Next you'll notice an array of Gladys Boalt ornaments, filling the center of the store. They're nice, but not cheap.
Keep on going back. Pass the pillows and the baby quilts, back to the far back left corner, and you'll find the fabrics.
It's a smallish fabric selection - one shelf of batiks, 5 shelves of color solids, and the remainder sorted by color. There's a decent selection of oriental fabrics. Most prints are between $7 and $11 per yards. You'll also find some thread, a small amount of batting, a limited tool selection, and some books.
It's immediately obvious that The Gazebo exists mainly to sell finished products, not materials. If you're shopping along 5th Avenue anyway, though, it's probably worth your time to stop in to browse.
To get there from 5th Avenue, just turn east (away from Central Park) at the giant Warner Brothers store.
This is mainly a shopping neighborhood, but there are places to get a bite to eat nearby. The Palace restaurant is just down the block, and Starbucks is right next door. After walking a mile or two to get there, I was so focused on getting my iced tea fix at Starbucks that I walked right past The Gazebo without even noticing. So much for being street savvy and aware of my surroundings!
[Editor's note: We have been informed that Sew Brooklyn is no longer open.]
Next, I hopped on the orange (D/Q) subway line to Brooklyn. After catching the occasional glimpse of the Brooklyn bridge and the Manhattan skyline, I disembarked at the 7th Avenue station and headed south to Sew Brooklyn.
The store is just past 3rd Street (if you're heading south on 7th Avenue) on the right hand side. It's in a fairly busy shopping area, so there are plenty of places to eat just about any type of food you desire. I recommend Ruby's Chinese on Flatbrush Avenue near the subway, for good portions at a good price. Many places appeared to be closed until noon, though.
Sew Brooklyn is small, although it extends back further than you'd first suppose. It's a homey place, and very friendly.
On the right hand side are the books, beads, buttons, knitting needles, yarn, thread, tools, and so on. There's a large bin of "new and vintage buttons" for $1.50 per ounce. The fabric lines the wall on the left hand side, along with baskets of fat quarters ($2.50 apiece) scattered all around. Also in the back is a classroom.
The quilter's fabric selection is moderate in size, but varied enough to tempt you in one way or another. Most bolts were marked between $9 and $10 per yard. There are other types of material to be found as well, including antique prints on soft flannel.
If you'll be in the area for a longer period, you should check out the class schedule at Sew Brooklyn. The current list is six pages long, ranging from beginning classes in sewing, knitting and embroidery to a variety of quilting courses, and even offering selections for kids.
The Fabric Alternative
The Fabric Alternative is a small and quiet shop. It's an all purpose fabric store, and mainly specializes in home decoration fabric. In the center of the shop, though, I found a fairly good selection of 100% cotton prints suitable for quilting. There were two shelves of batiks, a shelf of nice oriental prints, some celestial prints (moons and stars), and some fun kid's prints.
As a quilter, I wouldn't make a special trip to Brooklyn just to come to this store. But if you're in the area, or if like me you make the trip to Sew Brooklyn, it's worth your while to visit The Fabric Alternative.
The shop was relatively busy when I arrived, but everyone was extremely friendly, even chatty. I couldn't help but notice one of the other customers while I was there. She was evidently a newcomer to quilting, afraid to touch anything and looking rather bewildered by all the fabric bolts. I remember that feeling. The staff, I noticed, was very helpful to her, putting her at ease and answering every question graciously. After a day in the city, The City Quilter was a breath of fresh air.
The fabric selection is large, making good use of the limited floor space of a Manhattan store. There are two full rooms, plus a classroom. The back room houses the tools, books, and the batik fabrics (a full wall). The main fabric area is in the front, with several little nooks to maximize the available shelf space. Bolts start at about $7 per yard and go up from there.
I was tempted to spend a lot of money at The City Quilter, but I was (mostly) able to restrain myself. I found a lovely panda print, though. I was also unable to resist buying the fat quarter ($2.50 apiece, except for a few marked at 5 for $5) of Siamese cats lounging on blue quilts, since I'd found and purchased the same fabric with red at Sew Brooklyn earlier in the day.
All too soon, it was time to meet my husband after his conference.
And here's what's inside!