Serendipity is such a funny thing.
One of the judges at QuiltCon who critiqued my quilt is the founder and part-owner of Purl Soho. In the interests of fairness, it's only right and proper that I critique her store for her, don't you think ;-)
So, Purl Soho is situated here
It's a very busy street just off Broadway which is crawling with shoppers and people like me who don't have a clue what they are doing.
|That's it, over there...with the white bauble lights hanging.|
As soon as you step inside, on your left hand side, you see this Liberty hoop display.
And then the rest of the shop looks like this.
I would say it is two thirds yarn/needlework and one third fabric.
The fabric selection I would describe as 'capsule.' There is some Liberty, some solids, a few Japanese prints, some Denyse Schmidt and a little bit of this and a little bit of that.
If you're dragging a husband along, there is no comfy chair for him to sit on. See that ladder on the right hand side? It's on wheels and glides from side to side. There was a girl up it, putting fabric back on the shelves. She had a skirt on. Maybe that could be your husband's form of relaxation instead. If not, then two blocks away on Spring Street is the New York City Fire Museum which includes a poignant exhibition on all the fire-fighters who lost their lives in 9/11 and where my husband sought his refuge.
I got talking to one of the assistants. What you see on their website is not necessarily what they have in the store. The website ships from their warehouse in California. There is a sale section on the website. There is no sale section in the store. I do like a sale section.
In my opinion, if you are coming to NYC I would not make this top of your list of quilt shops - I think it is over-hyped and when you've come thousands of miles (from parts of the world with little or no fabric choice at high prices) I think you want bang for your buck from a quilting experience and it just didn't do it for me. It is a triumph of style over substance - but that's just my opinion; you may think differently. A first time visit to Purl Soho is like first-time sex - you're left with a feeling of 'was that it...what was all the fuss about.'
If you're wanting the most comprehensive offering of fabric, notions and patterns and want to stay in Manhattan, I would pick The City Quilter. If you want to experience quirky, one-of-a-kind fabric in a more gentile setting then I would hop over to Brooklyn to the Brooklyn General Store. If you're making that journey with a non-quilt-obsessed companion just tell them they'll get to experience the best views of Manhattan along the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, so really, you're doing them a big favour by taking them to a quilt store. There's nothing wrong with Purl Soho per se, it's just for me it's not what I'd regard as a destination quilt store.
In the interests of fairness there are other blogs you can check out for New York experiences:
- http://www.diaryofaquilter.com/ - type 'New York' in her search button and up comes several blog posts, including some about the Garment District
- Victoria Findlay Wolfe Quilts - a really great resource on all New York things fabric plus more
- Paula Nadelstern - again, an excellent overview of the Garment District plus a whole lot more
If you are non-US and suffer the astronomical shipping costs we have to pay for US-purchased fabric, don't forget you can also order online from US retailers and get it delivered to a US address you will be staying at. Leila very kindly acted as my fabric mule and Becca at Sew Me A Song managed to squeeze an obscenely heavy amount of fabric into an envelope for just $5.90 postage.
|I took out the Essex linen that was also included in the package. You didn't want to see that as well did you?|
I also ordered some fabric from Amanda at Westwood Acres and zips from Zipit and had both those packages delivered to Leila's house too. It all adds up though and when we flew back, we were 6 kgs overweight :-(
It's also worth bearing in mind (as a non-US fabric buyer) that a store/bricks and mortar price is going to be more per yard than what you have been used to paying on-line. So an average price per yard in Purl Soho was $11 but you'd probably pay $2 less a yard (or more if you went sale) so even factoring the postage, it's still a better buy. And the right online US fabric retailers often have those hard-to-find prints that you absolutely love. Example being the yellow specs print in the top right hand corner of the image - it wasn't in any of the three fabric stores I visited...nor any of the text fabric middle of the bottom row.
Where I do want to go next time is here
It's in Lower Manhattan, about a 20 minute walk from Purl Soho and the place in NYC for zippers.
A Feibusch has an online store but I did want to see row upon rows of zippers in person (!) as well as lots of other sewing accouterments I may or may not actually need. And I also need to wander aimlessly around the Garment District too.
If you're going to New York and want a break from the quilting side of things the following will hopefully help.
Since our last visit The High Line has opened and I would definitely put this in a Top Ten of things to do in New York. It's a one mile linear park on a disused, elevated section of the former New York Central Railroad.
It's on the west side of Manhattan, mid-townish and was an area I wasn't particularly familiar with.
We walked from north to south but Leila suggests walking both ways as the vistas are so different.
I don't think the images do it justice. It really is an unexpected shot of verdant lushness in the urban jungle.
I should imagine it will be riot of colour in the next few months.
For the best views of Manhattan we were told not to bother with the Empire State Building because the queues are longer and it is better to go to the Rockerfeller Center which has just as fantastic views, with the bonus of the more iconic Empire State Building in those views.
I would be inclined to agree.
The ceiling of the lift is transparent, allowing you to see your journey through the lift shaft as you shoot up and down the tower. I may have closed my eyes at this point.
If the weather is fab, Central Park is a must. However, if you haven't got time to leisurely walk from one end to the other (including stops for all important people watching it'll probably take you an hour and a half), then get the subway as far as 86th Street (B or C line...and not the A express which we got on and then it was 'hello Bronx') which is about half-way in to the park.
There were terrapins in one of the many lakes.
And spring had most definitely sprung.
And there are lots of refreshment stalls dotted around. The frozen fruit sticks are lovely (I had mango) but the Belgian waffles are completely moorish (as in wanting more, not Spanish architecture).
It was a perfect day.
It is worth remembering that since Hurricane Sandy, both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are closed for repair works until probably the autumn.
|Arriving in New York at sunrise...it was magical|
I became slightly obsessed with the Magnolia Bakery and may have visited more than one location.
This is the one at Grand Central Station.
Apparently, when Grand Central Station was renovated in the 1990's, they discovered the ceiling was actually green and believe it had been hidden for years under all the nicotine from smokers. The Station is now a smoke-free zone.
The Magnolia Bakery is in the lower concourse food area. We ate at Juniors one night which is apparently famous for its cheesecakes. I was in love with the backs of the chairs.
And there is another Magnolia Bakery behind the Rockerfeller Center.
It stays open until midnight.
Who queues for cupcakes (except Americans call it 'standing in line') late at night?
And then you get to walk past the Rockerfeller Center in all its night time splendor.
For eating in general, whenever we had visited a 'tourist attraction', we would ask a guard/policeman where they would go and eat and we were never disappointed. You'll always get directed away from the main touristy areas and end up in some really fun diners, frequented by locals, none of which disappointed.
Highly personal for everyone so a bit difficult to guide you. I had strict instructions that I needed to visit Abercrombie and Fitch and Hollister which were the only two stores on Fifth Ave that made you stand outside and only let you in when customers came out.
And when you do get in (45 minutes later thank you very much) it's dark and with loud thumping music. I can understand they want to create a certain vibe/brand but when you can't tell whether a T-shirt is blue or turquoise or a shirt is white or cream because of the fluorescent lights then it's lost on me. I'm afraid by the time I made it to the front of the tortuously long queue to pay for said items and I got the usual 'was everything fine for you today?' I replied 'It would be, if you turn the music down and the lights up.' I didn't get an answer.
But then if I'd been them, I wouldn't have known what to say to me either.
I don't think it's in their customer service manual.
All the main brands are catered for around the top end of Fifth Avenue in the run up to Central Park. Bloomingdales is in that area too which is always worth a look, especially when the 'in' thing in your daughters' school is to have the 'little brown bag' as your school lunch bag! And if you want to take home some NYC souvenirs there are lots of street stalls or (I found) the top end of Lexington Ave near Central Park had some not-so-expensive souvenir shops.
If you visit the 9/11 memorial site there is a huge Century 21 almost opposite it which is good for cheap(er) designer brand shopping. And if you're visiting Purl Soho, then you're only a block and a half away from Broadway which has loads of middle and upper end of the road type stores.
And that's it.
Every time I visit, I come away with the feeling that it is still my most favourite city in the whole world.