Crafty shopping, NYC style December 13, 2006

In the happiest of coincidences, our show this week is smack in the middle of the Fashion District here in the city, just a block or two away from some of my all-time favorite sources for buttons, beads, fabric and trim. I accidentally left my well-loved copy of my Threads magazine guide to New York shopping at home, but I’d planned to hit my three preferred stores this week from memory. And then on Monday I discovered the coolest crafty-shopping resource I’ve ever seen!

Fashion District info kiosk

There’s a bubblelike official Fashion District information kiosk at the corner of 7th Ave. and 39th St. I’ve walked right past it a million times, but this time, for some heaven-sent reason, I stopped and went in. There’s nothing on the counter but some public safety leaflets warning against pickpockets and a well-thumbed book that’s mostly retail clothing shops, but I asked the woman working if they had any guides to shopping for supplies in the neighborhood. She noted what I was interested in browsing, typed the terms into a search engine, and two minutes later I had 24 pages of customized listings to look through!

24 pages of listings!

Each shop is described in detail along with the street address, phone number, and website. I’ve already marked another dozen places I want to go to this week, and if I were here longer I think it could get a bit ridiculous.

Some quick advice: if you visit this magical kiosk, do NOT eat or use your cell phone inside. A family of Australian tourists got a tongue-lashing they won’t forget soon for these transgressions while I was there. And trust me, you don’t want to get banned from this place…

I mentioned my three favorite places to shop in the city earlier, and here they are:

Toho Shoji, 990 Avenue of the Americas (at 36th St.), 212-967-2088. (note: their official site,, is currently down.) This is a super bead store, with unusual chain by the foot, a cool selection of charms and lockets, good-quality glass, and nice findings in both base and precious metals. The service is attentive and pleasant; the prices are fairly high. They do custom bead dyeing, and mail order if you’re not in the city.

Metalliferous, 34 W 46th St (at 7th Ave.), 212-944-0909. This is two amazing stores in one: a bead shop on the right (with strands and individual beads of every variety) and a tools, findings, stampings, chain, and pretty much everything else store on the left. Pay for your purchases on one side before hitting the other. In the cavernous tools/findings/everything area, squeeze past the clerks and shoppers to find the incredible selection of new and vintage pieces arranged in rows and rows of shelves, and mark down quantities and costs on plastic bags as you shop. Set aside at least an hour for this place. Catalogs are available if you’re not in town.

M & J Trimming, 1008 Avenue of the Americas (at 37th St.), 212-391-0023. “New York’s biggest trimming resource” carries rhinestones, buttons, tassels, cords, ribbons, lace, buckles, feathers, and just about anything else you might need for your embellishment projects. (Buttons alone are available in 28 categories.) Stop by each shop in the row of stores dedicated to the different types of products, and if you get overwhelmed you can also order online.

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