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Apr 26, 2012

Fabric Shopping with an Aussie

Readers, I think of myself as relatively worldly, but when it comes to Australia, I know virtually nothing.  Kangaroos.  Koala bears.  Mel Gibson.  Whats-her-name from Grease.

So I wasn't entirely sure what to expect when I was contacted recently by an Australian reader, telling me she was coming to NYC and would I be up for a little fabric shopping? 

I do enjoy meeting up with readers from exotic places, time permitting, as I don't get to travel much, what with two chihuahuas and a heavy-with-child cousin; and I always love to go to fabric stores, if only to keep up with what's new in the remnant piles.  I said yes.

What fun I had yesterday with my new Australian best friend (who comments here under the name Livebird).  Sadly, I cannot reveal her real name nor her face -- something to do with great grandmothers, penal colonies, and candy smuggling.  You'll just have to use your imagination, or plug in the face of some Australian you do know.

We met at the FIT museum, where we caught the Fashion, A-Z exhibit -- the only one open at the moment -- which I've seen before but never tire of.  After coffee at Pret A Manger, we headed up to 39th Street, where we hit many of my favorite fabric stores, including mid-range Chic, low-end Nahir (where said Australian scored big), and divey "It's a Material World," where she scored again!

The overwhelming and heavily incensed "It's A Material World"
Oh, and the new Paron's is right next door, looking very much as it did on 40th Street, though with a smaller budget area.

Friends, as much as I tried to steer this woman toward dainty florals, evidently she favors the bold (see green fabric above).  I suppose it's an Australian trait.

This unusual cotton print incorporates vintage images of men's wing tip shoes!

I suggested this lovely cotton print (and may have to pick some up later this week, along with that polka dot), but she wasn't interested.

Here's her take (I take credit for the barkcloth):

Oh, I met her handsome significant other too! 

Now, you know I love gifts and always encourage readers to send me things.  Well just look what Livebird brought me all the way from Australia -- two gorgeous silks!

I call this one "Storm System Over Melbourne" -- a stunning abstract charmeuse.

More classic is this charming silk twill.  I think it's time to hone my nonexistent silk-sewing skills!

In closing, don't we look cute together?  (Trust me on this one.)

Oh, before I forget, Livebird writes the excellent Make it 'til you fake it blog, which focuses on the beautiful vintage-inspired clothes she sews.  (Take what she says there about our outing with a grain of salt: while I did request she stay five paces behind me at all times, I do not consider myself royalty!)

Happy Thursday, everybody -- especially you Aussies (or is it Friday there already...)!

PS - Do Australians favor bold prints?


  1. geez, i'll consider myself warned if i ever make it to NYC, and be in your esteemed company I'll to expect to walk behind you hahahahah

    Thrilled to hear you have a new Australian bestie!

  2. oh, I'm SO sad I missed your FIT outing--I work right across the street from FIT! I would have loved to meet her.

  3. I LOVE the prints Livebird chose - and I'm not Australian.
    -- stashdragon

  4. Peter, I hosted a cyber sewing friend from the Netherlands in Mobile, Alabama! We had fun just going to JoAnns and Hancocks. Ididn't make her walk behind me either ;)

  5. oh how cool! I just found her blog recently too.
    It is a small world.

  6. You find the best pictures -- that must be the WORST picture of Nicole Kidman, EVER. And the bow-headed drag queens? Is that from the La Cage Aux Folles revival? I have learned to set down my coffee before reading your posts, in order to prevent coffee shooting out of my nose and spraying the keyboard. There, that's a nice visual for you!

    1. That's "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" -- one of Australia's most famous exports!

  7. I had fun reading both your blogs! What an interesting assortment of fabrics she took home. Can't wait to see what she does with her stash! And, what you make with the green box print! Perhaps a nice vintage 50's shirt for Michael. Too fun!

  8. Great pictures of your Aussie visitor and you. I like the dotted fabric next to the floral you showed her, but some people are just bold print folks! Anyway, it's nice that you had a great day together.

  9. There are a lot of florals in Australian shops, so if I'd ever get somewhere as exotic as New York there is no way I'd be picking up florals. Having said that I am not sure about bold prints either, but my sewing buddy does seem to favour them. Perhaps it's because I am not a proper Aussie, I just live here :-)

  10. Good morning, and yes it's Friday here already, Peter. Must try to catch up with you on my (next) (unplanned as yet) trip to NYC!

  11. Yep, it's Friday!

    My theory- Australian sunlight is very bright, almost harsh compared to more temperate climes. Subtle colours and low-contrast designs can look washed out.

  12. I used to sell into Australia and they always bought the brighter colours and prints, so it's true!
    PS, you do look very similar in that last photo...

  13. Wow, that wingtip print fabric is so interesting! If only I were so lucky to fabric shop with "blogging royalty" ;). I subscribed to the Australian's blog, her stuff is great!

  14. I thought Melbournians of a certain age (ie my vintage) were famous for wearing black - interestingly layered and textured, but basically black. Loved the shoe print. It reminded me of a fabulous knit I've made into a tunic. High heeled shoes in bright colours...on a black ground. Worn over a black T with black skinny pants and boots.

    1. My vintage is still (just!) under 30 - and I'm black-wearing Melbournian too...

      Sometimes I try REALLY REALLY hard to wear colour. The Aucklanders (where I live) seem to like it.

      But it's pretty rare that I can break out of my mould enough to wear prints! Kudos to Peter's shopping friend for being atypical :-D

  15. Yep - it's Friday :) I'm so glad to hear you do shopping tours. If I can ever get to New York again I'll expect you to take me shopping too (I like florals by the way).

  16. We Melbournians are notoriously clad (ever-so-stylishly)in black... but go north and you have BOLD colour. I reckon it's the sunlight thing - or camouflage with the tropical flora....?

    Anyhoo - tres jealous of any Aussies getting to fabric shop in NYC.

    1. She actually told me about that "Melbourians in black" thing. Interesting!

  17. Friday all day! I don't do too many big bold prints but they are out there!
    By the way; it's just koala (no bear, as it isn't a bear it's a marsupial- i.e. has a pouch for it's young)
    Also tre jealous of fabric shopping in NYC!

  18. Peter, I think I *have* seen a sky like that at home, so nice naming work on the charmeuse! Do we Aussies like loud prints? Not typically. But I can't get enough of them. Thanks again for the excellent afternoon, Your Majesty. And thanks to all of Peter's fans who have dropped in to my blog!

  19. Oh yea, shall we dig up a few stereotypes about the 'United States of a miracle' as well ? ;-)
    Come on - let's swish this under the table and rather have fun together: isn't it nice to get a friend via net one wouldn't even know about? Even if it's one from 'this exotic place called Australia = tztztz and lol ;-) !
    I have to admit it's mentality wise (still) british enough to feel familiar and nature wise indeed exotic enough to feel adventurous. But hey, to us it's America triggering the typical 'greener grass over there' opinion/feeling!

    My experience about Australia is (stretching over an altogether period of in the meantime nearly 30 years and been granted to stay here for now well over 15 years - colour concerning: First even in Melbourne they were dressed rather colourful - a bit closer to their colourful birdlife here!
    Somewhere in between things changed - at least in Melbourne: they got more british than british can be in their colours chosen for their dress code. Sometimes I'd rather show some of them one of their colourful birds to match - at least a bit; sigh!!!

    One can well have all sorts of 'non-bold' material here. The only trouble finding, was - for a long time and especially more 'country' (which we simply have so very much of ;-) ): pure natural fibres and/or definitely instead of only 50/50 mix of Polyesters. Yet in the meantime I've learnt to understand this 'necessity' since with pure natural fibres the 'micro-life' here would just ruin everything way too fast = possibly chomp the material away right under our bums and have us suddenly stand around naked ! ;-) :-)
    With only a fraction of 'Poly' in, there is at least a slight chance they'd stop 'to check on their teeth' occasionally ;-) :-D

    Hope you'll recover well from your 'culture-shock' ;-) and looking forward to more teasing going to and fro,

    Linda (proud 'addition to the mix' here)
    and yes, time wise we're ahead of you ;-) = not with everything though!

  20. I've just been purging/reviewing 25 years of quilting magazines that I've been hauling around for 25 years and one thing I have noticed and commented on: Australian quilt makers make much bolder, stronger statements with their designs than Americans and Europeans. The colors are more saturated, designs lead trends and the techniques innovative. Good on you, OZ!

  21. Another Australian here and I'd say yes, we do tend to favour more colour and patterns (Melburnians excepted). I think us sewists are often a bit more adventurous than the average Australian, so no wonder your visitor went for the flashiest fabrics!
    It is a climate and attitude thing. A friend of mine (who doesn't sew) who just moved back to Germany commented on how many more and more bright/fun skirts and dresses are available in stores here than in Germany and Europe. So it's pretty much a constant here - fabric and clothing is all colour, all the time.

  22. Hello Peter, this is another Aussie who has just spent a happy day fabric shopping in NYC for the first time today! I went into Parons and was severely tempted by an eye watering red abstract floral, but resisted. What I did buy was pretty somber by comparison, so I can't shed any light on the "Australians go for brighter colors" theory.
    Still, I might go back and get that red floral.

  23. As a Sydneysider I'd say yes, we probably do favour the bright & bold compared to New Yorkers. I agree with an earlier commenter that it may be too do with the harsh sunlight which washes out more delicate tones... or could be we're just competing with the more colourful of our local birdlife (rainbow lorikeets, sulphur crested cockatoos, galahs...) for attention? Who knows!


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