Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cherry Picking

In the beginning of December, still hobbled, when finally I had to go out and run some errands (which is to say, trundle into a series of cabs), I ensured that one of them would be all about me. I learned, from a fantastic Toronto creative entrepreneur i.e. clothing designer with very chic boutique, that she was stocking Manitobah moccasins:

They're Canadian made and insanely warm and cozy. Dare I risk offending the moccasins of other lands? Really, if you're gonna wear some suede/shearling/fur products they should come from Northern Canada. Note: I sleep in mine (along with jammies and a cashmere scarf). I know from cold feet. These days, particularly, I feel my feet deserve pampering!

At any rate, the reason I'm being coy about the locale is because, while at this great boutique, I had another awesome experience. The owner, I'll call her T, not only designs, but manufactures the clothing in her own studio - behind the retail space. Y'all know these days I am rather obsessed with fabric. And if there's one thing T ensures is best in class, it's gorgeous fabric. She buys in NYC a couple of times a year. She produces about 1000 pieces a season.

One of the most generous features of T is her willingness to share her professional experience with someone like me, admittedly, a long-time client - but in no sense an insider. I am so curious to know about fashion merchandising for some bizarre reason. Must be the Etsy wannabe in me :-) While chatting at length about the biz, I decided to be bold. I asked her about the likelihood of someone - ahem, such as myself - gaining access to the amazing fabrics she uses, by approaching the mills or vendors directly. The answer: Slim to none. As you'd imagine, volume dictates the cost and availability of fabric. Because T can buy in quantity, she can afford fabrics that would be completely beyond the price range of the average home seamstress. But I didn't stop there.

"T," I said, "Do you ever have fabric overage at the end of a season?" She advised in the affirmative. So I continued: "Do you ever sell it to nice home sewists such as myself?" In truth, that's not something she's done in the past, but incredibly graciously she opened her studio to me and her basket of archived swatches.

What a joy it was to be in a beautifully organized - but totally functional - industrial space. The machines were amazing. The cutting space, vast. Bolts of fabric cozied underneath the cutting table. As I chose from the swatches, mysteriously fabric would arrive and I'd get take the 2-yard ends, or a few metres. Let's just say I paid the most reasonable price for the most beautiful fabric. I won't go into detail but the discount was utterly thrilling.

Here's a sample of the fabric I chose:

This is the slate fabric I used to make the pleated skirt for my sister...

This is a flannel with a tiny bit of stretch. Totally gorgeous for pants.

This could make a nice dress or even a top - it's solid but with really good drape.

Now this is the pièce de résistance... An amazing silk that's shiny on one side...

And matte on the other. In CERISE!


  1. Wow. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.

    It sounds like you're on to something with this T connection.

    I love beautiful fabrics.

    And those moccasins look very snugly. I usually order ours from L.L.Bean but next time will look for these.

  2. Oh I LOVE your Manitobah moccasins, they really seem soooooo comfy!!!!

    My dear you're being such a great sewer....

    Hope all is great with you.


  3. Susan: Thank you! Isn't it a great story!?

    Seeker: Thanks sweetie. I'm trying :-)

  4. Lurvely!

    My mom got a pair of Manitobah mukluks from her boyfriend for Xmas... they are sooo comfy and warm!

  5. Wow does it pay to befriend people like that! What a lovely lady.

  6. I have a hunch that your passion might some day soon turn into a profitable business. Your passion for this is the kind that transcends hobby.

    How wonderful that T is wiling to share her overages with you. Incredible. Well done!

  7. My daughter gave me a new pair of Manitoba mocs for Christmas, thank goodness, 'cause my old pair were looking pretty sad after four years . . . They are absolutely the best!
    Can't think of a better recipient of this gorgeous fabric windfall -- that cherry silk is stunning, can't wait to see it made up.

  8. Oh! I am going in search of those moccasins rightnow. When I flew to the States, I flew through Toronto and rememeber that there was a beautiful shop in the airport that carried such things,including a hand-embroidered baby sling from . . . the Northwest Territories I think. But there was no baby--or boyfriend even--in the picture then.

  9. Tanit: I had no idea these were so popular! I've lived all of these years in the dark...

    Kristin: Oh I know. I've got an excellent community.

    Bel: Who can say? I don't know how, at this moment, to turn it into a profitable lifestyle. But my subconscious is considering it, I'm sure.

    Frances: The cherry fabric is so gorgeous up close, you can't believe it. I almost don't want to use it because, in this form, it has infinite potential. Of course, it has no profile in this form.

    Miss C: I think you can get them online. Let me know!

  10. I could not buy them online from the website :-( but the site did have a list of shops . . .