Fabric Shopping With Marcy

Marcy2by Guest Sewer, Marcy Tilton

Marcy Tilton would be the perfect shopping partner in a fabric store! She has wonderful taste and a real knack for putting fabrics together in a classy way. Read as Marcy shares with us the process she goes through when selecting the “perfect fabric”. What a treat! ~Sandra

Where Did You Get That Fabric?

People are always asking me, “Where did you get that fabric?” I am a natural born shopper, and for years have sold bits of fabric from my own stash to students in classes, so the website fabric collection began as a natural extension of that.  I look for the kinds of fabrics I want to sew with and build a wardrobe around.  …and a personal goal is to wear things I make, so I seek out fabrics that are distinctive even if they are basics, and that work more on the casual side of life.  

Response has been so favorable to the fabrics at MarcyTilton.com that over the past two years I’ve had a great time tracking down fabrics which means finding and developing sources for the kinds of fabric I want to sew and build a wardrobe with.  Most of the fabric for home/hobby sewists trickles down from designer or manufacturer cutting rooms.  Sometimes I am able to buy directly from the designer, other times I find fabrics through jobber/wholesalers.  There are only a handful of sources that supply a line of fabrics that are always available and can be re-ordered again and again.  

I am picky picky picky and reject 99% of what I look at!

People ask me where I buy, and my response is ‘everywhere!’  

MarcyTiltonSometimes I travel to the fabric district (dressed up in my good clothes no less), where I plow through vast funky warehouses where the rolls of fabric are piled up on pallets like cordwood.  At one huge wholesale-only place, I am greeted at the door with a hello, handed a pair of dull scissors and a plastic bag and sent off to ‘shop’.  When I find a piece of fabric I like, I chop off a hunk and pop it in the bag.  At the end of the day, I put on my sorting hat and go through the swatches and decide which are ‘in’ and which are ‘out.’

When shopping at a wholesale textile show, I use my camera and photograph my choices, then sit down at the end of the day and sort according to color, and see what goes with what so people can find top and bottom weight fabrics to build an outfit and ultimately a wardrobe.  I look at my selections for what is missing, then go back to see if I can find it.

I’ve learned to attune my eye to colors that I don’t wear.  Blue, for instance, which is the universal favorite color (but not mine). I grew up wearing a navy blue uniform in Catholic school and that pretty much was enough for a lifetime for me.  So I keep in mind my friends who look great in blue, and I seek out interesting, subtle shades of blue.  I look for a balance of warm and cool toned colors too.

I seek out the basics.  Pant fabrics with good drape in black, brown, gray, navy, taupe—but the neutrals have to have quality, character and be in the current fashion picture.  The hunt for distinctive denims never ends. Stretch wovens too.  Knits for  all seasons and uses—-for basic T’s and tops in neutrals and skin tones as well as in flattering colors.  As a retailer, I have found that prints sell very well, so I am always on the lookout for great prints in all fabrications.  As a designer/teacher, I counsel students to use prints judiciously when building a wardrobe.  So the prints I choose have to pass stiff editing!  Stripes and dots are design workhorses that blend with each other and other prints and solids, so I keep an eye out for them and pick these up whenever i find good ones in knits and wovens.  ….and I have always loved leopard prints too (tho when these are bad, they can be very very bad!!!).

MarcyTiltonParisMy travels to Paris have attuned my eye to the kinds of fabrics French designers use to build their own basics, and to the fabrics used in the clothes I see and sometimes buy in Paris. 

From the Paris experience, I now look for a special kind of microfiber knit that I observe being used again and again by different designers with different results in T-Shirts, pants, skirts, dresses. Our ‘Parisian Black’ microfiber knit is a result of this search, and I was happy to find it at a supplier where I can re-order and also get the same fabric in colors as well as black.  While it is wonderful to shop for fabric in Paris, and I do buy for myself, we are so fortunate her in the US to have a vast variety to choose from.

Then, I like to spice things up with some high-end drama fabrics.  High-end fabrics are becoming harder and harder to find.  As the economy drives designers to make fewer and less expensive garments, and European mills close or move to Asia,the fabrics that trickle down to us consumers are smaller in number with fewer choices and safer designs.  

While in the design studio or in the fabric studio, I keep a ‘want list’ of things to look for in future shopping expeditions.  

If you were to come along with me on a fabric buying expedition, what fabrics would be on your want list? Comment below!

To check out Marcy’s latest Vogue Patterns, see her fabulous Fabric Collection, register for the next Paris Tilton Tour and more, visit MarcyTilton.com. To read Marcy’s latest newsletter click here.
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