exploring fabric row, philadelphia

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

One day last week I went exploring on Fabric Row in the Queen Village neighborhood in southeast Philadelphia. Philly is so close to Wilmington, you'd think I'd go there more often than New York City, but so far I haven't. Me thinks that'll have to change.
Fabric Row is like a mini version of the NYC garment district. There are 18 or so shops (listed here) all concentrated on a few blocks of South 4th Street from South Street to Catharine Street.
     green=fabric row   blue=parking   orange= I95
 click on the map to enlarge
Coming from south of Philly, I take 95 north past the airport to the Washington Street exit near Penn's Landing. Follow Washington west to 5th street & turn right. Follow fifth up to Bainbrindge where all the parking is. It's angled metered parking, and on a weekday morning, it wasn't hard to get a spot. I had a finite number of quarters though, so I had to limit my stay to 1 1/2 hours which wasn't enough.

I've had success in the past at B. Wilk Fabrics at 618 4th Street when I was in the market for draperies, but they only do home furnishing fabrics. I wanted to get some classic men's shirtings like maybe some oxford cloth, chambray, or broadcloth. I tried Maxie's Daughter at 724 South 4th Street. Half the store is devoted to apparel fabrics: decent linens, wools and evening fabrics, but no shirtings. Eric, son of the owner, pointed out that "nobody makes their own shirts anymore". I suppose that's true, but I'm gonna make some.
 burn test at Jack B. Fabrics
Jack B. Fabrics at 748 South 4th Street had some shirtings. Yay! I found high quality 100% cotton blue oxford cloth and a sweet cotton lawn covered with tiny flower embroideries. I got the whole bolt of the lawn since I'm sure I'll never see it again. The owner waited on me and did a burn test to make sure the oxford cloth was 100% cotton. She said she's never quite sure since she buys her apparel fabrics from jobbers.
dupionis at Jack B. Fabrics
The majority of the Jack B. store is home furnishing fabrics, but they did have a nice selection of dupioni silks which can go either way.

I went in Kinkus Fabrics at 754 South 4th and didn't find what I needed either, but the kind person who waited on me was ever so knowledgeable and knew right where everything was. They had a lot of men's suitings and a tailor working out of the back. So old school- I love it!
Pennsylvania Fabric Outlet
A peek in Pennsylvania Fabric Outlet revealed a diverse inventory. I found some real camel hair and cashmere towards the back that reminded me I want to make a camel a-line inverted pleat skirt this fall. I didn't get the fabric though, because I'm too busy trying to get the shop ready for fall right now to work on it. Gotta stay disciplined.
 Pennsylvania Fabric Outlet
PA Fabric Outlet also had leather and the biggest selection of buttons on Fabric Row.

On the way back to the car I found some wide 100% cotton ($10/yd) chambray at A & J Fabrics at 757 South 4th Street. It was a clean and organized store compared to most of the others, but not the place to go for bargains necessarily. Most of their cottons were in the $14 range.

Bottom line: if you're looking for something specific, budget for more time and go in every single store on Fabric Row. With patience, you may find it.


Marjie said...

A friend is coming from Seattle next week, and she and I are planning to go to Fabric Row in Philadelphia. Your review was very helpful (especially with the notes about parking). Thank you!

Marjie from Scranton

Becky said...

Have a wonderful time!!!

Sewing Princess said...

So cool, I will be visiting philly soon and this is very helpful

Anonymous said...

I am trying to find a cool collection of ribbons...any suggestions for fabric row? (:


Becky said...

Erin, Pennsylvania Fabric Outlet has the most in the way of interesting jaquard ribbons & trim. Someday you'll have to get yourself up to the NYC garment district and go to Daytona trim ;)

addypotter said...

I love to visit all the fabric stores in Philadelphia. I love to sew and always find great stuff here. I can't wait until I can make the trip again. Thanks for the great post.

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