Thursday, August 4, 2016

New York City, Part 1: McCalls Tour, High Line, Chelsea Market


A view from the Google NYC office

I recently returned from an extremely fun week in NYC! I hadn't been to New York since the early-to-mid '90s, so it was high time for a visit. One recap post would be too long, even for me, so I'm breaking my trip report into several posts.

It's probably still too long!

Robin, of A Little Sewing joined me for two days of my visit. I hadn't seen her in person since my 2011 road trip to Pennsylvania, Baltimore, and Washington D.C.—it was great to enjoy some quality time!

I managed to book my trip right in the middle of a heat dome, the longest hot weather spell in NYC for years. And, yes, it was hot, but not impossibly so. Lots of shade (thanks to both trees and tall buildings), air conditioned buildings, breezes, and plenty of iced decaf soy lattes, made it quite tolerable.

Vogue Patterns

Photo credit: Robin Denning

Way back when the good folks at Vogue Patterns* flew me to Puyallup they invited me to come visit their offices in New York. It took me three years, but I finally made it to their offices. I was sorry not to see Kathy Marrone in her element—Kathy took her well-earned retirement earlier this year. She will be missed. I had met the new editor-in-chief of Vogue Patterns Magazine, Gillian Conahan, when she was an assistant editor. She's doing a great job in her new role, and it was nice to get to know her a little better. (Interesting factoid about Gillian: she sews amazing Cosplay costumes!)

I invited Robin on the expedition to New York's financial district. Robin worked briefly at McCalls, so this was "old home week" for her. She was also my intrepid guide on the subway.

Riding the subway down to the financial district. I was surprised that Vogue is so far from the garment district!

A subway mosaic

We met with Carlos, designer for the Vogue line. There is another designer for Butterick and another for McCalls. I asked Carlos how they ensure that the lines don't conflict with each other. Coordinating that effort is the job of Carolyne Cafaro, the Creative Director. Carlos told me that he keeps a printout of my "Open Letter to Vogue" on top of his desk and then he proved it - he very much liked it. I was flattered!
Photo credit: Meg at McCalls

Gillian, the editor-in-chief for Vogue Pattern Magazine. She's doing a great job! Yes, it was a heat wave, but the McCalls offices are cold.
Photo credit: Meg at McCalls

Much of the wall art, such as these sketches from past decades, reflects their long history.

The fabric and trim library. The designers come to this room to pull samples for their designs. They source all of their fabrics for the garments shown on the envelope covers from sources available to the home sewer.

Caught you, Gillian! That's Kathy Wiktor, in front of Robin, leading the tour.

The patternmaking room. These folks turn the designs into patterns and then test them in muslin. They do this for Butterick, Vogue, McCalls, and Kwik Sew patterns.

We also saw the sewing room where they make the samples, the workstations where they grade the patterns (one of the pattern graders walked us through her process), and the art studio where all of the designs are photographed. We also visited customer service. That room was interesting as it contains a copy of all current patterns. When someone contacts Vogue about a problem pattern, the customer service rep, Laurie, pulls the pattern, and checks it out. She may even sew it up. If the error is egregious, they will correct it at the factory for future printings.

When I met Frank Rizzo, President of McCalls, in Puyallup a few years back, he told me that their company wasn't that large, in terms of people, and now that I've seen it, it's true. They run a tight, efficient ship with limited headcount, and yet they produce hundreds of patterns per year. (What an exhausting thing to contemplate.) Aside from the New York office, they have a factory in Manhattan, Kansas (seriously, it's named Manhattan) where they print the paper patterns for all of their lines as well as for many independent pattern companies.

Thanks, Gillian, Meg, Carlos, Kathy, Chris, and all the other folks at Vogue Patterns, for a great visit! We were there for close to 2 hours, and I appreciate the time you generously gave us!

Also, thanks for the swag!

It JUST so happens that the New York Times also visited Vogue Patterns recently. They published this article, Do-It-Yourself Fashion Thrives at the McCall Pattern Company, just two days ago! Talk about stealing my thunder. ;)

But, seriously, you can also see Carolyne Cafaro in the article (she was there when I visited, and we briefly chatted, but I didn't interrupt her to take photos), and some of the other rooms that I didn't photograph. I also met the social media face of McCalls, Meg. Unfortunately, Frank was away.

All in all, it was a great visit!

*Yes, I know that the company is actually called "The McCalls Pattern Company" but, I generally refer to them as Vogue Patterns, which is the line I use the most.
After leaving Vogue Patterns, Robin wanted to stop by Mendel Goldberg Fabrics

They sell very high end fabrics, like this beautiful embroidered Dolce and Gabbana lace

And Robin found this gorgeous cotton. She blogged about our visit here.

And then we skedaddled back to the garment district and made our way to M&J Trimmings. Neither of us purchased anything, but this is a go-to place if you sew bridal!


The High Line

I am a little a lot obsessed with the High Line. The High Line didn't exist, at least not in its present form, when I last visited New York.

What is the High Line?

It's an elevated park, three miles long. Originally it was an elevated railway used to deliver carcasses to New York City's meat packing district, as well as produce and other groceries. The trains were discontinued in the '50s and the railway fell into disrepair. In the 90s, it was declared an eyesore and was slated for demolition, when two artists met and decided that it must be saved.

I couldn't wait to get up on the High Line. My flight landed in Newark on Sunday at 5pm, and by 6pm, I was walking the High Line. An entrance was 2 blocks from my Airbnb, and another entrance is near the Google NYC office, so I used it to commute to work.

I love this unique park, as do many New Yorkers. One afternoon we had a very impressive lighting and thunderstorm, which I avoided by working late. As soon as it lifted, I was back on the High Line. It was delightfully uncrowded after the storm. When I visited on Sunday, there were food booths, and musicians playing in the areas that pass through buildings—these covered sections create wonderful acoustics, as well as providing shade. I found it relaxing and serene to watch the sun set over the Hudson, above the city, enjoying the breezes, without the hassle of cars or traffic lights.

Enjoy the views!

Park benches

Some of the flora

I saw this scene Sunday evening. I didn't get too close to the creepy performance artist, though lots of people were clustered around, taking pics, but it was... creepy, so I kept moving. It was only the next day that I realized that it's NOT a creepy performance artist... It's a creepy sculpture!

A quiet corner

This may not look elevated, but it is

Just kidding! This is a piece of art

Definitely no nude sunbathers

They've created some stadium seating facing picture windows of the street. People enjoy sitting and watching the traffic. Such an interesting idea!

Same view, after the storm

Another art piece. Note the tree growing from the roof

Blind idealism is reactionary scary deadly.

Enjoying the sunset over the Hudson

My new goal is to experience the High Line in every season. I've seen it in summer, so one down and three to go!

The High Line is only marginally related to sewing or fashion, though Diane von Furstenberg was one of the first people to come on board in support of the project. (Her building overlooks the park.) If you want to learn more about the history of this unique park, as well as its landscaping and design, watch this excellent documentary, narrated by Susan Sarandon:


Chelsea Market

One of the Google offices is located above the Chelsea Market, so I was eager to check it out! I'm not a foodie, but there's a lot of food there. There's also shopping. The third or fourth time I walked through the market, I spied a seller in the corner of one of the artisan shops. The mannequins featured garments covered with zippers. I was drawn in!

The artist is Sohung Designs and I bought one of his pieces, which can be worn as a belt (not by me) or a collar (yes, please!).
Worn backwards


Google NYC

My trip to NY wasn't all play. I also worked for two days in our New York office. What a great office! Here are a few pics of some of the interesting details. It's just a few - there was so much to see in the three buildings.

Views from up high

Carolyn, of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic, came to lunch!

I loved this quilted wall!

One of the conference rooms

Fun work cubbies!

No... I didn't try the ladder

Lego, anyone?

I love this "knitted" bench!

There was an impressive thunder and lightning storm on Monday afternoon. While violent, it only lasted during the commute home. I worked late that day (avoiding the storm entirely) and then made a beeline to the High Line, once it was over.


That's enough for this post! It's morning now, so I need to get ready for work. (This post brought to you by insomnia...)

Have a great day!

61 comments:

  1. What a wonderful post Shams!! I enjoyed hanging out with you and look forward to the next time. Thanks for everything!

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    1. It was lovely, Robin. Thanks for joining me!

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  2. Whoa, you found Sohung! He's one of my favorite designers ever (I still have the first piece I ever bought from him -- an asymmetrical wool cape) and I pay him a visit every time we visit NY. He used to have a shop over on 8th Street, but now he's only at the market.

    Love your pics, btw!

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    1. Yes, duck bucket, I was literally drawn in by those mannequins! I also had my eye on another of his pieces, but not this time.

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  3. Thanks for sharing your trip - loved it all!

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  4. Stupendous post! It was fun to read about just some of your adventures and to amazingly share in a few. Glad you had a great trip. Get a nap in you fabulous blogger you!

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    1. Thanks, Wendy! It was so nice to see you, twice, in NYC! When I get to the part where I talk about meeting up with folks, you'll be mentioned. :)

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  5. Interesting post and photos - thanks for the tour!

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  6. So excited to see a new post, and as always, it thrilled me! Your eye candy is just delicious. Thanks!

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  7. Fab post! Looking forward to the rest of the mini-series. Sohung? Oh, MY!!

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    1. Thanks, 365! They are mapped out but will take some time to write!

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  8. what a great trip and I was wondering if the heat was troublesome. The High Line looks amazing, something I am definitely interested in seeing - all those plants in an urban setting.

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    1. Beth, I think you would also love the High Line!

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  9. this was an amazing tour ... i wish we were going to nyc; i would love to stay in the hotel overlooking this gorgeous landmark, high line -- it's perfect ... loved all the markets, designers, artists ... my heart longs for nyc ... thank you sooo much .. i didn't see the link, so i'm posting it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CgTlg_L_Sw

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    1. Thanks for including the link to the High Line documentary, midnight hysteria! I embedded the video right in my post, but you can also open this link in a new window. And thanks!

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  10. Really enjoyed 'traveling' with you.

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  11. Loved your post, and feel very envious about your visit to McCall's/Vogue. I'll bet I'm not the only one who is curious about their process. Do you suppose they would consider doing a video and posting it on YouTube? Seems like it would be good marketing....

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    1. Thanks, Wendy! What a great idea!

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  12. Thanks for sharing some of your adventures in NYC. Especially enjoyed learning more about the High Line. It is now on my list to visit this fall.

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    1. Oh, Judy, it's so great! But make sure you watch the documentary before you go so you can really appreciate it!

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  13. This is such a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing your trip. :)

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  14. You really ate up the Big Apple in a grand way! Looks like so much fun! Love that you blended work and your passions so seamlessly!

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  15. Did you know there is a similar elevated walkway in Paris? It's the Promenade Plantée (AKA Coulée verte). It was on my list of places to visit last November but we ran out of time.

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    1. Good to know, Denise! I will add it to my Paris list! (I've heard there are also plans for something like this in London.)

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  16. LOL, love the last line. This reading of your post was sponsored by insomnia too! Worth being awake far too early for. Wow, how great to see inside McCalls, and to see that your letter to them is really being taken seriously. The High Line is such a clever idea. It looks wonderful and makes a great art piece (and garden) for all to enjoy. And lastly - Google, what a place to work. Beats a boring old accountants office :)

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    1. Thanks, Vicki! Yes, I guess it must be nighttime in Australia! :)

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  17. What a fantastic post! Love all your pictures and look forward to the next part...

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    1. Thanks, Margy! I wish you'd come with me to NYC one of these days, but I understand if it's not your scene. :)

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  18. I've been waiting for this post after I read Robin's blog. The trip to McCall's office sounds so inspiring - thanks to you I felt like I was there. I met Meg when she worked at Mood - classy lady and would love to meet Carolyn (blogger). Heading to NYC this fall and will check out the High Line as you have peaked my interest. Anxious to read part 2. Karen

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    1. Thanks, Karen! Wow, you are one well traveled Australian!!! :)

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    2. Well, Shams, I live in Houston. I think the confusion stems from the fact that we travelled to Australia/New Zealand 2 years ago. But, yes, we do travel as much as possible - 4-5 cruises a year plus trips within the states.

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    3. Oh, sorry, Karen! I was confused!

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  19. What a great trip! Thank you for sharing it with us, this post made me really want to visit NYC... in near future.

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    1. Oh, yoshimi, you would have a lot of fun!

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  20. I want to thank you for the time and effort you put into your blog. You are so deeply appreciated!

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    1. Thanks so much, Kansas Sky! Your comment is much appreciated!

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  21. I loved this blog post and looking at all of your wonderful photos. I have only been to NYC once as it is a very long way from Australia but next I am planning to travel there for the American Open Tennis. I loved the details you have given on the High Line and I am going to hunt for an AirBNB near it. Thank-you.

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    1. Thanks, Marjorie! I stayed in the Chelsea District, on 30th and 8th (roughly). This was 2 blocks from a High Line entrance, though there are other entrances. It was also several blocks from the garment district, so it was perfect!

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  22. Sounds like you had a great time! I've never heard of the High Line - what a wonderful space. I'd love to visit New York again sometime.

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    1. Catherine, I hope you manage more travel than I did once I had babies! I basically didn't travel for 20 years (mostly because I couldn't really afford it). I always admired people that were able to do it!

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  23. thanks for your nice comment on my blog. Looks like we both are in to fun traveling reports and I am looking forward to Part 2 !

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    1. Hey, Peggy! Were your ears burning last week? Carolyn and I were reminiscing about our road trip back in 2011, which is also when I met Robin!

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  24. This almost makes me want to visit NYC. Thanks for the tour. It would be fascinating for McCalls/Vogue to put together a video tour of their processes.

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    1. "Almost", Kathy! You really should! :) And thanks!

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  25. What a great preview of the High Line! I am going to be in NYC in November and you are helping me plan my trip! Your visit to BMV sounds very interesting. I read the NYT article as well. I can't wait to read more about your adventure.

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    1. Thanks, MaryHelen! That's a big reason that I do these posts!

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  26. From Creative Hormone Rush: Shans, your wonderful photography makes me miss NYC so much. And the mere mention of Chelsea Market brings back the wonderful smell of freshly baked pastries. I live just north of NYC now, but you're inspiring me to go down and do some serious poking around again. Glad you had such a wonderful trip. Your photography and adventures are amazing!

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    1. Thanks Creative Hormone Rush! You are so lucky to be near NYC and all of its wonders! I want to start coming to NYC more often, but we'll see if I can manage it!

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  27. The creepy underwear guy was on display at Weelesley College...they actually petitioned for his removal.

    My niece starts her nursing career at NYU in the fall, so I'll have someone to visit the Highline with! ~Martina

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  28. Wellesley College, not Weelesley!

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    1. Martina, I had read about the reaction to the statue at Wellesley. Glad to know I'm not the only one who found him to be creepy! I would LOVE to see the High Line in the fall!

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  29. Oh I do want to go back to New York. The high line wasn't built in 2007 when I last visited.

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    1. Me, too, Gail! I squeezed a lot into 3 full days (and 2 work days), but there was so much I had to miss!

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  30. What fun! You are really showing/sharing our beloved city in a beautiful way!

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    1. I love your city, Mimi! You are lucky to live there!

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