Thursday, March 18, 2010

Apparel City

Most of you know that I live in San Francisco. Most of you know that one of my favorite sewing-related haunts is FabriX, a discount fabric store that can be very hit or miss. It's not a place to go for a specific fabric, or the latest pattern (though they have some really old patterns), or sewing notions (though they have some), but if you go with a spirit of adventure, you can sometimes find real gems.

But there is another place in San Francisco that gives my little sewist heart palpitations of delight. Apparel City has been around forever, primarily servicing the ever-shrinking local garment industry, but they are more than happy to cater to the home sewist.

I first discovered Apparel City back when I took fashion classes at Canada College, twenty years ago. When I returned to sewing after 17 years, I was so sad to see some of my favorite establishments for servicing sewing machines had closed, like Mr B's, the Bernina dealer extraodinaire, and The Place That Sells Sewing Machines, which had won awards for its excellent customer service. But I am glad to report that Apparel City is still around and is happy to service any brand of sewing machine or serger.

When you first enter Apparel City, you see Sapporo irons, Juki and Janome sewing machines and sergers, and boxes of huge cones of thread. (They also sell professional machines.) To the left is a wall of more thread cones, huge rolls of elastic, enormous cones of twill tape. You come to a desk and behind the desk are many more goodies. First, there is a display of scissors, including Kai and Gingher. Behind the desk is a wall of metal rulers and curves of all types. On the desk, like candies, are boxes of marking chalk, the kind you see Marcy Tilton, Louise Cutting, and Linda Lee use. They sell sewing machine oil by the gallon. They sell oak tag by the roll, or by the yard. This is where I buy rolls of 36" pattern drafting paper ($40). The only fabric they sell is muslin, by the bolt or by the yard. They sell those hooks for hanging your patterns. They sell those wonderful Clover silk pins.

There is a wall, behind which they do the servicing. The repair guy is right there, available and easy to talk to, and he really knows his stuff. They can order parts for you, or service for you. They also service Sapporo irons.

Apparel City is not that far from Union Square, but it's on the other side of Market St, in an industrial part of town. Best of all, they open at 8:30am, Monday to Friday, and 9am on Saturday, so you can go nice and early, when there's loads of street parking, and you can park right in front.

Can you see why I love this place? It's the "Home Depot" for sewists. The place has the same aura as your local auto mechanic. And, no, I get nothing for my unsolicited endorsement, except, hopefully, seeing them continue in business when their customers, these days, are primarily small local designers and fashion students.

(At some point I'll go back, take photos, and add them to this entry. :) )


Some of you may have noticed I have mentioned once or twice that I don't have a working serger. Note how carefully that is phrased. I do have a serger that has been in storage for the last 17 years. And by storage, I mean it's been sitting in an open box, in an unfinished basement laundry room, exposed to humidity and damp. Well, I finally got the nerve up to face the serger.

Wow, my White 534 is in bad shape. I cleaned off the cobwebs and the grime. The thing has lots of rust, and the mechanism was fairly frozen. This is the reason for my most recent trip to Apparel City. I purchased industrial cleaner (and got advice for cleaning it), some sewing machine oil (a small bottle, thank you very much, since I don't need a whole gallon), and spools of serger thread (thinking hopefully). I hope to get this puppy back in working order, but if I can't do it, I'll take it in for servicing. I may also ask them to order me a new blade – they've already confirmed they can get it.

Wish me luck. :)