Sunday, February 12, 2012

Road Trip Report

Last weekend, my friend Paula and I took a fabric/fashion road trip, traveling south west to the cities of Charlotte and Asheville, in the state of  North Carolina.
Road Trip route
Stops included several independent fabric stores, a thread outlet, snoop shopping at Neiman Marcus and Bellagio, and a museum exhibit of Chanel garments.  
Friday morning, bright and early, we headed to Charlotte, NC, a 4.5 hour drive south west from Richmond, VA. Our first stop was Charlie Rector’s thread store.
Long Wood Mills

That is Mr. Rector on the bench in front. He warned us he was a little hard of hearing and slow moving But he was definitely a charmer, with lots of stories about the southern textile industry.
Bench Requirements

My aunts and grandmother worked in textiles mills, near St. Pauls, NC, in the 50’s and 60’s. I remember going on a factory tour with my aunt and being awed by the complex and fast moving machinery weaving fabric. Those mills are long gone now.
Aisles and Aisles of Thread
This store stocks massive quantities of serger and embroidery threads at excellent prices. I bought serger thread in colors I can’t find locally, and some heavier thread to use in the serger loopers for edge finishes. I also enjoyed looking at some old machinary in the back room, that winds 6 individual strands of thread into a twisted cord. I want one of these!
Cord Winder
The second stop that day was Mary Jo's cloth store. This little door opens into a 32,000 sq. ft. fabric store in Gastonia, NC.

It had an impressive amount of quilting and home dec. fabric and many beautiful bridal trims and laces, but not much of the high end silk and wool garment fabric I was hoping to find. I bought some solid colored 100% wools for slacks, which were a good value for $10/yard.
That evening, after dinner we headed to the designer department at the nearby Neiman Marcus store and happily touched and examined the garments until the lights dimmed to indicate the store was closing.
The next day started with a 2 hour drive to Asheville, NC. Rain and fog shrouded the mountains during our trip, but the sky cleared when we arrived in town. After a quick lunch in one of the village eateries, we stopped in at Bellagio A store full of art to wear garments and hand crafted jewelry. So may beautiful garments and embellishment ideas. Their web site has wonderful pictures for inspiration.

From there it was a short walk to Waechter's Fine Fabrics.
Waechter's Fabric Store

   I often browse their web site and admired the fabrics. They are gorgeous and very pricey. Definitely above my "have to have" price point. The button selection was awesome, and they carry many of the independent pattern lines. I really enjoyed seeing the sample garments made from their fabrics. All are pictured under the inspiration tab on the web site. After seeing this sample garment of the Decades of Style Matinee Blouse, I had to buy the pattern. When I lifted up the bottom edge of the front to examine the hem, I saw a sticky note on the dress form with this written on it. "yes, you will have to wear leggings" Hee Hee

Decades of Style - Matinee Blouse
As we walked out of the store I picked up a brochure for a Fabric, Fiber, Bead Trail which listed other area shops selling beads, fabric, and yarn. With the help of Paula's GPS we found and visited several of the shops in the brochure. I purchased some vintage fabrics from Kitch Fabrics and we headed back to Charlotte after a long day.
On the last day of our trip we went to the Charlotte Mint Musuem’s exhibit: Chanel - Designs for the Modern Woman. On view through 26 February 2012. The Chanel garments were from the 1980 to 2010 time frame and there was only 18 of them. But those few garments had a wealth of details to examine and marvel over. And they were displayed in a way that we could get very close to them, as long as we did not touch. I took lots of pictures, but I also did some line drawings to help me remember some of the seaming which was so well pressed, it was difficult to see in the photos.

Almost all the garments had princess seams of some sort, most of them originating from the shoulder. I think this is the key to the Chanel silhouette and fit. Several of the jackets had the three piece sleeves which Chanel is known for. And the matching of plaids, seam lines and lace motifs were impeccable.

hand sewn whip stitches affix fine silk tissue ribbon to edge

Silk net lace over wool.  Notice the matching

Chanel printed on every closure -all 7 of them!

Close up of beaded button

The car travel time passed quickly thanks to the two music play lists that Paula's DH created for our trip. Charlotte1 for the trip down and Charlotte2 for the trip back. Each song was a surprise. They triggered memories; "I saw that group in concert when I was 17." Or "Aww, that's so sweet!" moments - a song sung at Paula and Gerry's wedding. Or "I can't remember my PIN, but I remember the name of the one hit wonder group that did this song 30 years ago!"  moment.

The trip was great fun. We saw a lot and bought a little. Now I really want to do some sewing.


  1. Thanks for the reminder about Long Creek Mills! I'm going to Charlotte in June and need to get some more Stiffy Stuff from them.

  2. Oooh I am envious, that looks like a lot of fun...I like to plan road trips for myself every couple of years, thank you for giving me an idea for one that doesn't involve nature!

  3. I have a sister in Charlotte. I'm going to have to duplicate your trip the next time I visit her!

  4. I am so jealous! Now I know how people feel when we post about trips to NYC shops. But seriously a thread store? More than any of the fabric stores I want to go there!!! Glad you had a good time.

  5. What a fabulous trip! You've visited areas I've never been to. Thanks for sharing your report!

  6. So cool is seeing all these great places within driving distance from me, thanks for all the ideas!

  7. What a wonderful trip and delightful report. Girlfriend time is so very special. I may have to follow in your GPS tracks someday since your itinerary sounds terrific.

  8. The Chanel garments are stunning and your trip sounds like you had a lot of fun.

  9. I am sure this was a great trip! Thanks for sharing the photos of the Chanel garments.

  10. Sounds like a lot of fun! I particularly like the black Chanel jacket with the beaded buttons. Just gorgeous. Thanks for sharing!

  11. How fabulous !!!
    Thanks for sharing. Your croquis are fabulous!

  12. What a fabulous trip and a wonderful description of it. I've been trying for several weeks to come up with an "inexpensive" Girls Vacation with a friend.... your vacation sounds perfect, really. Thanks for the inspiration!

  13. I agree! Musta been so much fun!
    My thanks for all the effort you put into sharing your illustrations and photos....

    Seeing those garments makes me want to do better...or at least produce the best work I can. Those garments were beautiful. It is inspiring to see how her original ideas flattered the female silhouette without restricting its movement. Her work was amazing...

  14. Hey, this is my neck of the woods! Well, sort of. Mary Jo's in Gastonia is the closest real-deal fabric store to me. I haven't actually been yet but have been meaning to take a trip. I've also heard great things about Waechter's. Fun to read about your trip!

  15. Great trip report! Thanks for sharing and including so many pictures.

  16. What a great trip! Sounds like you had a blast. Good to know that Mary Jo's is not great for the garment sewist--the boyfriend's family lives in South Carolina and we pass near Gastonia when we go to visit. I am always bugging him about stopping but it's such a long drive that it's hard to commit to making it even longer.

  17. Oh, my! I'm really jealous ... that's a dream come true, I want to live there and have all those wonderful adventures ....

  18. what fun you had . I went to Chanel showing last year at our local Chanel boutique . It was to celebrate some milestone in Chanel . Thewy had a collection of HER own clothes ( So tiny)) and this seasons clothes. I got the chance to touch these and have a really good look which was a greatopprtunty.
    What really struck me with the museum pieces was that they really looked hand made with the hand made thing being quite proudly shown . It made me very keen to improve my hand stitching techniques.

  19. My mouth watered after reading your post. How I would love to do a trip like that. I live in a pretty rural area of north eastern Australia with basically 3 fabric shops in my area. Talk about deprived! Chanel is the standard for couture wear construction as far as I'm concerned. Thanks for the pics.

  20. What a wonderful trip! Thank you for sharing the details and photos. I would love to visit that thread shop!

  21. Oh thank you for sharing such wonderful tales and photos from your trip. Just lovely to read and see. I too loved the black skirt & jacket with the jewelled collar etc and buttons. Gorgeous.