On the Hunt: Sourcing Materials as an NYC Textile Artist
As a new resident of New York City, and a textile artist myself, I’ve found it difficult to continue using re-salvaged materials in my practice. Being from the west coast where some up-cycling centers are open to individual creatives, NYC doesn’t actually provide a lot of options or facilities for public use. It’s hard to make money as an artist, but nearly impossible when your material costs enable you to barely break even. To help in addressing this, I’ve comprised a list of affordable suppliers (locally, nationally & internationally) who either offer wholesale prices, special sales, discounts on bulk orders or deals on shipping.
ARTISTS & CRAFTSMAN SUPPLY
If you’re looking to source yarns locally for crotchet, weaving wefts or knitting, then Artists & Craftsman Supply is actually a great affordable option. With multiple locations in NYC, you can find 100% cotton yarn skeins for as low as $3.00 and a nice selection of fiber arts supplies.
Bartlettyarns is the oldest mule spun woolen mill in the US and has been operating out of Maine since 1821. Along with a selection of wool yarns in a variety of weights, Bartlettyarns also offers carded wool roving by the half pound at $9.50 and roving six packs at $8.50. Though shipping may expand the price of material, you can apply for one of their three options for wholesale purchasing and buying above the gram or ounce (as most roving is generally sold in retailers) will be saving you money in the long run.
SILK CITY FIBERS
Silk City Fibers, a yarn supplier just outside of NYC in New Jersey, hosts a collection of 1,000 different colored yarns in 50 styles at whole sale prices. All yarns are priced by weight, there are no minimums on ordering and they have an extensive sale section online where you can find great deals.
One producer who’s just over the border is UKI : a family run business in Orangeville, Ontario, who supply their own lines of Mercerized Cotton, Linen, and Wool fiber yarns. Their Mercerized Cotton is especially great for weavers: I’ve been using their 5/2 weighted cones for years and my warps are always strong. Their wholesale system is very clear on their website, you can find swatches, information on yardage per unit and EPI on each weight. My orders always consisted of 10 colored tubes at $10.50 a unit, which lasted me months and paid for itself in the end.
CUTTING EDGE TEXTILES
Based in Bedford, Massachusetts, Cutting Edge Textiles is committed to meeting all customer inquiries through research and development. You can choose from their stock of fabrics, trims or bias binds, and if they don’t have something that suits your needs, then they will work with you to develop a fabric which does. What’s even more unique are the bias binding services they offer: either from fabric you send them or through their own stock, Cutting Edge will fill minimum orders of 500 – 600 yards of fabric. If you’re looking to take your rag rug making to the next level, consider sourcing your bias binds rather then making them next time!
One of the most condensed areas in New York full of fabrics for young designers and textile artists is The Garment District. Mood Fabrics always comes highly recommended and when entering the store it’s no surprise. Mood fills two stories with fabrics available at wholesale and their online shop has a discounted section where you can find fabric starting at $5.99 per yard. As opposed to wading through too many fabric stores, try Mood for a one stop experience and maximize your time.
ROC LON INDUSTRIES
Roc Lon Industries, located in Baltimore, sells fabric by the bolt and tube at wholesale prices. Their customer service is impeccable: when calling they give you a break down exactly of what shipping and handling will cost. I was personally interested in Tea Dyed Muslin, which comes in 15 yard bolts at $1.78 a yard and is also available in 100 yard tubes. They offer an even bigger range of muslins that are also available at local retailers, such as Joans, in case you were looking to forgo the shipping fees.
Spoonflower is an online service creatives can use to design digitally printed yardage, artwork, gift wrapping and wall paper with no minimum on ordering. You can also choose from their wide selection of designs or unprinted fabrics, but if you create your own then Spoonflower will give you a designer discount (you pay for the fabric, not the print). If you order in bulk starting at 20 yards, then wholesale prices kick in giving you an additional 10% off, with further discounts available for even larger orders. Spoonflower is a great resource for making individual art pieces as well: you can order single 8″ x 8″ sample swatches at $5 and Fat Quarters (21″ x 18″) starting at $9.45 before shipping. Their inks are water based, their are no additional processing chemicals added and their prints are reliable in color. If you ever find yourself ordering consistently from Spoonflower, then consider becoming a Spoonflower PRO member to receive free standard shipping worldwide and deals on expedited shipping.
Squirrelz is a new App which connects creative individuals with designers who are looking to dispose of unwanted materials. You’ll find an abundance of fabric on Squirrelz, among yarns, swatches and alternative materials at the low cost of FREE. Generally all that’s required is pick up and every successful donation means less material is diverted from landfills.
DHARMA TRADING CO.
Dharma Trading Co. resides in Northern California, and although far, can meet all of your fiber dyeing interests. They have a massive stock of goodies: chemicals for discharge, acid dyes, fiber reactive dyes, white apparel for dyeing, resists, textile paints, fabrics and more! I’ve always ordered their silk scarves for Shibori acid dyeing since they run at about $2.50 for orders over 12. Buying from Dharma also means your money is going to a good company: the owners strive to make a difference in the world by providing medical supplies to Bolivia and have been paying the educational fees for children in Indonesia.
Kremer Pigmente, established in 1977, is located on W. 29th street and focuses on redeveloping mineral pigments from authentic precious stones. Their natural dye selection consists of Indigo pieces, Logwood, Dragon’s Blood, Madder Roots, Turmeric, Annatto Seeds, Walnut Hulls and much, much more. If some of these aren’t familiar to you, then reference Kremer Pigmente’s website for data sheets, recipes and safety instructions on all their products listed. Some of their more exquisite natural dyes have a higher price point, but they also offer vegetable and synthetic dyes at lower costs.
*Please reference Artists & Craftsman Supply who also carry natural dyes, chemicals and dye-na-flo.
Big Reuse is an up-cycling center in Brooklyn which aims to divert building materials from land fills and place them back into the market. Though they mostly carry larger furnishing items, it’s worth the time to stop by and maybe even generate ideas on mixed media textile projects. You can sometimes even get lucky and find the occasional cone or skein of yarn.
With many locations throughout NYC, the Housing Works in Sunset Parks hosts “Buy the Bag,” which provides customers with a bag they may fill with clothes and accessories for a flat fee of $25 dollars. Either search out t-shirts for your next screen printing project or cut them apart to make your own bias binds! At Housing Works your money will go far and will be supporting a business which advocates for those living with HIV/AIDS.
I hope you found this information useful! There are many more suppliers out there and if you’re looking for something specific that was not mentioned in this list, I encourage you to research! New York does have some amazing creative resources available, but if you’re like me (a very broke artist) and you need lots of material, then maybe some of these companies can help you to save money.
*Up-cycling centers are great places to find materials, reference the Lancaster Creative Reuse directory for a complete list of centers nationally and internationally.