Friday, March 14, 2008

G Street Fabrics (and other DC resources)

**Edit** I keep adding more to this post, so come back before your trip to make sure you have to most up to date information!

I am always jealous of people who get so many comments that they do entire posts responding to them. Then Sandy in W left me a post-worthy comment, so yay! Thanks Sandy! In response to my post about my most recent G Street indulgence, she wrote:

I'm going to be in DC in a couple of weeks and I'm trying to decide if I should go to G Street Fabrics while I'm in the "neighborhood" (I'd have to take the metro out, which, being from Kansas (no metro's!!), always causes me to wonder if I'll get hopelessly lost, never to be seen again!) Do ya think it's worth the trip out there...or, are there other places I might want to check out instead? Here in Wichita we just have Joann's and Hancocks...NOT too thrilling. A trip out to G Street would take a chunk of my precious DC time, so I don't want to do it unless it offers more thrills and chills than J's and H'!

I get this question a fair amount, and it's a little difficult to answer. I love having G Street as a resource, and I double love their free monthly Fashion Sewing Club meetings (missed the one for this month because I was touring the White House, which I will blog about eventually on my travel blog). But it *is* pricey and, unfortunately, difficult to reach.

The original G Street was presumably located on G Street in downtown DC, but that location is long gone. They currently have three suburban locations, two in Virginia and one in Maryland. The location I prefer is the Falls Church Virginia location at Seven Corners. I can head out to the 'burbs for the day to go to the nice, cheap grocery store (Shoppers Food Warehouse), the Target, the TJ Maxx, the DSW, the Trader Joe's, and all the other big boxes and chains we so love to abhor. Now that I have given up my car, I won't be going there too often! (DC has a for-profit car-sharing program that I will eventually break down and join.)

The Virginia locations are not remotely metro accessible, and the Maryland location is metro accessible, assuming you have a lot of time to spend on the metro and have no trouble walking a little over half a mile in each direction (uphill on the way back). If you prefer not to walk, you can easily find a cab at the metro stop; I'm not sure how easy it will be to find one at the shopping center, but Randolph Road is a major thoroughfare so it shouldn't take too long.

To reach the Maryland Location:

Start by taking the Red line in the direction of Shady Grove to the White Flint metro station.

Short directions:
Exit White Flint Metro and make a 180 degree turn to turn around.
Right on Old Georgetown.
Left on Nebel.
Left into Montrose Plaza.

Long directions with details and landmarks:
Come out of the White Flint Metro stop and make a 180 degree turn (turn around to face the opposite direction you got off the escalators).
Walk along Rockville Pike, the large main road that will now be running along your left side.
Make a right at the first street you come to, which is Old Georgetown Road. You will walk a fair distance on Old Georgetown (my random guess is a little under half a mile) down a hill, passing large apartment/condo complexes on your left. The road curves to the left at the Harris Teeter grocery store; stay on it. Old Georgetown dead ends at Nebel Street.
Make a left on Nebel and walk about 4 blocks through a complex of warehouse and retail space. On the way, you will pass Accents Beads on your left. If you have any interest in beads or jewelry you should try to fit in a visit.
Finally, you will come to a large traditional (as opposed to warehouse-y) shopping center on your left. It's called Montrose Plaza. You can't see the G Street at first, but you will see a Gold's Gym. Make a left into the shopping center and G Street will be on your left.

From downtown DC (Metro Center/Gallery Place-ish), you're looking at about a 40 minute metro ride to White Flint--it's quite a distance as you can see on the metro map. Give another 20 minutes or so for each direction to walk to and from the store and you're looking at round trip travel time of at least 2 hours (excluding shopping time), depending on metro wait times and delays (which are all too common on the Red line).

The Seven Corners location is bus-accessible. I think it is a nicer store than Rockville and there is a Joann fabric in the same shopping center, but if taking the bus would be nerve-wracking it's not nicer enough to justify the stress (I hate taking the bus in a town I don't know because how do you know where to get off???).

To get there, take the Orange line train in the direction of Vienna to Ballston and then take the 1A, 1B, 1E, or 1F bus (they originate at Ballston, so you can't accidentally go the wrong way); the 1Z bus will NOT take you there. When you exit the Ballston station the bus stop is around the corner to the left (bus stop signage is quite good).

Get off the bus on the first stop after it turns off Patrick Henry onto Leesburg Pike (the bus has an LED sign that says what street you're on) after about 20-25 minutes; you will see the large Shopper's Food Warehouse in the shopping center on your right. Note that the bus crosses Patrick Henry earlier in the route while still on Arlington Blvd--do not get off the first time Patrick Henry is announced as you are still 7-10 minutes from your destination. (NOTE:  Since I wrote this post new bus bays have been installed in the shopping center on the lower level, closer to G Street Fabrics.  I *believe* the buses all go down to the bus bay, but I cannot promise that.  I still get off at Leesburg Pike because I don't want to end up not being able to get off the bus at the shopping center.)

Walk toward the Shoppers and then make a left to go down the length of the shopping center. You'll pass a Michael's (general crafts) and a Joann Fabrics (generally has at least one brand of pattern on sale for $1.99).

At the end of the block of shops there is a set of stairs, go down them and turn right to continue along the shopping center. G Street is about in the middle of the row. This sounds complicated but I think it not will be terrible for someone unfamiliar with the area.

Catch the bus going back to Ballston on the lower level of the shopping center.  There are bus bays set up near the Chipotle.   If there is a bus that says Rosslyn (a 4 bus) you can take that one, as it also ends at a metro station (Rosslyn is Orange/Blue). The 1 buses terminate at Ballston so you don't have to worry about where to get off at the end. This takes about the same amount of time as going to Rockville or a little longer, assuming you are leaving from the city. If you're staying in Crystal City or one of the other large Virginia hotel areas it will be a little quicker.

You could also just splurge on a cab from the East Falls Church Metro (on the Orange in the direction of Vienna, past Ballston) to save time and aggravation; it would probably be around $10 or less as the station is a little under 2 miles away. I am a dedicated pedestrian, but in this instance I do not recommend walking from East Falls Church because it involves negotiating a complicated mixing bowl that has one of the highest pedestrian fatality rates in the area. You'd probably have to call a cab to return, as I don't see them pulling in looking for customers.

Bottom line: If your time is really limited (just a few hours), it might not be worth it. If you have a free afternoon, it could be worth it.

It is a completely different experience than Joann or Hancock, for sure--lots more thrills and fewer chills (at least I get a cold shiver down my spine when I walk among all those bolts of nothing but polyester). There is no sickly-sweet smell of craft store. In fact, there are no crafts. It's just all fabric, all sewing, all the time. The locations are all quite large and have both apparel and home dec sections. In apparel you can find everything from knits to silk brocades to $200/yd bridal lace to men's wool suitings to every kind of faux fur to...the list is endless. Pretty much any kind of apparel fabric you want is there somewhere. I don't do home dec and have only been through the section a few times, but it seems similarly comprehensive.

All this quality comes at a price, of course. $12/yd is the cheap end, and it goes up from there. Way up.

However, there is a saving grace: the $2.97/yd table. I purchase pretty much exclusively from the $2.97/yd table. I'm not really sure how they decide what goes out for that price, because I once saw something I'd bought from the $2.97 table back out in the regular racks at $8/yd a couple of weeks later. A lot of it is crap, or perhaps I should be more charitable and say "stuff that doesn't interest me." LOTS of tissue-weight and fine mesh knits and just such randomness. But there is a lot to choose from and rare is the day I find nothing. Too rare, certainly, based on the size of my stash!

There is a similar table in home dec, I think it's $3.97 or $5.97 or something. I've looked a few times to see if there's anything I'd like for a jacket, but none of it has been to my taste. Others really like it though.

The notions section is really comprehensive. Two things I stock up on are zippers and double faced satin ribbon. The zips are "house brand" and come on just a little hang tag instead of more packaging than it takes to transport a carton of eggs. The overpackaging of zippers really bothers me. They're a little cheaper than what you get at Joann and Hancock and there are many more colors and lengths to choose from in both regular and invisible. Unfortunately, not too many metal zippers at this point even though the exposed metal zip is coming into fashion. The ribbon is Swiss, double faced, great quality, lots of colors and *cheaper* than awful Offray. It's in little cardboard box dispensers and sells by the yard. Don't breeze through the notions section, there's a lot of good stuff in there. They have fabulous buttons but the prices are too painful for me to bear.

Bottom line: (1) lots of good stuff to touch and squeeze and love and hold, (2) it's more expensive than the internet for the most part, (3) except for the $2.97/yd table, (4) don't miss the notions. Also, check out their class schedule. They have lots of one day classes on the weekends, and there might be something you're interested in while you're here.

The photos are projects made from the $2.97 table. The post was too boring without pictures!


ScrapDC at 52 O St. NW is a thrift store for craft supplies, including fabric, patterns, and notions.  I wrote all about it, including a virtual store tour, here.  It is 100% volunteer-run and has limited hours, currently every Thursday from noon to 8 pm, the first Friday of each month from 6 to 9 pm (April 5 is the next one), and the third Saturday of each month from 10 am to 1 pm.  Check the website before you go.  It has public transit instructions from the New York Ave. metro stop on the Red line; it is also about 1 mile from the Shaw/Howard University stop on the Green/Yellow line.


Exquisite Fabrics was a DC institution for many years.  Unfortunately, it has moved to Culpepper, VA, far far far beyond the reach of public transit.


If you do yarn crafts, you might enjoy a visit to Stitch DC.  They are currently located in Tenleytown.


The District is working to become a fashion destination.

Check out DC Threads Sewing Lounge on the second Saturday of the month. It offers a charity-focused project each month. This could be a good place to start if you're wanting to get into sewing. Information is on their website.

A source for sewing lessons is Singa (more information about my visit with the organization here--note that they have since moved to another location).  The website is not great; best to call them.

Bits of Thread studio also offers lots of different classes, many of them aimed at beginners, so it's a great place to start.


Adrienne said...

All your projects look wonderful!!!!

Lisette M said...

Great projects!!I have only been to G street (Rockville location) a few times but I do have small stash from the $2.97 table.
P.S: I agree with your assessment.

Little Hunting Creek said...

There are some other fabric sources around that are near the Metro - for instance, Calico Corners in Old Town Alexandria on King St, a pleasant walk from the King Street Metro. They have an interesting Home Dec remnant pile, if you are a Home Dec person. I confess to making pillows and using the trims for purses. Closer to the Metro, also in Old Town is the Crate and Barrel outlet Store, with great pieces of Marimekko fabric and marked down tablecloths that would make great aprons and summer skirts. Have a great day! Kathleen

Unknown said...

I used to work in the Rockville location, you should be able to make it from the metro in about 4 minutes. Often it is faster than trying to drive up the Pike.

scormeny said...

Just wanted to say that Exquisite Fabrics is now Open at their New Georgetown Park Location, and that the hours are 11 am - 7 pm Monday-Saturday.

I want to make a pilgrimage on Saturday, January 24 @ 1 pm; email me at if you'd like to join me!

Tasia said...

Fantastic, detailed post! I'm heading to Washington DC on vacation next month, and can't wait to check out G Street Fabrics, it sounds heavenly!

glayla said...

Hi Trena~ I recently saw that bitsofthread has opened a minishop - I have yet to check it out but I am intrigued.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! I live in DC and tried to get a swatch online but had trouble and wasn't successful talking w staff (also, they wanted a lot of info). The Metro/bus instructions are really helpful--think I'll head out to Ballston soon.

Anonymous said...

Thanks again! I made the trek today; the directions were great. I took the 4B from Rosslyn. Found several colors of wool for skirts (and a beauuutiful rainbow silk charmeuse that I did not buy). No luck on turquoise/peacock, though.