Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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And Then There Were Beads…


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On Monday, I shared with you my happy explorations of a linen shop in the Garment District of New York City when I visited the wee metropolis a couple weeks ago.

There were two other shops on my “must visit” list, besides the linen shop. One was another fabric shop that’s Huge and Overwhelming and just wasn’t my cup of tea.

The other shop was a bead shop. There are several well-known bead and trim shops in NYC, but I was looking for a shop that carried seed beads, and specifically, Miyuki seed beads. My research from out of town turned up only one shop that seemed likely to have a wide range of Miyuki seed beads.

Miyuki beads are my favorite beads for embroidery, because they have a huge range of types and colors and they are consistent, high quality beads. But when I buy them online (which is the only way I can usually buy them), I’m not always certain of the color. More often than not, I order beads expecting a certain color or shade, and upon arrival, they’re just not quite what I thought they would be.

The idea of shopping for beads in person, where I could actually see the colors, was quite appealing to me!

TOHO Shoji Miyuki beads NYC

The shop that I found – and there may be others, but I didn’t have time to explore all the other possible bead and trim shops – was TOHO Shoji, located across from Bryant Park on 6th Avenue between 40th & 41st Street. They don’t have a website.

The shop is a decent size, with an abundance of beads, from seed beads to semi-precious stones, to findings and charms, and and all kinds of whats-its and whatnots used in jewelry making and other arts and crafts.

Unfortunately, the shopping experience here wasn’t so great. The shop was overheated, since New York wasn’t sure if it was winter or spring (and it happened to be spring that day).

But the worst part was that, when I walked through the door, I ran into a solid wall of heavy, perfumy scent permeating the place. I’ve run into this before, but not at this level of olfactory shock. I’m not sure why shops do this. Perhaps it’s to cover the undeniable smell of marijuana on every street you stroll down in NYC? Perhaps it’s to counteract the subway smell in summer (even though it was winter)? Perhaps it’s to “freshen” the smell of old buildings? Whatever the case, it doesn’t exactly enhance the shopping experience. (I’m not sure if this is an every day situation. If you’re planning on bead shopping in NYC, though, and you’re smell-sensitive, just be aware.)

TOHO Shoji Miyuki beads NYC

To avoid contracting a headache and nausea, I reduced my concentration very quickly to just the seed beads I wanted to check out. And there is a mighty wall of them!

It’s not the full extent of Miyuki’s line of beads, but it is a great jumping-off place if you’re looking for specific colors of 15/0 and 11/0 beads to use with embroidery.

Very quickly, I scanned the wall, selecting colors that would fill some gaps in my beads. Mostly, I concentrated on 15/0 seed beads.

TOHO Shoji Miyuki beads NYC

The prices, incidentally, are not what I’d call “good” – you can usually find larger quantities for similar prices online through many different bead sources.

But since I was there for specific colors and types of beads, I picked out a good selection and headed to the counter to check out. If it weren’t for the overwhelming scent of the place, I probably would have done more damage to the pocketbook, so in retrospect, it’s probably good that I didn’t linger.

The checkout process took forever, incidentally! In what I would describe as the most hilarious checkout experience of my life in the modern world – and in such a contemporary city as NYC! – the clerk hand-wrote the ticket, with each stock number of each product I bought and its price. It took me three times longer to check out than it took me to shop! What heck?!?!

It was worth the chuckle!

It was a joy and pleasure to walk out of the shop into the relatively fresh air of New York City, knowing that I had a decent selection of new beads to add to my collection. A quick cup of tea and a visit to a bookstore put my head to rights and rounded things off.

Two of my nieces were with me that day, and I met a long-time friend in the city, too, so the rest of my time concentrated on them.

The strangest thing about New York City to me is this: I have been there five times. Every time, in that city of millions, I’ve run into someone I know well. Once, it was neighbor from down the street in my home town in Kansas. Once, I ran into a good friend from Minnesota in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Once, it was two guys I taught in high school. They were right behind me in a crowded ferry line for the Statue of Liberty! This time, it was a chum from college who was there to visit her Greek family. I’m not sure how this happens. But it always happens in New York!

I’m happy to be home – back to isolated Kansas, that fly-over state that people on the East Coast have very vague ideas about, and that always garners a Wizard of Oz joke when you say where you’re from. It’s quiet, but it’s open, it’s beautiful, and it’s home.

And after all, I have new linen and beads. What more could a gal want?


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(17) Comments

  1. Think about the rents they pay in the city! Think of paper receipts as a blast to the past and if it ain’t broke… After all some hand embroidery has been modernized and executed on machines too! Nice treasures that you found.

  2. Dear Mary

    Oh dear what an experience, like you I would have hated the overwhelming smell in the shop. But it did have array of beads and I can see that you bought quite a few of them, great they look good. Like you I can’t believe that a shop especially in a city like New York still hand wrote the products, still thats an experience in itself, interesting. I wonder what it is about NYC that you always meeting friends, but great to meet after a long time. It look likes you had an interesting experience while you were away, but that what holidays are all about. Thank you for sharing your bead experience in NYC and for the chuckle of the paper checkout and for the photos of your purchases.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  3. I tend to buy beads just for the sake of buying them so on line is fine for me as they will always be different colours to what I already have and love the surprise of seeing what the colour is, I’m not capable of walking around craft shops any more too so on line is my only choice, after a recent favourite shop changed hands and not for the best I tend to use Amazon as my go to place, I search by size mainly and bookmark all the colours I find and then when I need a shopping boast I can pick a bunch of them sitting in my favourite chair.

  4. Oh, how wonderful to be in NYC garment district! I was there in 2004 and in Toho too. I bought beads but a larger size 8/0. A friend brought some beads and sequins to me from Beads World. They were suppose to be setting up a website. Also the Bead Shop in Fairview Heights IL carries 15/0 beads and some called Charlotte beads, which are faceted 15/0’s. These might be some new sources to check out.

  5. Morning Mary, It was such fun virtually shopping with you in New York, a place I doubt if I would ever go as I don’t like crowds. And isn’t it fun to run into someone you haven’t seen in an age and in such an unlikely place, although I’ve heard it said that you can meet everyone you know if you could stand on a New York corner long enough.
    I’ve come across those highly perfumed shops and don’t find them in the least bit pleasant, often I walk in and walk straight back out, those headaches can last for hours. However, if they smelled like freshly ground coffee the experience would be altogether different.
    Happy stitching – Brenda

  6. Hi Mary, I am curious if you were at their new shop location or if you were at the temporary location they had.

  7. Thank you for sharing your NYC shopping experiences! I probably would not have been able to stay in that bead shop as long as you did, because scented candles/air diffusers/whatever give me almost instant migraines. I’m glad you were able to add to your stash of Miyuki beads, however, and look forward to seeing what you will do with them.

  8. Mary that is such a nice story! I didn’t realize you had visited so often – since you never mentioned the shops before (or I missed those stories)! Now you are back home and Kansas will henceforth be remembered for Mary Corbet’s home state just as well as Dorothy’s!

    1. 🙂 Last time I visited was ten or more years ago, so it’s been a while! I’ve always loved the history of NYC. I used to love the place with an almost bizarre infatuation, when I had a career and a real savings account. LOL! I have great memories of New York City!

  9. What was the name of the bead shop? I love Japanese beads because they are almost perfect in size, shape, and color.

  10. I’m a 3rd generation New Yorker.
    I have shopped in Tojo shoji many times, x was never assaulted by any scent there.
    But every where I go now there is a pot smell, that as a cancer survivor it causes nausea.

  11. I haven’t had a totally hand done checkout in… years? Even at flea markets, most vendors have computerized checkout. I wonder if the majority of their customers are able to stop in often enough for a few packages, so is not normally an issue. Bummer on the scent – depending on what it was, I’d have needed to turn right around and left. Sometimes the coverup is worse than what they’re trying to cover up.

    “Not as expected” sums up why I’m SO hesitant to start shopping online for fabrics, threads, beads, etc. I’m glad you got linen and new beads, I’m looking forward to what you do with them.

  12. I enjoy all of your posts, I learned a lot of information from you and I love your sense of humor.You are my kind of gal, who loves embroidery, books, music and tea. Thank you ,Mary!

  13. How fun to visit a bead shop in person!! My trouble is that I can never remember what I have at home! 🙂 Too bad that it was too heavily scented: that can be a problem for many of us!! Thanks for sharing your info about your trip: so fun to read!! Hugs, H

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