There’s something quite wonderful about the process of taking up a new hobby: the moment strange new terminology sneaks into your vocab, discovering a whole community of people doing the same thing, and inevitably, the realisation that you need to buy a whole lot more stuff from shops you’ve never known existed.
For some reason it all seemed much more straightforward with knitting. In one stop I bought a batch of wool and needles from John Lewis, and each new pattern seems to be matched to a wool. With sewing, the possibilities seem endless, and making the right fabric choice really can make or break a garment (ref: previous fails such as the “Boy in Striped Pyjamas dress”). This is where I’ve got to so far with fabric shops:
There isn’t a store near me so I’ve ordered samples from the website (which is a bit of a minefield to navigate), but I find the fabrics are never quite right. Whilst there’s a lot to be said for ordering samples, for me the ratio of disappointment to success is too high to suggest that it’s worthwhile sticking with online outlets for fabric. If I’m ever near a shop (and there’s one not too far from the “in-laws” which has provided most my wool needs), then Abakhan will definitely be worth a visit, perhaps more for items like cushion pads than fabric.
Actually two shops on Berwick Street in Soho (although I have to confess I still haven’t actually found one of the them!).Lucky me got a gift voucher to spend here, so I’ve made on trip on spec and decided that as the fabrics are a little pricier, I’ll wait until I have the right pattern (and the right skills) before I take this on. Fabrics sold here are produced using traditional and/or natural processes, which is a huge plus point and they’ve just ventured into the online world of sampling and ordering.
After much searching, I was excited to find this shop in Brighton (once I actually found it – Google Streetmap took me down a lonely back road). It’s a good selection of cotton prints, and most can be viewed on the website (with samples sent on request), and some variety of fabrics, such as linings and some lovely Italian silks . I’ll come here again to stock up on fabrics, but mainly because it’s convenient on my route to work, rather than making a special trip.
Brighton Sewing Centre
I came in here on a whim, in search of an invisible zip foot (note to self: there will always be a joker in a shop ready to banter about the “invisible” nature of this item) and although they didn’t have one in stock, the staff were incredibly helpful. For a relatively small store they sure do pack the fabric in – all filed away so neatly in colour co-ordinated order, it is a feast for the OCD eyes. Fabric on offer seems purely to be medium-weight printed cottons, so great for that, but not a one-stop-shop.
MacCulloch and Wallis
A whole floor of ribbons?! A wall of threads! This is something to behold. I have to admit to succumbing to the tradition of this institution, tucked to one side off the madness of Oxford Street. There’s a floor of fabrics (navigated using the sample racks), and then two floors of what can only be described as haberdashery miscellany! If you’re looking for a particular hook and eye combo, or trimmings, then this is definitely the place to come. My first visit was rushed between work and closing time, so am aiming to come back again with more time for browsing on a Saturday…
You’ll notice that my search so far has centred around Brighton and London (I live in Greenwich, and occasionally work in Brighton, so these are most convenient for me). There are of course a host of fantastic local shops out there, but from my ventures into the online world of fabric – and as a bit of a newbie – there’s a lot to be said for seeing something in person before buying.
Places on my list to try include:
- Reems and Rolls (Lewisham)
- John Lewis (Oxford Street <shudders> although feedback suggests there are few bargains to be had)
- Fabrics Galore (Battersea)
- Goldhawk Road (Hammersmith – I’d love to know if any shops stand out in particular)
Any other suggestions? I’d love to hear about the fabric shops you’ve discovered!