Friday, 28 August 2015

Fabric shopping in London with my daughter

Last Friday,  Helen and I went to quite a number of fabric shops in London, looking for bridal fabrics and trims and ideas.

I was in London for 3 days while her fianc√© was away,  which gave us the opportunity to look at fabrics and start to design the dress. She works full time, walks 1 hour each way to and from work, and doesn't have much opportunity to go on her own.

I found early on in the process that I had forgotten the SD card for my camera so I was stuck with my phone; I have used two of Nicole's images of Ridley Road stalls here. Thank you , Nicole.

We started in Soho and went to various shops in Berwick Street and surrounding areas. There were some gorgeous silks and laces, a great range,  with prices to match. We got some samples. Helen wasn't interested in looking at fabric for bridesmaids' dresses as she felt we hadn't decided on the wedding dress style. I did sneak in a sample for my MOB outfit and one for bridesmaids. I realised after the event that I missed a shop recommended by Tilly for trims etc so I must make sure I go there next time.

We also visited the new McCullough and Wallis shop in Poland Street - it's so much nicer than their previous shop. However, they didn't have what I was after (I had a small list of things I wanted to buy that I can't source locally).

We then moved on to Goldhawk Road and visited a number of the shops. Good range and cheaper. We saw some lovely fabric - in general,  though, I preferred the more expensive silks. I'm afraid I appear to have expensive taste!

I saw some lovely patterned silk (greys and blues) at only £20 pm but I didn't buy as I didn't have a clear idea what to do with it. I regret not buying now as it was lovely. But I do have enough fabric sitting without clear plans without adding more. And too many things in the to do pile

We bought some samples lengths of cheaper versions for practising on. I also bought some cobalt blue lace and lining for a dress I have planned.
Lace and trim with swatch of my fabric; lining not in photo. Colour looks closer in real life

I had looked up some ideas about fabric shopping in Hackney and Dalston and we decided to follow some of these on Saturday.

We found that Woolcrest Textiles (as recommended by Kate here) doesn't open on a Saturday but does on a Sunday - so over to Helen. We didn't have time to visit on Sunday.

We walked through Broadway Market to London Fields and got a bus to Ridley Road Market, Helen reckons this is her new favourite market. We looked at the various fabric stalls and shops but somehow missed Dalston Mill the first time (and the second time!) we walked past it because I thought it was not in the market itself.

We visited some of those recommended by Nicole (link here).

Helen bought some checked fabric to use to make up a toile (I'm suggesting good habits right from the start of her new adventures in sewing! ) in Quality Fabrics which has 3 related stalls. I bought some very lightweight stretch fabric to use as a lining for a knit dress at one of them.

Image from Nicole

I found U&I quite interesting although there's no way more than two people  can get in. It's a real Aladdin's cave. When she knows what she needs,  this will be good for Helen for trims etc. I bought 6 metres of black  mini piping,  only 50p pm and some cobalt lace trim - the last on the roll.  I do have plans for both.

Image from Nicole
Stretch lining and mini piping; lace trim in photo above

We then decided to visit William Gee as that had been recommended for mail order by my sewing tutor. It's not in the market so we walked through the market and along the high street, only to find it closed. I hadn't picked up from the website that the shop is Monday to Friday only. It was a very hot day and we were glad of a freshly juiced  carrot, lemon and ginger iced drink from one of the stalls.

My phone sat nav didn't appear to know where we were and I missed Dalston Mill again!  Anyway,  we got there eventually! A fascinating shop and I'm sure it will  be a regular visit for Helen. I bought some 6mm cotton stay tape that I hadn't been able to get elsewhere. It doesn't exactly match the tape I had run out of just 20cm from the end,  but it should do fine as the skirt will be lined.

We went upstairs but I felt rather claustrophobic so didn't stay! You have to duck your head under where a bridge crosses but I couldn't do it.  We bought a couple of wedding dress practice samples.

I didn't get everything on my list and will have to order by mail,  in any case. With all those shops I thought I'd have had no problem. I need clear elastic,  still.

This all took longer than we had hoped so we made our way back though Broadway Market,  picking up a haggis toasty on the way (a Macbeth  - haggis, caramelised onions and cheese;  the Hamish Macbeth had bacon,  too). Delicious!  Helen had intended to show me the sewing shop there but forgot and I forgot to remind her. I must tell her that it's involved in Sew Saturday in October.

Back to Helen's flat for sewing practice. I took Helen through a few steps but she does have a tendency to want to run before she can walk (or crawl?). She did do seams,  machine care,  threading etc. I won't go into details of what we were practising in case the wrong eyes read this! Suffice it to say the practice involved using different feet,  including dual feed foot and free-form quilting foot. Helen enjoyed this and did well.

Later,  we went  out for some Korean food,  which I had never tried before. I really enjoyed my choices.

After a bit more sewing practice,  we had to clear up thoroughly so that no clues were left behind!

I spoke to her last night - she had cut out the skirt pattern she chose and laid out the pieces for her toile. She saw she needed interfacing so bought some (I said she didn't need for a toile but she wants to do the whole thing).

She didn't know what stay stitching was (although I did mention but there was a lot to be getting on with); I gave her a sewing book which I thought was pretty decent - and it wasn't in it! I gave her some telephone instruction, said I thought it should be detailed in the pattern and of course there's always the internet.

I recommended she try to pick up a copy of the Readers Digest sewing book. As it happens I used that tonight to make a much more satisfactory lapped zipper than I managed from the previous instructions I was using.  It seemed quite complex just reading through and looking at the diagrams but much easier when I actually carried out the steps. I have some problems with my project but that's for another post.

Next time, we might go elsewhere in London fabric shopping. Walthamstow. I know there is lots of choice. It's a bit like being a kid in a sweetie shop! Any other recommendations?


  1. I'm in London next weekend but will only have a few hours on Friday afternoon for 'me' time. Thought I'd do Soho. Thanks for the perfect timing of this post. However, I'll be looking for the complete opposite of silks and satins, i want denims and linen and tweeds!

    1. Enjoy your me-time next weekend! I'm sure you'll find everything you want as there appeared to be so much everywhere! Our trip wasn't geared in your direction but I did see fabrics that would suit you, I'm sure. I'm trying to remember the name of the Soho store recommended for trimmings - check out Tilly's blog re fabric shopping - it's from a few years ago. I found London hot and exhausting - so wear suitable clothes and take water! I was surprised that some of the cafes didn't have toilets - I thought it was a legal requirement when there are tables for eating. Happy hunting and do share what you find.

    2. For tweeds Ruth go to Misan Fabrics downstairs. They have some amazing old W Bill fabrics. Highly recommended.

  2. Wow! I wish I had the options that London has to offer. Enjoyed reading about the shopping adventures!

    1. Yes, it's nice to visit London. I just hadn't fully appreciated how long it takes to do anything in the city, travel-wise. This meant that I was often exhausted before we did half of what we'd intended!

  3. Well - what a heroic fabric shop crawl Anne. I am sorry it didn't result in many great purchases. I like the purple lace though. Super buy. For Walthamstow recommendations see Karen's post. It is nice to hear your daughter is taking to sewing.

    1. Thank you - and for your tweed recommendations - I was actually downstairs in Misan Fabrics and saw a fabric I really liked. I've read Karen's post previously but I'll consult it again for next time, thanks. My daughter has finished her first skirt toile already, complete with interfacing and even belt loops! She puts me to shame. She sent a photo to me today; there were a number of things she's learned for next time - not least of which is to leave a gap for the zip!

  4. Hi, if you like the expensive silks etc, it might be worth a trip down to Bombay Stores in Bradford, I bought my wedding dress fabric there, it's an Alladins Cave!

    1. Bradford is certainly not impossible to get to! Thank you for the recommendation.I have a friend who has offered to bring some silks back from India but my daughter isn't happy about getting them sight unseen - so I may well ask for her to bring some for me. Have you blogged about your wedding dress?


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