Category Archives: Fabric stash

LA’s garment district


I’m back from my US trip. It was a great break but I really missed my sewing machine and am itching to get stuck into a new project. I made a quick warm-up knit dress yesterday but I think up next is something nice and meaty like a winter jumpsuit or another coat…


I just wanted to share some pics from the Los Angeles stop on my trip, because I was lucky enough to meet up with Katie of Handmade Threads (plus her friend Katie – three sewing Katies!) for a guided shopping day in LA’s garment district. It was super fun and the shopping was great! A lot of garment manufacturing is done in LA so it stands to reason that they have good stores to support it.



We started in an amazing trimmings and notions store, the aisles packed floor to ceiling with lovely laces, tapes, ribbons, bindings, straps etc. Following Katie’s lead I bought some cute bra strapping to encourage me to have another go at lingerie-making (I made a Watson toile a while ago, but it wasn’t quite right), plus some pretty woven decorative tape.



Next we hit a few nearby fabric stores. My favourite was run by a chap who imports a bunch of (apparently organic) Korean rayons in beautiful prints. I bought some navy ikat print for a Roberts jumpsuit plus a distressed grey for a simple tee.






Final stop (because Josh was patiently waiting for me) was Michael Levine, which I loved! Every type of fabric you’d need under one roof, from shibori bamboo knits (SWOON) to silks and coatings to an excellent range of quilting cottons including lots of Cotton & Steel. The prices are higher than the other stores but the quality seemed high, and I scored some black sandwashed silk and burgundy sweater knit each around $10/yd.


Afterwards we got some pupusas (El Salvadorean street food) and coffee in the Grand Central Market. As well as showing me around, Katie very kindly gave me some of the Cone Mills denim that she sells in her store Threadbare Fabrics, so more jeans will be on my horizon too no doubt. Sewists are just the best <3 LAshops11

A few days later I found myself near Mood, which is in a different area of town called La Brea. It’s much smaller than the NYC branch, all on one floor and about half taken up by home decor fabrics. However there’s still a good range of knits, Liberty prints and ex-designer runoffs from brands like Cavalli and Anna Sui. I bought a bolt end of some lovely bouncy silk crepe; I was hoping to find something to make a dress for a wedding in December but there was only 1.5yds left. Sadly I didn’t get the chance to visit a few other stops like The Fabric Store and Michael Levine Loft, but I was right on my baggage weight allowance anyway so it was probably for the best.


My stash was getting pretty low, so it was good to top it up again for some nice trans-seasonal garment making. It’s all in the prewash so I look forward to getting sewing!

Alder-ish + NYC


I’m back from a luuuurvely week in NYC. The weather was mostly kind – and the food/beer/fabric shopping most definitely was (a bit more about that below). Here’s a little dress I made before I left with my trip in mind. I know NYC gets humid, so a breezy cotton dress was order of the day.


This is my second Grainline Alder, but it’s pretty far removed from the original pattern by this point! I’ve switched the neckline to a V like before and this time I removed the back yoke seam to cut the back as one piece, and cut the bodice and skirt as separate pieces rather than the continuous front panel piece of the pattern. So is it still an Alder at all really?


I used a random quilting cotton find from Manchester’s Abakhan – I think Alder works fine in a fabric with a bit more body and structure. I did slim down the skirt pieces by about an inch so they didn’t stick out quite so much. I meant to add a wee bit of length as well, but forgot. Still a super fun dress to wear and ideal for hot weather.


The day previous I went over to Mood for a little meetup with three of my favourite Stateside bloggers – Katy, Kelli and Sonja. Best shopping buddies ever! It was so great to meet those girls and we all bought some pretty amazing fabrics, with lots of egging-on from each other.

NYC shopping

My mission was to buy silk crepes for more Ilsley skirts or similar, and I did succeed! Baby pink with white scribbly dots, and a lovely olive/emerald green.

NYC shopping

A Liberty stretch poplin and a rayon jersey print. Amazingly and bizarrely, the Liberty in Mood is cheaper than nearly everywhere I’ve seen it in the UK at $20/yd, and they have an excellent range. I’ve never used the stretch poplin before – I think it has a bit of extra body and drape compared to the lawns that will make it even more suitable for unlined dresses.

NYC shopping

Second part of the shopping mission was denim for more jeans. Charcoal grey and bright-ish spring blue (this one was from B&J Fabrics over the road).

NYC shopping

In fact I’m well in for denim now, because I was lucky enough to also meet up with the adorable Jennifer from Workroom Social and she generously gave me some of the famous Cone Mills denim as used in the Ginger jeans kits. It feels amazing so I’m really excited to get sewing with it. Thank you Jennifer, it was great to have a beer with you!

NYC shopping

Finally, some more frivolous and fun purchases from the lovely Purl Soho. Robert Kaufman tie-dye print cotton and chambray, and a delicious Nani Iro double gauze. The Nani Iros are only $18 a yard at Purl – about a third cheaper than the prices over here!


Finally finally I also managed to pop into City Quilter and Brooklyn General just for a little looky and gift purchases. A highly successful trip all round, really. Better get pre-washing…

A trip to Merchant & Mills, Rye

Merchant & Mills
Merchant & Mills

I managed to drag Josh out of town last weekend to go on a daytrip to Rye. I promise there were a couple more reasons than just visiting Merchant & Mills, err honest, but it was a hefty reason for the trip I have to admit.

Merchant & Mills

I’ve had a bit of a sea change around fabric this summer: I’m trying to slowly ditch my poly/synthetic habit and get into buying more natural fibres. You really notice the difference in comfort and stickiness when cycling in the heat! So Merchant and Mills is the perfect place to stock up on beautiful cottons and linens, and there are still enough pretty prints to satisfy me thanks to the Rajasthan handblocked cotton collection.

Merchant & Mills
Merchant & Mills
Merchant & Mills

They also have the most gorgeous solids, enough to even tempt this pattern fanatic. Slubby, creamy linens and gorgeous denims running the range from silky chambray to rough and tough selvedge, mostly in my favourite shades of drab and sludge.

Merchant & Mills
Merchant & Mills

Naturally I cooed over all the pretty notions too, all designed in-house.

Merchant & Mills
Merchant & Mills
Merchant & Mills
Merchant & Mills

Yummy shiny hardware to cap it all off, to make your oikskin tote bag.

Merchant & Mills

What came home with me? A bit of handblocked dotted cotton, some ticking striped linen, the most beautiful silky grey and white linen (I snagged the last 90cm!) and a gorgeous khaki trouser-weight Irish linen. Can’t wait to sew ’em up.


As it happens, there actually are more reasons to visit Rye besides the wonders of Merchant & Mills. It’s so pretty: full of cobbled streets, antique shops, cream teas and fish ‘n’ chips, with the fresh tang of the sea in the air. (You can see more about Rye in general in this post from my last visit a year ago.) All that only an hour from St Pancras! I could also catch up with Michelle, who left London for a more idyllic life living in the countryside and working at M&M itself. I heartily recommend a visit to stock up for your autumn sewing.

Inspired by… A trip to Manchester

I had a lovely weekend just gone visiting my parents in (an unusually) sunny Manchester. We hit one of my favourite fabric shops, checked out the high street then popped to a fashion exhibition at the Art Gallery.

Abakhan, Manchester

Obviously the first port of call was a trip to remnant superstore Abakhan. It looks pretty unassuming from outside, but I think it’d be impossible to come away from here empty handed: a rummage always turns up some goodies. I think surprisingly it’s actually pretty much the only fabric store in central Manchester, so luckily it’s a goodun.

Abakhan, Manchester

In case you haven’t been, one half of the store has racks with fabrics organised by type. It’s especially good for craft cottons (with some especially brilliant/bananas Americana prints), soft spandex jersey prints, viscose dress prints, swim lycra, plain georgettes and coatings. The pieces are generally 1-3 metres, and the staff will usually cut them down for you if you want less. You pay by the weight, which range from £8-12 per kilo. That works out at roughly £2-5 a metre depending on the fabric type.

Abakhan, Manchester
Abakhan, Manchester

The other half has fabrics by the roll – I usually only skim these, they aren’t that exciting – plus there’s an upstairs with notions/haberdashery. AND there are grab bags of zips, elastic and buttons for super cheap (25 zips for 2 quid), great for stash building. Heaven, in other words, and pretty much worth the trip to Mancs alone for the dedicated sewist. They do sell online as well, but not nearly as much range and you miss out on the joy of the rummage.

This time I was pretty focused in my buying (like with Shaukat, it’s good to go in with a plan) and I came away with a very cohesive little set of black/beige/brown prints. These are mostly nice drapey viscose prints with a couple of spandex blend knits. I’m going to have to be careful to not just make a billion camisoles which will only be seasonally appropriate for another month, so perhaps some sleeved tees and dresses are in order. I can’t wait to get sewing. Oh and my bill for this lot, about 8m of fabric – under 25 quid. My mum and my sister also bought fabrics for me to make things for them. Eek!

Afterwards, I was quite inspired by a nose in Urban Outfitters on Market Street. I hardly ever go into high street stores these days (though I still browse for sewspiration online) but it was nice to go and soak up some ideas for how to use my new fabrics. Here are some things that caught my eye.


I’m still into playsuits in a big way, and the neckline cut outs here remind me of the Deer and Doe Datura. *plots pattern mashup*


A slightly grungy button up skirt with lace trim. I did actually buy a dress with trim like this recently because I had some store credit, and I want to make a ton of copies. I think little details like buttons and lace trims help to make me-mades look a bit more rtw, and they don’t take long to do.


A few variations on the cami/babydoll dress. I’m going to self-draft my own dream version – so much scope for fun strap placements and skirt options.


Oversize roll-back sleeve Scout? Yup please.

Manchester art gallery

Finally, we popped to the Manchester Art Gallery, where coincidentally there was a temporary show called Cotton Couture, displaying a range of 1950s garments commissioned by the Cotton Board to promote the area’s cotton production and show its versatility as a fibre.

Manchester art gallery
Manchester art gallery
Manchester art gallery

The aim was to show that cotton can be used for everything from suits to ballgowns, not just the traditional workwear and undergarments. All these samples have an 18″ waist by the way, to fit the models of the time – JEEZ. All in all a lovely trip with plenty of sewing inspiration fuel.

Fabric shopping in Ecuador


Do you love my completely random fabric shopping guides? New York, London, Tel Aviv and now Ecuador. I was honestly half-joking about being able to fabric shop on my recent trip: I know the country is renowned for textiles and yarns, but I wasn’t expecting modern fabric shops. And definitely not a five-minute stroll from my Quito hotel! I think I’m developing fabric-whispering powers, which is excellent news.


First shopping stop was in Quito’s old town, just south of Plaza San Francisco where my hotel was. I spied at least 8-10 fabric and notion stores in the couple of blocks flanked by Venezuela and Bolivar streets. I tried to drag my tour guide into them but he wasn’t having any of it, so luckily I managed to navigate myself back there later in the day.


Some have higher-end suiting and cashmeres (which are reasonably priced here due to the native alpaca). Some, interestingly, combine a RTW clothing section with fabrics and yarns which I haven’t seen before.


The stock and prices of most shops are similar, and quite low – $4-8 a metre for most fabrics (the dollar here is the same as $USD so that’s £2.50-4.50). There seemed to be an especially great range of two things I struggle to find at home: interesting cross-woven solids and delicious dress-weight prints.


Just look at them all! Heart-eye-emoji overboard. Luckily my very poor Spanish at least amounted to ‘how much is this’ and ‘two metres please’ so I was able to make some purchases.


I’m really pleased with what I brought home:
– two chiffon prints that are dead ringers for the gorgeous fabrics I’ve been drooling over at Anna Ka Bazaar. It’s so hard to find these kinds of subtle graphic prints, and the same shop had a crapload more lovely ones. I was very restrained, especially at only $4.50/m.
– a wine-coloured floral gauzy knit that I bought specifically to recreate a favourite RTW tee (the one I’m wearing here). I’ve made this already!
– two lovely solids for more trousers: a poly crepe with lighter strands woven in so it looks like denim – I’m picturing slouchy boyfriend jean type things; and some grey/brown stretchy denim for another pair of jeans. Both around $8/m.


My second fabric shop stop was the market in the town of Otavalo, about 50 miles north of Quito where we stopped on my last full day. The market was huuuge: it sprawled over 5 or 6 square blocks, centred around a packed plaza.


Amongst the spices, fruit and veg, tourist tat and wood and leather goods are tons of Andean textile stalls…


… piles of beautiful brightly-coloured alpaca yarn…


…and these plain fabrics edged with pretty border embroidery, which the indigenous women use as a wrap skirt. There were also a couple of fabric stores which spilled their remnant pieces onto the street to rummage through.


From Otavalo I bought:
– a piece of border-embroidered cotton: this was a bit steep at $11 (haggled down from 15) but it feels like a very nice quality heavy cotton twill, so I think it’ll make a great pair of shorts.
– a remnant piece of gauzy printed cotton for $1. This has blocks of lots of patterns giving a quilting-type effect, so I might make a no-effort bed quilt from it.
– two woven Andean blankets/throws, $12 for both. I’d really like some shorts or a skirt from one of these but they’re a little thick and narrow – perhaps combined with another fabric.
– a woven trimming/ribbon: the indigenous women use these to wrap around their hair. I saw the ladies making these in the market with tiny looms, so it’s nice to know it’s a genuine handcraft. It may become an edging for a top.


I also had to buy this bag to bring all my loot home!


If you’re interested in the non-fabric shop parts of Quito too by the way, you can have a read on my other blog.

Shopping for Liberty at Shaukat


In the absence of any new garment posts, I thought I’d share some pics of the little fabric-buying excursion I took to Shaukat a couple of weeks ago. I’m sure if you’re a Liberty fabric fan you’ve already seen their website: they offer current and past season Liberty prints at a significant discount to the prices you’d pay in Liberty itself.


Their range is pretty darn comprehensive, with some more unusual Liberty fabrics like twill and jersey sitting alongside a massive range of the classic Tana Lawns. My finger’s been hovering over the buy button on their site for ages, but last week I made a pilgrimage to the actual store to stroke some fabrics in person. (I was in that part of town seeing the V&A’s wedding dresses show, well worth a visit for sewing geek-outs too.)


Upstairs are the twills, poplins and craft cottons. There are also quite a lot of non-Liberty fabrics, including dress-weight prints and plain jerseys.


I was wondering where all the lawns were, until the older man on the till pointed me to the stairs at the back. The first thing you see is a wall full of long bolts of the classic florals. Not really my cuppa though, so I pressed on.


It was at this point I started having fabric-buying palpitations! Wall after wall covered in shelf after shelf of perfect prints. Shorter bolts near the back have past-season designs, and there are lots of pre-cut pieces of yardage.


To the front are the crepe de chines and silk cottons. Pettably soft and beautiful. On the left are jerseys, cords and stretch poplins.


Magical corridors and nooks stuffed full of the stuff dreams are made of. It was literally like being in a fabric cave!


Remnants, so tempting to dive in and rummage through.

So what came home with me?…


I’d really thought beforehand about what I wanted to buy (the wishlist feature on the Shaukat site was a useful tool to keep me focused on what to look out for) and especially since it’s Me-Made May I wanted some fabrics that I could use to make real everyday clothes, rather than fancy ditsy blouses or occasion dresses. So I bought the horse-print twill to make some trousers, likely my third pair of Burda 7017s. This is a fairly heavy twill with no stretch – they also do a cotton/elastane twill that’s a bit lighter, but not in this print. I just love that this print is kind of surreal but also really subtle – you can’t really see it from a distance. Secondly, a jersey which I can’t seem to find on the site now. I love the mustardy colour and subtle African wax-type print; this’ll make a great day dress. Plus two classic tana lawns: the Graham Coxon-designed ‘A Boy Dreams‘ from the 2011 Liberty Rocks collection, and ‘Shavings and Sharpenings‘, a sweet print of pencils and sharpenings. I love how it looks abstract from a distance and the colours are lovely.

The pricing was basically £17 a metre for everything, even though I had a mix of twill, jersey, and lawn. Seeing as lawns are £22 and jerseys £32 in Liberty itself that represents a significant saving! So I feel okay about spending over 100 quid, ahem. Not bad for four will-be new garments though, not to mention the pleasure I’ll get from sewing them.

So would I recommend a visit to Shaukat? Overall, HELL YES, but here are a few things to bear in mind:

  • Do your research first: have a look through their site and try to be focused on what you want to look for, or you might just end up wandering round in a daze
  • Nothing is really labelled with either fabric type or price, so you may have to buy ‘blind’ or risk asking for help – see below
  • Don’t go expecting friendly, helpful service. The staff are hardly the most welcoming bunch I’ve come across, borderline a bit hostile and rude (especially to other lower staff members, in front of customers!). I didn’t really feel comfortable asking for help. Though there are ample people to cut for you so I wasn’t left hanging around.
  • I think it’s especially a worth a visit if you’re interested in seeing how the vast array of prints look in person (the colours are not very accurate on the Shaukat site, fyi) or if you’re interested in any of the more speciality fabric types. If you just have a few specific lawns you’d like I would order online instead, but…
  • …do bear in mind the prices on the website do not include VAT or P&P, so 2m of lawn at £14.25 actually costs £36.60 in total from the site. You’ll see the actual total after you enter your billing address.

Right, better get sewing…