Category Archives: Shops

LA’s garment district

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Alder

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.

Alder

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?

Alder

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.

Mood

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!

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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…

Fabric shopping in Paris

Paris

Wahey, another city fabric shopping guide! I spent the weekend just gone in lovely Paris, a mere skip away on the Eurostar. Three hours from door to door and we were there, and I’m left wondering why we don’t take advantage of that fact more often. I actually bought the trip for Josh for his 30th birthday present; coincidentally it was the same weekend as a big Parisian/London blogger meetup, but unfortunately I didn’t get to join the fun – partly because of the boyfriend in tow and partly because I had a horrendous cold the entire time, hence had to take it pretty slow. You bet I still managed to fit in a bit of fabric shopping though!

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My first stop was Anna Ka Bazaar, stockist of one of my verrry favourite fabric lines Atelier Brunette. It’s a dinky shop, one wall lined with bolts and the other with pattern books, remnant packs and notions. Amazingly I didn’t buy anything, albeit mostly because I already snagged some of the Halo viscose I was after in M is for Make‘s Black Friday sale.

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I stumbled across my second stop by chance, an extremely beautiful and well-stocked mercerie (haberdashery) called Entrée des Fournisseurs. I don’t typically get all that excited about trims, but this place had so many utterly beautiful ones. From pre-made velvet piping in beautiful shades, to neon elastic, to Liberty bias binding… I could hardly take it all in. Plus there was a dazzling array of buttons as well as a small selection of fabrics including Liberty lawns and more Atelier Brunette.

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Paris

Up next was Lil Weasel, set in the gorgeous Passage du Grand Cerf shopping arcade. This is a super-sweet and well-stocked little shop, with a few wools and quilted knits, quilting brands like Dashwood and Echino, more Liberty and AB, and a good selection of indie patterns. I did not leave empty-handed.

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Paris

My final stop was Rue d’Orsel just south of Monmartre, which contains quite a few fabric shops including Coupons de Saint Pierre and the huge fabric department store Tissus Reine. Saint Pierre rather reminded me of Abakhan or Rolls and Rems, with a jumble of fabrics separated by price and fibre type. It was quite hectic and very busy (as were all the fabric shops around here) so I didn’t linger too long.

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Bonus spot: some fun 30s sewing magazines on the flea market. I also bought an adorable vintage baby sewing machine!

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The Musée des arts et métiers (aka the Museum of Awesome Old Machinery) is well worth a visit too to geek out over old sewing machines and looms. Maaaaan I want that mother of pearl-encrusted one.

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Here’s what came home with me: a small selected of beautiful trims from Entrée des Fournisseurs; and gold dotted charcoal grey wool (for a Papercut Riger bomber) and petrol blue quilted knit (for a snuggly sweatshirt) from Lil Weasel. I can’t wait to sew these up! So this wasn’t the most comprehensive roundup of what Paris has to offer fabric-wise, but pretty good for 48 hours. And I now I realise it’s so close and easy to get to I’m sure a repeat trip won’t be too far away.

My favourite UK eBay shops for fabric

Fabric shopping on eBay UK

I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I find eBay can be a great source for those hard-to-find cool dress prints – for me that obviously means a nice geometric print in muted colours in a crepe or viscose, like I used for my Holly dress. eBay is a good place to turn to if you don’t want to spend too much and have a bit of time to trawl through lots of listings. However, I thought I’d help out by sharing my little black book of UK-based saved sellers, who generally offer a really good range of lots of my go-to prints and fabrics. Here we go:

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Cheapest Fabrics UK – their bio claims “WE SPECIALISE IN PRINTS !!! PRINTS !!! PRINTS !!! AND MORE PRINTS !!!”, and I can’t argue with that. Chiffons, georgettes, viscose and knits.

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Favourite Fabrics – Your best pal for cottons including quilting, lawns and some cutesy printed chambrays.

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Kat’s Fabrics – A good source for Liberty Tana Lawns in largeish pre-cut lots. At roughly £30 for 3 metre cut it’s a good deal.

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Neotrims – loads of trimmings and an impressive spectrum of rib knit trims, plus other plain knit fabrics like sweatshirting.

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JK’s Fabrics – a wonderland of viscose prints, perfect for frocks!

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The Fabric Company Ltd – another good one for viscose and jersey prints. My first Holly fabric is from here and it washes like a dream with zero wrinkles.

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The Textile Centre – good for knits, especially florals, and a bit of other stuff like lace and scuba fabric.

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The Trim Bay – super prices on zips, overlock thread, bias binding and all that fun stuff.

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In Fashion Fabrics – I believe this is run by the same company as the Tissu Fabrics website (which has just had a nice facelift), and I’ve been very happy with the quality of their knits despite the low prices. A real go-to for plain and printed knits of all weights, swim fabrics and linings.

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African Fabrics and Designs – does what it says on the tin, lots of lovely wax prints.

All photos yanked from the respective stores! Just to point out, I haven’t ordered from all of these stores so I can’t comment on quality or service from each one specifically. Also, I’m not being compensated at all for sharing the links – I just thought someone might find them useful. Always happy to enable fabric shopping :) Have you seen any you’d snap up?

Fabric shopping & Me-mades in Mexico

Mexico sewing stuff

Yup, it’s time for another instalment of my increasingly random global fabric shopping guides – this time in Mexico City and Oaxaca, where we’ve just got back from. (See also in this series: Ecuador, Tel Aviv, NYC.) Given its rich weaving and embroidering heritage, Mexico is a feast for pretty textiles so there was plenty to see, both to buy in the shops/markets and to admire in museums. I was also really pleased to find I rather effortlessly packed and wore probably about 80% me-mades on this trip, so thought I’d share a few photos of all those things.

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Mexico City was admittedly not brilliant for fabric shopping, either modern stuff or more local and traditional woven cloths. I didn’t buy anything until we moved on to Oaxaca. The main modern fabric shops are all part of a chain called La Parisina, branches of which can be found just south of the Zocalo in the historic centre, and a couple more slightly north from there at Lagunilla (which is an utterly bizarre area full of tacky bridal shops, though apparently hosts a good flea market on Sundays).

Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff

I don’t know if was because it was October specifically, but all the shops had large, prominent displays of fun and festive Day of the Dead/Hallowe’en themed fabrics. Pretty cute, but I’m not sure how I’d use them!

Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff

Other than that, all the Parisina branches had similar stuff and prices. There’s a large contingent of gaudy novelty fleeces, lots of very bright poly prints, some more tasteful plaids, and often a smaller selection of wool and cashmere suiting and coating along with a large range of solid coloured poplins, lycras etc. Prices generally range from $20-80 MXN per metre, which is a cheapy cheap £1-4.

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These super cheerful florals reminded me of Rachel! They felt rather like a starchy waxed cotton, I bet they’d soften up nicely in the wash but too bright for me.

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Oaxaca also had two Parisina branches a couple of blocks south of the Zolaco. One of them – on the north corner of Aldama and Flores Magon streets – was pretty great; I’m not sure if it actually had nicer stuff or was laid out a bit better or I was just feeling spendy, but I bought a few bits here: some autumnal plaids and a wool mix trousering.

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There’s also another fabric shop right on Oaxaca’s Zocalo called El Palacio de las Telas, which is set behind a restaurant called El Importador (or they have the same name? it was a bit confusing).

Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff

This one had classier stuff: a whole wall of cashmere suitings behind the counter, some very pretty floral chambrays and lawns, and lots of dress weight prints. I think some of the fabrics are Japanese imports, like the intricate black/grey prints and Liberty style florals. They also had a wall of laces including some very pricey guipure lace behind glass at nearly $800/m. Prices were a little higher overall, starting at around $85 and up, but I think it was much nicer quality than Parisina. I bought some silk-mix dress prints and some gorgeous floral chambray.

Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff

Another place worth a mention is the town of Tlacolula, about a 30-minute drive from Oaxaca city. It has a massive – I mean MASSIVE – market every Sunday, when people from all the nearby towns descend to trade, shop and socialise. It was a highlight of the trip, though slightly crazy and disorientating at the same time! A few of the thousands of market stalls sold haberdashery, lace trimmings, and the checked cotton used to make the traditional Zapotec embroidered aprons that the ladies wear to run errands and cook in. (I brought a ready-made one home, you can see it below). I really should have stocked up on lace and zips as they were ridiculously cheap. There was also, bizarrely, a regular little grocery corner shop that we popped into for bottled water which had several bolts of fabric at the back. Take note Waitrose.

Mexico sewing stuff

Onto museums. First and most obviously the Textile Museum in Oaxaca, which is a lovely free little museum housing Irmgard Weitlaner-Johnson’s collection of rare and precious handwoven historical textiles. She spent most of her life travelling to villages in Oaxaca state, collecting and cataloguing a vast variety of indigenous textiles.

Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff

I especially loved how most exhibits had a typed description of the techniques used and often even a diagram and instructions. You can buy mostly readymade garments and smallish shawls in the attached shop.

Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff

The Museo de Arte Popular near the Zocalo in DF is a sweet folk art museum housed in a gorgeous whitewashed art deco townhouse. There were some charming embroideries and more examples of richly textural traditional clothing amongst the exhibits.

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All the huipils reminded me of Marilla’s Maya top pattern!

Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff

Frida Kahlo’s old house Casa Azul in Coyoacan was another trip highlight. I was pleased to find that the Vogue-sponsored exhibition of her clothing (most of it unearthed from storage after the death of Diego Rivera) was still running, and provided a fascinating insight into the ways Kahlo portrayed her thoughts and feelings through clothing.

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Check that for embellishment…

Mexico sewing stuff

Finally, here are some me-mades that got an airing on the trip. I love taking dresses on holiday, they roll right down to nothing and work for both heat and cooler weather with leggings/tights. My patchwork dress unpacked admirably non-creasy considering it’s mostly linen, and was great for a hot day in Coyoacan.

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My Liberty zippy dress, which also packed very well..

Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff

…I wore it take a cooking class in the weaving town of Teotitlan, and the apron I bought.

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The recent wax Holly dress, worn to the ancient archaeological site at Monte Alban.

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This is as yet unblogged, it’s a Pattern Runway Gathered Sundress in a dreamy ikat from Cloth House that I made near the end of the summer. I’ll write it up if anyone wants more details on it? I really love it, especially the directional pattern placements.

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My swimsuit got a real outing in some water, yay! It held up totally great, dried out extremely well and felt great to swim in. (I’m still tinkering with the pattern and also attempted some multi-size grading to make one for my sister, which is proving challenging yet fun to mess around with.) I also wore my other Holly, shibori silk tee and new jeans – I’ve run out of photos though! Phew, back to your regular scheduled sewing soon, and my to-sew list is looking distinctly autumnal – coats, cardis and more jeans here we come.

The Knitting & Stitching Show

Knitting + Stitching show

I had a very nice day out today at the Knitting and Stitching show, held not too far from me in Alexandra Palace. Here are some of my highlights!

Knitting + Stitching show
Knitting + Stitching show

It was lovely to say hello to the Sew Over It gals who’d brought their range of sewing patterns. Have you heard they’re opening a new shop in Islington (a skip away from me)? Great news!

Knitting + Stitching show
Knitting + Stitching show
Knitting + Stitching show

A lot of my money went to The Eternal Maker, who have a superbly curated collection of the nicest quilting cottons around, along with lots of pettably soft flannels/knits and some dreamy Kaufman chambray and linen. Charming service too! I’ll be sure to order from their website more often.

Knitting + Stitching show
Knitting + Stitching show

It was nice to see Merchant & Mills there, who had brought a selection of cloths, notions and patterns.

Knitting + Stitching show

Shibori-dyed beautifulness from Changs, who were also selling fabric by the FQ and metre.

Knitting + Stitching show

I was rather tempted by these procion and indigo dye kits from Art Van Go – one to add to the Christmas list.

Knitting + Stitching show
Knitting + Stitching show

Liberty loveliness at Alice Caroline. My rummaging threw up a couple of scraps of the Graham Coxon print I’ve been after for ages! If you see yardage of this in the green or blue anywhere please let me know.

Knitting + Stitching show

M. Rosenberg / Stitch Fabrics (they have a shop in Wanstead, east London) have loads and loads of John Kaldor and ex-high street jersey knits – lovely stuff at £6-10 per metre, with friendly service.

Knitting + Stitching show

Here’s what came home with me: some John Kaldor knit from M. Rosenberg, The Merchant & Mills Dress Shirt pattern, Liberty scraps from Alice Caroline, FQ of shibori from Changs, Burmese trim, and some Cotton + Steel tiger print. Plus a couple more secret things for presents!

Knitting + Stitching show

It was a great day out, even though my bank balance is now wincing a bit. The Knitting & Stitching Show is on for the rest of the week until Sunday, so do pop up if you’re local.

I was given a complimentary press pass to the show.