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.

24 thoughts on “Inspired by… A trip to Manchester

  1. AvatarInrgid

    Those are indeed some good bargains. Funny you should mention the risk of making loads of cami’s with your fabric. I’ve been looking for a good camisole pattern for a few days now, but I can’t seem to find any. Do you mind sharing what pattern you use? Or do you draft it yourself? I’ve never done thin straps before so any pointers would be super! Thanks :)

  2. AvatarCaroline Joynson

    Wowzers! Those waist measurements are TINY! The exhibition looks lovely. Such beautiful details in the garments too.
    Looks like ‘Up North has done you proud there Katie! Looking forward to some lovely makes with your new fabric stash.
    I’m participating in the Summer Stash Bust so I am living vicariously through other sewists fabric purchases, so thanks ; ) I love your selection. Can I see some fabric for the Monthly Stitch mono-sewn in there somewhere?

    1. AvatarKatie

      Thank you for the heads up about the cotton exhibition. I’ve just finished reading North and South (an excellent novel for fabric/fashion/Richard Armitage fans) , so this would be a perfect day trip!

  3. AvatarJulie

    I read this just after I got home from Manchester! I didn’t go to Abakhan as I was very confused by the buying by weight thing on my last visit. Thank you for explaining, I will make sure I visit next time I’m in Manchester.

    1. AvatarKatie Post author

      I hope you can get there next time! The staff will also weigh any piece to give you the cost, and measure it if you need a specific yardage.

  4. AvatarAndrea Belshaw

    So nice to read a blog post about Manchester for a change (I live in Stockport). And so nice to read about a place here where we can buy fabric instead of Walmthamstow Market, the man outside Sainsburys etc in London (no offence meant to our Southern bloggers). But I do so wish we had more choice. There is still Leons I think in Manchester city centre and good old John Lewis (expensive generally) but otherwise I dont know of any decent markets where we can get bargains. If there are any Mancunian sewist bloggers out there please pass on any tips. Lovely additions to your stash btw and a visit to the Art Gallery is now on my to-do list.

    1. AvatarKatie Post author

      I can imagine that’s a bit annoying! At least there’s online as well for everyone. Leons was a little too south for me this trip but I’d like to go sometime.

  5. AvatarScruffy badger

    Love reading about my favorite fabric store!!! Great purchases.
    Worth looking next time at the rolls on the ground floor – some bargain price cuts per metre but also there are a few ‘remnant rolls’, sealed, that you can buy for say a tenner – maybe shirting and good for toiles. I’ve always been travelling by train though so didn’t want to lug it home! Also upstairs has a sale section with some dramatic price reductions – recently I got some ponte originally 11.99 with 70% off !
    Yes, I know….it can become impossible to prioritise!!!

    1. AvatarKatie Post author

      Carrying stuff home is my issue as well, and I usually have so much stuff by the time I’ve rummaged I can’t bear to be tempted by the rolls and upstairs!

      1. AvatarAmy Gallagher

        I’ve recently moved to South Manchester and I can’t wait to visit Abakhan. I’ve got stuff online from them but now I know about the remnant bins I’m going to have to plan a trip there very soon. Good tip from you both though about carrying what I buy because I will go in on the tram. Now I know I need to plan this for a day my husband is home so I can demand he drives in to collect me when I buy too much :D

  6. AvatarTrish

    Thanks for the notice about the exhibition. Will make a great visit when I go to visit the P. I’m surprised it’s at the Art Gallery as fashion things are usually at the Whitworth which has some amazing exhibitions too.

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