I’ve recently been on a long weekend to London. I go there relatively often – about 3-4 times a year. It’s a great place to gather inspiration, meet international sewing friends (it seems like it’s easy enough to go to London, no matter where you’re from, but rather hard to go find the way to Copenhagen ;-)) and to find great fabric.
This time around I was busy going to fabric stores, sewing class stores (yep! It’s a thing!,) meet-ups, pubs and museums. And then of course there was also the usual miscellaneous shopping and quite a bit of tea-drinking.
As I’ve been in London as a sewing tourist quite a lot of times now, I realized that I must be qualified to write a guide for other sewing geeks going there. As a disclaimer I just want to say that this is by no means a complete list of all the sewing related stuff you can do in London. There is most definitely many more shows, shops and interesting places than those I mention in this guide.
But here’s my version of:
A Sewing-Geek’s Guide To London!
Yes, yes. I know you want to find out about fabric stores where you can find fabulous and/or cheap fabric. And there are plenty of those. I’ll get to them in the next part of the guide.
But before we begin on the shopping, let’s look at other stuff you can have fun with – and get inspired by – in London.
Musuems and Exhibitions:
The Victoria and Albert Museum
Victoria and Albert Museum
London, SW7 2RL
Take the tube to South Kensington (District, Circle & Picadilly). From here there is a tunnel from which you enter the museum directly.
Daily: 10 – 5.45 pm
Friday: 10 – 11 pm (I haven’t tried going Friday evening yet. But I have heard it’s great – we’re talking music, bar, etc. – and it’s on my list for next time I’m in town.)
V & A (as it is affectionately know as) is a design- and arts museum in the museum area south of Kensington Gardens. It’s huge and there are so many things to see there. I recommend that you take a look at the website to check out if there are any small free special exhibitions (for instance right now they have a temporary exhibition of sewing tools). Admission is free but nobody minds if you place a donation of 4 pounds in the donation boxed…
Besides V & A’s extensive exhibitions on European cultural history, art and textiles, (+ a rather large Asian collection) they also have a large permanent fashion exhibition + temporary fashion related shows. For the temporary fashion exhibitions you need a special admission ticket at about 12 £ – it’s worth every penny!
The permanent fashion exhibition shows garments from the last 500 years – up to around 2001 at the moment. The items of the exhibition are changed from time to time, so that you always have something new to look at. The exhibition consists of both chronologically placed montres which allows you to disover the evolution of fashion and even in many cases the evolution of the construction, as you are able to see the inside details of many of the garments, as well as several theme displays.
Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear is the current (until 12 March 2017) special exhibition about underwear. I am most definitely going to see that (it opened the day after I left this time around) it looks very interesting. Here are some press pictures from the exhibition:
V&A also has a lot of shops placed around the museum. Here you can find books, sewing tools, notions and quaint little things like this thimble shaped pen holder, I just had to have…
In Kensington Gardens
Tag tuben til Queensway (Central) eller Notting Hill Gate (Central, District or Circle)
Open daily 10 – 6 pm
Admission: Adults 18£, kids under 16 free
Kensington Palace is – and has been- home to many of the British royal family. Will and Kate are living there at the moment, but a large part of the castle is open to the public with several exhibitions. Besides the castle, there is a fabulous garden that you can have a nice walk in and the lovely Orangery where lunch and high Tea is served.
You can walk around the castle, see the old apartments and learn about court life in the 17th century (did you know, for instance, that at that time, when you were at the court, you didn’t just go to the bathroom. Instead you had a “discreet” elongated bowl which you just stepped over, and then did what you had to do, right there in the middle of all the other court people…). And then you can pretend that you are a posh lady before you move on to the exhibitions…
Fashion Rules – restyled
The Fashion Rules exhibition is an exhibition of some of the dresses of Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret and Princess Diana. The dresses are displayed thematically and are accompanied by original designer sketches and photos. It’s a beautiful exhibition where you get a very close look at the couture dresses and the thoughts behind each design.
Since you already paid to go in and see the royal dresses, you should allow yourself the treat of seeing the exhibition Victoria Revealed. It doesn’t have anything to do with fashion or sewing (all though there are some of Queen Victoria’s Dresses and some children clothes on display) but it is one of the absolutely best museum exhibitions I have ever seen. This exhibition tells the story of the long life of Queen Victoria inspired from her diary, which is quoted around the displays. It was a great experience and actually made me buy a biography on Victoria to learn more about her life. Me, who really don’t care about royalty…
When you are done at the museum, you can walk in the garden and here you’ll find the very lovely Orangery. This is a great (albeit a bit expensive) place to get lunch or, as I did, high tea. It’s an experience. A very high-carb experience, and you might need a nap afterwards. Don’t say I didn’t warn you:-)
If you haven’t had enough of royal dresses – and if you are in London between July 23 2016 and October 2nd 2016 – you have a unique opportunity to see Fashioning a Reign at Buckingham Palace in celebration of the Queen’s 90th birthday. There are at least 50 dresses and hats and shoes as well – all worn by Queen Elizabeth. I’m definitely going to see it this autumn before it closes!
Well that’s what I could think of regarding exhibitions and museums in London to recommend to you. In the next part of the guide, I’ll talk about fabric stores and other places to shop….