In April I was in London yet again. I go there quite often – and mostly as a sewing-tourist – gathering inspiration, meeting with sewing friends from around the world and of course, fabric shopping.
I realised that I must be qualified to write a guide for other sewing geeks going there by now, so I began making notes for a guide for you who are interested in sewing and travelling to London.
And below is the second part of
A Sewing-Geek’s Guide To London!
Today I’m talking about shopping (especially fabric shopping) and also some mixed stuff you and your fellow travellers can do in London that might not be sewing related.
Fabric shopping in London
Okay, let’s begin by looking at the stuff you really want to know about – fabric shopping in London. I’ve grouped the stores by their location and rather hard chosen the fabric stores that inspire me. But there are many, many more fabric stores in London than those I mention here. So please don’t limit yourself to the fabric stores in this guide, but start with them and keep your eyes open. You might stumble across an inspirering store I don’t even know of!
In the area around Goldhawk Road you’ll find just about a billion fabric stores – Or at least 20 – within a very small area. Take the tube to Goldhawk Road (Circle, Hammersmith & City). When you step out of the station all you have to do is open your eyes to see all the stores.
The fabric stores in this area don’t focus on the presentation of the fabric. You will not find many dressforms or beautiful laid out window displays. The fabric rolls are stacked and it can be difficult to tell where the good stuff is. But don’t worry. Take your time, walk around and feel and watch the fabric, and you are sure to find really nice things.
I’d heard some rumours that the fabric shops in Goldhawk Road were forced to close down, but I asked when I was there in APril and they said it’s not true. The building in which A-One fabric is located might be demolished at some point, but if that happens, they will continue selling from their other store further down the street. And that seems to be the only building that’s in danger.
Opening hours: Most shops are open Monday to Saturday between 9 am and 6 pm.
A-ONE FABRICS, 50-52 Goldhawk Road. Don’t be fooled by the slightly un-inspired look of the shops here. That’s especially the case of A-One Fabrics. When you just enter the shop you’ll be met by a lot of fabric bolts with ordinary, maybe even a bit boring fabric. Continue into the next room on the left. Here you’ll see roll after roll of high quality wool fabric. And a lot more. But if you’re in the market for wool for a jacket or for trousers, or maybe a classic LBD, this is where you’ll find it! We are talking designer fabric rolls, bought directly from the mills. And at a great price – between 12 and 25 punds per meter. You can also find nice jersey fabrics here.
The owner of A-One also owns another store in the street, and they have started to move some of their fabric to that. It’s Goldhawk Silks and Trimmings, 74 Goldhawk Road where you’ll find trimming and notions besides the fabric.
Classic Textiles, 44 Goldhawk Road, has a lot of great fabric as well. Amongst other things, I’ve found nice silk (which I like to use for lining) for about 12 pound per meter. And it’s just a really nice store which by the way, as many of the other stores in the street, deliver fabric for costume designers working in theatres, movies and tv series. This time around I met and talked with one of the costume designers who worked with Downton Abbey.
Orya Textiles, 32 Goldhawk Road, had there opening day on this address when I was there. They have a lot of really nice dress fabrics and quite a lot of high quality denim. And the same wools as you can find in many of the other stores here. But very unique for this store, the owner also stocks a lot of interesting bathing suit fabric as well as very nice leather!
Shephards Bush Market is an open air market placed between Goldhawk Road and Shephards Bush Market tube stations. There are many different things for sale; food, cheap clothes, kitchen ware and also notions and cheap fabric. The quality isn’t that good, but it’s a fine little walk, and you might spot something fun on the way.
Islington is a lovely area in North London with adorable shops and cafes. Take the tube to Angel (Northern Line) and go to the right (north). Turn right into one of the side streets. There’s a lot of interesting stuff!
There’s a big open air market every Wednesday and Saturday (in Camden Passage and the surrounding streets) with a lot of different stuff but especially antiques, jewellery and old books. Here you’ll also find the covered market Pierrepoint Arcade Market on the corner of Camden Passage with your typical flea market stuff, books and more jewellery Monday, Wednesday and Saturday and a big book market on Thursday and Friday. The markets are open from 9 am – 3 pm, but try to go there early in the day.
If you are into knitting and lovely yarn, you have to go to Loop while you are in the area. It’s on 15 Camden Passage and is a lovely yarn store, which is definitely worth a visit, even if you are not the big knitter (you might find a gift there or be inspired to pick up the knitting needles:-))
Ray Stitch is just a few minutes away – in 99 Essex Road. Walk to the end of Camden Passage and you will be on Essex Road. Follow the road to the right to number 99 – Ray Stitch will be on your left side. Ray Stitch has a lot of very nice fabric and notions – including a nice Merchant & Mills selection. The shop originally began as a sewing school that sold a bit of fabric on the side, but now they have plenty of nice stuff (and the sewing school is still there). They are open every day – including Sunday (till 5 pm).
Sew Over It is in the opposite direction from Angel tube station (so instead of going North, you are going to walk a couple of minutes south) at 36A Myddelton Street. It has a vintag-ey feel to it, and if you love vintage (or even if you just love pretty things) you can’t miss this shop. Sew Over It is mainly a sewing school but they have a nice selection of very nice fabric, including great jersey-fabric, and there is a lot to chose from, even if you aren’t into vintage.
Opening times: Tuesday – Friday: 12:30pm – 6:30pm (Sewing Cafe: Friday 1pm – 5pm), Saturday: 12pm – 5pm.
Shaukat, at 170-172 Brompton Road. When you are at V&A anyway (which you can read more about in the first part of the guide), you should take the 15 minute walk down Old Brompton Road to visit Shaukat. Especially if you like Liberty fabrics. Because here you will find Liberty fabric quite a bit cheaper than any other place. I’ve got the Liberty I need for the moment, so I didn’t go this time (which is why the picture is from an earlier trip, where I met up with Winnie from Scruffy Badger.)
I usually stay away from the busy shopping streets of London – there are so many people there:-) But also a lot of shops! Take the tube to Oxford Circus (Central, Bakerloo and Victoria) and enjoy the crowds.
Liberty is a department store, which is quite expensive and luxury minded. But it’s worth the experience to go to this very old building with the very traditional store and browse. So do that (the fabric is on the top floor), but buy your fabric elsewhere…
Not far from Liberty is Berwick Street. Here you’ll find some very nice and quite expensive fabric stores as well. There are a lot of fabric stores. Take a walk down the street and browse through the different types of fabric available – there is a lot to choose from! The stores are generally closed on Sundays but all other days they are open from 10 to 6.
My favourite is Cloth House in number 47 (and they are actually open on Sunday afternoons as well). It’s such a pretty store. Adorable decor and very nice fabric! It’s most certainly worth a visit!
Another well known fabric store is Borovick Fabrics in number 16. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but it’s very popular and – they have a big selection of luxury silks and lace fabric.
And then there’s The Berwick Street Cloth Shop which mainly cater to tailors and designers. They have some very special fabrics – and they are certainly expensive. But the selection is interesting – and it doesn’t cost anything to browse!
If you are anything like me, fabric isn’t the only thing you love.
I, for instance, love to read. Anything! But naturally I have a special interest in books on style, design, pattern making and sewing. And there’s a big selection of those (among many, many other interesting books) in Foyles Book Shop at 107 Charing Cross Road. If you’ve just been to Berwick Street, just continue westward for a couple a streets (2 – 3 minute walk), if you come from a different location, take the tube to Tottingham Court Road (Northern and Central) and walk down (south) of Charing Cross Road – the shop will be on your right hand side.
I can easily spend hours there. A part from all the design and fashion books (Foyles also stock a nice selection of fashion school text books) they have a huge fiction department. And a cafe! I love being there! Opening hours are Monday – Saturday 9.30 am – 9 pm, Sunday 11.30 am – 6 pm.
If you are in London at the weekend, don’t miss the Portobello Road Market.
Take the tube to Ladbroke Grove (Circle, Hammersmith & city), cross the road and walk down the next street – and you are right in the middle of the market (and it’s much easier than going to Notting Hill Gate, where most tourists go). I especially like going there on Fridays, where there is a man selling vintage cards of buttons and lace from France. He also has a lot of old thread cones and sometimes really nice vintage linen. His stall is just outside 284 Portobello Road.
But there are plenty of other, non sewing related stuff to look at at the market. I like the old print letters and stamps. AND I haven’t even begun talking about vintage cloth stalls. There is a lot of crap, but also many gems to be found!
If you need to sit down and have a cup of coffee or tea, I recommend Baristas Fusion on 72 Lancaster Road. Fatma and her husband makes very sandwiches and tapas boards – and also great coffee. Which is all very reasonable priced and with the added bonus of them being very nice people. Say Hi from me:-)
Other fun stuff to do in London
No matter if you have been to London 100 times or if it’s your first time there, I recommend doing a walk with London Walks! If you’ve never been before, you can get a great sense of the town with one of the more general walks – and if you know the town well, the special walks will teach you even more. They also do walks to the big tourist sites (like Tower, St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey) and I recommend those as well. You’ll get good understanding of the place, a discount on the entrance to the site and you won’t have to stand in line to get in!
There’s no need to book a London Walk – you just check the schedule on the website and meet up with the guide at the appointed tube station. The duration of the walks are 2 hours and they cost 10 £ per adult. (Discount are available).
I don’t really recommend one walk over the others (and I’ve been on many and always do a new walk when I’m in town) but the pub walks and the ghost walks seem to be very popular. Even with grumpy teenagers….
Here is a video that very nicely shows how great those walks are:
Where to stay in London
I don’t stay at hotels in London anymore. They are too expensive compared to what you get. Instead I stay at private AirBnB‘s. My favourite area to stay is the area around Portobello Road – i.e. tube stations Westbourne Park and Ladbroke Grove. I have a couple of places I use, depending on if I’m travelling alone or with someone.
How to get around in London
Use public transportation. The tube works very nicely and when the train stops at midnight there are night busses. Also a great deal of busses.
Buy an Oyster-card when you arrive. I’ve had mine for more than 5 years, so it’ll last. You simply add money to your card (top up) and then you hold the card over the reader when you enter and exit stations (or indeed busses). I always begin by adding 10 pounds when I arrive at the airport, and then I can add more if I need it.
This is the end of my London guide for Sewing Geeks. You will not be able to try everything I’ve mentioned in one long weekend visit, so pick and choose (even though I would always include a visit to V&A). And remember. I haven’t included everything or every store. I’ve simply shown you my favourite things to do in London.