London haberdashery shopping

Since we can’t really afford to take a proper holiday this year, what with the boat renovations and wedding to save for, I’ve opted to take a few days off here and there to just spend at home or around town. My first “holiday at home” day I took on Thursday, starting with a decadent breakfast at The Chop House (which I walk past every single day and drool over) and then moving on to pick up a bunch of haberdashery supplies at the stores around town that are normally best visited (or only open) during the work week.

I did really well, starting at McCulloch & Wallis around 10, and finishing up at Borovick around 1, with a quick jaunt around Uni Qlo‘s sales (navy chinos and a white cotton/cashmere jumper for less than a tenner total!) and a pit stop at the Japan Centre thrown in there, too. The shops were nearly empty and at some points, there were more staff than customers. It was a revelation that shopping can actually be fun if you go on a midweek morning, as it’s usually the 9th circle of hell in that area on the weekends…

Fabric Shopping in Dublin and Battersea

As I mentioned earlier this week, we visited Dublin on a flying visit last week as James was speaking at a conference, and I decided to tag along to visit some of his family over there. I first visited Dublin back in 2000 when I was a student and did the very American thing of visiting for St Patrick’s Day (hint: it’s absolutely rammed with Americans and Aussies!). We went back again in 2008 to see some family and also buy an engagement ring, and then I had to fly over a bunch for work around 2011-2013 but those trips were mostly in-and-out on the same day, dealing with a difficult client. But it’s been long enough now that I’m mostly over the pain of those awful work trips, and since I had a spare day to wander around the city centre, I thought I’d revisit a few of the fabric shops I reviewed back in 2008.

While I’ve got mixed feelings that the Woolen Mills is no longer a source for haberdashery (mixed because I’m sad it’s closed down, but happy because it’s now a sister restaurant to our favourite restaurant in Dublin, The Winding Stair), I’m pleased to report that Hickeys on Henry Street is still going strong!

Walthamstow Shopping Frenzy

Saturday morning I rushed around to get ready and ended up finishing my Jalie jeans not 5 minutes before I had to leave to catch the bus and train up to Walthamstow for our organised assault on the market! Our supreme leader, Karen, has already posted a comprehensive rundown of the afternoon but I somehow managed to avoid getting into any photographs (bwahahah!) so I feel I need to offer proof that I actually was there! And wearing my newly sewn jeans, which you’ll see later this week!

I was trying to be very good indeed, so I set myself a very strict shopping list:

1. Fabric to make another pair of lounging trousers for James

Fulfilled! I bought this viscose/lurex striped jersey bought at Saeed Fabrics – 2m @ £2/m! Though if it turns out James doesn’t like the sparkly stripes, I really won’t be upset!

London fabric shops: Goldhawk Road

I can’t believe that I’ve lived in London for 6 years and not been out to the Goldhawk Road fabric shops yet. I mean, I’ve heard people talk about them, but it’s a full hour on the tube for me to get there, so I’ve just never really seen the need to explore…

Until yesterday, when fellow sewer Anwen took me by the hand and showed me around her favourite fabric shops there.

WOW. I was prepared to see a lot of fabric shops with an awful lot of fabric stuffed inside, but I wasn’t prepared for the incredibly high quality of the fabric in the shops. Polyester was in the minority, with a huge range of silks, woollens, suitings, and other really luxurious (and usually hard to find!) fabrics being the norm, and at really reasonable prices, too.

I had a strict budget I imposed on myself, and I only spent twice that. Ummm. But I still came away with a nice stack of fabric, and a ton of research for next time!

Just like my review of London haberdashery shopping, I thought I’d give a rundown here of the highlights from yesterday, though there are at least six other shops next to these that we went into but I didn’t write down the names and addresses of. Most of the shops seem to be open Monday-Saturday, though I imagine they’d be really very crowded on Saturdays if you decide to go then. Goldhawk Road tube station is on the Hammersmith and City Line, but you could easily walk from Shepherd’s Bush station (so when the Central Line station there reopens that might be more convenient). See the map at the bottom of the page for details, but roughly, turn right out of Goldhawk Road tube station and prepare to enter FABRIC NIRVANA….

Finding balance (and fabric!) in Copenhagen

After the twin mammoth accomplishments of running London marathon and handing in my book manuscript (and illustrations, patterns, and sewn samples!), I really needed a break! The next few days were filled with sports massages, a spa day, visiting friends, and packing.

I’d only ever visited Copenhagen once, back in 2013 to run the marathon, but I really only got to see the sights directly along the race route, as I had to fly to Miami the next morning for work. Through the global running crew movement I’ve got a bunch of friends there, though, and my friend Christina in particular has stayed with us a few times over the years and when she and her partner Troels were over in January we all sat down with our calendars and finally picked a date for James and I to come stay at theirs and finally see the city properly. As it turned out, Troels ran an ultra the same weekend as I ran London marathon, so the weekend after would be perfect for us all.

If you’ve never been to Copenhagen, I definitely, definitely recommend going. It’s a compact, green, and pleasant city to visit, and it feels like the Danes just really nailed quality of life. Apart from eating everything in sight (smorgasbords!!), we did our usual boat tour, visited the food market, met up with friends, went to three different cocktail bars, and drank a lot of Mikkeller beer at their brewpub, War Pigs.

A week in New York City

James and I have been talking about returning to New York City at some point for a while now. We last visited on our honeymoon back in 2010 and had a fantastic time. We’ve also since acquired a rather expensive immersive theatre habit and really wanted to see Sleep No More before it closes (I’m guessing later this year). We’d seen Punchdrunk’s London show, The Drowned Man 4 and 5 times over the course of a year, and knew that a similar show, based on Macbeth, would be well worth the trip. So James booked the flights for my birthday and tickets to see it twice in that week.

And then we heard about the immersive show Then She Fell (set in a disused hospital in Brooklyn, based on the works of Lewis Carroll, and limited to 15 audience members per showing), so booked that, too. And then ended up seeing Sleep No More for a third time directly after the second showing. Because it’s that good. Frankly, it’s two weeks later and I’m still kinda living in a dream world in the fictional McKittrick Hotel. Snippets of songs get stuck in my head, people say things that trigger a memory from the show, I look down and see a drip of fake blood on my shoe from one of the scenes… that sort of thing. I honestly cannot recommend either show enough. So, so worth the money.

But this isn’t a site about immersive theatre, nor is it about the excessive amount of cocktails and brunch we consumed, nor the sleep we didn’t get, or the great quality time we got to spend with my cousin in Brooklyn or the many friends who’d moved back there. So I’ll stick to the sewing-related highlights or we’ll be here all day!

Of course I couldn’t go to New York and not visit the Garment District, but my fabric stash is looking pretty healthy these days and I didn’t really have an entire day to kill wandering around. So I enlisted the help of some professionals! Oona and Ginger were my fantastic tour guides through Mood, Spandex House, and the myriad little haberdashery shops in the Garment District, but also in choosing a man creche (err, bar) with great cocktails!

Here we are each holding up our most obnoxious Spandex House purchases. Yes, mine has bacon all over it.

Gathering supplies

It feels like I only just spoke about shopping but here I am, back with more lovely things to share! In my mind, it’s important that I have an intended use/project for 95% of the things I buy, and that I actually do end up using it, or (in the worst case) giving it away.

So with that in mind, I tried to make purchases of things I’m likely to use fairly soon, and I’m definitely all set for the long Easter weekend now!

Minerva Crafts

I was approached by the lovely Vicki at Minerva Crafts asking if I’d like to try some of their products. I’m approached fairly often by retailers about this sort of thing and I usually decline unless it’s a) most definitely sewing related (and not just another clothing store wanting to pimp me out for some % off code!) and b) I genuinely think I’d like the product and feel good about recommending them.

Not only are Minerva most definitely sewing-related (and owned by fellow sewists!!) but omg do they stock a gargantuan amount of sewing supplies! Ladies, it took me four days to trawl through the site and actually decide what I wanted. Four days. Not just fabric, but a ton of haberdashery (including supplies I’ve never seen anywhere else, like the stretch/lycra bindings), high end sewing tools and gadgets, patterns, the works. I didn’t even look in the Knitting, Quilting, or Needlework sections!

They’ve also got free shipping on all orders over £20, which is pretty awesome, too, as I’ve seen a lot of places with a much higher barrier than that…

But I won’t leave you in suspense any longer, here’s what I selected!

First up – 2.5m Black and silver heavyweight jersey to make the StyleArc Marie jacket, which coincidentally arrived from Australia the same day (4 working days after the shipping email! Noice!). This feels perfect for the jacket, too – hefty but drapey at the same time, with a nice bit of glam from the silver lurex threads.

Brighton & Bank holiday sewing

We had a long weekend here in the UK this weekend, and I’m pleased to report that I made the most of it! On Saturday, James and I made an impromptu trip down to Brighton, and we stopped off at Lewes on the way down. Our main objective in Lewes is always the Harveys Brewery shop, but I also discovered The Stitchery just across the road upstairs in the Riverside Centre, which stocks a wide variety of fabrics, embroidery floss, yarn, and haberdashery. I checked my handy “sewing shopping list” on my phone, and bought black waistband elastic and trouser hooks, both of which I needed. Very sensible of me, I know.

But the real temptation was walking right past Ditto in the North Laines in Brighton, and I told myself I was only allowed to buy ONE fabric there, so it’d better be a good one! In the end, this gorgeous butter yellow floral silk charmeuse won out over a similar yellow coloured, textured, ex-Blumarine crepe.

Florals really aren’t my usual fabric choice (and I would’ve never bought it from the terrible photo on Ditto’s site), but in real life, I was just captivated by it, and I’m thinking I’ll need to pair it with some edgier like jeans or my leather skirt to diffuse the twee-ness.

After our big day on Saturday, on Sunday we didn’t leave the boat at all! I spent most of the day doing sewing stuff, starting off with fusing all the interfacing onto James’s reversible smoking jacket pieces. I find fusing interfacing to be really boring at the best of times, but it’s beyond teeeeedious with a mini ironing board and mini iron! Once that was all fused, I then moved on to hand basting all the pocket placements (it’s a fantasy jacket, so there are five pockets!) and then basted the bound buttonhole placements, too.

Our French road trip

Ahh, what a fabulous, gluttonous, relaxing, and wonderful holiday! If it weren’t for arriving back into an extremely busy work and social life, I’d probably be the most chillaxed, freckled, and happy woman on earth right now.

Our road trip lasted 11 days, and took us from Calais down to the Loire Valley (Canault and Saumur, mostly), through Poitiers and Limoges, through the Lot and the Midi-Pyrenees to Toulouse, then over to Montpelier and Sète, up through the Rhone valley to Tournon and Tain L’Hermitage, then up to Lyon, and finally making pitstops in Cluny and Auxerre on our way to Paris before heading home.

Sewing-related towns driven through:

  • Alençon (that’s just a display inside a roadside rest pictured above!)
  • Couture
  • Cluny
  • (Though I swear there were more I just can’t recall right now!)

In America…

Having an international relationship (even when the expat half is as firmly ensconced as I am) makes weddings a bit tricky. We’re lucky that we didn’t have to take immigration laws into account, but even so, we needed to have wedding celebrations on both sides of the Atlantic to include as many people as possible. So a few days after the wedding, we flew over to Pennsylvania, spent a few days at my parents’ house in Perry County, then had our celebration dinner in Lancaster, taking the train down to Philly to catch up with my Man of Honour, then the Acela train up to NYC for a week of a proper honeymoon before flying back home to London.

So to start, I decided that I wanted to give my Granny a nice memento of her gown, since she had given it all to me, and I ended up with some medium-sized scraps of the really nice silk satin after finishing my gown. So before I left I made up four sachets filled with lavender buds I’d grown on deck, and during the flight I embroidered a silk square for each of these with the initials of her four grandchildren and their spouses, plus the year they were married. It just worked out nicely that my cousin Charlie was the last of us to wed, having their wedding two weeks after ours!

I then finished up the sachet construction at my parents’ house and presented these to Granny before the Lancaster reception dinner.

There was also a nice surprise of a massive box of vintage haberdashery she’d found in a charity shop. I only picked a few things out of it, but I just couldn’t resist some of this glorious packaging!

Then my mom insisted on driving me out to this Amish fabric shop she knows in Perry County – it was only a little ways past my old high school, but I was just blown away by the prices!! I went NUTS in the zippers – tons of really long invisible zips for 75 cents or a dollar (when I’d pay at least £3-4 each for these in London), buttons for as low as 2 cents each (when’s the last time you saw anything for 2 cents??), tons of ricrac and trims, embroidery floss for 30 cents, and (of course!!) they had the bobbins for my hand crank vintage Singer. For 15 cents each!