My dressmaking is coming on at a pace, and I seem to be getting through yards of fabric fairly quickly. In the past few weeks, I’ve discovered three very different fabric outlets: one epitomises the height of traditional, classic and timeless British design in the heart of London, one is an online treasure trove based in the Lake District, and one is rather more up my street (geographically and price-wise)!
After a recent union conference in London, a friend of mine took me on an outing to the one, the only, Liberty of London. I could barely contain my excitement! There, right in the middle of bustling London, a street away from Piccadilly Circus, stands a gorgeous, 4 storey, Tudor-style building, and within it contains gorgeous fashions, homewares and, of course, fabrics. A little known fact is that the building itself was constructed out of the timbers from the HMS Impregnable and the HMS Hindustan in 1924.
The entire building was a work of art – I think I spent more time looking at the architecture than I did browsing the fabrics! One of my favourite features was this little chap, eating a banana on the fourth floor.
It was, quite literally, fabric heaven – cabinet after cabinet of Liberty-printed cottons, linens, georgette. The entire department was full of wide-eyed women (and some men) running their fingertips longingly along rows of Tana Lawn prints and sighing at the sight of button and ribbon displays. Prices started at around £22 per metre, which was slightly outside of my budget for an impulse purchase, so I used the visit to browse for inspiration, rather than to buy. Somehow, I tore myself away from the dressmaking fabrics to venture up to the fifth floor, where they keep the home furnishing fabrics.
There was one fabric in particular that caught my eye – exotic, floral and fabulous, I had to have it! Impulse buying mode kicked in with some intensity. I checked the label and it said “Liberty of London 19.50” on the tag. Excitedly, I thought I could probably stretch to buying two metres of the gorgeous stuff, seeing as I would, after all, need a souvenir of my visit! My mind began rushing with ideas for beautiful items I could construct from the fresh, bright material.
The helpful assistant took the bolt over to a scientific looking machine, and started rolling out the fabric to cut. Just before she did so, I checked “This is £19.50 a metre, right?” She looked at the label and regrettably informed me that 19.50 referred to the number of metres left on the roll, not the price per metre. She went to check the price in the master file, as my heart sank. All my future, imagined cushion covers, wall hangings and coin purses began to recede in my mind. The assistant returned with the eyewatering figure of £79.50 per metre. Per. Metre. I politely explained that I would have a think about buying it and come back later, before making a panicked dash for the exit with my credit card in tact. Oh well, there’s always next time – and there definitely will be a next time, I’m sure!
Upon returning from London, I called Mum to tell her of my adventures. Whilst I had been away, she had found a great sale on one of the fabric websites – Just Sew Penrith. They have some lovely prints and a good variety of fabric types. I consoled myself after my Liberty disappointment by treating myself to a few metres of a pretty blue floral stretch cotton which was on sale at £4.50pm,and a striking geometric poplin, which I think might look great for this pattern. What do you think?
Any confessed fabric addict would know that just two new materials weren’t going to be enough to satisfy my dressmaking habit! And so it happened that I was back in my hometown at the same time as Mummymau was visiting last month. This called for a trip to Abakhan – our very own North West fabric paradise.
I think Abakhan have quite a few sites across the North West, but in my opinion, the Preston store is head and shoulders above the rest. I always make time for a visit to this store whenever I am back, as there is no equivalent here in Yorkshire. When you walk through the doors, you never know what you might find – but it is a rare day when you leave the store empty handed. There’s always something to tempt.
The store is, essentially, a big warehouse, with all varieties of dressmaking and home furnishing fabrics downstairs, and yarns and habadashery upstairs. Many of the baskets hold fabrics which you buy by the weight, not the length.
Mum spotted a wonderful, glittering array of African waxed prints, which she thought could look good as bold Summer sundresses or kaftan-style tops. I spotted some fabulous offcuts in a basket marked ‘Dress Prints – £18.99 per kg’ – I am guessing that they are both made of artifical fibres, although the green stripe was a piece around 3m long and it had a good drape; the diamonds piece was around 1.5 m long and was light, airy and prone to creasing. I already had a plan in mind for the green (which you will read about soon) and thought that the diamond print could make a great lightweight blouse for the warmer months.
I asked the cashier to check the weight before I committed to buy them – combined, they came to around £10. Bargainous!
Upstairs I spotted bags of assorted buttons for £1 and a variety of findings and notions which I couldn’t leave behind. As Mum and I were walking towards the queue to pay, I spotted something out of the corner of my eye –
Nothing was written on the label, but I was 99% sure that this was the classic Liberty print, Wiltshire Berry. There was no producer name on the selvedge, but the fabric was good quality, 60″ wide and a light, lawn weight – perhaps it was a second? Sometimes I have spotted Alexander Henry and Michael Miller prints in there, priced incorrectly as just a few pounds per metre, so it could be possible. I checked the price: £4.99 a metre. There was no doubt we would be taking the lot! There were 5.3 metres left on the roll, so the cashier said she would charge us for 5. I don’t know if it is a Liberty second or not, but I don’t especially care – it will make the most beautiful shirt-waisted dress, in my opinion! Both Mum and I loved the print, so we have decided to share. What a sight we will be in our matching garments!
In total, we returned home with nearly 18 metres of fabric, 300g of buttons, Gutermann thread and other assorted habadashery for just under £80. Not bad for a morning’s work….wait a minute, what time is it? How on earth did we spend 3 hours in there?! Time flies when you’re having fun I guess!