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A week in New York City

7 April 2015, 15:03

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.


A Wednesday weekend day in Brighton

4 September 2014, 13:24

When you run your own business, sometimes you’ve got to work weekends. This past weekend I worked all day on Sunday, so I tried to make a “weekend day” sometime during the week. It all came together yesterday, with the weather forecast set to be 24C and sunny, James at a conference down in Brighton, and me not completely swamped with work for once. So I declared this Wednesday to be a weekend day and grabbed the train down to Brighton for the afternoon!

My first taste of life in the UK was in Brighton, when I spent my study abroad year at Sussex University, and the city still feels like home whenever I visit, which these days is once a year or so. Instead of doing the usual tourist things (I realised after I got home that I didn’t even see the sea, ha!), I headed directly to the North Laines area. I love that there’s a whole area in Brighton where pedestrians rule and all the little shops and cafes are independent, quirky, and great for browsing! There’s really no need to spend any money in a chain store in Brighton.

Of course my first stop was at Ditto Fabrics, which is quite possibly my favourite fabric shop anywhere in the UK, where I had a great chat with the owner Gil and learned all sorts of stories about her buying trips to Italy to get the good designer stuff for us. I went with the aim to buy some coating and lining for the StyleArc Audrey coat, and indeed I did!

I bought some wool/viscose coating in Navy, though they had a bunch of really tempting other colours, like pale purple, pumpkin, camel, off-white, and black, off the top of my head. Ditto only have a fraction of their in-store fabrics listed on their website, but these wool/viscose coats are pretty well represented online, and the colours look pretty true to real life.

And then I discovered the vintage Italian silks upstairs. oh. em. gee.


Goldhawk Road meetup & acquisitions

6 August 2013, 12:14

I’m lucky to live in London for a lot of reasons, but one of them is certainly the access to great fabric stores and the frequency of meetups at said stores with other like-minded sewists. They usually occur every few months, but with my crazy social and running events calendar, it’s usually really difficult for me to attend. However, this time around, the meetup coincided with a “stepback week” in my running (a planned lower mileage week to give your body a break) so I only had a one hour run on Saturday morning before the meetup. Yes, I realise the craziness of using “only” in that sentence.

In any case, you should go read Claire’s writeup of the day as she organised everything down to a meticulous degree and posted some amazing photos taken by herself and also Dibs!

This post is more about my own shopping and acquisitions from the day, and I know from past trips to Goldhawk Road that I really need to be strict with myself or risk returning home broke and dragging binbags full of fabric behind me. So I came prepared with a shopping list and only £50 cash to spend (in the past I’ve actually left all my cards at home, too!).

Things on my shopping list:

Here’s a shot of my total haul. Not only did I get everything on my list, but I stayed within that £50 budget for the day (which included lunch & drinks!).

My first purchase was the power mesh – 1m of both black and beige from A-Z Fabrics for £4.95/m. They had loads of colours, too, and I was glad I bought it there when I saw shortly afterwards that Classic Textiles was asking £10.95/m for theirs! I didn’t buy anything at Classic this time around, but I was tempted by the ponte knits by the door.


Morley College sewing courses in London 2012-2013

15 June 2012, 17:36

Earlier this week there was an announcement that has quickly become more exciting for me than even the new pattern announcements – Morley College finally released their course details for the 2012-2013 school year!

If you want to cut straight to the good stuff, you can see all the fashion courses here and the textiles, craft, knitting, and quilting courses are here.

They do the usual basic courses on using a sewing machine, drafting basic blocks, basic draping on the stand, etc, that loads of colleges offer, but they also offer some really interesting niche classes that don’t seem to be offered anywhere else.

Looking at the full lists above, there’s everything from historical wear to hats to shoes to lingerie to dancewear! For beginners as well as truly advanced level courses, too. Most courses only cost around £50, too, which is really reasonably priced, especially when you consider that most of the fashion courses in London start at £300! The facilities at Morley are great, too, with big tables, plenty of light, and ample Bernina machines and dummies, and there’s some seriously good pubs for lunch nearby…

You can read my review of the Pattern Magic 2 course here or read Tracy’s review of the Pattern Magic 1 course here.

My picks from the new course list:


Beforemath & Aftermath sewing

10 April 2012, 14:02

Thank you all so much for your sympathy and condolences and kind thoughts regarding Bosco’s sudden death. Last week was one of the worst of my life and I’m sorry to say that his departure was only one of a long line of awful things which happened to myself and those I love, so please bear with me while I piece things back together. I’m going to be more fragile than usual for a while.

In an attempt to clear the slate and document some blogging-accumulation guilt, here’s a catchup on the sewing-related events over the past fortnight…


I was in Montreal for a few days for work immediately after my birthday, and I managed to shoehorn a very brief visit to Suzi Spandex into my 18 hour work days (in preparation for the launch of Zik.ca – Canadians, go see what I’ve been slaving over for the past 9 months in my day job!).

The shop itself was a bit of a PITA to get to – it doesn’t look far from downtown on the map but was a metro ride + 15-20 minute walk through a really dull neighbourhood, and I’m glad I had the address because the setup was very much like the NYC Garment District – an unmarked, nondescript office building with their premesis several floors up, with a front office and enormous warehouse full of rolls of fabric.

The setting may have been sparse, but I got such a warm welcome and the lady really helped me to choose the best wicking exercise fabric, which by all accounts seems to be their version of supplex, “Suziplex”.

It’s got a great hand and recovery, and fabulously soft inner, loopy side:

I bought 2m of dark, muted purple and 1m of pale grey Suziplex, and then another metre of some muted turquoise lycra with silver foil swirls.


Post-Paris report

8 March 2012, 17:31

I’m a bit late with my Paris weekend report, but we didn’t get back til Monday night (thankfully taking the Eurotunnel rather than the very-disrupted Eurostar!), and then I had to fly out to Dublin and back yesterday so things have been crazy! Seriously – three European capitals in three days? I feel like I’m on a Contiki tour!

We had a pretty busy schedule while we were in town, but a trip to Paris just isn’t complete without a visit to the Montmarte fabric shops (For more details on those please see my earlier French road trip & Paris fabric shopping posts!)

I’m so pleased we were able to squeeze in a meetup with Veronica again and have lunch, and since she knew I wasn’t able to go to her local fabric market with her this time around, she gifted me a HUGE bag of fabrics, in exactly the colours and prints I love!

Seriously, wait til you see the goodies she brought for me (photos coming later)!

As a teaser, check out the overflowing Tissues Dreyfus bag of fabric!

About half are from Veronica, then another 3 lengths bought by James, then 4 lengths bought by me!

But the main reason excuse for our trip was that I signed up to run the Paris Semi-marathon, which was my first-ever half marathon! I’ve been running for about 7-8 years now, but I’ve only ever run 10ks (with the odd 5k and 8k thrown in there).


Hungarian holiday report

27 September 2011, 14:12

We’re back from our Hungarian holiday and feeling wonderfully relaxed, though it’s debatable how long that’ll last! This was my fourth time in Budapest in the last ten years (and James’s third!), but it was the longest we’ve been able to spend there and our first trip outside the city.

Our main reason for going was so we could celebrate our first anniversary at our favourite restaurant, Karpatia (last time we were there, Michael Palin and his film crew were in the other room!), but to also soak away our boat work aches in the city’s plentiful hot spas! In four full days in Budapest, we visited three different hot spas: Szechenyi, Palatinus Strand on Margaret Island, and Hotel Gellert. Think swimming pools, but filled with bath-water warm mineral water (no chlorine!) with assorted jets, bubblers, massaging fountains, wave pools, slides, and whirpool baths and you’re still only halfway there…

In an astounding bit of coincidence, we enjoyed amaaaazing traditional Hungarian food, tokaj, and palinka stalls at the Nemzeti Vagta (“National Gallop”) festival. It was mostly about Hungarian horsemanship with incredible costumes, chariot races, and Heroes’ Square set up like a Ben Hur set, but there were also stalls representing every region in Hungary, some showcasing amazing embroidery:

I really like that you can focus on the stitching when you only use one thread colour! Unfortunately, I didn’t see any needlework kits for traditional designs on sale anywhere.

Then we took the train out to Balatonfured on Lake Balaton for a few days, and I made great use of the train time to finish the last hand sewing on my trench jacket! (I’m also wearing my silk jersey Lekala cowl top here.)

While we were there, we rented bicycles from our hotel and cycled the 6km to the next town, Tihany, and back along the river. My trench jacket and my navy riding trousers came in very handy here as it was the only cool and cloudy day of our trip!


Save Goldhawk Road - UPDATE!

1 September 2011, 14:45

As a Londoner, I feel proud of the great things this city has to offer, but I feel ashamed when corporate greed threatens to ruin those landmarks I’ve come to love and enjoy. I’ve often expressed my enthusiasm for the fabric shops on Goldhawk Road in West London, but last year I heard the stomach-sickening news that half the Goldhawk Road shops are under threat from developers.

I hadn’t heard much since then, until a few days ago, when Dilly brought to my attention the good news that the Goldhawk Road shop owners have been granted a Judicial Review of the earlier decision in favour of the developers!

Now, this doesn’t mean it’s being overturned, but it means the case will be looked at again. There’s a good rundown of exactly why this Judicial Review was granted here if you’re interested (there are rumours of corruption…), but what this means is that there’s still a chance that half of Goldhawk Road won’t be demolished in order to build (yawn) more flats.

Some of the shop owners are organising a big celebrity media event next Tuesday, launching an exhibition about the history and cultural importance of the parade of shops, as well as the launch of an online petition. I’m unable to attend the event itself, but if you’re in the area and would like to help drum up support (or if you know any journalists happy to cover a David vs Goliath story!), then please contact Kimikawa, whose details are on their Facebook page (Scroll down to the 22 August comment from Aniza Meghani).


Save Goldhwak Road!

28 February 2011, 15:15

On Friday I received an alert from FehrTrade reader Catriona that there are plans afoot to demolish part of Goldhawk Road, the best concentration of high quality, low price fabric shops in London (and, arguably, most of Europe)!

Hammersmith and Fulham Council are proposing to demolish 30-52 Goldhawk Road in order to build high-rise flats. Included in this row of shops are my beloved Classic Textiles and A One Fabrics (IMHO, the two best fabric shops in the whole of London!) as well as a fantastic little caff which I’ve stopped in every time I’ve been shopping, and a pie & mash shop that’s been around since 1899. Every single one of these shops is an independent business which will be completely ruined by this demolition.

Other cities around the world are losing their fabric shops as they go out of business due to lack of sales, but Goldhawk Road is thriving and prospering, and I can barely make my way through the crowds most Saturdays!

So I beg of you, fellow sewers – if you’re a Londoner who shops at Goldhawk Road, or you’ve travelled to London to shop here on your holidays, or even if you’d just like the chance in the future to buy fabric at these shops you’ve heard me go on about, then PLEASE make your objections heard now!

Please register your objections by email at SBMarket@lbhf.gov.uk or call Jackie Simkins in the council’s planning department on 020 8753 3460.


Walthamstow Shopping Frenzy

22 February 2011, 13:55

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!


In America...

28 October 2010, 13:10

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!


Paris fabric shopping

29 June 2010, 13:45

Ahhhhh, Paris! We had a simply wonderful time in the City of Lights this weekend, cramming an entire holiday into a few short hours. We’ve both already been to Paris a few times, so we didn’t feel the need to do the touristy stuff all over again. This left us with an entire weekend to devote to eating and shopping, and socialising with our friends Sat and Sarah (who I’d not met before this weekend, but I now feel like we’ve been friends for years!). As is my habit when I go away, I went fabric shopping so I can now share those shops with you…

As Isabelle says in her guide to Paris fabric shops, the bulk of the fabric and notions shops are in Montmatre, so if you’re pressed for time, head directly to the Abbesses metro and head east (which, conveniently passes right by a branch of my favourite-ever perfume shop, too!). There are a few other fabric shops in the same area that I didn’t pop into, plus a giant notions shop with more buttons than you could possibly imagine, so Montmartre really is your one-stop-shop for fabric, lining, interfacing, zippers, trim – the lot! Everything in Paris shuts down on Sundays, but happily, nearly all of the fabric shops are open on Saturdays which is convenient if you’re only in town for a weekend like us!


Brighton fabric shops

7 June 2009, 19:39

On Saturday we took a “cheer me up” trip down to Brighhton, with the dual purpose of taking me back to my student days (I studied at Sussex for a year in 99/00) and buying some more fabric in some new uncharted ground! I did a bit of research first and found there were a few fabric shops clustered around the North Laines and again on Western Road, so we made our attack plan based on these…

New Fabric Fair
51 Gardner Street, BN1 1UN, 01273 605512

A small shop stocked to the rafters with bolts everywhere, including leather offcuts outside. A huge variety of braided trims, dress polys, stretch lace, and zippers for a pound each. Some great linens, wool suitings, and soft brushed cottons here and the husband & wife team were very attentive, though bring cash as they don’t do cards or cheques!

I bought this super soft brushed cotton (and a matching peach zipper) with this BWOF dress in mind…


Return to Goldhawk Road!

28 January 2009, 10:35
On Saturday I once again ventured to the ever-brilliant Goldhawk Road here in London. This time I was lucky enough to have Anwen and Isabelle as my partners in fabric fondling, glitter disgust, and pattern and supplier informing. It's so much more fun to go fabric shopping with fellow sewists, especially if they possess a daughter as patient as Anwen's and a resolve as steadfast as Isabelle's (I cannot believe she only bought the two fabrics she came looking for!!).

But really, I wasn't so bad myself. I've only got two lengths of fabric leftover from the previous trip: red corduroy which will still become trousers at some point, and dark heathered grey jersey, which is being made into a pyjamas set as we speak! So clearly my stash needed replenishing and my mood needed lifting so I was mostly looking for quality I couldn't easily get elsewhere...

From top to bottom, I bought:

London fabric shops: Goldhawk Road

8 August 2008, 16:04

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….


London haberdashery shopping

5 July 2008, 11:19

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…


Dublin fabric stores

29 February 2008, 12:57

I had a fantastic time in Dublin last week and managed to spend a lot of money at all of the fabric stores in town. So if you’re looking for fabric stores in Dublin to visit sometime, here’s a quick guide to take along…

Hickey Fabrics at 5 Henry Street

This one looked a bit corporate from the website, but I was pleasantly surprised by the shop itself! It’s set on three levels, with the ground floor mostly being curtain and upholstery fabrics, the first floor being bridal fabrics, and the basement being fashion fabrics and haberdashery. I mostly stayed downstairs, and I was really impressed by the mix of really nice quality fabrics – lots of standard corduroys, denim, knits, satins, fleeces, and anything else you could think of. I got an absolute steal on a length of 100% silk charmeuse – it was originally €42, marked down to €10!! There were a handful of other silk prints marked down, too, but I fell in love with this navy, silver, gold, and teal print. There was only one Spring/Summer pattern I had any interest in, Burda 7783, so I bought that and found the most wonderful grey linen/lurex blend to make it in! I also snagged a one metre remnant of teal satin, and had a sweep through the haberdashery before finally stocking up on Gutermann thread. All the London stores decided to inexplicably switch to Coat’s Duo overnight, which is more expensive for less length and makes me shudder at the memory of the quality of the American Coat’s and Clark thread. So I bought huge spools of all the neutrals in the hope they’ll last me a while.


Sewing Potpourri

26 November 2007, 15:36

(Potpourri in its 2nd definition, that is.)

I’ve been rather busy, though I’ve got nothing to show for it here! I finished the two changing mats I was commissioned for new mums, I finished one present (but I’m still working on the second!), and I bought the October issue of KnipMode magazine (which comes with an additional supplementary magazine like February’s did. Or was that March?) as well as my first Marfy pattern – 1210, a lovely blouse.


London Fashion Week report

18 September 2007, 13:59

As explained a few days ago, I was very lucky to be invited to attend a catwalk show at London Fashion Week on Saturday morning. After fretting over what to wear, I settled on this ensemble, which was entirely Fehr Trade, just in case someone asked (they didn’t. Awww.).

But, as I soon found out once the models hit the catwalk, apparently I was right to decide on a cowl top!