For most of us sewists, buying fabric and sewing are two completely separate hobbies. We may start out with good intentions like ‘I’ll only buy fabric for each project as I get round to starting it’ but these soon fall into oblivion when faced with a sewing show, or a fabric shop that’s currently got a sale on, or an exotic little craft shop that’s discovered while we’re on holiday so of course we have to buy all the things because we won’t be coming back any time soon. Slowly and steadily, piece by piece, that fabric stash starts to grow.
Most of you will have heard of the fabric shopping mecca that is Goldhawk Road in west London. If you haven’t – it’s a stretch of road with more dressmaking fabric shops in one place than you can shake a stick at. Despite living in London, I’d never been – until now.
The husband was making the trip from East to West to watch a football match (QPR v Ipswich, if anyone’s interested – we’re from Ipswich and they lost. D’oh) so I decided to tag along and finally fulfil my dream of checking out this fabric street that everyone talks about. Because of the train I came in on, it was easier to get off at Shepherds Bush on the central line rather than take the Hammersmith and City line to Goldhawk Road station – you would think that going to Goldhawk Road station would be the logical route, given that it’s Goldhawk Road you want to go to, but it actually worked out better to get off at Shepherds Bush.
Once you’re at the exit of the station, head right and you’ll see a park. Cross the road and head for the other side of the park and keep going along this main road. You’ll soon hit the start of the fabric shops.
Let me firstly explain what sort of fabric shopper I am, to give some context to my opinions. I buy the majority of my fabric online, and only occasionally order samples beforehand – usually if I need a very precise shade or the fabric is expensive. So I often have to put up with dodgy lighting on photos and not-so-true colours, and rely on the description of the fabric by the seller – which sometimes works out and sometimes doesn’t. I’ll normally go to the major craft shows in London to see stalls that I wouldn’t normally get to visit and see fabrics in the flesh where I can see the true colours and feel the weight and texture.
So for someone who isn’t used to seeing too much real-life fabric in front of their eyes, believe me when I say that Goldhawk Road is absolute fabric shopping HEAVEN. So many rolls of fabric that you can see and touch before buying. You get the true colours, can feel the texture and the weight right before your very eyes. The stretch of road I wandered along wasn’t the longest in the world, but I spent a good two hours there and went in at least 10 fabric shops. They don’t look that big from the outside, but they go waaay back and often have two or three floors.
The staff are mostly men, and will normally say hello when you enter and ask if you need any help – but other than that they left me alone and didn’t follow me round the stores like I had heard some people had experienced. It was a pleasant shopping environment and I will definitely be returning when the bank account has recovered.
I saw more fabric in those two hours than I think I have seen in my entire life to date. It’s overwhelming, but in a good way. There’s every single fabric that you could think of – wools, velvets, cottons, jacquards, coatings, leathers, linings, silks – at every price range you can imagine. I saw rolls ranging from £2 per metre through to £60 per metre. Some places are up for a bit of haggling, and if you’re paying cash it can work in your favour. It seemed to me that the shops I came to first (i.e. closer to Shepherd’s Bush) were pricier than the ones further along nearer to Goldhawk Road station.
Here’s just a few of the shop fronts – not glamorous for the most part, but it’s what’s inside that counts 🙂
Each one of these is an Aladdin’s cave of fabric.
But less talk more action – here’s what you really want to see…
Below is the £60 per metre fabric I saw… heavily embellished, you can see the wrong side around the roll and the right side hanging off to the side. Beautiful, no?
I also had my eye on this pink-and-orange beauty (the colours, LOOK AT THE COLOURS) but at £30 a metre it blew the budget by just a smidge. I would love to make a coat from it, but that’s like two or three metres worth. If you’re buying more than one metre though it’s definitely worth asking for a discount.
I saw more shades of power net than I knew existed. I buy mine off eBay, for a higher price per metre than this. Doh. Will stock up next time I’m back.
Cut out faux leather, anyone?
How about real leather? There’s plenty of that too…
I stopped and turned back once I hit Goldhawk Road station – there may well have been more shops further along the road past this, but it was then starting to rain and I had spent the budget already.
Here’s what I bought!
Two metres of red (not pink as it looks in the photo) fairly heavy jersey. Not much stretch so may well become a jacket. £4.50 per metre.
A 1.5 metre Liberty remnant – £15. This will become a shirt for me, and I’m hoping to make a burnt orange skirt to wear with it.
Some boring basics for winter skirts – burgundy and black wool. Both were listed as £15 per metre, but the black was a 1.7m end of roll piece that the owner offered for £15. The purple is a buttery-soft wool and cashmere blend that I managed to snaffle two metres of for £25 rather than £30. So £40 for these two but I’m hoping the skirts they become will last me for years.
Here we have two Liberty prints for shirts for the husband – the one on the right was £9 per metre and the one on the left was a 2.2m piece that I paid £14 for. When you consider that Liberty lawn retails for £22.50 per metre, that’s pretty good.
I can honestly say that when I next want to buy fabric (so, like next week probably lol) I won’t bother to go anywhere else. The cross-London journey is long but absolutely worth it as you have so much choice here. If you’re making a special trip you could always hit up Shaukat on the journey back if Liberty is your thing…
There were a few fabrics that caught my eye which I might go back for – mainly the beautiful autumnal tartan in the photo below. I don’t actually own any tartan (in a way I feel like it’s kind of reserved for the Scottish and Burberry stuff) but would make an exception for this. It would make a lovely midi skirt, don’t you think? It was £25 a metre though and two metres of that would have eaten up most of the cash I had in my purse, so I had to leave it behind. I whispered to it to wait for me and promised that I would come back for it. Which I will. Next month 😉
Do you have any local fabric shopping gems? Have you shopped at Goldhawk Road? Tell me what it’s like for fabric shopping wherever in the world you are!