Never look a gift horse in the mouth…

A rather amazing and wonderful thing happened to me last week. A fabric shop based in East London, called Our Patterned Hand, got in touch with me. Having followed the blog for a while and knowing that I was a local stitcher (local as in London and north of the river I guess!) they made the unbelievably generous offer – any fabric of my choosing from the shop, gratis, in return for just a mention on the blog.

The shop in Broadway Market

Now, I’m not proud and this is the first offer I’ve ever received from a fabric or haberdashery supplier so obviously I bit their giving hand off at the wrist. Soon I was arranging a time to pop over to the store, located in the midst of the hipster heaven that is Broadway Market. If you haven’t sampled this amazing unique place yet, I urge you to take a Saturday or Sunday morning visit there for a coffee and a wander. The food stalls are out of this world, there are lots of little vintage furniture stores and stalls and it’s just fascinating sitting back and watching all of human life pass by.

I lurked for a while at the back of the shop listening in while Hannah, an unflappable woman, answered queries about needles and fabrics, books and binding. I was discovered in my lurkery by Leanne, the owner of Our Patterned Hand, who had so kindly made the offer.

Leanne the owner - her 10 year old daughter made that top you know!

Leanne the owner – her 10 year old daughter made that top you know!

Leanne’s background is in fashion, she worked as a pattern cutter for many years before starting a family so the shop is very much geared towards dressmaking fabrics with interesting and quirky prints, Liberty lawns and poplins, Irish linen and Harris Tweeds.


Nicely laid out fabrics

It’s also the first fabric shop where I’ve noticed a mirror hanging up so you can check the fabric against you.  Now I know this is a tiny detail but can anyone say they’ve noticed this in other fabric shops?  I know there isn’t one in John Lewis haberdashery, and pretty sure there’s not one in McCulloch & Wallis or the Cloth House, or any of the fabric shops in Walthamstow market. We’d never consider a clothes shop without a mirror, yet we’d happily buy metres of fabric that we’ve not even checked against  ourselves? Anyway – I thought it was a brilliant idea and I guess it must come from Leanne’s fashion background.

Downstairs there’s a good size studio that caters for small sewing classes and workshops such as How to Make a Gypsy Skirt or How to Make a Kimono Jacket (tip: I’ve seen one of these jackets  in the studio and they’re gorgeous so that’s tempting me something rotten).

The studio downstairs

The studio downstairs

Well stocked haberdashery

Is that tie-dyed bias binding? Amazeballs!

Back upstairs, alongside the amazing fabrics there’s also a well stocked haberdashery, book section, pattern selection and an absolute treasure trove of buttons. Check out this window display.

Buttons, buttons everywhere

Buttons, buttons everywhere

But what did I choose, you’re asking? With all this fabulous fabric to pick from, surely you picked a digitally printed Liberty silk?! Or the finest Irish linen?! Oh no dear readers, I was in the market for something specific – fashion fabric for my Darling Ranges dress, after I finish the wearable muslin that is. I needed something soft and with drape, not too stiff. And something with an interesting pattern. With Leanne’s expert help I picked out three metres of this rather humble but adorable handwoven hand blocked vegetable-dyed Indian cotton, sourced from Gujarat in Western India. And how do I know all that? Because the guys at Our Patterned Hand like to tell the story behind the fabric – they pretty much know all there is to know about every single bolt – check out the website for further proof.

Hand blocked Indian Cotton - tulip pattern

Hand blocked Indian Cotton – tulip pattern

I’m so delighted and grateful to Leanne and Hannah for letting me have this for nothing – it really is ridiculously generous of them. And it also gave me my first opportunity to do a Q&A with someone who’s in the business, so watch this space for a interview with Leanne coming up!

If you’re in the area, pop in and say hello, It’s one of the friendliest fabric shops I’ve been to, never mind how busy it always seems to be. Definitely worth a visit.

Warning: This post contains fabulous vintage fabric

The Shop, Brick Lane

Shelves bursting with fabric

Hello pop-pickers. Have you all recovered from the style-fest that was the weekend? Not only did we see a multitude of amazing OWOPers on Tilly’s post; we also had the most glamorous round-up of Mad Men dresses ever from Julia Bobbin. My, these posts just keep on giving – every time I go back I see something else I want to sew or another blogger I want to add to my reader. Thanks to both Tilly and Julia for a dazzling end to March.

In other news, I went for a wander around Brick Lane on Sunday with some friends who were staying with us. If you haven’t been over there in  a while and you like vintage clothes, great music and fabulous food, I can heartily recommend it.

We dandered down the main drag, pottering off into little streets to explore tiny boutiques and hidden markets. There’s tons of stuff to do, see and buy. One shop I recommend seeking out is just off Brick Lane at 3 Cheshire Street. Called simply The Shop, it stocks an amazing range of vintage fabrics, clothes and trinkets, plus lots of gorgeous Scandi-style linens for making up adorable aprons. I’m looking at YOU House of Pinheiro with your fantastic vintage apron tutorial! Plus The Shop has one of the biggest range of silk scarves I’ve seen in London. That’s a pic above of some of the shelves – good for a rummage.

Here are my finds:

Floral cotton poplin

1 metre of seventies-style floral cotton poplin, to be used for cushions in the living room. I’m thinking hot pink neon piping. Just £3.50.

Peach square

2.5 metres of this man-made fabric (not quite identified) from Rose & Hubble – to be used for a dress I think. Crucially – it doesn’t feel nasty. A snip at £9 for the lot.

Silk dupioni

My favourite – just under 2 metres of this gorgeous silk dupioni. I’ve been looking for a checked silk dupioni for ages (I was thwarted trying to buy some of this from Harts – they informed me it had sold out over three weeks ago but rather annoyingly seems to still be on the site hmph) and whilst this is a different colour scheme from what I wanted I think it could be a very pretty dress or a luxe tulip skirt? A bargain at £7.50.

I love finding vintage fabric – any tips for other shops/markets in London? Share ’em!

Guilty as charged!

Eurch. (yes that’s an official word in that I just coined it – Ed) Why does the interweb torment me so with amazingly pretty things, useful things,  outrageously gorgeous things? My monthly budget for sewing is supposed to be £50 and that’s supposed to include things like patterns, notions and occasional tools as well as fabric. Do I stick to it? Do I heck. Weekly budget more like. But it’s not my fault you see. In almost every purchase the seed of temptation has been planted by another scheming blogger, intent on crushing my willpower and emptying my coffers. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, examine the evidence before you, if you will.

Cascading hangers

Exhibit A: Cascading hangers – two packs from Amazon inc delivery £13.98

Blogger temptress: Did You Make That?

Police report: After observing the defendant’s superlative Sorbetto storage skills, StitchandWitter felt compelled to follow suit. Within two days she had taken receipt of said items and had corralled several garments into colour coded blocks, not only startling herself with her new-found storage utopia but also inadvertently leaving more room in the wardrobe for the cats to hide.

Verdict: Guilty!

Sublime stitching by Jenny Hart

Exhibit B: Sublime Stitching by Jenny Hart (£8.44)

Blogger temptress: Tilly and the Buttons

Police report: The suspect not only tracked down StitchandWitter’s musings on where to find a good book on embroidery, but proceeded to tempt the unwitting victim with pictures of a certain raccoon, described as ‘adorable’ by all who witnessed it. To add insult to injury, the suspect provided a link to a well-known book superstore where the victim surrendered her credit details and subsequently purchased said item.

Verdict: Guilty!

Exhibit C: Marc Jacobs silk crepe de chine (3yds – £31)

Blogger temptress: The Selfish Seamstress

Police report: By this time the victim was so inured to suggestive messaging from the blogosphere, she was unable to recognise or fight off the manipulative advances of the suspect. Selfish Seamstress not only extolled the virtues of the fabric in question by presenting salacious images of handbags, summer dresses and other fripperies, she also presented a link to a well-known marketplace where such goods are exchanged for hard-earned cash. Again the victim, defenceless and by now almost senseless, made a financial exchange.

Verdict: Guilty!

So you see – it’s really not my fault, is it? Is it?

The perils of online shopping

Much as I love browsing through real-life fabric stores and stalls, I simply haven’t got the time to hoof it round to Walthamstow Market or Goldhawk Road every weekend (oh how I wish I lived near there). And the fabric shops near my place of work are generally pretty expensive (Berwick Street being the closest and very prohibitively priced).  So I tend to rely a lot on online shopping. Much of the time I’m pretty pleased with what I receive; the service is generally excellent and the fabric is of good quality. But occasionally online shopping results in a fail. A big fat fail. Not because of any lapse in quality, but because what you see on your monitor doesn’t necessarily tally with what gets delivered. And because the fabric is already cut from the bolt – most places won’t give you a  refund.

I bought 3 metres of ‘silver’ corduroy recently from an online fabric shop. Instead of an image of the corduroy there was just a colour chart. I should have asked for a swatch to be sent through in advance but I was so excited.  I was thinking a lovely soft grey (the colour in the image was definitely soft grey, trust me) would be delivered. At £13.00 a metre it wasn’t cheap either. This is what was sent yesterday:

'Silver' corduroy

Now that’s not grey. It’s not even ‘silver’ is it? To my eye – that’s just plain off-white. Hmpf. Definitely not suitable for my Minoru jacket. Waaaah.

A previous fail was of my own doing. I bought what I thought was a bottle green corduroy and when it arrived I found I had two metres of bottle green cotton canvas. Neither use nor ornament! When I looked back at my order I realised my mistake. I don’t have much luck with corduroys do I?

The lesson dear friends? Think twice, read the product description carefully (unlike me) and if in doubt of the colour, ask for swatches before you order. I for one will be doing this in future. A £39 mistake is too expensive to just dismiss.

But now onto the positives – what could I use this fabric for? I think this colour next to my skin will just wash me out so I’m thinking judicious use on accessories. What about hot water bottle covers? Or a shoulder bag with a bright neon lining? Or could I use snippets of it as trims and cuffs for future projects? Over to you for ideas!

Zara – what happened to you girl?

You know how there are some shops that you can always rely on to have something you’ll like. TopShop, Oasis and Warehouse are my personal high street faves. I always know I can pick up a little top or dress with a quick scoot around in my lunch hour (not that I do much scooting anymore – I’m more likely to be rooting through the pattern books in John Lewis).

Similarly there are a few high street shops I fall in and out of love with: Dorothy Perkins (Dotty P’s) goes through stages of having the most adorable little shift dresses and tunics at bargain prices, a trip to Mango can occasionally unearth a jewel-bright cardy or a leopard print and my mum buys underwear sets for me from ‘Primarche’ like there’s a national shortage of undercrackers.

But Zara? No, never. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been in there and walked out again within 30 seconds because all I can see are rows of fusty pussy-bow blouses (that no decent girl would wear without a vest) and chinos. It’s never really been my thing… until now.

On a quick hoof to the afore-mentioned craft emporium that is John Lewis haberdashery today, I was yanked back by this rather fetching (and totally bang-on trend) polkadot top in the window.

Green polka dot top

Isn’t it lush? I love that shade of green and I am a sucker for polkadots. So much so I covered my wedding dress in ‘em. So I popped in and lo and behold I was presented with a dazzing array of  treasures from their Autumn/Winter collection. Check this silky slinkmeister out:

A slinky red polka dot shirt

And isn’t this adorable?

Puppy perfect with a peter pan collar

And this?
Pretty polka dot dress

I think what’s attracting me to these pieces are their simplicity, and my imagination is running away with me on how I could recreate them at home with (a lot) of practice. I did buy the green polka dot and I’ve had a good look inside at the seams and facing. I think it’s very doable indeed, and could even be extended into a pretty dress like the one above.

It’s amazing – once you have a successful dressmaking project under your belt – you start to see the potential in everything! Have you felt that rush of excitement and adrenaline after finishing a piece that you love?