As I am spending at least one weekend a month in Lancashire I thought I would review the fabric shop offerings in the area.
I started with Minerva, a company I only know through its online offer. It’s website is relatively sophisticated for the world of fabrics, and this company has invested heavily in making its products available to crafters and dressmakers all over the UK and beyond. They claim their warehouse is “award-winning” and maybe it is, but I didn’t get much of a sense of excitement as I drew up into the empty car park on Saturday afternoon.
I entered the shop, which is a very long, airport hanger type building. It didn’t strike me as very welcoming and I actually felt somewhat intimidated by the scale of the place. Although this is a family run-business, and I think the family were present, I didn’t get a sense of fun or community that you get at most of my other fabric haunts. I often talk to other shoppers when choosing fabric, asking opinions and discussing our sewing plans.
What I will say for the company is that they have a lot of stock, and it is clearly arranged. The fabric is on shelves labelled A6, C3 etc. I guess it is connected to the inventory system and helps with dispatching orders. Every craft you can think of is covered
- dressmaking – patterns, fabrics, linings and interfacings
- rug making
- soft toys
- bag making
- knitting and crochet and other yarn arts – like making pompoms
There is absolutely no end of choice of ribbons, buttons, elastic, and all types of haberdashery. It’s like they have the full range of everyone’s product. The big 4, Burda, unusual and independent brands of patterns – I had not seen By Hand London patterns in the flesh before. Even something as obscure (in the UK) as Nancy Zieman’s spool holders are stocked. You start to wonder what the market is like for tatting shuttles these days. They stock five different varieties including the “premium tortoise color” and the lovely set of colourful Japanese shuttles. They must be selling much of their stock on the internet as I would be surprised if there were more than five tatters in the whole of Darwen.
As you can see it is a neat, clean and tidy shop. All the fabrics are well labelled with their content and providence eg “designer” (for fabric that looks like Liberty) or “Prada” for some shiny suit-weight fabric. They had a nice selection of linen with cotton in some great colours. But, as someone who generally finds it hard to leave a fabric shop empty-handed, the selection didn’t wow me. There are most types of fabrics in a range of colours but nothing to raise my pulse. And some tired looking, old-fashioned stuff. There were no bargains – even the most ordinary fabrics were £12 a meter or more. The whole atmosphere was decidedly dull. A dozen garments were made up – to inspire the shopper. But really – would this make you want to create the green Aran and brown waistcoat at home?
I did buy something. I actually wanted some basting thread. So I had a good look round. The only option they had was Gutterman – at £1.40 for a small reel. I asked if they had a large, cheap reel of the stuff, But no, that was it.
In conclusion – a fairly good IT system with a fast turnaround allows an ordinary shop to shine on the web. In real life I was underwhelmed. Sorry.