Fabric shopping in Bilbao

posted in: Shop Review | 8

On a recent trip to Bilbao we saw three or four small shops where you can learn to sew. In one there was even a class going on. So the trend that is already evident in London, and elsewhere no doubt, of young entrepreneurs setting up fabric, machine and teaching shops can be seen in Spain too. However I didn’t need help on how to put in a zip – I was more interested in seeing what fabrics might be available. I came across one shop that I would recommend if you are in the area. It was relatively expensive, but it did have a nice range of everyday and designer fabrics and some discounted cut pieces.

I went to Ezkar, a shop that has been trading for over 30 years, but it seemed very old fashioned – in a nice way. Here is the lady who helped me. We couldn’t speak the same language but we managed with notes, pointing and guesswork. The light blue and green wool went into the distinctive carrier bag and came home with me. I hope to use them for my sweet pea collection.

Ezkar, Bibao. Sales assistant
Sales Assistant, Ezkar

If you like fabric with feathers, lace, fur and all sorts of excessive trimming you may like the selection here. Having said that there was a heavy emphasis on polyester and I found the colour palette somewhat depressing. On the other hand I liked how they showed photos from Hello! (or Hola!) and similar magazines featuring the very fabric on sale. I got the feeling that very dressy, almost stagewear fabrics were popular amongst this clientele.

Ezkar, Bilbao
Ezkar’s selection of cloth

The tables heaved with small pieces – buy one get the second one half price (a passing customer translated as my sales assistant didn’t speak English). Few of these colours did anything for me – but then I don’t have Spanish colouring. One thing I liked was that each piece included the yardage and composition. When I bought a couple of pieces the assistant (aware I was going to have to pack my purchases for travel) carefully pulled out the staples, removed the cardboard strip, cut off the composition labels and packed everything carefully away for me. At the moment the pound is strong against the Euro, luckily.

Ezkar, Bilbao
Buy one, get the second half price

I looked at the children’s selection – astonishingly traditional I would say, compared to choices at home. But still rather lovely for a beautiful dress or romper suit. Pink or Blue? Again there seems to be a tradition of making fussy, but gorgeous outfits for the dear little ones who still stay up very late in summer, joining the family for meals and outings. The very casual approach we tend to have to clothes hasn’t caught on to the same extent in Europe.

Ezkar, Bilbao
Children’s corner

One corner had some nice bright fabrics perhaps for quilting or summer dresses.

Ezkar, Bilbao
Quilting trends?

In conclusion – a nice experience if you are in the area, just to get a feel for a slightly different culture.



8 Responses

  1. Sheree

    It is always nice to seek out fabric shops when overseas. My last trips have been to Portugal and Spain and I have to say, compared to the UK, I have found them a bit disappointing. In the case of Portugal, I know that they produce really lovely quality fabric that is used in RTW (mainly jerseys and cottons), but it is just not available in fabric shops.

  2. Seamsoddlouise

    What an interesting post! Love seeing places like this even if I won’t necessarily get to visit myself. Having the fabrics composition is key and so many fabric shops and even on line don’t specify what the fabric is made of and it annoys me no end. Before I got into sewing and just bought RTW the first thing I did when shopping was to find the label and see what it’s made of.

  3. Stephanie

    The double portrait in the first photo is great, Kate! I enjoy poking my nose into shops when I travel, because you do learn quite a bit about a culture by the way their markets function, the products they buy, etc.

  4. mrsmole

    You can certainly see the Japanese influence in that last photo. I remember 15 years ago going into a fabric store in Madeira and seeing the same sort of thing, like only really fancy dresses were made from scratch and with quite lively fancy fabrics and very little for everyday clothes. It makes you feel very lucky to have selections like you do in the UK and fabric warehouses in large US cities where the prices can be lower and selection higher. One of the first phrases I learn when traveling to a foreign country is, “Where is the fabric store?”.

  5. rosemary

    I bought fabric in San Sebastián in Spain. I knew it was linen, with gestures I indicated a dress to the knee with short sleeves and she cam up with the correct yardage. Great fun and you have something unique.

    • Rebecca

      Hi Rosemary, was wondering if you could remember which shop you found the linen in? I’m visiting San Sebastián next week.

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