One of my readers Karen Mulkey, from Houston, Texas is in town next week and she asked for suggestions on where to buy fabric in London. This is not a comprehensive list but it covers places I have visited and can recommend.
Simply Fabrics, at 57, Atlantic Road, Brixton, SW9 8PU, has been my favourite shop for a long time. It has recently gone downhill a little I must admit. Robert used to get some amazing Roland Mouret end of line fabrics that were sold for very low prices. I still go there as there are still some nice fabrics to be had but I am less loyal than I was. Expect to pay around £8m for silk and maybe £10 for good wool. I always ask Robert or Leo what they recommend, indicating that I am looking for high quality, natural fabrics and designer fabrics. The sister shop, just across the road is usually run by the ladies, and has zips, threads etc. It also has what I call “cheap fabric” – coming in at £2 to £4m – that will serve for toiles, school projects etc, plus calico, interfacing, curtaining, oilcloth, African prints, buttons, elastic etc.
Brixton itself, the Market and Electric Avenue, has lots of Asian run shops selling African fabrics, such as Wax prints and Laces, which are usually sold in 6 yard pieces. Expect to spend £25 – £60 depending on quality. The indoor market has stalls selling trimmings, again mainly from the subcontinent.
Rolls and Rems at 111 Lewisham High Street, Lewisham, London, SE13 (and also 9 The Concourse, N9 0TY) is a good local shop. It is ages since I went there but it was good value with all the basics. You have to get the train to Lewisham, so unless you live locally I wouldn’t make a special trip. Same with Fabrics Galore, 52-54 Lavender Hill, Clapham Junction BR. I haven’t been here for even longer so can no longer vouch for it, but it used to have some nice stuff. Some people recoomend Wimbledon Sewing Centre, 308 Balham High Road, SW17
If you are based in West London, then I would mainly recommend Goldhawk Road. I used to work nearby and could get there in my lunch hour. The nearest tube is Shepherds Bush or Goldhawk Road.
There are a long line of shops – maybe 30 – almost all run by Asian people. People seem to like A1 Fabrics (50-52) and Classic Textiles (next door). There is plenty of choice and you can get just about anything you want. But the prices are not low. They are the going rate in most cases. For example I use habotai silk for linings. The very cheapest I have bought this is at £5m in Simply Fabrics and £3m at Goldcrest. But in both cases it was too flimsy and shoddy for the job. A very slightly heavier product is available in Goldhawk road for around £8 – 12 m. I bought strong colours (mainly from India or China) and the colours are not fast. I found buying better quality silk from Missan was the same price. Also Simply Fabrics sell nice blouse weight silks for around £8-£10 which are much better quality. On the other hand I have bought Liberty prints in Goldhawk Road for £21 for three metres which is great value, when Simply Fabrics sells Liberty for £12 a metre (and Liberty sells it for twice that).
Shaukat, 170-172 Old Brompton Road, SW5 0BA is nice big shop in Kensington that specialises in Liberty prints, mostly pre cut selections. People rave about it but I am just not that into the product. But if you are coming from abroad and want something typically English this might do the trick.
I live close to the West End but I rarely buy fabric in the area. This is because rents are so high that every shop has to charge about double the going rate. Two very expensive shops near me (Edgware Road tube), (I have visited but never bought) are Jason’s at 310 Edgware Road and Joel and Sons is just off Edgware Road at 73-87 Church Street, NW8.
This area is the centre of the historic London rag trade with the fashion colleges and many designers based nearby. When I was doing my qualification in the 1980s this was the place to go for silks, satins, “stage wear” cloth, and really unusual pieces. But with rents being so high now so are the prices and I can’t really recommend this area.
Cloth House (no 47 and no 98) is a modern, rather trendy shop where virtually everything is navy, grey or striped. There are some nice Indian block prints and some Japanese fabrics, denim, plain linens. All very tasteful, but of course expensive.
Misan has two shops, one like Jason’s has silly prices. The other is expensive too but has more standard fabrics. Downstairs it has remnants and off cuts. I have bought quite a few pieces here as they are unusual and because they are damaged or dirty you can get a bargain. But not necessarily. For example Linton tweeds which are around £22 to £28 a metre on line are £55 a metre off the roll in the shop. Even a remnant will work out at around £35 to 340 a metre, more expensive than from the Linton website. Small pieces of leather really are terribly expensive too.
For wedding fabrics there are specialist silk shops (Silk society and a few others) but, while you will get wonderful fabrics, you will have to pay top dollar for them.
Borovicks is a shop I used to use a lot when I was doing my fashion qualification in the 1980s. But today it has priced me out. For example when looking for floral stretch sateen it was £25 p/m here compared to getting similar stuff on line for about £12 p/m.
Macculloch and Wallis moved to their new spacious premises at 25-26 Poland Street London W1F 8QN earlier this year. Again the cloth is on the pricey side although they have some nice quality products. They will order gorgeous mohair woven fabric in fabulous colours but it costs about £55 p/m. They cover buttons and have a wide range of trims. It is a good place to go for a shoulder pad or some rivets on a Saturday if you just can’t wait. Nearby there are two or three specialist trimming shops.
Oxford Street (a short walk from Berwick Street)
Liberty of London is off Oxford Street and has a small selection of expensive fabrics including their own Liberty prints and some gorgeous but very expensive furnishing fabrics. Ideal for cushions if you want something classy. A great experience, and inspirational, but not really for spending money in, unless you have lots of it.
John Lewis has boring fabrics on the whole, lots of quilting fabrics which I have no use for, and things for “crafting”. My daughter gets fabric here for fancy dress outfits and it is good quality, reliable stuff and fine in an emergency. But everything from zips to threads to buttons and trimmings is full price. Nicely laid out and helpful staff.
For wholesale prices try Woolcrest, at 6 Well Street, Hackney, E9 7PX. This is my current favourite shop mainly because the prices are so low. I bought cotton here at £2 a metre, which is the sort of price you will normally pay on a market stall. Crescent trading, Unit 2, Quaker Court, 41 Quaker St, E1 6SN is good for wools, with lots of choice, and nice designer silks too. But the prices are relatively high. Storm leather is a great shop at Unit 6, Stephen House, 1B Darnley Road, Hackney Central, E9 6QH.with lots and lots of choice of leather in all weights. Read my review and talk to the men. They are very helpful.
Fabrications at 7 Broadway Market, London E8 4PH a small but quirky shop that has ethical fabrics and some interesting classes where you can meet nice people. They sometimes run a class in making dolls that I hope to attend soon.
Walthamstow market is a traditional market – the longest there is in the whole of Europe – and it has a good range of fabric sellers with keen prices and some bargains. If you go to Walthamstow (on the end of the Victoria line) make sure you go to the William Morris museum too. It is great and free.
Out of town
Ikea has shops in Neasden and Croydon. They have furnishing fabrics from about £3m to around £10m for heavy weight linen. A few have a nice Scando vibe and may make up a nice little shift dress. I wouldn’t go especially but if you are there anyway and can stand it, go to the lower floor about half way in, and half way out and you will see a small collection that you cut yourself and then they weigh. If you go to Neasden be sure to have a look at the Neasden (Hindu) temple.
Throughout London there are lots of markets. You tend to get to know the ones near where you live or work. Not worth a special trip they do have everything you may need in the way of basic dressmaking fabric, upholstery materials, and notions. There are lots of these in every part of London – Brixton, Tooting, Church Street, Chapel Market, Whitechapel, Ridley Road, etc. Some of these have become hipster hangouts in my lifetime, but most still sell fruit and veg, meat, cheese and fish. Many still have a few stalls selling fabrics and trimmings and ethnic goods of all descriptions that allow you to make more interesting clothes.
Have I missed anywhere important that you would recommend? What is your local market like? Do please let us know. Thank you.