London Fabric Shopping Day One

by Erin on July 22, 2006

liberty fabric

I think I'm going to be sending Stephanie Z. some flowers when I get back to the States, or at least emailing her and pressing upon her an invitation to coffee/dinner/ice cream next time I'm in NYC, because it was HER excellent directions that led me to this insanely great fabric store on the Old Brompton Road. Here it is (note the sign in the window):

Shaukat Fabrics

I went in at first and was a little disappointed; there's a wall of Liberty remnants, but nothing quite big enough for the kinds of things I like to make:

Shaukat Fabrics

I dawdled around for a bit and pulled some things off the shelf, but I didn't feel very encouraged. I got up the nerve to ask if they had any Liberty on the bolt, and the salesclerk said yes, forbiddingly adding that it was MUCH more expensive. She beckoned me to the back of the store and down the stairs we went, into what Ali Baba's cave would look like, if it were filled with fabric.

I wish I had a picture of that wonderland, but just as I stopped hyperventilating a pod of women dressed head-to-foot in black chadors floated in, and I thought me snapping a bunch of pictures of the CEILING-HIGH shelves of fabric would be taken amiss, as they would be inescapably in the foreground.

There were plenty of bolts of Liberty, but the shelves were mainly filled with three-meter cuts. I think if you had laid them all out end-to-end there would be enough to encircle the planet, Christo-style. The chadorines and I drifted past each other, pulling down cuts and making little piles here and there; as they made their selections a salesclerk would bag each piece carefully in a preprinted plastic bag, like the kind pillowcases come in. Mine were left unmolested. As soon as I thought I was getting to the end, I'd turn a corner and realize that there were still the wools, or the silks, or another entire wall of lawn, and I'd have to sit down with my head between my knees, metaphorically, until I'd recovered sufficiently to go on.

I finally bought four pieces of lawn (the top four in the first picture above), a piece of silk in one of my favorite patterns (the dot, zigzag, and star print), a piece of wool/cotton Jubilee (the blue floating bars) and some other fabric (not Liberty, I don't think) that I bought just because it was blue and green chevrons in a heavier cotton. (That is going to become the circle skirt to end all circle skirts, if I can cut it right and if I have enough.)

Here's a closeup of some of the fabric:

Liberty Fabrics

I did try to pick out things for which I had patterns already in mind, but after a while I discarded that approach and realized I had to just pick up things that shouted "pick me, pick me!" Of course, some things shouted loudly, but still didn't get chosen: I had to leave behind some white silk charmeuse with a red and black abstract chrysanthemum design, as being something that I would have to manufacture an entirely different persona to wear.

When I was being rung up the proprietor (after ascertaining that I was from Chicago) let me know that Allah wanted peace for all peoples, with which utterly sensible statement I found I could not but agree. If he had told me that Allah wanted beautiful fabric at very good prices for all peoples I think he would have also found me in complete accord.

I didn't feel up to any more fabric shopping after that … perhaps if I eat some more milk chocolate Hob Nobs, I will be strong enough to go to Liberty tomorrow and see what's in the new line. I hope to buy one more spectacular piece of fabric there, and then I'm done fabric-shopping until at least Halloween, and possibly until Christmas. I did think of going out to Shepherd's Bush to see the fabric market there, which was recommended by several people, but I think now that will have to wait until my next trip.

(Oh, and I found a place in London to roller-skate! It's in Kings Cross. Can anyone tell me if that's a bad idea? I mean, the Kings Cross part, not the roller-skating part.)

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