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.)

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

lucitebox July 22, 2006 at 7:44 pm

OH ERIN! The top two in your close-up photo…GAAAH! They are gorgeous. You must be very excited to return home and get to work on crafting something out of these beauties. What fun to vicariously enjoy your shopping day. Thanks for sharing.

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Linda July 22, 2006 at 8:00 pm

I like all of your fabric choices. Lucky you!

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Duchess July 22, 2006 at 8:37 pm

Erin,I have been reading your blog (as a true lurker) for a while now, and I love it. However, after today I may not be able to read it anymore. I am a knitter and spinner and my house is filled to the brim with fiber, none of it in fabric form. Your to-die-for selection of fabric had me drooling and considering pulling my sewing machine out of the closet. I am in serious danger here. I. . . must. . .resist. . . for. . . pocketbook’s. . . sake. . . ahhhhhh

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Ms. Kat July 22, 2006 at 11:12 pm

Oh, Erin, I have such fabric ENVY! How FUN!

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Floridaprincess July 23, 2006 at 1:38 am

I love Old Brompton road. Sounds like you had a fabby time at the fabric place. I used to work at Kings Cross at night. I worked 2 blocks from the station. I very rarely had to go to the station by self tho. Dont go to Kings Cross at night by your self it’s not a very good area bit dodgy. It’s perfectly fine in the daytime as there are lots of people around. Hobnobs are great. If you get a chance buy some Cafe biscuts. They go great with coffee or just to eat. They are made in Belgium, but you can find them all over London. They taste a little like gingersnap cookies but different.They come packaged like cookies, but they are individualy wraped. I have always like this part as they are great to travel with and shove in your pockets or purse. Happy shopping Erin.

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Valerie July 23, 2006 at 1:51 am

oh gawd. it hurts just reading your account. I felt the same way last weekend at Mood in NYC. Not sure I could handle this store + the Liberty prices + the exchange rate. LOVE the 5th one from the top, can’t wait to see what you make of it!!!

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Kate July 23, 2006 at 2:06 am

Oh siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh!!! How delicious! Now I really have to go to London. Small cuts? no problem since I do some fabric collage and hats. So great to enjoy your beautiful selections. Thanks, Erin. K Q:-)

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Esther.A July 23, 2006 at 3:32 am

I know I’m going to put myself in danger of being banned from this board, but I have to admit to not being a great fan of Liberty prints. (I have a vague memory of an evil teacher wearing a blouse in Liberty print, so perhaps it’s psychological.) However, I DO like the fourth from the top – the orange & green (cherries?), and the sixth (blue). I can imagine your feelings on walking into this cave of wonders. I must take a trip to OBR. I have just bought a 1940′s dress pattern from EbayUK (all through ADAD’s influence). I’m sure I’ve seen Kate Hepburn wear a dress just like it in a film with Spencer Tracey, so the aim is to find a similar fabric. I shall tell the shopkeeper that you recommended his shop. He sounds like a nice guy. We need more people like him (Muslim, Christian and Jew) to spread that kind of message.

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P July 23, 2006 at 3:46 am

Is it at Canvas? I’d say it would be OK if you knew exactly where you were going and didn’t have to dawdle on corners looking at a map. And you might need to be sensible about what you wore over the top of your outfit outside and what you carried. I wouldn’t bank on any taxis when you get out.You could always get on the train and go to Rollercity in Welwyn Garden City (it would be about 10 minutes walk from the station or short taxi drive).

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Summerset July 23, 2006 at 5:52 am

I am jealous, jealous, jealous of your fabric! It’s all wonderful, and I can think of lots of neat things to make out of it! I do hope you’ll share whatever you pick up at Liberty, too.

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KathieB July 23, 2006 at 7:42 am

Oh, I can SO relate to the hyperventilating and the needing to put the head-between-the-knees sensation. I’ve experienced that myself and I’m feeling a bit of it just looking at the pictures of the Liberty fabrics. Lucky, lucky you. The top one in the bottom photo–just glorious.

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cruststation July 23, 2006 at 8:24 am

Oh I am so jealous, all the fabrics are lovely!

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camilla July 23, 2006 at 9:42 am

OOOh thanks for this post- I only live a few hours away from London, but I never really go there. It’s good to have people from the other side of the world pointing out the best places to shop! I’m passing this info on to my friend who is hooked on Liberty fabrics.

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Scarlett Fever July 23, 2006 at 9:44 am

Erin, the way you write about finding those beautiful fabrics makes me want to learn to sew! (As it stand, I can’t even replace buttons.)

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Heather July 23, 2006 at 10:13 am

Hi Erin, you seem to have found lots of cool fabric. Roller Blading in Kings Cross, no dodgy area, and you’ll probably get run over by a taxi or bus! I used to do a lot of roller blading, London’s not such a great place for it though. Pavements can be very bumpy, and you can’t really get any speed up. Best stick to the park’s. Have fun Heather

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gracie July 23, 2006 at 11:39 am

OMG. Thes fabrics are GORGEOUS. *envy*

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Thoughts on Life and Millinery. July 23, 2006 at 1:05 pm

This is getting close to what is known as “fabric porn”. Lust, fantasy, it is all there.

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enc July 23, 2006 at 2:42 pm

Jaffa Cakes are really good, inspirational foodstuffs. And Penguins, I highly recommend those.What an absolute joy it is to read your writing. I’m so glad you have this blog. Nice fabric choices. Have a good time in Blighty.

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Julia M. July 23, 2006 at 2:54 pm

Erin, thank you for this constant source of delight. The recent comment about spending a (very happy) week learning and taking tests in Latin has illuminated some of the whys and wherefores of your excellent writing! Your fabrics are luscious; lucky you to be there to acquire them! I worked a block from King’s Cross tube station back in 1991, which probably isn’t the least bit relevant to 2006, but I felt quite safe there as long as it was light out.

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Ruth Singer July 23, 2006 at 3:58 pm

ah, you have found my one of my secret shops! not secret any longer. well done, good choices. has no-one told you to go to Berwick St soho? much more interesting than Shepherd’s Bush, and 2 mins from Liberty. King’s Cross is fine, as long as you are used to inner cities…. be like a londoner – head down, walk fast, ignore everyone, be grumpy… worked for me for years!

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Bunny Z July 25, 2006 at 9:36 pm

Wow. You just transported me back to chilly, drizzly February 2001, when my new groom and I spent a whole day looking for V.V. Rouleaux in Sloane Square. The store had relocated from the address I had carried around in my wallet for years after a kindred spirit told me about it. I am adding your fabric store to my list of must-visits for my next trip to London. (February 2007). Thanks again for your wonderful blog.

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Shelby July 28, 2006 at 3:00 am

I LOVE the top fabric. My God it’s fabulous.

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RoseCampion July 28, 2006 at 11:39 pm

I just have to say how insanely great all that fabric is and how amazingly jealous I am. When I was in London a few years back, the DH wouldn’t let me do a quarter of the shopping I wanted and certainly wouldn’t have let me go within a mile of a fabric store.The blue and green one with the leaves that look kind of like dandelion leaves is particularly exceptional.

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Wendy July 30, 2006 at 5:41 am

Erin,I got here by way of Style Queen.com,m and enjoy your posts very much !!The fabric shop you went to is new to me…weird since I live in London, and am working in Sloane Square ( at Peter Jones )…but any new place to try is just wonderful…I will certainly be paying this one a visit soon !!If you care to, please pay my Live Journal site a visit, where I take great delight in tearing celebrities clothing choices to bits !! Here:-http://wendylady2.livejournal.com/

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Anonymous August 14, 2006 at 1:26 pm

the rollerdisco is the most fun i’ve ever had on 8 wheels. Thursday’s less busy than friday. Dress up and get there early before the arena gets too crowded. Its 3 rooms of funk, disco, house and r&b and the crowd are all up for a good time. But remember beers and wheels don’t mix. Skate hire is inc in the entrance price. Make sure you take a map – it’s in the middle of an industrial estate, don’t be tempted to take any short cuts. You’ll have a great time. (love the blog by the way – can we have more about dressmaking)

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Anonymous August 25, 2006 at 8:56 pm

I’m not entirely sure that I’m happy you posted this blog about my favorite store in London. I had held it as a closely guarded secret for the last 6 years. I was always afraid that I’d go back and every stitch of fabric would be gone if word got out. But, I’m certain that keeping it in business is probably a better solution. So those of you who enjoy fabrics as much as I do…go forth and take a large shopping bag.As a quilter I was quite happy with the smaller pieces of liberty fabrics. But, just like you, I thought I had found the real treasure when I went downstairs. Not only will you find Liberty Tana Lawn on the bolt, you’ll find wools, silk, and some of the discontinued Liberty Craft Fabrics. The occassional piece of Makower and Rose and Hubble also can be found.Don’t know if it was mentioned earlier in the comments…but it should be said that they also sell inexpensive luggage. Never should it be said that they aren’t savvy business people.

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hairyclairy October 18, 2006 at 3:58 am

Hey there. Just bought myself two x two metres of some gorgeous liberty fabric from a shop in NZ called AbFab – am having a shirt dress made out of one of the lighter fabrics, lighter as in pattern and pattern content. The second piece of fabric is glorious in its retro design – it so reminds me of my mum in the 70′s. It’s got shades of green with a magenta accent – it’s quite wild too – I need some advice as to what I ought to make it in to. I love the long sleeved shirt dress but a smock sort of dress appeals too – can you give me advice on any liberty patterns or designs. my email is csutton@xtra.co.nz – i would be happy to photograph it for you and email you the images. Thanks Clare

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Sarah S. January 26, 2007 at 10:59 am

Would you consider posting the directions here? I’ll be visiting London in a few months and I’d love to visit this shop. Thanks!

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Erin January 27, 2007 at 8:27 am
justine d. December 22, 2007 at 3:17 pm

hello all,i went to shaukat today after reading about it on this blog. i must say, i was quite excited to go and planned to spend hours there. this store is definitely a good place to find all things liberty at somewhat better prices. the basement alone left me in awe and giddy at the sight of wall to wall liberty.the major downside was my experience with the sales staff. after collecting my fabrics for 1.5 hours, i needed price quotes on all things before she cut them (since the american dollar is so weak, i had to take that into consideration). once prices came up in conversation, she really just tried to rush me, saying she would give me a good deal. she then started spewing out prices (while she was cutting-i had asked her not to cut yet) and unfortunately, i felt like she just wanted my money, as quickly as possible. all in all, she didn’t take off any money to give me a deal and just said-”these are better prices than the liberty store.”i’m glad i went but i would prefer to buy fabric from people who cared about the customer more.thanks.

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Anonymous January 6, 2008 at 3:51 pm

hi all,it is really fantastic as i was there and was amazed and well it must be said that they have started online shopping too. their website is: http://www.shaukat.co.ukvisit it as i have noted it is getting bigger and bigger

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Susan July 4, 2008 at 1:26 am

Hi, Thanks for blogging about your Liberty fabric shopping in London! That first shop looks amazing, and it was a vicarious thrill to read about it. Do you by any chance know of a good resource with images and names of some of the older Liberty prints? I’m familiar with a few of the classic patterns, but I have a 70s skirt and two YSL blouses in Liberty prints that I would love to identify. I know of that book Liberty’s 1875-1975, but am not sure how much they include about fabrics, plus it’s out of print and currently way out of my price range. If you have any ideas, I’d welcome hearing them.Love your blog, I will definitely be back!

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Erin July 6, 2008 at 11:05 am

I wish I did know of a Liberty book! I’ll keep an eye out …

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