Well…..yes and no. Sort of, but not really. This was our fabric tour of London and Shanghai….a tour all about fabric, haberdashery and sewing- not exactly a trip to buy fabric….even though the two got a bit mixed up at times.
How did this come about?
Good question. Well, my friend Wendy and I sew…all the time…..and buy fabric……often….and talk sewing and dressmaking and patterns and Threads magazine and read blogs about sewing and follow other sewers on Instagram and meet for morning teas and lunches at fabric stores all over Sydney and go to craft fairs and compare notes on the episodes of The Great British Sewing Bee.
You get the picture.
Now Wendy is a seasoned traveller. Anyway, after her last trip to Asia, she said to me in passing (actually I think it was by text) , I was thinking, wouldn’t it be great to do a fabric crawl of London? Well. I had never even contemplated anything nearly as fun as this …………..ever! It was like Christmas when you are a kid sort of excitement. I wasn’t even sure Wendy really meant it. But I was there. Done. And before I could even text back YES YES YES, Wendy had the flights sorted!
So we made a plan to meet every six weeks, at a fabric store somewhere (naturally) and nut out the details. I think we actually gave the Sydney fabric market a huge boost while we were planning the trip…….so that’s good for the economy!
What did we actually want to do there?
I’ll tell you. We were on a mission. We were going to London to completely immerse ourselves in our craft. Fabric, patterns, haberdashery and everything else that is sewing related. We were unapologetic. This was an indulgence and we were hell bent on indulging ourselves every step of the way.
So to the itinerary. We pretty much left no stone unturned and made a list that included every sewing related place, thing or person we could think of. Lets’s see, there was Sew Over it London, the man outside Sainsbury’s (from Did you make That), Liberty of London, Goldhawk Rd, Savile Row, Walthamstow Markets, Greenwich Markets, MacCulloch and Wallis, the Button Queen etc etc etc. If we’d heard of it, it was on the list!
Then there was the other kind of fun. We knew we’d need some R and R after all that fabric shopping so we punctuated our ‘research’ days with more run of the mill entertainment like……………..
And then? More ……hard…….
So did we enjoy it?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and speak for Wendy too. The answer is of course a resounding YES! We had a ball. We absolutely loved it. But what surprised me was that I loved it for reasons that I hadn’t really anticipated.
I absolutely loved London…..with a passion I didn’t know I had. I mean, I’ve been there before but somehow this time it was different. Reflecting on what it was I loved, I’d have to say it was the overall look and feel…..greyness (yes..the greyness), the tube, the colour of the Thames, the architecture, the traffic, the crowds, the mix, the fashion the busyness……the big city-ness of London. I just loved it. It was everything I had remembered but in such a compelling way. I somehow couldn’t get enough of it….and in a crazy sort of way it felt like home…….in a ‘where I belong’ sort of way.
Talking shop and learning
Do you have any idea how much fun it is to go for 2 whole weeks talking about everything ‘sewing and fabric’ and not have to wonder if you are getting boring? Can you imagine how liberating that is? OMG! We didn’t stop. we completely immersed ourselves in sewing heaven. Went for broke. We dined out every meal, (3 meals a day) had umpteen coffees and drinks, walked thousands of kilometres and talked shop the whole time. Our enthusiasm didn’t wane for a second. And on the rare days that fatigue did get the better of us, we’d retire to our respective rooms for even more fun! Wendy would do her appliqué and I had my knitting! In my book, that’s pure indulgence.
I won’t lie, I came home with plenty of fabric. But I came home with even more inspiration…..truckloads. I couldn’t begin to explain the fuel that that trip poured into my soul. Surrendering to one’s craft so completely is a rejuvenating and gratifying experience and I benefitted enormously from it. I am full of plans, ideas, and sketches. From a creative perspective, I feel light years ahead of where I was when I boarded the plane. I’m not sure what the plans actually are but I know there is a lot more scope for me to develop as a sewer. Technically, seeing, talking and reading have inspired me to focus more on process. I aspire to improving my technique.
Can you get fabric in London that you can’t get in Australia?
I am very loyal to my fabric shops. The range of fabrics and the service I receive from Tessuti, the Fabric Store, Remnant Warehouse and Pitt Trading is way beyond what I will ever need to satisfy my creative sewing urges.
But London was different….for obvious reasons, namely the climate and population and perhaps even proximity to European suppliers. You can get everything you need in Australia or online. But the range of fabrics in London was mind boggling! Breathtaking even, particularly the Winter fabrics. I have never seen the likes of the ranges of wools, wool crepes and silks that I saw in London. It was staggering- truly a sight to behold. And then of course there was Liberty! It was an experience just standing in Liberty of London and drinking in the wall to wall shelves of Liberty prints.
what about Shanghai?
That is such another whole big story that I will deal with that separately
Would we do it again?
We would like to run tours!