Who We Are: More than 1 Hour from a Fabric Store! #sewremote

My local chain fabric store closed a few years ago, and I complain that all I can buy in town are basic fabrics and notions… but the contributors in this post put me to shame! They all live at least an hour from the nearest fabric store, and today they are sharing their tips and tricks for living #sewremote! Gillian

Heather says:

A map of UK on the left with marks showing Heather's location and the nearest fabric store... which is not near at all. On the right is a photo of Heather standing on the beach with the tide out wearing a hat, scarf, and coat
A map of Scotland shows Heather’s small Scottish Island off the West Coast and points to the nearest fabric – all the way in Edinburgh and Glasgow! This is beside a picture of Heather, in hat and coat standing on a wide beach as the sun turns the clouds pink.

I definitely fit into the category of #sewremote, living as I do on a small Scottish island! 

I live on South Uist, which is across the country from my nearest brick-and-mortar fabric shops. Glasgow is a flight away, but that flight still takes almost an hour, not including the time sitting in the airport and waiting for the small plane to depart. There are ferries that connects us to the mainland in two locations, but they take up to 6 hours, and then there’s the road journey to get to Glasgow and Edinburgh.

This means planning is a must!! My family lives near Edinburgh, which means that I visit those shops whenever I’m in that locale. However, it’s expensive to get off island and I only do it a couple of times a year. I’d rather spend money on fabric!! This means that most of my fabric comes to me in the post, as well as the thread, the zips, and any other odds and ends that I need. 

The downside is that often times I have a creative burst and am missing something. And if that something’s a small thing, I’m not ordering it via post. It’s too expensive and £3 delivery on top of £3 for thread just makes it ridiculous. I’m becoming more attuned to using what I have and just making it work. I always make sure to order good interfacing — more than I need — as it’s the one thing I cannot replace with something else. With a small personal haberdashery, I ‘shop the stash’ more often than not. It also encourages me to become a fixer, rather than a thrower-outer. Something that will hopefully stand me in good stead for this year of fasting from RTW. 

It’s not a hindrance, rather it’s a slight irritation in being able to live and work in one of the most inspiring places ever. I’m happy to be more than an hour from a fabric shop, if it means Uist’s beaches and wildlife is within easy reach.

Find out more about me and my makes at www.heatherymakes.wordpress.com

Torina says,

Torina looks with determination into the camera, she is wearing a grey hat and is smiling.

I have sewed for about twenty years now, mostly quilts and home dec. But last year, I had this overwhelming urge to learn how to sew garments. I do have a bit of a challenge though. I live in a rural area in northern Minnesota. I know no one locally who sews clothes and there are no fabric or sewing shops beyond some small quilt shops an hour away and a big box store. I also have limited access to the internet so I want to use the time I have online to get in and get out quickly.

My biggest challenge is sourcing appropriate fabric. I got a Spoonflower sample pack but they are so small that I can’t tell how they actually drape or sew. I ordered swatches from Mood fabric as well, which I totally recommend doing before a big purchase if you have a limited budget and want to see colors and feel the fabric first. I could really use recommendations for other online shops that do swatches, so please let me know of any in the comments. Beyond that, I play around with refashioning thriftstore finds.

I am more apt to buy from an online store that will suggest matching thread and zippers, or has them available at least, as well as other supplies for a project. I also lean towards fabric shops that show drape, pattern suggestions, clothing type suggestions or washing instructions (there’s no dry cleaners in the woods!). I am pretty careful about making sure that I pick up all the notions needed before I start a project. This is fairly standard in everything in my life as it is for most folks that live off the beaten path.

Though it feels like I have access to smaller online fabric stores through Instagram, when I ask them questions, like “would this fabric work for ______ pattern?” I generally don’t get an answer, which would make things so much easier. Also, I would love it if patterns with very specific notion requirements, like jeans and undergarments, listed places where you could buy them. I am more likely to buy patterns if I have a few easy leads where I can buy the required materials.

Do you have limited access to sewing stores? What tips do you have? Do people ask you annoying questions like “Why don’t you just move?”

Torina posts about sewing, nature and her fabulous cat, Janis Joplin, on Instagram @torinawashere.

Sophy says,

Sophy is wearing a brown dress, standing on the edge of the ferry pier. In the far distance of the picture you can just make out Central Hong Kong.
Sophy is wearing a brown dress, standing on the edge of the ferry pier. In the far distance of the picture you can just make out Central Hong Kong.

I live on an outlying island in Hong Kong, so it’s about 1.5 hours from my door to me feeling fabric in my hands in the markets or shops. It’s only around 12 miles as the crow flies, but the journey is a tad convoluted and so I don’t do it specifically for fabric that often.

But if I want something in particular, or I am in that part of Hong Kong, I will make the trip and I do really enjoy parts of the journey. Being a parent to a 3.5 year old and an 8 month old, simply being on my own with a book and a coffee feels like a treat. Heading into my favourite shop in Central Hong Kong involves driving, then taking a 30 minute ferry ride and then walking uphill in the tropical humidity. It’s a mission, but I confess that I just love chugging through the South China Sea and watching the massive container ships coming into Hong Kong! It has been over 6 years since I moved here, and I still love the aesthetic of those unwieldy, colourful beasts!

Unfortunately, I just don’t have the time to make the journey often, so I end up shopping online quite a bit, especially for haberdashery as I find it difficult to find exactly what I want in Hong Kong with the limited time periods I have for solo shopping. This can involve pitfalls like ordering a fabric for a specific project and then it arriving and being slightly too sheer, or too thin, or without the right drape. My fabric stash is rather unwieldy for exactly this reason. I am trying to be better at shopping my stash or buying where I can feel the fabric or see enough reviews to know what I am getting, but then someone will post looking amazing in their latest makes and I get sucked right back into browsing and buying fabric again!

Sophy posts her sewing, and the very occasional piece of knitwear, on instagram as Sophy_Sews_HK. She’s one of the current group of editors here at the Sewcialists.

Thank you for reading all of our stories! Sewing while far away from a fabric store tends to mean you have to get creative and be patient with your projects! As always with Who We Are posts, I hope that reading gives you insight into other people’s lives, and also confidence to talk about your own experiences. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!