No one will have noticed, but I basically took all of November off from Sewcialising as I was on a work trip. The trip included a couple of different places, but most excitingly (from a fabric perspective) we went to Singapore.
I live in Australia, so I was hoping that Singapore would be reasonably different in terms of fabric available (and price!). I used Fadanista’s post about fabric shopping in Singapore as a guide (thanks Sue!), and ended up visiting both Arab Street and People’s Park Complex based on her recommendations.
My haul is above. I tried to pick things that were interesting or unusual but that I would still definitely wear. My most favourite purchase was this sandwashed silk for $30/m (I know our North American readers will still probably think that is pricey, but it would be over $100 here!).
I was definitely happy with what I bought, though also quite constrained by the size of my suitcase!
Do you guys buy fabric when you go on trips? If you do, is it because it’s something special or different, or just part of a holiday?
Tell me about your best fabric purchase away from home in the comments!
Chloe is a Sewcialists Editor, who lives and sews in Australia. She blogs at chlo-thing.com and can be found on Instagram here.
I do indeed buy fabric when I travel. I try to buy it directly from the weavers, dyers, embroiders or block printers that make it so that I know it is going directly into the local economy and I know the source of that fabric. It would be hard for me to pick a “best Buy” but one of my favourites is a trraditional Kuttaar block print pattern on cotton, which I made up into an adaptation of a traditional ghaggra cut in a way that ensures minimum fabric wastage but creates a striking chevron pattern.
That sounds amazing. I would love to see the chevron pattern you made with this fabric (chevrons are one of my favorites). I love the commitment to buy to benefit local communities also!
Hello, I tried to find a direct way of sending you the blog post for the club to which I belong that I did about the skirt but I could not find one- and then I forgot about it. If you are still interested then this post of 17 June 2017 gives the details http://londondressmakersclub.blogspot.com/2017/06/
Fabric is my favourite souvenir! As a Canadian it is fun to occasionally pop over the border to see what all the US sewists can buy at Joanne’s etc… and I think I’ve brought back fabric from everywhere I’ve ever lived, even in my teens and twenties before I was making clothes!
So does that make you buy specifically different fabric when you are visiting?
I still have a piece of fabric from my first trip to Melbourne (not far away from where I lived at the time) which is just a teal knit. It’s great quality but nothing “different”. I do fully associate it with Melbourne, despite it being something I could have bought elsewhere in Australia!
Definitely a fabric souvenir buyer here, not often much but as a rural sewist who doesn’t have a local fabric store, I love exploring options wherever we go! Can’t wait to see what you make with your haul!
I think having limited options where you live definitely ups the ante in terms of travel shopping! When I lived in Tassie there were very few apparel shops (lots of quilting) and trips anywhere else were definitely a chance to explore fabric!
I only have Joann’s of declining selection in my state, so I love visiting fabric stores when I travel! I think my two favorites so far were Mood in NYC, and digging through the precut “coupons” in Paris. I still have fabric in my stash from both trips, but I’m finally sewing up the second of my four Paris souvenirs!
I think not having many options locally makes a big difference. I used to shop for fabric way more on trips when I was in that situation. Your Paris souvenirs sound fun!
Oh! I always research textiles before going on a trip. I look for something typical of the place I’m visiting. I don’t always come back with something but the times I have, those fabrics and trims are so close to my heart. There’s the Liberty of London that I bought in London, the trims from Brussels, the fabric from Provence… I think my best purchase was the Harris tweed I bought in Scotland. I love how I’m reminded of those vacations when I sew these fabrics and when I wear what I made.
That’s a great way of approaching it! I love that Harris Tweed is still locally and independently made 👍
If convinient I usually try to buy fabric. That means I don’t want to disrupt the rest of the trip too much, by making everyone else wait for me.
When my husband and I were in Nice, France last year I wanted to buy fabric and he wanted to go for a run. I made sure that he went for his run when the fabric store was open, so I could spend as much time as I wanted there. I bought five pieces there, none of which I have dared to cut into.
Excellent planning! But it’s time to cut into that fabric and make something nice from Nice! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist…I am on Team Just Use It though)
Do you have the name of the shop in Nice please, I may be there a couple of times next year. I live in a remote area with very little local opportunity for fabric buying.
Wonderland Tissus. Both every day fabrics and more special ones. I think I spent at least an hour there. It’s pretty close to the city centre.
I haven’t traveled widely, but when I do, I try to find fabric. I don’t necessarily buy any – I left Mood in NYC empty-handed, for example! I obviously prefer to bring something home, though. Often those fabrics that are made into the clothes that people most ask about – maybe you can tell I’m remembering trips while I wear it, maaaybe it’s that the last fabrics I bought while travelling all have giant pictures of fruit. Who knows? 😉
What did you make with the giant fruit? That sounds awesome!
I love this post and I love these fabrics!!! I really enjoy visiting the local sewing shop whenever I travel! So far I’ve been to Britex in San Francisco, Atex and Dress Sew in Vancouver, and the Nippori Tomato Fabrics in Tokyo! I have a section of my blog dedicated to it https://coliclothing.com/category/travel/ I’ve also started to try and bring hand sewing projects with me on work trips. Maybe that new silk could be a beautiful scarf or you could sew it with a hand rolled hem and work on it in one of your work trips too. Good luck with these projects!!
I love that you have a blog area dedicated to travel – great idea (and I love the Vancouver dress!). It’s a good suggestion to take hand sewing away – I usually take knitting but often don’t feel like it. Plus I would like to practice hand sewing a bit more…
Once we know our destination for travel, I immediately start researching local fabric shops. I’ve had a TON of great experiences. I always splurge on a special fabric since that’s not something I would ordinarily do (at home) and it serves as my souvenir! My most special travel-fabric-splurge was on 2m of French terry from Liberty of London (I’ve had it for 5-ish years and still haven’t had the nerve to cut into it!).
Ooooh I love French terry! You should definitely make something from it – otherwise why have it? Maybe we need a club or pledge for 2020 that’s about sewing those precious souvenir fabrics!
I love shopping for fabric (yarn too!) when I travel. It gives me something to remember and look back on, and an opportunity to patronize small businesses in new locations! The small fabric/craft stores tend to be a great adventure to find, and then I can ask for other local recommendations from people who already get me (fiber/fabric enthusiasts)!
My favorite travel fabric purchase was when I got some amazing linen cotton canvas with adorable whales on it in Seattle on my first scientific conference in grad school, and I’ve been using it for bags ever since! In my previous workplace, I apparently was sometimes pointed out to new employees as “the gal with the whale backpack.”
Yes – fabric shopping also takes you to the parts of town that you didn’t know existed! The whales sound fantastic 👍
I even travel for the sole purpose of fabric shopping. India, because it is so inexpensive and because they make the most wonderful silk, sequinned and embroidered fabric. Nepal because of those wonderful printed cottons. England for notions and trims. Sweden for the thrift store finds.
Travel for the purpose of fabric shopping is a whole extra level! Living the dream 👍
I don’t really travel, but when we visited the UK this fall I knew fabric shopping had to be A Thing! (I did a semester there many years ago, but hadn’t yet learned to sew.) I researched places to go in London and in Scotland and am so glad I did; I didn’t have a plan for the types of things I wanted to buy except for tartan (obviously!) but narrowing down a list of shops ahead of time saved me from being too anxious. I had a blast shopping, and so did my husband actually! 😀 If I ever do more traveling, fabric souvenirs will most definitely be part of the trip.
My best score was the tartan I got in Scotland just because it’s incredible, but I’m also thrilled with the designer leftovers I found on Goldhawk Road in London (Chanel! Burberry!). I am kicking myself for forgetting about a £3/meter sequin stripe fabric in London though: it was in the doorway of the last shop I visited but I got distracted by Chanel and wool crepes and totally forgot about it until late that evening. I don’t even know what I would have done with it (or how long it would take me to get around to sewing it!) but dang it, for £3/meter that’s a risk worth taking, right?!? 😉
I like that someone else gets nervous and needs to plan! There is nothing worse than wandering around an area feeling like you should buy something but also not knowing whether you might find something better in the next shop! I think focus and planning is definitely the key!
I don’t buy fabric when I travel – and I barely ever buy yarn either. Generally fabric comes to me via transit from wherever it originates (or from where it retails). I don’t have a lot of opp to fabric shop on vacay and I’m generally with my husband, who’s not particularly into seeking out fabric (not that he’s opposed to it). Also, I’m one of those peeps who travels to Europe for 2 weeks with a carry-on bag, so there’s not much space to fit it in.
Europe for 2 weeks with a carry on bag is impressive! I am not that person…😎
Ha! I’m so freaked out by checking my bag that I wear the same pair of jeans till I want to burn them 🙂
I totally buy souvenir fabric (or yarn)! I love remembering where I was when I bought it. Some gets used up quickly and some languishes for decades before I use it. But it’s all great. My only issue now is that I frequently travel by motorcycle and let me tell you there’s NO room for any kind of souvenir in those saddlebags! 🤣🏍
Hmmmm yes, that would be a tight fit! Perhaps you have to wear your pieces of fabric as an odd layered cape?
A note to Kate: if you’re in the US, just pack a slim prepaid envelope and send yourself fabric. (I’m often amazed by what tiny envelopes some fabric stores can squish my treasures in to save shipping money!)
And why yes, I love to fabric shop on vacation, or out of town (which is when I go anywhere since I live on a mountain top := ). In Virginia, my husband was recently invited on a nice walk by a fabric shopper needing to exercise her new hip. Two birds…
I travel a lot – either for work or pleasure and always research fabric shops before I go! We were in Melbourne a few weeks ago so went to a couple of shops in Fitzroy and of course to Tessutti. I have a huge stash(what sewist doesn’t…?). I love going into foreign fabric shops and have found not speaking the language is no barrier- everybody’s usually very friendly. This summer I picked up some great pieces in Florence but my favourite has to be from Guatemala. We were driving along and stopped to chat to a man and his son who were drying lengths of yarn on a wooden frame. Turned out they had a weaving shed which we visited and I bought some lovely checked cotton. Every time I look at a holiday purchase it brings back memories. I also go into junk shops looking for buttons… Bruges was great for that.
Happy sewing! 😀
Wow – that’s a very happy find in Guatemala! What a great memory too
I am not much of a traveler, but there is always room in my suitcase for a piece of something! Even when there isn’t room, you can always replace some underwear by a bit of silk 😏. Sadly I now live in a fabric desert, but occasional trips to larger cities have kept me afloat in a way mail order never will.
Buying fabric is my favorite thing to do in new cities! It’s the best souvenir. 🙂 I also bought some brocade when I was in Singapore last year. (Haven’t used it yet!) I can’t wait to go to London next year. I haven’t been since I started sewing. This might be dangerous.
[…] little while back we published an “Ask the Sewcialists” post asking whether you buy fabric when you travel. We got a wide range of responses: some people take […]