I get a lot of emails asking where I find my fabric, particularly from the UK readers that suffer the curse of play safe UK distribution (the reason we have very little decent fabric over here).
I've spoken before about buying from US websites and still highly recommend it. Obviously you have to be a little patient, as well as taking a bit of a risk that you might not like the fabric up close. But the patience thing is easier than you'd think and in all the time I've been buying fabric from the US I've only had two yards that I didn't like once it arrived.
That's not to say that you can't find great fabric here in the UK, you just have to work a little harder for it.
Here in Leeds we have a couple of fabric shops ( two branches of Samuel Taylor) that sell your run of the mill polycottons, alongside the most basic and ( in my opinion) dingy quilters cottons and the usual mix of slinky polyesters and machine embroidered linen mixes. They do also stock the occasional gem though and they're great for your general haberdashery needs, but most of the time they just don't have anything that gets my heart racing.
One of my most frequently visited fabric shops is The Shuttle, about half an hour away in Shipley. Which, whilst it still falls foul of some horribly dull cottons, often stocks Liberty at half the normal price, has a great range of plain jersey and jersey ribbing (very hard to find in this country), a really beautiful collection of linen at around £8 per metre and lots of designer samples.
The shop itself is a bit of a jumble, but it's really not too difficult to find some truly lovely fabrics. I particularly like their shirting cottons and seersuckers that often sell for £1 per metre. If you're in the area, visiting the wonderful Salts Mill maybe, then I recommend a quick (it won't be) visit to The Shuttle - but be prepared to dig a little. Equally if you're in London then you have to visit Fabrics Galore (owned by The Shuttle owners son), which has some of my fabric collections of fabrics around, including Boden and Liberty as well as a great selection of wools.
I'm also becoming more and more of a fan of Ikea for fabrics. Especially now that they've launched their cottons (rather than the usual linen mixes and cotton ducks) at only £2 per metre! And they've got some really great prints. The picture at the top is Ikea oilcloth, which is strong enough to use as a table cloth, but soft enough to turn in to totes or purses or anything else.
They're also great during the sales. Yesterday for instance I picked up 25 metres of stripey cotton duck (below) for £25 and you just can't say fairer than that. I also love Ikea for their bedding. Which is another way of finding really great fabric.
Two of my most commented on fabrics were actually bedding sets. The hexagon fabric that I use to line the cabinet in the kitchen was from Habitat - I got it on sale (thanks Ros!!), so it worked out really well priced for a lot of fabric. And because Habitat use cotton with a high thread count, it's a really good quality.
The other print I get asked a lot about is the curtain that hangs in my studio, which is actually an Orla Kiely double duvet cover. It wasn't cheap (£65), but because my studio window is pretty small and the fabric cabinets butt right up to it, I only wanted one curtain. Which meant that I haven't even had to cut the duvet cover up! I've just used curtain clips and hung it as it is! So when I want something else, I can still use it as a duvet. And if you did want to cut it up you would get 4 metres of extra wide Orla Kiely fabric for £16 per metre, which is pretty good when we're not able to get the cheaper Target range over here.
Tea towels are another great source of fabric, particularly for cushions or totes. The two prints below are tea towels that I bought from Habitat yesterday. Again it's not always a super cheap way of buying fabric, but places like Habitat and Paperchase sell some amazing prints that are worth buying. And the tea towels available on Etsy are absolutely wonderful and a really good way of buying some original printed fabric at an affordable price.
Of course there's also thrfting at car boot sales and charity shops, for bedding, linens and clothes that can all be repurposed, or if you have a little more money, there's antique shops and auctions.
All of that said, there has been a definite increase in both bricks and mortar fabric shops here in the UK as well as UK based internet shops. And they're all beginning to stock more and more exciting prints.
They're still a lot more expensive than Stateside (not the stores fault) and we're still mainly only seeing designers under the Westminster umbrella - Amy Butler, Kaffe Fassett, Heather Bailey etc. But there's definitely more on it's way. Micheal Miller fabrics are becoming a lot more available as well as a Kokka and a number of other Japanese fabrics. The trick though is finding these stores.
Which is where I thought we could maybe work together. Because I would like to put together a directory of UK based fabric shops so that we can all plan our holidays and day trips around them (if only that were a joke!!) and so that we can all give UK fabric shops that support they seriously need if we are going to convince the distributors to really commit to selling their wares to the UK market.
I'll start by saying that if you're looking for a really good range of Japanese fabrics, then it's worth having a look at or dropping by The Eternal Maker, who sell both online and in their bricks and mortar shop. Anna (who is now the Editor of Sew Hip) is really passionate about fabric and has some really nice prints available.
So if you know of any fabric shops, or if you're a shop owner, please leave me a comment with a little info (types of fabric etc) so that we can all see where to shop.
And in the meantime I'm going to be interviewing Jo and Fran of UK based online store Saints and Pinners in the next week and will be offering a fabric giveaway too!
*edited to say that I have just removed a comment and I wanted the person who left it to know that I haven't removed it because I disagree or because I think they shouldn't have said it, but because I have removed the sentence that you commented on, which means that your comment no longer refers to anything. If you hadn't left an anonymous comment I could have emailed you to say that I wondered about that too and that's why I have now removed what I said*