The fruits of my indecision
While covetable quilting fabric is available in abundance, finding beautiful dressmaking fabrics presents more of a challenge. Where quilting fabric generally comes in a standard weight and drape, dress fabrics vary so widely that sometimes it can feel a risk to buy it over the internet without obtaining samples first.
When making a quilt, the first thing I look at is the print; conversely, this is pretty much the last thing I take into account with dress fabrics. Through previous errors, I've learnt that my first consideration should always the drape, which I've found can make or break a garment; second, is the weight - I love lightweight fabrics that whisper through my fingers as I pick them up but retain enough opacity to forgo lining; third, is the feel of a fabric; and finally the pattern or colour - the latter will be the deciding factor, but not the first consideration. Often if the drape is right, I'll go for a pattern that I wouldn't normally be drawn to, because finding a material that marries a perfect drape with a perfect pattern is a hard thing to find. And I am always on the look out for plain fabrics - it's these that dominate my wardrobe of shop bought items and so I try to remind myself of this when buying material for handmade items.
Anyway, last week when I was on my pattern cutting course in London I was aware that I would be just a minute's walk from a road renowned to be overflowing with dress fabric shops - the mecca that is Goldhawk Road. These shops are literally full to bursting with crepes, silks, linens, velvets, corduroys, chiffons...it's mind-boggling lovely, but for someone who is terminally indecisive, I also anticipated that it may be the source of some anguish. Due to all the problems outlined with finding suitable dress fabrics at the start of this post, I promised myself that I would stock up without reserve, especially as the prices are unbeatable. I determined to bring a little home each day so that by the end of the week I had a wonderful stash of dressmaking fabrics from which to draw on (for if you're going to go on a pattern cutting course, it stands to reason that you need fabric to make those patterns up with).
However, by Thursday the total sum of my week's fabric expenditure came to a paltry £3.99. I resolved that on Friday I really would go wild. But, reader, I was overwhelmed. I weaved in and out of the fabric shops making mental notes of possible purchases as I had done on all the other days with increasing frustration at my own winnetyness. I very nearly decided it was all too much and went home with nothing, but knowing how disappointed I'd be in myself later, I chose four small cuts of fabric (and I mean no more than 1.5 metres of each!Arg!).
I had hoped to seize upon the more economically-priced fabrics, but in the end chose quality over any kind of quantity. The patterned fabric is a beautiful Liberty print silk crepe, which sings to me in every way - drape, feel, pattern - it's perfection all rolled up into one crepey bolt of goodness.
I then chose a slate-coloured washed silk crepe, which is opaque, soft, buttery and with a huge amount of depth to the colour. I also chose a very small cut of the same washed silk crepe in mustardy-gold, as I thought it may be nice for contrast bindings or even a Peter Pan collar. Finally, I bought a floaty wisp of silk in silvery-grey.
These three fabrics above will mix and match together easily, although that wasn't my intention when I chose them, but I suppose if you follow what you love, it will often have its roots within the same colour palette.
I am now very much wishing I'd bought a greater quantity of all four of these fabrics...so I shall return at some point in the future, but I may need to be quick. Sadly, developers are requesting permission to give compulsory purchase orders to shop owners along this stretch of Goldhawk Road so that they can build flats in their place. I was shocked when a shop owner told me this - it's obvious that the shops along there are vibrant, successful family businesses around which several generations base their lives and a whole community prospers. Despite the large number of fabric shops, which theoretically may make you think business would be hard, all the shops have a constant stream of visitors even in the week and appeared to be doing far brisker trade than any fabric shop I've ever visited. Even if you don't live in London, if you wish to support a fabric-rich part of London from ceasing to be, you can visit the shopkeepers' campaign against demolition on Facebook here.