September 23, 2015

The mystery cheap Liberty fabric shop… and a trip to Londontown!


Today, dear readers, we have a mystery…

But we’ll get to that in a minute. I just got back from a lovely trip back to the UK, visiting family (who recently moved to London from the north of Scotland), friends and new babies, and, of course, a few fabric shops.

My trip kicked off with a visit with my Mum to the Handmade Fair, a big crafts fete in the grounds of Hampton Court Palace, hosted by Kirsty Allsopp, a famous British property-TV presenter who’s branched out recently into floral crowns and applique, as one does. While pottering around tents full of fabric, glitter and glue guns was fun, the highlight was meeting Jane (of Handmade Jane) and Rachel (of House of Pinheiro) for the first time! You know how sometimes meeting someone in person is nothing like you expected? Well not here – I can exclusively report that they’re both exactly as you’d imagine 🙂 We noshed down on the poshest food truck fare I’ve ever seen (I can recommend duck confit wraps and churros for lunch), had a gossip, and Rachel even Periscoped a little interview. Have you ever tried Periscope? It’s a way of transmitting live video – it has a lot of potential, but when I tried it out myself I just had some random man asking me to eat cheese with him. I’m not saying that’s a *bad* thing per se, just.. not what I expected!

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A few days later, another bloggy meet up! This time I met up with Katie, Fiona, Nicole and Alison, and we had a nosy around the Soho shops. In Cloth House, Katie pointed out the black brushed cotton she made some Ginger Jeans with, so naturally, I bought it. I’m terrible at buying solids so when I get a good reco, I’m going for it. We headed into Liberty, but Katie let me know that I should try Shaukat Fabrics instead.. well we’ll get to that in a second!

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I popped back to Soho a few days later and went to Misan Textiles, a really gorgeous high-end fabric store. Curiously, most of the stock on the main floor is solids, but if you go downstairs into the clearance section all of a sudden there’s lots of fun prints – much more my style. I found this gorgeous set of tweeds, and ended up buying the second one down, for over 60% off!

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Ok, so you’ve been wondering about the mystery, have you? Well here it is: the existence of Shaukat Fabrics, in Kensington. Here’s the thing: they have about 100 times the stock of Liberty fabrics than Liberty has… for way less money. As in, lawn is 17 pounds vs. 22 – 24 in the store, and jerseys/silk/twill etc. are around 20 vs. around 49 in the store! Not only that, but they have the latest collections, on top of a huge selection of past collections. How is that possible?! When I put it to Twitter, some people thought maybe it’s seconds – which is possible, except that there were no visible issues to me. Liberty also apparently knows of its existence and even refers people there…

I don’t understand. But I’m willing to participate!
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There are corridors and rooms full of pre-cut pieces of Liberty, I think mostly 2 and 3 meters.

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And then rolls and rolls of more.

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Somewhat ironically, I’m not the biggest fan of Liberty usually because those tiny ditsy prints don’t really look at the right scale on my body. However, I did pick up two awesome pieces. The first is the pears which I feel have done the rounds of the blogosphere for years! This is a slightly heavier textured cotton than a traditional lawn, which will make a great skirt or top. The second is a gorgeous silk satin print, which I’m going to use as the lining for my trenchcoat – it would have been prohibitive at Liberty prices, but doable at Shaukat prices!

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Finally, after all that excitement, I got to round my trip off with two more awesome ladies. First up, T, who’s not only my friend and part of the original CSC team, but also my graphic designer! Three-for-one. We finally got the chance to meet up in person and she’s every bit as awesome as I imagined, and we no doubt entertained the entire restaurant with our cackling. And then I also had the chance to catch up for a pint (OK, G&T and glass of wine) with Karen of Did You Make That – yet another awesome sewist. I know, I’m sort of boring, but it’s true.

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Phew! I’m now at home with jetlag, with my fabric in pre-wash, and plans afoot. Now that my family lives in London I’m also looking forward to lots more London sewing fun in the future!

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26 thoughts on “The mystery cheap Liberty fabric shop… and a trip to Londontown!

  1. gilliancrafts says:

    Welcome home! (OK, question – You are scottish, right? Does going to England count as “going home” because it’s in the UK? Or not?)

  2. Weeelllll.. I was born in France. To parents who were born in Wales. And then I lived in England and Brunei, and then when I was 9 I moved to Scotland, and then left again when I was 17. So… I’m British! So it does count, I reckon 😉

    1. gilliancrafts says:

      Ahhh! Fair enough. So half the world is “home” in some way?! 😉

  3. I watched Rachel’s periscope and it looked like you gals were having a fun day. We need a handmade fair (and cheap Liberty!) in Boston! 🙂

  4. michelleinsea says:

    Your trip looked like so much fun on IG! I’m going to have to hit you and Rosie up for all of the good fabric store recommendations before I go to London with my husband in a few months. (BTW–Our hotel is supposed to be just an 8 minute walk from Shaukat.)

  5. Jane says:

    Wow, you packed a lot in Jenny! So lovely to meet you – you were exactly as I imagined too! Ooh I must check out Shaukat, I’ve bought from them online a couple of times but didn’t realise their shop was so ginormous. x

  6. Jennifer says:

    I was in London last week and had Shakut on my list but almost didn’t go over there as it was a bit out of the way – then I saw your Instagram posts! So glad I did I bought *cough* five precut lengths. There’s meant to be another outlet in Lancaster which is Fridays adventure.

  7. Misans’ remnants basement is pretty much the only place I look for fabric in London – mostly because of what you noticed – they have great tweeds, wools and prints down there, at a price that is almost affordable! I bought tweed for my last two tailoring projects there.

  8. At the risk of being a hideous enabler….you do know that Shaukat has a website, no?https://www.shaukat.co.uk/
    *whistles as she shuffles off into the distance* 😉

  9. Jane says:

    Ooh that tweed is gorgeous! I commented on Instagram about being a fabric retailer (who stocks a bit of Liberty) and wondering how on earth the whole Shaukat thing works. Thanks for putting it out there! As you say it is all the more baffling since they have current seasonal prints – it’s not selling off excess older stock. Maybe there’s some weird secret handshake deal going back generations, or something! It’s a bit frustrating for those of us who have to go through the regular full-price channels, but there you go.

  10. laurence says:

    Very interesting! Next time Herman goes business trippin’ in London, he will have a mission 🙂

  11. Kathryn says:

    Ooh look slike you had a brialliant time, and you did so much! isn’t Shaukat amazing?! Hmm now you’ve made me think I need some Liberty silk to line a wool Victoria blazer I’m planning.

  12. Oh Shaukat, Shaukat, you are my ruin! I’ve been twice and both times basically had to live on bread and water for the rest of the month. So glad you found those two fantastic prints! Misan I did not know, thanks for the tip- I am off to London in late December and shall investigate!

  13. ellegeemakes says:

    What a fun trip! Lucky you! I can’t believe that store has so much Liberty! What an incredible find….

  14. MJ says:

    I’ve sent a friend and my mother in law (MIL is British, friend is American) to Shaukat to buy Liberty for me. The fabric is definitely not second run. It’s the real deal! It might depend on which type and print you buy. The Tana Lawn was not as expensive as it is in the US (maybe about $10 – $12 less per yard) but I assumed that was because I wasn’t paying for importing it and dealing with the exchange rate that maybe the US shops have to deal with when they buy it wholesale. Plus having someone buy at the shop and bring it with them to the US in their luggage to give to me means no shipping. It’s pretty great. the two people that bought for me said the service is a bit gruff and snooty but they were troopers and got the job done.

    If you are going to London (or you know someone that is) you should definitely put this on your list. I always pre-shop their website and send my friend/family member with a pic of the fabric and the name and price.

  15. Houseofpinheiro says:

    Realmente lovely to finally meet you in person. Periscope for me been ok but someone say they get often strange people asking random stuff like that.

  16. Catherine says:

    I agree, Shaukat is a fantastic shop, with a huge range of Liberty fabrics. There’s no suggestion that they’re seconds, I think. I’m a fan of Liberty design and it’s a pity that the ditsy floral patterns are what spring to mind for many people. There’s about to be a major Liberty exhibition in London, and I’m pretty sure it bring Liberty back to the forefront of everyone’s attention, for the quality of the design and of the range of different fabric types (although the silk is so fine it’s quite tricky for amateur sew it’s like me to work with). If you’re in the provinces and are looking for a Liberty fix, you might be interested to drop in to Fred Winter next time you’re in a Stratford upon Avon – they have a small selection of Liberty, often have a reduction on a range of rolls, and their remnant table (beautifully set out) makes it possible to buy the odd metre at really reasonable prices.

  17. Hi Jenny, just met you via Seamwork Radio. Listened to your podcast this am. I too am a fellow Brit living in Northern California. Am now after many years of absence totally back into the sewing and quilting groove. Loving every minute of it and wish there were more hours in the day to create. Really enjoyed your podcast. Look forward to reading your blog. Stephanie.

  18. erniek3 says:

    I am a huge fan of the geometric and odd Liberty prints (I have the Breuer Chair print, on black, for example). I think it’s the precuts that i’d dump if I were Liberty’s shop (they used to have a back room full of them on perpetual markdown, why anyone would buy them I’ve no idea). Their instore shop has had it’s ups and downs – I recognise that London map print from 2006, too rich for me at the time. The paisleys and arts and crafts prints are nice as little linings, but as a full on item, ohgodno. Did that once. Big big mistake.

  19. It was great to meet you, Jen, and I LOVED your Seamworks radio podcast. It was so funny hearing you talk about certain experiences with hostility after I’d been telling you about my weekend encounters with taxi drivers!

  20. Victoria says:

    The Handmade Fair was wonderful! I took my little old lady shopping trolley and was so glad I did because I did the upholstery workshop and ended up carrying two drop in seats home, as well as ALL THE THINGS I bought. So dangerous but really inspiring day.

    On the Thursday before I bumped into Josh Harnett and Tamsin Eggerton in Liberty (literally, slightly embarrassing) and in my distraction accidentally bought two metres of fabric. You know how that goes right? ????

  21. Caroline says:

    Thank you so much for pointing this out. I finished work early today and was able to bag myself two metres of the most beautiful red silk satin with oak leaves on it. I have no idea what I’ll use it for, although I’m leaning towards vintage ‘tea dress’ atm.

    1. Yay for fabric shopping enabling! A tea dress in red silk oak satin sounds like THE BUSINESS.

  22. sjmcclelland says:

    My parents-in-law took my son to London this summer. I had jokingly asked them to bring me back some Liberty fabric. They discovered Shakut on line before their trip to and it was very close to their hotel. I have 2 metres of tana lawn in pink and purple. oh the texture.

  23. Raparapa says:

    Wow! awesome stuff and I will try it when school holidays wohooo.

Let me know what you think!