Every UK-based sewer and sewing blogger has been to Walthamstow Fabric Market. Every single one of them! So last week, my sewing-buddy Red and I made the trip out to E17… and we were not disappointed.
To sum up the experience in one picture:
This is all the fabric I picked up on the day. Guess how much I spent? Just over £30!!! And this includes a number of zippers, threads and trimmings that are not in the picture…
The fabric shops in Walthamstow are really miraculously cheap. Most fabrics are £1 per metre, some £2, but I also picked up a couple for 50p. Whereas you can expect to pay at least £2 for a basic zipper in John Lewis, there they cost 20 to 50p (£1,50 for the really long, divisible ones which would easily be a tenner elsewhere). In return, you can’t expect the fabric to be of great quality or to able to find specifically what you’re looking for. The selection is pretty random, so it’s rather an opportunity to pick up unfamiliar or unusual types of fabric and think of something exciting to make with it. For example, I ended up with 2,5 metres of a skin-coloured stretchy fabric which will become who knows what…
As there are so many great descriptions and reviews of the market on other blogs (let me refer you to this, this, and this), I’m not going to bore you with another one, but just add a few things I learned on the day which might be helpful for future visitors:
- The best idea is to start near St James Street Station as the concentration (and quality) of fabric shops and Haberdasheries is highest at this end of the market. St James Street Station can also be conveniently reached on the Overground from East London. If you’re coming from elsewhere, Blackhorse Road station is only a 10 minute walk away and the Victoria Line (as well as other branches of the Overground) go there. You can then work your way down the market and head home from Walthamstow Central :).
- I’m not sure if the famed ‘man outside Sainsbury’s’, praised by many of the other bloggers, is still there. I didn’t see him. Perhaps he’s only there on certain days? If someone knows anything about this, please feel free to leave a comment. I went on a Thursday and there weren’t many fabric stalls in the market in general and we made all our purchases in the permanent shops. I remember one blogger saying that Saturday is the best day to visit the market, so perhaps I’ll try going on that day next time (though I imagine it probably also gets incredibly busy then)
- It might be helpful to know that there is one fabric shop that is slightly more ‘up-market’ than the others: Saaed’s Fabrics. It’s still extremely cheap by wider UK standards, but fabrics there cost up to £15, there is a wider selection and the staff are also more knowledgeable than in most of the other shops (I usually received rather vague answers when I wanted to know more about the fabric I was looking at)
All in all, I’d say that Walthamstow Market is definitely worth a visit and especially thrifty sewers are guaranteed to have a great time shopping there. Once I’ve worked through he stash I picked up this time (or probably much earlier…), I’ll be back!