Tag Archives: fabric stores

Buying Fabric in San Francisco

Front of Frabric Outlet store showing signage

Here’s what it looks like from the outside

I made a visit to Fabric Outlet in the Mission District of San Francisco in order to post a review as a community service to you all.

In truth, I was was pretty keen to to see the place as it had such good reviews on line.

I’d been to the Mission District before, where Fabric Outlet is located, in order to visit Gracias Madre vegan Mexican restaurant, which Tinkerer and I were invited to on a previous holiday after requesting an authentic San Francisco dining experience. I loved Gracias Madre but I think it’s fair to say that Tinkerer regards vegan cheese as a bridge too far.

I remembered the area around the 16th and Mission BART station as grimy and impoverished. This time I visited in the mid-morning and I found the area downright unpleasant.

If you decide to visit, wear closed shoes, or at least your Birkenstocks to get your feet off the ground a bit. I understand that homelessness and poverty are complex problems to solve, but getting a street cleaner out on a regular basis should be manageable by the local authorities. The stench of urine around the BART station was overwhelming. And don’t get me started on the pigeons. If you have a bird phobia at all, stay away.

Interior view of fabric Outlet showing rolls of ribbon

And the inside

It was a short walk to Fabric Outlet and I recommend visiting if you have a need for a specialty fabric or anything unusual such as fake fur, or leather, or sequins. The range is excellent and includes notions, patterns and upholstery fabric. Prices seemed reasonable to my inexperienced eyes and they had a 40% off promotion running on the day I visited. Sadly for me the promotion didn’t include oil cloth, which was the one thing I was looking to buy.

The style of the store was also more human than you might find at a fabric store at a suburban mall, perhaps due to it being located in a basement and having fewer bright lights to dazzle you.

The only fabric I brought home that day was a couple of metres of new quilting type fabric from Thrift Town next door. I’m still not sure if it is 100% cotton or a blend, but as I’m planning to use it for rug weaving I’m happy either way.



A Visit to Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Supplies

img_0363In the interest of research I made a trip to Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Supplies at Pacific Commons in Fremont, California. The location is quite beautiful, as you can see from this car park photo. It feels like those hills follow you wherever you go in these parts, and they are spectacular to look at, particularly when the setting sun exaggerates the contours of the land by casting deep shadows. I got to Pacific Commons by bus, itself an adventure in this state where the car, SUV and truck reign supreme.

Shelving units at Jo-Ann's

It’s a spacious store

Generally I’m finding bus travel to be convenient and easy, though sometimes you can be faced with some serious walks just to get from one place to another once you reach your destination, particularly when you are going to a new shopping centre in a suburban location. It appears the planners assumed you would be driving, rather than walking, from one shop to the next.

I had read about Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores  as a place where many sewers get their fabric. The range was large and the whole shop was huge.  Many blog posts mentioned  making purchases only with a coupon and I could see why, as prices seemed to be on the high side. Financially, you’d definitely better off buying fabric in Bangkok though no shop I have seen in Bangkok could match Jo-Ann’s for range. And then there’s the cost of the air ticket…

Bolts of unpatterned fabrics on display shelvesThe selection of upholstery fabric was really impressive and it was good to see both upholstery fabric, fashion fabric and quilting fabric all in the same shop. That doesn’t tend to happen in Australia or New Zealand.

I bought a couple of dress patterns and some crochet cotton to continue my band weaving using a finer weight yarn, in the hope it will give me a better finish.

The checkout operator generously let me use my 40% off coupon even though it hadn’t downloaded correctly to my phone. Full marks for customer service on that one.


Jim Thompson House and Jim Thompson Factory Shop – Bangkok

Boiling Silk Cocoons at the Jim Thompson House Museum

Boiling Silk Cocoons at the Jim Thompson House Museum

The Jim Thompson story is a fascinating one. A trained architect and former CIA agent, he is credited with reviving the Thai silk industry in the period after World War II. He settled in Bangkok and transported traditional teak houses from regional locations to form his home, collecting an art collection at the same time. In 1967 he disappeared in mysterious circumstances. His Bangkok home is now the Thai House and Museum and visiting it richly rewards the visitor.

The museum can only be visited as part of a guided visit. The experience is well-managed so you get just enough time to have a look around before your are shepherded on to make way for the next group. It’s a popular tourist destination that does get busy, helped, I imagine by its central location within an easy walk of the National Stadium BTS Sky Train station and the ever popular MBK shopping centre.

There is a loom on site, but it has not been restored to working condition so the insights for the weaver are few, though they did have a beautiful young woman to spin silk and pose for photographs.

Silk Spinner at Jim Thompson House Museum

Look at the Girl, not the background

The other side of the Jim Thompson story are the Jim Thompson retail outlets which sell silk fabrics, scarves, clothing, bags and homewares. These retail outlets are dotted around places that tourist frequent, including on the museum grounds and Bangkok airport. Prices are high and for the bargain (or at least discount) hunter, there are six factory sales outlets in tourist friendly locations around Thailand, including Bangkok.

We visited the Jim Thompson Factory Shop in Bangkok and found it to be a good retail experience. The outlet shop  has a good range of upholstery fabrics in silk, linen and more, plus furnishing items.


The address is 153 Sukhumvit Soi 93. To get there on public transport take the BTS Sky Train to Bang Chak station, use  Exit 5, then walk up Soi 93. You can’t miss the Jim Thompson Factory Shop as it’s a stand alone four or five storey building on the left hand side of the road and it has the name out the front.

The view from Bang Chak BTS Sky Train stop

The view from Bang Chak BTS Sky Train stop

The Jim Thompson Factory Shop is open daily 9am- 6pm. If you are looking for high quality, well packaged gift or souvenir items, this is a good place to go.

Fibre and Fabric in Devonport, New Zealand

We found two fibre and fabric related destinations in the picturesque suburb of Devonport today.

Old post office Devonport

The old Post Office

Devonport is a short ferry ride from downtown Auckland. Or you can drive across the Auckland Harbour bridge which was opened in May 1959. The bridge quickly proved to have insufficient capacity so lanes were added to the outside of the main structure. The additional lanes were sourced in Japan and at the time were referred to as ‘the Nippon clip on.’ It sounds vaguely racist these days but I feel obliged to share the story.

A glimpse inside the shop

Wild and Wooly Yarns

Wild and Wooly Yarns describe themselves as a wicked and deliciously decadent wool store. It’s located in the charming old Post Office building which has wonderful wooden floors. The stock seemed to be aimed at knitters and it did, indeed, look appealing, though for knitters, not weavers.

Cushla’s Village Fabrics also has a shop in Devonport. We had previously visited their Waihi store, which was located in a traditional New Zealand villa.

Cushla's Village Fabrics, Devonport

Cushla’s Village Fabrics, Devonport

Cushla’s in Devonport was a more traditional shop in a shopping centre but had the same excellent range of quilting fabrics, lots of kits and Kiwiana. Cushla’s must be doing well. They have just opened a third store in Mapua, near Nelson, in the South Island. Good on them.

Antique Fabric and Lace in Auckland, New Zealand

I’ve been away and while I was overseas I received a bunch of comments, offering me all sorts of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. My addiction is, of course, fabric and I managed to check out a fabric shop and a craft market while I was in Auckland, New Zealand.

Let’s start with fabric and leave the market for another day.

They say New Zealand is a bit like stepping back in time, and that’s true, especially when you go to a shop like Antique Fabric and Lace in the Onehunga Mall.

The street address is 132 Onehunga Mall Onehunga. If you’re after lace, patches, leather, hessian or anything odd or unusual you might just find it there. It’s a bit of a treasure hunt and a bit of an adventure but don’t expect to walk out with arm fulls of fat quarters.

Sewing_Machine_World For those, you’ll have to pop across the road to Sewing Machine World which had a nice collection of Kiwiana fat quarters at a range of prices.

Right around the corner is the Dressmart outlet mall which is always worth a look.

Fabric Shop Fun in Sin City

You know how countries and cities like to make jokes about each other, Canada vs USA, Australia vs New Zealand, Belgium vs Holland, and so on? Sydney and Melbourne are a bit like that, too, though just like those other places, we love each other underneath the good-natured jokes. Hence, Sydney, sin city.

My work took me to Sydney last week. It’s not often they let me out of the office so it was a welcome change. Not only did I have two highly productive days of working with one of my company’s very important customers, but I was able to fit in a visit to some fabric stores, too, in the inner suburb of Surry Hills.

We Melbourne people are straight-laced, slow-paced and dress in black. They say Sydney people are just the opposite. Personally, I love visiting a town that has hills, with streets that don’t run on a nice tidy grid and where tradesmen wear board shorts teamed with high visibility tops. (I saw this in Sydney. It would never happen in Melbourne. Really.)

Loved this Shop

Loved this Shop

I went to The Fabric Store at 21 Cooper Street, Tessuti Fabrics at 110 Commonwealth Street and E & M Greenfield at 30-36 Ann St all in Surry Hills. I wouldn’t recommend any of these shops for quilting supplies but if you love fabric or craft or dressmaking they’re definitely worth a visit.

Greenfield's Shop front

E & M Greenfield – Industrial, hard core and a bit of a Time Warp.

E & M Greenfield are hard core suppliers to the trade, as evidenced by a cutting fee of $3.60 that they apply to any purchase under 25 metres. Similar to Hong Kong the fabric is stored out of reach and you pick what you want up front, in this case, from a binder. They had several binders but I wasn’t in the market for anything in particular so I rummaged among the remnants. Once I’d found the piece I wanted I had to go downstairs to pay for it, then return with my docket to prove I was legal. On the way I passed a wall with time cards – who knew anybody still used time cards?

I loved that the docket for the remnant I bought at E & M Greenfield came with full care instructions. For a $4.40 one metre remnant of cotton drill I got to hear all about the country of manufacture, washing, drycleaning and ironing instructions and that the composition was 100% cotton. I wish all fabric shops did that. E & M Greenfield also have an impressive range of notions. If you need bathing suit cups, that’s the place to go.

Tessuti's Store FrontTessuti Fabrics had bridal and other laces safely stored behind glass, and would be my choice if I wanted to sew evening wear but there was something a bit elitist about them. They have a range of pattern books but only sell Vogue patterns, thank you very much.

The Fabric Store was my stand out favourite. They had a good range of high quality dress and suiting fabrics, including designer brands and hard to find fabrics like wool jersey. There was a lot of lovely linen and linen cotton blends, plus wool blends for coats. In short, it was as far away as you could get from Spotlight in terms of range and quality and their store had a lovely ambiance and gorgeous staff, too.

If you like dressmaking or fabric craft, you NEED to go to The Fabric Store.

If you like dressmaking or fabric craft, you NEED to go to The Fabric Store.

Buying Fabric in Hong Kong

A Star Ferry Boat crossing Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour

The Iconic Star Ferry on Hong Kong Harbour

I had the opportunity to visit Hong Kong over Easter and have some recommendations for my sewing, quilting and pattern making friends. If you desire a local quilt store experience, forget it. You’ll need to be much more of an adventurer than that, but there are ample rewards for getting down and dirty in the streets of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is like many other Asian cities and unlike my hometown Melbourne in that groups of merchants selling a particular item tend to be grouped together geographically. In Hong Kong, you can find goldfish street, funerary items street and so on.

The suburb of Sham Shui Po is where the wholesale fabric merchants are to be found. It’s an older part of town that’s crowded and gritty and fascinating. Well, it’s fascinating if you like that kind of thing. Hanging out with the fashionably clad ‘ladies who lunch’ in the fine eateries of Causeway Bay and Central is fun, too, but a different kind of fun. I enjoy both grit and glamour so I guess I’m well catered for in Hong Kong.

In addition to Sham Shui Po, other locations where you might find fabric are the Western Market (for silk) and the so-called lanes (Li Yuen Street East and Li Yuen Street West) in Central on Hong Kong Island. I’d recommend a visit to the lanes for the overall shopping experience and for fabric buying, but prices seemed steeper in the lanes. I didn’t visit Western Market on this trip, partially because I had found their silk prices silly on a previous visit, more than ten years ago.

I am indebted to Katherine Yeung for her blog post on where to find sewing materials in Hong Kong and Travellersyarn for her blog post on where to buy fabric, both of which I used to guide me on my journey to Sham Shui Po.

Cards with Fabric Samples for Wholesale Purchasing

Sample Cards

The wholesale fabric supply outlets on Ki Lung St appear to cater mostly to tailors and the garment industry and the minimum purchase is five yards. It’s hard to describe the range of the merchandise because there is simply so much of it. Each shopfront has hundreds, if not thousands of cards with fabric samples stapled to them. The composition of the fabric is written on the card and every colourway has a sample. Surprisingly to me, there wasn’t generally a bolt of fabric anywhere in sight, just the cards.

If you’re interested in a fabric, you take the card to the counter and get the price. I was amazed at how quickly the shop assistants were able to come back with a price, given the range of stock. There was clearly a good organisational system happening, but a very low-tech one, involving stock numbers, fabric samples and hard-cover notebooks. Prices seemed excellent, even including the tourist premium I imagine they apply. I didn’t buy from any of the wholesalers as I couldn’t think of a project requiring five yards of fabric so I am unable to report on whether bargaining is part of the purchase process, but I suspect it would be worth a try.

Street Stall with Fabric on the Bolt

There were only a handful of shops selling actual yardage on a bolt but I did manage to pick up three yards of polished cotton from a street stall, which I considered a bargain at HKD 15 per yard. I plan to experiment with using the polished cotton instead of using of polyester or acetate lining for garments.

I also bought some wool suiting  from a retail type-shop.  I was told the suiting was wool, but, on reflection,  I rather suspect it’s polyester-viscose. A burn test should sort that one out, and I’m still happy with the purchase. Sadly I can’t tell you the price, as I don’t remember what I paid.

In case you’re wondering about my carbon footprint (as I do), the universe has punished my carbon emitting ways with a dose of instant karma, in the form of an antibiotic-resistant ear infection which has kept me away from the office for the entire week following my return.

Maybe it’s time to cut back on the travel and stay in the relative safety of my sewing room for a while.