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.