DIY fashion is in ladies, and I don't mean sporting a builder's bum and paint splatters in your hair - I'm talking making your own fashion. Whether it's updating your current wardrobe using dye, lace, ribbon or whatever you have to hand, or making a frock from scratch the way Grandma used to, girls all over town are sporting bespoke threads of their own invention.
Some are thrifty, all are creative, these DIY seamstresses have to start with the materials, which, in the case of this little pep talk, actually means material. As in fabric. And choosing your fabric is one of the most creative parts of the dress making process. 'Cause while there are plenty of places where you can buy clothes patterns, most stores stock the same designs, and there are literally thousands of different materials you could choose to drape yourself in.
These are some of the best places to start looking for fabrics in London, places where designers and design students from St. Martins go.
Liberty Liberty has class, and style all of its own. It's a department store where care has been taken over every stock choice and many items have been created specially – including their wonderful range of fabrics. Every season new prints are conceived by their in house designers and invited artists, so everything is limited edition. The current fashion for florals and chintz has meant that many designers are sourcing direct from Liberty – and these co-branded treasures are pricey. So there's every chance your own Liberty creation will be noticed by those who know. Great Marlborough St London W1B 5AH
Cloth House There are two Cloth Houses, one at number 47 Berwick St. and one at number 98. In the 'olden days' this bit of Soho was where all the best fabric shops were, and there are several shops on this street that have made this list. Cloth House makes it because they always seem to have a solid range of staples as well as fancier fashion prints and seasonally weighted fabrics. If you want to see a lot of shades of velvet or cord, or even wool, denim, shirting, poplin, gingham or cotton, then Cloth House is unlikely to disappoint. They also have loads of buttons and trim, some of them vintage, some of them shipped in from more exotic parts of the fabric producing world. 98 Berwick St, London
Fabrics Galore Fabrics Galore specialises in the ends of the range – meaning that this is where all the short and unfinished rolls of fabric come to be sold off. It's not just retail fabric that they sell the ends of either, they also sell fabric commissioned specially by designers. So if you like the idea of having a pair of pyjamas in a Paul Smith stripe then this is the place to make that dream a reality. Because they're the last chance saloon for fabric they have a very high turnover, so they don't have an online store – you just have to take your pick from what you see on the day. I've never been disappointed, but just remember to get plenty of each print, 'cause you can't come back and get more. 52-54 Lavender Hill, London SW11 5RH
Macculloch & Wallis Ltd This is another old-y but a good-y, having sold fabric and haberdashery to Londoners since 1902 – apparently they haven't changed the look of the shop too much since they moved in. They pride themselves in still selling some of the old, quality products, but at the same time they always seem to have something new. They're not so old that you can't check out their wares online in advance though. They do an impressive line in bridal fabrics if you're in the market. 25-26 Dering St. London W1S 1AT
The Cloth Shop The Cloth Shop source gorgeous fabrics from all over the place, they have Swedish rag rugs, Indian silk shawls, Scottish tartans and wools and materials I can't quite recognise or identify. The store is a bit of an Aladdin's cave of wonders, so you might need to have a proper root around to find what you really want. 290 Portobello Road, London, W10 5TE
A To Z Goldhawk Road is another London fabric hub, but this time there's more of an international vibe with plenty of big bold African prints and crazy bright colours. A To Z is a good example of the fabric shops along this street, but they have good basics as well as more exotic offerings, so I often go here first, browse around and then come back and buy. 53 Goldhawk Road, Shepherd's Bush, London, W12 8QP
Back to the Broadwick St. area, Soho Silks has more than just silk, but the do have plenty of silks. This is a neater shopping experience than some of these stores, things are arranged in view – possibly not where you can reach, but they do make it easy to see the breadth of their wares. 22 D'Arblay Street, London W1F 8EG
In the same area, you won't be able to go past Broadwick Silks -because they have some of the nicest window displays you'll ever see. As well as their silks – and they do have a wonderful selection of higher end fabrics – they have a range of more staple fabrics. They say over 14,000 to choose from in all. 9-11 Broadwick Street, London W1F 0DB
Fabrications has fabrics old and new, they're very into renewable design, but it's also a hub for all things designy and creative, so it's a good place to drop in for inspiration and to natter with fellow DIY seamstresses. 7 Broadway Market, Hackney, E8 4PH