Article

WEST COAST FABRIC SHOPS (…. AND THE FINAL LEG OF MY TRIP)


Drygoods Design fabric store Seattle

Drygoods Design fabric store Seattle

A  large part of my trip out west last month revolved around sewing people, to a somewhat hilarious degree. I had some business to attend to and a bunch of people I wanted to meet, so rather than fly home straight after Vancouver, I headed up the coast to see as many internet buds and cool, independent fabric and sewing spaces as possible.

While I was in Vancouver, I managed to steal Tasia from Sewaholic and Caroline from Blackbird Fabrics away from work for lunch and fabric shopping in Gastown. We had a great time and it was wonderful to talk about the industry with fellow Canadians. As you’d expect, they are awesome and funny and kind, and I somehow walked away with all five patterns from Tasia’s new Vancouver collection – the benefits of meeting on launch day 😉

Almost immediately I found the perfect dense double knit for the Pacific Leggings at Atex Designer Fabrics, along with a beautiful chambray that Tasia had incidentally used for a Sewaholic sample. We also visited Dressew, which is a must visit, especially if you suffer from a zipper fetish, as I do. The basement is basically where all notions go to live in peaceful retirement from the manufacturing industry, and you can find a killer selection of gorgeous high end zippers  for a song (24″ separating Riri zippers for $5!)

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Tasia’s purple hair is even prettier in person. And Caroline single-handedly got me on this Whole30 cult/craze so it was a winning (or losing, if you think about all the sugar I’m about to give up) visit all around.

After my stay in Vancouver, I headed up the coast to Seattle by way of glamourous Greyhound, which incidentally, is 100 times sketchier in the United States than it is in Canada. I have never seen more prison neck tattoos in my life (I also spotted old school “Love” and “Hate” knuckle tattoos while I gave the “I’m not here to make friends” face and tried to take up two seats). After checking into my Airbnb, I met up with the lovely Amy from Sew Well. We walked around Fremont with her adorable daughter and caught up on life (she really needs to blog more about her adventures with home renovation). Later that night I had dinner with Morgan, who makes some of my very favourite things and pointed out where everyone buys heroin downtown because #traveltips.

The next day I went to Seattle’s sewing mecca, Drygoods Design. This is one of the most beautifully curated sewing shops I’ve ever seen; every corner is an instagram and every bolt of fabric wanted to come home with me. I bought a few beautiful shirtings and tried to behave myself.

Drygoods Design fabric store Seattle

Waiting for me with a beautiful smile was Sanae; she’s one of my favourite blog writers, and is everything I imagined/hoped in person. She showed me a sneak peak of her new book; it’s absolutely gorgeous and so thoughtfully organized and written – I can’t wait to get my mitts on it. While we were enjoying a delicious lunch at The London Plane, I also got a chance to chat with Keli, the owner of Drygoods, who is hilarious and outspoken and part of the tribe. It was pretty fascinating to get an insider view into sewing and sewing patterns from a retail perspective. I may share some of my findings on this later, because store owners definitely have a unique and tangible take on what people want to make.

Dry goods fanric store Seattle-4

Drygoods Design fabric store Seattle

Trying to make it count in Seattle, later that afternoon I caught up with Stephanie, one of my most treasured pattern testers (she makes me laugh really, really hard) along with Meghann, who I had never talked to before but who emailed me and offered to show me around. We visited the craft/sewing book section at the Japanese heaven Uwajimaya, and then Meghann took me down to the Pike Place Market. Hidden in the bowels of the building was a fabric consignment store called Our Fabric Stash; Seattle makers with overstuffed stashed closets should check it out if they want to lighten their load. The night ended in a blur, as Meghann is a social butterfly who knew all the good spots. We watched the sun set from a boat in Seattle’s interior lake and somehow ended up country swing dancing. It hurt the next day (I’m getting old), but it was a night to try and remember.

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The following day, hangover and suitcase in tow, I stopped by District Fabric. Guillaume had just called to tell me his visa had gone through so I happy cried a little on the street outside and was still a little verklempt when I went in to chat with the owner Ashley. She has a breathtaking array of fabric; each bolt was obviously chosen with love and a great eye. Coming from the slapdash stores of Montreal, it was refreshing to see fabric handled with the dignity and respect it deserves.

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Next up, I hopped on the Neck Tattoo Express to Oregon. Portland has been on my bucket list for a while, and I could not have prayed for a more Portland time. Portland is so Portland that Portlandia reads like a subtle PBS documentary. On my first day I saw someone with a cornrow beard, and watched the crowds line up for free marijuana from the dispensaries (it was the first day they were allowed to sell directly to the public). I had a few heavenly hours in Powell’s books and found my dream store, Half Pint, which only sells vintage bags and shoes (I scored some Cole Haan boots and a vintage camel Coach purse for a song).

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Portland is also CHOCK FULL Of amazing fabric stores. Seriously. It’s crazy. I had a great conversation with Michelle, one of the owners of Modern Domestic, and fell hard for some Robert Kauffman plaid flannel when I wasn’t petting the high end Berninas they have in stock. I also stopped by Bolt, who have a hand picked collection of lovely fabric and a ton of indie patterns. Also worth noting is Josephine’s Dry Goods in southeast Portland. The taste level in that shop is off the hook.

There were lots of makers to catch up with as well. My second night I met up with Lauren, Kelly and Amy. We had one of those nights where you keep saying you need to leave but find yourself wrapped up in conversation 30 minutes later. The next day I was on assignment for Seamwork, so I got a chance to stop by the Colette offices and meet the team. I’m so grateful to Sarai for all she’s done for the sewing industry, and the more I get to know her the more I love her. It was an honour and inspiration to get to see that place at work.

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My last day in town I had brunch with Peggy from Sew House Seven, before meeting up with Kelly and Lauren again to hit up Mill End Store. It’s much bigger and less “curated” than some of the smaller boutiques in PDX, but I was really impressed with the scope of fabric they carried. Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to Portland without stopping by the Pendleton shop. I picked up a few remnants and an iphone case because I am a huge nerd. We finished the day hanging out with Kelly’s little girls, who are quite possibly two of the sweetest, most hilarious and interesting kids I’ve ever encountered. My ovaries basically started knocking out eggs in response to meeting them.

Pendleton wool fabric

And thus ended the most epic sewing related road trip of my life. I was exhausted and talked out by the time my plane arrived, but I was so happy to finally meet so many friends in person. I also got a lot of good research done and left feeling like I understand the sewing world and my place in it a little bit better. Now to deal with this mountain of fabric….
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Would you ever travel just to meet sewing people? Why does the west coast have the best fabric stores? And how do I build a teleporter to Portland & Seattle so I can visit everyone more often?

  • Wow!!!! That is an epic series of meet-ups! So nice to make those connections with people!

    • The goal is really to just have sewing bffs in every major city. This is my new life goal.

  • I’d totally go on a trip JUST to meet sewing peeps. I’ve made several to NYC to fabric shop and talk all things sewing. So jealous of your wonderful trip 🙂

  • I have made sure trips went by sewing destinations (“Oh honey, look, a fabric store! What a surprise!”) and “accidentally” been there at the same time as Other Internet Persons, but I haven’t done it up properly. Yet.
    That said, it was a true pleasure to meet in person! It was swell (and Kinokinuya really did used to have more sewing books! Really!) and I recommend your company highly!

    • They had the perfect amount of sewing books and I’m so glad we finally got to meet in person! xo

  • Oh my gosh! This sounds like the most amazing trip! I would totally go vacation just to meet sewing friends.

    • I hope you can do it sometime! It’s the best.

  • Next time I go to the NW I am going to have to hit up these stores! I was in Portland last month and finally went to the Pendleton store. I also met up with Lauren and had a blast. Next time you travel there, I recommend taking the Amtrak bus or train. It’s much, much nicer than the Greyhound bus and runs from Vancouver all the way south.

    • Awww, thanks, Beth!! I had so much fun, too!

    • I checked for Amtrak! There were no trains on schedule! Apparently there is another less sketchy bus I could have taken…

  • Ita Vero

    That black and white leopard print fabric is adorable! As a crafting nerd, I would definitely travel around just to see fabric/craft stores! You never know what goodies they’ll carry 🙂

    Stop by:)
    https://itaverony.wordpress.com/
    https://www.etsy.com/shop/itaveroknits

    • Its a great rayon knit – I’m going to mak a a sassy Sallie next spring with it!

  • Michelle Rose

    My husband and I are taking a child-free(!) trip to London in a few months, and damn straight I’ll be working some fabric shopping and a trip to the V&A into that trip. (Granted, as trade-off, we’re also planning to attend a football match over there.)

  • It sounds and looks like it was a total dream trip. I’m spoiled with fabric stores here but I LOVE to look in fabric stores when I travel. Meeting up with fellow sewists is so great.

    • Buying fabric is basically my “souvenir” now that I don’t shop RTW!

  • K_Line

    I have traveled just to meet blog people (some were sewists). Also “Portland is so Portland that Portlandia reads like a subtle PBS documentary” is genius!

    I’ve got some friends at work doing the Whole 30 and they seem really into it (even though they’re both new mums back at work with 2 kids each and every time they slip up, they have to start again). They figure it can’t hurt! I’ve been writing at some length on my blog about my own eating plan, which I’m calling Meditative Eating. It’s loosely based on Primal. It includes daily yoga of varying intensities and lengths. It’s a 2 week thing but I’m likely going to continue with it. The yoga I’m taking a couple of days off from, though. You can’t do yoga every day indefinitely. But 5x a week is good.

    • I can’t even make myself do it once a week. Why is it that all the good things that I know I will appreciate (ie. yoga, meditation, healthy food) so hard to stick to? Drives me crazy.

  • It was so much fun! What a pleasure to hang out with you. I hope to make it to Vancouver sometime! xoxo

  • YES, I would travel to meet sewing people! Sewing people has to be the best online community ever.

    • Its 100% true. My non-sewing friend thought it was hilarious that I could fill a whole week with nothing but sewing friends but like, I’m gonna sightsee instead? Yeah, no.

  • Ha, it’s like we made the exact same trip, at the same time! I think we arrived in Portland just before you, and it’s true, those lines to get pot were amazing and hilarious!

    • Were we in parallel universes, Sliding Doors style?!

      • We must have been. Our mode of travelling (train) had less neck tattoos, but we even met some of the same people.

  • sewinsteady

    So fun to read about your travels! I love the fabrics you picked up. 🙂

    • Thank you! Now to find time to make everything I have planned….

  • missceliespants

    Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed hearing about your trip and all the sewing people you got to meet.

    • Thanks pal! Its funny how meeting new “us”, never gets old, huh?

  • HA! The Greyhound in the States is always an experience. Glad you made it out without getting barfed on! Also, THAT PLAID OMG. Seattle is next up on my vacation list and I might have to bring an extra suitcase just for fabric. Great post!

    • When the city bus dropped me off at the Greyhound Station in Seattle, the stop was a for real homeless tent city, and the two junkies that had been chatting with me on the bus were like “UH, its really not safe here. You shouldn’t get out here.” The bus driver just shrugged as I got out and basically walk-ran to the greyhound station a block away with my big suitcase. And that was one of my less exciting Greyhound stories on this trip, haha.

  • That was so fun! I loved meeting you. 🙂

  • Hélène

    I just read your 3 last posts in a row, catching up with your adventures in travelling the West Coast. What an epic journey! You have a way to put your experiences into words: I feel I’ve been there with you. Great pics too! Everytime I travel, the sewing activities/shopping for fabrics part of my itinerary is always the best of all.

  • Jo

    Great to see a list of shops to check out! I’m flying into Portland from England early next month, and the boyfriend and I are roadtripping it down to San Francisco. It sounds silly, but I can’t WAIT to stock up on Robert Kaufman fabrics. $10 per yard is far better than £13 per metre…

    • Katie Stuart

      If you are going to be in the SF bay area, you should check out Stonemountain and Daughter in Berkeley. It’s a really well curated store! And Berkeley is worth the visit, especially if you’ve never been.

      • Jo

        Thanks for the tip! Adding these to my Evernote list now – Berkeley was on my wishlist and is now on the definite list. 🙂

  • Tammy Dirks

    Sew much fun! I’ve planned vacations around specific fabric stores… which my husband knows about. He carries the bolts and often offers helpful suggestions.

  • Katie Stuart

    I’m for sure going to check out Drygoods design… My parents live in Seattle, and I’ve never been! Insane, I know. Uwajimaya is legit one of my favorite places, though. So many great sewing books!

  • Sounds like an awesome trip! How amazing to meet all those amazing people! I think you have once again confirmed the fact that sewing people are some of the best people!

  • Ha! You’re welcome! But now I realize that the deals we witnessed were child’s play since you arrived by Greyhound… woof. And isn’t Mill End insane?!

  • sanae

    Epic!! Loved loved loved hanging out with you, Miss Heather!

  • Keli Faw

    So happy I was able to meet you and thank you for such kind words! Can’t wait for your patterns in the shop and getting to see you again fingers crossed). Loved hearing about the rest of your trip and fantastic you could connect with some of our favorites too!