Sewing in far-away (close-by) places

Hi friends! Do you live in a remote place? (I’m open to various interpretations of the word “remote”– it’s all relative, after all.) I’m really interested to hear about the challenges you face when you don’t have fabric and pattern stores within a short trip nearby. Where I live, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, there’s an embarrassment of riches when it comes to places to purchase fabric, sewing machines, specialty notions, and patterns. There must be at least a dozen fabric stores just in the Queen Street / Spadina Ave alone. (Real talk: this doesn’t seem to prevent me from getting crotchety when I can’t find *just* *the right* *fabric* among the thousands of options on offer. #firstworldproblem) There are also plenty of sewing studios that offer lessons and rental access to machines in this city. Now that I’m thinking of it, I really need to start a damn gratitude journal, possibly entitled “gratitude for the crotchety type”.

So what about you? What’s the situation where you live? Is it hard or even impossible to get the patterns, fabrics, and supplies you need? Are shipping costs prohibitive for ordering what you need online? Is there a strong sewing community where you live or do you feel like a lone wolf sewist? If you experience any or all of these challenges, how do you cope?

Please leave a comment. I’d love to hear what “life as a sewist” is like in your corner of the world.

Oh, and when I googled “sewing in remote places” just to see what was out there, I got a giant boatload of links to tutorials for sewing a remote control holder for your couch. Lol. Here’s a good one from Sewing Rabbit: http://mesewcrazy.com/2016/02/how-to-make-a-remote-caddy.html

Thanks for stopping by!

— Lori

 

IMG_7143
In the sewing studio at the Dagoretti Child in Need centre in Nairobi, Kenya. (Maybe the most “remote” place, at least relative to where I live, that I’ve sewn.)

sewing_nairobi

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28 thoughts on “Sewing in far-away (close-by) places

  1. Yes, I probably need a gratitude journal… I live in downtown Toronto, I could probably walk to Queen and Spadina in 40 minutes, but it still irks me that I can’t buy sewing supplies within easy walking distance.

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  2. I live in a major US metro area and there is no place to buy quality garment fabric within striking distance. Thread, they have thread, which is good for color matching. Every single other sewing thing has to be ordered on line. Forty years ago when we moved to our current house there were many options, including a place with adequate fabric within walking distance, but no more. Count your blessings!

    ceci

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    1. I’ve noticed a change over the last 30 years or so, too…there were more ‘big box’ fabric stores around back then (Fabricland here in Canada) and they slowly closed up a lot of locations. Then in the last 10 years or so there have been more ’boutique’ type fabric stores popping up all around.

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  3. I live in Halifax and have basically Fabricville and a small mostly quilting shop to choose from. Online is expensive but I love to spend a lot of time on line.
    I’m coming to Toronto for a couple of days this weekend and would love to hear your recommendation for apparel fabrics that are unusual and unique. I’d love to check out every shop but time is so limited! I’d be very grateful for your advice!

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    1. Hi Marcia! If you only have limited time I would focus an afternoon on Queen Street West between Spadina and Bathurst. There are about a dozen fabric shops along that block. There is also King Textiles on Spadina just south of Queen on the east side which is quite large. If you have time to hit another area, Queen Street further west at Brock has Designer Fabrics (2 large floors of home & garment fabric and tons of trims and leathers) and The Workroom in on Queen street near there, mostly focusing on quilting fabrics but they carry a good selection (if expensive) of indie patterns. I hope you have a ball!

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  4. Not a remote corner.. I live in GTA, most of my fabric and notions are either from Fabricland or from USA shipped my postbox across the border. I loved wazoodle years ago when it still sold apparel fabrics ..

    Decades ago, when I lived in a small town in India, woven nonstretch fabrics were easy to come by … notions not so much… I learnt machine sewing on my mom’s treadle when I was 9 and at that time, electric machines were owned only by some professional tailors.

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  5. I live close to a Fabricland and a carefully curated independent fabric store. I feel fortunate, however, that doesn’t stop me from buying fabric in Edmonton or Toronto when I’m on a trip. The selection in these larger centres is incredible!

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    1. I know what you mean. I have learned how to pack very light for traveling (a miracle!) so I can stuff the empty space in my suitcase with fabric. I like that having a specific goal in mind (i.e. buying fabric, or yarn, or whatever) gives you a reason to go to corners of whatever city you’re visiting that you wouldn’t necessarily go to if you were just following the tourist track.

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  6. That’s why thrift shops are so useful. We have the only option of Joann’s Fabrics, which is good in its way, but lots of thrift shops with clothing made from great quality fabrics that can be reused.

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    1. Great idea! I am always poking around in the Extra Large section of thrift stores! Such a good idea. I even found a very long length of sari fabric at Value Village last year.

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  7. Hello Lori B., Lorie K. here. JUST stumbled upon “The Firehose” and I feel I have found a place of kindred spirits. Your question is sensitive and has hit the spot for me, for I feel the lack of a sewing community here very acutely. Quilters here do have a wonderful community, and a fantastic store (The Quilting Bee, Spokane Valley) but for companionship in apparel sewing, my current main passion, I feel as if I am stranded on a desert island with a Joanne’s and one other small fabric shop (both an hour’s drive away) and the internet, but no groups near my home to fellowship with about it all. My Mom used to sew, in fact all of my clothes through grade school came through her magical machine (which she gave to me when she upgraded!) My sister has a machine, but is mainly focusing on mending these days. Thank you for asking, someone out there cares!

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    1. Hello Lorie K! Thanks for chiming in. It’s nice to have an online community when there isn’t a geographically close sewing community–thank goodness for that. What a treasure your mom’s magical machine is — a family heirloom! Treasure it.

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  8. Hi Lori! I’ve lived in Bellingham, WA for the last year and a half… It’s a college town close to the US/Canada border, and roughly in-between Vancouver and Seattle. We have a Joanne’s and a Ragfinery (still need to check this one out) here in town, but that’s prettymuch it. There is a sewing studio in town that offers classes as well. I buy most of my patterns online anyway. For fabric, I have picked up the habit of fabric shopping anytime we are in a bigger city. I like buying from local businesses and enjoy discovering new fabric shops in the cities we travel to. My last fabric purchases have been from Seattle, Portland, Chicago, and Vancouver.

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    1. Hi Amy. Thanks for your comment. Funnily enough, it was in Portland, OR that I rekindled my interest in sewing back in 2013. I was there on my own for a conference, and during my wanderings I happened by a cute sewing shop called Josephine’s Dry Goods. (Do you know it?) I hadn’t sewn anything for years but for some reason I was inspired to buy a pattern there, and then I started sewing and now I can’t stop! And even though I live in a big city, I always make a point of visiting yarn or fabric shops wherever I travel, whether it’s a big city or a small town.

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      1. OMG yes! I was just at Josephine’s back in September. I’m not sure if it was the owner I talked to or not, but I ended up buying a stretchy knit fabric, and she recommended a pattern to me as well that I ended up purchasing. Really cute/well-curated store. And the neighborhood was fun, too. 🙂

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  9. Good discussion topic!
    I don’t live in a remote area but where I do live in England fabric shops are very thin on the ground. I have to rely on ordering on line, getting samples first if I can be patient or just chancing my luck and ordering fabric in the hope the description is accurate. I would love to be able to spend hours browsing around the isles and feeling fabric but that is a special treat for me involving a day trip to the city

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    1. Hi Jane. Thanks for your comment. I order fabric online, too, when shipping rates are reasonable, and now that I know more about fabric I’m getting better at anticipating the drape and feel of the fabric from its description. But sometimes I am surprised, and I try to let the surprise just guide me towards maybe making something different than I had in mind and experimenting with a fabric that I normally wouldn’t gravitate to in person. That can be fun.

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  10. I live just outside a small BC town (Sechelt). It’s fairly easy to get into Vancouver by ferry and there are a few nice fabric shops there but not many (Fabricana, Atex). Locally, there’s a small shop that carries only Pfaff sewing machines (fortunately, I like Pfaffs) but I do have to take my machine into Vancouver if it needs repairs or service. The fabric selection in this local shop is pretty small. I think local people are more into quilting than garment sewing. I have bought fabric online from both Canadian (Blackbird and Thread Theory) and American (Marcy Tilton, EmmaOneSock) sources and find that, while good quality in all cases, colours and fabric hand are sometimes a bit of a surprise. American sources are really the best in terms of selection but the low Canadian dollar and the exorbitant shipping costs make it very expensive to buy fabric from these suppliers. Blackbird is good, but limited; same with Thread Theory. I’m not aware of any Canadian online sources with the breadth of choices of, say, EmmaOneSock. So all in all, it’s kind of frustrating sewing in a small town. Happily I accumulated a very large stash when I lived in Vancouver and had Gala Fabrics (now closed) across the street from me so I’m good for a couple of years. I’d be very interested in knowing about other online Canadian fabric sources that aren’t focused on quilting cottons. Thanks for asking!

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    1. Hi Catherine. Sounds like a ferry is a bit of a commitment, though, yes? I find that most of the Canadian online fabric shops have fairly small selections. Have you tried L’Oiseau fabrics (loiseaufabrics.com)? I have ordered from there several times and have always been happy. If anyone has other suggestions for Canadian online retailers, we’re all ears!

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  11. Hello! I live in a small rural village inland Catalonia, 150 km from Barcelona. When I was a kid, every woman in my street and family used to sew, and there were 3 or 4 good fabric stores in our nearest town, Lleida. 30 years later, nobody sews here but me, haha! (apart from patchwork, I don’t understand the fuss) I am, like some of you, an odd specimen here! But I don’t feel alone, thanks to the wonderful internet community I found some years back. You are all my sisters! Regarding supplies, only one shop is left in Lleida, and I cannot buy anything there, since I’ve got quite a rare gusto for natural fibers. In Barcelona, a city that was famous for its seamstresses and designers, there is only one big shop where every fabric contains poliester. Not for me. Thus I have an excuse to travel to Lisbon, Paris, London…. everywhere I travel I look for fabric shops! I love London specially.

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    1. I wish I’d known where you live when I visited Barcelona a couple of years ago…150 km isn’t too far to a Canadian! Sad how sewing fell “out of fashion” but maybe it’s coming back. Interesting times politically in your neck of the woods these days! What’s the latest…independence for Catalonia or no? How is all the uncertainty affecting you?

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  12. Hi from Birmingham UK [the first and best lol]
    I’ve always sewn alone, so think nothing at all of having a ‘community’ tbh. I really enjoy blogging now, and reading other blogs, and have made lots of friends via various sewing fora…I don’t feel that I actually neeeeeeeed them for sewing purposes though!
    I’ve always been very lucky, in that Birmingham has always had a BRILLIANT group of markets in the city itself, and used to have a couple of large department stores with HUGE sewing sections too. The department sewing sections are now much reduced, but the markets still go on, along with two large warehouse style fabric emporia.
    The city is very ethnically diverse, so I can get sari fabrics, African wax prints, astonishing trims, and lots of other goodies. I still shop online too for more specialised bits and bobs.
    I often organise meet ups of sewing pals via my blog or FaceBook too, and we have a whale of a time…including plenty of eating and boozing to celebrate our hauls. It’s good to be a Brummie!

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    1. Ahhhh! I just made the connection about SewBrum that I’ve seen around online, and Birmingham! Now I get it. Lol. I think I need to put Birmingham on my list of places to visit. We’ll go fabric shopping!

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  13. I grieved the loss of Hancocks fabric in my neck of the woods for a long time ( and still do whenever I drive by its old store front which is now a Planet Fitness) so the only options in my area are Wal-mart and Hobby Lobby, both completely uninspiring and I have mixed feelings about giving Hobby Lobby my money. Any who now I buy most of my fabric from FabricMart although occasionally I will drive 1 1/2 hours to the closest Joanns for something. We also have a local quilt shop but has no apparel fabrics…boo.
    There’s no apparel sewing community that I can find near me. I have pitched the idea of my teaching an apparel sewing class at a local quilt shop and am waiting for the shop to get back to me. So hopefully soon I can infect others with the obsession that is garment sewing 🙂
    As far as a gratitude journel, I highly recommend them, Duke did a study about them that is really good and I have kept one for almost three years.

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