Fabric Porn: Fabric Shopping in Rome (with some Shoes, Cats, Ancient Ruins, and Cheesecake thrown in for good measure)

While I was on vacation in Italy last month I got a little obsessed about finding fabric stores wherever I went. Yelp was being cheeky and sending me to anything from card & gift shops to a grungy little hole-in-the-wall where a couple who should’ve long since been retired were presiding over some dusty old packages of sheet sets and were NOT happy when I wandered in asking “Tessuti? Avete tessuti?” (fabric? do you have fabric?) in broken Italian. Despite that, I managed to find some fabric shops and I thought I’d share my adventures with you.

I visited three fabric shops in Rome, all within a couple of blocks of each other.

Basetti Fratelli Tessuti (Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, 73)

This was the most extensive fabric shop I visited….room after room after room of fabrics stacked to the (very high) ceilings:

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Bassetti Fratelli fabric shop: view from one room into another

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Another room choc-a-bloc with fabric

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I’m getting sucked into the Bassetti vortex here…it just keeps going.

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A stack of designer fabric. Versace, anyone?

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The old-school ‘cashier’.

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My long-suffering husband kindly colour-coordinated himself for the shirting room.

I was actually way too overwhelmed to buy anything in this store. Option paralysis overcame me and I wandered out in a fabric overload haze.

Azienda Tessile Romana (Via S. Nicola Dè Cesarini, 13) & the The Largo di Torre Argentina Ruins

Just a short walk away from Bassetti Fratelli was Azienda Tessile Romana.

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This was a much more manageable store, although I also left here empty-handed.

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The most interesting thing about this shop for me was its location directly in front of a giant hole in the ground containing, oh, you know, ho-hum, ancient Roman temple ruins over 2,000 years old — the Largo di Torre Argentina. Apparently Julius Caesar was assassinated on or just adjacent to this site. NBD as the kids say ironically, or as as us oldies translate, No Big Deal.

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The Largo di Torre Argentina, ancient ruins just hanging out in the middle of a busy Rome intersection.

This archeological site is in the middle of a fairly large and busy intersection, and you can wander around the edges having a look without buying a ticket or anything. It’s also home to a big feral cat colony who took advantage of all the nooks and crannies and respite from people and cars. You’re allowed to go in to a small area to one side during certain hours to visit the cats, and there’s a small shop of cat toys and souvenirs that help fund the cat shelter.

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Did I visit the cats? Yes. Yes I did.

Did I visit the cats? Yes. Yes I did.

If this were anywhere else but Rome, this spot would be a VBD (Very Big Deal), complete with lineups of tourists anxious to part with their Euros to have a look around. But because it’s Rome, there seems to be something like this on just about every street corner. It’s an amazing city.

Oriani Gioielli Shop, Rodeo Belt Shop, and Discount Italian Shoes

If you were to draw a straight line from the front door of Azienda Tessile Romana right through these ruins and across the street, you would find this little shop that sells jewelry, gloves, and custom-made sandals — pick the style, flat or heel, and the colours and they’re ready within an hour or two. I’m told this style of sandal was popularized around Italy’s Amalfi Coast and the island of Capri.

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But I digress. (I always digress where shoes are involved.) From here I wandered a couple of blocks south and wound up on Via di Sant’Elena, where I found the Rodeo Belts Shop. Here I bought the elusive yellow leather belt I’d been looking for for a couple of years, as well as a black suede wrist cuff.

Just a little further along the Via di Sant’Elena was a discounty-looking shoe store where I bought a really cute pair of ivory-coloured leather high-heeled oxfords for just 39 Euros. The sign outside says “Calzature Donna – Tutto a 39 Euro” and they take cash only. This is the only pair of shoes I bought while I was in Italy, and those who know me personally will know that I exercised jaw-dropping restraint!

Discount Italian leather shoes on the Via di Sant'Elena

Discount Italian leather shoes on the Via di Sant’Elena

Fatucci Tessuti

Around the corner on Via dei Falegnami (#63/64) is a much smaller, more manageable fabric shop than the other two I visited earlier — this one was just my speed. Fatucci Tessuti doesn’t have a sign outside so it’s easy to miss; just look for the red-framed door and the number 63 on the wall.

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The fellow running this shop was very helpful (but camera shy). Lots of lovely silks at reasonable prices, starting at 8 Euros per meter, like this one that the shopkeeper insisted I take a photo of…

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…but it was this cotton print featuring cranes (or maybe geese?) for 12 Euros per meter that I fell in love with.  It has an incredibly fine thread count and it is truly very ‘crisp’ feeling. I love the contrasting orange dots sprinkled on the periwinkle-blue background.

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Jackpot! This crisp cotton print is coming home with me.

I have since made a dress with this fabric, which I’ll share with you in my next post.

If you’re in this area you’d be remiss not to go another few blocks to the “Jewish Ghetto”, centred around the Via del Portico D’Ottavia, where you’ll find the Forno del Ghetto (Bakery of the Ghetto). This is another business with no sign at all out front, so look for the window with the burnt-looking cakes.

The window at the Forno del Ghetto on Via del Portico D'Ottavia. Don't let their appearance fool you.

Cakes in the window at the Forno del Ghetto on Via del Portico D’Ottavia. Don’t let their appearance fool you.

The appearance of these cheese cakes belies their absolute deliciousness! Don’t even let the super-grumpy women gruffly serving the cake deter you from sampling them. Stand your ground when they glare at you when you walk in, and do not waver in your resolve when they bark at you whether you want chocolate or berry! You will be duly rewarded for your courage.

Forno del Ghetto chocolate cheesecake. YUM!

Forno del Ghetto chocolate cheesecake. YUM! I’m only a little shaken after interacting with the shopkeepers. 😉

Have you been fabric shopping in Rome? What treasure troves did you find?

Ranta in Roma: iCandy T-shirt

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World’s fastest sew: the iCandy T-shirt (a free pattern — link below). Fun design details: the shoulder seams sit forward on the front of the Tee, and the back is a couple of inches longer than the front.

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This t-shirt was lucky enough to have its debut in Rome! (And its model is lucky enough to currently be on vacation in Italy!) Ironically, the fabric is Italian-made, but I got it in Toronto from Downtown Fabrics at 436 Queen Street West. Anyone who’s shopped there knows that the shop owner makes lots of lame jokes (“For you? Only one yard avail-ee-able!”) and also makes you read out the label on each fabric he shows you: “Look at this! What does that label say?” If you don’t play along, he answers for you: “Ee-talian!!!! Best quality! Look at this one! Tell me what’s on that label!” “Ee-talian!!!,” I shout back.

I think it’s viscose. One day I will start writing down what the hell I’m buying when I actually buy it. It’s got amazing drape. I have enough of both the patterned fabric and the solid turquoise to make something else…a swishy skirt, maybe?

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In other news, I got brand new Brother electronic sewing machine! In related news, it doesn’t work properly! I used it on this T-shirt but it kept eating the fabric…sucking it right down into the mouth of the feed dogs. Since I got the machine only a few days before leaving for Italy, I didn’t have the time or the inclination to figure out WTF so I finished the T-shirt with a zigzag stitch on my old Singer machine, which chose this very same moment to simply refuse to sew a twin needle stitch. I got this MF done with only hours to spare before it was time to leave for the airport, nerves a bit frazzled, but calmed by the thought of vacation. I’ll wrestle the new machine into submission when I get home…I’ll need the exercise to work off all the pasta, cheese, and gelato I’ve been eating.

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I mentioned the iCandy T-shirt is a free pattern. <RANT>Here’s the link, but be warned: there is so much extra advertising garbage on that page that your internet connection will suddenly slow right down while the page AUTOMATICALLY loads no fewer than FOUR unwanted video advertisements.  Seriously? What a pain in the ass. So if you don’t mind either paying for all that extra data download, or patiently tracking down all the video windows to click the pause buttons, then there’s a cute, easy T-shirt pattern waiting as your reward. I’m happy that crafty bloggers are able to pay themselves through advertising on their sites but visiting that page was just ridiculous.</RANT>

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One other note about the pattern: it comes only in size medium, but it is such a simple design — it’s just 3 pieces: front, back, neckband —  that you can easily modify it for other sizes. I cut & sewed the medium for a slightly baggy fit. I like this combination of fabrics and I’m sure I’ll wear this T-shirt a lot.