Sew Brum Meet-Up: Fancy Silk Store

There’s not long now until the SewBrum meet-up taking place on Saturday 04th October. One of the stores we’ll be visiting on the day is Fancy Silk Store in Birmingham city centre. Fancy Silk Store is located right next to Birmingham rag market & has three floors of fabric, all of which are packed to the rafters.

Alicia from the team at Fancy Silk Store found the time to answer a few questions:

FSS1

Could you tell us a bit more about the store?

Fancy Silk Store is a family-run business set up in the early 1960s and has been around for over 50 years. We started off in Birmingham city centre next to the old Bull Ring complex but had to move to make way for the new Bull Ring shopping centre. We have been at our current location, nestled beside Birmingham’s focal shopping centre the Bull Ring and St Martin’s church, for 15 years. We are on the main route into the city centre for buses and a short walk away from Birmingham’s train stations. We are in a vibrant bustling location with plenty of amenities, and If you want to continue shopping in Birmingham, we’re happy to hold onto your purchases until you’re ready to leave.

We have three floors of fabric. The ground floor houses fashion and dressmaking fabrics such as suiting, cotton, and wool, as well as dance and theatre fabrics. The first floor houses evening wear and bridal fabrics, and the third floor is devoted to furnishing fabrics. We also have a fourth floor stock room which is stacked to the rafters with hundreds of fabrics.

FSS3

Could you tell us about the shop team?

We are a family run business now into its third generation. The manager, Mr Rashid, has been with the business for over 40 years. As well as the family, there are three long-standing senior members of staff (one on each floor) who have been with the business for at least 20 years. They are very experienced, dedicated and more often than not can help you to find exactly what you are looking for and to purchase the right amount of fabric for your project.

You have a huge range of fabric! Could you tell us a bit more about what you have in stock?

We stock a small range of haberdashery items and patterns from Vogue, Butterick, McCalls and Simplicity. However, fabric is our main focus and we try to stock as wide a range of fabric as possible. We probably house one of the largest retail variety of fabrics under one roof in the UK.

The ground floor is a real mix where we stock a very large range of printed and plain cotton, polyester, interlining, felt, suiting, wool, fleece, faux suede, pvc, denim, corduroy, jersey and lycra.

On the first floor we have the fancier fabrics and bridal fabrics. We have chiffon, satin, silk, crepe, and plain, beaded and embroidered lace in a very wide range of colours.

On the third floor we have our furnishing and upholstery fabrics, towelling, hessian, sheeting, pvc, and a whole wall of faux furs.

In addition, we have fabric books from a range of brands that customers can order from in store.

The manager, Mr Rashid, is our main buyer and chooses what is stocked, based on a combination of feedback from staff and customer demand. He also takes into account the latest fashions in clothing and interiors. For example, florals have recently been a growing trend not only in fashion but also interiors and we have beautiful floral prints for both departments. Hat nets and jersey fabrics are a couple of examples where we have increased our range because of customer demand.

FSS4

Do you have a good sense of what your customers want to buy?

In general we do have a good sense of what our customers buy. We have a lot of regular customers not only local but from all over the country and abroad. Our customers vary from home dressmakers, theatres, dance schools, art students, bridal parties, upholsterers and curtain makers, to people just wanting an odd piece of fabric to fix or make something.

We usually have something in stock that’s suitable or if not we can often source it. For example, last year we had a few people looking for neoprene (the fabric used for wetsuits) as it had started to appear on the catwalks and we managed to track down a supplier. It’s also lovely when we have mothers coming in with daughters to choose wedding dress fabric when, perhaps 30 years ago, they had come in with their own mothers to choose fabric for their own wedding dress.

Home sewing has definitely been having a revival and what’s been particularly nice over the last year has been the number of people who have come into the shop who want to sew something for the first time in years.

What are you excited about in the shop right now?

We have been increasing our range of lace fabrics and we have some beautiful laces which, as well as the traditional wedding ivory and white, come in vibrant colours.

With winter coming, we have a huge selection of fleeces, both plain and patterned, including a selection of animal print fleeces. We also have some stunning feather fabric and sequin fabric in time for the Christmas party season.

We’ve also recently had a delivery of beautiful cotton prints, wool worsteds and suiting as well as some good quality heavy-weight jerseys.

In the furnishing department, we’ve had some lovely quirky prints and check fabrics in. In addition to this we have a huge selection of plain and patterned faux fur, some of which is incredibly luxurious.

FSS6

What are your all time best sellers?

I would say that the furnishing and bridal fabrics have always been good sellers.

In particular our bridal fabrics, especially the duchess satins where we have a very wide range of colours at a very competitive price. Our heavyweight crepe has always been a very popular fabric and we quite often get people coming back to buy it in multiple colours.

We also have lots of customers coming in for dance costumes and so we have a very wide variety of lycras which have always sold well.

*****

Thanks Alicia. I will be perusing the neoprene and jersey selections on the 04th!

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Hand Printed Fabric Swap Lou Lou Dress

Hand Printed Fabric Swap Lou Lou Dress

I recently took part in Marilla Walker’s Hand Printed Fabric Swap. I was paired with the lovely Claire from Hoopes Park Studios. Claire correctly detected that I like bright colours and busy prints. I found a very generous 2 metres of this amazing print from Claire waiting for me when I returned from a work trip to Istanbul. I love getting home anyway but It’s even more exciting when there is fabric waiting!

Hand Printed Fabric Swap Lou Lou Dress

As you can see, Claire printed a repeat motif of circles and triangles in green, black and yellow on a pink fabric. It must have taken ages to print by hand! Claire has posted about her printing process and how licorice was the inspiration for her colour scheme on her blog. The dress is my own Lou Lou Dress pattern. This is a simplified version – the dress is lined as standard but this is as unlined version. It was super quick to put together, just two pattern pieces. I slip stitched the hem and edges of the armholes & collar for a neat finish. This is a stiffer fabric than the Lou Lou is designed for; which I think results in a more retro silhouette.

I have finally finished tweaking the Lou Lou Dress Pattern and it’s going out to my lovely (patient) testers. If you haven’t already signed up to test and would be interested register using my pattern testing form.

Hand Printed Fabric Swap Lou Lou Dress

My contribution to the Hand Printed Fabric Swap looks a bit tame in comparison to Claire’s. I printed an irregular ladybird design on a light blue chambray.

Hand Printed Fabric Swap Ladybird Chambray

Hand Printed Fabric Swap Ladybird Chambray

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Sew Over It (not) Silk Cami

Sew Over It Silk Cami

You know that misconception that people who don’t sew have that sewing your own clothes is really cheap? Well this is one of those examples where it is true! Sew Over It’s Silk Cami only uses a tiny amount of fabric so I managed to scrape this project out of the scraps left over from my recent Kimono project. I also received the pattern free with a recent issue of Mollie Makes magazine (issue 44), the magazine is still on sale if you get in quick or you can purchase the PDF pattern from Sew Over It. The fabric is a John Kaldor polyester so not a silk (as suggested by the pattern name) but it has the required drape to work with this pattern.

Sew Over It Silk Cami

I love quick and easy sewing projects. Due to not having enough fabric left to cut out facings I actually simplified this pattern even further, scrapping the facings in favour of rolling the edges of the neckline and armholes and hand-stitching in place. I’ve actually developed a bit of an addiction for hand-stitched hems lately, everything I make is getting a hand-stitched hem at the moment regardless of how necessary it is. I’m going to claim this is due to hand sewing being relaxing, but it may also be due to the fact that I can do my hand-sewing while sitting on the sofa in front of the TV as opposed to having to walk all the way upstairs to my sewing machine…

Sew Over It Silk Cami

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Sew Brum Meet-Up: Raffle Prizes

During the SewBrum sewist meet-up taking place on Saturday 04th October we’ll be holding a raffle to raise money for Parkinson’s UK. The raffle will take place in the afternoon at Guthrie and Ghani in Moseley. Lots of lovely companies have generously donated prizes and I thought it was about time I showed them all off.

#SewBrum Raffle Prize

OK, so Singer have donated a sewing machine! This is the Singer Talent, model 3321.

#SewBrum Raffle Prize

Simplicity have donated three patterns (1755, 1696, 1873) and their Simply the Best Sewing Book. I’ve seen great versions of all three of these patterns online, including Amy’s version of 1755.

#SewBrum Raffle Prize

Quadrille have donated both Great British Sewing Bee books.

#SewBrum Raffle Prize

Have you been reading Love Sewing magazine? They have donated a subscription to the magazine which features lots of dressmaking patterns.

The magazine also features a certain meet-up in their current September issue!

#SewBrum Meet-Up in Love Sewing Magazine

buchanan

Gather have donated a paper copy of their hot-off-the-press pattern the Buchanan dressing gown. I’m looking forward to seeing this pattern made up and I’m totally crazy about the artwork. (Image courtesy of Gather).

#SewBrum Raffle Prize

SewOverIt have donated two paper patterns, the Betty Dress and Ultimate Trousers. I’ve seen loads of great Ultimate Trousers popping up on blogs lately.

Hepworth-Back-Illustration

Hannah from Sinbad & Sailor has donated a Hepworth Dress PDF pattern. Have you seen Winnie’s lovely versions of the Hepworth? (Image courtesy of Sinbad & Sailor).

craftsySpotLogo

Craftsy have donated enrolment on a class of the winner’s choice. There are plenty of sewing classes to choose from – have you been reading Tasha’s recent reviews of a number of Craftsy classes?

#SewBrum Raffle Prize

Abby from Blue Ginger Doll has donated a paper copy of the glamorous Ava Jacket pattern. Andrea made a very cute red version when the pattern was released.

#SewBrum Raffle Prize
#SewBrum Raffle Prize
#SewBrum Raffle Prize

Clover have donated three sets of sewing supplies. Each set includes: Magnetic Pin Caddy, Seam Ripper, Wonder Clips, Flower Head Pins, Bobbin Tower, Thread Tower.

I really love the magnetic pin caddies, especially in pink. Maybe I’d leave less pins lying around for Phil to sit/step on with one of these!

#SewBrum Raffle Prize

Tuttle have donated two Japanese sewing books (in English) by Sato Watanabe. Basic Black which features a wide variety of patterns and Stylish Skirts which features a multitude of skirt patterns.

Pattern-Workshop-Logo1

Lauren Dahl  has donated a course enrolment to Pattern Workshop. I’m a Pattern Workshop student and highly recommend it if you have any interest in designing sewing patterns.

#SewBrum Raffle Prize

Prym have donated a sewing box and whole host of sewing accessories to fill it with.

dungarees

Pauline Alice has donated three sewing patterns of the winner’s choice. Perhaps a chance to try the new Turia Dungarees pattern? Pauline recently posted a round-up of some of the Turia’s that have shown up online so far.

Audrey-Dress-723x1024

Charlie from This Blog is Not For You has recently launched her pattern company Audrey & Me Patterns, and has donated a set of her first PDF patterns under the label, the Hepburn Dress and Skirt. Charlie has made some lovely versions of her patterns & I also love Daniela’s version of the Hepburn dress.

Tickets for the raffle will be sold on the day at the SewBrum meet-up. To join us for the meet-up sign-up here.

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Hot Pink Kimono

Kimono

I’m very happy to be back at home after spending a week away for work. I read Christian Dior’s autobiography recently and he wrote that the best thing about travelling is how much you appreciate getting home. I misquote but that was the jist. Travelling regularly for work (I currently travel around once a month for varying lengths of time) does mean that work doesn’t get boring, but it also eats into your personal time & plans. I do manage to get some knitting done when I’m travelling (i.e. on the plane) but rarely get time to sew so I’m planning to make up for it this weekend while drinking lots of tea and catching up with the tv I’v missed (I’m looking at you Project Runway, Great British Bake Off & Masters of Sex).

Kimono

I’m also hoping to get chance to wear this kimono I completed a couple of weeks ago. It would be perfect for a stroll around the park if the weather cooperates. I got tempted by all the amazing kimonos I was seeing on other sewing blogs, so I made this using the Elle Apparel tutorial. It was a classic case of HAVING to make something that, until then, I never knew I needed! By Hand London have also recently posted a great kimono tutorial but the Elle Apparel tutorial suited my fabric better as it allows more flexibility on placement. This is a John Kaldor polyester and is a border print – I wanted to make sure I included the blue border at hem of the kimono.

Kimono

This was a very quick project but I took a little extra time hand stitching the hems while relaxing on the sofa. Hand finishing hems is such a perfect task for lazy evenings/afternoons while watching tv.

Hopefully there will be a few more warm days in the UK this year when I can wear it. If not maybe I’ll slouch around the house in it – it will certainly be more glamorous than my usual hoodie.

Kimono

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Better Late than Never Myrna Cardigan

Myrna Cardigan Andi Satterlund

Sooo I started on this Myrna Cardigan by Andi Satterlund around May when Andi and Lauren announced their Outfit Along, and finally finished it at the beginning of August after the OAL deadline. I was a bit worried when I kept reading other bloggers saying it was a very quick project as I certainly wasn’t all that quick getting it finished!

It is only my second knitted clothing project (my first was my Owls jumper) so I’m not too concerned – I’m sure I’ll pick up speed with a few more projects under my belt. The other thing that slows me down is that I do most of my knitting while travelling. When I’m at home I tend to pick a sewing project. Most of this cardigan was knitted on planes and trains.

Myrna Cardigan Andi Satterlund

It’s not perfect but I’m happy with it and the fit is fine. Phil is more of a perfectionist than me (which wouldn’t be hard as perfectionist isn’t a term I’d use about myself), and the first thing he said when I showed him the finished cardigan was that the buttons are wonky! Yeah, they are but they’re functional and life is too short in my opinion. On the plus side they have gold anchors on them:)

Myrna Cardigan Andi Satterlund

The wool used is the Women’s Institute brand wool now being sold in Hobby Craft stores, in Teal. The buttons are white with a gold anchor design and were purchased in the Birmingham Rag Market. The little necklace you can see in the picture below was a present to myself from Oliver Bonas.

Myrna Cardigan Andi Satterlund

Myrna Cardigan Andi Satterlund

To strengthen the button band I attached ribbon to the reverse using this tutorial by Lladybird. It’s worked really well to stop the cardigan front stretching out.

Myrna Cardigan Andi Satterlund

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Sew Brum Meet-Up: Interview with Lauren Guthrie

Are you signed up for the SewBrum meet-up taking place on 04th October yet? If it seems like an age since I first mentioned it on the blog that’s because it has been! I first posted about it back in July as I couldn’t wait any longer to break the news, but the meet-up is now almost upon us. Over 60 people (listed here) have signed up to attend so far.

On the day of the meet-up we’ll be meeting in Birmingham and (after a trip to Birmingham’s fabric shops) travelling by bus to Moseley Village, home of Guthrie & Ghani (On a side note Phil is finding the thought of 60+ sewists taking over a bus highly amusing…). If you haven’t visited Guthrie & Ghani before the shop is absolutely gorgeous and there’s been lots of exciting things happening at the shop this year – including becoming Liberty Art Fabrics stockists back at the start of the year and the impending release of Lauren’s book Learn to Sew with Lauren on 01st September.

Want to know more? Well you’re in luck as Lauren Guthrie found the time to answer a few questions:

Lauren Guthrie

Thanks for inviting me over to your blog for a chat Charlotte. I’m so excited for the Sew Brum meet up in October and to welcome everyone to the shop!

Could you tell us a bit more about Guthrie & Ghani?

I opened Guthrie & Ghani with my husband Ayaz in April 2013 after spending just over a year completely renovating the building the shop is in.
We stock an ever-growing collection of beautiful fabrics including cottons prints, jerseys, wools, ponte romas, viscose, and Liberty Tana Lawn. We have loads of deliveries of Autumn/Winter fabrics in September too!
We also stock hand knitting yarns and a huge selection of Prym Haberdashery, threads, bag hardware, indie patterns, books and magazines.

A lot of meet-up attendees won’t have visited Moseley before. Could you tell us why you decided it was the right location for the shop?

Moseley is a really lovely little suburb of South Birmingham. We are just in the centre – called ‘the village’ – and there are lots of really lovely cafes, bars and restaurants around.
The area has long been known to have creative vibes and lot of creatives from artists and photographers to actors and musicians all love living here.

Could you tell us about the shop team. Who will customers meet when they visit?

Including me, Lauren, we have Lucy, Vanessa and Rachael who work in the shop. Occasionally Ayaz, my husband, helps out too and tries to chat the chat. Try asking him a technical question just for a giggle – he always does his best to get down with the lingo!

Guthrie & Ghani

There are so many great fabric / pattern companies, how do you decide what to stock?

I decided to just stock indie patterns when I first opened the shop and over the past year we have really increased our collection. I think it’s really nice to support small businesses when you are a small business yourself. I always find the individuality of the designs much more appealing too and the online communities around that are great.

Do you have a good sense of what your customers will buy – do they sometimes still surprise you?

There are always surprises in retail – but that’s one of the really fun things about it. I’ve feel like I’ve got to know my customers much better over the last year but we have brand new visitors all the time too so there is always something new to learn which helps keep things really fresh.

What are you excited about in the shop right now ?

I’m really excited about sewing with thicker winter fabrics and getting my teeth into some projects that are slow burns instead of quick summer tops and dresses. I always get so cold in the winter and have to layer up – but want to try and keep it handmade this year!

Guthrie & Ghani

What are your all time best sellers?

The best selling pattern since we opened is the Colette Laurel Dress. I think it’s just such a great easy basic for people so newbies and more experienced peeps both love it.
Overall we sell more fabric than anything else and cottons with smaller pattern repeats tend to be more popular. The best selling Liberty Lawn we have had so far was the Jonathon print from last season. It was navy blue with white swirls – meant to be like pencil sharpenings inspired by the stationary department in Liberty.

Was designing sewing patterns for ‘Learn to Sew with Lauren’ a new learning experience for you?

I have manipulated and altered lots of pre existing patterns in the past, but starting from scratch is a whole different challenge. A lot of patience is required as there are so many trial runs and tweaks to be done until you get things just the way you had planned. I really enjoy it though and it appeals to the maths geek in me.

Do you still enjoy fabric shopping?

I get to fabric shop all the time when I buy the stock for the shop, but yeh I do still really enjoy going to other fabric shops too. It’s always nice to see new scenery and get different ideas and inspiration.

Guthrie & Ghani

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