A Guide to Islington Sewing and Knitting

As the bus carried me from Kings Cross to Islington, I realised I had an hour to kill. Easy! I thought. I’ll go to Loop. Loop is a lovely knitting haven on Cross Street. Except it wasn’t. Isn’t. Hasn’t been since July. This is what I found when I arrived:

Knitting Hell?

The shop had very much closed for business. I couldn’t understand this at all. I’d only been on Loop’s website earlier in the day, looking at their beginner crochet classes. Anyway, I wasn’t about to lose heart. I knew of a fabric shop on nearby Essex Road. I could go and spend some money there. I happily wandered past the nail bar and the shop of stuffed animals, to discover…


Wouldn’t you know it? This shop closes on a Thursday. (Don’t they realise this is LONDON!) It was a real shame, as I could spy some black and white tweed with a silver thread running through it. I’m going to have to go back. But not on a Thursday.

Now I really was at a loss for what to do. So I started bothering people:

Sir, may I photograph your Singer?

I spotted this in a dry cleaner called ‘Cufflinks’ on Upper Street. I wandered in and asked the man if I could photograph his sewing machine. There was a bit of a language barrier. He wanted to know why.

‘For my sewing blog.’

‘You supply parts?’

‘No, I’d like to photograph it for my blog.’

‘You’re a tailor?’

‘No, I sew at home.’

A smile spread. ‘Ah, at home.’ I wasn’t going to try to sell him anything and I wasn’t here as part of some sort of industrial espionage. A home sewer. Harmless. He hurried to take away the naked light bulb tied to the machine with a scrap of fabric, and that’s when I snapped this photo. He reckons the machine is 15 years old and that he’s made 400 clothes repairs on it. 400!

I decided to pop by Camden Passage. If you’re ever in Islington, go there. Why? Here’s why:

Did I tell you there’s a fabulous chocolate shop here? There is.

La, la, la, la, la, my brain was going, as I strolled along. I’d recovered from the fiasco of the two shut shops. So you can imagine how I staggered to a halt when I saw THIS:

That does say ‘Loop’, doesn’t it?

The shop that had shut? It hadn’t shut. It had moved. And I’d found it again. Mummy, my head was hurting. I wandered in and went straight up to the shop assistant to share my story. She gave me a kind smile and explained that they’d moved months ago, putting signs up to let people know. So it was just me being dim, then. I had a good look around, absolutely determined to spend money, but ended up leaving empty-handed. And anyway, I’d spotted something else across the street:

Antique Lace Heaven

I last visited here years ago with a friend preparing for her wedding. They have a lot of antique lace, which apparently some brides like. And if you creep back, back, back towards the very rear of the shop, you’ll find some sewing patterns:

That’s a pattern for a tennis dress!

The patterns were being sold for about £9, which I didn’t think was too bad. It’s what I pay for any contemporary pattern, once you include postage.

But you know what? I still hadn’t spent any money. As I approached the end of my wander down Camden Passage, I came across these:

You know you want us, Karen.

Cocky little sods, aren’t they? So sure I’m going to pick one of them out. I hovered by the stand; I’d already fallen in love with one towards the back. You don’t need it, I told myself. Where will you put it? I was about to walk away. Then something significant happened. Another woman wandered over and stopped by the stall. Immediately, the hairs rose up on my arms. I had to fight the urge to bustle her away. Oh no, you don’t! Don’t you dare take my teacup! Thankfully, she wandered off but she’d been the catalyst for a Very Important Decision. It was time to buy a teacup I would never use to drink tea out of. And here it is:

Dolly Clackett, this photo’s for you.

Apparently, it’s 1950s though I wouldn’t know if it wasn’t. It’s German porcelain, by a firm called Mitterteich of Bavaria. I love the scalloped base of the teacup and its oval handle. I have it on the desk in front of me as I type. It makes me very happy. One day I’ll tell you the story behind the table it’s sitting on. I bought it from an antiques shop. And then took it on a pub crawl with my friend. If you ever want to make new friends, take a table on a pub crawl. We had a riot.

So, that was my wasted hour. It wasn’t really wasted at all, was it?

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14 Responses to A Guide to Islington Sewing and Knitting

  1. Roisin says:

    Ooh I love it! I’m glad it’s not just me! I’ve often wandered past Camden passage but it’s always been at night – I’m going to have to make a serious effort to spend some shopping time in Islington one day 🙂

  2. superheidi says:

    Love this post (it’s a London thing… jealous me) and love that cup!

  3. rachel says:

    I snorted out a bit of my toast laughing at this post – the tea cup is perfect. I too am jealous of the London thing.

  4. Shivani says:

    I fell victim to that very same table of teacups a few weeks ago!

  5. whimsycate says:

    Thank you! i’m making a trip to london in November and Loop is on my must visit list, now i won’t make the mistake of walking all the way up to cross street!

    Love your blog,

    Cate, x

  6. oh this is so funny. I am so sorry you had a short-time scare that we had closed and so happy that you found our much bigger new shop by happenchance! We love being on Camden Passage so much and can’t wait for winter when we know it will be even more charming. Thanks for making me smile. Susan

  7. Hatty says:

    I lived off Upper Street for twenty years (gloat, gloat, why don’t I?) and while that fabric shop is OK, when it’s shut there’s another one a short number 43 bus ride away at the Holloway Rd-end of Seven Sisters. And I used to like their stuff better. And very good prices. And they don’t have an early-closing day. Just in case you absolutely neeeeeed to buy some fabic on a Thursday, you know.

  8. Lysy says:

    I’m glad the bad start turned out well – and the teacup is so pretty! Will you be able to resist going back though?!

  9. Hatty says:

    Mmmm, this might be a sign of addiction but you know when I see a fabric shop I don’t think I ever actually raise my eyes from the display long enough to register its name! I’ve been in “the fabric shop on Essex Road” and “the fabric shop on Seven Sisters at Holloway Road end” more times than I can remember, but names? Do fabric shops have names? No, no, they just have FABRIC. And PATTERNS.

    Probably it’s called “Rolls and Rems”, yeah, maybe… . I remember last time I went there I got about five yards of really great linen. And nice cotton prints. But “the fabric shop on Essex Road” has some nice stuff too, especially for summer dresses – I remember polka dots last time I was there. But what’s with all the giraffe fun fur etc? Must be something to do with all the theatre schools round there….
    Oh, and great green grocer opposite too. I miss them.

    Have fun!

  10. Dianne says:

    Hi, trying to research my family history and I believe my family had a tailor shop in Islington before they left for Australia in 1852. The family name is Coldrey. I’m desperately searching the internet for an address as I would love to look the area up when I’m hopefully over there late 2014.
    Dianne Coldrey

  11. JJ says:

    Sew Fantastic has SHUT DOWN!!! Which is a bloody shame but there you go!! was a great shop from furry pink to table coth check fabrics to pattern, elastics, cottons Ribbons all Colours seven Iron on patches!!! which were a god send when the kids were younger!!!! and the man who owned it was OK. No complaints about that. I did usually to go in there with my two kids on our way home after school (so he could have been scared of us!!!) (lol) when one of my little darlings had informed me of some ‘accident’ that happened to their clothes that day and it was NEVER EVER their fault (of course!!) whe those patches really did save the day and NO BEFORE ANYBODY THINKS I’M AN OLD LADY.who has been here since 1900. My oldest is only 19 and I am 38 and my child was well impressed at the time but would not DARE let me patch his stuff now……..Funny actually they seem to look after their stuff now they have to buy it though!!!!! Ha-ha-ha-ha…….!!!!!! 🙁 sad it’s gone 🙁

  12. mandymunroe says:

    Just found this post, so glad you found Loop – and you had to have the teacup lol!

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