Belle Star and her Trusty Steed

My Trusty Steed

I’d read about Dalston Mill Fabrics at Ridley Road market on some forum or another, and was cycling into town for an afternoon of theatre. So I thought, ‘Why not?’

Ridley Road market is well known to anyone living in the Dalston area of London. It’s bustling, but markedly different to Walthamstow market. It caters for a local Afro-Caribbean community with stalls selling plantain and bread fruit, super waxed cotton and lots of fish and meat. Lots of fish and meat. (If you don’t enjoy the sight of piles of pigs’ trotters, don’t go here.)

I’d expected to search hard for the fabric shop, but I stumbled upon it almost immediately:

Sadly, it wasn’t quite the hidden gem I’d been hoping for. It was absolutely crammed with fabric, but most of it difficult to get to in a shelfing system that stretched to the ceiling. I’d love to tell you that this shop is worth searching out, but… Well, if you’re in the area pop in by all means. I had other places to be. Yeehaw!

Next stop, Vivien of Holloway. I’d heard about this shop through Dolly Clackett‘s blog. I didn’t really expect to buy anything, but I was curious. Just as I paused in my cycling to check directions, I spotted the shop itself:

Inside the shop itself were many, many happy customers trying on dresses in retro heaven:

I stood out like a sore thumb in my waterproof jacket, carrying bulky panniers. But the factory girls behind the counter didn’t mind my taking their photograph:

Vivien sells fun dresses for ladies ready to swing around the dance floor. Most of them are made out of stiff cotton, with a lawn cotton lining. In bright colours and retro prints, they do just the job they’re meant to.

If I’d bought something for myself, it would probably have been one of their polka dot skirts with handkerchief pockets and buttons down the front. The only thing stopping me was a severe case of Sewistitis. The main symptom is a single thought, rattling around an otherwise empty brain: I could make it myself for less money. Damn you, sewing machine! May I never enjoy a spontaneous purchase again?

I stepped out into the street, hungry for a late breakfast. Perfect! Bang nextdoor was a cafe, and when I spotted the fashion statements going on in there, I just had to step inside. We weren’t far from Arsenal’s Emirates stadium and the cafe was full of football fans decked out in red and white:

What a contrast to the girlie fashion binge that was going on nextdoor!

Back on my bike and into central London. I just had time to check out Berwick Street in Soho before meeting my friends. Berwick Street is home to several high end fabric shops. Quite a different market experience:

I checked out several of the shops, but my favourite was The Cloth House:

Do you think I’d qualify?

I’m not sure they’d have liked me so much with my two panniers and cycle helmet, bashing into rolls of sumptuous beauty:

I did consider buying a couple of pieces from their box of roll ends, but then I realised I was about to spend £30 on a whim. Some whim. After all that cycling and research, I left empty-handed.

I must be losing my touch. There was nothing left to do except hitch up and rodeo out of there.


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5 Responses to Belle Star and her Trusty Steed

  1. JeanieB says:

    Oh what a disappointing day for you – and not sunny cycling weather either.
    I love exploring on my bike – I made it to the Geffrye Museum and Columbia Rd in the summer via Vicky Park – what joy!
    You’ve prompted me to do a post about my trusty steed – maybe a crafty/cycling group is called for?

  2. Roobeedoo says:

    Well at least your trusty steed made it a one-day trip. On the bus that would have taken hours and hours and you would have been a grumpy frazzled wreck! I only ever went to Dalston Mill once, looking for buttons, and had a similar experience. Just had a thought – is there still a fabric shop in Leyton down by the fire station (Oliver Road)?

  3. Suzy says:

    I visited Dalston Mill fabrics recently and left with mix feelings. Like you said the way the shop is organised makes it almost impossible to browse and to be honest, when I “found” the room with winter fabrics (back right) my first though was: fire hazard.
    Saying that I hear the staff is very helpful so if you know what you want it can be good place to get it. If you just looking, it’s too overwhelming.

  4. Amy says:

    The Cloth House is ace! You know they’ve got two shops on Berwick? I always pop in when I’m round Oxford St way, but you’re right, buying anything on a whim gets a bit pricey…

  5. Roisin says:

    I LOVE The Cloth House! I love Berwick Street in general though, it’s one of my favourite streets in London. I know what you mean about the Vivien of Holloway dresses – especially the cotton ones. I held off buying one for the longest time for that same reason but when I tried one on I had to concede that just now I don’t have the mad sewing skillz needed to create something to that standard, and that I was impatient. I love my V0H dress and have taken to haunting ebay for more (but cheaper) AND it has made me resolve to be, y’know, better at sewing and stuff.

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