The Most Intense Sewing Shop Experience Of My Life

My first full day in San Francisco was left clear for Recovering From Jet Lag. I recovered by waking at 3am, going for a run at 7am and visiting three separate sewing and/or knitting shops of wildly different moods and venues. The day included the most intense sewing shopping experience of my life.

As a quick aside, may I just say: If you are going to hand wash your running gear in a hotel room basin, please remember to remove the dollar bills from your shorts pocket before plunging into water.

Dollar bills drying.

But back to the important matters: shopping.

Beth, my new sewing teacher, had told me that Britex Fabrics were having a remnant sale for one day only. I’d half registered this, knowing that I would want to go and check out SF’s premiere fabric shop, but I wasn’t really thinking about much at all. I showered, changed, had breakfast, worked out my day’s agenda and finally ambled up the road. It was all very lacking in focus.

When I turned the corner, I nearly dropped my camera in shock. People were queueing up. I have NEVER seen people queueing outside a fabric shop. As I approached, the doors opened and chaos ensued, with myself caught up on the tidal wave of feverish excitement. Some of us took the elevator to the sale on the fourth floor, but I noticed that the professional shoppers were already running up three flights of stairs. This is serious, I thought. I had no idea how serious.

I’ll be honest, in the first five minutes I nearly turned and fled. The atmosphere was … ruthless. One woman absolutely terrified me. Her lips were set in a thin line, her brow creased and her incessant pushing and grabbing just breathtaking. ‘I’ve tried to be polite,’ another woman commented, ‘but it’s just not working.’

People were going for anything, filling huge plastic bags handed out by the charming staff.

I didn’t get it. I mean, yeah, money was being knocked off, but it wasn’t so big a price cut. I tucked a piece of Batik-style cotton beneath my arm, but wasn’t even sure I was going to buy it. I couldn’t understand why everyone else was so frenetic. Then I asked a member of staff and realised that the reduced price I thought my cotton was going for would receive an extra 50% discount at the till. Okay… So this beauty was reduced from an original price of $37/£23 to a laughable $12.50/£8 for 2.5 yards? Now I understood the frenzy.

Which meant that I frogmarched myself back to the silk section. I’ve had a growing urge to make something with really great silk. Nothing too ambitious; I just want to learn some of the techniques involved with this oh-so-special fabric. I ended up buying 1 & 3/8 yards of a beautiful solid teal. It would have originally gone for $48/£30 and I purchased it for $16/£10.

Silk left, cotton right

I’m vaguely thinking of making Lazy Stitching’s tap pants, though I’m not sure I can bear for this silk to only be seen by me when I go to bed. Any other suggestions for this scrap of silk, let me know!

I think that’s enough for one blog post; more to come on my other shopping adventures. I will just say this. As a dog lover, I’m thrilled to see that San Francisco is a very dog-friendly city. They even allowed Alex into a fabric store, and who wouldn’t? Just look at that darling face…


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34 Responses to The Most Intense Sewing Shop Experience Of My Life

  1. melissa says:

    ok that just sounds like sheer madness! I think I might’ve had a similar reaction and ran away…

    And I swear I’m sewing up the exact same shade of teal silk right now, we can be twins, hahah. But seriously, I highly recommend the Ruby Slip for that, you’ve got enough, and it’s a really great, easy silk project. No french seams required as it’s on the bias. 🙂

    Also, respect for hand washing your running gear. When I’m away, I bring enough socks, pants, and vests for each run, but reuse the rest. But no more than 3 times, or I really do stop traffic.

  2. Wendy says:

    If you walked out of there with only those two pieces you showed more restraint than I could ever muster! Can’t wait for the next installment !

  3. Carolyn says:

    The fact that you photographed the madness is the astonishing part to me! However, I do understand the mad rush since Britex’s prices aren’t for the faint of heart!

  4. I would have to be very seriously in need of a particular piece of ‘usually very expensive but reduced to affordable in the sale’ piece of fabric to brave that lot. I tips me lid.

  5. K2 says:

    My suggestion for the silk…… Sorbetto? LOL, I’m surprised you didn’t think of it first.

  6. Tamsin W-P says:

    That’s some serious shopping going on there. Things like that are very overwhelming for me – I’d have run away! What about another of the Cynthia Rowley tops with all the seams in – that would show off the colour beautifully…

  7. Bold Sewist says:

    Oh I’m so glad you got there during such a great sale – every time I’ve been there the prices have been crazy! I can so imagine the frenzy. Have an amazing time – I’m looking forward to hearing about your sewing studies!

  8. Melody says:

    I would honestly of been terrified to even step in there!!
    I’m so horrifically slow when looking at fabric – I’d probably of been shanked with some shears!

    Well done for surviving it!

  9. Sarah says:

    Whoa. Chaos indeed! I love the fabric you bought and you must make a Sorbetto from your delectable silk!

  10. ZoSews says:

    Sounds scary! What great finds though!

  11. tinygoldenpins says:

    When I lived in San Francisco, I was the kind of sewing person who didn’t sew but loved fabric. Every now and then I would sew something and it would come out pretty awful. But, I used to wander around Britex forever, just soak it up, wondering how I would ever have the key to all these fabrics. How I envy you today! I used to go to Satin Moon on Clement street — I still have a dress I made for a wedding from there. Have a wonderful wonderful time in my old city!

  12. Erin Cumming says:

    I am in love with your dog.

  13. shawnta715 says:

    Holy moly it sounds like you need to bring a helmet and pads to that sale!

  14. Clio says:

    I visited Britex on a recent trip to SF and the prices in the remnant section were not low enough to make me bite. Honestly, I thought they were overpriced (and that is coming from someone whose office is 5 blocks from Mood). But at half off I would have! So I get the excitement.

  15. Jenn-NY says:

    Sigh. Vague memories of remnant sale day at Britex…
    As for that beautiful silk, how about a 40ish blouse but with cap sleeves/sleeveless? Might be able to fit it on that yardage…

  16. april says:

    If I had known, I would have driven up for a few days to go! I guess I’ll have to time an SF trip better next year. I love Britex (but I’m in San Diego). I am surprised you were able to get off photos in there. The staff is polite, but they are very firm in their “no photos” stance.

  17. Fiona says:

    Pendrell blouse for the silk!
    I love that little Dachs, he’s gorgeous …

  18. stacyverb says:

    Wow, that does sound intense! Funny, I’ve been to San Francisco only once, but on that trip I also met a dog in a fabric store. 🙂

  19. Sherry says:

    Lol – that does sound like a rat race! Glad you survived to tell the tale, and walk out with two luscious looking fabrics to boot. The colour of the silk is to die for!

  20. sorbetsurprise says:

    I really wish I had been there! The bank breathe a sigh of relief that I wasn’t!

  21. Amy says:

    I’ve never been brave enough to go during one of their sales. Bravo for you for holding your own, especially after being up since 3 am! And, it saddens me to say that I’ve seen the type of person you described above with the tight lips and single-minded focus in action as well. I don’t get it. To most things I say, to each their own, but in these cases the lack of courtesy is really unfortunate.

  22. Michelle says:

    Before you leave town, you should really check out fabric outlet! I love this store! It is only like two blocks away from a Bart stop and they have great prices. Plus right now everything is 40% off. They have a great selection of pretty much any fabric imaginable. You do need to know your stuff, though. They have some poor quality stuff mixed with the good quality stuff. But it’s a great place to spend a couple hours! It’s like a fabric basement 😛

  23. oonaballoona says:

    how i wish i could’ve played left tackle for you!

  24. symondezyn says:

    There’s a large fabric store in Vancouver here called Dressew that gets busy like that during Halloween because they also carry props and costuming supplies… you couldn’t pay me to go there during that time! LOL – you’re very brave to have gone in… I would probably have seen the queue and run for my life! ^__^

    That silk is gorgeous; it would make a lovely sleeveless blouse for summer or a luxurious cami to wear under a sheer blouse 🙂

  25. gingermakes says:

    Silk! How lovely! I think you should make a nice summer top– dare I suggest a super fancy Sorbetto?

    Alex the dog is adorable! I love him!

  26. nothy lane says:

    I love shopping for fabrics on vacation! I’ve been to San Fran a few times and I know the shop you are talking about. I love it. How I miss the warm sunny weather in California and the friendly Californians. Do try to get to an outdoor market, if you can! California is famous for them and they are a lot of fun too!

  27. Shams says:

    Karen, what a great report! Even at half off, Britex is expensive and I have only been to one of those sales in the last couple of years.

    it was SO great to meet you last night! What a fun evening!

  28. You are so brave, I would have definitely turned and fled :). I experienced something a little similar in Paris, in a shop called Reine: I couldn’t believe my eyes (or ears, really, ladies?), it was war, I tell you, WAR, I felt bad for the employees who brought new remnants on a regular basis and were almost assaulted.

    Oh, and by the way, dollar bills apparently resist being washed in a washing machine *and* dried in the dryer on cotton setting. Don’t ask me how I know.

  29. Post scriptum: I also love that there are so many dogs in SF, especially as it means I often find myself sharing smiles with perfect strangers in the street when they notice I smile at their dogs! 2 weeks ago, I saw the biggest dog I had ever seen in a shop. Oliphant-huge. And a few days after that, I almost fainted of cuteness when a baby chihuahua (can you picture those 2 words together?) munched my hand in another shop. I sometimes call SF Dogville (even if SF is far more cheerful than a Lars Von Trier movie, for sure).

  30. nancymorris says:

    Depending on how wide the silk is, take a look at the new Vogue 8816.

  31. Alessa says:

    All paper money should be washing resistant. It actually is, I think they make it from a special textile paper. I have washed and tumble-dried my fair share of Euro-notes…
    Your dog is seriously cute! And kudos for braving the sales, that silk looks yummy!

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