Feeling the fabric – when markets trump interwebs
I first wrote a guide to Walthamstow market years ago, and it felt time to update it.
Did you know?
Walthamstow market is Europe’s longest market.
It’s open every day, other than Monday and Sunday – I find Wednesdays and Saturdays the best days to visit. For peak fabric shopping, choose Saturday.
My top tip – arrive early and get out early.
The market is at the end of the northbound Victoria line, so impossible to miss.
There’s a Costa coffee outside the station, perfect for meeting up with your fabric-shopping pals.
I have a downloadable map of the market, highlighting fabric delights here. (It’s slightly out-of-date now, but still fit for purpose.)
There must be over 15 fabric shops and stalls. That’s a guesstimate – I haven’t actually counted.
It’s home of Legend In His Own Lifetime, The Man Outside Sainburys who now has his own #tmos hashtag on Instagram. He seems to take online fame in his stride.
TMOS likes to play with our heads. On Wednesdays, his stall isn’t outside Sainsburys. (What?!) It’s further up the market, outside Barclays. Slippery fish, ain’t he?
People have visited from as far afield as Australia, America and the far-flung locale of DERBYSHIRE to visit TMOS. Any other long-haul visitors like to leave a comment?
Who is this mystery man, and how much does he sell fabric for?
My tips for buying fabric off the market
Accept that you’re never going to truly know the composition or origins of the fabric.
Don’t shop late in the day – market stalls tend to pack up early.
Don’t be upset if the stall holder isn’t there on the day you visit. This happens rarely and scratch it up to experience. There could be an unforeseen circumstance, bad weather or simply a long overdue holiday.
Sounds obvious but … take cash. If you want to be kind, take small notes rather than twenties.
Definitely pre-wash. I’ve seen the back of those vans and I’ve seen the discarded vegetables on the market cobbles!
If you spend a lot of money, there’s no harm in asking for a couple of quid off. But don’t haggle too hard – you’re buying fabric at rock bottom prices and I’m guessing there’s little margin for the stall holder.
Take extra tote bags for carrying your haul home. Market stall holders tend to be a bit too free and easy handing out plastic carrier bags and it can be a challenge to stay ecologically conscious. Hold out your hemp!
Getting peckish? Seth’s Spice Hut is one of the market’s biggest secrets yet most popular food stands. If you want to beat the queue, nip round the side of the cabin for the second window that only sells samosas. Eat them warm out of the paper bag, your fingertips greasy with samosa crumbs. I promise you’ll melt. (Then clean your hands before handling your fabric.)
If you prefer a pub lunch, go to The Chequers.
Don’t forget the notions – there are some great shops and stalls selling all manner of zips, trims and buttons.
The beautiful William Morris Gallery is a 15-minute walk away. Work a visit into your plans. On the way back to the tube, stop off at converted cinema-cum-bar Mirth, Marvel and Maud for a cocktail. You’ve earned it.
Make a day of it. Say hi if you see me!
Any hints or tips that readers would like to add?