A Fabric Buyer’s Guide To Walthamstow Market

walthamstow market fabric stall

Feeling the fabric – when markets trump interwebs

I first wrote a guide to Walthamstow market years ago, and it felt time to update it.

charlie caftan did you make that

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 (It’s slightly out-of-date now, but still fit for purpose.)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 Tuesdays and Thursdays, 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?

TMOS

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?

sequin fabric

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36 Responses to A Fabric Buyer’s Guide To Walthamstow Market

  1. Brilliant blog – feel inspired to visit now. Thanks

  2. Sandy says:

    Thanks for the update Karen, has #Tmos changed his market dates, last time I went he was there on a Tuesday? Am planning a visit soon so would be good to know. Again thanks for your efforts and hope to bump into you and Elia some day.

  3. Fiona says:

    I came all the way from Switzerland to visit the market after reading your article in the Guardian a few years ago. My dad lives in Enfield – so the market has become a must on every visit home now. I would recommend Saeed’s fabric shop and the completely disorganised haberdashery next door. For food – good old Percey Ingles for a thick slice of bread puddding never disappoints.

  4. DianaX says:

    I used your last post for my visit, thanks for the update

  5. sewdalriada says:

    Thanks for sharing all this useful info. Planning a visit to my son in London and as I live in the Highlands I welcome all the advice I can get on fabric shopping and where to get a samosa for that matter.

  6. Gilly Anderson says:

    I find it helps to bring a tape measure – less chance of making a busy stallholder froth at the mouth when you ask him the width of your seventh choice …

  7. tialys says:

    I’m a Londoner originally but live in France now. I followed your fabric buying guide for the market last year when I visited my daughter and we did it proud! My only regret is not having lunch in the traditional pie and mash shop, L. Manze’s , with its beautiful art deco interior. I don’t like pie and mash but we could just have had a coffee and drunk in the décor. Next time. Thank you for the update.

  8. Eirian says:

    You need to mention the pound a metre shop! It’s not actually called that, but I’ve been buying fabric in bulk for costumes from there for the last fifteen years, and a good chunk of the fabric is actually £1 a metre. It’s actually called the Fabric Shop, it’s just a few doors down from Saeeds and the lovely lady who runs it is awesome, generous with her cutting, and doesn’t mind it when I park the buggy in the middle of the shop and make her cut 50 metres of fabric for me. You can’t go there looking for specific fabric, but if you don’t mind what the Gods of Chance bring you, it’s amazing.

  9. Mary says:

    I travelled from Devon to shop at TMOS – granted my son loves in Highbury so it was easier. I was not disappointed and still have a very healthy stash to show for it. TMOS was both charming and helpful and when I told him that it was through your blog that I heard of him he produced his phone to show me your photo. Seems to me you have mutual found fame. Thanks for a brilliant, inspiring blog.

  10. This is so helpful to have, I’ve been meaning to visit the market for ages now but I’ve never gotten round to it, next time I’m going to schedule it in for sure!

  11. paebnt says:

    I’ve just moved to London so I’m only an hour away from here – and I had no idea this place existed until now! This is a super helpful post and I’ll definitely be checking this out as soon as possible, thank you!

  12. Heather says:

    This is a place where taking your trolley on wheels, saves your life! I only go a couple of times a year but I always find something ‘interesting’

  13. I went to Walthamstow market last Saturday after remembering your fabulous post about it and all the lovely fabric that you have had from TMOS. Funnily enough I never bought any fabric from him but did manage to go into every fabric shop between Sainsbury’s and The Textile Centre. I was very restrained and only bought 3 fabrics, although i did buy 14 metres in total. All for less than £20. I have found a new shopping crush. Thank you for being an enabler! 🙂 Xx

  14. Ann says:

    Pardon me while I wipe away the drool on my keyboard… I’m envious that you have such a great resource within reach. So much fun! Here in the flyover zone of the U.S. all I can get to is JoAnn. I like to feel the fabric before I buy so I have yet to do any online purchasing.

    • Alice Thomas says:

      Don’t be afraid to purchase from Fabric.com. I have returned fabric to them twice; not bad for having shopped their site for years. Know what you want because your can spend hours looking at their site. Try them, you won’t be disappointed.

  15. Mary says:

    Heading over the Pond in January. Are most of the stalls operating during the winter?

  16. Sew2smile says:

    Hello from another Walthamstow resident. Yay, lucky me! Yes the market’s great. My own fave days are Tues, Thurs and Sat. I don’t know if TMOS is the one I’m thinking of but there’s a fabulous stall on Tu, Th and Sa and these are also the days the Textile Centre is open where you can sometimes find great fabric for £1 per yard, seriously! Much more upmarket is Saeed’s selling a great range from upholstery to cotton lawn and pure wool suiting to batik cottons. Not as cheap but especially lovely staff. Do go, you’ll love it.

  17. I was there last year! TMOS offers really good prices and he knows about the composition of his stuff. I bought silk at 3pounds and other goodies…also some cotton which proved to be poly… but I still prefer Goldhawk Road if I have to choose…

  18. Heidi says:

    I was born in London and lived in Walthamstow for a while before we moved away. I remember Rathbone Market and Walthamstow Market very well – my Mum used to drag me and my sister round them both looking for the perfect fabric. One of the stall holders used to give us sweets while we waited….
    Memories!

  19. Nina says:

    Wow. I live the opposite end of London so have never ventured that far, but I’m so tempted now. Thank you for the comprehensive guide!

  20. Suzanne Bradley says:

    I live in the North-East and I don’t think there are 15 fabric shops within an hour ‘s drive of me – you’re so lucky having that market!!

  21. It’s easy to miss the tiny, narrow shops that sell beautiful trims and haberdashery too at rock bottom prices so look out for them as well as the fabric shops. Everything is soooo tempting if you have magpie tendencies like me!

  22. Hannah says:

    I discovered Walthamstow fabric shopping a couple of years back through reading blogs, I live about an hours drive away, but make a visit a couple of times a year and stock up. Love it. Get some great fabric and great bargains, I always come away with a good haul and am amazed at how little I’ve spend. The haberdashery shops are great for zips and threads too. Definitely my favourite place to get fabric.

  23. I love Seth’s too. It’s a hidden treasure, the queues say it all.

  24. Vicky says:

    Great post and thank you! As someone from Cornwall it’s good to know where to go. 🙂

  25. Right! I’m visiting from Australia in February. I’ll find a way to fit in half a day there – thanks!

  26. Laura de Jong says:

    Going to visit this saturday morning, since I just figured out that my hotel is only 30 minutes away from this market and I cant stand the idea of being so close to a fabric market this awesome and not visiting =D thnx for sharing!

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