A global field guide to shopping, style and hidden gems
est. 2007

Archive: Sep 2007

  1. London shopping: Fabrications


    Carrying on from my raving craft post is this charming little shop in the heart of ever-hip Broadway Market in London’s East End, which if anything, supports my new motto, “Craft is Cool, OK”? (Maybe I should run up some screen-printed t-shirts in bold black type, Katharine Hamnett-style…)

    Fabrications is alternately an artist-run gallery, shop and studio for in-house designer Barley Massey. It stocks an excellent range of unique, eco-friendly products and homewares that are hand-crafted by local artists and designers.

    One wall of the shop features displays of quirky greeting cards, stationery and badges made by Hackney locals, accompanied by a profile on each artist. Keep an eye out for Lucy Jane Batchelor’s sweet retro-style range including tooth fairy envelope cards for children and her clever Missing Button badges.

    The nice thing about Fabrications is that stock is constantly updated, so you’re likely to find new quirky gems all the time. I like the fabric pouffes bound by knotted rope using traditional sea-faring techniques (£150) and The Old Broad Bean (the Queen) Cockney jewellery, featuring faces of the royal family (and er, Dodi) on dried beans. Prices range from £3 for a badge to £30 for a necklace or cufflinks.

    The other highlight of the shop is the wall of rainbow-coloured yarns (wools for winter and cottons for summer) and a small range of vintage yarn and hand-spun yarn with lanolin. There is also a wide variety of knitting and sewing supplies, including super-sized knitting needles.

    Beginners can get fully kitted out here, with knitting packs complete with instructions and a pack of wool, as well as customised sewing kits for £2.50 with basic embroidery stitches. Or you could join one of the regular knitting classes.

    When I visited, I found vintage knitting patterns for babywear and some gorgeous ‘80s pattern books including designs by Jean Paul Gaultier and Alaia. I also like the cute knitted goodies, from traditional Bakewell tarts and “I heart Hackney” purses (British souvenir alert!) to potted cactuses (bonus: not prickly at all!).

    Don’t leave Fabrications without checking out in-house textile designer Barley Massey’s ingenious range of eco-friendly homewares. Barley recycles materials and waste such as bicycle inner tubes and vintage shirt ties to create beautiful and long-lasting cushions, pouffes, rugs, mats and runners. Amongst many of her commissions was the infamous Lost Vagueness tent at Glastonbury in 2003. Just imagine: your own piece of fabulous festival fun at home (minus the mud).

    7 Broadway Market
    London E8 FPH
    Tel. 0207 275 8043

    Click here for a Wee Birdy map.

    Opening hours:
    Tuesday-Saturday 12noon-5pm
    Or call for appointment.

    Nearest tube: Bethnal Green Station
    Nearest train: London Fields BR

    For more shops on Broadway Market, click here.
    For more shops in East London, click here.

  2. Crafty birdies

    Have you noticed there’s a craft revolution happening right now? OK, yes – women have been crafting for centuries – but surely you’ve become aware of the increasing number of cool kids yearning to make stuff, as well as new stitch-and-bitch groups, a growing amount of gorgeous craft blogs, websites like Etsy and hipster craft shops like Melbourne’s Meet Me at Mikes popping up all the time?

    What was once assigned by the patriarchal order as definitively belonging to the “women’s realm” (apologies for coming over all Women’s Studies 101 on you), has now been appropriated and reinvented by the coolest girls around. Today, women are taking back and CHOOSING to do craft themselves, and this time it’s on their terms. (Oh, and it’s not just girls, either, guys are getting in on the act as well.)

    Not so long ago, craft stirred up memories of toilet roll dollies and those nasty padded photo frames we went nuts for in the ‘80s. Thankfully, that’s been relegated to the “craft gone bad” bin, and it’s been replaced by cute tampon purses, hand-knitted vegie rattles and Sew-Your-Own-Miss-Buttons.

    And the popularity for crafty stuff right now has probably got something to do with the folk vibe and arts-and-crafts trend we’ve seen recently in fashion. Not to mention the anti-consumerist and eco-friendly element to crafting, in terms of turning your back on mass-produced items and sweat-shop labour.

    Dolce & Gabbana gets crafty on yesterday's catwalk in Milan

    There’s also something deliciously subversive in the name “stitch and bitch” – on one hand it sounds dreadfully un-sisterly, and not too far removed from what those Jane Austen birds were doing all day in their drawing rooms. But as one of my friends (who co-founded Melbourne’s stitch and bitch group, Kaotic Kraft Kuties) said, women’s craft groups are more about “women re-connecting, women celebrating and re-claiming women’s crafts.” Which isn’t too bad for the sisterhood, eh?

    And according to the Kaotic Kraft Kuties' manifesto:

    "* We believe in the modern folk revolution
    * Scissors and champagne can mix
    * Colours can never clash
    * Tea cosies are not square
    * Freeform craft is all about spirit not technique
    * Chain stitch can be avant garde
    * Little Edie is a style icon!"

    I’m loving the whole crafty world at the moment, even if I haven’t fully embraced the practical side of it myself. There’s nothing better than spending a lazy 15 minutes trawling through other clever birdies’ craft blogs, where I’m constantly amazed and impressed by their cool creations and imaginative efforts.

    For me, crafting reminds me of cosy afternoons watching TV with my grandmother while she bent quietly over her “fancy work”, having fun and relaxing, as well as a return to childhood and my favourite time at school when we got to unleash our creativity on paddle pop sticks and the like.

    Sew Your Own Miss Buttons … D&G's muse of the moment?

    p.s. Big props to the world’s biggest stitch and bitch, the magnificent Bayeaux tapestry. Debate still rages over who made it (the old French vs. English argument) but I bet whoever it was, they had a bit of a bitch while they stitched.

  3. Street style: Merete on Broadway Market

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    A wee birdy told me that Merete, 24, is wearing a black tunic from Asfalt in Denmark, jeans from H&M, shoes from a vintage shop in Copenhagen, and a vintage bag from a flea market. I also love Merete's too-cute casual up-do. Scandi-heaven on a sunny Saturday morning.

  4. London shopping: RelaxGarden

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    I spend a lot of time waiting for buses. Invariably, in the rain. But recently on Kingsland Road in Shoreditch, I was rescued by an ultra-cute window display which caught my eye, and RelaxGarden proved to be a haven in more ways than one.

    The tiny shop stocks a range of little-known womenswear labels from Japan and Europe, as well as its own truly fabulous RelaxGarden label. I especially loved their roomy leather bags, which offer a quality (and anonymous) alternative to the perennial “It” bags. With a lower price tag. Their in-house womenswear is also enticing and reasonably affordable, with pretty vintage-inspired frocks (from £40) and tops (from £30) in jersey, chiffon and silk mixes. So good I let the 242 and the 149 go past. Twice.

    Relax Garden
    40 Kingsland Road
    Shoreditch E2 8DA
    Tel: 020 7033 1881

    Click here for a Wee Birdy map.

    Opening hours:
    Tuesday-Friday 1pm-7pm
    Saturday-Sunday 12pm-6pm

    Nearest tube: Old Street

    For more shops in East London, click here.