A guide to fabric shopping in Oxford

24 Aug

In my student days, there was a brilliant fabric and haberdashery shop in Oxford, King’s Fabrics. It was right in the city centre and, as far as I could tell, was largely frequented by students looking for fabric to make bop costumes out of, such as my below creations. This one was for a jungle themed bop.

Jungle costume

It’s just a bad camera angle, those guys are not really making out in the background!

And this was for a 70s/ABBA themed party (it also doubles up as a good Christmas angel) – not actually a college bop – there’s way too much fabric for that – given that these things took place in a hot and sweaty underground beer cellar, the idea was generally the skimpier the better. So dedicated was I to this costume that I took it to work to sew during my lunch hours, which my manager thought was hilarious. I had no sewing machine in those days, and such was my faith in my sewing that I took needle and thread along to the party with me in case it all came apart and I needed to do emergency repairs. Turns out it was a good thing I did, although it wasn’t my sewing that came undone – it was the seams of the silver leggings – the only part I hadn’t made myself!

70s outfit

Outfit finished off perfectly with white patent wedges – cost me a whole £1 from Primark!

Unfortunately, King’s Fabrics shut down a few years ago. Who knows how bop costumes are created now. I suspect Primark is probably the source of cheap and sometimes ridiculous looking clothing.

The loss of King’s means that there aren’t really any decent fabric shops in Oxford (that I know of, please correct me if I’m wrong!), which is a real shame. I did spot a new yarn shop, which also does some haberdashery bits, on Cowley road last week, but The nearest haberdasheries are Masons in Abingdon, and Freelance Fabrics in Kidlington. Dunelm Mill and Hobbycraft both opened in Oxford last year as well, which both have a limited selection of fabric and sewing-related items. I’ll give a little rundown on each of these.

Masons really is the quintessential haberdashery. There are actually 3 separate shops – one that specialises in knitting yarns, needles etc, as well as curtain-weight/upholstery fabrics, one that does dressmaking fabrics, as well as general haberdashery and sewing notions, and one that does more general craft supplies – beading, jewellery making, card and paper craft, cake decorating etc, but also has a nice selection of lace and trims upstairs.

masons wool shop

This is the wool and upholstery fabric shop
Image source: The local data company

The one that has upholstery fabric has a pretty good selection, both of more traditional style stuff, as well as some of the designer patterns like Clarke & Clarke. These are a little pricy though – about £12/m for a lot of them. They also have SO much yarn!

masons fabric shop

The main fabric shop
Image source: The local data company

The other shop has a brilliant selection of dress making fabrics, all of which are fairly well organised. The prices vary a lot – from the £2-3 plain polycottons, £5/m or so for the cheapest printed polycottons, right up to £15+ for some prints. They do have some good buys though – I bought some black, slightly patterned, suit like material to make a work dress out of and that cost me £2.99/m. They also have a good selection of interfacings, which are reasonbly priced, as well as a fairly decent range of zips, which aren’t too bad actually – depending on what type, you can pay about 80p for a zip, which is a lot compared to Walthamstow Market, but decidedly cheap compared to places like John Lewis! They also have plenty of buttons, threads of different prices ranges, and also patterns. Annoyingly for me, Masons are only open 9-5 Monday – Saturday, so Saturday is the only day I can ever go, which is tricky fitting in, but also means that it’s often very busy in there. I’ve have heard that if you can go during the week, then you tend to get slightly better service.

masons craft

The general craft shop
Image source: The local data company

Freelance Fabrics in Kidlington has a much smaller range of fabrics, but does have some good deals, depending on what you want. They have a room at the back full of curtain weight fabric all for £3.50 a metre. They do tend to be larger prints rather than things like polka dots, but they have a really nice selection of colours and designs. They have also recently started doing more dressmaking fabric. They have some really pretty printed polycottons, all for £1.99 a metre, although their plain polycottons are all about £3.50. Cotton (plain or printed) seems to be mainly in the region of £5-6 a metre, although they do have some more expensive stuff as well. They have a selection of haberdashery items, although it’s not huge. They also have a selection of wool, threads and trims. One of my favourite things is that they have some bargain bins outside where they sell off end of roll pieces for £1/m – sometimes 4-5m pieces, so you can get a good bargain. The staff here are all really friendly as well, and they’re open 7 days a week.

Freelance Fabrics Image source: www.oxfordmail.co.uk

Freelance Fabrics
Image source: http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk

Dunelm Mill and Hobbycraft recently opened one of the retails parks on Botley Road. They both had a limited selection, but they are 2 doors away from each other, and are open into the evening, so if you really need to get something in Oxford, or of an evening, they come in handy. Dunelm has a pretty good selection of curtain materials, and at not too unreasonable ptices – some of the Clarke & Clarke fabrics which generally retail for about £12-13 they sell for about £8. They also sell some of their oilcloth fabric for about £2.99/m sometimes. They do have a few lighter weight fabrics, but mainly just a few different coloured polycotttons. They also sometimes sell off end of roll stuff for £2.99/m. They have a few sewing machines, and some general haberdashery items, mainly Hemline stuff. They also have a small selection of wool and knitting needles (and the knitting needles in here generally tend to all be slightly cheaper than in Hobbycraft).

Hobbycraft has a slightly wider variety of haberdashery stuff, although limited fabric, and it’s pretty expensive for what it is. I’ve never actually bought any fabric from here, and haven’t ever really given it more than a passing glance! They do have a fairly good selection of yarn though, and they often have that on 3 for 2.

For cheaper fabric, I’ve been to Fabricland in Reading, which has a reasonable, but not huge selection, although generally at slightly better prices than Masons. For more choice, it really has to be a trip to London – either to Walthamstow, or to Goldhawk Road, which I am yet to check out – I feel a shopping trip coming on!

Where are your favourite places to shop for fabric locally where you are?


17 Responses to “A guide to fabric shopping in Oxford”

  1. Clare August 24, 2013 at 21:19 #

    Or Birmingham! That’s only an hour or so from Oxford surely? The rag market is ace :)

    • Kelly August 24, 2013 at 21:21 #

      Yeah, good point, hour and a half. I need fabric shopping trips! Although I also need more space to store fabric first…

  2. androoschmiff August 24, 2013 at 23:27 #

    Bombay Stores in Bradford. Bit dear overall, but some great bargains, and fabulous choice.

    • Kelly August 28, 2013 at 00:18 #

      I’ll make sure to have a look if I’m ever up that way!

  3. JacqC August 25, 2013 at 08:06 #

    I live in the SE but I order all my yarn from Masons – sadly there’s a real lack of yarn and fabric stores here and I like the fact that Masons is a local business, even if they’re not local to me! I’d recommend their online ordering service, very helpful. Funnily enough my son is living in Abingdon this summer, on an internship, but I’ve not been there when they’ve been open even once!

    • Kelly August 28, 2013 at 00:21 #

      That’s good to know about their ordering service! Aw, that’s a shame, I just wish they were open slightly more hours than they are! It’s a really nice shop to peruse, although I did once get almost chased out of their yarn shop by the elderly shop assistant, who decided that I’d spent too much time choosing yarn!

  4. Vairë Gwîr August 27, 2013 at 10:42 #

    They don’t really have any dressmaking fabric, but there is a small haberdashery section at Boswell’s with mainly Hemline notions. They also had Craft Cotton Company fat quarters last time I was there, so maybe they will be expanding their fabric range in the future.
    In the city centre you also have Darn it and Stitch, where fabrics are often pricier, but they have a nice little selection of silks and organic cottons.

    • Kelly August 28, 2013 at 00:23 #

      I completely forgot about Darn It and Stitch! I don’t think I’ve ever actually been in there – I don’t make it into town very often. There’s actually also a market stall at the Gloucester Green market on Wednesdays that sells old patterns, and random bits of haberdashery, and another that does fabric I think. I’d really like to be able to go to those, if only I still worked in the city centre!

    • Kelly August 28, 2013 at 00:23 #

      Nice to see you today by the way! I’m definitely going to come along for knitting fun soon :)

      • Vairë Gwîr August 28, 2013 at 16:52 #

        That was SO random! It was great to see you too. I was just gonna shout out how nice your new haircut is when you disappeared.
        Do come along some Tuesday!

        • Kelly August 30, 2013 at 13:50 #

          Thanks, it was a bit of a drastic hair cut but I really like it. Sorry I disappeared, you all seemed so into your knitting, I didn’t want to disturb you too much! I’m going to try and come along this Tuesday :)

  5. Zoe August 30, 2013 at 06:51 #

    A few of those places sound like good places to pick up muslin fabric. Even if a shop isn’t that great, sometimes you have to just try. There is one close to me that never has anything I like, I think it must be more for quilters but I went in on the off chance and I found the cheapest and most amazing rayon fabric! I’ve heard good things about both those places in London from other bloggers so I’d recommend them both!

    • Kelly August 30, 2013 at 14:04 #

      Yeah, it’s all about working out which shops are good for which kinds of fabric! I have to go to London for a work training course in a few weeks, so trying to figure out if I can fit in a trip to Goldhawk Road as well :)

  6. Lucy September 8, 2013 at 13:50 #

    Lincoln is pretty poor for fabric – unless you want to venture up Steep Hill for Cath Kidston style fabrics. We have a stall in the market which does a fair bit, unfortunately its a bit pricier than I would like to pay and you have to ask how much everything is as there are no prices on the rolls. Which puts me off the most as it is embarrassing to ask and then put it back several times over!
    We have a small fabric selection at a shop called Boyes, which also sell haberdashery and yarn. It is a shame, and a suprise given that the uni does a fashion course that there isn’t a dedicated fabric shop.
    (Obviously if anyone else knows of any places in Lincoln that I have missed let me know!)

    Fab abba costume by the way!

    • Kelly September 9, 2013 at 00:32 #

      Thanks Lucy! I was quite proud of it :) I HATE when shops/stalls don’t have the prices on things! I think it’s probably a very British thing not wanting to repeatedly ask, but I do the same, in the end I just walk away because I’ve asked and then not bought so many times! I like to have all the information available to me so I can make a decision!

  7. frocksford September 9, 2013 at 11:56 #

    Great post! I didn’t even know about that shop in Kidlington – I’ll have to make a trip there, as I’m searching high and low for the exact right shade of yellow lining for my next project.

    • Kelly September 9, 2013 at 12:05 #

      Thanks! The one in Kidlington is good, not quite as good a range as Masons, but they do really well in certain areas! And being open on a Sunday is an added bonus! Hope you manage to find your yellow lining!

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