We just returned home from Edinburgh, where I had plenty of time to satify my fabric shopping craving. Jason works in Scotland for about 1 week every other month, and I try to tag along when I can. This was my second time spending 5 days in Edinburgh while he worked. This meant I had the whole day to myself, to walk around, be a tourist, visit friends, and yes, find fabric shops! In the evenings we always go out for dinner or grab drinks with friends, and this year, we were able to catch Festival Fringe shows in preview! It was a great trip.
Chances are, you are visiting Edinburgh for tourism, and spending a good chunk of time on the Royal Mile. Enjoy the castle! My favorite touristy thing is the Real Mary Kings Close. If you need a break from the mile, head to the Grassmarkets, wait in line at Mary’s Milk Bar for super creamy home made ice cream, pop by Bains Retro Sweets, poke your head in at W. Armstrong & Son vintage, and walk up the road to Hannah Zakari to peep some Buried Diamond jewelry! Wow, I am realizing I have a lot of Edi recs, but I’ll stick to fabric.
Anyway, when the crowds have exhausted you, walk about 12 minutes to Edinburgh Fabrics. This is a lovely shop! I can imagine it being my local shop, and out of the 3 fabric stores I perused in Edinburgh, it is the most well stocked in both fabrics, haberdashery, and pure whimsy. Also, the owners are helpful, and very nice.
While pricey, I think Harris Tweed is the ultimate Scottish souvenir. Edinburgh Fabrics is an authorized dealer and they have a big, gorgeous selection - swatches are £1, meters are £35-55. Keep in mind that Harris Tweed is woven on smaller looms, and therefore narrow, so you might need more meters for your project than usual. They also have very fine woolens that are not Harris, and a wide selection of tartan fabrics (most are blends).
This is a smaller shop, but they have a taste of everything: jersey knits, rayons, linen solids, printed cottons, lining fabrics, lace, sequins…. I have never bought fabric here, because I’m saving myself for Harris Tweed one day, but I have made a few purchases from their haberdashery section.
As you can see, they’ve probably got what you’re looking for. What a delight to browse such a dense selection. If you don’t see what you need, the staff is very helpful. If you only visit one fabric shop in Edinburgh, this is the one I recommend. It is centrally located and well stocked. But there are two more I enjoyed, as well….
When I told my friend Rachael (who owns Hannah Zakari) that I was looking for fabric stores, she suggested I check out the Haberdashery in the John Lewis department store. Coincidentally, my current international flight binge watch show is Mr. Selfridge, so I was delighted by the old fashioned concept of a Haberdashery department inside a department store! When you arrive at John Lewis, there is a large home dec section - that’s now what you’re looking for. Head up the escalator to find a very cute little department, featuring sewing, knitting, and crafting supplies.
The fabric selection is small, but they have what you need for basic home garment sewing: 1-3 bolts each of printed cottons, rayons, stretch velvet, denim, swiss dot, cotton waffle, special occasion fabric, etc. In the clearance section, I found a super drapey, leopard poly crepe for £5/meter, so I bought 4 meters. You have your fabric cut within the Haberdashery, where they give you your cut and a ticket. You then go back out to the main floor of the store to pay.
In this shop, they have supplies for most needlecrafts, including needlpoint, embroidery, knitting and crochet. The back wall of the shop is lined with yarn cubbies. There is an alcove full of sewing machines; they stock Singer, Janome, and Brother machines, as well as John Lewis brand machines for £99, which come in candy colors (pink, red, yellow, mint, blue)! They also have a large cabinet full of Big 4 sewing patterns. The catalogs are on top, and you may need to ask someone to get current season patterns for you.
If I lived in Edinburgh, I would certainly pop into this shop on occasion, to check the offerings and pick up a pattern now and then. I’m not sure you need to go out of your way to visit on a short trip, but if you’re nearby, it is a nice department store. Tourism pro-tip: they have a public restroom.
If you’re interested in walking to Leith (it’s nice there!), you can take a route past John Lewis, and then as you head north, you only need to go a couple blocks off course to reach The Cloth Shop. (And when you’re ready to get back on track, peek in at Candersons Sweet Shop.)
The fabric selection here is pretty good and definitely focuses on dressmaking. Between Liberty prints and tartan, you can easily find a perfect souvenir from your trip. They also have cottons, printed rayon, faux furs, lace & sequins, an array of neon spandex, and a surprising assortment of stretch velvets, including several animal print velvets.
The ground floor is a huge home decorating store - I am not sure if you can shop for fabric there or if you need to be a decorator. The apparel fabric store is upstairs. You can see here, they have a desk for browsing pattern catalogs. You need to ask a sales associate for the envelopes once you’ve made your selections.
I purchased buttons here, the kind that are in clear vials, not stapled to cards. The woman who counted the buttons for me was lovely and we chatted a bit about sewing, which is always nice, given the setting. This shop is out of the way for tourists, but if I lived in Leith, or generally nearby, I’m sure I would stop by once in a while to see what was new, or to purchase patterns. Overall, my visit to the Cloth Shop was a soothing pause in my walk to Leith.
Those are my fabric shopping recommendations for Edinburgh! Do you ever buy fabric as a travel souvenir? If not, I suggest it, you’ll have travel memories every time you see the fabric, and if you sew it up, the project feels that much more special. Let me know if you ever visit these shops! XO, Martha