Here’s a list of favourites intended for SCA travellers and locals, that we’ve found over the years.
This is not an exhaustive list – if you find a gem, please tell us!
London has a long history of local markets, often with specialties like clothing, leather goods, or food.
TimeOut also publish excellent specialist guidebooks for every imaginable interest – food, drink, art, shopping, kids, clubs, etc. Look for the weekly magazines in the corner shops, and the specialist guides in WH Smith or Waterstone bookshops.
All the museums and galleries have their own gift shops, which include books and exhibit catalogues. You’ll find those on your own!
Here’s a couple of other areas to go hunting.
Charing Cross Road Bookstores
Charing Cross Road Tube: Leicester Square (just up the road from the National Portrait Gallery and National Gallery)
Large collection of secondhand and new bookshops. Don’t expect to be able to find that long lusted-after out-of-print book, but you seldom walk away without one good purchase. Google map with list of shops
Of especial interest…
W & G Foyle Ltd
119,Charing Cross Rd, WC2H 0EB Tel: 020 7437 5660
Foyles is supposedly one of the best sellers of new books in the world. Five stories to get lost in.
British Museum and Bloomsbury area bookstores
Great Russell St area
Tube: Holborn, Tottenham Court Road, Russell Square, Goodge Street
The area around the British Museum is also chock-full of bookstores – antique, specialist, orientalia, cartoon. Fabulous.
Webwright recommends: London Review Bookshop, Bury Place, W1CA
As you can tell, we like shopping for fabric!
WEST: Shepherd’s Bush Market, W12
Tube: Goldhawk Road
This market area has several fabric stores that stock wool, linen and silk at reasonable prices. Look for Asian shops along Goldhawk Road, and then have a browse through the pedestrian market. Some price negotiating is possible for bolt ends.
Webwright’s favourite: Classic Textiles on Goldhawk Road, opposite the Tube station. “Never fail to find what I want here!”
Oddly, fabric shops do not necessarily stock sewing supplies (thread, needles, accessories) – just fabric. You have to go elsewhere for haberdashery.
NORTH: Walthamstow Market, High Street, E17
Tube: Blackhorse or Walthamstow Central
The daily street market can yield some wonderful £1-2/m finds for fabric and notions from both the stalls and the shops.
Ideal for browsers who enjoy the thrill of the hunt as much as taking home the results. Closed Sundays.
CENTRAL: Berwick Street, Soho, W1F
Tube: Picadilly Circus, Leicester Square
Material shops galore. Goes from reasonable prices to outrageous, with corresponding materials. A HUGE range of silks.
CENTRAL-EAST of CENTRAL: Brick Lane E1
Tube: Liverpool St, Aldgate East, Whitechapel, or Shoreditch High Street Overground, plus 10 mins walk from any station.
East London has a long history of being the cheap home for new arrivals to the city, dating back to the 17th c Huguenot weavers from France and Flanders. For the most recent generation, Brick Lane is the home base of the mostly-Bangladeshi and northern Indian expatriate community; food ingredients, clothing, fabric and books all cater to this community. It’s well-known for its Indian restaurants, with assertive touts at every doorway offering you deals on drinks and starters.
Increasingly the ‘indie’ boutique, clothing, and music groupies are moving into the north stretch of Brick Lane and its offshoots, and you can find funky clothes, shoes, leather goods, music and accessories, as well as a growing very informal Sunday market (think of a car-boot sale or garage sale, only on the street).
Two fabric shops of note – there may be others, these are the ones that have yielded useful finds
Epra Fabrics (website) 54 Brick Lane, E1 – widths of cotton canvas for making sunshades
Z. Butt Fabrics (google description)- 24 Brick Lane, London E1 – general useful fabrics, and lots of gaudy haberdashery trims
SOUTH: Electric Avenue, Brixton SW9
Electric Avenue and the Electric Arcade are popular outdoor markets adjascent to Brixton Station in South London.
Another excellent place to rummage and enjoy the search.
EAST: Curtain Factory Outlet, N12
Tube: West Finchley
“We manage to offer from 500,000 metres in stock these fabrics at a maximum price of £6.99 per metre + VAT.”
Website includes online shopping.
EAST: Green Street, E13
Tube: Upton Park
We’ve found three gems, in this busy area that is thick with fabric shops catering to Asian and Caribbean tastes.
1. Directly out of Upton Park, turn right into the large market. On the right-hand side is a shop with large rolls of fashion and drapery fabrics. Lightweight linens available, very reasonably priced; synthetic brocades.
2. A fabric store on Green street, directly across the road from the tube station. If you mention you’re making a medieval dress and you need metres and metres of nice natural-fibre fabric, the owner can be very helpful. It’s very hit and miss whether he’ll have something for you, but its worth going in.
3. From Upton Park tube, turn left (not crossing the road) and about 5 minutes walk along, at the busy roundabout, there’s a
curtain/fabric store. It has a selection of upholstery fabrics which is great if you’re looking for damasks or brocaded fabrics.”
Sewing supplies – Haberdashery and notions
Tube: Oxford Circus
“Everything you could possibly need for crafts, tailoring and home sewing.”
Stocks bridal fabrics, hat forms, and specialty tailoring supplies, and does scissor sharpening.
Just off Oxford Street, between Oxford Circus and Bond Street Tube stations.
Barnett Lawson Trimmings: the Aladdin’s cave of trimmings
“Barnett Lawson can be found tucked away behind Oxford Circus in central London, just a stone’s throw away from the BBC. This secret underground world of wonderous trimmings is brimming with all kinds of embellishments for fashion fabrics, home furnishings, millinery, jewellery and other decorative uses.”
Totally glorious and open on Saturdays! Also has excellent sample service, and staff are happy to meet challenges like ‘I want something 16th century for a man’s Tudor doublet.’ Also stocks natural and dyed ostrich feathers for hats, and felt hat forms.
“V V Rouleaux is the leading passementerie brand in Europe, offering the broadest and most creative ranges of ribbons, trimmings, tassels, tie-backs, flowers, display and Christmas decorations, as well as interior and fashion accessories.”
Shops in Sloane Square, and Marlebone
Tube: (unsurprisingly) Sloane Square, Marlebone
Fibre, yarn and embroidery
NORTH: The Handweaver’s Studio
This excellent shop for textile artists is London’s prime source of wool, linen and silk yarns and threads. A visit is a must for any handstitcher, embroiderer, weaver, or spinner. Nice selection of books and tools. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
Under new management as of August 2009 the studio is now on Seven Sisters Road, 10 mins walk from Finsbury Park station. Check their website for directions. Hitting both Walthamstow Market and the Handweavers Studio makes it worth the trip to North London!
Tube: Holborn, Tottenham Court Road, Russell Square, Goodge Street
“Artists’ colourmen” since the 19th century.
Source of real gold leaf, minerals for authentic pigments (in all their fully toxic glory!), and for specialist tools and materials for gilding, painting and furniture restoration. Does carry some vellum, for a price. A marvellous treat for keen artists.
Near the British Museum on Great Russell St.
Tube: Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus
Downtown resource in Soho, walking distance from the major art galleries. Get inspired, and go stock up!
Cowling & Wilcox has several branches around the city.
Tube: Covent Garden, Holborn
“Our flagship store in Covent Garden is regarded as a major outlet of its kind, offering unparalleled choice from the leading suppliers of the world.”
Green & Stone of Chelsea ‘Dealers in art materials and drawing supplies since 1927′
Tube: South Kensington, or Sloane Square
A wonderful art shop in a very fashionable shopping area. Wear comfy shoes for the leisurely walk down King’s Road.
The reenactment community in the UK provides an excellent resource for folks hoping to set up, or improve, their Society kit. Several folks in Thamesreach play in more than one organisation.
The semi-annual reenactment markets (spring and autumn) are bonanzas for hard-to-find ready-made clothes, and for accessories like shoes, hats, cutlery and pottery, jewelry, armour, archery equipment.
You can walk in naked (ok, not quite, but entirely kit-free), and walk out fully equipped to play in the SCA.
These markets are ideal if you’re trying to refine your look to a particular period: Roman, Saxon, Norman, 14th century, War of the Roses, and Tudor are always popular and well represented.
Two organisations run the markets in ‘friendly competition’:
Our Living History is a great resource for finding out more about reenactment in the UK – the site runs active forums and has links to many groups.