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The Festival of Fabric

A Vintage Inspired Celebration of Dressmaking

A couple of months ago, a charming email landed in my inbox inviting me to visit the tantalisingly titled Festival of Fabric. Of course, as I have a passion for fabric which may be described as bordering on obsessive, I jumped at the chance to attend.

The event is organised by Amanda Bowden, who also runs Felixstowe Sewing School. As you may have guessed, the Festival of Fabric was held in the quaint seaside town of Felixstowe. Promising to be a Vintage Inspired Celebration of Dressmaking, I was filled with excitement by the time we actually arrived for 10am when the doors opened. Already a sizeable queue of eager fabric enthusiasts had formed outside the building, which only added to my sense of anticipation.

From the moment my hand was stamped with an aptly shaped button motif to allow readmission, I was enthralled. Although the venue was slightly small, the organisers had utilised the space perfectly. The first section that greeted me was a long corridor adorned with a fabulously curated exhibition by specialists in (and stockists of) wartime era fashion – 1940s Style for You. Featuring excellent examples of 1940s fashion, including accessories and contextual ephemera, each mannequin had been styled perfectly to reflect how the garments may have originally been worn. This exhibition served not only as informative, but also inspirational.

The next room was a hive of haberdashery – vintage fabric lengths, modern fabrics available on bolts and rolls, vintage trimmings, ric-rac, buttons, lace, sewing patterns, kits – I actually needed to walk around the room a number of times to make sure I hadn’t missed anything! The sheer amount of fabrics and trims on offer was staggering, especially as I had first considered the venue to be small in stature. Had I fallen into Mary Poppins’ carpet bag and emerged into a vintage fabric utopia?

Yet beyond this haven was an additional room, again filled with stalls. This room offered wools and yarns, and even more vintage fabrics and trimmings.

I was excited to see the Vintage Pattern Store had a very sizeable stall, brimming with patterns from the 1930s onwards. I have purchased from the Vintage Pattern Store on a number of occasions, so it was lovely to actually meet the owners in person. 1940s Style for You also had a stand, and I couldn’t resist purchasing one of their beautiful felt flower brooches. In addition, I came away with a length of original late 1930s/early 1940s novelty printed cotton, and vintage sewing patterns. Of course, many other beautiful trims and tools came away with me too – including a sleeve ironing board – which had been on my list of items to procure for many years now!

Inevitably, all that fabric shopping created quite a thirst for refreshments. Luckily, this eventuality had been foreseen, and a comfortable space was provided for civilised tea and cake consumption.

As we pulled away from Felixstowe and started our journey home, along with all my fantastic purchases I also took away a sense of discovering a kindred spirit in Amanda. Not only had Amanda organised a fantastic event, but she also took the time to chat to me and introduce me to stallholders and friends alike. In actual fact, one of the vendors told me that of all the events they had participated, Amanda was by far the best they had worked with. The evidence for this was clear, from the joyful atmosphere to seeing Amanda take refreshments and drinks to every stall-holder.

Donned in a dress of deep blue, tiny hand embroidered lily of the valley flowers bloomed in organic harmony across Amanda’s self-made gown. The level of care, attention and time that Amanda had taken in embroidering these flowers; echoed in the effort, love and attention that Amanda had given to organising this fantastic event.

This was the second Festival of Fabric event, and I am thrilled to be able to say that there will indeed be another one this March. The next Festival of Fabric is on Saturday 3rd March, and features not only excellent stalls and merchandise, but also a number of exciting workshops and lectures. Dr Christine Boydell will be giving a lecture in Horrockses Fashions; Off the Peg Style in the ’40s and ’50s. Sarah Valentine of Scarlett Valentine will be running a Millinery Workshop in how to make your own tilt or percher hat. And if creating your own flower brooch is where your interests lie, the Felt Pansy Corsage Workshop by Lisa from Bobobun is just the ticket. Alternatively, if you would like to brush-up on your vintage hairstyling skills, Hairaid Shelter will be running live demonstrations and a question & answer session in their 2 hour lecture. All lectures must be booked in advance, and places are limited (for more information, see www.festivaloffabric.co.uk/workshops)

Details for the next event

When: Saturday 3rd March

Where: The Orwell Hotel, Hamilton Road, Felixstowe, IP11 7DX

Price: £5 Admission

Contact: www.festivaloffabric.co.uk

I for one cannot wait to attend the third Festival of Fabric, not only to add to my fabric and haberdashery collection, but also to spend time amongst like-minded fabric enthusiasts.

Jenny Mearns is a vintage fashion writer and researcher. She also runs andEdna – a lingerie label for those with a love of the past www.andedna.com. In her free time, Jenny enjoys designing and making her own clothing, blogging at Annotations of Jenny www.annotationsofjenny.com