Quilt design inspiration in London Museums

One final post from our travels to the UK this summer, if you don’t mind. It’s so fun to find beautiful quilt and design inspiration where every you go, so I thought I’d share a few last pictures of some pretty design I came across on our travels. Above is the Museum of Natural History (literally across the street from where the Fat Quarterly Retreat was held. Such a gorgeous building and the carved detail on the gates out front was gorgeous with representations of different wildlife. I wish I’d snapped pictures of more of them.

One of my favorite things about London is the museums – in part because they’re free (although a small donation is appreciated.) We visited a bunch of them while we were there. Though not specifically quilt themed displays, there was still great inspiration to be found. This is the Tate Gallery.
When I visited, there was a special exhibit of  beautiful “fabric paintings” by an artist named Andrea Buttner that reminded me of modern quilt designs. There was also a special Folk Art exhibit going on, but I didn’t have the time to go through (or, sadly, the desire to pay the extra fee at the time.)
This tile floor at the Tate was another fun quilt design inspiration.
The British Museum is full of pieces from antiquity, but the modern sky light over the main hall atrium is one of my favorite features!
Strolling through the carvings from ancient Assyria (Iraq) was this beautiful carved “quilt”. (Not really, but it sure looks like one!)
Here’s a close up. I’m sorry it’s hard to see – the lighting made it difficult to get a really good picture, but hopefully you can still see some of the gorgeous carved detail. Making a “stone quilt” sure means it’s got a longer chance of survival.
The Victoria and Albert Museum in London is a museum dedicated to the “decorative arts” including textiles and clothing and interior decor, jewelry, sculpture, etc. It is huge and such a fantastic place. One of my favorite exhibits there is always the one displaying clothing over the last 600 or so years. It’s fantastic! I don’t know why I don’t have any photos from that – maybe they weren’t allowed. I can’t remember.
Gorgeous tile designs from the period furniture and decor exhibits. I love getting quilt inspiration from tile patterns. Plus I’m always a sucker for blue and white together.
There was a gorgeous collection of original designs by William Morris, founder of the Arts and Crafts movement in the 19th century. He was a builder, furniture designer, artist – pretty much could do it all. I’m totally a William Morris fan and it was fun to see the detail and how much more vibrant are the original pieces.
This piece is called strawberry thief. Morris’s prints also inspired some the first Liberty of London textiles. This one is still in print today!
I also snapped this picture of the tile floor at the V&S. I think I need to make a quilt like this.
More design inspiration around every corner. These massive doors were on a building along Embankment.
One highlight for me was visiting the Jane Austen museum in Chawton, in the home she lived in towards then end of her life and while her books were being published. This was my first ever time visiting Chawton.
This is an old quilt on one of the beds in the house. Red and white never goes out of style!
But the really cool part was to see the quilt that Jane Austen herself had made! I’d remembered hearing about a quilt made by Jane, but hadn’t realized it was at this site! I’m sorry for the lousy picture. The lighting was not great and there was a glass wall around the bed. (Which was probably a good safety precaution against those of us who might fondle the quilt itself, or just walk off with it all together. You know how nutty those quilt-people can be!)
The fabrics and colors were beautifully preserved. I loved the dot fabric used for the sashing especially. I would love to know though, how much the colors have faded and changed over time.
Look at those hundreds of little baby triangles. I’m assuming this was English paper-pieced, but don’t know. You can read more about the Jane Austen quilt here and here. As if I didn’t love Jane enough – then to be reminded that she was a quilter too!

One final quilt from our journeys was at the Harry Potter Studio tour outside London. (If you’re a Potter fan, it was absolutely worth the effort and the price to go. So well done.) This pic is from the set of Gryffindor tower and there is Ron Weasley’s bed with this patchwork quilt of knit squares, obviously made by his mum. As a good mum would.

Fabric + Shopping in London

I’ve already shared a couple of posts of fabulous fabric shopping locations in London – the Cloth House and Liberty of London. By no means am I the expert on all the great sewing shops in London, but I there were a few other shops and spots that I hit during my short stay that I thought inspiring and share-worthy.
Another great resource for Liberty of London fabrics is Shaukat in South Kensignton. (Thanks to all those who recommended it!) This was an easy walk from the Fat Quarterly retreat through a smart (posh) neighborhood in London.
The huge selection of Liberty fabrics was in the basement. The presentation is not the same as at Liberty itself, but the selection was just as good and the prices slightly less. Plus they would cut as small as a half metre (compared to Liberty which would only cut metre lengths and higher.)
The other great benefit there was they had a big stack of remnants and scraps. Liberty lawns are on the pricey side – but can go such a long way, so scraps are very useful. I had fun digging through the scrap pile with Cristina, Gunilla and Helene, who were also at the FQ Retreat, and found some gems.
I also splurged on 2 half metres of two of my all-time favorite Liberty prints. But so many good ones got left behind… Now to figure out what I’m going to do with these two.
Another favorite classic English stop was the Cath Kidston shops. I’ve been a total sucker for Cath’s style for a while now and those shops are so full of my kind of color and inspiration.

 I love the haberdashery dept at Cath’s. Lots of pretty fabrics and notions to inspire.

I did a little splurge there as well, buying a fat quarter bundle and a small piece of yardage. And maybe a new bag that I love. (Thank goodness it was Sale season in London!)
The pictures from this Cath (as well as the shop with crocheted sewing machine at the top) were taken on Marleybone High Street. Though I’d heard of it before, this was my first time visiting this part of London. And it was lovely! I little less hustle and bustle than other shopping areas of London with cute, quaint little boutique shops and restaurants.

Lots of adorable children’s shops in that area. Maybe it’s where the next royal baby’s new wardrobe will come from. I’m kicking myself though because I missed The Button Queen and VV Rouleaux on nearby Marleybone Lane.

We passed the Orla Kiely shop near Covent Garden on our walk to the British Museum one day. My family was not in the mood to stop so I let them keep going. (This is the reason this shopping post is not super comprehensive.) I ran in just long enough to take a picture and feel inspired. It was still worth it  as Orla is one of my favorites. 

And finally, while in London you have to hit the big department stores like Harrods, Fortnum and Masons, Harvey Nichols, etc. I’m not much of a shopper for luxury goods, but they’re still such a spectacle. We dragged our kids through the Harrods Food Halls. I’d forgotten just how gorgeous all the details were – even the tile ceilings and food displays were inspiring. We were tempted by the fancy chocolates and macaroons but settled for Cadburys from the corner shop near our flat for a fraction of the price. And it still felt plenty luxurious to us. :)

This list is by no means the be all and end all of sewing-inspired shopping in London, but it’s a start. Feel free to add more in the comments so we can make this post a more comprehensive resource. And so I have a list of other places to be sure not to miss if (fingers crossed = when!) I get a chance to go back.

Post Edit: I didn’t make it outside central London, but here is a great round-up of quilt shops in the greater London area from the London Modern Quilt Guild.

Liberty of London + Liberty fabric giveaway

One of the places I was most excited to visit during my trip to London is the iconic Liberty of London store. It’s literally one-of-a-kind. The Liberty store is located on Regent Street in the heart of one of the trendiest and poshest shopping districts in London. (Carnaby street is close by.) 
I first discovered Liberty when I lived in London as a college student 20+ years ago, but back then we’d go check out the fashion and the couture wedding gowns (which they don’t carry any more). Little did I know then, going back one day it would be all about fabric. lol
Liberty made it’s name originally as a business importing items from the Orient. It is still a department store stocked with a carefully curated collection of a variety of beautiful items from fashion, to gifts, stationary, dishware, accessories, and jewelry.

Not only is it full of pretty stuff to see and buy, but the building itself is worth a look. The iconic Tudor-Revival store was built in the 1920’s using materials from two old ships. The interior has so much character.

The details of the interior including the carved wood and the leaded glass definitely add to the ambiance. I loved the beautiful memorial to the staff members who were killed in “The Great War” (World War 1).

Liberty design and style is still famous – especially in the textile design realm and now probably most famous for their Tana Lawns fabrics which they have been producing for over 135 years. Inspired originally by the colorful silks and prints imported from the far East, Liberty teamed up with nineteenth century designers like William Morris to create in-house collections to sell in their departments stores.

The most classic Liberty designs are delicate florals in a variety of styles and colors. The reason they’re so iconic is they’re classic – they never go out of style. Liberty Tana Lawns are made from ultra-soft cotton, creating fabric that is almost silk-like. The cotton is ultra light-weight, making it lovely for garment sewing, but still works for quilting, with super-soft effect.
The Liberty of London store has a huge habedashery section with bolts of Tana Lawns as well as pre-made bundles of smaller pieces like fat quarters as well as pre-cut squares and hexagons which are a nice option because the minimum cut off the bolt at Liberty itself is 1 metre (meter). I did end up buying this little patchwork pear pincushion as my souvenir. It’s made from some of my favorite Liberty prints, light-weight to carry home, and something I know I could never recreate so perfectly. I love seeing it on my sewing room shelf.

Because of the quality of the fabric, the price of Tana Lawns is not for the faint of heart. They are definitely pricier than regular quilting cottons. Scrappy, pre-cut bundles are a great way to go. I’ve been collection bits and pieces for a few months now and putting them to use on this paper-piecing project.

Follow Amy Smart’s board Liberty of London on Pinterest.
The prints play so nicely together that scrappy projects look really great. Well coordinated, but not matchy-matchy, which I love. I’ve started a pin-board of Liberty Inspiration for ideas to play with my Liberty scraps. Liberty also has a Liberty Craft Blog with lots of great projects as well!
If you are looking to start collecting a little bit of Liberty, let me recommend one of my sponsors, DuckaDilly fabrics. They carry a gorgeous selection of Liberty of London yardage.
And if you’re looking to get a variety of Liberty pieces at once, check out their bundles and stash packs. There’s a little of something in different shapes, sizes, and colorways to give you lots of options.
And in extra fun news, DuckaDilly is giving away a $100 gift certificate to one of you! (This includes refunding the winner that amount on any purchase made between now and the giveaway ending.) To enter take a quick peak at DuckaDilly and leave a comment telling me something you especially love in their shop. Giveaway open until Wednesday, September 17 at midnight MST. GIVEAWAY CLOSED

WINNER: Lisa Marie said…

Liberty of London Tana Lawn: Felix and Isabelle (G) is gorgeous!
DuckaDilly is also offering a 10% discount with the code LIBERTY at checkout (exceptions on subscriptions, sale items, and gift cards) through Sunday, September 14. You can keep up to date on the latest from DuckaDilly by following them on Facebook and Instagram.

The Cloth House, London

When I travel – especially to big cities, I’m always on the lookout for unique sewing or fabric related shops (like Purl Soho in New York.) I was SO glad when a few of the ladies at the Fat Quarterly Retreat recommended The Cloth House because it fit the bill perfectly.
There are two Cloth House shops on Berwick street (at numbers 47 and 98). Because of time I only visited 47, before it closed. I’m wishing I could have seen number 98 as well. (No. 47 had more of the cottons, linens, and trims, where as I think No. 98 specializes more in the in garment fabrics.) They are located only a short walk east of Liberty of London.
The Cloth House is FULL of treasures. Not only are there a wide variety and number of bolts of fabrics, but there are also beautiful displays of vintage notions, trims, spools, ribbons, etc. or haberdashery as they say in the UK. (A much more fun word than notions, if you ask me.) I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. The displays were inspiring and tasteful.

Vintage linen hemp and pattern wallpaper 
  Those jars!

I was good and only bought a couple of 1/4 metres of cotton. I wanted to get something unique that would be difficult for me to buy at home so I chose a printed cotton and a hand-stamped cotton, both from India.

Highly recommend a visit to the Cloth House if you’re in London. The staff was helpful, but not pestering. They were perfectly happy to let me browse and very gracious when I asked if I could take photos.