What is Liberty of London and why is it famous in the quilting world? Liberty of London is a historic and inspiring department store in London’s West End. It’s iconic Tudor-Revival store front is a London landmark. Inside is full of charming housewares, swanky clothing and their world famous Tana Lawns and floral fabric designs and prints.
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, lightweight 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.
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.
If you are looking to start collecting a little bit of Liberty Tana Lawns, let me recommend DuckaDilly fabrics. They carry a gorgeous selection of Liberty of London yardage and they’re located here in the US so you don’t need to pay any overseas shipping.
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.
Update: Liberty creates a range of quilter’s cottons now! Which are also available at much more typical cotton yardage prices. Here are a couple of quilts I’ve made using Liberty quilter’s cotton: here and here.