A trip to the Fabric Sales


Did you know that metres upon metres of fabric await in a 350m2 warehouse space on an industrial estate in Rostelaar, just outside Leuven?

Neither a shop, nor a market, the Fabric Sales is more ephemeral than that – it's a stock sale that takes place 3 days a month, just 10 months of the year. The concept is simple: the fabrics on sale are overstock from renowned Belgian designers sold on to both those working in the fashion industry themselves and people like me who enjoy making their own clothes, at affordable prices.

The range of fabrics on offer when I went in November was impressive. I came away with some grey thick knit and some ribbed black jersey – both were fabric overstock from Belgian designer Raf Simons.

The Fabric Sales is run by Allison McGreal, whom I met last month when I took my maiden voyage to Rostelaar. She was really lovely and took the time to explain this unique fabric stock sale concept to me, as well as give me some useful food-for-thought on various topics.

It was really fascinating to hear about her visions and ideas for The Fabric Sales - especially as she is not from a 'home sewing' background, her experience comes from a more fashion/business perspective. I'm really interested in where the worlds of home sewing and fashion meet: where does one become the other and how do they intersect?

Allison spoke of how she wants The Fabric Sales to be one part of a network that would link up professionals, students, and amateurs at both the local and international level within the fashion industry. For example, if a designer was looking for a pattern cutter they could turn to a database to find out the contact details of people in the local area who have those skills. This kind of 'joining-the-dots' strategy would both help create jobs and support designers starting out.

What inspired the Fabric Sales was the amount of textile waste in the fashion industry. It's really shocking that for many companies it is actually cheaper to throw out excess fabric than to manage selling it on. And we're not talking about scraps here - we're talking about bolts of high quality fabric.

But while The Fabric Sales was born out of a reaction to this pro-waste industry model you won't see any nods to 'green living' in its marketing strategy – what I gathered from talking to Allison is that The Fabric Sales is not trying to specifically appeal to the so-called 'ethical' consumer – rather, Allison wants this kind of approach to textile waste to be the norm and not the niche.

Finally, what I liked about buying overstock 'designer' fabric is that it is quite democratising – just like our home makes, a very expensive piece of clothing also started life on a fabric bolt.

There is a special Christmas Fabric Sales this Sunday (14th December) from 11h to 17h.

If you are coming from Brussels and don't have a car (like me!) take a train to Leuven and then a De Lijn bus (number 333, 334, or 335) to Rotselaar (get off at the stop Rotselaar Rotonde). From here it is a 10-minute walk.

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C'est le temps de la couture: my #SewingFrançoise entry


When Tilly released her newest pattern, Françoise, I knew it would go straight to the top of my to-sew list: firstly, because I'm always on the look out for a good shift dress pattern (I had a go at drafting one myself last year and I made a 60s inspired shift dress as part of Sew it Up in May); secondly, because the pattern is a clear nod to the wonderful Françoise Hardy; and thirdly because Tilly is holding a Françoise sewing competition in which the star prize is a shiny new sewing machine!
I've entered two sewing competitions already this year but as yet have not been triumphant - could this be my time?! :)

Let's go through the details:

- I chose to sew Françoise in a purple tartan wool. I bought it a while ago in Berger.

I drafted an all-in-one lining to make sure it would be comfy to wear. I drafted and sewed it using the same principles as you would for making an all-in-one facing. The lining fabric is brown satin that has a coating of viscose on the other side – perfect for adding warmth in the winter.


- SBA – this was very well explained by Tilly and in my last blogpost I wrote about how making this dress helped me realise where I had been going wrong before with SBAs – now I know I must pick the pattern size at the bust based on the high bust measurement. I cut a Size 3 in the bust and a size 2 at the waist and hip. I then carried out an SBA following Tilly's method. My SBA meant that I removed the bust darts completely.

- I also moved the waist dart by unpicking my muslin several times until I got it in the right place. I found that creating a cardboard cut-out of the waist dart shape was helpful for tracing it onto the fabric.

- I shortened the dress by 3.5cm at the waist 'lengthen/shorten here' lines

- Instead of an invisible zip I used a centred zip – mainly because I thought the fabric would be too bulky for an invisible zip but I also thought it would be nice to use a full zip to nod to the 60s as I think invisible zips were only widely available to home sewers from the late 60s.

- I also lowered the zip slightly to make space for a nice button.

- I carried out a sway back adjustment as there was a lot of excess fabric in the arch of my back – this is the first time I've carried out this adjustment.

Voilà! Overall I'm really happy with my dress. The wool is quite hard to press but I like the really defined lines of the seams and the darts, and how the thickness of the fabric holds the shape of the dress well. I had a bit of trouble getting the lining of the collar not to peek out but you can't really tell when I wear it, unless you are as close as this photo! Most of all I'm happy with the fit, I really took my time to get it right and I think it paid off.

Wish me luck in the competition!