Independent craft shops, we're sorry to say, are a dying breed. We still lament the loss of London Bead Shop in Seven Dials (recipient of the majority of our teenage pocket money in the noughties), and Creative Beadcraft on Marshall Street, which has now moved online.
More recently, London has lost Marylebone's beloved Button Queen, Waterloo's I Knit London, run by the inimitable Gerard, and The London Bead Company in Kentish Town, to name but a few. Fortunately, others are still going strong and, we hope, having something of a renaissance thanks to people taking up new crafts and hobbies during lockdown.
Next time you need a ball of wool, a couple of canvasses or a pair of jewellery pliers, consider supporting one of these independent businesses.
Knitting and haberdashery shops in London
MacCulloch & Wallis, Soho: After 120 years in the business, MacCulloch & Wallis have got this haberdashery thing down, selling fabric, wool, threads and trimmings from their Poland Street store, as well as larger items such as sewing machines. Millinery is prominent too, though most of the floor and wall space in this two-storey shop is taken up by reams of fabric. Appearances are deceptive — the shop goes further back than you'd think from the street.
New Trimmings, Berwick Street: Barely a surface of petite Soho store New Trimmings remains uncovered, with cube shelves packed with tubes of buttons, psychedelic feathers exploding out of pots, and ribbons, pom poms tassels and fringes hanging anywhere there's space. As the name suggests, it's all about the trimmings here, rather than the fabric itself. For that, head down the road to...
Borovick Fabrics, Berwick Street: Borovick Fabrics has been around for 90 years, and claims to be the oldest fabric shop in Soho. These days it supplies material for bridal and theatrical purposes, student projects, and to anyone with a sewing task in mind. It's also worth browsing the ends and remnants section, if you're after a smaller piece. (And get yourself a nice lunch at one of Berwick Street's food stalls.)
Joel & Son Fabrics, Marylebone: 'Specialists in Haute Couture fabrics' is how Joel & Son Fabrics describes itself (translation: it's a bit more upmarket than some of the other inclusions on this list). Somewhere to keep for when you're fashioning an outfit for a special occasion, rather than testing out dodgy newfound sewing skills.
V V Rouleaux, Marylebone: Something of a grand dame of the London haberdashery scene, despite only opening in 1990. At V V Rouleaux, focus is on trimmings rather than fabrics, with ribbons, braids, tassels and the like a speciality, which can be used in anything from millinery to interior design. It's worth swinging by if you're in the area, even if your tassel needs have already been met, as the window display is always creative and ever-changing.
Loop London, Islington: Knitting is the name of the game at Loop London, this Camden Passage supply shop, which'll sell you the goods for your own project, or ready-made kits for creating shawls, scarves and toys designed by someone else. You name a yarn brand, and they almost definitely sell it. Plus they've got the patterns and books you need to get going too. A small selection of haberdashery items (buttons, pom poms, embroidery hoops) is also available.
Slipstitch, Alexandra Palace: Previously known as Fringe London, Slipstitch is primarily focused on knitting, with yarn and knitting needles among its products, but fabrics, other haberdashery items and books do get a look in. There's also a macramé section, for anyone who's exhausted their knitting and crocheting skills, and needs a new challenge.
The Village Haberdashery, West Hampstead: Close your eyes and picture a small, independent craft shop. The Village Haberdashery is likely very similar to what you just pictured. Cube shelves are packed high with a rainbow of wool balls, fabric bundles line the shelves like books, while bunting (homemade, naturally) hangs from the ceiling above wooden tables laden with anything the average tailor or seamstress could possibly need (fabrics, patterns, buttons, kits, tools). PLUS, they venture into soap making, decoupage and other crafts. Classes for adults run regularly, covering everything from basic knitting to sewing your own pyjamas or knickers. Sadly, The Village Haberdashery closed down permanently in August 2022.
Ray Stitch, Islington: Fabric and haberdashery sections take equal billing at Ray Stitch, a smart shop which also offers sewing classes where you can get to grips with pattern cutting, using a sewing machine and other skills.
The Handweavers Studio & Gallery, Finsbury Park: A step away from London's many other knitting shops, The Handweavers Studio & Gallery focuses on weavers, spinners, felters, dyers and embroiderers, with regular classes for anyone who wants to try weaving, tapestry, yarn spinning or looming. The shop side of things offers an extensive array of wools, yarns and fibres, as well as dyes in case you just can't find the shade you're after.
Ultimate Craft, Camden and Stoke Newington: It's not a specialist haberdashery, so Ultimate Craft sells a bit of everything in its two London stores, including sketch pads, canvasses, glue, beads and wire. For those for whom needlework is the only way, the range includes fabrics, wools, embroidery threads, ribbons and buttons. Not as specialist as some of the other shops, but it covers your basics.
Cloth House Studio, Camden: The Soho Cloth House Store is now closed, with fabric being sold at the studio in Camden instead (which you'll need an appointment to visit). There you can browse rolls of fabrics including cotton, linen, silk and linings. Buttons, thread, ribbons, webbing and string are available in the haberdashery section.
Fabrics Galore, Battersea: A classic case of does-what-it-says-on-the-tin, Fabrics Galore sells material for dressmaking, quilting, furnishing... anything you could need fabric for, basically. Designer fabrics such as Liberty, Cath Kidston and Orla Kiely sit alongside more budget-friendly options (and a remnants section too).
Sharp Works, Herne Hill: Yarns, needles, hooks, thread, ribbons, buttons... Sharp Works stocks everything a haberdashery should have, as well as offering knitting and crochet classes for those just starting out. All inside a charming little shop close to Herne Hill station and market.
Stag & Bow, Forest Hill: "Purveyors of craft, history and haberdashery" is how Stag & Bow describes itself, meaning you're as likely to find a vintage teapot or sewing book on the shelves as you are the shade of wool you're looking for. That said, it's a charming mix, run by a small but knowledgable team, and with regular workshops as well, it feels like a local creative community rather than just a knitting shop. That said, you'll find wool, needles, embroidery thread, sewing patterns and more here.
Wild and Woolly, Lower Clapton: Part of the East London Yarn Triangle (which also includes Fabrications and Knit With Attitude), Wild and Woolly focuses on where your wool comes from. It specialises in breed specific wools and yarns from local hand dyers, with staff willing to sit down and lend a hand if your latest project has you tied up in knots.
Dalston Mill Fabrics: Despite the name, there isn't an actual fabric mill tucked away in Dalston. Instead, Dalston Mill Fabrics imports cloth from all over the world and sells it to the good people of London, with products ranging from budget material for fashion students to bridal fabrics used in wedding dresses. Only a tiny fraction of the company's stock is on the website, so it's well worth swinging by. Oh, and do read about the history of the business.
Knit Works London, Bethnal Green: Machine knitting is the speciality at Knit Works London which offers classes, and has knitting machines available to hire in its studio. Of course, however you're knitting you're going to need wool, which is where the yarn store comes in.
William Gee, Hackney: The dated looking storefront on the Kingsland Road belies nothing of the top-notch haberdashery within. William Gee opened in 1906 and still operates as a family-run store today; it has supplied fashion houses including Alexander McQueen and Victoria Beckham. If you're not at that level quite yet, fear not — you're still welcome to browse the warren of rooms selling threads, buttons, buckles, elastic, ribbon, needles and much more.
Shaukat Fabrics, Old Brompton Road: Shaukat Fabrics has a sizeable showroom to its name, where you can browse and buy fabrics in a variety of materials and colours. The company's origins are in African, Asian and Middle Eastern fabrics, though these days they've diversified into products from all over the world.
The Cloth Shop, Ladbroke Grove: Previously located on Portobello Road but now temporarily on Golborne Road, The Cloth Shop offers fabrics suitable for tailoring and dressmaking as well as home furnishings. Handwoven fabrics, block-printed cotton and Indian cotton printed fabrics are available too, so it's somewhere to head if you're looking for something a little more unique.
Broadwick Silks, Wembley: The name of Broadwick Silks came from its former home on Broadwick Street in Soho. These days, it's located in Wembley, and you'll need an appointment to visit and browse the range over 2,000 fabrics and leathers, plus trims and buttons.
Bead and jewellery-making shops in London
Like all things, crafting goes through phases and fashions. 15 years ago, bead crafts and jewellery-making was all the rage, and London was replete with bead shops. These days, changing trends (hello, crochet) combined with online shopping has left London's beading scene depleted. Tiny little shops, where you pick up a dish and fill it with individual beads before totting up the total at the till, seem to be a thing of the past. Here's where you can still find jewellery making accoutrements of some description — both based in London's jewellery district, where their main customer base is the local jewellery trade.
Bellore Rashbel, Hatton Garden: Beads at Bellore Rashbel are predominantly of the precious metal persuasion, so best left for special projects rather than everyday crafting. They also sell all manner of wire and cord, beading tools, charms, pendants and the like.
Cooksongold, Hatton Garden: With one shop in Hatton Garden and the other in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter, Cooksongold mainly focuses on precious metals. But a dive around the website shows that they do sell individual Preciosa Crystal beads starting from about 80p each, as well as larger packs of seed, acrylic and wood beads. Jewellery wire and findings are available too.
Many of the haberdashery shops mentioned above will sell beads, but they're often ready packaged and in large quantities, rather than sold individually.
Art supply, papercraft and painting shops in London
Into scrapbooking, calligraphy or good old-fashioned painting? Pick up all the paints, inks, canvasses, papers and other supplies you need at these stores.
L. Cornelissen & Son, Bloomsbury: Describing itself as "artists' colourmen", L. Cornelissen is a specialist shop carrying items that you just don't see anywhere else. Its main business is painting, with all the pigments and gouache you could ever need, but you'll also find brushes and canvases, as well as inks, nibs and pens for calligraphy and (quite unusually) gold and silver leaf for gilding. Of course, if you're just in the market for a canvas and new set of brushes, they do that too. Inside, it's all aged floorboards and traditional wooden shop fittings — have a peek inside.
Fielders, Wimbledon: Aimed at the more casual artist than Cornelissen, Fielders nonetheless stock ample supplies of art materials. Think brand-name paints, plus pencils, pastels and modelling materials. The craft side of the shop offers wool, buttons, ribbons and beads, making it the ideal place to have a browse. Sadly, it looks like this one may be closing down soon.
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Choosing Keeping, Seven Dials: If you've walked past this shop, you probably stopped for a second or two to glimpse its windows, so enticingly beautiful and old-fashioned is the shopfront. If you're into calligraphy, Choosing Keeping is the place to head in London, not only for equipment but also for the range of decorative papers available. There's something about the shops that encourages reverent tones and hushed browsing, but once you get talking to the staff, you'll find they really know their stuff.
Cass Art, various locations: Something of a national mini-chain, Cass Art has seven London locations, each offering its standard line of drawing and painting supplies, such as canvases, easels, brushes, paints and pencils. Popular with art students.
Craft shops worth leaving London for
Sometimes you need to travel a little to get exactly what you want. These shops are well worth leaving London for:
Mavis of Bushey, Hertfordshire: Running for over 85 years, this staple of Bushey High Street was almost lost when previous owners Michael and Pam (son and daughter-in-law of the original Mavis) retired. But in 2021, it was saved by local woman Sarah Waite, who continues to run it as a thriving knitting and haberdashery store, with crochet and knitting lessons available.
World of Sewing, Orpington and Tunbridge Wells: Anything sewing-related you can possibly think of, World of Sewing will stock it at one of its two branches, in Orpington and Tunbridge Wells. In addition to fabrics and haberdashery basics, they specialise in sewing machines, offering advice if you're buying a new one, and reconditioning and selling pre-used ones.
We've only included physical shops above — though some may have an online presence too — rather than purely online businesses. If you know anywhere we've missed, let us know in the comments. Of course, certain chain craft stores have shops in London, and department stores often have a haberdashery department too.
We heartily recommend Leigh Metcalf's 2015 book London Stitch & Knit (Black Dog Publishing). Though some of the information is now out of date due to businesses moving or closing, it's a beautifully designed book with stunning photography, and is a pleasure to flick through.