Thursday, November 25, 2010

My Creative Space

Right now, my creative space is filled with all the wonderful vintage fabrics I found in a dusty shop in Beirut. I'm hugging myself with delight and can't wait to start using them!

Before arriving in Lebanon, I had thought we would be able to find a fabric market - in the way that I seem to be able to find a fabric market in just about any city I visit.

Most Middle Eastern cities have an area where all the fabric shops are clustered together, and you can just go from one to another and lose yourself in the wonders they have to offer, as the hours go past unnoticed and your stomach starts to grumble and the sun sets slowly in the sky. Or is that just me?

After we walked around for a while, searching aimlessly, it became obvious to us that Beirut doesn't have a market in that sense. Perhaps because it's a much more European city, it's more like Australia, where fabric shops are just dotted across the landscape, with no particular rhyme or reason as to their location. We had found one around the corner from our guesthouse on the first night, where I bought (at vast expense) the incredibly good quality French indienne cottons in the bottom photograph, from a tiny French woman no bigger than a bird.

It was our last day in the city and we didn't want to waste time looking - so the White Witch and I went shopping for shoes, instead. As you do.

(She bought a gorgeous pair of soft suede ballet pumps with little grosgrain ribbons on the toe, decorated with a sparkly brooch. I wanted the same pair, but lucky for My One True Love and our magnificent shoe cupboard which is already full to bursting, they didn't have my size).

French indienne cottons
We began to make our way back along the Rue de Hamra, with the intention of catching a taxi back to the guesthouse and then the airport for our flight home.

Lo and behold, as we rounded a corner, a dusty shop caught my eye. And as I peered closer, I realised that one entire wall was covered with bolts of fabric.

Colourful fabric. Patterned fabric. Colourful, patterned ... ohmygod VINTAGE fabric! I may have let out an involuntary squeal at that point. I certainly clapped my hands together like a five-year-old, I know that much.

And so we dived in, and I pulled out roll after roll after roll of divine mercerised cotton from the 60s, polished cotton from the 50s, a 70s printed silk, wool and cashmere blends, tartan wool weaves, plenty of polyester/rayon mixes (ugh, I put those back right away), navy and red striped seersucker ... it was madness. The shop assistant thought it was heaven.

In the end I managed to pare back my selection to the bare necessities.
  • The block green wool is going to become a sixties-style knee-length dress with rolled collar and short sleeves, very Jackie O
  • and next to it, the heavy mercerised cotton with a cream background and green floral print; which perfectly coordinates with that green wool, is going to become a short box jacket to go over the dress
  • and the same fabric in brown (top left corner) is going to become a giant elephant, a la Gerald The Elephant In The Room
  • and the cream pinwale corduroy with purple and gold stripes, trellis and leafy print is going to be ... something, I don't know what yet
  • and the loud fabric with multicoloured stripes and flowers comes in two weights - canvas and voile - so the voile is going to be a simple shirt and the canvas will be used for toys
  • the blue, orange and black floral print is a good shirting weight too
  • and the flowery brown, orange and lilac cotton in the bottom right-hand corner is just something I liked but I've no idea what to use it for
  • And the White Witch bought some lovely things in pink tones as well but I was too obsessed with my own haul to photograph hers
And then - then we realised what time it was and we rushed out the door with our bags and caught a taxi with a totally pervy driver who wanted us to spank his hand with this weird wooden paddle and we had to get out in the middle of nowhere and then we nearly missed the flight to the airport, all because of the fabric, but that's another story .....


rabbit and the duck said...

I am having a serious case of fabric envy right now! I love all your vintage finds.

Susan L (lily40au) said...

What a wonderful find ... I love coming out the corner in an unknown city and finding something amazing.My Creative Space

Bessie handmade vintage and retro fabric bags said...

It is not just you. Shopping vs food? Fabric wins! Love your pile. Lucky you.

Naturally Carol said...

What an amazing find! You'll be in fabric heaven for quite a while with that stash.

Michelle W @ The Crafty Little Fox said...

So awesome. I love the story too! It is really exciting when you find fabric like that. The fabric that makes you squeal with delight and you dont know which bit to buy first.

shyr said...

where is exactly that place? do u still remember it's name? thank you : )

flickettysplits said...

Hi Shyr - the shop was FARAH STORES, in the Farah Centre in Hamra Street in town. You can reach them on Tel: 01 344 540 (Beirut, Lebanon).

Anonymous said...

Indeed Farah is great for vintage (for some, read: dusty) finds and the service is really delightful, but if you really need a piece of fabric to match some other fabric...beware! Their lights are almost never on (Beirut experiences frequent powercuts and I don't think a low-turn over fabric store can afford a generator). I have gone home more than once with zippers and lining fabric that don't quite match even though they looked good in low lighting with the sample I brought.

If you're in Beirut looking for fabric then Bourj Hammoud (the Armenian neighborhood) is a much better bet. The stores are clustered and the stock is a bit newer, but still very interesting; e.g. cotton printed with the Armenian alphabet.