Travel and Fabric and Sewing! Oh My!

If you are reading this article, I suspect you are a lover of fabric. Those of us sharing that love usually have a stash and the individual pieces of that stash sometimes have a story. Here are stories from Karen, Markita and Sheryl, a few of our Plano ASG members who have had the opportunity to wander the globe and love to feed their stash with souvenirs from their travels.


When I travel, I like to buy fabric as a souvenir and make something that reminds me of a special time and place.  This story is about wool I bought at Avoca mill, the oldest existing mill in Ireland.  The countryside is beautiful with sheep grazing nearby.  There are still a few hand looms we were able to see in action.  I love having the fabric from this mill with its history.

I have had my eye on Vogue 1467 ever since the McCalls sew-along in 2014.  By reading all the posts from that effort I avoided several of the pitfalls.   For instance, I used fusible interfacing which I extended only to the seam lines.  I only had a problem with bulk when I did the buttonholes. My Bernina just would not stitch them no matter what adjustments I made.  My Babylock A-line Grace came to the rescue and stitched without a hitch.  I love that machine.  Believe it or not, I won that machine in a drawing at a local fabric store many years ago. 

The lining is silk that I bought at Promenade Fine Fabrics in New Orleans on another trip.  It feels very good against my skin.  I especially like the design of the back of this jacket.  I may use that at some point on another garment.  This was not a difficult jacket to sew, probably because I had all the advice of other sewists before I even started.  I know I will enjoy wearing it as it is just the right weight for our Dallas winters.


My favorite travel souvenirs are fabric, notions, magazines and/or books on fashion and sewing.  I am lucky enough to be able to accompany my husband on his business travels so I am free to entertain myself with museums, galleries, architecture, cultural sites and shopping.  Here are a few of my favorite stories.

My son, Mose’s wedding was planned for October 2017.  In March of that year, I was in Singapore.  Lucky for me, my sewing friend, Denise, who used to live in McKinney was now living in Singapore.  We spent an entire day fabric shopping for the perfect material for a mother of the groom dress.  The colors of the wedding were green and gold, and there would be dancing.  I had seen the Leanne Marshall Simplicity gown on the runway at the Puyallup show and fell in love with the full skirt.  We found Arab Street which was full of cafes and shops that specialize in embroidered lace!  I found the perfect lace for my dress, as well as for my mother’s dress.  I made a lace coat over a satin dress for my mom.   When I got home and tried to lay out this heavily embroidered and beaded green and gold border lace, I realized you can’t make a circle skirt with a border design.  After some hand sewing trickery, I paired this heavy lace over a green satin.  The mother and groom dance (My Wish by Rascal Flatts) made me so happy, as the dress with the heavy lace twirled just as I had envisioned.

Wedding number two, found me in love of all things Japan.  On a special 3-week textile tour of Japan last year, I was obsessed with vintage silk kimonos.   These kimonos are constructed with hand stitching from 14″ wide silk that is printed with the design planned to match when it is constructed.  Nothing is trimmed away as a kimono is not sized for an individual, but sizing comes from tucking the fabric and the belt called an obi.  I found a beautiful purple floral print in Kyoto at a vintage shop.  The Lialia Vogue 1531 dress by Julia Alarcon was the perfect pattern for the narrow fabric.  I made two test garments, then very nervously took apart the kimono.  The result was a perfect up cycle, great for the spring wedding, and exactly what I had envisioned.  

What is more fun that shopping for fabric while traveling?  Shopping with sewing friends!  The next two photos are from another sewing community, Pattern Review.  A few years ago, Sarah, a Pattern Review friend who lives in Washington DC, posted she would be in London and hoped to catch up with UK sewers.  It turned out I was going to be in London at the same time.  Sarah and I took a tour of Jermyn street (where we learned about British tailors).  At a shop on Goldhawk Road, Sarah and I decided to buy an interesting digital print on black cotton lace, with the plan that we would both create something for the next Pattern Review event.    Neither of us had any idea what we were going to make and decided to keep it a surprise until the event.  Sarah made a skirt underlined in black and I made a dress underlined in a nude color.   

This photo is the result of another Pattern Review shopping event.  This time we purchased chambray at two different shops in Ontario where three of us purchased the Tea House Dress.  Pictured here is Lisette and I with Peggy Mead, the pattern designer and owner of Sew House Seven. 

Sometimes I buy fabric and notions with a specific design in mind, and other times I bring it home because it is beautiful.  I have had to buy additional suitcases multiple times to bring home my souvenirs.  Each one takes me back to the fun I had visiting and exploring around the world.


My husband, Maynard and I love to travel the world.  And my favorite souvenir when we travel is fabric.  I love the adventure of finding a place to shop, always balancing my eagerness with the reality that Maynard is patient while I shop but not nearly as excited about the adventure of fabric shopping as I am.  My goal is to find one fabric shop and bring home one piece of fabric and he seems quite willing to go that far on the adventure.  Here are a few of my favorite memories.

I visited the Nishijin Textile Center in Kyoto with my daughter in 2018.  We watched a kimono fashion show and saw people weaving. We enjoyed all the beautiful fabrics and fabric arts in their store.  I came home with an obi test weave panel as well as several meters of a matching silk.  I knew immediately that the panel would become the back of a jacket but wasn’t sure what the other fabric would be.  The trip to Japan with our daughter and son-in-law turned out to be the last big trip we took with them before they found out they were expecting baby MJ.  I was so thrilled to make the jacket and use the matching silk to make a skirt just in time to wear it to their baby shower.  Special memories of our trip now mix in with the special memories of anticipating Baby MJ’s birth. And since I am in proud grandma mode, you know I had to show of our newest addition to the family!

Finding a fabric store in Prague was another fun adventure.  We were traveling with friends who were very accommodating to my desire to find a fabric souvenir.  With help from the hotel concierge, a map and a good bit of persistence, we wound our way through the streets of Prague and found a shop with very interesting fabric.  The salesperson was so helpful and friendly, even in our sometimes-challenging attempt to communicate with her limited English and my totally non-existent Czech.  I wasn’t sure what my Prague fabric would be when I got home, but ultimately, it became my Prague dress.  At times, the swirls of bias strips that make the vines and flowers ended up in an unflattering place but thankfully they could be easily removed to end up like this.  Every time I wear it, I remember the adventure of searching for the store with our friends and the fun exchange with the clerk in the store.

I could have spent an entire day in the Clover underground mall in Pune, India shopping in the fabric and trim stalls where I found the blue-green silk that became yet another version of my TNT Grainline Archer shirt pattern.  And in Milan I found Valli Tessuti, a very nice fabric store with the most luscious fabric I have ever bought.  It amazingly went perfectly with a purple blazer I had on my cutting table unfinished back at home so became a matching skirt.

We hope you’ve enjoyed traveling, shopping and sewing vicariously with us today. We’d love to hear your stories too, so chime in and tell them in the comments!

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2 thoughts on “Travel and Fabric and Sewing! Oh My!”

  1. What an interesting article. I love what you three ladies have done with your international purchases. Thanks for sharing.

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