Birmingham Rag Market – Fabric Haul

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time I’m sure you’ve gathered by now that I love a fabric bargain! Sure, I’ll invest when it merits it but I also believe there’s a lot of great fabric out there that doesn’t cost the earth.

However, despite the fact my family hails from Birmingham and I find myself there several times a year, I’d never before made it to the Rag Market. Although the site has a history of markets dating back to the 1800s, the rag or retail market itself is of fairly recent pedigree, and the current market site opened in 2000 as part of the redevelopment of the Bullring shopping sites.

The market today has indoor and outdoor stalls, which span the range from fabric and haberdashery, to clothing, beauty products, household as well as fresh veg and flowers. My focus was clearly on the fabrics and notions. There are several stalls with richly decorative fabrics suitable for saris and the like, along with highly detailed border notions. A few stalls focused mostly on heavier household fabrics for curtains and upholstery. I also found one knitting stall, but I passed over this as the autumn Knitting & Stitching Show is coming up soon.

Most of my browsing was over about three or four large stalls with a wide range of cottons, viscose, jersey and lace. I didn’t have a specific shopping list but I was interested in finding some cotton jersey and stretch lace to make some wardrobe basics such as knickers and vest tops.

Although the range on offer was great, several of the stalls had the same or similar fabrics. The most notable difference between the stalls was in the stall holders. On a number of them I spent more than a few minutes browsing and handling fabric with no interest from the stall holder, if indeed I could even tell if they were around. For this reason, the stall I ended up buying from was definitely a stand out. The two men running it were engaging and busily serving customers, at the same time chatting with those waiting and keeping track of who wanted what.

This was my haul:

Large blue rose printed cotton – £2/m – 3 metres

As soon as I saw this print it reminded me of the sort of print Collectif or Dolly & Dotty use. I have in mind a 50s style fit-and-flare dress for this.

Blue rose print cotton

Grey/Pink busy rose printed cotton – £2/m – 2 metres

Another vintage repro style print, this one says skirt to me more than dress, because the print is quite busy. Or maybe a structured bodice top…not sure yet!

grey rose print cotton

Black & White musical note printed cotton – £2/m – 2 metres

This one is destined to become a tote bag for my flute/music stand/music pack when I go back to orchestra in September.

musical note cottonBlack cotton jersey 60″ wide – £2.50/m – 2 metres

At 60″ wide I’ve got loads of this fabric, I’ll be using it to make a load of French knickers and maybe one or two vest tops.

black cotton jersey

Black stretch lace 60″ wide – £2.50/m – 1 metre

Just 1 metre of this 60″ wide stretch lace as I’ll be using it as decorative trim or panels with the above.

black stretch lace

All in all I’d thoroughly recommend the Rag Market, I’ll certainly make it a regular pilgrimage. Now that I have an idea what there is I might go with more of a shopping list next time – for example I didn’t get any trims or notions, although I did see big reels of cotton for only a few pounds. And if you’re after very decorative trims or fabrics for Asian-style clothing, there’s definitely some bargains there.

The easiest way to get to the market is from the main Bullring plaza, follow the street behind the bull statue (which divides the two halves of the shopping centre, lots of restaurants on it) towards St Martin’s church spire which you’ll see sticking up. Then head down the steps to the right hand side and you’ll see the market straight ahead.


Brighton Lovelies

My friend Sophie (of discoveryfoyer) and I had a lovely long weekend in Brighton for the bank holiday. She’d been before so got to show me the sights, and we seemed to spend the weekend mooching from lanes to cafe to lanes to cafe… Not half bad!

On the Friday night we went to a ‘retro jazz electroswing speakeasy’ club night hosted by White Mink at The Old Market (TOM for short). Basically, think 1920s dress code, a mix of live performance and DJ, jazz/swing with a twist. A thoroughly enjoyable night I would highly recommend – they currently have no future dates posted but I suggest joining the mailing list and keeping an eye out.

Apart from that, we took it easy for the rest of the weekend and enjoyed some lovely food from classic cuisine at Hotel du Vin (although I did not get what I was expecting, it was very nice), vintage brunch at Blackbird tearooms, proper British fish n chips from The Daily Catch on St James’ Street, and impressive tapas at Bellota.

As for shopping, we dropped in at Collectif‘s opening bash of their new store on Bond street after I picked up a mailing list invite. Sadly I didn’t find any gems in my size but Sophie nabbed some shirts and a dress for her summer workwear.

However, I absolutely fell in love with the fabrics at Get Cutie and came out with the Bow skirt in Fantastic Mr Fox. I love their online shop – you pick the pattern, the fabric and the size and they make it! I also picked up a cute and versatile clutch purse from Ollie & Nic:

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A World Map glasses case for my new glasses (more on that later) – I think it was from Berts Homestore:

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A get-lost-in-it canvas block triptych from Zoing Image:

photo 1

And a Fragonard ‘Pois de Senteur’ perfume from Cologne & Cotton:

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Everything except the print was on sale as well!


A cluster of tops

Only two posts in the last four months of 2013…oops! Life just gets so busy…

I really should do better though, as I do enjoy blogging. In fact this year I have started a 365 project, and my resolution is to make more out of being near London and stop missing out on interesting cultural things. My starting point was visiting Bletchley Park on a couple of weeks ago, and I’m swiftly building up a list of to-do’s. To that end, the type of posts on the blog might become a bit more varied.

But the first post of 2014 is in keeping – a bit of a haul post from my January sales shopping.
I also picked up two pairs of work trousers from Next that I’d eyed up in the autumn but decided against – the right decision, since I nabbed them for just £10 each!

New Look was also fairly successful, yielding a teal floaty wrapover blouse (also for work), a longline purple cardigan with lace panel (mostly for work) and a cute squirrel jumper – all at around £7 each.

The first top from New Look needs something under it, and luckily I spotted this little number in House of Fraser (Hallhuber) for just £9.

Amazing conference outfit for under £30!

So I said on Friday that I was going to put up some posts about my completed vintage dress, new hair and some craft/jewellery book reviews.

But that’s all going to have to wait because yesterday a bit of sales and shopping magic happened! I ended up going to Plymouth with mum, she wanted a couple of new outfits for particular occasions and although I didn’t really have anything on the list I never turn down the chance for a mooch and haven’t been to Plymouth for ages.

Tried on a few sale rail things in Oasis but none of them really suited me, a few doors down was H&M. Now H&M either produces pieces that stay in my wardrobe for years, or I can go seasons without finding anything. The latter has recently been the case, and as it’s the end of January I really didn’t expect to have much success on the sale rails.

Well, my god. Firstly, there was still TONS of sale rail items in the store, and secondly a load of stuff I liked. I took a big armful to the changing rooms, amongst them the dress and jacket below. They looked great together, and the tickets showed a £15 sale price (from £29.99) each so I thought that was pretty good. I also found a brown floaty blouse for £5 and a set of three belts (pale pink, black, and acid lime to go with the dress I wore on Christmas day) for £7.95. Not a bad haul for £40 I thought.

So imagine my surprise (and delight) when the cashier rang it all up and said “That’s £26 please!” That’s what I call magic. Later I looked at the receipt and found the dress and jacket were in fact £10 each and the belts £1… ridiculous.

Later I picked up the envelope bag and deco earrings in Primark for £3 each, so paired with shoes and necklace I’ve already got this will make a nice little interview / conference outfit – all for around £27!

Dress Detail

Accessories Jacket

Edinburgh Finds

I was quite restrained in Edinburgh, spending money on shows and food rather than Stuff – but I did have some lovely finds…

Jewellery : Fabric stud earrings and ring from Hannah Zakari | Old watch face & workings ring and Typewriter Key necklace from Reworkd Workshop

New Stuff: Floral Skirt, White top and Tartan (TARTAN!) heels, BTGOF (buy 2 get 1 free) at Ness | Floral print bag, on sale in Urban Outfitters

Vintage Stuff: Grey & orange print dress from Armstrong’s – this doesn’t fit but I loved the fabric so bought it to do something creative with | Grey spot silk scarf from Godiva

Books: Alongside the Fringe, there’s also the Edinburgh International Book Festival in Charlotte Square. Two of my books; Digital Vertigo and Is That a Fish in Your Ear?, tackling social media and translation respectively, were from the festival bookshop. The third, a 1940s edition of Cornwall and it’s People I found in a second hand bookshop that had only just opened (they were still putting books on the shelves!), so I was pleased to be able to bring it home.