My husband Eddie is a grad student, and a few times a year he attends various Alzheimer's and Dementia conferences. Sometimes, these conferences are in amazing places, and sometimes I get to travel with him. And at the beginning of this month, we went to Lisbon, Portugal!
Whenever we travel for one of Eddie's conferences, I end up with at least a day or two of exploring our destination on my own because the conference days last from around 8am-7pm. So, during these solo days, it has become my tradition to explore out all the fabric stores that I can find.
Before we travel, I usually try to do a little research, and find out if there are any must-see shops. I found a blog post from House of Pinheiro, and another by See it, Design it, Make it. I also reached out to Megahn of Halfmoon Atelier, who is currently planning a sewing retreat in Lisbon for this coming September. All of these sources gave me some good suggestions to start with. And of course Google Maps is always super useful as well!
After doing my little bit of research, I decided that the shop I was most excited to see was Retrosaria Bijou. Not gonna lie, I basically wanted to go there because it looks like the most adorable shop ever. I had no idea what I would actually find inside the shop as far as fabric goes, but I didn't really care. It was too cute!
It's definitely a "you-can't-miss-it" kind of shop with a bright teal exterior. And it's right in a busy downtown shopping area, which I didn't expect. It was just as adorable as I imagined though! And very tiny! Packed floor to ceiling with yarns and trims and sewing tools, and displaying a large antique cash register, it is completely picturesque. The shop owner was super nice, didn't mind me taking photos, and suffered through my broken portuguese with good grace. I ended up getting a little strap turning tool at this shop. I know it's the kind of thing that I could get just about anywhere, but I've been meaning to get one, and I figured why not at this adorable little shop!
Another really fun shop to visit was Burel Mountain Originals. This shop came up in my google search for fabric shops, but it really isn't your typical fabric store. Yes, they do sell fabric, but it is way more than that.
Burel is a fabric made from 100% wool, traditionally used by shepherds in the mountains of Portugal. From what I understood, talking to the people at the shop, everything is done right in Portugal. From the sheep farm, to the fabric weaving, to the product sewing. And it sounded like you can actually go visit and tour any of these steps! The Burel fabric is absolutely gorgeous, similar to a high end felt, and comes in so many beautiful colors. The shop also has a selection of amazing blankets woven into amazing designs on traditional looms. And on top of that, the shop has some really fun products made from their fabrics that are for sale. From little keychains to giant fox pillows, to hooded backpacks and shoes! Everything made in Portugal, and everything looks amazing. AND it is all set up in gorgeous displays.
There is a huge loom set up in the basement, a rainbow wall of blankets, and tons of spools incorporated into the walls to hang products from.
I love the story behind this fabric, and I would love to use it, but it's not the kind of fabric I would buy on a whim, without knowing what exactly I want to use it for. So I didn't end up buying anything, but I left that shop so completely inspired! Which is really what my goal is for these trips anyway.
So I went up to the second floor, and found a vinyl store. Which is when I remembered that floors are often numbered differently in other countries (our "first floor" is their "ground floor", our "second floor" their "first floor" etc). So I kept going up. I ended up going up even a few more flights of stairs than I anticipated. That, combined with the fact that the stairwell wasn't actually lit really made me wonder if I was simply trespassing on someone's private property. But eventually I came to a dark landing with a crafty looking display case, and a shut door that made me feel sure that even if I had found the right place, it was closed. But I tried the door anyway...and found myself in a super cute well lit shop full of beautiful craft supplies and lots of people shopping. I was slightly taken aback to be honest.
There was a large beautiful selection of yarns, and a smaller beautiful selection of fabrics, along with some patterns and notions and a little spinning wheel in the corner. I could also see that there was a back room with what looked like a class going on, full of people. I didn't end up getting anything there (except for a desire to add more yarn crafts into my life) but it was such a cute little shop that I'm glad I ended up finding it.
Oh, and also, on the way out I saw that there was actually some evidence of the shop from the outside of the building. I'd missed the mannequin in chains on my way in!
The shop that I actually did most of my purchasing at was Feira Dos Tecidos. Well, actually at two of them, in different neighborhoods of Lisbon. This chain is very much a fabric store and not a haberdashery. They have your typical rolls of fabric that you can purchase by the meter, and then they also have tons and tons of what they call "Retalhos". Which I think basically translates to "Remnants". So this was right up my alley.
These retalhos were only slightly organized by fabric type and price per piece. Other than that it was basically mountains of fabric on tables and in bins. I had so much fun digging through the piles of fabrics, looking at all the different scraps! There were a lot of pieces with crazy patterns on them.
The bins of fabric had prices starting as low as 1 euro per piece of fabric. These tended to be about a half yard or less, and sometimes with some damage. Then there were separate bins and tables with pieces for 3 euros to 7 euros each. The shop in baixa alta was much larger, and seemed to keep going on forever. Everytime I thought I'd seen it all I'd find a basement, or a third room upstairs. They had several different areas, with some home decor fabrics as well as garment fabrics. The shop near Cemitério dos Prazeres was much smaller, with less varied selection of fabrics and I didn't see any home decor ones there.
What I ended up buying:
Along with the strap turner tool from Retrosaria Bijou, I bought 6 pieces of fabric, two from the larger feira dos tecidos, and four from the smaller feira dos tecidos.
At the first feira dos tecidos, I found this jersey remnant in a gorgeous color of blue. I'm thinking of using it to make a new Madi top for my mini marathon next month. Maybe with a few hacks for fun. I also walked away with a linen/viscose blend of fabric in this gorgeous golden color. This wasn't even a remnant, I just fell in love with it! I'm a little worried that the linen in it will make it wrinkle really badly, but I'm willing to roll with that and see how it goes. I'm picturing it becoming a button down skirt, maybe with a matching top to go with it.
It wasn't until I started pulling out golden and blush remnants at the second feira dos tecidos that I realized that the city itself was really inspiring my fabric color selection. You can see in so many of my photos that the buildings in Lisbon are bright and colorful. And I often found myself taking photos of the building that were yellow and pink. Apparently that attraction trickled down into my fabrics as well. So I went with it!
I got another jersey remnant (this time a heavier bottom weight) in a bright yellow, and then three blush fabrics. One a plain jersey remnant, and then lace remnants that I happened to find two of that matched. I'm not entirely sure what the heavy yellow jersey will be, but the blush fabrics may end up as a hacked Inara robe.
Lucky for me, everything fit into our suitcases! I know I didn't actually NEED these fabrics, but every time I see them, or sew with them, or wear them, they are going to remind me of my beautiful trip to Lisbon!
1. Blue Jersey - 2.95 for a piece 66" x 48"
2. Golden Linen/viscose - 2 meters, 9.95 per meter
3. Yellow Jersey - 6.95 for a piece 39" x 57"
4. Blush Jersey - 5.95 for a piece 39" x 62"
5. Blush lace - 4.95 for each piece of 60" x 51"
6. Strap Turner - 10.95
If you'd like a breakdown of all the fabric stores I visited, as well as some tips for fabric shopping in Lisbon, look out for Part II of this blog series.
creative business owner. designer. hoosier. crafter. runner. sewer. swing dancer. outdoor enthusiast. entrepreneur. wife. material hoarder.
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Madeline Stage firstname.lastname@example.org
"Never give up on a dream because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway."
- Earl Nightingale