Get your craft on at one of Europe’s traveling fabric fairs.
I’m a born-again sewist. I began sewing and crafting when I was 8 years old and never stopped until I moved to Germany 14 years ago. Why did I stop sewing? Mainly because I couldn’t find affordable fabrics and notions. And the second reason? I couldn’t find parts for my beloved Kenmore sewing machine. Fast forward a few years and I have a new Bernina sewing machine. But I need fabric and buttons and zips too. Well, I finally discovered there are traveling fabric fairs from Holland that stop in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and France several times a year.
I don’t know the history of these traveling fabric fairs, but they are reminiscent of America’s traveling salesmen. The men would ride through your homestead on horseback, wagon, or buggy selling the small things needed in the household. You know, needles and thread, buttons, collar stays, and wicks for kerosene lamps. But where did the ladies get their fabric? Gonna have to watch an episode of Little House on the Prairie to figure that one out.
What I do know is that instead of having to fly back to the US to purchase fabric, I can visit one of Europe’s traveling fabric fairs and see about 50 vendors and in one location. Sorry JoAnn Fabrics, but a sewist hast to do what a sewist has to do–find great fabrics and save money too.
Stoffmarkt Holland vs. Stoffenspektal
So far, I’ve attended several of the Stoffmarkt Holland traveling fabric fairs held in large and small German cities throughout the year. Stoffmarkt Holland holds nearly 40 spring events (~Feb – June) and an multiple autumn events leading up to Christmas. Most of their traveling fabric fairs are held outside in an empty parking lot and have awnings to cover the fabrics and slightly shield you from the elements, but I wear a hat or carry an umbrella just in case the weather takes a turn for the worse.
At the Stoffmarkt Holland traveling fair you can find a large assortment of cottons, silks, wool, knits, and leather fabrics for sewing, crafting and quilting. There are also lots of designer fabrics too. There’s quite an assortment to choose from, so you just need to look around and find which fabric suits your needs. No pun intended! 🙂
If it’s notions you are looking for, I find the assortment quite overwhelming and so do the other sewists. It gets really, really crowded at the notions tent where you need to nudge you way in to get a chance to view the pretty buttons, clasps, and ribbons.
I recently discovered a second traveling fabric fair called Stoffenspektal. I learned about this one while buying fabric in Holland where the fabric shop owner said the prices are good as well as the selection. The Stoffenspektal event in France I attended had around 40 vendors and the selection of fabrics were different than the ones from Stoffmakt Holland, so I now I have an alternative fabric fair to visit. Stoffenspektal caters to sewists located in Belgium, France, and Luxembourg, but from, my home in Germany can reach those borders in a little over an hour–which makes for a perfect day trip.
Both the Stoffmarkt Holland and the Stoffenspektal offer a good selection of fabrics for the average and advanced sewists. If I ever get into making ball gowns again, I’d probably travel to Holland or Belgium to visit one of the designer fabric shops. For now any of the traveling fabric fairs will do since I’m just making skirts, dresses, bags, and some pretty table cloths.
They speak your language
Don’t worry too much about the language barrier, because the Stoffmarkt Holland vendors are mainly from Holland and Belgium and speak good German, English, and French. Other vendors include Bernina, who is a sponsor of many fabric fairs, so a local rep is on hand to demo and/or sell you a machine.
Not everyone in the family may like sorting through bolts of fabrics and button bins like you do, so they can take a snack break while you fabric shop. If you brought along the kids or your significant other, there’s always a food stand selling beer, brats, and ice cream to keep the non-sewists busy for a bit.
Things to know before going to a traveling fabric fair
- Go really early to avoid the crowds.
- Wear sturdy comfortable shoes as you’ll be doing a lot of walking on hard surfaces.
- The vendors accept EURO, and a few accept credit cards (mainly MasterCard or Visa).
- Bring a shopping stroller; you’d be surprised how heavy fabric can be.
- Metric Measurement Conversions
- 1 inch = 2.54 centimeters (cm)
- 45 inches = 1.15 meters (115 cm)
- 60 inches = 1.52 meters (150 cm)
- 1 yard = 0.91 meters
- 9 inch zipper = 22 cm (22.86 cm)
Happy sewing, crafting, and quilting.