A Quilt Tour of Berkeley

It’s always great when you find a place home to not just one isolated craft shop, but several, all within relatively easy travelling distance to each other. Welcome to Berkeley, quilters’ heaven, home to some wonderfully quirky and welcoming textile institutions.

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If you’re coming from San Francisco via the BART, the woefully antiquated public transport system that desperately needed retiring twenty years ago, the best place to stop is probably at Downtown Berkeley. Just a warning for those of you who don’t know the area, Downtown Berkeley is really not the most flattering side of the place, even when you’re used to some of the griminess that comes with some of the local major cities.

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However, if you carry on just a few minutes down the road, you’ll arrive at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics. If I had to describe the shop Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics using a fabric, it would probably be this glorious ‘Nylon Spandex 4 Way Stretch Rainbow Crackle Metallic’ piece on their website. You’re not quite sure what way it’s going, or what colour it’s supposed to be, but it’s absolutely fabulous and you just want to go swimming in metres of it.

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Apparently the shop is a little bit of a family heirloom and has been blessing the California community with their flair for fabrics for nearly a hundred years. You can read a little more about the history of the shop here. Cool as the shop’s history may be, it’s present is all about kilometres of whatever gorgeous fabrics you can dream of and trying to start the ‘garment sewing revolution’ by sharing ideas, patterns and most of all, encouragement.

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Quilting shops tend to be very rigidly ordered, arranged by aesthetically pleasing colours and maybe fabric type. I think it’s a tribute to the wild energy of the place that all the fabrics seem to be exploding off the shelves and the rolls form a kind of immersive textile obstacle course.

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In terms of fabric types, they have everything. Even things that probably shouldn’t exist, like something that looks like the love child of a Christmas tree and a wet Pomeranian. If you feel your bias tape absolutely must match the exact red you need and be available in five different widths, I think this is one of the few stores that will cater to any degree of obsessive colour matching.

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Aforementioned Pomeranian

I just love it, particularly the velvets and velours section. The selection of batiks and quilting cottons is awesome for a non-specialised store but it’s really the dressmaking fabrics that this store excels at. Maybe it’s not the easiest place to find anything with piles of fabric left right and centre but thankfully the staff are all wonderfully helpful and incredibly warm and friendly. They should probably send a few of the staff over at Britex Fabrics for a few customer service lessons here as everyone at Stonemountain & Daughter is not only fabulously dressed in their own creations but actually knows where everything is and want to help and discuss in a very open and friendly way. Especially for dressmaking, I think there is a huge learning barrier with the amount and type of fabrics, and which is the ‘right’ one to use, so it’s really nice to talk with experts with both an open mind and genuine desire to help.

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Even the scissors at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics are chosen with fun in mind. They stock the  amazing Tula Pink scissors, including the dressmaking sizes for those of you who appreciate form and function in your crafting tools and, like everything else in the store, there’s a huge variety of sewing notions.

Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics is a wonderfully non-pretentious store with a huge wealth of fabrics for all purposes and at reasonable, affordable prices. It’s the kind of place I really wish could be my local fabric store as the staff all seem to be dressmaking wizards with a passion for helping you find the magic in whatever project you want to work on. It’s not the most organised store but I think I’d take the crazy creativity pouring off the shelves over that any day!

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Every quilting store needs a science section! (maybe with more technically accurate fabrics…)

The cool thing about Berkeley is that the fabric fun doesn’t even stop there either. There’s essentially a line of quilt shops that run along the Bay, starting with The Black Squirrel, New Pieces Quilt Shop and Bay Quilts. I made it to the first two, sadly Bay Quilts was just a little too far of a walk in the rather warm weather, and can confirm they are both well worth a visit and will be sharing some photos and details over the next few weeks.

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7 thoughts on “A Quilt Tour of Berkeley

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