I’ve been debating for a while when would be a good time to publish several of my posts that have been languishing from trips I took back when international travel was still a routine part of my job. As things tentatively start to open up, in those countries at least, perhaps now is a good time to give some airtime to two truly excellent fabric stores in Italy.
Any mention of the ‘p’, ‘c’ or ‘l’ words has been, possibly noticeably, absent from the blog. This is because, despite things looming like a foreboding shadow over everything, it has been very hard to say anything that doesn’t sound trite. Despite this being one event where we are all very much affected, on an individual level, experiences couldn’t be more different. Many fears are common, worries for elderly relatives or distant family, but in other areas the differences couldn’t be starker, from those who are suddenly jobless, to those whose workloads have exploded as a result of recent events.
I feel I am bumbling along in my own way, coddled by a perspective of extreme short-termism. It turns out that deadlines seem to have cracked the issue of viral immunity and remain solid, undefeatable things so I am simply trying to move from one to the other, and be unperturbed by the shrill hysteria of some of the most atrocious science reporting I have ever seen. I don’t know how you persuade (or force) people to report in a coherent and sensible way but, despite science and scientists being in the mainstream news all the time, I’m not sure the gulf between what happens in the lab and today’s byline has ever been bigger. I miss spending time with scientists.
I miss Trieste too. Trieste is one of my favourite places in the world, a majestic mixture of Italian, Austro-Hungarian and Slovenian influences in one beautiful coastal region. Owing to its status as an important seaport, it is a region that has been hotly contested by various powers and flipped ownership quite a few times throughout history.
Articulating what makes Trieste, and surrounding region, quite so magical to me is a tricky thing. I’m not sure if it is my fantastic colleagues I get to work with there, the incredible food (I hesitate to share this recommendation in case I ever can’t get a table but the Hostaria Malcanton will make anyone fall in love with fish and seafood), or the beautiful sea views. It doesn’t matter what time of day you catch the water in, it is just this breath-taking open expanse on the city.
Trieste is something of a cultural hotspot as well – there are regular art exhibitions, a lively programme of theatre and opera. There are some very nice antique shops tucked in the area of the Piazza dell’Unità which also contains many beautiful buildings too. However, what about another important component of city life, the craft shops?
There is somewhere offering hand embroidery classes called Trieste Ricama and is probably an excellent starting point if you’re on the hunt for more specialist things. I have never been myself but they seem to offer the most gorgeous whitework courses. Apparently needlelace originated in Italy in the 16th Century in the form of reticella, and later punto in aria, which are both techniques to make you drool. If you have been, please share your experiences in the comments!
Closer to the sea front, there is the fabulous Emporio Tessuti. I have been to a lot of fabric stores and markets around the world, and while nothing will probably ever displace Dongdaemun Fabric Market as king of choice, in terms of choice delivered by individual shops, Emporio Tessuti would take some beating. It is one huge two-floor store that has everything from nets suitable for curtains to the most glitzy fabric horrors for stage costumes. There are tassels, an excess assortment of haberdashery bits and bops, upholstery fabric, fashion fabrics, more fabrics, even more fabrics, and scraps bit that you could fall into and not make it out of. I, wisely or unwisely, rescued several meters of the end of a bolt of tulle for less than five euros. My Italian isn’t good enough to have asked any pertinent questions before making a potentially expensive and questionable decision but I regret nothing.
This is a great store – it can take forever to check out as it seems everything needs to be done by hands, but you’ll also spend forever wandering around. The prices are very reasonable and they have everything from the very everyday cottons in excellent colour ranges, to more special, fashion-type pieces. I will confess to also buying some of the atrociously glittery fabrics that promptly shed glitter over everything in the bag and later ended up over me but nothing persuades people to take you seriously in a professional working environment like being covered in glitter. What a great place.
Within easy walking distance, the quilters and patchworkers also have a treat in store in the form of Patchwork Victim. This isn’t the gory tale of a lone sewer who met an unfortunate end under a stray bolt of fabric but probably instead the story of their wallet, the contents of which ended up exchanged for a pile of soft pastel textiles.
I have to admit, this is a store which is very much not my style. It’s relatively small, no batiks in site, and many of the patterns and projects are cutesy things or aimed at the gift market for younger relatives. However, this is definitely a store with style and very friendly shopping assistants. They seem to make a huge number of their own patterns, have a bustling schedule of classes and lots of fantastic sample pieces on display. They also stock Aurifil threads – I did pick some up to try as I’ve heard so many people raving about them (I’m usually a Mettler/Gueterman user).
It’s a very bright, incredibly cute shop with plenty of colour choice on fabrics and I really like how they try to give you design and colour matching ideas all over the place. I have the impression this would be a fantastic place to have as your local quilt store as it is obviously run by people who care very much about the craft and have a huge amount of energy and creativity to share. There’s a small collection of the usual quilting notions but it is mostly fabric and books here.
There are plenty more stores around that I haven’t had the good fortune to explore and I hope that many of these small businesses find ways to weather this period as well… For all of you too, stay safe and we’ll meet again soon.